Archive | August 3rd, 2016

Why Controversy over Durand Line?


Image result for Afghanistan and Pakistan FLAG

By Sajjad Shaukat

From time to time, controversy arises between Afghanistan and Pakistan when Afghan officials refused to recognize the Durand Line which is the 2640 kilometer long and porous border, situated between both the countries.

The issue again came to the limelight on June 12, 2016 when Afghan security forces started unprovoked firing at Torkham border crossing, resulting in injuries to more than 16 Pakistani citizens, including the martyrdom of some Pakistani security personnel. Pakistan’s security forces were compelled to give response and skirmishes continued for two days.

Afterwards, Islamabad and Kabul agreed for a ceasefire and the latter recognized Pakistan’s stand regarding the construction of gate at Torkham border.

In fact, Durand Line is an internationally established border, but every now and then, Afghanistan government tries to create ambiguity and fuss regarding the issue, as all the governments in Afghanistan remained desirous to get access to the Arabian Sea through Pakistan’s province of Balochistan.

Some of the objections which emanate from the Afghan side about the validity of the Durand Line are, firstly the agreement was forced upon the Afghan King, Abdul Rahman Khan, after negotiations with the British government in 1893—secondly, it was signed only for a period of 100 years and then expired in 1994 and thirdly, the agreement was made with the British Government and not with Pakistan, and so in essence, it can be regarded as invalid.

In response, Islamabad’s stand on the Durand Line has been that it is a valid international boundary, recognized and confirmed by Afghanistan on several occasions. Pakistan has always upheld the norms of international law and has maintained the position of a successor state to the rights and duties inherited from the British government in India. Pakistan, as a successor state to British India derived full sovereignty over areas and its people east of Durand line and had all the rights and obligations of a successor state. As the Treaty was inked in Afghanistan and was further ratified in subsequent pacts of 1905, 1919, and 1921, this negates the assertion that it was a forced treaty. At the same time, no-where in the treaty, a mention of 100 years has been made.

However, creation of controversy by Kabul over Durand Line cannot be seen in isolation, as it is part of the double game of the US and India, including Israel which secretly back the Afghan Pakistan considers that peace in Afghanistan is a guarantee of peace in Pakistan, therefore, has been striving for the same in utter sincerity. But, the US and India do not want to see the peace and prosperity in the region.

Sadly, Pakistan’s dominant role in Afghanistan’s peace process under the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) has, deliberately, been sabotaged by killing of the Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansur in CIA-operated drone attack in Balochistan, which badly derailed Afghan dialogue process, as Afghan Taliban leaders refused to participate in the US-sponsored talks with the Afghan government. While, in the recent past, with the help of Pakistan, a series of meetings were held in Islamabad and Kabul among the representatives of Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the US to develop an understanding for the earliest possible resumption of stalled talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban with view to ending nearly 15 years of bloodshed in Afghanistan.

It seems that a dual game is on to pressurize Pakistan to bring Afghan Taliban either for the dialogue or to take action against them. US, India and Israel have built a hostile nexus for the Great Game and are pressurizing Pakistan by limiting its choices.

In this context, trust deficit has deepened between Pakistan and the America. Therefore, on June 10, this year, a high-level delegation of the US visited Islamabad and met Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif and Adviser to the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz Adviser separately.

During the meeting, expressing his serious concern on the US drone strike in Balochistan as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, Gen. Raheel Sharif highlighted as to how it had impacted the mutual trust and was counterproductive in consolidating the gains of Operation Zarb-e- Azb against terrorists. He elaborated, “All stakeholders need to understand Pakistan’s challenges-inter-tribal linkages and decades-old presence of over three million refugees—blaming Pakistan for instability in Afghanistan is unfortunate—target TTP [Tehreek-i- Taliban Pakistan] and its chief Mullah Fazlullah in their bases in Afghanistan—Indian RAW and NDS [Afghan National Directorate of Security] are of fomenting terrorism in Pakistan.”

US ambivalent policy about Islamabad could also be judged from some other development. In this regard, another delegation of US Senators including Senator Lindsey Graham led by Senator John McCain, Chairman of US Senate Arms Services committee, visited Islamabad and North Waziristan Agency (NWA) on July 3, 2016. The US Senators visited areas cleared of terrorists during Operation Zarb-e- Azb. American delegation appreciated the Pakistan Army’s accomplishment of cleansing the entire area of NWA right upto the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, after witnessing the terrorists’ hideouts and communication infrastructure dismantled by the As a matter of fact, RAW-Mossad- CIA assisted, the Afghan NDS is inflicting harm to Pakistan.

With latest capture of six NDS supported terrorists in Balochistan, the number of NDS backed terrorists arrested and killed by Pakistani Intelligence agencies has crossed over 126. These foreign agencies are also supporting the TTP which is hiding in Nuristan and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan. Reportedly Mullah Fazlullah led TTP is being prepared to carry out a fresh wave of terror activities inside Pakistan, as the latter has become center of the Great Game owing to the ideal location of its province of Balochistan—Balochistan’s Gwadar seaport among South Asia, the oil-rich Middle East, and oil and gas-resourced Central Asia has further increased its strategic Therefore, operatives of CIA, Mossad and RAW which are well-penetrated in the ISIS (Daesh or ISIL) and TTP are using their terrorists to destabilize Tibetan regions of China, Iranian Sistan-Baluchistan and Pakistan’s Balochistan by arranging the subversive activities. In this connection, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is their special target.

Notably, ISIS claimed responsibility for a joint suicide bombing of July 23, 2016, which targeted the peaceful rally of the Shiite minority of Hazaras who were protesting against the government’s decision of denying their region essential infrastructure through their plans of rerouting a power line. The twin suicide blasts killed more than 80 persons.

It is notable that the porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is frequently used by human and drug traffickers, criminals and terrorists. Their easy access through unguarded porous border provides opportunity to miscreants to cause havoc inside Pakistan and Afghanistan. For effective counter terrorism measures strong border, control management is vital at Pak-Afghan border. But, Afghan rulers are using delaying tactics in this respect.

Taking note of the anti-Pakistan intruders, Pakistan’s army had decided that to build a fence along the border, and to control the border crossings. In this connection, the strategic project of 1,100-kilometre- long trench with the cost of Rs14 billion which was initiated along Pak-Afghan border in Balochistan by Frontier Corps in 2013 has been completed this year. In the next phase, the project will be extended to the entire long border with Afghanistan which had opposed this It is mentionable that the establishment of CPEC between deep Gwadar seaport of Balochistan and the historic Silk Road city in western regions-Xinjiang of China will connect Gilgit-Baltistan through Khunjerab Pass. Beijing would also build an international airport at Gwadar, while the roads infrastructure in Gwadar would link the communication network of rest of the country to facilitate transportation of goods. Gwadar seaport would connect the landlocked Central Asian states with rest of the world. The port is likely to increase volume of trade, bringing multiple economic and financial benefits to Pakistan. It will enable high-volume cargo vessels to move in the major oceans, giving China’s short access to the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean.

It is of particular attention that on September 8, 2015, the ISIS and former Afghan president Hamid Karzai had refused to recognize Durand Line as the permanent border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. While, the spokesman for the US Department of State John Kirby said, the United States has made it clear that it recognizes the Durand Line as an international border.”

Nevertheless, today’s world is quite different. Those voicing against the Durand line or in favour of Pakhtun ethnicity needs to realize the new realities. The reality is that there are more Pashtuns living on this side of the Durand Line than in Afghanistan. The referendum of 1947 and the decision of tribal Jirga of FATA are the strongest and undeniable facts to judge the affinity of Pashtuns. Today’s Pakhtuns from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Baluchistan and FATA have a strong participation in all national and federal institutions including Armed Forces, sports, education, politics and all other walks of life and stand with Pakistan. They have rendered huge sacrifices in war against terror and entire nation respects their sacrifices.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

Posted in Afghanistan, Pakistan & KashmirComments Off on Why Controversy over Durand Line?

Is Genocide a Controversial International Crime?



by Dr: Richard Falk

Why ‘Genocide’ is still a Controversial Crime?

In this strikingly original, strange, and brilliant book, Philippe Sands raises a haunting question among a tangle of other intriguing issues discussed throughout East-West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity (New York: Knopf, 2016). It is at once a plural biography (with a bit of autobiography thrown in), a jurisprudential fairy tale, and a searing account of the horrifying impact that vicious Nazi policies had on the lives of the author’s family members as well on those of his human rights heroes. The haunting question is this: was it a wise and practical decision to keep the crime of genocide from being part of the international criminal law framework used to assess the individual accountability of surviving Nazi political and military leaders, and then subsequently in dealing with past and present mass atrocities?

Reflecting my own interest over the years in the use and misuse of the language of genocide, I found this to be the most provocative and enduring dimension of this multiply fascinating book in which Sands exhibits his versatility as jurist, legal practitioner, investigative journalist, and amateur historian of the Holocaust as it victimized one small region in contemporary Poland that happened to be the birthplace of his grandfather as well as two of the most renowned contributors to the development of international criminal law of the past century. The book’s title is obscure until we readers discover that East-West Street runs the length of the small town in contemporary Poland where these three families originated, and resided, until the momentous events of the 1930s forced them to seek refuge by moving Westwards.

East-West Street can be read from many different angles, divided into no less than 158 short chapters besides a prologue that explains how such an unusual literary/intellectual journey got its accidental start with a lecture invitation to the author and an epilogue that attempts to summarize the juridical interplay between the two prime architects of core international crimes (Sir Hersch Lauterpacht and Rafael Lemkin) and the crimes themselves (crimes against humanity and genocide). What creates the dramatic tension in Sands’ treatment of this interplay is the contrast between a jurisprudential logic that focuses on crimes committed against individuals as contrasted with a competing logic that emphasizes crimes againstgroups. Also at play for Sands are the contrasting personalities and legal approaches of Lauterpacht, the cool, pragmatic, revered professorial insider, and Lemkin, the emotionally driven, obsessive outsider who dedicated his adult life to lobbying governments to support genocide as a crime, and somehow managed to get results.

In the background of this titanic struggle of ideas, were the personal stories of the individuals involved, which, in effect, provided the private motivations for such influential public acts. An extraordinary coincidence that Sands puts to excellent literary use arises from the simple fact that both Lauterpacht and Lemkin were connected in their early lives and studies with a small town, variously named, that changed hands eight times between 1914 and 1945, being governed at different times by Germany, Poland, and the Soviet Union. Its most durable name during the period covered in the book is Lemberg, although it is today known by its Polish name, Lviv. What strains credibility almost to the breaking point is that Sands’ own grandfather, Leon Bucholz, also was born in Lemberg, and it is around the lives of these three men of the law that Sands weaves a complex narrative structure that is surprisingly readable. Much of the book is devoted, with passionate attention to the minutest detail, to how their personal lives and sensibilities were shaped by their departure from the Lemberg before it fell under Nazi occupation, and by the pain associated with the wrenching reality of losing contact with their families left behind. Only belatedly, years later did they each discover the ghastly experiences of lethal victimization experienced by family members after the Nazis took over what had then been Polish sovereign territory. It was striking that only silence could accord dignity to occurrences that were evidently experienced as unspeakable, paralyzing a sensitive moral imagination.

Against such a background it is to be expected that the book examines closely the person and behavior of Hans Frank, one of the 21 Nazis prosecuted at Nuremberg, who served as the cruel and devoted Governor General of Poland during the war years when the country fell under German occupation, and became the most notorious killing field of the Nazi era. It is also highly relevant that the three men whose lives and careers are the focal point of the narrative, given further reality by interspersed family pictures and documents, were Jewish, although none with any pronounced religious commitment. Yet their lives and careers were multiply determined by this Jewish identity, and what this meant during a period of unprecedented mass persecution and extermination. This interest in Frank is reinforced by Sands’ extraordinary collaboration with Franks’ son, Niklas, with whom he visits the Nuremberg courtroom where 68 years earlier a death sentence had been imposed on his father. Not to be content with the involvement of Niklas, Sands’ also persuades Horst, son of Otto von Wächter, who administered for Nazi rulers an area that included Lemberg, and had earlier been a classmate of Lauterpacht in the law school of the local university, to assist in the reconstruction of the events. These intergenerational connections led Sands to write the screenplay and perform in a documentary film, My Nazi Legacy: What Our Fathers Did, which had its 2015 premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, and won recognition and awards.

Such an attempt at reliving of these historical events illustrates the contrasting adjustments to the present, with Niklas feeling that his father fully deserved the punishment he received at Nuremberg, while Horst exhibits a morbid pride, remembering his father’s prominence without any sign of shame or even regrets about his father’s role in carrying out the evil policies of the Nazi occupiers. Philippe Sands positions himself both within and without this apocalyptic past, trying to pull the pieces together in a coherent multi-dimensional account without losing contact with his own personal engagement in this overwhelming family tragedy.

Putting to one side the intriguing biographical and autobiographical levels of Sands’ construction of these various lives, I wish to concentrate my observations on the legal legacies associated with Lauterpacht and Lemkin,

depicted with such vividness throughout the book, reaching their climax at Nuremberg. As Sands observes, crimes against humanity (CAH) and genocide were both radical and innovative juridical ideas seeking to criminalize Nazi atrocities. CAH focused on protecting the individual against the criminality of any state including one’s own, while genocide was conceived to criminalize the mass killing of identifiably distinct ethnic or religious groups. Lauterpacht more or less invented CAH with the intention of repudiating the impunity that traditionally attached to wrongdoing by a sovereign government against individuals subject to its territorial jurisdiction and thus insulating those who acted on behalf of the state from any kind of personal accountability. CAH mounted a legal challenge directed at unconditional territorial sovereignty and the prevalence of absolute monarchy, which had long dominated the state-centric world order established in Europe by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Such impunity continued to be a feature of nationalist ideology despite the French Revolution and the emergence of democratic constitutionalism. The numerous subsequent efforts to make governments internally accountable for their acts through law and a variety of constitutional procedures, including elections, did not extend to external behavior. What made CAH such a radical step forward was this insistence on some measure of external orinternational accountability by means of law.

Lemkin, on his side, invented the crime of genocide, including even the word, almost all by himself. He was guided by the unwavering belief that criminalizing the kind of racialist policies put into practice by Nazi Germany was urgently necessary to save civilization from the recurrence of barbarism. It seems that Lemkin was initially disposed to criminalize such behavior by his shocked reaction to the mass killing in Turkey of Armenians in 1915, and the absence of any punitive international response embedded in international law. He believed fervently that the deadly political virus giving rise to such collective behavior was a distinct form of criminality that should never be conflated with a series of separate criminal acts, however severe, that were directed at individuals.

I would have thought that there was every reason to support both forms of criminality in reaction to the Nazi experience, and to a certain extent, so does Sands. The main technical obstacle, only superficially discussed by Sands, to the prosecution of these crimes at Nuremberg was the prohibition against retroactive applications of criminal laws. In fact, the Nuremberg Judgment devoted considerable energy to demonstrate its respect for the prohibition, endorsing CAH only if the acts in question could be connected with the onset of the war in 1939; in other words, from 1933 to 1939, the early years of the Nazi regime, the wrongdoing of those acting on behalf of the German government continued to be internationally shielded by impunity. Subsequently, the adoption by the UN General Assembly of the Nuremberg Principles, ratified now by more than a half century of state practice gives CAH the status of obligatory norms under customary international law, no longer necessarily linked to aggressive war. More than this, these Principles have come to be regarded as ‘peremptory norms’ or simply jus cogens, that cannot be altered by governmental action, and can be changed only through their replacement by another peremptory norm.

Genocide has had a somewhat similar intellectual voyage after being sidelined at Nuremberg to Lemkin’s great disappointment. His personal crusade to achieve the inclusion of genocide among the crimes charged against the Nazis failed. Undeterred by this setback, Lemkin’s unwavering perseverance after Nuremberg was soon rewarded. The Genocide Convention came into force in 1950, and as Sands observes, almost instantly genocide became the ‘crime of crimes,’ the most stigmatizing form of criminality whose commission results in a permanent tainting of the national character of a sovereign state found to have been guilty of genocide. There have been various allegations of genocide over the decades, with Cambodia, Bosnia, and Rwanda being among the most notorious instances.

Sands situates himself not quite equidistant in relation to these two jurisprudential giants. His own academic life and personal associations disposed him to side with Lauterpacht, celebrating his success in introducing CAH into the fabric of the Nuremberg experience and from there, to become a critical norm in the emergence of international criminal law, and a featured crime embedded in the Rome Statute that creates the legal framework for the International Criminal Court. Sands is unabashedly appreciative, even awed, believinging that Lauterpacht was recognized as “the outstanding legal mind of the twentieth century, and a father of the modern human rights movement.” [loc. 254] Lauterpacht, as an influential Cambridge professor later elected to the International Court of Justice became a member of the British establishment, and was professionally admired for his prodigious output as a scholar that showcased his committed, yet cautious approach to the development of international law. For Lauterpacht this development to be authentic had to arise from the practice of sovereign states. He had a keen appreciation of the limits of what was politically feasible and legally appropriate, and was respectful toward patterns of statecraft, possibly reflecting his exposure while a student to the great Austrian formalist and positivist, Hans Kelsen. In a book built around the organic links between the personal and public, it is hardly surprising that Sands turns out to have been a student at Cambridge and that Eli Lauterpacht, the jurist son of Hersch, was his teacher and a collaborating source of information about his famous father. This contributes one more instance of Sands’ interest in fathers and sons. Unfortunately, for his scheme of things, Lemkin never married and had no sons.

The older Lauterpacht was openly skeptical of genocide, viewing it as ‘impractical,’ even an impediment to the realistic development of international law. Sands is never fully clear as to why a crime that seemed to depict the very essence of the Nazi victimization of Jews and others, should have been put aside on grounds of practicality in the lead up to the Nuremberg proceedings. He does mention in passing American and British reluctance to put such a crime into the indictment at Nuremberg was related to the rattle of skeletons in their respective historical closets: the systematic decimation of native Americans and a variety of British colonial practices. According to Sands, “Lauterpacht never embraced the idea of genocide. To the end of his life, he was dismissive, both of the subject, and more politely, of the man who concocted it, even if he recognized the aspirational quality.” [loc.6700] Sands does refer to the problematic aspects of genocide in various places—especially a lawyer’s difficulty of finding strong enough evidence of the appropriate criminal intent to convince a court of law, considering that those engaged in genocide rarely leave a paper trail that satisfies those sitting in judgment and aware that to obtain a guilty verdict in responses to genocide is an indirect punishment of a nation and its people as well as of the individuals charged.

In this regard, despite the crime of genocide not being part of the formal proceedings at Nuremberg, Germany has been convicted of ‘genocide’ in the court of public opinion, and Germans whatever their relationship to the Nazi experience seem destined to live perpetually under this dark cloud. As many have observed, and I have experienced, this deep German consciousness of historic guilt explains an excessive deference to the policies of the state of Israel and the related fear that any criticism of Israeli behavior, however justified, will be perceived as anti-Semitism. In this respect, there is a real objection to the formal and informal allegations of genocide because it imposes guilt not only on individuals who acted for the state but on the nation as a whole. There is a related issue, not raised by Sands, of the degree of complicity with Nazism that it is fair to attribute to the German people as a whole, and whether this complicity should cast its shadow over future generations.

I have had an interest in the embittered standoff between the Armenian diaspora and Turkey over the redress of historic grievances relating to the tragic events of 2015. To resolve this standoff depends exclusively on the willingness of Turkey to issue a formal acknowledgement that the wrongs endured more than a century ago by the Armenian people constituted genocide. No lesser form of apology by Turkey even if accompanied by initiatives that keep historical memories alive via a museum, educational materials, and commemorative events will overcome this Armenian insistence, supported by many Western governments, that Turkey admit genocide. Sands appears sympathetic with the difficulty posed by this apparent fetishization of genocide, writing, “[i]t was no surprise that an editorial in a leading newspaper, on the occasion of the centenary against Armenians, suggested that the word ‘genocide’ may be unhelpful, because it ‘stirs up national outrage rather than the sort of ruthless examination of the record the country needs.’” [loc. 6618]

Questioning the Armenian insistence on genocide has become political incorrect even though the crime was unknown in 1915 when the offending behavior took place and the modern state of Turkey did not then exist as it only came into existence in 1923. Of course, such legalistic considerations will never resolve the controversy as what is deeply at stake is the way historical memories should be inscribed on political consciousness of both victim and perpetrator societies, as well as in authoritative public accounts. It is plausible to admit that what happened a hundred years would have qualified as the crime of genocide if it took place after 1950. The case is further complicated because many Turks continue to subscribe to a historical narrative that claims that the massacres resulted from excessive uses of force in a wartime situation in which Armenians were seen to be a subversive presence siding with the Russian adversaries of the Ottoman Empire in World War I and included occasions on which Turks were also slaughtered. This counter-narrative complicates any acknowledgement by the Turkish government of genocide as it would agitate the volatile ultra-nationalist sentiments that dominate the extreme right in the country.  

It is understandable from Armenian perspectives that only an admission of ‘genocide’ is capable of encompassing the magnitude of the wrongs suffered by the Armenian people. There is no other word with comparable stigmatizing power. It was this stigmatizing power that led to Bill Clinton in 1994, while president of the United States, to issue his notorious order that the word ‘genocide’ should not be used by government employees with reference to the massive killing taking place in Rwanda. Clinton evidently feared that the mobilizing effect of labeling these events as genocide would exert unwanted pressure on the United States to intervene to stop the killing.

This is the meeting point of the genius of Lemkin, and the worldliness of Lautherpacht, with Sands sensitive to the virtues and limitations of both viewpoints although leaning toward the Lauterpacht approach. Of course, the German guilt is quite different in its essentials from the Turkish reality. A Turkish admission of genocide, should it ever be made, would not be internalized in the manner forced upon Germany by the denazification program implemented by the victors after World War II. It is relevant to realize that Armenian genocide did not emanate from an extremist racialism that was so closely connected with Hitler’s rise to power based on virulent anti-Semitism.

In one sense Lemkin has been too successful. In his insistence that what the Nazis were doing to Jews, and other peoples, was a crime against the group, he unwittingly succeeded in elevating genocide above crimes against humanity, and thereby weakened Lauterpacht’s interest in promoting international accountability for crimes without undermining peace among states. There are other concerns. If genocide if read backward into history, as in the Armenian case, it opens a Pandora’s Box that intensifies numerous bitter memories of the past, reopens wounds, and seems to unduly burden present generations with a legacy of criminality that was the work of those no longer alive. What is worse, the Holocaust as the context in which the crime was formalized operates as a standard of comparison, the crime of crimes that lies behind the legal conceptualization, which discourages its acknowledgement by political entities that might be ready to issue an apology but not to suggest that in their national past is an experience that deserves to be treated as comparably reprehensible to what Jews, and not only Jews, suffered at the hands of the Nazis.

Given a world of states, maybe Lauterpacht after all adopted the more tenable position. Perhaps the most that can be hoped for is an international criminal law framework that prosecutes, as appropriate, individuals, and leaves the chronicling of group crime to historians, novelists, and filmmakers. Even here there are problems not faced by Lauterpacht or Sands that relate to the hierarchical character of world order that makes any serious application of international criminal law more a creature of geopolitics than an expression of the rule of law or a tenet of global justice.

Sands while right to be proud of his own role as revered litigator of international crimes adopts a more questionable position by downplaying the relevance of geopolitics. In a notable passage about the objection to Nuremberg as ‘victors’ justice’ he writes, “[y]es, there was a strong whiff of ‘victor’s [sic] justice,’ [at Nuremberg] but there was no doubting that the case was catalytic, opening the possibility that the leaders of a country could be put on trial before an international court, something that had never happened before. [loc. 288] A whiff! [for those unfamiliar with ‘whiff’ its dictionary definition is this: “a brief passing odor in the air as in ‘a whiff of perfume’ or “a very small trace as in ‘a whiff of self-pity in her remarks’] Looking at the impunity conferred by the Nuremberg framework on the indiscriminate, terror bombing of German cities [recall Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five], not to mention the fire bombing of Tokyo and the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the victors’ dimension could not be convincingly marginalized from the overall legal proceedings. It was certainly more consequential than even ‘a strong whiff’! Even the American prosecutor, Robert Jackson, who is portrayed by Sands quite reasonably as the most influential presence at Nuremberg, understood that the moral validity of the decision rendered was precarious, and needed future vindication by being integrated into an international law framework that bound all states, winners and losers, strong and weak. That this never happened deserves commentary that Sands fails to provide.

Instead, Sands reminds us that there has been much follow up to Nuremberg that supports his assessment of its catalytic impact. He cites his own extensive experience with both categories of criminality in cases involving Serbia, Croatia, Libya, United States, Rwanda, Argentina, Chile, Israel and Palestine, United Kingdom, Yemen, Iran, Iran, Iran, Iraq, and Syria as if the mere listing proves his point. [loc. 6607] I believe Sands’ impressive legal activism only shifts the focus. True, there has been a robust development of human rights and international criminal law, especially after the end of the Cold War, but this has obscured rather than overcome this fundamental flaw. The integrity of the rule of law as an operative global system, depends crucially on treating equals equally, and this has never happened, nor will it happen without a sea change in world politics. As African countries have been pointing out with plausibility, criminal accountability for both CAH and genocide is limited to weak states and losing sides in wars, and impunity remains for the strong and winners. We will long be waiting for the likes of George W. Bush or Tony Blair being called to account for their role in embarking on a disastrous aggressive war against Iraq in 2003.

True, introducing these categories of criminality into the legal vocabulary gave a valuable normative tool to civil society, first effectively utilized by the much maligned Russell Tribunal in the midst of the Vietnam War and more recently by the Iraq War Tribunal of 2005 that addressed crimes associated with the Iraq War. Yet civil society has only public opinion at its disposal, and even here, is hampered by the statist orientation of most media outlets that demean such civil society initiatives as illegitimate intrusions on the public sphere reserved exclusively for governments representing sovereign states. At best, these civil society tribunals that pass judgment on the behavior of geopolitical actors are expressions of a moral consciousness that acts as if these norms of international criminal law should be universally regulative rather than selectively applied.

Sands, along with Lauterpacht and Lemkin, share the liberal conviction that law is an autonomous force for the good in human affairs (unless deformed in its application as by the Nazis). Their sense of practicalities appears to be a willingness to overlook geopolitical constraints, and to take what incremental steps are made available by circumstances with the hope and expectation that over time the growth of law and legal institutions will overcome the present arbitrariness of practice. In the meantime, the liberal test of validity is a matter of procedural assurances that trials are fair and that those who are convicted are guilty of heinous acts that deserve to be punished. The related fact that some are too powerful to be accountable is a fact of life that it is best not to think too much about. Along with far more notable public intellectuals (e.g. Russell, Sartre, Chomsky, Edward Said) I dissent from this liberal optimism/opportunism, believing that the conscience of engaged citizens is an indispensable challenge to all political systems, (talking truth to power) rather than limiting constructive contributions by acting within it. At the same time, I would not judge liberal icons, such as Sands and Lauterpacht, who have made a political choice opposite to mine.

In the course of this essay I have ignored other significant publications by Sands, most particularly his prior relevant and important book, Lawless World: America and the Making and Breaking of Global Rules (2005), a well-reasoned and documented critique of the approach to international law taken by the neoconservative presidency of George W. Bush, especially with respect to the Iraq War, but also in reaction to the 9/11 attacks. Although valuing this contribution to the policy debate that occurred during that period, it is fully consistent with the liberal orientation, which is often to oppose American and British foreign policy undertakings, especially if they happen to be unsuccessful and are peripheral to national or strategic interests, and depend upon unilateral aggressive uses of force not authorized by the UN Security Council. In this vein the recently released massive Chilcot Report evaluating British involvement in the Iraq War follows a parallel liberal line, condemning any decision to go to war except on the basis of adequate advance planning and the buildup of public support, but sidestepping the question of whether it was also mandatory on Britain to comply with international law and the UN Charter. Despite the 2.3 million words of the report there is no where a hint about Blair’s potential personal responsibility if international criminal law were to be properly applied.

As expressed at the beginning, despite these differences, I greatly admire the author, and applaud Sands’ dazzling performance. Among other qualities, Sands displays an incredible willingness to go to great lengths to get the details correct. He tracks down addresses, relatives, obscure documents and pictures to piece together a riveting narrative of these three lives, and their families, coping with one of the most extreme collective traumas of all time. As said, this book can and should be widely read from many perspectives, and the psycho-politics of the jurisprudence it imparts is the one that happens to interest me most, but it is only one of several strands in this exceptionally rich tapestry, and each one deserves similar detailed commentary.

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Amnesty International: Turkish Authorities Are Committing Mass Torture in Crackdown


By Sarah Lazare

Turkish soldiers at the Republic Monument in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, during a coup attempt by the military early on the morning of July 16, 2016. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government moved swiftly to re-establish control on Saturday, detaining thousands of military personnel after the coup attempt left at least 265 dead; by noon, many declared that the uprising had failed. (Ismail Ferdous / The New York Times)Turkish soldiers at the Republic Monument in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, during a coup attempt by the military early on the morning of July 16, 2016.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government moved swiftly to re-establish control on Saturday, detaining thousands of military personnel after the coup attempt left at least 265 dead; by noon, many declared that the uprising had failed. (Ismail Ferdous / The New York Times)

Content warning: The following piece contains graphic descriptions of rape.

The global watchdog organization Amnesty International says it has received “credible evidence” that the Turkish state under the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is committing mass torture — including rape — in a crackdown following an alleged coup attempt.

“Amnesty International has credible reports that Turkish police in Ankara and Istanbul are holding detainees in stress positions for up to 48 hours, denying them food, water and medical treatment, and verbally abusing and threatening them,” the organization reported on Sunday. “In the worst cases some have been subjected to severe beatings and torture, including rape.”

Basing its findings on anonymous interviews with lawyers, doctors and “a person on duty in a detention facility,” Amnesty International continued: “Detainees are being arbitrarily held, including in informal places of detention. They have been denied access to lawyers and family members and have not been properly informed of the charges against them, undermining their right to a fair trial.”

The organization’s report is harrowing, including the following description of what prisoners are being forced to endure:

Two lawyers in Ankara working on behalf of detainees told Amnesty International that detainees said they witnessed senior military officers in detention being raped with a truncheon or finger by police officers.

A person on duty at the Ankara Police Headquarters sports hall saw a detainee with severe wounds consistent with having been beaten, including a large swelling on his head. The detainee could not stand up or focus his eyes and he eventually lost consciousness. While in some cases detainees were afforded limited medical assistance, police refused to allow this detainee essential medical treatment despite his severe injuries. The interviewee heard one police doctor on duty say: “Let him die. We will say he came to us dead.”

The same interviewee said 650-800 male soldiers were being held in the Ankara police headquarters sports hall. At least 300 of the detainees showed signs of having been beaten. Some detainees had visible bruises, cuts, or broken bones. Around 40 were so badly injured they could not walk. Two were unable to stand. One woman who was also detained in a separate facility there had bruising on her face and torso.

“Reports of abuse including beatings and rape in detention are extremely alarming, especially given the scale of detentions that we have seen in the past week,” said John Dalhuisen, director for Amnesty International’s Europe branch. “The grim details that we have documented are just a snapshot of the abuses that might be happening in places of detention.”

“It is absolutely imperative,” Dalhuisen continued, “that the Turkish authorities halt these abhorrent practices and allow international monitors to visit all these detainees in the places they are being held.”

Last week, Erdoğan announced that he is placing Turkey under a state of emergency, thereby granting himself broad latitude to take unchecked executive action. Invoking this state of emergency, the Turkish government on Saturday dramatically expanded its powers to incarcerate people without charge for up to 30 days.

According to Emma Sinclair-Webb, Turkey director for Human Rights Watch, that decision followed the “mass detentions of soldiers, the suspension from their jobs of more than 50,000 civil servants, including 15,000 teachers, the forced resignation of more than 1,500 university deans, and a purging of the judiciary: 979 judges and prosecutors were detained, about 632 jailed and another 2,745 judges suspended.”

Meanwhile, reports are emerging that Turkish authorities have detained more than 60 school children for treason and issued arrest warrants for at least 42 journalists.

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Study Exposes BBC’s Deep Anti-Corbyn Bias

Jeremy Corbyn

A fortnight ago the London School of Economics published a report showing that uniformly the British press had misrepresented and denigrated Jeremy Corbyn from the moment he won the Labour party leadership last year. It was not that he had failed as leader; he was never given a chance to succeed.

LSE researchers found that 75 per cent of articles “either distorted or failed to represent his actual views on subjects”. Worse, in only 11 per cent of stories were his views fairly represented. In terms of tone, less than 10 per cent of reports were judged as positive.

At the time, I suggested that it was difficult to imagine the broadcast media, and especially the BBC, had done any better.

Now the data are in, and – surprise, surprise – the BBC’s performance is even more dismal than that of the press.

The Media Reform Coalition and Birbeck, University of London, studied the coverage in both the press and broadcast media of the recent attempted Labour leadership coup and found “clear and consistent bias” against Corbyn.

Screen-Shot-2016-07-29-at-18.49.41Like the LSE report, the new research argues that “imbalanced reporting” has become so grave that it poses a serious threat to the democratic process.

One graph in particular is shocking. It shows how the BBC’s early evening news programme has treated Corbyn – and it ain’t pretty.

The graph shows that the BBC is failing to make even the most minimal efforts at even-handedness. The issues it uses to frame its news coverage…

Read more

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Barbaric Decapitation of a CPI(ML) Activist in Tamil Nadu By Casteist Forces Aligned With The Hindu Munnani


A 24-year-old CPI(ML) comrade Mariappan from the washer man (Vannar/dhobi) caste in Tirunelveli was brutally killed by casteist, communal forces on July 20. His head was chopped off – the body was found in the morning yesterday and the head, in the late evening. The accused had threatened Mariappan in Court the very day he was killed – they told him they would chop off his head for daring to pursue the case of an attack on a comrade who had, along with others, asserted the right of people of the Vannar community to take a funeral procession along a corporation road in spite of objections from the casteist elements aligned with the Hindu Munnani outfit.

600 people including Comrade Mariappan’s family and comrades are on a fast since this morning; they have declared that will neither eat nor receive the body till all the accused are arrested. Three of the accused have been arrested but the main accused is hiding – reportedly in a BJP supporter’s house. The BJP is trying to claim the innocence of the main accused.

Mariappan’s wife Vidya is expecting their first baby – on the very day he went missing, relatives had gathered in the house for the ‘valaikaapu’ ceremony in which the pregnant woman is blessed for a safe birth.

Since 2007, Mariappan had been an activist of the CPI(ML), as well as AICCTU and RYA. His father Comrade Shankar is the branch secretary of the party in Ward 44 of Tirunelveli town. CPI(ML) branches are active in Wards 43 and 44, with members mostly being from the working class and the Vannar community. In ward 44, Viswanatha Pandian, a leader from the dominant caste (Mukkulathor) used to “disallow” anyone else from contesting local body elections. But ever since the CPI(ML) became active there, the dominant caste candidates had had to face rival CPI(ML) candidates from the oppressed caste. As has been witnessed elsewhere in the country as well, people from Dalit and oppressed castes are routinely denied the right to vote or contest elections – and their assertion of this right, of what Ambedkar called the principle of ‘one man, one vote’ and ‘one man, one value’, is seen as a social and political challenge to dominant caste ‘honour’ and clout.

In 2013, a funeral procession of a man of the Vannar community was held, and CPI(ML) comrades had asserted the right for the procession with the body of the departed man to march through the corporation road. The dominant caste people in the area with the help of Hindu Munnani elements obstructed the funeral procession and one comrade was attacked by the Hindu Munnani goons. Our comrades staged a road block, forcing the authorities to intervene and restored the right to take the procession through the common road. The party filed a complaint against the attack on our comrade, and Comrade Mariappan was one of the complainants and witnesses.

The dominant caste and Hindutva elements were incensed that people from the oppressed Vannar community were asserting their civil and political rights, and especially with having to appear in Court in the matter of the complaint made by Comrade Mariappan. On July 20, Comrade Mariappan had gone to the Court along with two witnesses; and the accused had warned him that he would be killed on that same day. They declared that they would cut off his head.

That evening Comrade Mariappan did not return home. His father Comrade Shankar thought he might have gone to watch a movie. But another Comrade, Sundararajan, said that since Mariappan had been threatened by the accused, it was best to make a complaint in the police station.

Comrades Shankar and Sundararajan went to the police station at midnight. The police began its search that night and Comrade Mariappan’s headless body was found next morning. The head was found in the evening.

The barbaric decapitation reeks of casteism. The incident is reminiscent of the manner in which CPI(ML)’s Comrade Bant Singh’s limbs were chopped off in Punjab because his daughter demanded justice against rapists.

Even as the Dalits’ protests in Gujarat have brought the barbaric casteist-communal ‘cow protection’ outfits into focus, the killing of Mariappan reminds us that this nexus between casteism and communal Hindutva is country-wide. Everywhere, the oppressed castes are told –either join the Hindutva outfits and accept your subordinate status in the casteist order as your ‘rightful’ place. Or else, if you refuse and assert your equality, dignity and rights, you will be subjected to barbaric torture and executions.

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Using Hate Crimes to Spread Islamophobia: Orlando Shooting


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Parnal Chirmuley

On the 12th of June, 49 people were killed in Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, by a gunman. This is one of the worst instances of mass killing in US history. The gunman, not counted among the 49, was shot and killed by the police after a long standoff. Over 50 others were grievously wounded.

This chilling incident does not bear mere straightforward condemnation, because it has since laid bare a number of issues that are not only entrenched in the immediate political and social climate in the United States, but because it calls into question the range retrogressive social attitudes and lawmaking the world over.

The gunman was Omar Mateen. The mere name set the media and the political establishment in the US and the world over ablaze with the expected cries of ‘radical Islamic terrorism’. However, close examination of eye-witness and survivor statements after the attack tells a very complex story about the shooter, the person. He was American, born in New York, to Afghan parents, had trained to work as prison guard at a Florida corrections facility, but worked as a security guard with G4S Secure Solutions, had an active firearms license, and no prior criminal record. He had passed the required psychological screening. However, it is now known that his first wife has pointed to repeated instances of domestic violence in the past. It is also said that he was part of gay dating sites, and frequented Pulse. During the shooting, he is reported to have said that he was doing this because he wanted America to stop bombing his country, and in a 911 call, he claimed allegiance to the ISIS. There are obvious contradictions, however, because his allegiance is also to Hezbollah and the al Nusra, which are in direct combat with the ISIS, and to the arms of the state in the US as a trained prison guard, and later as a security worker in a private firm. It is also very obvious that his own sexual identity, as a married man who was possibly also gay, was deeply conflicted, and a contributing factor.

These pixellated details about the person – a complex, confused, disturbed individual committing what has rightly been called an act of self-hatred due to his own conflicted sexual identity – are relevant. It is important to question why his act is being represented as one of ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ by the media and the conservative political establishment not only in the US but also in India, rather than what it really is – a hate crime against the LGBTQ community, enabled by a culture of violent masculinity and militarism in the US.

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Implications of the Brexit Referendum in the UK


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After a viciously xenophobic and violent campaign that even saw the unprecedented killing of a popular Labour MP, Jo Cox, the Brexit (Britain plus exit) camp has secured a surprise victory in the UK referendum on leaving the European Union. 52 per cent (of the 72 per cent who voted in the referendum) have chosen to end the UK’s 43-year-old association with the European Union (erstwhile European Economic Community). In the wake of this Brexit verdict, Prime Minister David Cameron, who campaigned to remain in the EU, has announced his decision to resign, the British Pound has plummeted quite sharply and the share market has experienced a rude downward pull.

The result has exposed a sharply divided Britain, geographically as well as generationally. Scotland, Northern Ireland and London had voted overwhelmingly in favour of remain. Scotland, which had narrowly agreed to remain with the UK in another recent referendum, obviously feels quite unhappy with the verdict, and another referendum leading to an independent Scotland as a member of EU is now a distinct possibility. The question of independence of Northern Ireland and unification with the Irish Republic (an EU member) is also likely to assume renewed political relevance. In generational terms, the young clearly preferred to remain in the EU with 72 percent voters in the 18-24 age group voting ‘Remain’ as opposed to the 60 percent ‘Leave’ vote among pensioners. There is also a divide between cosmopolitan multi-cultural cities of Britain opting for European affiliation and the less ethnically diverse smaller towns, many of which are in regions of industrial decline, where the Leave’ message found fertile ground.

Politically, the result was achieved then through the right’s opportunistic mobilization of widespread anger and frustration over austerity, and its appeal to deep-seated racism and jingoistic nationalism. The rabidly rightwing, racist and xenophobic UK Independence Party (UKIP) led by the rabble-rouser Nigel Farage, alongside the Conservative pro-Leave faction led by former London Mayor Boris Johnson, had built up the Brexit campaign with its virulent anti-immigrant anti-refugee rhetoric, effectively turning the vote into a referendum on immigration. It made more explicit what the mainstream parties had been doing for years – blaming migrants and refugees for the effects of austerity policies, unemployment, low pay, and the housing crisis with a toxic campaign which spread the falsehood that EU membership forces Britain to take in large numbers of refugees and migrants (in fact numbers of non-European refugees and migrants entering the UK – the real focus of UKIP’s hate campaign – have remained far lower than for other EU countries).

It is perhaps no coincidence that on the morning of the day that a supporter of the far-right Britain First group murdered the MP Jo Cox, who was an advocate for refugee rights, Nigel Farage had unveiled his new poster campaign which showed a long line of Syrian refugees with the slogan ‘Breaking Point’. Tapping into the popular anger over years of austerity which have eroded the welfare state, most notably the National Health Service (NHS), another of the Leave campaign’s most successful slogans was the lie that freedom from the EU would enable Britain to increase National Health Service (NHS) funding by £350m, a claim which was immediately retracted by Farage, Johnson et al on the day after the referendum, when its purpose had been served. By and large, Labour supporters voted for ‘Remain’. A section of voters who voted Leave are however already publicly regretting their decision, and millions of voters have raised the demand for a second referendum since the result was so close.

David Cameron called the referendum in a self-serving and, as it turned out, spectacularly ill-judged attempt to pacify the Eurosceptic sections of his own Conservative Party and prevent them from defecting to UKIP. These pro-Brexit Tories, like Boris Johnson and the much derided former Education Secretary Michael Gove, having used the referendum to further their own political careers, have little plan for what to do next, and there is already speculation that invoking Article 50 which triggers exit from the EU within a two-year time frame, may be indefinitely delayed.

Arguably however there are powerful reasons for a section of the ruling class embracing Brexit. One is the growing economic crisis and insecurity and the consequent quest for reclaiming economic sovereignty from the EU stranglehold. Unlike Greece and Spain which with strong left forces, aspired for freedom from the European debt burden and to pursue economic policies to suit their own interests and priorities, Britain however hopes to regain its lost economic might along the very trajectory of neo-liberalism which has already weakened the economy and eroded its once comprehensive welfare framework. Already, Boris Johnson has suggested that EU trade agreements like the free market fundamentalist Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), one of the main reasons why certain sections of the British Left supported Brexit, will be retained even after leaving the EU.

The other factor is the Euroscepticism inherent in Britain’s foreign policy and self-perception. When the end of World War II heralded the downfall of the British colonial empire, British foreign policy had to reinvent itself in the post-colonial world. But instead of forging ties with the rest of Europe, Britain preferred to rely primarily on her special relationship with the US and unequal and paternalistic ties with former British colonies as institutionalized in the Commonwealth. It was only in 1973 that Britain finally entered the European community. Even after joining the European Union, Britain retained its own pound sterling as the preferred British currency and did not fall for the charm of the Euro.

Within Britain, Brexit has emboldened the rabid rightwing spectrum ranging from various racist, chauvinistic fringe outfits to an ascendant UKIP and the aggressively neo-liberal Conservatives. Within the Labour Party too, the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, the best thing to have happened within the Labour camp, marking a clear rupture with and reversal of the pro-market war-mongering Blairite New Labour trend, is now faced with renewed rightwing challenges, as Blairite MPs use the result as a pretext for an attempt to oust Corbyn, despite his unprecedented mandate from members and supporters, ahead of the release of the Chilcot Report which is likely to indict Tony Blair for his role in the Iraq War.

While immigrants from various EU countries, especially from the erstwhile East European bloc, face an uncertain future, British Asian and Black communities are having to deal with heightened racism and Islamophobia, with a huge rise in racist attacks even in the few days since the referendum. And across the Atlantic, it is the vicious anti-immigrant anti-Islam politics of Donald Trump which feels pumped up by the Brexit victory. Whether in the US or the UK, it is clear that only building a strong grassroots movement which offers a real alternative to austerity and neoliberalism, with anti-racism and solidarity with migrants and refugees at its heart, can counter these rising forces.

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Bangladesh Terror Attack


Bangladesh Government Must Take Responsibility For Its Refusal to Tackle Religious Extremism

The heinous massacre of diners at a Dhaka cafe by terrorists in the name of Islam has shocked people across the world. The terrorists stormed the café shouting Islamic slogans, and took the diners hostage. They brutally tortured and killed those who failed to or refused to recite verses from the Quran. 20 patrons of the cafe were killed in the bloodbath, and two policemen were also killed. Of the six attackers, five were killed and a sixth has reportedly been arrested.

Rival terrorist outfits have claimed responsibility for the attack – Ansar-al-Islam, affiliated to the Al-Qaeda , and the ISIS. From photographers of the attackers posted by the ISIS online, it appears that most of them are well-educated youth from Bangladesh’s affluent and influential families.

The Dhaka café massacre is no isolated instance of terrorism. Bangladesh’s Government has had ample warning signs of the dangerously escalating radicalisation and violence by terrorist groups. For the past several years, Bangladesh has witnessed a spate of brutal killings of secularists, rationalists, bloggers, writers, gay rights activists, Hindu priests and individuals from the minority Hindu and Christian communities. Bangladesh’s Awami League Government had no effective or purposeful response to these attacks. Instead, responsible leaders of the Government indulged in victim-blaming.

Just a month ago, the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, speaking on the occasion of the Bengali New Year, preached ‘tolerance’ as essential for development. But in the same breath she said, “But if anyone writes filthy words against our religion, why should we tolerate that? Why should the government take responsibility if such writings lead to any untoward incidents?” Similarly, after Bangladeshi atheist blogger Nazimuddin Samad was hacked to death, Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal had said that Samad’s writings “needed to be scrutinized to see whether he wrote anything objectionable about religion.” Such remarks, like those of communal politicians in India who want to investigate if the lynch-mob victim Akhlaque ate beef, amount to victim blaming and a rationalisation of bigotry and religious fundamentalist violence.

The roots of Islamic extremism in Bangladesh lie in the Jamaat-e-Islami, the fountainhead of horrendous war crimes during the Bangladesh war of independence. In the period when military dictatorships ruled Bangladesh, the Jamaat-e-Islami was rehabilitated and political Islam instated as a part of mainstream Bangladesh politics. The Jamaat-e-Islami is now an ally of Bangladesh’s main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), both of whom make no secret of their espousal of a political Islamism. The Awami League, in spite of its secular posturing, has allowed the Islamic outfits a free rein, trivialising each communal murder as an isolated aberration.

The refusal of Bangladesh’s mainstream political parties to nip political Islam and a growing communal discourse in the bud has much to answer for in the unchecked proliferation of terrorist attacks. The only ray of hope lies in the fact that a considerable section of Bangladeshi society continues to be committed to fighting attempts to turn the country into an Islamic state. The Shahbag movement of 2013, a huge popular uprising demanding punishment for Islamist perpetrators of war crimes, also raised its voice strongly against religion-based politics. In spite of the barbaric killings, young activists continue to courageously raise their voices in support of a robust secularism. During the latest terror attack, a 20-year old Bangladeshi man Faraaz Hossain was offered a chance to save his life and leave, after he recited the Quran verses. But he chose, instead, to stay back with his two young woman friends, one of them an Indian teenager Tarishi Jain, and was killed with them. Another Bangladeshi woman Ishrat Akhond, refused to recite the verses and was hacked to death.

The events in Bangladesh must also push us to reflect on the growing politicisation of religion and resultant communal and terrorist violence in the whole of the subcontinent. In India, outfits espousing political Hindutva have killed writers for their secular writings; and murdered Muslims on charges that they ‘eat beef.’ They have issued threats against all those who refuse to chant slogans in favour of ‘Bharat Mata’ – India visualised as a Hindu goddess. In Pakistan and Bangladesh, murders and massacres in the name of Islam refuse to abate. In Sri Lanka, the genocide Tamil had a definite core of communal politics, with anti-Tamil bigotry merging with a political discourse of Buddhist majoritarianism. In Myanmar also, military dictators and mainstream ‘democratic’ politicians alike have appeased Buddhist bigotry and organised violence against the minority Rohingya Muslims.

The Bangladesh Government must be held accountable for the spate of terrorist attacks including the latest attack in the Dhaka café. The Awami League and the Government cannot look the other way and condone killings. We stand with the people of Bangladesh who are fighting the forces of political Islam and demanding an end to terrorism. Secular forces across the subcontinent must speak up and unite against the dangerous forces that are politicising religion and promoting intolerance and violence in the name of religion.

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Stop Repression on Kashmir’s People


Kashmir has been plunged into yet another cycle of massive civilian protests met with brutal state repression that claimed 32 lives till now and severely injured many more. The crisis has been precipitated this time by the killing of a young militant, Burhan Wani. Wani had been a popular figure in Kashmir, adept in addressing youth on social media. Vast numbers of Kashmiri people gathered to mourn at his funeral. Mourners and protesters alike are being subjected to repression by paramilitary forces on Kashmir’s streets, in a repeat of the events of 2010, when 112 civilian protesters were killed in a period of four months.

There are many unanswered questions about Burhan Wani’s killing. The Supreme Court’s recent order, reiterating that every encounter must be subjected to criminal investigation and prosecution, whether the person killed is a militant or a civilian, ought to be respected and followed here. But Burhan Wani’s killing also raises other questions about the Indian State’s policy vis a vis Kashmir. In 2010, on the heels of the spate of killings of civilian protesters, Wani and his brother and friends were subjected to a casual, brutal beating by security forces. Such humiliations are part of the daily experience of most Kashmiris, as a result of the military and paramilitary deployment in civilian areas. Months after the beating, the 16 year-old Wani left home to join a separatist outfit and emerge as a well-known face of the Kashmiri insurgency. In Kashmir, youth who do not take up arms and engage only in street protests, are routinely killed or maimed by security forces. By choking off all spaces for peaceful resistance and delegitimising even seminars and slogans that reflect Kashmiri sentiments, by routinely cracking down on internet services, and subjecting youth to brutal, arbitrary beating even when they are not protesting, the Indian establishment itself is creating the soil in which militancy takes root. Moreover, Wani was not charged with participating in any specific instance of terrorism, and is on record assuring that Amarnath pilgrims would not be attacked and appealing to Kashmiri Pandits to return to the Valley. There could have been many ways of engaging youth like him – and separatist organisations like his – in talks about Kashmir’s political future rather than killing them.

What the Central Government and the BJP-PDP Government in J&K are unable to reckon with is the scale of the spontaneous civilian mourning and protests that have broken out following Wani’s killing. Attempts to blame the protests on instigation by Pakistan, and justify the killing of Wani as well as the repression on civilians as a war on terror, only point to the colossal political failure of the Governments to engage respectfully with the voices and aspirations of Kashmiri people. Kashmir is primarily a political issue calling for a political solution that is in keeping with the wishes of the Kashmiri people, their self-respect and dignity.

The Sangh Parivar and BJP have for long vitiated the discourse on Kashmir by demanding abrogation of Article 370. But even the Congress and the UPA, that stood by Article 370, had much the same militarised policy towards Kashmir. Both Congress and BJP-led governments at the Centre have insisted on tame state governments in J&K, have branded every instance of Kashmiri mass resistance and protests as ‘instigated by Pakistan’, and unleashed brutal repression on such protests. The NCP leader Omar Abdullah has been blaming Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti for her failure to stop the killings of civilians – forgetting perhaps that he himself presided over a spate of such killings in 2010 when he was Chief Minister. The fact that the NCP and PDP utterly fail to command any credibility, trust and respect among Kashmir’s people is brought home by the fact that the Chief Minister, Ministers and elected MLAs are yet to feel confident enough even to meet the injured in hospital and the families of the victims!

The coverage of the crisis in Kashmir by influential sections of the Indian media is a recipe for further alienation of the Kashmiri people. Any calls for restraint, for sympathy with Kashmir’s grief and rage, for Supreme Court-mandated enquiries into encounter killings, are equated with ‘support for terrorism’ or ‘support for Pakistan.’ The question of the killings of civilian protesters and use of pellet guns to blind scores of protesters is either rendered virtually invisible. The political issues are obscured and Kashmir is seen entirely through the prism of ‘Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.’

Indian leaders talk now and then of ‘winning the hearts and minds of the Kashmiri people’. PV Narasimha Rao had promised that ‘the sky is the limit’ in talks with separatist groups on Kashmir. Vajpayee had, in response to a question about whether talks with separatist groups would take place ‘within the scope of the Indian Constitution’, had countered that they would take place ‘within the scope of humanity.’ But such promises seem to have remained in the domain of phrase-mongering. The average Kashmiri finds that far from the ‘sky’ being the limit, political self-expression of Kashmiris on the question of self-determination is pushed underground. Rather than talks ‘within the scope of humanity’, the template for dealing with Kashmiri resentments, mournings and protests remains within the grim and inhuman scope of pellets and bullets. It is of course, asserted that ‘Kashmir is an integral part of India’, but the Kashmiri people are subjected to brutalisation and humiliation on a scale and intensity that few other parts of India have experienced. Above all, the Indian establishment as well as most political parties and the media, fail to display even the most basic respect for Kashmiri sentiments and aspirations.

It is urgent for the democratic-minded Indian citizens to open their hearts and minds to the voices of Kashmiri people, and to tell Indian Governments at the Centre and State that the brutal military handling of Kashmiri resistance must stop. To create a conducive climate where a genuine dialogue on solutions for Kashmir can be discussed where Kashmiri people can freely express themselves and be heard with respect, it is a must for the AFSPA to be withdrawn, and or all encounters and alleged rapes by security forces to be subjected to credible and timely investigations. The right of Kashmiris to a political solution in keeping with their wishes and sense of autonomy and dignity, must be articulated strongly not just in Kashmir but in every corner of India.

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No More Una Or Dadri Style Atrocities ## Ban Casteist And Communal ‘Cow Protection’ Mobs


Image result for Cow Protection CARTOON

For the past several years, ‘cow-protection’ vigilantism has been the pretext for casteist and communal violence. Akhlaque was killed in Dadri by such a mob; two Muslim cattle herders were lynched and hung from trees in Jharkhand by such mobs. Such mobs, acting closely with RSS outfits, have routinely stripped, paraded and thrashed their victims in the presence of police, and uploaded videos of the violence online. But they have done so once too often in Una in Gujarat’s Somnath District.

The job of skinning and tanning cow leather and disposing of cow carcasses is assigned by the oppressive caste system to Dalits, who face untouchability for doing this work that is considered ‘dirty.’ On July 11th, a Shiv Sena ‘cow protection’ mob caught hold of four Dalit men who had been called by a farmer to dispose of a dead cow. Accusing the Dalits of being ‘cow leather smugglers,’ the cow-vigilantes brutally stripped and thrashed them for four hours, and released a video of the atrocity as a ‘warning’ to ‘cow smugglers.’ The Gujarat police, far from intervening to prevent the violence and arrest the perpetrators, detained the victims and questioned them. This is reminiscent of the shocking manner in which a UP Court has ordered that a FIR of ‘cow slaughter’ be registered against the family of the Dadri lynch-mob victim Akhlaque.

The Dalits of Gujarat have erupted in protest against the atrocity. They have adopted an innovative means of protest: they are dumping cow carcasses at Government offices, saying that Dalits refuse to dispose of cow carcasses any more. They have declared that those of the RSS, Shiv Sena and other ‘cow protection’ outfits who claim the cow to be their mother, can in future take on the responsibility of conducting the ‘last rites’ of their ‘mother’. This form of protest has most effectively exposed the sheer hypocrisy of the casteist and communal ‘cow protection’ groups that refer to cows as their ‘mother’, but consider the ‘mother’s’ carcass to be too ‘polluting’ to be handled by anyone except Dalits.

Some 16 Dalits of Gujarat have attempted suicide in the wake of the atrocity, reflecting the sense of outrage and humiliation felt by Dalits in the State. The Gujarat Government, in an attempt to contain the protest, has suspended some of the concerned police personnel. But suspension is far from adequate: all the perpetrators, identified on the basis of the videos, must be arrested and the responsible police personnel arrested and prosecuted for their complicity in an atrocity against Dalits.

A study titled “Understanding Untouchability: A Comprehensive Study of Practices and Conditions in 1,589 villages”, conducted in Gujarat by the Navsarjan Trust between 2007-2010, had found evidence of widespread untouchability, tacitly approved and encouraged by the Government, in 98% of the villages. And Gujarat is unlikely to be an exception – untouchability and anti-Dalit atrocities are common all over rural and urban India.

What needs to be emphasized is the fact that casteist anti-Dalit discrimination and violence is joined at the hip to communal discrimination and violence. Strategies used to stoke hatred and violence against Muslims today, have long been used against Dalits. Both Dalits and Muslims are the targets of organized violence in the name of ‘cow protection’; Dalits, like Muslims, do not share the taboo on consumption of beef imposed by caste Hindus. Dalit communities face violence when Dalit men marry ‘caste Hindu’ women; Muslim communities face violence when Muslim men marry Hindu women. In other words, ‘cow protection’, as well as inter-caste and inter-faith marriage are common pretexts for casteist and communal politics as well as mob violence. Modi himself, during the Parliamentary and Assembly election campaign speeches in Bihar, repeatedly used the ‘cow protection’ motif in a vain attempt to stoke communal hatred and consolidate caste and religious vote-banks in Bihar.

Today, the BJP and Sangh Parivar are caught in a wedge. They are the champions of the ‘cow protection’ politics and the casteist and communal violence that go with it. At the same time, they seek to woo Dalits to identify with communal, anti-Muslim politics. Their ‘ghar wapsi’ (homecoming) campaign is essentially a campaign to ask Dalits to embrace their subordinate position in the Hindu casteist status quo, without complaint. They also seek to appropriate Ambedkar, minus his radical anti-caste and anti-communal democratic politics. But time and again, actions and words of the BJP, Sangh and Hindutva leaders and groups reveal them to the Dalits to be ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing.’

When Modi was Gujarat Chief Minister, he referred in a book titled ‘Karmayog’ to manual scavenging as a ‘spiritual activity’ done voluntarily by Dalits to serve society. After facing huge protests, he has since changed his tune. But his original remarks throw light on the Sangh’s own ideology that disguises and glorifies anti-Dalit atrocities as part of a desirable social order.

Even as the Dalits of Gujarat – Narendra Modi’s supposedly ‘model’ home state – are up in arms against a shamelessly casteist administration and Government, Mumbai has witnessed a massive rally of Dalit and Left groups against the BJP Government’s shocking demolition of Ambedkar’s historic office at Dadar.

The Dalits’ protests in Gujarat must resonate across the country. Democratic groups all over India must unite to demand a ban on cow protection vigilantist outfits that indulge in, promote or glorify mob violence in the name of ‘cow protection.’

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