Category Archives: Right watch

Hacking India’s Democracy – From Monitoring Metadata to Spying Real Time: C.P. Geevan

Guest post by CP GEEVAN

On June 18 (Sunday evening in India), freedom-loving people across the world were shocked by the revelations of how a highly sophisticated and expensive digital technology, named Pegasus, a spyware sold by Israeli company NSO Group, has been systematically abused for years to spy on journalists, human rights defenders, academics, businesspeople, lawyers, doctors, union leaders, diplomats, politicians and even several heads of states. Regimes in several countries continue to criminally deploy such technologies to suppress democratic rights, curtail human rights, and organise surveillance on a massive scale. Such technologies are military grade weapons and are recognised to be precisely that. It is developed and sold by the NSO Group, a private company supported by Israel. As per NSO, they sell licences only to agencies authorised by a national government and approved by the Israeli government. Although it is being referred to as a software or malware, the spying system consists of an elaborate set of arrangements including a secure supporting backend maintained by the NSO Group.

Continue reading Hacking India’s Democracy – From Monitoring Metadata to Spying Real Time: C.P. Geevan

Field report from protest against granite mining at Bodikonda: Chandra Sekhar

Guest post by Chandra Sekhar

All images courtesy the author

Background

Bodikonda is a monolithic stone hill in Lakshminarayanapuram village in Parvathipuram mandal in Vizianagaram district. This has been in the news on and off over the last two years or so, because local people have been protesting the lease given to private companies for mining colour granite, without their being consulted nor any sort of public hearing.

Three leases for quarrying coloured granite were granted and executed in favour of MSSS Srinivas for an extent of nine hectares, M Madhupriya for an extent of six hectares and Kishore Granites Pvt. Ltd. for another nine hectares ( total of 24.29 hectares) for a period of 20 years. This comprises almost 50% of the area of the total hill. These companies applied for a lease in 2010 to the Assistant Director of Mines and Geology, Vizianagaram, and new licences were given in December 2019.

Procedural Discrepancies Continue reading Field report from protest against granite mining at Bodikonda: Chandra Sekhar

A Poem For Umar, Khalid Saifi and Other Political Prisoners: Nabiya Khan

Guest Post by NABIYA KHAN

Our valiant young activists, defenders of democracy, continue to be in prison for almost a year – some a bit more and some a bit less. All under entirely framed charges, while the actual perpetrators of violence continue to roam free, spreading hate. Celebrating the commitment and courage of these activists, here is an offering by Nabiya Khan, courtesy Karwan-e-Mohabbat. The Devanagari and Urdu texts follow after the video

Continue reading A Poem For Umar, Khalid Saifi and Other Political Prisoners: Nabiya Khan

AMENDMENT TO CENTRAL CIVIL SERVICES PENSION RULES CURTAILS FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION OF RETIRED OFFICIALS: Constitutional Conduct Group

Open letter to Prime Minister by Constitutional Conduct Group

Dear Prime Minister,

We are former officers of the All India and Central Services who have worked with the Central and State Governments in the course of our careers. We have no political affiliation but have come together as the Constitutional Conduct Group because we believe in impartiality and neutrality and in safeguarding the values of the Indian Constitution.

We were surprised, and deeply disturbed, by the recent amendment to the Central Pension Rules notified by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions on 31 May 2021. By this amendment, retired government servants who have worked in any intelligence or security related organisation included in the Second Schedule of the Right to Information Act 2005 have to take the clearance of the head of the organisation if they wish to make any publication after retirement, if such publication relates to and includes:

(i) domain of the organisation, including any reference or information about any personnel and his designation, and expertise or knowledge gained by virtue of working in that organisation; Continue reading AMENDMENT TO CENTRAL CIVIL SERVICES PENSION RULES CURTAILS FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION OF RETIRED OFFICIALS: Constitutional Conduct Group

Concerned Historians Respond to Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education On History Textbooks

[We are publishing below the full response of Concerned Historians to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, regarding certain proposed changes.]

RESPONSE OF CONCERNED HISTORIANS On the

CALL FOR REVISIONS IN SCHOOL HISTORY BOOKS IN INDIA

To be shared with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education pertaining to school history books.

Date: 15th July 2021

We have recently learnt of representations being collected by the Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Women, Children, Youth and Sports with respect to:

a. Removing references to un-historical facts and distortions about our national heroes from the text books.

b. Ensuring equal or proportionate references to all periods of Indian history.

c. Highlighting the role of great historic women heroes, including Gargi, Maitreyi, or rulers like Rani of Jhansi, Rani Channamma, Chand Bibi, Zhalkari Bai etc. in school history books in India.

We place before the Committee certain observations and points of caution.

Textbook revisions: certain cautionary notes

It appears from the notification of the Parliamentary Standing Committee’s proceedings inviting responses that a consensus presumably exists on the presence of “distortions” in existing history school textbooks such as of the NCERT. On this point itself, we wish to draw the attention of the Hon’ble members to the fact that while scholarship grows and propels the corresponding need for periodic revision of textbooks; the use of the word “distortion”, as in this context, appears to be an unsubstantiated allegation that creates roadblocks for the initiation of a serious scholarly exercise. Opinions are being sought regarding “unhistorical facts and distortions about our national heroes” in the existing history textbooks without substantiation, which is unfortunate and also objectionable. 

Continue reading Concerned Historians Respond to Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education On History Textbooks

Governments Must Implement the Constitution, Not Religious Texts

Several courts have tried to reign in states bent on holding religious events during the pandemic. Judiciary must more proactively prevent them as the third wave approaches.

Constituion of india

Simple things need retelling when society is in a state of flux. The fact that India is a republic—has been one for more than 70 years—where sovereignty rests with the people and not with scriptures is one fact. That India runs by its Constitution and laws under it is another fact.

The Uttarakhand High Court reminded the state government of these facts when it objected to proposals to live-stream the historic Char Dham Yatra on the plea that the scriptures do not sanction it. The court rejected the petition, saying India is a democracy where the rule of law, not religious texts, govern.

( Read the full text here)

An open letter demanding action on the online targeting of Muslim women

A statement signed by 900 individuals and groups

We, the undersigned women’s rights groups and concerned individuals are outraged by the reprehensible targeting of Muslim women on GitHub, a free web platform, where Twitter handles, and photographs of Muslim women were uploaded with the explicit aim of directing sexualised hate and harm at these women. More than 80 women were profiled, their images were sought to be “auctioned” by soliciting users to take their pick on the “deal of the day”, on the basis of their identity and for their views. This is a conspiracy to target women by creating a database of those Muslim women journalists, professionals and students who were actively raising a voice on social media against right wing Hindutva majoritarianism. The intention is to silence their political participation.

This attempt to de-humanise and sexualise Muslim women is a systemic act of intimidation and harm. This is not the first time this has happened. Before Eid, similar cyber violence against Muslim women was organized by stealing pictures of Pakistani women from their social media handles.

This is a targeted hate campaign against Muslim women in India and abroad amounts to sexual harassment, criminal intimidation, and cyber stalking. It violates their right to privacy, which is a travelling right, and it is an act of censorship. It puts their life and liberty at risk.

This is a targeted campaign to regulate their political speech and political participation in democracy as full and equal citizens of this country. It is part of the project to push Muslim women out of public spaces, offline and online, by causing them harm and censoring their speech. Having witnessed the leadership and power of Muslim women in the anti-citizenship amendment act (CAA) movement, right wing Hindutva men have used social media as a political tool to deny Muslim women their right to lead our collective fight for secularism, peace and citizenship. Continue reading An open letter demanding action on the online targeting of Muslim women

Stan Swamy’s Custodial Murder – Joining the Dots From Santhal Hul To the Pathalgadi Movement

Fr. Stanislaus Lourduswamy aka Stan Swamy, image by Sarah Modak, courtesy Article 14

There are just no words left to express the anger and helplessness that overcame hundreds and thousands of people like me when they heard of the custodial murder of an ailing, frail, octogenarian, Fr Stanislaus Lourduswamy, known to the world as Stan Swamy. The various issues that arise from the virtual judicial abdication of responsibility has been powerfully articulated by former Delhi High Court Chief Justice, AP Shah and one can hardly add to that. What is perhaps the most shocking is not that the judiciary abdicated in observing its duty of upholding the Constitutional rights of a citizen but that it seems to have lost even the minimum grace and human concern.

“Medical reports taken on record clearly showed that Fr Swamy had the degenerative Parkinson’s disease, and could not even do basic tasks, such as holding a spoon, writing, walking or bathing. Indeed, the court noted that he had a severe hearing problem, and was physically very weak. But even that did not move them. Every regular bail application that was filed by his lawyers was unequivocally rejected.” 

This is shocking beyond words – or used to be once upon a time. But as each day of this regime passes, our threshold of taking shock increases by leaps and bounds. Are we really surprized now, that while this was how they treated Stan Swamy, a goon who had just the other day openly called for mob violence and “shooting down anti-nationals” has now been promoted to the Central ministry?

Continue reading Stan Swamy’s Custodial Murder – Joining the Dots From Santhal Hul To the Pathalgadi Movement

Salaam Father Stan Swamy! Warrior for the soul of India

Numb and wordless in grief, filled with rage against the murderous regime of the RSS, led by Modi and Shah, we raise our fists in salute to a gentle, inspiring man.

Here is the statement  Stan Swamy made on the eve of his arrest by the NIA, stating that false evidence had been planted on his computer.  That this had indeed been done on a large scale to arrest people in the Bhima Koregaon case was soon established by an independent digital forensics firm based in the USA.

This is a criminal regime and the Prime Minister and the Home Minister should stand trial for war crimes against the people of India.

The fight will continue!

Release all political prisoners!

Sushant Singh Rajput, Hindu Rashtra and Bollywood

A slightly longer version of this post was published under a different title in  Southasia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal (Issue 24/25, 2020)

A young, successful, Hindi film actor died in tragic circumstances.  What followed was a sensational real life movie, scripted in the headquarters of Hindu Rashtra, as part of its larger campaign to control the cultural arena.

Sushant Singh Rajput was found hanging in his bedroom in a Mumbai flat in June 2020, and it was initially declared as suicide by the Mumbai police. Within days however, the hashtag Justice for SSR started trending, and suddenly thousands of devoted and inconsolable fans had sprung up all over social media, all attacking “Bollywood” (the Bombay film industry) for its “nepotism” which had deprived a talented actor of work, driving him to suicide. “Boycott Bollywood” was a key theme in this frenzied outpouring of apparent grief.  From here it escalated to claims that Rajput had been murdered, and that a drug cartel linked to Bollywood stars was involved in the crime. Soon these claims were all that one could see on social media, and on some Hindi, Marathi and English television channels, specially Republic and Times Now, which specialize in sensationalist and blatantly pro-Hindutva political reportage, including fake news (for one instance see Bajpai 2020). Continue reading Sushant Singh Rajput, Hindu Rashtra and Bollywood

Six Months of the Farmers’ Struggle – Looking Ahead

Farmers observe ‘Black Day’ as struggle completes six months on 26 May, image courtesy Economic Times

The farmers’ struggle at the Delhi borders completed six months yesterday, the 26th of May. The day was observed as a Black Day all over the country, at the call of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM).

Braving unprecedented cold, followed by rains and storm, the struggle has now moved into the cruelest part of Delhi’s summer. In the process, it has lost 470 of its people, thanks to the obstinacy of the government. If one dates the beginning of the struggle from June, when it began in Punjab, soon after the farm laws were stealthily, under cover of the pandemic, promulgated as ordinances by the Central government, the struggle has been on for ten months now. In other words, it is incorrect to go on referring to it as a protest – which we routinely do for many lost causes – for it is now a ‘do or die’ struggle. It became so from the time it shifted its venue to lay siege to Delhi.

Periodically, the government, its police and its minions in the media try and zero in on this epic struggle of the farmers for its ignoring, if not violating of Covid19 protocols. All this even as they look the other way while lakhs of people are thrown into the jaws of death, brought about by the mass murderers who have pushed populations in four states into prolonged election campaigns, played cynical games with precious oxygen and vaccine supplies and allowed all kinds of mass religious gatherings of the Hindus to take place in complete disregard of any protocol whatsoever.

Continue reading Six Months of the Farmers’ Struggle – Looking Ahead

Legendary freedom fighter HS Doreswamy is no more

Doreswamy

Legendary freedom fighter and Civil Rights activist Harohalli Srinivasaiah Doreswamy popularly known as HS Doreswamy breathed his last yesterday.

The 103 year-old Gandhian, who kept the ‘conscience of Karnataka till his very last breath, and was the tallest public intellectual, who appeased none and spared none‘ would be remembered for his enthusiasm for public causes till he remained alive

Born on 10 April 1918 in Harohalli village in the then princely state of Mysore, he was jailed for the first time during Quit India movement – for his association with a group involved in making bombs and who spent 14 months of his life then – never stopped working for people even after independence.

In 1975, he had even challenged the then prime minister Indira Gandhi when emergency was declared, civil liberties stood suspended and who faced jail under the draconian Defence of India rule.

One of the issues closest to his heart remained getting land rights for the poor and the landless.

Before the first wave of Covid 19 struck he has been a prominent figure at protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and has been openly critical of BJP-led central government’s policies.

He was cremated with state honours but it was clear as mirror that the BJP government in Karnataka always felt uncomfortable with his presence.

A year before last a leading BJP legislator had hurled choicest abuses at this legendary freedom fighter, and when the issue was raised in the Karnataka assembly, forget issuing any unconditional apology for his remarks the legislator not only remained adamant but received support from many of his colleagues.

Image Management and Rhetoric – India’s Tale of Pandemic catastrophe: Irshad Rashid

Guest post by IRSHAD RASHID

         

 ‘Something is rotten in the state of Denmark’, laments Hamlet, the Prince in the eponymous play by Shakespeare. Today everything seems rotten in the Indian State. The way lives are being lost amidst this raging pandemic – with the wilful indifference and callousness of the Indian State and its appendages—calls our attention to what looms over the helm of the affairs of the state.

Continue reading Image Management and Rhetoric – India’s Tale of Pandemic catastrophe: Irshad Rashid

Missing footsoldiers seek positivity amid raging pandemic

While Rome never burned, Nero never played the fiddle…

RSS

Pragya Singh Thakur, the Lok Sabha Member of Parliament from Bhopal, would never have imagined that the leading Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar would mark her return to her constituency after a 70-day gap with a sarcastic article published on its front page. The headline read, “He Digvijayi Sadhvi Pragya! Shukriya, Aap Ko Bhopal ki Yaad to Aayi—O World Conqueror, Many Thanks, You Remembered Bhopal at Last.”

The daily was giving vent to the feelings of the lakhs of citizens of the capital of Madhya Pradesh. Some had even organised a social media campaign revolving around their “missing” MP.

The last time Thakur was in the city was 2 March, to participate in a condolence meeting for a BJP leader. Thereafter, she was away from the city. The intervening period had proved extremely harsh for residents due to the deadly second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has already claimed hundreds of lives

The anger of citizens was palpable. That is why the daily asked her, “When Bhopal was sick and desperate for help, you were not to be seen. When the city needed oxygen and Remdesivir, you were still not here.”

The absence of an elected leader belonging to the ruling dispensation when people need her the most raises a pertinent question. Was this an exception? Forget the fact that the BJP-Sangh Parivar repeatedly claim they are “disciplined soldiers”, a number of those associated with right-wing organisations have gone missing in action. 

( Read the full article here)

Resist the Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinians: Radical Socialist

For more information on continuing Israeli attacks on Palestine, see Electronic Intifada  and What is happening in Sheikh Jarra.

Issued in 1981

Statement by Radical Socialist

Resist the Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinians! Oppose Zionism in the Streets! Fight for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.

Radical Socialist holds that the very existence of Israel is the existence of a colonial-settler state. The centuries of violence on Jews was carried out, not by Arabs, not by Muslims, but first by the Romans, then by Christian Europeans. Within that, the UN in 1948 had given only a small area. Over the decades, a continuously aggressive Israel has expanded, has occupied territories originally identified for Palestinians. The Naqba has been a never ending process of ethnic cleansing. Protected by US imperialism, in the initial phases by the Soviet bureaucracy, and also by the military power it has built up, Israel has waged a permanent war on the Palestinians.

The current conflict must be viewed from that broader perspective. It is not a conflict between two more or less equal sides. It is not a case where Hamas is to be held as responsible, or even almost as responsible, as Israel. It is Israel that is fully responsible for the renewed bid at ethnic cleansing by pushing Palestinians out of East Jerusalem and elsewhere. With an ultra-right figure like Netanyahu, the failure to form a stable government after the last elections was adequate reason to stoke Zionist sentiments further. Continue reading Resist the Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinians: Radical Socialist

Why Federalism Must Become the Fulcrum Of Politics In Coming Days

MPs demonstrtate in parliament for states' GST dues
MPs demonstrtate in parliament for states’ GST dues, 17 September 2020, Photo: Twitter/@priyankac19, courtesy The Statesman

A shorter version of this article appeared in Bangla earlier in Sahomon.

The question of federalism and Centre-State relations has been on many people’s minds lately, given that the Centre in the Modi dispensation has been hell bent on usurping the powers of the states while slyly thrusting all responsibility on to their shoulders. As a matter of fact, it was precisely during the outbreak of Covid19, when there should have been maximum cooperation between the Centre and the States, that the strains started showing in a glaring manner. Very early on, it became clear that the Centre was intent upon using the pandemic to usurp more and more powers, while riding roughshod not only on the rights of ordinary citizens but also of the States. In dealing with the pandemic, not only were the mandatory  consultations with the States not held, they were in fact simply handed over decisions. The most dramatic of all these, of course, was the completely bizarre manner in which the Lockdown was declared last year, at just four hours notice. The huge tragedy that followed was totally avoidable had there been prior consultations and had the Prime Minister, just for one moment, behaved like one. As a matter of fact, the record of this government over the past seven years has been pretty consistent in this regard at least. Continue reading Why Federalism Must Become the Fulcrum Of Politics In Coming Days

Hany Babu needs urgent medical treatment, release him now: CJP’s plea to Maharashtra CM

To sign this petition, please go to this link.

Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) is deeply worried about Professor Hany Babu’s health, in wake of news that he is suffering from a serious eye infection that could lead to loss of vision in one eye. According to his family, he has little or no vision in his left eye due to the swelling caused by the infection, which has spread to the cheek, ear and forehead. The family fears the worst if the swelling spreads to his brain. And yet jail authorities have failed to provide him proper medical care.

The 55-year-old professor is an accused in the alleged Elgar Parishad conspiracy behind the Bhima Koregaon violence. He is currently lodged in Taloja Central Prison, Maharashtra and has been complaining of an acute eye infection, pain, and gradual loss of vision since May 3, 2021.

Continue reading Hany Babu needs urgent medical treatment, release him now: CJP’s plea to Maharashtra CM

Yogi Model of Fighting COVID Second Wave – Attacking People Rather Than Virus: Himanshu Shukla

Guest post by HIMANSHU SHUKLA

As India updated its COVID cases on April 30th, it became the first country to register over 4 lakh infection in a single day. This record breaking second-wave spike in the country opened the Pandora’s Box of the Modi-led central government’s claim of defeating the pandemic. The government patted itself for successfully defeating the virus and bringing normalcy in the country, without getting hit very hard like many other countries. The second wave of virus has showed up the naked picture of the hollow claims that the government made about their preparedness to tackle COVID.

India is now the epicentre of infection, accounting for 46% of world’s total cases and quarter of deaths. The ravaging crisis brought about cries for oxygen countrywide. Mass deaths due to unavailability of medical care is the new picture that India portrays of its incompetence in dealing with the second wave. The recent editorial of Lancet slammed Modi government, mentioning that the second wave is a ‘self inflicted national catastrophe’.

Continue reading Yogi Model of Fighting COVID Second Wave – Attacking People Rather Than Virus: Himanshu Shukla

That Monday will not come, Judge Sahib: Swarajbir

Posted below is the English translation of a Punjabi poem by SWARAJBIR, Editor of Punjabi Tribune, on the culpability of the state. The poem in the original Punjabi is at the end.

Mahavir Narwal breathed his last yesterday, of Covid. He was an active member of the CPI(M) and the father of Natasha Narwal, activist of Pinjra Tod, a feminist collective, who has been in jail for a year along with Debangana Kalita, another Pinjra Tod activist. Along with many others, Natasha was accused on the basis of no evidence, of having caused the violence in Delhi in January-February  2020, the violence that was in fact carefully planned and orchestrated by the forces that run this regime.

What all the activists jailed for the 2020 Delhi violence are guilty of, is the firm commitment to equal rights to citizenship in India, and unrelenting opposition to the regime’s continuing attempt to establish Hindu Rashtra, a project rejected by the vast masses of this country, and which we will resist and defeat through militant non-violent means.

When accounts are drawn up of this criminal regime, we will remember the disrespect to the Constitution repeatedly shown by different arms of the judiciary.  Natasha was refused bail on earlier occasions, and her latest plea for bail to meet her Covid-stricken father one last time, was scheduled to be heard today, Monday the 10th of May, the morning after Mahavir Narwal’s death.

Dear Kind Judge Sahib

Swarajbir

Kind Judge Sahib,
Mahavir Narwal is dead.
Yes Judge Sahib,
Natasha’s father
is no more in this world.

Kind Judge Sahib,
A day ago, this daughter
had come to your Court.
She had not said
“Don’t prosecute me”
She had not said
“Declare me innocent” Continue reading That Monday will not come, Judge Sahib: Swarajbir

Hey Ram ( Rajya) !

Teachers as Cannon Fodder During Covid 19 ?

covid 19 ram rajya

There is in every village a torch – the teacher; and an extinguisher – the priest.” -Victor Hugo

Hugo, the great French writer and activist, had famously described the role education or a teacher plays in a backward society, where education was still a preserve of the few.

Perhaps we Indians can associate with it more since this has been a society where education was denied to the vast majority of people for hundreds of years just because they were born into so-called unclean families. How the mere exposure to rudimentary education could transform someone like a Muktabai – a girl born to one of the depressed caste families – challenges these age-old denials with vehemence.

It can be said with a degree of certainty that Hugo would not have envisaged a situation when the Priest himself assumes power or where a monk himself becomes the ruler.

The biggest state within the Indian Union, namely Uttar Pradesh, with a population of more than 200 million people, provides a glimpse of this phenomenon unfolds in the field of education. The state is presently governed by monk-turned-politician Yogi Adityanath; a man who till he became Chief Minister was a member of Parliament and had the sole experience of running a religious mutt.

Reports mention that 135 teachers and teaching assistants died owing to their duties in Panchayat elections in the state. A teachers’ association said how right from the days of training teachers for election duty to the actual elections, thousands of teachers and teaching assistants had contracted COVID-19.The counting of votes for these elections will occur on May 2.

( Read the full article here)

Ominous Dark Clouds Over Bengal’s Skies…

A demonstration by the ‘No Vote to BJP’ campaign in Kolkata, (older image) courtesy The Telegraph

As close to 8.5 lakh voters spread over 35 Assembly constituencies go to vote today in the last phase of Bengal’s elections, the line from the famous jatra Nabab Siraj-Ud-Doula from which the title of this post is extracted, haunts. The original ‘jatra pala’, written by Sachin Sengupta was staged in 1938 had a dialogue that announced the dark clouds collecting at Bengal’s horizons. The lines ‘Banglar akashe aaj durjoger ghanaghata/ Taar shyamal prantore rakter alpona’ have since resounded in the many iterations of the play, over the decades. The figures of Siraj-Ud-Daula and the traitor Mir Jafar have generally become part of Bengal’s political vocabulary but this time round the sense of Bengal being under attack from ‘outsiders’ has been pervasive. Along with that other episode of political folklore – repeated attacks by the borgis or the plunderous cavalrymen of the Maratha Empire, on Bengal has been recalled often. The attacks by the borgis were followed, only a few years later, by the Battle of Plassey (Palashi), in which Siraj-Ud-Daula was defeated after Robert Clive bribed Mir Jafar, his army commander, to betray the Nawab. 

This time round too, it is widely believed, the aggression by ‘outsiders’ cannot and will not succeed but for the Mir Jafar’s who collaborate with the aggressors.

Continue reading Ominous Dark Clouds Over Bengal’s Skies…