The Global Digest



Opinion

Lengthy jail sentences for two dissidents upheld as crackdown continues



Vietnamese activist

PARIS, 29 May 2017 (FIDH & VCHR) - Vietnam must end the ongoing crackdown on dissidents, repeal its repressive laws, and immediately release all political prisoners, FIDH and its member organization Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) said today. FIDH and VCHR’s call followed the latest case of imprisonment of government critics to lengthy jail terms.

“Until Vietnam repeals its repressive laws, the country’s prisons will continue to be the likely residence of government critics. It’s time for Hanoi to dismantle its arsenal of draconian laws and release all political prisoners,” said FIDH President Dimitris Christopoulos.

On 26 May 2017, the Court of Appeals in Hanoi upheld a lower court’s conviction of Tran Anh Kim and Le Thanh Tung for conducting “activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the Criminal Code and sentenced them to 13 and 12 years in prison and five and four years’ house arrest respectively.

On 16 December 2016, a court in Thai Binh Province jailed Tran Anh Kim and Le Thanh Tung for attempting to form a pro-democracy organization that authorities claimed was planning a coup to overthrow the government. Both Tran Anh Kim and Le Thanh Tung are former army soldiers and long-time human rights advocates who have been repeatedly targeted by the authorities for their pro-democracy activities.

In December 2011, Le Thanh Tung was arrested on charges of “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 88 of the Criminal Code. Tung was released in June 2015, five months ahead of the completion of his jail sentence. Tung has been arrested more than a dozen times for his human rights activism. Prior to his latest incarceration, Tran Anh Kim was released from prison in September 2016 after serving a five-and-a-half-year prison term under Article 79 of the Criminal Code. Kim has been a persistent government critic and has been jailed several times for his activism.

“The case of Tran Anh Kim and Le Thanh Tung shows the government’s callous determination to silence all forms of opposition and its total disinterest in upholding its international legal obligations. Stronger international pressure is urgently needed to end this human rights onslaught,” said VCHR President Vo Van Ai. Vietnamese authorities have repeatedly used legislation inconsistent with Vietnam’s obligations under international law to suppress the right to freedom of opinion and expression and to detain government critics (1). Vietnam holds about 130 political prisoners.

Press contacts: FIDH: Mr. Audrey Couprie (French, English) - Tel: +33648059157 (Paris) FIDH: Mr. Andrea Giorgetta (English) - Tel: +66886117722 (Bangkok) VCHR: Ms. Penelope Faulkner (Vietnamese, English, French) - Tel: +33611898681 (Paris)

(1) In addition to Articles 79 and 88, other clauses of the Criminal Code that are inconsistent with Vietnam’s obligations under international law include: Article 80 (‘spying’); Article 87 (‘undermining national solidarity, sowing divisions between religious and non-religious people’); and Article 258 (‘abusing democratic freedoms to harm the interests of the state’).
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THE BURMA ARMY - SCHOOL FOR SEXUAL SADISTS

Special Contribution,
By Roland Watson(dictatorwatch),
Mar 11, 2017

Ms Yanghee Lee and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

Last week the Permanent People’s Tribunal on Myanmar’s State Crimes against Rohingya, Kachin and other groups was held in London. Its objective was to determine if the actions of Burma’s military dictatorship constitute crimes against humanity.

The People’s Tribunal found that the charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide have merit, and that the regime should be indicted in a court that holds jurisdiction (e.g., the International Criminal Court). Unfortunately, this is only a recommendation. However, the conclusion has been affirmed, for the Rohingya crisis, by U.N. Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee. She conducted her own investigation and determined that crimes against humanity against the Rohingya are being perpetrated.

The United Nations, unlike the tribunal, has formal power. It can respond by launching a Commission of Inquiry through to action in the Security Council. The BBC covered all of this yesterday, in its article Myanmar Muslim minority subject to horrific torture, UN says.

"Contacted by the BBC, both the UK and the EU refused to say they would support the establishment of a commission of inquiry." "Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been in power almost a year, declined an interview."

It has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt that the military regime has committed crimes against humanity. But, there is a conspiracy of denial by those parties who have an ability to act. This is revolting. For the ethnic nationalities of Burma, it adds insult to injury.

For Suu Kyi, whatever the reason for her silence, from political calculation through to outright personal racism, at this point it doesn’t really matter. It is clear not only that she won’t help, but that she will continue to protect the regime savages. As I and others have argued, through this cover-up she is complicit in their crimes.

For Europe, its behavior is so bad that it is almost enough to make you wish the Nazis had won. Europe experienced the worst barbarity in history, but today’s political leaders don't seem to have learned the lesson. This is apparently because it didn’t happen to them personally, and since the people who suffered the worst were the Jews. Now, whenever other minorities are slaughtered around the world, they don't care, either. The leaders have no empathy at all. For Burma, they are blinded by its business prospects. They are the worst possible hypocrites. They act high and mighty - look how advanced we are with all of our social programs, but internationally they are still colonialists.

The examination that has been underway in turn raises the question, just how bad is the Tatmadaw? For example, is the dictatorship as bad as the Nazi SS, and which among other crimes ran Germany’s concentration camps? Indeed, is it even possible to be as evil as that?

I would argue that the Tatmadaw and the police and, for the crimes against the Rohingya, their racist partners from the general public, are actually worse than the SS. The Nazis murdered on an industrial scale. But to my knowledge they didn't gang rape women and even little girls, and throw their baby brothers and sisters on fires or cut them in half with field knives. No doubt with some exceptions (Josef Mengele, etc.), they didn't inflict torture and pain to derive sadistic pleasure. Burma Army soldiers are serial killer pedophile sadists.

It's clear they use their imagination and do the worst things they can think of. There are individual psychopaths in all countries who exhibit this behavior, sadist killers, but in Burma the dictatorship has turned them into an institution. You could even call the Tatmadaw their school. Even ISIS, when they burn people or thrown them off buildings or do mass beheadings - it's not the same thing. They are clearly trying to be as brutal as possible, to shock the world. But it doesn't seem like they achieve a sadist's blood lust and sexual satisfaction.

Even though it's a rough estimate, over the last thirty years, first with the barbarity in Eastern Burma against the Karen, Karenni, Shan and Kachin, and now in the West against the Rohingya, there must be literally thousands of sexual psychopathic sadists. This is unprecedented. It's also a barrier to any future peace. Such individuals should be punished. To the extent that they are not, and they remain free in society, they will want to perpetrate new atrocities. The pattern is well known. Sadism is addictive. Really, the psychopaths feel compelled to do it. That Suu Kyi doesn't recognize this, that her beloved regime is an army of depraved monsters, is her worst failure, and denial.
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KNU CONGRESS UPDATE

Special Contribution
By Roland Watson (dictatorwatch)
Feb 12, 2017

Karen leaders

There is new intel about the upcoming Karen Congress. Chairman Mutu Say Poe and General Secretary Kwe Htoo Win are not in a position to postpone the Congress again. It is set to begin on March 14th.

The Congress will be a battle between their corrupt faction and the honest, loyal realists led by Naw Zipporah Sein. The challenge will be to get more realists elected to the Central Committee, and then to the top posts and the Executive Committee.

There will not be religious leaders in attendance, which means among other things that Pastor Robert Htwe will not be an election official. There is a much lower chance that there will be election fraud this time, as occurred four years ago. The Congress will follow Suu Kyi’s UPC, set to start on February 28th, and which will no doubt fail. It will be another useless talk fest, and at this point it is unlikely that the NCA non-signatories will attend.

This failure will put Mutu on the defensive, since the argument for the initial Congress postponement was to push the date past the UPC. Also to his detriment is that the Burma Army has continued its aggression in the North and West. It clearly does not want peace. (The dictatorship’s long-standing strategy is to buy more and more time - to postpone any loss of its power. Its goal now is to maintain control for the next decade or so - for the remaining years that its ally, Suu Kyi, is alive.) Mutu and Kwe Htoo have gained support with money that originated in Europe. But EBO, which - while not directly transferring funds - was a big motivator of their “leadership,” has reportedly been sidelined. They have lost their intermediaries to Europe.

Furthermore, the rumor is that Mutu will keep the money that he has. He owns a gas station in Thailand, which was recently rebuilt at great expense. He is likely in debt because of this, and will use his money to pay down the debt, not to buy support at the Congress. Nonetheless, he could still get money from Thai businesspeople, because if the leadership of the KNU changes this will end the prospects for the Dawei super-development, mirroring what has happened with the Myitsone Dam.

So, the stage is set. We need Karen people and Karen CSOs to lobby the Congress delegates to do the right thing, so that new leadership is installed and the Karen Revolution survives. With the UPC being held in two weeks and then the Congress two weeks after that, we are entering a critical period not only for the Karen but for all of Burma. If you personally can do anything to influence the Congress outcome - anything at all, even just sending an email or making a call - please do it.
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AUNG SAN SUU KYI IS A DISGRACE

Special Contribution
By Roland Watson(dictatorwatch)
Jan 14, 2017

Aung San Suu Kyi

There is an idea, widespread in some quarters, that criticizing Aung San Suu Kyi helps the military dictatorship - that it plays into the generals’ hands. This idea is false. The reason it is false is because it is based on an incorrect assumption, that Suu Kyi is part of the Burma pro-democracy movement. (The underlying value is that in support of unity, we shouldn’t criticize other members of the movement, even if we disagree with their tactics.)

Suu Kyi is not - more accurately, she is no longer - part of the democracy movement. Amazingly, while she may head a government in which a majority of the MPs were democratically elected, she herself acts as a dictator. She personally sets all policy. Everyone in her party, the NLD, including in Parliament, must follow her lead. Notably, she has blocked any consideration of Burma’s most important issues, including the genocide against the Rohingya, the Civil War in the North, and ethnic questions more generally. Indeed, the last reflects her long-standing lack of cooperation with the ethnic resistance groups. She avoids contact with ethnic nationality representatives (and activists more broadly), so much so that it is as if she considers them the enemy. She has also appointed many members of the military regime to critical government positions. And, she has purged the NLD, both in the past and since the 2015 general election, of officials who dare to challenge her authority.

More fundamentally, Suu Kyi is not part of the democracy movement because she rejects its basic premise. A “movement” means opposition, in support of a cause. Movement members act to change what they view as wrong, and their actions involve both risk and sacrifice. In Burma, the movement opposes the dictatorship, starting with its security organs the Tatmadaw and the police, because it has perpetrated so many crimes and caused so much suffering.

Suu Kyi had a choice when she assumed formal power (beginning with her election as an MP in the 2012 by-election). She could stand against the regime, or join it. She chose the latter. Suu Kyi’s government does not oppose the dictatorship, even through the mildest of criticisms. Instead, she is actively working to cover up its crimes (most obviously through her office’s Information Committee).

The situation in Burma now is astonishing. Glowing reports about new economic deals notwithstanding, it is falling apart. There are so many things going wrong: The land thefts; the blockade on freedom of speech, starting with for the media; the new political prisoners, including those prosecuted under the notorious 66(d) provision in the telecommunications law, it just goes on and on. The Rohingya repression and the Civil War, though, have an entirely different character. They are crises.

65,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since October. The stories of the genocide - the village destruction, slaughter and rapes - are undeniable. The Burma Army is even kidnapping Rohingya girls to keep as sex slaves. What Suu Kyi’s beloved Tatmadaw is doing is despicable beyond belief. For the Civil War, the Army has engaged in unprecedented escalation. It has never before attacked from the air as it is doing now, on a daily basis, with helicopters and jets. The war in Northern Burma is at such a level that it is the most active conflict in the world after Syria and Iraq. The day-to-day aggression against the Northern Alliance, and the Rohingya, exceeds even the actions of the Taleban in Afghanistan.

Because of Suu Kyi’s censorship, there is virtually no media coverage. Even more, the silence from U.S. and European diplomats is solely due to her. They look to her for guidance. If she acts like something isn’t a problem, then they can safely ignore it, too. Suu Kyi had her puppet, President Htin Kyaw, spout pro-dictatorship propaganda at this month’s “Independence Day” observance. He said that the country has been a Burman empire for ages, which directly contradicts the fact that the Union of Burma only came into being through 1947’s Panglong Agreement. Then, to add insult to injury, he gave awards for bravery to Tatmadaw war criminals.

The ethnic nationalities need to think about all of this carefully. Suu Kyi and the generals have set a basic position that the ethnic peoples will always be second class citizens - subjects - of Burman rulers. According to Suu Kyi, the country is to have institutionalized racism, in perpetuity, not only against the Rohingya but against anyone who is not Burman.

This means that the matters at hand extend well beyond the issue of the non-NCA signatories making their excuses not to attend the upcoming UPC. All the ethnic nationalities, including all the resistance armies, both signatory and non-signatory, and all the civil society groups, need to plan for a future with open, nation-wide conflict, and a situation where - as with Yugoslavia - only the breakup of the Union will bring peace. Suu Kyi’s actions are destroying the viability of the Union of Burma. It is now possible that it will reach the point where the ethnic peoples will no longer be able to coexist with the Burmans.

Conclusion

What is happening in the country is Aung San Suu Kyi’s fault. She is part of the overall dictatorship. She never, ever should have surrendered, by ending the election boycott. She never should have agreed to the end of the sanctions. By doing all of this, she stabbed the Burma pro-democracy movement in the back.

Why has she acted this way? Why is her leadership so bad? One explanation is that she is getting old. She was afraid that she would lose her chance at power. (Other possibilities include Stockholm Syndrome, or even that she is in the early stages of dementia.)

I think the deeper or core problem, though, is that she conflates herself with the nation. What is good for her is good for Burma, not what is good for Burma is good for her. She confuses the two, sees the world solely through her own self interest, which apparently is just to be a show leader in a country that is clearly still an absolute dictatorship. She goes to her meetings and thinks she is a big shot, and that Burma is normal. Since the genocide against the Rohingya and the Civil War mean that it is not normal, she has to ignore them, even deny them.

Actually, she goes further. She swallows the dictatorship's lies. Maybe she really believes that the Rohingya are burning down their own homes and that all of the rape claims are false. Maybe she believes that the Sit-tut is "valiant," and that the Northern Alliance and UNFC are "insurgents." Maybe she believes "Burmans Uber Alles." Who knows. Who the hell cares!!! She is wrong. She has made the worst mistake imaginable, and she is too stubborn to admit it. She has made a deal with the devil, and now she is surprised that her own clothes are stained with blood. There is a simple fact. Burma will not be able to advance until Suu Kyi is gone. I'm not saying that it will advance when she is gone - the risks are profound - the dictatorship will of course continue to be brutal, the country may even split up. I'm just saying it cannot really and irreversibly get better until she is gone. She has personally blocked progress in an entire country for what is now going on 30 years.
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INVESTIGATE AUNG SAN SUU KYI FOR THE CRIME OF GENOCIDE

Special Contribution
By Roland Watson(dictatorwatch)
Nov 24, 2016

​ICC President Judge Sang-Hyun Song and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi(2013)

Genocide is being perpetrated in Burma, against the Rohingya ethnic group. Other crimes against humanity are also being perpetrated, against other ethnic nationalities who live in the country’s active war zones. In response to these crises, the United Nations Security Council must take action. An Emergency Meeting should be called. The world must intervene to stop the persecution.

The culprit for all of these crimes is the nation’s military dictatorship, as implemented through the Burma Army, the police, other security organs, and affiliated organizations. The regime’s ideological foundation is a racist/ultranationalist belief that the Burman ethnic group is superior to all of the country’s other peoples, and that it should dominate - if need be by force. For the genocide, the dictatorship has both incited the widespread attitude that the Rohingya people should be exterminated, and led the way in attacking their communities. The other ethnic nationalities in turn have been attacked as part of regime offensives into their homelands.

The crime of genocide is covered by an International Convention. Crimes against humanity are covered under the Rome Statute (genocide is included here as well). They are prosecuted in international tribunals (Yugoslavia, Rwanda) and the International Criminal Court.

The genocide convention extends the crime to individuals who bear complicity. Similarly, the Rome Statute extends criminal responsibility to an individual who “In any other way contributes to the commission or the attempted commission of such a crime by a group of persons acting with a common purpose.”

Member states of the ICC have the power to refer to the Court situations where there is evidence that genocide and other crimes against humanity are being perpetrated. The ICC then appoints a Prosecutor, who decides if the evidence warrants a formal investigation, out of which indictments, trial, and punishment may follow.

Legal experts at Queen Mary University of London’s International State Crime Initiative have completed their own investigation for Burma and concluded that the Rohingya are being subjected to genocide, and that State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has entrenched their persecution. She has refused to speak about the genocide, and instead uses “the tactics of blanket denial, an absolute ban on international observation, severe limitations on humanitarian access within the region, the muzzling of the press, and the ‘blacklisting’ and deportation of human rights activists.”

In the other ethnic nationality areas, where the Burma Army is acting as an invading, conquering force, she has also refused to mention, much less condemn, the Army’s atrocities. Instead, she is demanding that the ethnic pro-democracy forces that defend the people in these areas stop their defense and instead sign the so-called Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, which is in fact a fake ceasefire since it in no way limits the Army’s aggression.

Suu Kyi’s actions have empowered the military dictatorship and its racist followers. For all intents and purposes she has granted them immunity. She is complicit - intentionally complicit - in their crimes. She must be held responsible. Members of the ICC should be lobbied to initiate an investigation. As part of this, the Burma Army, starting with its leading generals, as well as the leaders of other parties which are involved in the crimes (Buddhist monks, Rakhine groups), must be investigated - and indicted - as well.
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KNU UPDATE RETRACTION

Special Contribution
By Roland Watson(dictatorwatch),
Nov 3, 2016

Saw Mutu

In my recent statement, Karen National Union Update, I made the following comment. “For all of this, Mutu received over $2 million dollars from the European Union, channeled through Harn Yawnghwe’s Euro-Burma Office...”

I retract this statement, and apologize to the parties concerned. I was in a rush to get it out, in advance of the KNU Central Committee meeting now underway, since I firmly oppose Mutu Say Poe’s desire to postpone the KNU Congress. The statement was not properly edited. I should have waited, and excised this comment.

The information I have is as follows. It is from a source I trust, and I also understand the chain of the information from its originator to that source. (To protect confidentiality, I cannot reveal this chain.)

I have been told that both Mutu and Saw Johnny of the KNU, and perhaps other individuals as well, received money which in total exceeded $2 million, from the Myanmar Peace Center. It further seems that this money was not for legitimate causes, such as the KNU Liaison offices. I stand by this account, although I cannot verify it.

My attribution to Harn Yawnghwe and EBO was a mistake. I have been on the opposing side from EBO dating all the way back to its involvement in the ethnic alliance, ENSCC. But, differing opinions on a situation as complex as Burma are understandable. While EBO officials were clearly in regular contact with the KNU, I have no evidence whatsoever that they had any role in the payments.

The attribution to Europe was based on the fact that, to my knowledge, it was the primary funder of MPC. As has been reported, a lot of the MPC money has gone missing. Still, I have no evidence that European officials in any way knew about these payments to the KNU.

I would say, though, that Europe has played a dominant role in Burma’s peace process, and in many different, and secret, ways. There should be a complete accounting of all the money that different European countries have donated for the peace process, including of the organizations through which it was channeled.
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A Reality Check on Jammu and Kashmir

Special Contribution
By Pushkar Raj

Indian Army base was attacked in Uri

Jammu and Kashmir is again in news for violence and counter violence. Again, several solutions are proposed. Any such exercise, however, need to be informed of a reality check if peace is to return in the state in a foreseeable future.

The present unrest began after killing of Burhan Wani, a local commander of Hizbul Mujahidin, an organization that vows to liberate Kashmir by unleashing suicide bombers in Kashmir (Times of India, 4 September 2016). The unrest is restricted to the Kashmir valley comprising 7.1 percent of land and 54.9 percent of population of the state numbering 6.8 million (Census of India, 2011). In a fresh round of bloodshed over seventy people have died and thousands are injured. To defuse the situation, one of the solutions being offered is merger with Pakistan and other ‘freedom’ from India. The third solution -the status quo, is supported by the major political parties, though with differing caveats.

Merger with Pakistan

The merger with Pakistan is incongruous for a simple reason that Kashmiris will be an additional minority group in Pakistan that has a disturbing record towards its ethnic and sectarian minorities including Mohajir, Baloch, Pashtun, Ahmadis and Hazaras. Many of these people are forced to seek refuge in other countries. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees’ latest figures, Pakistanis are the sixth largest group seeking asylum in Europe following Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis. Australian immigration report 2013-2014 also reveals that largest number of people who sought humanitarian visa on arrival came from Pakistan (Elibritt Karlsen: 2014, Parliament of Australia).

Pakistan’s human rights record on Baluchistan has also been disconcerting. Since the last decade about 18,000 people have allegedly involuntarily disappeared in the province. According to the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, 157 mutilated bodies were found and 463 people disappeared in the state in 2015. (Balochwarna News, 3 January 2016). The prime suspects in these incidents are the security forces. Pakistan held Kashmir is no better. Of $38bn proposed investment in energy sector under China Pakistan Economic Corridor, Gilgit-Baltistan has not received any allocation as against other provinces (The Dawn, 12 May 2016). On the contrary, planning minister of Pakistan warned the protesting farmers of the region that the terrorism act would be invoked against them if they obstructed the project (Times of India, 18 August 16).

Freedom

The option of freedom for J&K is equally fraught with problems. If freedom is a demand for all the five regions of the state, then it seems a non-starter given the Indian and Pakistan position on it; and if it relates only to the Indian part then without taking into consideration the views of the people of Jammu and Ladakh region it is unlikely to move any farther. The demand of freedom for only the valley of Kashmir is fraught with a moral dilemma in light of about a half a million Kashmiri pundits’ virtual exile from the region. Besides, freedom for Kashmir will have a ripple effect in Muslim majority districts of Poonch and Rajouri and Kishtwar and Doda, separated by Hindu majority districts of Jammu and Udhampur, which will further add to the instability in the region.

Another difficulty to the freedom for Kashmir is use of violence and terrorism as a method to achieve it. Contemporary history shows that a violent movement does not produce a sustainable democratic state as is seen in many African countries which were inspired by various violence based ideologies. And finally, there are reports that mosques are used for mobilization of people and ISIS flags are waved in rallies in Kashmir. (Indian Express, August 21, 2015). Successful culmination of such a movement can only lead to a theocratic state that would be against the spirit of ‘kashmiriyat’, which has already suffered considerable erosion in the valley.

Way Forward

The central government owes it to the constitution of India to restore civil liberties by withdrawing the laws like AFSPA from civilian areas, ensure accountability for human rights violations, secure transparent governance, launch de-radicalisation programs and identify a genuine leadership in the valley for a dialogue. Nationally, toning down the saffron nationalism might greatly assist. It is the only way forward for a humane and democratic Kashmir.

Pushkar Raj is a Melbourne based author of Kahsmiri origin. Formerly he taught political science in Delhi University and was the National General Secretary of PUCL. He can be reached at raajpushkar@gmail.com
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Freedom from AFSPA in J&K and Manipur

Special Contribution
By Pushkar Raj

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)

As India celebrates its anniversary of independence from the British rule it, is worthwhile to ask when the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur will get freedom from the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act 1958 (AFSPA) which is no less than being living under the colonial rule.

The law that the British conceived in the wake of quit India movement of 1942, was first promulgated in 1958 to counter a parallel government established by the militant groups in the Naga Hills. In a war like situation the security forces were empowered to assert the sovereignty of the state against an armed ‘internal enemy’. But presently in J&K and Manipur there are elected governments. In such a situation, AFSPA’s use in the civilian areas does not stand scrutiny at first sight.

It needs no repetition that the AFSPA is a draconian piece of legislation and when in operation, a citizen is under a constant shadow of fear that he may be turned into a victim by the security forces at any time while going about his normal daily chores such as travelling to the office or visiting friends. As the region is declared a ‘disturbed area’, the security personnel can randomly question people and can be rude to the extent of causing bodily injury, rape and death while at the same time going unpunished, for under the law they enjoy impunity.

Sixteen years back in November 2000, what is now known as ‘Malom Massacre’ ten innocent people, including an eighteen year old national bravery award winner waiting at a bus stop, were killed. Evidently, it was a retaliatory use of force against the innocent people who were unarmed and going on their daily errands. It was ghastly act of terrorizing and punishing innocent citizens under the shield of AFSPA. No one ever got punished!

For the last twenty six years, AFSPA is in operation in Kashmir. Thousands have got maimed, killed and disappeared. There are officially acknowledged unmarked graves and visible disfigured faces. Pellet gun wounds have left thousands of young men scarred in body and soul. It is justified to ask whether government is using AFSPA as a substitute for a policy on Kashmir. If so then government has been executing a blunder.

As a policy AFPSA can never succeed because the repressive laws have a tendency to alienate general public of a region, thereby expanding the support base of discontent of which militancy could be one of the off shoots that may also have some covert community support.

Secondly, under the protection of laws like AFPSA the acts of omission and commission by the security forces allegedly result in mass killings, rapes, disappearances and torture. In the process the state loses legitimacy and moral authority to rule. This is what has happened in Kashmir presently. The elected Chief Minister of the state is unable to face her own people.

Interestingly, the AFPSA has come under scrutiny and fire of the judiciary many a times. Jeevan Reddy committee (2004) and Santosh Hegde committee (2013) questioned its content and operation. Irom Sharmila has undertook, perhaps world’s longest fast, against the law. The Supreme Court too recently held in its judgment that there cannot be an absolute immunity from trial by a criminal court (The Hindu, 9 July 2016). Then why is that the Indian government is not listening and treating its own citizens as enemy?

It seems that the laws like AFSPA suit the establishment. The contention gets credence from the statement of Irom Sharmila, who in an interview said that the government and the army are colluding to defraud people implying that the both are beneficiaries of the ‘disturbed areas’ grants from the centre without financial and administrative accountability (The Hindu, 5 March 2013).

In Kashmir too, militancy has become an industry that serves an elite while common masses continue to be fodder for fire. The continuation of AFPSA seems to serve and benefit a powerful section of the establishment of the state including the Army, political leadership, police and civil administration as well as the ‘separatists’. No wonder J&K continues to be India’s one of the top corrupt states. It also serves to brand victimized population as ‘anti-national’ therefore deserving punishment without invoking moral outrage in rest of India against the killings.

Recognizing that the unrest in Kashmir and Manipur is for justice, democracy, , rule of law and right to be heard; and it is the only way to break the present jinx as Rajiv Gandhi showed in regard to Nagaland and Atal Bihari Vajpaee in the past attempted in relation to Kashmir with accolades. It is about respecting the values enshrined in the preamble of our constitution and extending them to our own people who are also part of an ‘independent’ India. Unless we do so, Independence Day will have little meaning for the people of Kashmir and Manipur.
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In Defence of the Writer

Special Contribution
By Pushkar Raj

Perumal Murugan

The recent Chennai High court judgment concerning the writer Perumal Murugan is a requisite addition to the Indian jurisprudence as it underlines the relationship between the writer and society, which has lately suffered from grave confusion.

Permual Murugan was hauled up in the court of law for describing a cultural practice of Tamil Nadu through a novel Madhurobhagan, published in 2010 and translated as One Part Woman in English in 2013. The advocates of ban accused him of causing hurt and insulted him to the extent that he renounced writing and rightly declared himself dead.

The advocates of the ban of the novel failed to show a modicum of common sense that so long a book does not preach hate which incites or has the potential to incite hate and violence; it falls in the realm of creative freedom of a thinker and writer.

The determining power whether a book has caused or has potential to cause violence must remain with an independent judiciary in a democratic society, not with an unruly mob. Furthermore, a motivated crowd cannot first create mayhem and then say that a book has caused disorder or violence. That is what happened in Tiruchengode and surrounding areas of Tamil Nadu. The Chennai High Court ruling has tried to foster the sensible assertion that a mob will not judge the merit of a book.

In a way, the Chennai High Court judgment has recaptured the spirit of the Supreme Court judgment in K.A. Abbas v. Union of India (1970) case. In that case the court had observed, “our standards must be so framed that we are not reduced to a level where the protection of the least capable and the most depraved amongst us determines what the morally healthy cannot view or read.”

In past too the books have been banned and writers treated unfairly. However, time has always proved them right. When Arthur Koestler wrote The Lotus and the Robot in 1960 it was immediately banned in India as it attacked ‘Bapucracy’ – a godly conversion of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi who was put on too high a pedestal- in post independent India, much to the disbelief of the thinker.

The government of India considered Koestler’s ideas blasphemous and tried to shut his voice by banning the book. But Koestler must be smiling in his grave today as some of the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi are being snubbed in political governance of the country and others are questioned by the dalits and marginalised sections of the society who accuse him of patronizing them into disempowering silence.

Without learning from past , in 1988 the government of India banned Salman Rushdie’s book The Satanic Versesfor blasphemy on the insistence of those who may not have even read the book. Even though some people found the book blasphemous, banning the book was based on a flawed reasoning.

Doris Lessing, in preface to second edition of The Golden Notebook wrote that “a book is alive and potent and fructifying and able to promote thought and discussion only when its plan and shape and intention are not understood’’. She further noted that a book may mean different things to different people illustrating that her readers could not agree amongst themselves whether The Golden Notebook was about sex war, politics or mental illness.

However, after the ban on The Satanic Verses, unruly crowd began to set norms of writing in the Indian subcontinent for the writers. Taslima Nasrin, noted Bangla writer, was hounded out of Bangladesh and later from West Bengal for writing Lajja (1993) describing plight of a family in a communal riot. It is telling that over two decades back Taslima Nasrin could foresee that the Bangladesh was moving towards violent religious fanaticism.

The writer is the conscience of a society. He/she has a deeper vision. Arthur Koestler calls him even a seer, who sees more than what the others can see. He is someone to point to the sore spot in a society not necessarily to advocate precise solutions for it. That is why it took a Nayantara Sahgal and Udai Prakash, to point out that, there is an atmosphere of intolerance in the contemporary Indian society. And one can safely vouch that it is a prevailing social experience and thinking.

The Chennai High court’s observation that if you do not like a book then shut it or throw it, is a simple, civilized and legal way of dealing with a book. Banning the books and condemning writers is historically, politically and constitutionally unjustified. A society may insist doing so only at the risk of intellectual poverty, mental slavery and social regression.

​ ​ Pushkar Raj is Melbourne based writer with ​a​ academic background in political literature. Formerly, he taught political science in Delhi University and was the national ​ general secretary of PUCL. ​ ​

References - Koestler, Arthur (1977): The Author Speaks: Selected P.W. Interviews 1967-76, R.R. Bowker Company, New York. Lessing Doris (1972, second edition): The Golden Notebook, Harper Perennial, London.
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Negotiating with Undeclared Emergency

Special Contribution
By Pushkar Raj

Prof. Kancha Ilaiah

Last month, Hyderabad police registered a case against Prof. Kancha Ilaiah for writing an article in a Telugu daily, entitled ‘Is God not a democrat’? The article questioned inequality in society and discussed concept of god. For doing so the professor was reproached for insulting sentiments of a community and charged for promoting enmity between different religious groups under section 153 (A) and 295 (A) of Indian Penal Code.

This is an example of hundreds of incidents that take place in different parts of the country revealing absurdity to which a law in India could be interpreted and applied to target an individual or civil society organization (CSO) holding a dissimilar view on an issue or advocating a different narrative of history and society.

Last week, Prof. Mahesh Chandra Guru of Mysore University was charged for insulting Prime Minister Modi, Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani and god Rama on two different occasions. The professor was arrested when he appeared before a Mysore district court in the second case when his bail application was rejected and he was sent to jail (Hindustan Times, 21 June, 2016).

Though the previous governments have not been admirers of civil liberties in any ways, the present administration seems to have a condescending view of them. According to a US based democracy advocacy group, Freedom House’s 2015 report, after the 2014 elections, at least 18 people were arrested and questioned for anti-Modi posts on online forums such as Twitter and Facebook.

Arundhati Roy has rightly said that one is unable to say things that Dr. Ambedkar could say in 1936 as one risks being put into jail (Janta ka reporter, 31 May 2016). It is apparent that there is an atmosphere of fear, where journalists, writers, artists, intellectuals feel defenseless and dispensable leading to engaging in what Human Rights Watch terms ‘self-censorship’ (Human Rights Watch Report release press statement, 24May, 2016).

At the same time, the government is not secretive about its resolve to suffocate and persecute the CSOs that oppose its ideology, policies or actions. The suspension and cancelation of license of Sabrang Trust and Lawyers Collective to receive foreign funding is in line with the series of actions against those CSOs that the government considers opposed to it. Earlier, organizations like INSAF, People’s Watch and Green Peace have also experienced similar actions based on deliberate misinterpretation of vague terms such as ‘political activity’ and ‘public interest’ under the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act, 2010.

It is ironic that while the Prime Minister goes around the world soliciting foreign funding for country’s economic development, his home ministry ensures that select civil society organizations are prevented from receiving foreign funding which is critical to assisting millions of Indians in pursuing their legal, cultural and social development. Besides, as the UN repertoire on human rights noted that the ability to access foreign funding is vital to human rights work and is an integral part of the right to freedom of association (The Wire, 17 June 2016).

Apart from a direct attack on individuals and organizations, a more sinister ‘hunt’ (social) movement of conformity by coercion is in operation under the broad banner of Hindutava with scores of its regional organizational varieties mushrooming in the country. The Hindu right organizations are using what the peace activist Scilla Elworthy describes political and physical violence to intimidate and emotional and mental violence to undermine. One of such organizations have allegedly killed writers and intellectuals such as Dr Dabholkar, Dr Panasare and Prof Kalburgi for holding views on religion that displeased certain Hindu fanatics (The Indian Express, 22 June 2016).

The present administration has forced withdrawal of some history books (Wendy Doniger’s, The Hindus: An Alternative History) and is busy rewriting history in other parts where it can (Christophe Jaffrelot, The Indian Express,7 June 2016). Meanwhile a process is on to saffronise education as indicated by the union minister of education’s veiled statement that saffronisation of education would take place as (if) it is good for the country (The Indian Express, 20 June, 2016). It is a blinkered understanding of contemporary history and politics as talibanisation and islamisation of education in Afghanistan and Pakistan has not done any good to those countries.

The challenge before the civil society today is to confront this saffron mindset replacing secular values embedded in Indian history, culture and constitution. This might be easier when there are alliances across movements and groups and sharing of experiences of constructive and non-violent methods to assert democratic rights by engaging and organizing people through education. In the words of investigative journalist Will Potter, like sunlight education is an activist’s best weapon. (Will Potter, Ted.com).

Pushkar Raj is a Melbourne based writer. Earlier he taught political science in Delhi University and was the National General Secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).
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​​BJP Two Year Rule: Economic Slowdown, Social Divide and Institutional Erosion

Special Contribution
By Pushkar Raj

Meat found at Dadri lynching victims home

The BJP has completed two years in office recently showcasing its achievements with public money followed by the national executive meeting of the party. The prime minister has congratulated his government for its achievements of ‘development’ of the country. In reality, however, while the Indian economy has underperformed in the last two years as compared to a recent past, socially and institutionally too the country’s performance tumbled downwards which is a matter of concern not a celebration.

The Indian economy grew on an average of 8 percent in 2004-14, while it has grown by 7.5 percent in the last two years - still short of 0.5 percent that the country recorded during the previous congress government’s tenure (World Bank- India data and trading economics.com).

Even this growth, 7.5 percent, is phony as it is capital than job driven. Irrespective of inflating statistics of foreign direct investment crossing 35 billion, 2016 added merely 1.55 million jobs in the economy, lowest since 2009 when 2.49 million jobs were created; while in 2011, 7.04 million jobs were created (Labor Bureau, Government of India data, The Hindu, 31 March 2016).

On the contrary, the government has been lacking in redistribution of fruit of economic growth amongst the most needy of the society- the landless farmers, in the grip of drought and desperate for work under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. The government could only provide for 40.1 days of work to poor during 2014-15, lowest since the scheme was launched a decade ago. The creation of 48.6 man-day’s work in 2015-16 is encouraging but it is still under 54 man-days work generated in 2009-10 (Ministry of rural development, government of India).

Socially, the debate on personal matters such as eating and saluting has divided the country on communal lines. Hindu rightist forces are busy debating whether meat found in Dadri was mutton or beef neglecting the fact that a citizen of India was lynched by a mob instigated on an issue that concerned his personal eating choice. Under the new regime, the national debates are being ignited and fought on ‘mythological’ grounds with emotional spins while the top political leadership chooses a casual silence.

Consequently, there is a general discomfort amongst liberal sections of intelligentsia within the country and abroad over growing religious and social intolerance in public and private life in India. United States Commission on International Religious Freedom in its latest report stated that religious tolerance deteriorated and religious freedom violations increased in India in 2015. Based on religious and social freedoms available to citizens in the country, India was placed in the company of Turkey and Russia under tier 2 countries barely escaping being clubbed with Pakistan and Egypt! It is a serious commentary on erosion of secularism as a value in our political and social life despite its being part of the preamble of the constitution. The Fraser Institute, a think tank based in Canada that gauges personal freedoms enjoyed by the citizens of a country gave India 9.14 points over 10 in 2012 while it could score only 7.36 points in 2015, pointing to a sharp rise on control over citizens’ private life by the society and state.

On the governance front, some of the major institutions of the country declined in their credibility and integrity during last two years. While government has not paid any attention to the Chief Justice of India’s public disappointment over pending cases and judicial reforms, it was quick to appoint another retired chief justice of the Supreme Court as the governor of a state, apparently, a lower position under the constitution. Besides, credibility of the Judiciary and prestige of office of the governor also suffered due to allegations that the appointment had something to do with the said justice’s judgment quashing the second FIR against the ruling party’s president (The Hindu, 4 September 2014).

Police continued to touch new lows with its abysmal functioning in the country, more so recently in the capital of the country. Delhi police’s embarrassing spectacle was on show during the JNU ‘sedition’ case when it exhibited poor understanding of law (it could never convince others if there was a legal case made out against the accused under sedition given the Supreme Court’s ruling on the said section), and inexcusable failure to protect the accused in its custody. When the prime minister talks about improvement in governance, it should also mean reforms in an institution that supervises implementation of laws of land. If the police itself are oblivious of legal nuances then talk of governance is a delusion.

The image of Army as an institution suffered due to appointment of its retired chief as a junior minister in a government headed by a party known for its exclusive agenda and minority bashing. Though constitutionally there might not be a restriction for assuming such a position, but it strikes a blow to the confidence of minorities especially in J & K and Assam (with a sizable Muslim population) where Army is often called upon to assist civil administration. In field of bureaucracy, there is no progress on 2nd administrative reforms commission report submitted in 2009. Even a ban on oral instruction from political bosses and superiors and fixed tenure in posting ruled by the Supreme Court has not been implemented. All that has happened is reconstitution of appointment committee of cabinet that has enabled the prime minister office to centralize control of bureaucracy.

Institutions such as Film and Television Institute of India, Central Board of Film Certificates, University Grants Commission, Sahitya Academy and central universities, to name a few, have seen questionable appointments and whimsical functioning. Predictably, in governance rank released by the London based think tank, Legatum Institute, Indian rank in governance slipped to 53rd position in 2016 from 49 in 2015 (www.prosperity.com).

As the BJP continues to wage an aggressive propaganda of development and strategy of social divide, social and political institutions of the country are likely to further stifle, weaken and erode. It would be interesting to see how this moribund social and political structure that is being fashioned by the party will support economic growth and prosperity that the Prime Minister is promising! ​

​ The writer is a Melbourne based independent researcher and writer. Formerly he taught political science in Delhi University and was the national general secretary of People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) @pushkarraaj
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BJP’s rising in northeast India

Special Contribution
By Nava Thakuria

Sarbananda Sonowal(L) and Tarun Gogoi

Anti-incumbency wave against the 15 years old Congress government at Dispur, roaring assurances over curbing on Bangladeshi (read Muslim) migrants and the fast-paced development etc were few major reasons that influenced the electorate of Assam in northeast India to make the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) victorious in the recently concluded State Assembly polls.

After the poll debacles in Delhi and Bihar (also in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry & Kerala Assembly elections), Prime Minister Narendra Modi has finally found a reason to smile as the electorate of Assam, where the saffron party won seven seats in the last Parliamentary elections, gave thumps up to his party along with its alliances an absolute majority.

Need not to mention that Assam, unlike many elections in the last three decades of turmoil, witnessed a peaceful electoral battle for its 126 members State Legislative Assembly with two phases of polling on 4 & 11 April, where altogether 1,064 candidates tried their lucks. Moreover, for the first time two national (also powerful & resourceful) political parties with a few regional parties joined in the polls, where the State voters exercised their franchises with as high as 83 percent (out of 1.92 crore) turnout to overthrow the ruling Congress.

The BJP along with Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) won a convincing victory with 86 legislators, where the Congress was restricted to only 26 seats (the party won 78 seats in 2011 Assembly elections). The electorate with the high influence of popular Modi wave not only ended the era of Tarun Gogoi’s uninterrupted 15 years rule, but also defeated a number of Congress veterans.

Once termed as a party of Brahman and Bania (trader), the BJP alone succeeded in win 60 seats, where as it had only five legislators got won in the last Assembly elections. Energized as the BJP’s alliance partner, the AGP won 14 seats (10 seats in 2011 polls) and the BPF succeeded in 12 seats (same with last Assembly polls, though it was with Congress that time).

With the Congress, the other losing party was the Badruddin Ajmal led All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), which could succeeded only in 13 constituencies in contrast to 18 seats in 2011 polls. A known sympathizer to Bangladeshi migrants in Assam, Moulana Ajmal, who is a Parliamentarian from Dhubri Lok Sabha constituency, too lost from South Salmara constituency.

Some of the important winners include outgoing chief minister Tarun Gogoi, Assembly speaker Pranab Gogoi, BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Sarbananda Sonowal, AGP president Atul Bora, former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, former State ministers Brindaban Goswami, Pradip Hazarika, Chandra Mohan Patowary, Phani Bhusan Choudhury, former All Assam Students’ Union leader Tapan Gogoi etc. All four seats in greater Guwahati area were won by BJP candidates namely Atul Bora (senior) from Dispur constituency, Siddhartha Bhattacharya from Guwahati East, Ramendra Narayan Kalita from Guwahati West and Himanta Biswa Sarma from Jalukbari constituency. Guwahati’s BJP Parliamentarian Bijaya Chakrabarty’s daughter Suman Haripriya also won from Hajo constituency.

Among prominent losers from the Congress include former Union minister Paban Singh Ghatowar, former State ministers like Pradyut Bordoloi, Gautam Roy, Sarat Barkataki, Bharat Chandra Narah, Atowa Munda, Chandan Kumar Sarkar, Nurzamal Sarkar, Tanka Bahadur Rai, Prithibi Majhi, Bishmita Gogoi, Ajit Singh, Siddique Ahmed, Pranati Phukan etc.

Congress veteran Gogoi, who won from Titabor constituency, accepted the defeat of his party and affirmed to play the role of constrictive opposition in the Assembly. On the other hand, PM Modi thanked the people of Assam for helping his party for winning and commented that Assam elections win for BJP was ‘historic by all standards’.

The saffron party leaders also promised that it would urgently seal the border with Bangladesh, complete the NRC without a single illegal migrant, clear a huge volume of lands belonged to Vaishnavite Satras under encroachment, initiate for all round development with 24x7 power & water supply, ensure 100 percent irrigation coverage of arable lands, offer employment to 25 lakh youths, withdraw oral interviews for 3rd & 4th category government jobs in the State etc. It now expects all possible help & cooperation from the Centre to the new government at Dispur under the leadership of Sonowal.
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A NEW BURMA PEACE PROCESS - PART 2

Special Contribution
By Roland Watson(Dictator Watch)
May 1, 2016

Anarchy - Buddhist pagoda in the compound of a Christian church

In my first article about the reset of the negotiations in Burma, I made the following points: The NCA should be abandoned; new people were needed (the MPC staff should be excluded from the peace process); the ethnic and religious census results should be published immediately; the law should be changed so the EAOs are not designated as illegal; the NLD should take ownership of the process; and, the focus should be on achieving peace on the ground, before proceeding to political negotiations.

Aung San Suu Kyi has just attended a meeting of the Joint Monitoring Committee - she does appear to be taking control of the process. But, the JMC was an outcome of the so-called NCA between the military dictatorship and two resistance armies, the leaders of which were bribed by Europe to sign. In addition, the MPC is going to be renamed the National Reconciliation and Peace Center. It apparently will survive (probably at the behest of Europe), although it is uncertain if the old faces will return. Just by participating in this meeting, Suu Kyi gave legitimacy to the NCA. She further said, as quoted by DVB: “By strengthening the ceasefire we have now and making evident the positive outcomes of a strong ceasefire to the public, we can entice the remaining parties to join in and pave the way for peace talks that can promise us perpetual peace.”

This statement signifies a couple of things. First, she believes there is a ceasefire. This is ridiculous, as the dictatorship is attacking the EAOs in many different places. The Burma Army even last week invaded the KNDO HQ, which NCA violation led the group to announce: “The NCA is bringing a fake peace in our territories and this evil accord was only implemented to destroy the ethnic people.” Secondly, Suu Kyi also has no intention to abandon the NCA. She merely wants the non-signer EAOs to sign. These groups resisted years of intensive pressure, because it meant surrender, and now her strategy appears to be: Well, just sign - surrender - anyway. Dear Daw Suu: There will be no “positive outcomes,” or “strong ceasefire.” Please understand, the old peace process served the dictatorship perfectly. Nothing concrete happened and the Burma Army came under no pressure: to stop offensives, war crimes, even to implement code of conduct measures with the groups, such as the KNU, with which it had deals. It was a time wasting exercise. For Senior General Than Shwe, it did exactly what he wanted. Now, you are proposing that the process that suited him perfectly be continued. At the JMC meeting she further called for a new Panglong conference, in one to two months time, which would be a political meeting, and for which an enduring peace on the ground is absolutely essential. Also, the census results are still not published, one month after the NLD has taken over the government; and, while the law is being changed to decriminalize protest, it is unclear if this will extend to the armed resistance groups.

The issue of False Equivalence

The reason all of this is important is because it reveals the fundamental assumption underlying the entire negotiation: that the two sides have equal legitimacy. But, while the Burman dictators and the EAOs are absolutely the two sides of the negotiation, they are not equal. The first is the oppressor and the second the oppressed. In many peace talks, such as over borders or territory, the different sides often have authentic positions tied to history. The purpose of the discussion is therefore to negotiate these differences. This does not hold for Burma. Indeed, Harvard Law School researchers who studied the country concluded that the generals have committed war crimes. They shouldn’t even be in the peace process. They should be arrested, and tried at the International Criminal Court.

When Sui Kyi says that she has warm feelings for the Burma Army, or that the NCA should be extended, she is reinforcing the false equivalence between the dictators and the EAOs. She, possibly without even realizing it, has picked sides. To once again state the obvious: any peace process that is biased will fail. The EAOs’ greatest fear has always been that Suu Kyi would align with the Burma Army. This would give credence to the idea that they are insurgents. This is why they and their activist allies have repeatedly documented that it is the military who are the terrorists, and who have invaded the ethnic homelands like a colonizing force and committed crimes against humanity.

The possible explanations for Suu Kyi’s bias include that she doesn’t really understand it - she lacks both self knowledge and a deep appreciation of what is taking place and what needs to be done to bring peace to Burma; that it is actually an overt characteristic - she is a Burman racist; or that she is uninformed. To be polite, I will assume the last. When she was under house arrest, she obviously had limited access to information, but this no longer holds. Suu Kyi should make a sincere effort to understand Burma’s civil war, including its daily manifestations. She further needs help to do this. For example, President Obama is given an intelligence brief, every morning, about events - notably military events - that are signifiant to U.S. interests and policy. Suu Kyi needs the same type of brief. In the first article I said that the NLD should establish a peace working group, to manage the process. One of the responsibilities of this group should be to prepare this brief, including of all the conflict currently underway in the different parts of Burma. Furthermore, the EAOs should help with this, since they have the best battlefield intel. They should email sitreps to the new NLD peace group, which can then include the info in Suu Kyi’s briefs.

I would also suggest that the first order of business for the EAOs, through the UNFC, should be to compile a list of all the Burma Army bases and outposts in their territory, including with the number of soldiers present and their heavy equipment such as artillery and aircraft. There are no doubt hundreds of such bases. Lists, and if possible maps, would make the full extent of the Burma Army colonization clear, and also that the obvious route to peace is for the generals to withdraw. Lastly, in a negotiation there is an agenda, of what needs to be discussed. But, for Burma, there is one thing that is not subject to negotiation. The Burma Army must stop its attacks. Aung San Suu Kyi can believe in unicorns, for all I care, but there won’t be peace in the country until the military dictatorship ends it offensives.

A new Panglong

This brings us to the idea that it is possible to have a new Panglong conference, in short order. Suu Kyi’s proposal misses a basic point. The Panglong Agreement was signed in February 1947. This was a year and a half after the end of World War II; before the assassination of Aung San that July; and almost two years before eventual dictator Ne Win started attacking the Karen in Insein and other townships. This means Panglong was signed during that rare thing for Burma, a period of peace, and with a trusted leader in charge. Suu Kyi may be trusted by many people, including some EAO leaders, but there is no peace. There is no possibility at all of a new Panglong until there is peace on the ground, and for an extended period. But, this isn’t up to her. Regarding conflict, the generals are in charge. And, if anything, they have increased their attacks since the election. Suu Kyi promoting the possibility is simply raising false hopes and expectations. It may even be an attempt to deceive (that she can bring peace to the country without confronting the military).

Finally, if such a time does arrive when a new Panglong conference may be held, the EAOs should be extremely careful about signing anything. The original agreement is still valid, and it gives them many rights, including to secede. A new agreement will rescind this. Considering how uncertain the future of Burma is, with the dictators still in power and clearly after Suu Kyi leaves the scene, the EAOs need to hold onto their guns and not yield any of their rights.

The National Census

In conclusion, I want to return to the unpublished national census results once again. Why do I focus so intently on what seems to be a minor issue? The reason is that their publication could change the peace negotiation if not the entire national dynamic. Everything about Burma is based on a single idea, that the Burmans are the majority. It underlies the generals’ demand that they be in charge, and that the EAOs have no right to leave the union much less autonomy. It further supports the false equivalence - the dictators must be legitimate since they “represent” the majority.

But, what if the Burmans aren’t the majority? Prior national surveys counted all Buddhists as Burmans and mixed group individuals as well. The results, therefore, were false. But now there is a much better, and U.N. sponsored, count. It is quite possible if not likely that pure-Burmans (both parents are Burman) are not in the majority. Instead, the country has no majority. It is a collection of disparate minority groups!

In that case, no one group can claim precedence. Indeed, the country must have a federal democracy. No other system can work. Suu Kyi, though, is extending the censorship. This combined with her appointment of regime official Thein Swe as Immigration and Population head is very suspicious. She is either being timid - she fears what will happen if the truth is known; or she really is a Burman bigot and racist, and not only against the Rohingya. Aung San Suu Kyi: Don’t live in fear! Please release the ethnic and religious breakdowns. The truth will set you, and the country, free.
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New restrictions on the right to demonstrate in Vietnam



Demonstration outside the trial of blogger Nguyễn Hữu Vinh on 23rd March

PARIS, 30 March 2016 (VCHR) – The Minister of Public Security has issued new regulations which limit the right to demonstrate in Vietnam and give Police broad powers to crack down on public gatherings outside Courts when trials are in session.

Circular 13/2016/TT-BCA on “Regulations on the duties of the People’s Security forces in protecting Court hearings”, issued by Public Security Minister General Trần Đại Quang on 10 March will come into force on 24 April 2016. The Circular instructs Security Police on how to maintain security enforcement during Court hearings and ensure the protection of court officials, lawyers, witnesses, evidence and people attending the trial (Article 3). Whereas these are customary measures in countries respectful of the rule of law, Circular 13 contains a clause on “Handling situations of gatherings causing public disorder in the vicinity of trials” (Article 14) which violates internationally-recognized rights to freedom of assembly.

Under Article 14, if people gather outside a trial, Police must first issue verbal warnings to dispel them. But if the demonstrators do not comply, Police may “immediately deploy forces to prevent the disturbance of public order, isolate and arrest opposition elements, instigators and leaders of the disturbance”.

Given the broad interpretation of “disturbing public order” in the Vietnamese Criminal Code (Article 245), which makes no distinction between violent acts and the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression and assembly, Circular 13 virtually gives Security forces carte-blanche to suppress demonstrations and arrest human rights defenders protesting unfair trials or expressing solidarity with fellow activists. On 23 March 2016, during the trial of prominent blogger Nguyễn Hữu Vinh (Anh Ba Sàm) and his colleague Nguyễn Thị Minh Thúy, several people were arrested and detained for questioning on the pretext of “causing public disorder”, and many were subsequently summoned for “working sessions” with the Police.

“Circular 13 claims to “comply with the Constitution and the law” (Article 3), but in fact, it is anti-constitutional”, said VCHR President Võ Văn Ái. “The Public Security Minister is overstepping his powers and trampling on the rights enshrined in the Vietnamese Constitution”, he said. General Trần Đại Quang will be the next President of Vietnam (pending approval by the National Assembly).

Vietnam’s 2013 amended Constitution guarantees the rights of all citizens “to enjoy the right to freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of the press, to have access to information, assemble, form associations and hold demonstrations” (Article 25).

Vietnam has no law on demonstrations. A draft law before the National Assembly has been delayed because of disagreement on the text. Current regulations in force are Decree 38/2005 and Public Security Circular 09/2005/TT-BCA which prohibit gatherings of more than five people outside public buildings without permission from the State.
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Denial of Justice to Minorities in Pakistan and India

Special Contribution
By Pushkar Raj

Muslim men in Hashimpura on May 22, 1987

Two recent legal developments underscore the dismal state of Hindu minority in Pakistan and Muslims in India. While Pakistan’s parliamentary legal select committee approved the Hindu marriage bill for its about four million Hindu population, two district courts in India began acquitting accused of the Muzaffarnagar Hindu-Muslim riots of 2013 in which 60 people were killed and thousands were displaced.

The proposed Hindu marriage bill that has come after 69 years however, is only significant in a sense that now Hindus in Pakistan will be allowed to govern their civil affairs according to their own customary traditions and they will be able to get their marriages registered and properties transferred. The bill will not address the abduction, forcible conversation and marriages of the girls of Hindu community as it has a contentious provision that lays down that if any one of the Hindu couple decides to convert to another religion, the marriage will be illegal.

While the proposed law, in a way, legalizes post marriage conversion, it does not put any deterrent on the pre-marriage abductions and conversions of Hindu girls. The majority of Hindu girls abducted, converted and married are below 13 years of age as post-puberty marriage of girls is allowed in Pakistan.

Pakistan Human Rights Commission has noted that Pakistan state has failed to save Hindus from ‘disgusting excesses such as forced conversion of young women.’ (10 August 2012). A report of Movement for Solidarity and Peace, a human rights organization based in Pakistan, estimates that nearly 1,000 non-Muslim girls are forcibly converted to Islam every year.

According to Pakistan Hindu Panchyat about 1000 girls are forced to convert only in Sindh province of Pakistan each year. The courts rarely dispense justice to Hindus in Pakistan in the cases of forced marriages. So much so that a noted human rights advocate Amarnath Motumal, advises his community members not to go to courts with cases of forced marriages saying, “We close the doors when we go to courts for justice.” (The Express Tribune, 31 August 2014)

The conditions of Muslim community in India are no better as they have also been denied justice in a systematic way over and again. The acquittal of the riots accused in the Muzaffarnagar riots cases (2013) recently is condemnable but not a new event as the instigators and executors of riots have gone unpunished in India for so long now. Muzaffarnagar riots accused have been acquitted in six different cases including dacoity, gang rape and murder. (PUDR, Press Release, 21 February 2016)

In a similar way, a Delhi court in March 2015 acquitted all 16 accused in the 28-year-old Hashimpura massacre (Meerut riots, Uttar Pradesh 1989) citing insufficient evidence. 19 police force personnel’s were accused of picking up 42 men of the Muslim community from Hashimpura area of Merrut town and shooting them down at the nearby canal. A counsel for the victims and survivors, Rebecca John summed it, "If today is not the day we hang our heads in shame, there can be no other day", she said after the verdict. (Times of India, 22 March 15)

900 people died in Bombay riots (1993). Only three convictions have taken place in those riot cases. (The Telegraph, 30 July 2015) The Sri Krishna Commission, set up to inquire into the Bombay riots recommended de-communalization of police force as it had found bias against the Muslims in the police firing incidents. The recommendations were never implemented. The conviction rate in the Gujarat riots (2002) has been the worst so far, a negligible between 0.21 and 1.18 %. (Stanford Law School Gujarat Riots Report, May 2014) Certainly, despite the mammoth efforts of the civil society organizations and judicial intervention from the highest level- the Supreme Court of India-, it is a pathetic outcome that speaks for itself.

The Prevention of the Communal Violence bill remained unlegislated in the parliament for nine years from 2005 to 20014. It was withdrawn just before the 16th general elections by the Congress party that ruled the nation for ten years giving way to BJP in power in New Delhi. The present Prime Minister, Narender Modi, called the bill a ‘recipe for disaster’, signalling that the BJP has little interest in preventing communal violence legally. (The Hindu, 5 December 2013)

As the debate surrounding beef eating, sedition, anti-national, Bhartmata etc gets shriller at the behest of Hindutava forces, the Muslim minority in India is likely to come under more intense pressure. Thankfully, given the democracy in country, Muslims in India enjoy some political clout. Much of their state of survival will depend on how effectively the Muslims use this democratic power to counter the onslaught of political forces of the Hindu right which are the direct beneficiary of their continuous flogging.
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A REALITY CHECK FOR BURMA/MYANMAR

Feb 13, 2016

Aung San Suu Kyi and Xi Jinping

I’ve been a pro-democracy activist for going on twenty-two years. I’ve mainly worked on China’s neighbor, Burma, which is now also known as Myanmar.

I’ve focused on the suffering of the ethnic minorities of the country. They prefer the term ethnic nationalities. There’s no proof that any group has a majority.

Today, I’m going to talk about the country in a way which - to Westerners - might seem unfamiliar. It’s not to the people of Burma. I hope it will be enlightening.

It’s important to realize that Burma wasn’t even a country until the British arrived in the 1820s. The borders were really only drawn following World War II. Many groups, particularly in the North and Northeast, had been functionally independent. At this time, an extraordinary array of ethnic peoples were grouped together in one nation.

Starting in the Southwest and going around the perimeter, there are the Arakan, Chin, Kachin, Shan, Karenni, Karen, Mon, and Burman peoples. That’s 18 groups, and there are others as well.

The first to migrate into the territory were the Pyu, from Yunnan, China, followed by the Mon, Karen and Arakan. Then the Burmans appeared in the 9th century, and launched an aggressive series of wars. The Pyu city-states were destroyed and the entire people absorbed. Burman kings have maintained some degree of control since this time. In the 18th century, they committed genocides against the Mon and the Arakan.

When the first modern dictator, Burman General Ne Win, seized control in 1962, he attacked many of the groups, and with the attacks against the Shan, Karenni and Karen also rising to the level of genocide. The Muslim Rohingya in the West suffered severe persecution in the late 1970s, the early 1990s, and once again starting in 2012, such that they are experiencing a slow-burning genocide as well.

Because of the actions of the Burmans, the leaders of which believe themselves to be superior, and in the majority, the country has not only had civil war since 1948, it has suffered a full one thousand years of racist Burman control. In the last year alone, the Burma Army has launched attacks against at least seven different ethnic armies. There are six refugee of war crises underway right now, not to mention an estimated two million people who have fled the country looking for work.

Burma though, in the press, and in the U.S. Administration and Europe, is considered to be a great success. This is because Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy now has a majority in Parliament.

I would caution against having irrational exuberance for the future. Suu Kyi and the other top NLD leaders are also Burman, as are the majority of MPs. The ethnic nationalities have minimal representation.

In recent years there has been a call for tripartite dialogue, between the dictatorship, the NLD, and the ethnic groups. The Burman generals always refused. Now, with the NLD in Parliament and with the military still unreformed, the two formal power centers are both Burman.

Many of the ethnic nationality people believe that they have been cast aside. They have to depend on Suu Kyi to defend their interests, and as she has ignored the ethnic issue in the past, there’s not a lot of confidence that she will.

Finally, if Suu Kyi is good-hearted, if she is not a racist herself, she has formidable obstacles to overcome. The military-drafted constitution guarantees 25% of the seats in Parliament to military representatives. This means that even though the NLD won the recent election by a landslide, there is still a large military block in the legislature.

More importantly, under the Constitution the military controls the Defense, Border Affairs, and Interior ministries, and which take the bulk of the national budget. Border Affairs covers large-scale development in the ethnic homelands, which development the ethnic groups do not want. Interior covers the police and prisons, which are still full of political prisoners, and also the General Administration Department, or civil service, down to the township level.

What this means is that the powers of the new Parliament are severely limited, only a fraction of a true national government. And, to get anything done, it will have to work with a hostile, military-run civil service.

Burma is balanced in a precarious equilibrium, and which can shatter at any time. The Constitution also allows the military to launch a coup and resume absolute control, in the interests of national security. Soldiers and police further have immunity for any abuses and crimes that they commit.

You could say that Suu Kyi and the NLD are stuck between the people and the generals. The people want freedom and rights, and they, and many of their MPs, will push for it. The generals don’t want to yield anything. Suu Kyi has to try to please everyone. As I wrote in one of my articles, what could possibly go wrong?

As a forecast, I don’t think Suu Kyi will be able to hold back the popular aspirations. The military will become more and more stressed. In the meantime, the ethnic armies will never disarm. I think there is a 25% if not a 50% chance that there will be a coup within the next five years.

I want to conclude by talking briefly about China’s interests in Burma. Geopolitically, China sees the country as a rich source of natural resources, and as an alternative route to the Indian Ocean. Chinese businesses already have major stakes in large mines, pipelines, dams, and many other operations.

Politically, Beijing has been trying to favor all of the different sides. The Burman generals are clients. But, China also supports some of the strongest ethnic armies. Suu Kyi even has kind words for Beijing.

There has been a report that she will bargain with China over the peace issue. If China pressures the ethnic armies to sign a nationwide ceasefire, she will allow more Chinese dam building and resource extraction.

From my perspective, though, I don’t think she can pull it off. The ethnic armies won’t abandon their peoples.

In any case, China has one core interest that overrides everything. Even business interests will be sacrificed if necessary. Notwithstanding its Parliament, Burma must remain under military control. China cannot have a new, real democracy on its borders.

Not only would it feed the longing for democracy in China itself, it would give hope to the long-oppressed Tibetans, and the Uyghurs of East Turkestan.

Because of this, China will never stop backing Burma’s generals, which they well know. The generals have been fooling the West, and which con game Washington and European diplomats have been only too happy to swallow, because of their own lust for Burma’s resources.
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RACISM IN BURMA

Special Contribution
By Roland Watson(dictatorwatch)
Feb 2, 2016

Karen-Burma racial war, home burned in Te Mu Der village

Introduction

Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy have now taken over the government of Burma - at least those parts not reserved for the military. She has announced that she will make peace in the country her top priority. This, on the face of it, is great news. More than anything, Burma needs peace: real and enduring peace. Nonetheless, her pronouncement raises a few questions.

Suu Kyi’s statements are notoriously vague. Therefore, we need to consider what, specifically, she means by peace. Related to this, we need to address the question of why there is no peace; and, further, how the reasons for the lack of peace can be resolved. At this point, the second question is the most important. Burma’s civil war began in 1948, the year after Aung San was assassinated. One can argue that it was his death which created the seedbed for the war, since he was the natural leader for the newly independent country, and which Burma’s different ethnic groups largely trusted.

His death, though, led to a power vacuum, and which was soon exploited. Aung San’s fellow Burma Independence Army comrade, Ne Win, used his private army to attack the Karen people in Insein Township north of Rangoon. About the same time, a communist insurgency began, creating a new front in the post-world war geopolitical tension between communism and the West, and with China backing Burma’s rebels. Ne Win ultimately seized power in 1962, and established a military dictatorship. He then systematically began to attack Burma’s ethnic nationalities, implementing a genocidal “Four Cuts” policy. The West, which supported him as a bulwark against China, helped arm the new Burma Army. Its war crimes were ignored.

Prior to 1962, there had been many clashes in Burma, notably in the lower part of the country. This changed once the dictatorship was established. The fighting began to shift to the hilly border regions on the margins of the central plains. These regions are the location of the bulk of Burma’s natural resources. Some commentators have included the country in the group of nations that suffer the “resource curse,” saying that the fighting is motivated by a desire to control these resources.

While this is certainly a contributing factor in Burma’s civil war, it is not the main reason. The military dictatorship is run by members of what is believed to be the country’s most populous ethnicity, the Burmans. The border areas are largely inhabited by other groups. The Burman generals in turn are continuing a millennium old practice, first established by Burman kings, of racism against these groups. Racism is the belief among members of one group that they are superior, and that individuals from other groups are inferior. It is the widest possible and most destructive form of social branding.

Burman racism is the critical issue behind the country’s conflict. Burma can never be at peace until the racism is substantially reduced. Suu Kyi, therefore, is she truly wants to work for peace, must begin with the institutionalized and widespread racism. Focusing on other initiatives, however worthwhile they might be, such as equitably splitting the resources, or reforming the Burma Army to include the ethnic resistance forces, will never be enough.

Racism in America

The bad news for Burma, and Suu Kyi, is that fighting racism is actually more difficult than ending a civil conflict. Said another way, the conflict is the symptom, and the racism the underlying social disease. As the example of the United States illustrates, racist attitudes become embedded in a national population. They reside, like a virus, in an individual’s core set of beliefs. Through social conditioning, it is in fact easy to turn children into racists, and from which, if they are even able to recognize their bias, they may struggle their entire lives to escape.

Racism in the U.S., of course, has two foundations. These are the belief that Native Americans were inferior - savages, which opinion justified their conquest and, ultimately, their genocide; and the fact that slaves kidnapped in Africa were not even considered to be human at all. (They were “property.”) Today, racism against Native Americans has relaxed, but only because they were so successfully eliminated, and with remnant populations isolated from view in “reservations.” It’s difficult to be against something to which you are not exposed. Racism against African Americans, though, and notwithstanding Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Robert’s idiotic observation that it is no longer a problem, is as strong as ever. It has actually experienced a major resurgence in response to Barack Obama’s presidency.

Bill Maher has remarked that while not all Republicans are racist, all U.S. racists are likely to be Republican. Republican power-brokers, starting with media outlets from radical-right talk radio to Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News, working together with congressional allies, evangelical Christian allies, and the Roberts Republican Supreme Court (most notably through its 2013 gutting of the Voting Rights Act), have instigated the American racism revival.

It is the height of irony (which has been widely recognized), that the party of Abraham Lincoln, which fought slavery, is now dominated by demagogues who promote racism. It is essential to understand that this did not have to happen. Obama winning the presidency did not have to lead to the egregious expansion of racist attitudes and acts that we have seen. Instead, like a carefully cultivated crop, the new racism was grown, through the efforts of a thousand Republican gardeners, into the now thriving psychological illness that the nation suffers.

Many Republican leaders, though, including political, media and religious, are not in fact racists themselves. But, they have been eager to promote racism and to use it as a weapon to increase their power. What the U.S. experience shows is that racism (and more generally any widespread attitudes, negative or positive, between different groups) is fundamental. It affects a society profoundly, both preventing real progress and spawning all manner of severe and tragic problems.

It’s also notable that a society with a history of one type of racism is much more susceptible to other forms of bigotry, against new groups. In the U.S., this is seen through the relative ease with which Republicans turned their racist followers that hated blacks, against Hispanics and now Muslims. Conversely, societies that have successfully defended themselves against historic patterns of racism find it easier to confront the new forms. Sweden, for example, and even though it has admitted a large number of refugees from the Middle East over the last twenty years, has a small racism problem, and which, as in America, is centered mainly on poorly educated young men.

Therefore, and returning to Burma, if Suu Kyi really wants to see peace, she has to start with the country’s ingrained racism. This assumes, of course, that she is not a racist herself. If she is, which her words both in support of the Burman generals and against the Rohingya people seem to suggest, then the quest for peace actually begins with Suu Kyi confronting her own racism. If she is unable to do this, if she doesn’t want to or if she is simply too old to change, she will be unable to lead the country to a better and peaceful future.

Racism in Burma

The earliest arrivals to Burma, excluding neolithic residents, were the Pyu, Mon and Karen peoples, and the Arakan in the West. The Pyu, Mon and Arakan in turn established a series of complex social structures, city-states and kingdoms, while the Karen remained village-based and pastoral. Centuries later the Burmans migrated into the country. (They actually adopted Buddhism from the Mon.) These early Burmans in turn took an aggressive approach toward the other groups, launching wars of conquest against them (and neighboring Siam and Laos), and in the process establishing their own kingdoms. (The Pyu city-states were destroyed, and the people completely absorbed.) While the motivation for the conquest was certainly the standard objectives of securing land and power, over time this led to the inculcation of a sense of Burman superiority - the country’s first notable racism.

This historical racism reached its height in the 18th century, when in 1757 the Burmans perpetrated a genocide against the Mon, and in 1784-85 a second genocide against the Arakan. The Burmans did not engage in systematic eradication of the Karen, though, and instead derided them, as the Native Americans had experienced, as savages. Their dominance ended with the arrival of the British in the 1820s. It is noteworthy that while Burmans consider the British period to be the nation’s greatest stain, the other groups viewed it with relief. Also, large areas of what is now Burma, in the far north (Kachin and Naga areas), and Shan State (where many groups reside, not only Shan), remained outside of Burman control and even British.

The establishment of post-colonial Burma brought these areas formally into the country. Ne Win then began persecuting their residents shortly after he seized power. His Burma Army attacked, leading to massive humanitarian displacement and refugee crises, and which for the Shan, Karenni and Karen peoples achieved the status of genocide as well. Hatred of the Karen in turn was propelled by the fact that the group had been favored by the British.

Finally, in Western Burma, what had been periodic abuse of the Rohingya people developed into systematic, genocidal repression. The British had also at times favored the Rohingya, and actually armed some as a buffer force for their withdrawal from the country during World War II. Following this withdrawal, there was large-scale inter-communal conflict between the Arakan - who backed the Japanese, and the Rohingya, with upwards of 100,000 Rohingya killed. The next major repression occurred in 1978, when Ne Win forced hundreds of thousands to flee the country. This massive forced migration was again imposed in the early 1990s. (Many of these refugees, and their descendants, continue to live - and die - in squalid refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh.) Now, starting in 2012, new regime motivated pogroms have been carried out against the Rohingya, with the backing of racist Buddhist monks and Arakanese, and which has led to the creation of a network of internal concentration camps

Burma, therefore, has an astonishing and multi-faceted history of racism and genocide. This is the nation’s real stain. And, just as the experience of Germany shows following World War II, national disgrace can only be reversed if the underlying racism is systematically and comprehensively crushed.

Recommendations for Aung San Suu Kyi

Assuming, once again, that she is personally not racist, or, alternatively, that she is able to defeat her embedded bias, the path forward for Suu Kyi is clear, to lead Burma down Germany’s road to social recovery. She must implement a two-fold strategy, and accompanied by appropriate policy, government action, and legislation.

Racism is ignorance, and the only cure for ignorance is education. The first arm of the strategy, then, is that the nation’s entire educational system must be rebuilt. Since it is already in such bad shape, this is not as daunting as it sounds. New teachers need to be hired and trained and new textbooks written. Fortunately, education is something that the International Community is usually happy to fund. As a payoff for the market access that developed countries and companies now enjoy, they should be forced to contribute to a massive fund to recreate the educational infrastructure. Also, new legislation should be drafted to make encouraging racism a hate crime, and with such legislation enforced against both traditional and social media.

The second arm of the strategy relates to the country’s institutionalized racism, meaning the still intact military dictatorship including its cronies. Germany, in a sense, had an advantage because the Nazis were comprehensively defeated, and Hitler killed himself. For Burma, the regime is still in power, and Than Shwe is still alive.

The dictatorship, therefore, is completely unreformed. This was clearly illustrated by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing’s recent statement on Armed Forces Day that the regime’s attacks in the ethnic homelands, and which have led to horrific atrocities perpetrated by Burma Army soldiers, are completely justified. The dictatorship is still sticking to its basic positions: Burma is a country run by and for Burmans, mainly the elite; the military has the right to attack any time it wants, and to commit any and all crimes against the civilian population; and, this control and impunity is safeguarded in the country’s Constitution, and which will never be changed.

The idea that the people who have the guns can be prevailed upon to give up their privilege and power (and racism) is of course far-fetched. Suu Kyi, even though she has praised the generals many times, must understand this deep down. No one now expects her to challenge the military in strong terms, much less demand a new charter, so realistically the prospects for the country are poor, even with a “democratic election.” Power will not be transferred, and the racism will not be confronted. Suu Kyi apparently intends to take small steps, and to try to build some type of track record. This is just kicking the can down the road. There will not be real progress. Even though she is the one who said it, “hope for the best, but prepare for the worst,” her own leadership is limited solely to the first idea.

Who are the people of Burma?

Were Suu Kyi to be forthright, the type of leader that the people of Burma both deserve and need, she would organize the following changes. The military dictatorship took two notable steps, and which should be reversed. The capital was moved to Than Shwe’s imperial city, Naypyidaw, and the country’s name was changed from Burma to Myanmar. When you are trying to achieve real political change, symbolic steps are sometimes as effective as substantial action. They signal to the public that a new course is truly underway.

While no-one expects that the new Parliament will not initially assemble in Naypyidaw, at some point it should return to Rangoon, along with the government ministries. Than Shwe’s white elephant should be abandoned. The issue of the name, though, is more problematic. “Myanmar” actually refers to the Burman or Bamar people. It is not even a country name, as, for example, its neighbor Thailand, the land of the Thais. (Myanmar Pyi would be needed to mean the land of the Burmans.) Even worse is the fact that the name of country, one of the most ethnically diverse in the world, refers to only one of its groups - the one with the history of racist conquest.

Indeed, and referring to my earlier comment about how racists brainwash children, using the name Myanmar facilitates the development of a superiority mindset among the country’s Burman youth. It is easy for them to jump to the conclusion that Burma is “their” country, and that everyone else is a second-class citizen. One option would be to return to using “Burma.” The problem with this is that it is simply an anglicized version of Myanmar. Not only would the racists angrily oppose its use, because of the British reference, it still would ignore the ethnic diversity.

What Burma needs is a new, ethnically-neutral name. This issue, therefore, should be publicized widely by the new government, and with a call for suggestions from the people (similar to how New Zealand recently asked for suggestions to change its flag). This simple action would demonstrate that the government, and Suu Kyi, really do care about ethnic nationality equality, aspirations and rights. Moving the capital back to Rangoon and renaming the country might seem obscure steps to take, but they would be extremely significant. Nonetheless, they will take time to organize. There is one thing that the new government can do, though, right now, and which would have a huge impact.

Last week, in its final step, the dictatorship attempted to have the Ministry of Immigration and Population moved within the Home Affairs Ministry, which under the Constitution the military controls. This action, fortunately, was blocked. Many commentators have concluded that the motivation for the proposal related to Immigration - that the military wants to retain the administrative ability to oppress the Rohingya through immigration actions. This, on the face of it, certainly seems plausible. Racists need a common enemy, and the regime has chosen the Rohingya to fulfill this role. Nonetheless, there is a second motivation, and which observers have completely overlooked: The Department of Population. The entire racist infrastructure of Burma is based on the idea that the Burmans are the majority. However, until the national census was conducted, there was no way to test this claim. Now, though, the people have been counted. The dictatorship in turn has refused to release the ethnic breakdown - one wonders why. But, with the Department changing hands it will lose this ability. The action last week was a desperate attempt to keep the census data secret.

The new Suu Kyi/NLD government, therefore, should publish the ethnic population numbers immediately. It is impossible to govern effectively until you know who the people are. If Burma is to be a country, it needs to establish a national identity. Is it a nation of Burmans, with a sprinkling of other people, or is it a nation of a wide group of ethnicities, and where - by population at least - no single one dominates? This is the key question, not eight states or fourteen, or how to organize a federal structure or army. Everything, certainly in a democracy, starts with the people. Who are the people of Burma? Aung San Suu Kyi, please answer this question!!! If she will not do this, if like the generals she postpones releasing the data, I guarantee that she is also a Burman racist, to the core.

Confronting the dictatorship

It is clear that Suu Kyi has to confront the military. She cannot put it off forever. While she may postpone demanding constitutional change, publishing the ethnic population numbers is a way to get the ball rolling.

There are many other issues that require action, starting with those that revolve around her beloved rule of law. Burma needs to immediately begin establishing a real rule of law. The era of war crimes, land thefts and all other forms of regime abuse has to stop! Most importantly, and no matter the resentment this causes among the racist monks and Arakanese, the Rohingya concentrations camps must be emptied and the detainees allowed to return to their homes. The first step for the democracy is to end the crimes against humanity! If security is required for this, Suu Kyi should request an international peacekeeping force.

The New York Times recently highlighted the contradiction, to put it politely, of having a country run by a Nobel Peace Prize winner, but where crimes against humanity were rampant. This simply is not acceptable. She cannot put this off - try to ignore the issue or say that the time is not yet right. Every day the Rohingya are imprisoned, her fancy silk sarongs, metaphorically at least, will be stained with more and more blood. The Rohingya, as a group, are all political prisoners. Suu Kyi must release not only the recognized political prisoners, the students and other demonstrators, she must free the Rohingya as well.

Following this, she must demand that the military withdraw from its camps and outposts in the ethnic nationality areas. The bombed, burned and mined villages; the arrests, rapes and murders; all must cease. As part of this, the military’s budget should be cut, at least in half. The Army exists as a defense against external threats. Burma has no such threat. Of course, this raises the question, what if the military refuses? Or, for that matter, how do you get the racist police to investigate and arrest other police, soldiers and business cronies?

Once again, you have to ask - demand - the rule of law. Then, if and when the military and the police refuse to act, they should be spotlighted for the public’s, and the world’s, censure. Viewing social change in the simplest terms possible, progress requires pressure. It is not enough, Lady Suu, to ignore atrocities and hope for the best. While it is true that for the moment you are stuck with a military dictatorship, largely due to your own soft-handed approach - opposing popular revolution, you cannot run Burma hand-in-hand with a murderous mafia, and look the other way. You should think of the people of the country as your children, and with the military as the father. You cannot allow the father to continue raping your children!

Right now, Suu Kyi may think that she has won, and that the people will never abandon her - that they will continue to just bask in her glory. She is wrong. If she does not use the new Parliament to confront the military and to push for real change, the people, as they have already started to do, will turn against her. She has one chance and one chance only. She has actual power now. If she doesn’t do the right thing, she will come to be viewed, widely and legitimately, as only the public face of, and the appeaser for, the hated regime.

A lesson in leadership

Suu Kyi has been a leader in waiting since 1988. She will now, finally, get her chance. But, is she prepared for this? Does she have what it takes to be not only an opposition voice, but a competent government leader? It’s worth remembering that the most pervasive problem with officials in representative democracies is simply poor leadership.

To be a good leader requires three attributes. These include a well-grounded set of principles; the intelligence necessary to understand what the country needs - how to put the principles into practice; and the courage to follow through. For example, many of the problems that we see with leaders in different countries around the world relate to the first. They simply are not principled. Therefore, their leadership can never be good. In many cases, they were corrupted by the process that they had to undergo to get elected. For example, in the U.S., this means begging for money from wealthy donors for election campaigns, with the consequence that they are beholden to the donors when they are in office.

It all starts with principles, of which there are three that should never be compromised: Rights; Equality; and Democracy itself. Rights include both human rights, and the rights of nature - of other species. For the first, you are a terrible leader if you accept abuse of your people’s human rights. For Burma, Suu Kyi has been silent about the dictatorship’s manifold crimes against all the people of the country, but most notably, reflecting its racism, against the ethnic nationalities. Now that she has power, she has no choice. To be a good leader, she must do everything possible to end these abuses.

Regarding the rights of nature, one thing all strong leaders share is a dedication to ensuring a positive long-term future. They focus on environmental protection, first, because other species have rights in and of themselves, without regard to people at all; and second, because future human generations require a healthy environment to prosper. A terrible leader allows businesses to engage in environmental exploitation with the result that the nation’s bioregions are destroyed, leaving nothing for the future.

Equality

The second principle, equality, is in fact a human right as well, but it is so important it deserves its own focus. Suu Kyi’s father, Aung San, understood this, through organizing the Panglong Conference and with his famous declaration that if the Burmans get one kyat, the ethnic nationalities also get one kyat. The need for equality in Burma is more pressing now than ever, given the almost seventy years of horrific regime racism since his murder. For many years, there has been a call for a tripartite dialogue in Burma, between the regime, the NLD, and the ethnic resistance forces. This was an example of such equality in action, giving the ethnic groups a full seat at the table. Only through doing this could the ethnic concerns be addressed properly, and also only by combining the pressure of the NLD and the ethnic armies could the dictatorship be forced to yield. Not surprisingly, the generals refused all such entreaties.

Interestingly, the International Community, led by the United States and Europe, also sidelined the ethnic peoples. Diplomats have heaped attention on Suu Kyi, and avoided the ethnic leaders. Indeed, in private meetings at the U.S. Chiang Mai consulate, the ethnic groups were basically told to give up - to surrender. It seems the West’s loyalty to the dictatorship, following Ne Win’s coup, never really wavered. Now, though, the ethnic forces - really, the ethnic nationality peoples - have been cast aside. Formally at least, there are only two recognized power centers in Burma: the NLD Parliament, and the military dictatorship. Both of these in turn are dominated by Burmans. The dictatorship, the International Community, and perhaps Suu Kyi as well, have gotten exactly what they wanted.

The ethnic peoples, even though in total they may be more than half the population, have almost no representation. Therefore, Suu Kyi, to be a good leader, has to aggressively counter this. Many ethnic officials should be appointed to the different national ministries and state governments, and the tripartite philosophy needs to be revitalized through implementing a formal peace process between the ethnic resistance leaders (the UNFC), the Burma Army, and the government leaders. This is the only way the country can address its racist past. It’s also the only way that Suu Kyi can conclusively demonstrate that she is not, personally, a Burman racist.

Democracy

The final principle is democracy itself, which raises the question, what could I possibly have left out? There is a subtle, but crucial, distinction here. Suu Kyi has been elected by the people of Burma (even if under the current Constitution she is not allowed to be its President). But, democracy is still government by the people. What this means is that Suu Kyi was not chosen to be Burma’s benevolent dictator. The people did not say: “We choose you, and you have the right to make, personally, every decision about our future.” That’s not how democracy works (even though many elected officials try to act like it is). Power still resides with the people. The government is elected simply to create a workable mechanism to put the public’s wishes into practice. Suu Kyi has to do what the people of Burma want. And, where there are differences of opinion about what should be done, her role is not to be the judge, exercising absolute power by fiat. Rather, her responsibility is to work to organize a consensus, to find ways to unite the different groups. And, in those cases where this is not possible, she should not automatically choose what the majority wants, but instead, then and only then, decide and implement what is best for everyone. Sometimes leaders are forced to make hard choices, such as to have a country enter a war. In these exceedingly rare cases, every possible option should be examined first, and the nation committed only if there is no other way.

Suu Kyi’s history suggests that she does not see her role this way. She definitely views herself not as the conduit for the voice of the people, but as the person entitled to decide. She therefore is failing at this principle. Fortunately, under democracy there are checks and balances to guard against just such an eventuality. It is incumbent upon the new Members of Parliament, even though many were effectively chosen by her, to speak only on the people’s behalf, including in those cases where this requires openly opposing her leadership. The core question is how hard she will confront the dictatorship, starting with whether she will end her silence over the regime’s atrocities. It is not acceptable that she pushes her pragmatism (as the International Community has done) to the point of sacrificing democracy’s principles. Therefore, when she won’t speak up and demand change, the MPs, on behalf of all the people of Burma, must do it. This is the first chance at democracy that Burma has had in over five decades. The new leadership - Suu Kyi and the MPs - have to get it right.
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Who will speak for the Human Rights Defenders?

Special Contribution
By Pushkar Raj

Prof. Sai Baba

The Bombay high court judgment cancelling Prof. Sai Baba’s bail and initiating contempt proceedings against the writer Arundhati Roy is a major blow to the human rights defenders in the country.

Dr. Sai Baba was arrested by the police in 2014 for allegedly indulging in maoist activities. He was charged under various sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and later denied bail. In an article in a magazine Arundhati Roy had questioned the manner of arrest of the professor and grounds on which he was denied bail. She had criticized the courts in the country for following different set of rules while granting bail depending on person’s ideology and proximity with the government of the day.

Dr. Sai Baba organized and participated in the meetings in the capital that highlighted the misery of the indigenous population who face displacement and crisis of survival in light of the governments’ big project centric development agenda. Arundhati Roy stressed that Dr. Sai Baba is primarily a human rights defender who should be treated humanely in light of his 90 per cent disability and the jurisprudence principle of presumption of innocence till proven guilty.

Ideally the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) should have come out in support of activists like Dr. Sai Baba. However, its record for defending the HRDs, despite having a dedicated cell for this purpose, has been dismal for various reasons. Therefore, the burden of speaking on the behalf of people like Dr. Sai Baba has fallen on the shoulders of the civil society in the country.

However, the civil society organizations too require support of the writers, artists and intellectuals to lend weight to their voice, especially when the present government, erroneously, treats the rights based human rights activities in the country as an anathema to its development and ideological agenda.

As a writer, one would assume, Arundhati Roy may feel that branding people naxalites and then treating them inhumanely before their guilt is proven is an outrageous practice in a constitutional democracy. In the outlook article which is the subject of ‘interference in administration of justice’ charge against her, the writer puts her perspective with her own set of arguments. These arguments may be right or wrong. The judgment of the court castigates the writer’s right to hold that perspective or opinion which is a disturbing trend.

It is a matter of concern that the contempt proceedings against Arundhati Roy, might serve as a warning to the writers and thinkers of the country to stay away from the public issues. Already, a section of the government has vilified a large number of writers because they dared to voice against encouraging and growing intolerance in the Indian society.

Any kind of threatening message coming from any branch of the government on thought and its expression is an erosion of our constitutional values and detrimental to the interest of our society. The writer, as Chinua Achebe, doyen of African literature, argued, creates the values of a society. When we silence the writer, we create a value vacuum in the society, i.e., a breeding ground for the mob driven justice and fascism.

The Bombay high court judgment is regrettable that it has come from an institution- the judiciary- that the writers and HRDs of the country look up for protection of their life and civil liberties. Several of courts’ landmark judgments preserved and expanded the rights of the individual rather than shrinking them. In that light, the Bombay high court bench judgment is an exception.

The present case is sure to go to the Supreme Court. One hopes that it will be reviewed and nullified in the interest of civil liberties and constitutional values of the country.

* Pushkar Raj is an independent writer based in Melbourne (Australia). Earlier, he taught political science in Delhi University and was the National General Secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), India.
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AUNG SAN SUU KYI: HER AMNESTY TREASON

Special Contribution
By Roland Watson(Dictator Watch)
Dec 13, 2015

Aung San Suu Kyi

In my recent article, Burma: The Political Cancer Is Spreading, some people criticized its characterization of Aung San Suu Kyi. They said it - notably this - was too harsh:

“To summarize: An unprincipled and for that matter unskilled leader, with a background of extreme privilege as well as dictatorial tendencies, and a racist to boot, will be the new and unchallenged leader of Burma, to work hand-in-hand with a gang of war criminals.

Again, what could possibly go wrong?”

It now appears that if anything, this was too mild. Burma’s Legal Aid Network has just released an analysis of the possibility that her recent meeting with dictator Than Shwe was to discuss an amnesty for regime members, for the egregious crimes that they have perpetrated. This would be passed by the new NLD-majority Parliament, and would supplement the amnesty in the dictatorship’s 2008 constitution.

This, evidently, is the secret “grand bargain” - at least the first step - to which my article referred. If so, it is abominable. In the United States, murder is the one crime for which there is no Statute of Limitation, and where the penalty is regularly life in prison. Unincarcerated murderers look over their shoulders every day for their entire lives. In Germany, people are still being arrested for crimes they committed during World War II, now over seventy years ago.

Suu Kyi, though, seemingly is willing to go against internationally recognized rule of law, and give the regime’s killers a pass. Indeed, she has been laying the groundwork for this, by arguing repeatedly that “everyone” - but by this she actually means the victims and their families - should just forgive and forget. She is trying to pressure these victims - through doing this she is adding insult to their injury - and ensure that they never receive justice.

Now we know why the NLD competed in ethnic nationality constituencies, and defeated ethnic candidates. She needs an absolute majority for her party for her plan to succeed. Indeed, no one has yet asked the question: In the new Parliament, how many MPs will be Burmans, and how many will be from other ethnic groups? This is relevant because of another piece of information, and which is also as yet unavailable: The ethnic group breakdowns from the national census. The results were held back prior to the election, but in late October U Nyi Nyi, Director of the Department of Population, said that they would be disclosed by year-end.

Many Burmans argue that they represent 70% of the nation’s population. Many ethnic nationalities in turn say that this is false. Burmans are only 30%, and all the other groups as a whole are 70%. The point is this: If the latter is even close to the truth, but Parliament is almost entirely Burman, then even though it was democratically-elected it is not representative. Through the regime prohibiting voting in large ethnic areas, and Suu Kyi pushing her candidates in the others, together they have assured that Burmans will control the new government. And, their first act will to be to pass an amnesty for the regime criminals, the worst victims of whom were the ethnic nationalities.

She has the audacity to call this democracy. It’s really treason. This issue needs to be opposed as widely as possible. The Burman amnesty for Burman criminals needs to be stopped dead in its tracks. Stop the ethnic dictatorship of Aung San Suu Kyi and Than Shwe!
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Addressing the need for minimum dignified living incomes to be ensured in Indian agriculture



Farmer Vs Modi

To: November 30th 2015, Shri Narendra Modi, Prime Minister, Government of India.

Namaskaar! It is with a very high hope that we, representatives of many large farmer unions in the country, are penning this letter - that you will read it carefully and respond. The 7th Pay Commission proposals are being picked up by the Government of India to benefit around one crore government employees and would also be pushing up the benchmark around salaries for many others in the private sector. In this context, it is important to note that the institutionalised disparities between agriculture and other sectors are only set to widen in an unbridgeable fashion, unless the government seeks to address this disparity.

The NSSO 70th Round data revealed that the average monthly income of an agricultural household is just Rs. 6426/- at the national level. Within this average monthly income, income from cultivation is reported to be only 47.9% (the remaining comes from livestock: 11.9%; from wage/salary: 32.2% and from non-farm business: 8%). This then means about Rs. 107/- daily earnings per adult, assuming two working adults per household. In many places, this is below minimum wages prescribed for unskilled workers, given that from July 1, 2015 the National Floor Level of Minimum Wage was raised to Rs 160 per day (which in itself is lower than many states’ minimum wage rates). 

Farmers’ incomes continue to be abysmally low as well as unstable. NSSO’s Situation Assessment on Agricultural Households in the 70th Round confirmed yet again that for a vast majority of Indian agriculturists, incomes are lower than expenditure, keeping them running on a desperate debt economy. For 70% of agricultural households in India (estimated at 6.26 crore households), on an average, there is a deficit of Rs. 856/- per month per household in terms of their expenses exceeding receipts, for these households. This is more or less the same situation as reported in the NSSO 59th round from 2003, which means 12 years of high growth has not benefited them! On an average, the monthly income is only Rs. 4653/ for each of these households, lower than monthly expenses. On the other hand, the minimum pay as per the 7th Pay Commission recommendations has been increased to Rs. 18000/- per month, while the maximum pay has been hiked up to around Rs. 2.5 lakhs per month. The contrast between the highest paid government employees and this set of agriculturists is a whopping 54-times less for the agricultural households! The contrast between the lowest paid in the government sector and the lowest classes of agricultural households is worth noting too: a 4-fold difference.

Massive displacement from agriculture without equal opportunities in other sectors, and farmers’ suicides continue unabated in spite of the loan waivers and a few other measures, since the problem of securing dignified incomes is not being addressed. This, despite the fact that the government has taken an unequivocal change in its agricultural policy directions through its National Policy For Farmers 2007, of emphasising on farmers’ wellbeing and incomes and not just agricultural production and yield increases.  Any society systematically allowing such inter-sectoral disparities to build up is courting social unrest. This kind of disparity in incomes will also surely affect the demand and consumption ability of vast numbers of rural, agriculture-based citizens of the country, thereby affecting the growth plans of the government. Importantly, it is the nation’s moral imperative to give dignified lives to our farmers and food producers, who keep the nation alive.

It is with a great sense of urgency that we write to you, asking you and your government to show your commitment to ensuring minimum living incomes to farm households by taking up a few measures: Announce the setting up of a Farm Income Commission which is mandated with ensuring minimum living incomes for all farm households in India; Such a Farm Income Commission should prescribe minimum living incomes that would provide dignified livelihoods to all farm households to not only meet their basic needs for bare subsistence, but address the matter of inter-sectoral parity and dignity in agriculture. Mandate should include as a first step (but not be limited to) ensuring that (a) there are no negative net returns to any farm household, (b) that no adult in a farming household is earning less than minimum wages and (c) that the average incomes to farm households should be equal to at least the lowest level of government employees.

The Commission should also be tasked to come up with a basket of measures at the production, risk reduction/disaster relief & compensation, and marketing ends of production that net incomes of farmers are guaranteed to improve, that too with specific focus on the most marginalised farmers. The same should be implemented by Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, along with various other concerned ministries, and accountability fixed in a Results Framework approach for the same. The Farm Income Commission should be tasked with examining and documenting income levels realised by different kinds of farmers all over the country so that interventions can be constantly sharpened and addressed in a focused manner.

These measures, we believe, are mainly to set up monitoring and accountability mechanisms that will actualise India’s National Policy For Farmers’ main thrust on farmer well-being, to make sure that all the interventions in the name of farmers are actually geared towards delivering minimum living incomes. Otherwise, lakhs of crores of rupees being spent in the name of farmers will be of no real use to farm households. At an appropriate time, the government might consider giving a statutory framework to this income-centred approach to agricultural development interventions, by enacting a law on Farmers’ Income Guarantee. We hope you will take up the matter with a strong sense of urgency that it deserves.

Yours sincerely, Chamarasa Mali Patil, Working President, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) Karnataka Ph: 9448815850 C Dharmendra Malik, Bhartiya Kisan Union Ph: 9219691168 Yogendra Yadav, Jai Kisan Andolan, Swaraj Abhiyan, New Delhi Ph: 9560092986 Vipin Chandra Patel, General Secretary, Gujarat Khedut Samaj, “Mazdoor Bhavan”, Vadodara Ph: 9909912231 V M Singh Convenor Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan, W 127, Greater Kailash II, New Delhi Ph: 9811580131 Vikas Baliyan Editor Krishi Newspaper Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh Ph: 9412113453 Kavitha Kuruganti Convenor Kisan Swaraj Gatbandhan, Bangalore Ph: 8880067772 Lingaraj Pradhan Paschim Odisha Krushak Sanghatan Samanvay Samithi, Sambalpur Ph: 9437056029 Yudhvir Singh Convenor Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements (ICCFM) Delhi. Ph: Avik Saha “Basudha” West Bengal Ph: 9830052766 Dr Sunilam, Ex-MLA Working President Kisan Sangharsh Samiti.
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Returning honors is an attempt to save democracy

Special Contribution
By Ram Puniyani

Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi

Last few weeks have seen a flood of ‘returning’ honors by writers, scientists and artists. These awardees in way have stood up to make themselves to be counted. There are also various statements from academics, historians, artists and scientists showing their concern about the growing intolerance and erosion of our plural values. Those who returned the honors are amongst the outstanding contributors to literature, arts, film making and science. They in a way have been pouring their heart out at what is going on at social level. The growing intolerance has taken the lives of Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi. There are incidents like where the lynching of one Muslim on the issue of beef eating which has shaken the conscience of the society. In the face of this strong statement from diverse sections of society those related to the ruling party, BJP; its parent organization RSS and many of its affiliates have been strongly criticizing these people on flimsy grounds.

At the same time the President of India disturbed by the happenings in the society; time and again has been reminding the nation about our core civilizational values of pluralism. The vice President has told that it is the duty of the state to protect the ‘right to life’ of citizens. The international rating agencies like Moody have pointed out that unless Modi reins in his colleagues, India stands to lose her credibility. Disturbed by the current growing atmosphere of intolerance the eminent citizens are feeling uncomfortable. So we have the earlier statement of Julio Rebeiro that he is feeling disturbed as a Christian in India. Now Naseerudding Shah said that he is being made to realize his Muslim identity for the first time. The poet, film maker Gulzar stated that the times have come where people ask your religion before they ask your name. Many prominent entrepreneurs like Narayan Murthi and Kiran Majumdar Shaw have shown their concern over growing intolerance. In the same boat of those calling for preserving values of pluralism are people like Raghuram Rajan, the RBI Governor.

The ruling dispensation, the BJP leaders have come out scathingly on these creative people-scientists and labeled the whole process as ‘manufactured rebellion’ as put by Arun Jaitley. It has been alleged that those returning awards are the leftists or those who were recipients of privileges from the state when Congress was the ruling party and now with BJP coming to power from last one year, they are baffled and so the protests. It has been alleged that these people are trying to derail the ‘development story’ being written by the BJP under the leadership of Narendra Modi. Jaitley even goes to say that Narendra Modi is the victim of intolerance by these people returning their awards. Some like Rajnath Singh have pointed out that it is a mere ‘law and order’ problem for which state governments are responsible while these people are targeting Modi government.

As such what has happened is neither a law and order problem nor the one related to loss of patronage as it is related to the much broader phenomenon related to intense communalization of society. This time the degree of communalization has crossed the civil limits. The jibe that these people did not return their awards at the time of emergency, anti Sikh violence, migration of Kashmiri Pundits and at the time of Mumbai blasts of 1993 is a very superficial way of dealing with the social response to the phenomenon of growing intolerance and its degree. As the awards which have been returned and the statements put out by different groups do give the reasons for the same and these reasons pertains to the cumulative process and not this or that event. All these incidents mentioned by Jaitley and company have been a tragic part of recent Indian history. Many a writers did protest against most of these incidents, many of them had not even been awarded at that time.

The present times cannot be compared with the tragic incidents of the past for various reasons. Take the case of emergency for example. It was a dark chapter of Indian history, still it was the authoritarianism imposed mostly from the top. What is most disturbing in the current times is the vast network of organizations related to the ruling party whose followers either they themselves create hatred in the society or they mobilize the social sectors through hate speech; the result of which is violence. Currently there is a twin attack on the values of tolerance and liberal space. From the top the ruling dispensation has people like Yogi Adiyanath- Sakshi Maharaj, Giriraj Singh, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti who keep spreading sectarian message while basking in the glory of power and at the societal level divisive statements prevail.

At yet another level is the institutional control by communal ideology. Our major institutions and educational places are being mauled by divisive ideology. Our frontline areas of science and technology are being tampered day in and day out. The promotion of blind faith is the byproduct of this very policy. Blind faith and the large section of religious entrepreneurs (Babas, Modern Gurus) have a major say and have a major influence on the present political powers. As such the ideology spread by RSS, the one of Hindu nationalism, is dominating on social and political field. And lastly at the level of social thinking the ‘Hate other’ ideology has been promoted through various conduits using the issues like Ghar Wapasi, love jihad and beef. It is this which is creating the intense social insecurity amongst the religious minorities. It is this which is leading to incidents like Dadri. Such incidents are being projected as law and order problem to deliberately overlook the erosion in democratic space.

Essentially the insane communal violence has its roots in the prejudice leading to hate for the religious minorities. And that’s what flows from the ideology of Hindu nationalism, or any other sectarian nationalism, in the name of any religion or race. In current times the fountainhead of Hindu nationalism which is, the major factor here, is RSS. Not to say that Muslim sectarianism has its own divisive and supplementary influence. Through different conveyer belts this ideology assumes the ‘Hate other’ sentiment and that’s where cow slaughter, beef eating become the ground to kill the people. The practitioners of sectarian nationalism vow that ‘we will kill and get killed’ while defending our Holy mother the cow.

This is just one case in point. The major factor leading to present atmosphere lies in the qualitative transformation of ‘hate for others’. The stereotyping of minorities which began with Hindu nationalism has assumed horrendous proportions where the likes of Gulzar have to say what he said. So while the Jaitleys will keep undermining the steps taken by these people and while the Rajnath Singhs’ will keep dubbing it as a law and order problem, the dissatisfaction amongst those standing for democracy is growing, liberal space and tolerance is shrinking. We will have to keep thinking of more ways to draw the attention of larger sections of society towards the threat looming large on our democratic society, the threat of sectarian propaganda and politics leading to stifling of democratic space. And these are not the ordinary times, the divisive process have assumed menacing proportions and cannot be hidden by the illusory growth story!
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THE FUTURE OF BURMA?

By Roland Watson
Dictator Watch
Nov 15, 2015

Rohingya at the election

Burma’s military dictatorship held a general election in 2010, but which the democratic opposition boycotted and hence which was irrelevant. This means that last week’s vote was the first real general election in the country since 1990 - in twenty-five years.

The ruling regime denied millions of citizens the right to participate, including the entire Rohingya ethnic group; hundreds of thousands of residents living in the large areas of the ethnic nationality homelands where the vote was cancelled; hundreds of thousands of more people in these and other areas who are internally displaced persons, who because of Burma Army attacks on their villages have been unable to return to their homes; even more hundreds of thousands of people who have fled the conflict in Burma and become refugees in Thailand, China, Malaysia and Bangladesh; and finally, countless other citizens who have fled the country out of economic desperation, mainly to Thailand. It’s not unlikely that the total disenfranchised group was 10% - 20% of the overall citizenry.

Fortunately, the turnout of the balance of the population was high. The people demanded an end to their suffering, and registered this by rejecting the USDP and instead voting for pro-democracy parties. The leading pro-democracy party, the NLD, secured a landslide victory, and which undoubtedly would have been even higher, certainly if everyone had been allowed to vote, but also because the reported cases of electoral manipulation, such as ballot-box stuffing (suspicious advance votes), appear to have been designed to ensure that specific USDP candidates won.

Congratulations to the people of Burma!

The most important reaction that we can have to the election is to congratulate the people of Burma. Well-done! You have been oppressed so severely and for so long, but have not given up hope. It is essential that this hope be rewarded. Everyone who has won office, and every party in the international community, needs to dedicate themselves to seeing that the country’s democratic transition is completed.

Indeed, what has just happened in Burma is unprecedented. It is astonishing that a brutal military dictatorship would permit a free and fair vote. Clearly, the generals were afraid of a popular uprising if they openly stole the election, and which would have seen them not only expelled from power but arrested to face their crimes. So, they let the vote go ahead, and now hope to cling to their power, with their stolen riches, and without being prosecuted.

This, of course, is a very tenuous situation. What Burma is moving towards, a democratically-elected Parliament attempting to negotiate and somehow share power with a military mafia, is unsustainable. It cannot endure. No matter the current elation, the only pertinent question for the country - if it will continue to be a military dictatorship, or instead achieve real democracy - is as yet unanswered.

Real democracy

It’s worth considering these alternatives.

1. When a popular revolution in a country succeeds, a number of steps normally follow: - All regime attacks on the population cease and all political prisoners are released. - The regime leaders are either killed, or arrested and prosecuted, and for the latter either domestically or in an international forum. - Lower level soldiers and regime functionaries who have also committed egregious crimes are arrested and prosecuted. - After the regime’s security apparatus is purged of war criminals, it is restructured - combined in an appropriate manner - with the resistance forces.

- A democratic election is held. - The entire government bureaucracy is similarly purged, new government ministers are chosen by the new President or Prime Minister, and new ministry officials are selected by them. - A constitutional assembly is held and a new charter drafted, which is then put to the population in a referendum. - The assets of the leaders and their cronies are seized, and their business contracts with international investors are repudiated. - New laws and enforcement regulations are drafted, passed, and implemented, covering not only the national economy, including environmental and labor protection, trade, and commercial development projects, but also national infrastructure including roads, utilities, schools and healthcare. In summary, a new - and free - process of nation-building begins.

2. The alternative is that autocratic social elements seize power and that the people’s hopes are dashed. The country remains a dictatorship, and which if recent world history is a guide the International Community accepts. The people may then try to rise up once more, although this will likely be without international support. Burma, in effect, is now stuck between these two poles. What is going to happen?

Who won the election?

A counterintuitive way to address this is to ask the question, for whom did the people vote? There is a distinction here that few probably recognize, but which will be crucial to the nation’s future. Said another way, did the people vote for Aung San Suu Kyi; for the specific NLD candidates; or merely for an amorphous hope for a better future?

Suu Kyi commanded that the population vote for the second option, the party, but her other declarations suggest that she has conflated this with herself. Her statement that she will be above the new President is not only fundamentally un-democratic, it implies that she sees herself as essentially a feudal lord, to whom everyone owes allegiance. This, as has already been observed, will simply substitute a “democratic” dictatorship for a military regime.

Suu Kyi has achieved a deft substitution. Regardless of her actual actions and policy, which in most cases have been vague and a number of times openly objectionable, she has maintained the public perception that the NLD is the only alternative to the regime and that she, as Aung San’s daughter, is the only legitimate NLD leader. If she can’t be President under law, she’ll be the absolute ruler outside of it.

However, what has really happened is that the NLD’s landslide was a protest vote. It was a vote against the generals. It was only a vote for the NLD, first, in those cases where the public actually supported local NLD candidates (who, it has to be noted, in many cases were very deserving of the honor); and secondly, because there was no other option. Suu Kyi has cultivated a perception where she can claim legitimacy to do anything that she wants, when if fact the people have given her no such mandate.

She clearly intends to use the NLD MPs to push through changes that she and she alone believes are appropriate. This means that in its very first hour, the people in Burma’s supposedly new democracy will still have no voice, including through their elected representatives.

How will Aung San Suu Kyi rule?

The reason this is significant is the aforementioned policy vagueness, and even more her objectionable positions. These include: - Her opposition to public protest. - Her fondness for the Tatmadaw: “her father’s” Burma Army. - Her downplaying of the crimes against humanity committed against the Rohingya. - Her lack of concern for the regime’s crimes against Burma’s other ethnic nationalities. - How she abandoned her natural allies, including both the ethnic resistance forces and also former and current political prisoners and student activists. - How, where originally she opposed international investment in Burma, she now openly welcomes it, even when it leads to the theft of villager land and regime attacks on the same villagers when they protest.

There is no basis to think that she will alter her positions. But, when it became clear that Suu Kyi supported all of this, many people said that she was simply acting as a politician, for which it was necessary to shed her mantle of a Nobel Peace Prize winning human rights leader. The implication was that once she achieved power, she would return to dong the right thing.

This is a naive if not ludicrous belief. Whoever Suu Kyi may have been in 1989, she is clearly no longer that person. This means that the deal now being struck, between her and the regime (it is extremely significant that Than Shwe’s puppets Min Aung Hlaing and Thein Sein immediately congratulated her), and with direct U.S. and European involvement, will in no way satisfy the people of Burma’s aspirations. The above list of benchmarks for a true democratic transition will not be met. Instead, there will be half-hearted attempts at a few of these goals: to release the political prisoners, to change the constitution, and to negotiate a real nationwide peace.

What will the dictatorship do?

In writing so much about Suu Kyi, I don’t want to ignore the other major institutional entity in Burma and which is now effectively her partner: the military regime. Many people were surprised that the vote was essentially fair. What is the dictatorship really up to? Is it truly satisfied just through having a veto from its control of the Constitution, the chief ministries, and the NDSC?

The regime’s core strategy over the years has been to pursue two principal objectives: to divide the opposition, and to waste time - to push the real day of reckoning farther and farther into the future. The NCA negotiation, backed by international funding - effectively bribery (the West is the dictatorship’s main ally, even more so than China), accomplished both, by splitting the ethnic resistance groups and preventing a unified armed revolution. This NCA exercise in turn mirrored the divide and conquer approach implemented in the 1990s, whereby the northern resistance groups were persuaded to sign ceasefires, leaving the southern groups exposed. Similarly, through continuous house arrest, the regime prevented Suu Kyi from becoming more actively involved with the ethnic resistance, had she been inclined to do so.

The strategy for the election was the same: to split the opposition and to delay real change. And, since Suu Kyi appears willing to play her part, it will probably succeed. After all, she can argue that if she pushes too hard for genuine democracy, the regime will reassert absolute power. It’s better to adopt the Buddhist middle way and tolerate “disciplined democracy,” even if, as she has already said - repeatedly, there will be no true freedom, including from fear, for a very long time.

What can the people do?

In the face of this deception, and which may well prove to be an outright betrayal, the people of Burma have no choice but to fulfill the entire set of responsibilities of the citizenry in a democracy, which extend well beyond the vote. Most importantly, the people need to acknowledge and accept that there is no easy path to freedom. Dictators do not willingly give up power. Instead, they fight back.

The people of the country should further understand that the governments of the United States and Europe are not their friends. They want a stable status quo, so their national interests, meaning the interests of their companies, are satisfied. Since a real democratic transition could lead to the nationalization of these corporate enterprises, they are against democracy for Burma. Far better is the regime’s disciplined democracy, where the companies can continue to do deals with the generals and their cronies. Indeed, new deals are being launched every week. True democracy would shut this commercial development down in its tracks.

Finally, the people need to recognize that while they voted against the dictatorship, and for the local NLD candidates, Suu Kyi is interpreting this as granting her the privilege to do whatever she wants, as the public’s sole decision-maker. Therefore, the people need to press their new representatives to insist on authentic democratic change, and protest if and when she agrees to lukewarm steps and says that that’s the way it has to be.

In other words, the people should continue to push for freedom, democracy and justice - until they get it; and, if the regime does launch a coup, they should take to the streets in the millions, as they have just voted, and overthrow the generals once and for all.

Transition milestones

The coming transition in Burma - or lack of transition - is likely to be long and tortured. It may also be difficult to evaluate if progress is even being achieved. Indeed, many people will undoubtedly say that everything is going great, when in fact the opposite is true. To this end, a few unambiguous steps may serve as the initial milestones on the path to real democracy:

- The first new legislative action should be to officially rename the country as Burma, thereby rejecting the regime’s inherently racist “Myanmar.” (Please help publicize this idea.) - There should be an instantaneous end to all regime perpetrated and organized attacks on any citizenry group. - The Rohingya concentration camps should be emptied, and the detainees allowed to return to their villages and to rebuild. (If this step requires international peace monitors, so be it.) - The Burma Army should withdraw from all front-line outposts in the ethnic areas. - All political prisoners should be freed, including from the ethnic resistance groups and the Rohingya. - All land confiscations should end. If these milestones aren’t met, Burma is not moving towards democracy.

Lastly, using the power of the Internet and social media, a new website should be created, and to which anyone can contribute, in any of the main languages for Burma, with descriptions and evidence of all the crimes perpetrated against them, their families and friends, by agents of the military dictatorship. Everyone talks about national reconciliation for Burma, but there can be no reconciliation without justice being served. This is in fact a straight-forward database project, where the manifold human rights abuse documentation efforts that have been conducted over the years, as well as the actual victims, can directly submit their stories to the website managers, who would then group the crimes by location, date, type of crime, and the names and positions of the perpetrators.

I can add, Europe, through the EuroBurma Office, and the United States, which no doubt funded the NLD election campaign, should back the project. Whatever the outcome of the election, their efforts to promote nationwide peace for Burma have been horribly misguided, nothing less than pro-regime, but they can make up for it with this. Indeed, I would be happy to help design the initiative, even with EBO’s Harn Yawnghwe. Everyone should ask EBO and its European funders: Can’t you spend your money on something useful for once?

We can begin with Nan Bway Poung, who in June 2002 was gang-raped by twenty Burma Army soldiers from LIB 349, Pah Klaw Hta Camp, Karen State. The first rapist was Captain Ye Htut, who ordered his soldiers to follow him or die. Nan Bway Poung was allowed to return home, and after telling her family what had been done to her, she committed suicide, saying: “I am not willing to live in this world anymore.”

Aung San Suu Kyi, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Angela Merkel may not care about Nan Bway Poung, or have any desire to see Ye Htut tried and punished, but they are wrong. Had he committed his atrocity in the U.S. or Europe, he would have quickly been tracked down. It seems that for the West - and Suu Kyi, justice is not necessary for Burma. The people of the country, though, must demand that it is.
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