Pakistan – Day two of underground life: Farooq Tariq

[We present below this first hand account from the leader of the Labour Party of Pakistan, on the morrow of the emergency proclaimed by Musharraf, that gives a sense of the situation on the  ground.]

By: Farooq Tariq, General Secretary, Labour Party Pakistan

lawyers protest
Today is my second day in underground life. On 3rd November 2007, when General Musharaf declared an emergency and suspended the constitution, I was in Toba Tek Singh, a city around four hours from Lahore. This was to attend a meeting for the preparations of the Labour Party of Pakistan fourth national conference. The conference was scheduled to be held on 9,10,11 November in the city. Posters for the welcome of the delegates were printed and an invitation card to invite supporters for the open session of the conference was ready as well.

The meeting was nearly ending when I heard the news that emergency is been declared. I decided immediately to travel to ahore. I was in contact with other party comrades on telephone and every one advised me not to go to my home. This was in the background of my three arrests in three months where I spent 23 days in jails and police stations. The Labour Party Pakistan has become a target for the military regime because of active participation in the advocate movement. Several comrades had been arrested during the movement.

Continue reading Pakistan – Day two of underground life: Farooq Tariq

Nandigram Tribute to the October Revolution – CPM style

When a people lose the confidence of the government, it is time to dissolve the people and elect a new one. Thus spake Brecht and this is exactly what the Indian heirs of Stalin are doing in West Bengal. On the day of the 90th anniversary of the October Revolution the armed gangs of the CPM launched another bloody attack on the people of Nandigram who had committed the crime of refusing to be its Praja anymore. The Home secretary of the West Bengal who is supposed to know what is happening in the state said that it is a war like situation in Nandigram and the CPM is leading the attack. He was promptly censured by the patriarch Jyoti Babu and the hawk Biman Bose. They castigated him for his ‘lack of understanding’ of the ground situation which, they claimed was based on misinformation. Who has the ‘Right’ information, pray? Who, but the Party! The Party is all pervasive in the state of WB and the Home Secretary was trying to commit the greatest blasphemy questioning it.

How many people have been killed and how many displaced? You would never know the exact figure and extent as the area is under seige and the CPM would never allow ‘outsiders’ to meddle into their affairs. They are sorting it out and the state government of the West Bengal has given them a free run. This is one reason why the party has asked Buddhadeb to wait a little till they have finished their business of cleansing Nandigram of the undesirable elements.

Continue reading Nandigram Tribute to the October Revolution – CPM style

Myanmar: India’s Escalating Security Response and Denial of Rights

Reality has an incurable habit of striking back at rhetoric. The Indian government’s support for the demand to release Aung San Suu Kyi in the UN, and a few statements in favour of democracy in Myanmar, might be effective in hiding the larger foreign policy issues for a while for a few; but it cannot make the foundational structural and political issues disappear in their entirety, or for long, or for the majority. The government, with scant concern for the democratic and peaceful movements of the Myanmar people, continues to compromise at the level of discourse and direct action.

See the actions of our government along the Indo-Myanmar border in Manipur and in other north-eastern states, to prevent the influx of individuals who are fleeing the ongoing crackdown in Myanmar. Take the cases of several other Myanmar nationals who are now at risk of being forcibly returned to Myanmar. After the crackdown on peaceful protests, along with searches, surveillance and harassment of individuals who took part in these protests, numerous Myanmar people have had to go in hiding. They are also fleeing to neighboring India and Thailand. The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper warned that ‘anyone who is detained for his violation of law must be charged and serve prison terms if he is found guilty.’

Continue reading Myanmar: India’s Escalating Security Response and Denial of Rights

The Lives And Times Of The Asokan Pillar At The Delhi Ridge

Tourists are people in a hurry; they want to pack-in a city in two days, even a city that has taken more than a thousand years to grow. Tourists see buildings as structures, frozen in time, standing aloof, without being part of the ebb and flow of life. Travellers on the other hand come searching for the feel and the spirit of the city. Looking for the lesser known the less explored and the uncelebrated, for it is here that one may find untold histories that lie sheltered under each stone that awaits the explorer.

Beginning with the story of a large piece of rock we launch into an exploration, or shall we say recapitulation, of the almost forgotten stories connected with the less touristy structures and ruins that have been witness to the unfolding of the many histories of Delhi. We begin this series with one of the Two Asokan Pillars erected at Delhi. The pillars were erected at Delhi, not by Asoka who commissioned them in 3rd Century B.C, but by a king who ruled Delhi in the 14th century.

Continue reading The Lives And Times Of The Asokan Pillar At The Delhi Ridge

The Lal Masjid Syndrome

[We are pleased to present here two pieces by way of reflection on the state of the Muslims in India and Pakistan. These two pieces together constitute an acute and critical reflection on the general crisis of the community: in one instance, as a consequence of the emergence of a clergy in a religion that prided itself on its ‘unmediated’ relation between the believer and the Creator; in the other instance as a result of the social and political discrimination directed at it by ‘secular’ governments in India. Ekram Khawar’s is a voice of internal critique – as ruthless about its own leaders as it is of the supposed secular dispensation of Independent India.]

By Ekram Khawar

There is an eerie silence after Pakistan army’s operation in the Lal Masjid premises; a silence dour and dark, in all immanence. It is got to be since the message, however, delayed is loud and clear, a warning to the zealots not to mess around with the state and not to impose their notion of Islam on others, and with such disdain.

But, in all fairness, it must be said that it was coming to this all along and only the blissfully innocent, if any still left in an otherwise cynical age, would have been surprised by the turn of events. The discerning ones could see it coming all along; in fact, as early as 1949, Chowdhary Mohammad Ali Rudawlwi, not a rabid “secularist” of today’s crusading mould, but a devout Sunni Muslim (married to a Shia woman), a perfectly honourable and practicing, believing Muslim and a “Haji” to boot, while writing to his friend in Pakistan, in 1949, cautioned that the ever increasing influence of the “mullahs” did not bode well for Pakistan. Perhaps, the malaise lay somewhere else; probably in the very ideology and genesis of Pakistan, whether Jinnah intended it or not and irrespective of whether the great visionary poet Iqbal would have approved it or not. In fact there are enough materials on record to suggest that both the poet and the Qaid would have disapproved of the events as they unfolded and determined the broad contours of both the Pakistani establishment and its ruling mindset. I tend to believe that, as far as Pakistan was concerned, the seeds of its “kharabi” were inherently built-in in its creation, to borrow a word from Ghalib. No wonder the votaries christened the new state as “Pakistan” – land of the pure, implicitly in the back drop of an impure world. And almost logically, the mullahs, much to the detriment of the new nation increasingly occupied the centre stage, of course aided and abetted in their efforts at nation building as a necessary justification and as a counter poise to the presence of a predominantly Hindu India masquerading as a secular state. And so a proxy war of jihad, always underlined the onward march of the competitive existence of both the newly liberated states, compounded with a vengeance apparently on an apple of discord called Kashmir.

Continue reading The Lal Masjid Syndrome

Reflections on a thing called ‘Sachchar’

By Ekram Khawar

Rubbishing the Left’s belief to the contrary, The Indian Express, in a front page piece by Amitav Ranjan, reports on October 6, 2007, that the UPA Govt. ‘is rushing through a developmental scheme to improve the lot of minority communities’. It goes on to elaborate that “the Centrally-sponsored scheme with an initial grant of Rs. 120 crore in the current fiscal would try to fill identified development deficits through better infrastructure for schools, sanitation, housing, drinking water and electricity supply besides beneficiary oriented schemes for income generating opportunities”. One can not help but thank the Govt for its newfound concern for the Muslims, amidst the growing talk of mid term polls, even though the grotesqueness of the figure flies in your face; the paltry Rs. 120 crore meant for 90 high concentration districts towards attainment of the avowed objectives i.e. roughly Rs. 1.33 crore per district for schools, sanitation, housing, drinking water and electricity supply besides beneficiary oriented schemes for income generating opportunities; all rolled into one extended noisy fart called ‘concern for Muslims’. And that too coming as it does post “Sachchar Report” and in the 60th year of independence.

Continue reading Reflections on a thing called ‘Sachchar’

Two ‘Nations’ At War: The Struggle Over Forest Rights

The process towards the implementation of ‘The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006’ is entering its crucial stage. In the present political environment, charged with an electoral context, the government is bound to notify the draft rules. The original co-sponsors – majority of tribal organisations and rights groups, and left and progressive political parties – are in agreement about mobilising support for its implementation. However, similar to the time of declaration and implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), the apathy and the opposition towards these rights and entitlements of the poor, is becoming shrill and shady. Special Economic Zones (SEZs) can be notified in no time in this country, but the millions of tribals and forest dwellers have to wait endlessly for anything that goes in their favour. There is a cost of action and there is a cost of inaction. The coalition government has to decide which is more expensive!

It is ironical that since the time of the discussion and the passing of the Forest Rights Act, conflicts in the forest areas have not subsided, and forced evictions and displacements continue to be a regular occurring. And this is unfolding at a time when after more than two decades of work within the UN system, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted in September 2007, with India speaking in favour of it. The declaration was adopted by a vote of 143 to four with 11 abstentions. The vote was called by Australia, New Zealand and the US. Only Canada joined these three states in voting against it. The declaration recognizes the rights of indigenous people to the land, territories and natural resources that are critical to their way of life. It affirms that the rights of indigenous people are not separate from, or less than, the rights of others; they are an integral and indispensable part of a human rights system, dedicated to the rights of all. The declaration presents the Indian central and state governments a historic opportunity, which they must seize by adopting it, and entering into a new relationship with the tribal people, based on a principled commitment to the protection of their human rights. Through the Forest Rights Act, the government can work in good faith to implement their domestic law, and practice this vitally important, and long overdue, human rights instrument.

Continue reading Two ‘Nations’ At War: The Struggle Over Forest Rights