Sunday, October 9, 2011

IS ANNA’S BOYCOTT THREAT JUSTIFIED?

  Team Anna is considering the Hissar bypoll as a referrendum on the Jan Lokpal bill and has called for not voting for the congress unless a written commitment  is obtained from the govt and the congress party that the bill will be passed in winter session.This controversial stand has attracted its share of logical and  rational backers and detractors.
        Though there is a broad agreement between both sides on the lokpal bill and its components  the continous dilly-dalling b the govt,the foul mouthing and verbal games indulged by the govt and congress spkespersons  have raised doubts regarding the govt’s intentions.Rahul Gandhi’s “Game changer” speech has led to fears of the real issue getting lost in procedures and delays.
        Anna’s team rightly claims that it is playing a role of raising and educating the voter thus ensuring continous accountability of the elected reps to the voter.Its been alleged that Anna’s team is entering active politics by this move.But it is the duty of every citizen play a continous part in a nation’s ploitical life not just in his capacity as a elected rep but equally as a responsible and informed voter.
     The parliament has unanimously passed the resolution on janlok pal bill last month and thus it does not make sense for the congress not to give a written a commitment on the issue.Thus team anna’s move serves rightly asa timely and since polls are involved as a costly remainder for the govt not to push the issue on to the backburner for political purposes.
      A section of intelligentsia claims that it could amount to blackmailing the govt and Anna’s stand could  wrongly benefit the other political parties.It could also be advisable for team Anna to wait for the completion of winter session and congress on its part could give a written commitment  like other political parties to prove its sincerity.The bill is now under consideration by the standing committee which is inviting different opinions to make the bill more effective.A written statement in these conditions could  be the way out of the imbroglio.
      Thus it can be concluded that Team Anna has sought to hurt the govt where it hurts most ie its electoral prospects.Any move by the govt and congress to wrongly attack Team Anna on their plitical affiiliations could backfire for the govt like the last time around.An Indian version of the “Arab Spring” can thus be sought to be in motion this time around.
                                                                     -------Sudhanva and Prashanth

Saturday, September 17, 2011

How Relevant is LA TOMATINA to India

LATOMATINA-TO CELEBRATE OR NOT TO CELEBRATE

We Indians celebrate the festival of Holi which is the festival of colours. We spray vibrant colors on each other and share our joys. This festival is a manifestation of our culture and traditions. We reverently value this festival and celebrate whole heartedly. Economically too, sale of colors earn a livelihood to those who deal in them. Comparably La tomatina is also a kind of manifestation of the culture in Spain and many European nations. It is a festival where tomatoes are crushed and threw upon each other. Offcourse it is equally entertaining as our holi. It is very suitable for the countries with low population and considerably higher tomato surplus production. Moreover these countries are more prosperous and wealthy. However such blatant, irresponsible misuse of resources and our own cultural bankruptcy has raised troubling questions.

Though it all began in spain, similar festivities were organized across the world in columbia,US and the like. The festival was recreated for the song Ik Junoon (Paint it red) from the 2011 Hindi film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.

In Indian context however such imported exotic festivities throw very relevant questions. We misuse our purchasing power in every possible way. For instance in the case of bangalore most of such horticultural products come from drought prone kolar region which is plagued by flouriosis ( a condition where excess amount of flouride is found in ground water owing to over-exploitation. This causes osteoporosis which results in physical deformities and bone wasting both in children and adults rendering the workforce both of present and future ineffective)ironically food produced at such huge environmental and human costs is literally “toyed” around.

Culturally too it is a paradox that when our own cultural practices like joint family system, harvest festival is relegated to the theme fine dining restaurants while we are busy aping the west blindly.

Economically too such blatant waste of precious resources contribute to undue increase in prices of food products inadvertently accentuating existing food inflation. India fares below Pakistan and Bangladesh in the global hunger Index. Tomatoes kept aside; there are people who hardly eat rice every day. We can see government bringing in the food security to the poor population. So vegetables and fruits are even more costly items in the poor people’s food basket. In this background how relevant is an event like La tomatina which not only creates temporary tomato shortage but also inflates the price of the tomatoes that makes unaffordable to the poor people.

Organisers of the latomatina have claims that they are buying poor quality unconsumable tomatoes near Kolar.In reality, tomatoes in some areas are wasted either due to middle man tactics or due to lack of storage infrastructure .So the remedy lies in addressing the storage problems and correcting the supply side mismatch and not in such frivolous excuses for wastage. We people also aptly decide in participating in the events that can potentially affect the food economy in our areas. Let’s not procrastinate our responses but timely discourage such activities adeptly so that no such events are organized in the near future

Hence it can be concluded that though globalization and argument of melting pot of cultures can be substantiated to certain extent such shameless conduct-economic, cultural, environmental can only be decried in the strongest of terms. Every event has to semantically appropriate in its celebrations. Celebrations should not keep many people starve in hunger. Instead of giving fillip to such commercial events. Let’s make events like Holi and many such local festivals achieve grandeur and significance.


Sudhanva and Prashanth

Sunday, September 4, 2011

AFSPA-A Nation,Its People and its Armed Forces.

AFSPA-one of the most controversial laws of our times is again in the limelight owing to the renewed interest in the decade long hunger strike launched by Irom sharmila against the atrocities perpetrated by the armed forces under the aegis of the law. However an objective analysis of both the sides of the argument reveals an entirely different but universally acknowledged truth about all legislation.

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 (AFSPA) is one of the more draconian legislation that the Indian Parliament has passed in its 45 years of Parliamentary history. Under this Act, all security forces are given unrestricted and unaccounted power to carry out their operations, once an area is declared disturbed. Even a non-commissioned officer is granted the right to shoot to kill based on mere suspicion that it is necessary to do so in order to "maintain the public order".

Wide powers to shoot, arrest and search, all in the name of "aiding civil power." It was first applied to the North Eastern states of Assam and Manipur and was amended in 1972 to extend to all the seven states in the north- eastern region of India. AFSPA has resulted in innumerable incidents of arbitrary detention, torture, rape, and looting by security personnel. This legislation is sought to be justified by the Government of India, on the plea that it is required to stop the North East states from seceding from the Indian Union. There is a strong movement for self-determination which precedes the formation of the Indian Union itself.

Conditions which necessitated AFSPA and consequent indiscretions by the armed forces

The Naga Movement-A secessionist movement aimed at creating the sovereign greater Nagaland comprising current Nagaland, Naga inhabited regions of Arunachal pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya and parts of Myanmar.

Mizo National Front (MNF) called for an armed struggle, “to liberate Mizoram from Indian colonialism."The army action is alleged to have violated right to life and protection against arbitrary arrest and detention provided by articles 21 and 22 of Indian Constitution are just a few instances which argue in favor of the law.

On the other hand the AFSPA, by its form and in its application, violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the "UDHR"), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the "ICCPR"), and the Convention against Torture among others.

“ Operation Bluebird” conducted by the Assam Rifles had Amnesty International report which found that more than 300 villagers claimed they were beaten, some torture victims were left for dead

"Operation Rhino”, conducted by Rajputana Rifles are alleged to have surrounded the village of Bodhakors on October 4, 1991. An extensive house to house searched was conducted during which women were sexually harassed and men were taken to interrogation camps People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).

Necessity of AFSPA- a soldiers perspective

It is often simplistically argued that the security forces need the Act. This is actually quite misleading since the State alone can under a constitutional statute declare an area as “disturbed” and decide upon the “deployment” of the central paramilitary or the armed forces. It is invariably seen that the following circumstances drive the employment of the security forces:

Administrative failures have time and again contributed to insurgencies in the past. Once they have erupted, the local functionaries and the police forces have proved inadequate in coping with them. As a result, the states are simply forced to turn to central paramilitary forces or the army for protection of life and property.

The affected states have simply failed to make capital out of the “peace dividend” delivered by the security forces. This has often resulted in their extended presence with no signs at all of return to normalcy.

Consequently, the security forces have a right to seek legal provisions to undertake operations for three fundamental reasons.

· One, a soldier unlike a policeman is not empowered by the law to use force.

· Next, while operating in far flung areas, it is simply not possible to requisition the support of magistrates every now and then

· Lastly, their employment is an instrument of `last resort` when all other options have been exhausted.

Risks of Dilution

Three issues merit attention:

Firstly, it would dilute the capacity of an important instrument of the state – the armed forces - to tackle the security challenges faced by the country.

Secondly, it would motivate the insurgent leadership, field cadres and their over ground supporters to engage in reckless damage to public life and property. It may well result in a security situation which slides beyond redemption, necessitating major political compromise.

Thirdly, the annulment of the law and the resultant lack of security cover would adversely affect the governance and development capacities in the insurgency affected states, and the eventual redress of local grievances.

A soldier makes significant personal sacrifices in his life, and all that he wishes is that the nation accepts his contribution in difficult conditions, and does not drag him to court for undertaking a task assigned to him. He surely seeks reasonable immunity while acting in good faith to prevent destruction to life and property

But no argument can defend the mindless violation by the security forces against the same population they were sent to defend.

Under intense pressure, the government in 2004 constituted a five-member committee under the Chairmanship of Justice B P Jeevan Reddy, a former Supreme Court judge. The committee was to review the provisions of AFSPA and advise the Government on whether to amend the provisions of the Act to bring them in consonance with the obligations of the government towards protection of human rights; or to replace it with a more humane Act.

Although the government hasn't taken any concrete action on the findings of the Reddy committee that suggested, among other things, the repeal of the Act, it helped bring a burning issue to the forefront.

Hence it can be concluded the fault as usual lies with the implementing authority and not the law pursuit is just a weapon which can be used to defend the nation’s integrity on the one hand and at the same can be abused as a weapon of terror. Hence the need of the hour if same old good governance, responsible and a responsive government along with a sensitized policing by the armed forces.

A brief comparison between Anna’s and Sharmila’s fast will be discussed in our following article.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Very Long Hunger Strike going Unheard

Our country has always upheld a special reverence to the hunger strike and peaceful struggle. Such struggles have attracted an enormous response in this land. Be it be Mahatma Gandhi, Jatin Das or very recently by Team Anna Hazare. There is another 11 year old cry in the form of Hunger strike that is going unheard that our country has to pay attention, listen, and respond by joining our voices with hers.

Irom Sharmila is a civil rights activist, political activist moreover a Humanist who has been on hunger strike since November 2000 with the demand to the Indian Government to repeal The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) of 1958 which she blames latter the primary cause for violence in Manipur.