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Let God forgive and deliver us from tyranny

Sadeq Khan

Bangladesh is again on the screen of international television broadcasts and in the world media. Their breaking news reported: 27 poor people lost their lives in alms-seeking stampede.
Local media reported that in a jostle for zakat clothes, 23 women and 4 children got trampled to death in Mymensingh town early morning of July 10, the fourth Friday of Ramzan this year. From Thursday night over 1,000 people had started gathering on the narrow road outside the home of zakat donor Mohammad Shamim, who owns a chewing tobacco brand Nurani Jarda.

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Sadeq Khan

Bangladesh is again on the screen of international television broadcasts and in the world media. Their breaking news reported: 27 poor people lost their lives in alms-seeking stampede.
Local media reported that in a jostle for zakat clothes, 23 women and 4 children got trampled to death in Mymensingh town early morning of July 10, the fourth Friday of Ramzan this year. From Thursday night over 1,000 people had started gathering on the narrow road outside the home of zakat donor Mohammad Shamim, who owns a chewing tobacco brand Nurani Jarda.

Shamim had announced the distribution of free clothing at his home which also serves as his factory. Around 5:00am, a small gate to the factory was opened and some people seeking zakat clothes went in. As everyone rushed to get in, the small door got blocked. When the main gate was opened to let people in, the crowd stormed the compound.

The tragedy
In the stampede, apart from 27 dead, over 50 people were injured. Hundreds of sandals and blood soaked torn clothes were seen at the scene. Some alleged that the workers of the factory had used truncheons to control the crowd. Shamim’s son Mohammad Hedayet refuted the allegation: “No incident of beating occurred. Some of our employees shouted at the zakat seekers just to control the situation. We never misbehave with poor people. We had distributed 640 cards among the people of a local Bihari camp on Thursday, but some 1,500 people gathered and stormed the compound.” However, police filed a murder case and Shamim, his son and six factory employees were arrested.
Actually the factory had a budget of distributing 1,000 saris and lungis among the poor this year, and the word must have got out. Those without cards also came to try their luck to get a sari or a lungi. Before his arrest, Shamim said he had been distributing zakat for the last 35 years and such incident had never occurred. Asked why they did not seek police help, Shamim said they never needed police help.
Mymensingh Medical College Hospital certified that the causes of deaths were stampede and suffocation. The religious affairs ministry and district administration separately announced grants of Tk 10,000 to each of the victims’ families. Last year, two people were killed in a stampede when the hundreds gathered to collect zakat clothes at a company’s office on Katpatti Road in Barisal.
After the incident, Police headquarters issued a statement asking people to seek their help in distributing zakat or for any “uncontrolled” large gatherings. The statement said the superintendents of police of districts or the officers-in-charge of police stations should be informed at least a day ahead of such events, and warned of legal actions if there was breach of public safety in any unannounced gatherings.

Desperation of the poor
The hapless zakat donors would probably be let off the hook before Eid, possibly after they pay, in addition to the zakat, fat bribes to the police who had formed a 3-member probe body under the Additional DIG to report within 3 working days. The incident, however, should be a sharp pointer how desperate our poor people are that they risk their lives for a new clothing in Eid as their zakat right.
A little over a month before Ramzan, Bangladesh appeared similarly on the international TV screens, not for attaining the status of a Lower ladder Middle Income Group country, but for the desperation of its poor people, on boats adrift in the Andaman sea or in Thai jungle camps, risking their lives to find a living abroad.
A number of Bangladeshi migrant workers were found among Rohingya migrants on a boat stranded for a week in the Andaman Sea with no food or water. BBC reported of them, 10 people died, while some resorted to drinking urine collected in bottles. The fishing boat was refused entry to Thailand. The crew abandoned them and disabled the engine. The bodies of those who had died were thrown overboard. Several thousand people were believed to be stuck in similar boats off the coasts of Thailand and Malaysia. Some of those who are adrift in the Andaman Sea were provided with food, water and medicine by the Thai navy. Some boats containing migrants were towed over to the Malaysian side of the border - where most migrants want to go - only to be taken back into Thai waters.
One such boat of several hundred migrants including 50 women and 84 children had been at sea for three months.
Asian Human Rights Watch’s said: Three countries (Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia) are playing a game of marine ping-pong not wanting to take the migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh; there is an urgent humanitarian crisis and the Thais and others seem to be taking a gentle stroll.

A BBC description
BBC observed: In Myanmar, the Rohingyas are regularly persecuted, deprived of citizenship, subjected to forced labour, have no land rights, and are heavily restricted. In Bangladesh many are also desperately poor, with no documents or job prospects. As many as 8,000 migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar are believed by the International Organisation for Migration to be stranded at sea.
Human traffickers reportedly were refusing to land their boats and entire crew of many were abandoning their boats and human cargo at sea, because their usual route through Thailand was disrupted by a government crackdown, launched after the discovery of dozens of bodies in abandoned camps along the land route.
A mass gravesite in Sadao district’s Padang Besar border area, where 26 bodies of migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh were first discovered near a jungle camp believed to be used for detaining illegal migrants. Investigators probing human trafficking in the area discovered more graves at a second jungle camp believed to hold the remains of migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh. The camp was uncovered just a kilometre from a similar “holding area” on a steep hillside near the Malaysian border, where forensic teams found 26 bodies - all but one buried in shallow graves.
While the poorest in Bangladesh are thus risking their lives at the mercy of human traffikers to seek jobs in slavery conditions and sweat shops of other countries of Asia, the rich are also building second homes in rich countries of Asia, North America and U.K., some buying citizenship of such countries as well.

The other desperados
According to news reports of large scale bank-transfers abroad and money-laundering, many high-ups in the government as well as in the private sector have piled up fortunes in foreign bank accounts. In Swiss Banks, while Indians top the list of non-European account holders, significant number of Bangladeshi account holders have also made an entry. In other words, the highly affluent in Bangladesh are ready to get out of the country if and when they find the country’s situation uncomfortable. Such affluent people include police officials, politicians, crony capitalists and professionals of distinction.
The present police raj in Bangladesh provides them ample opportunity to make money by hook or by crook, while ordinary citizens fear for security of life and property, and are squeezed of their earnings (and savings if any) by police blackmail (of crossfire killing or simply spending a bullet in the detainee’s foot), by politicians’ extortion demands and fat chandabazi, and by organised crime’s protection rackets covering every field of activity from play schools to residential blocs and work places.
The rich people know a storm is bound to gather and tyranny cannot go for ever. Ordinary citizens cannot escape tyranny and must also brace for the storm. In Ramzan, let us pray magfirat or forgiveness for all and najat or deliverance from the tyranny.


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Iran, world powers sign historic nuke deal
Accord could end decades of bad blood with the West

By Agencies

Iran and the world’s major powers clinched a historic deal last Tuesday aimed at ensuring Iran does not obtain the nuclear bomb, opening up Tehran’s stricken economy and potentially ending decades of bad blood with the West.
Reached on day 18 of marathon talks in Vienna, the accord is aimed at resolving a 13-year standoff over Iran’s nuclear ambitions after repeated diplomatic failures and threats of military action.

Full Story

By Agencies

Iran and the world’s major powers clinched a historic deal last Tuesday aimed at ensuring Iran does not obtain the nuclear bomb, opening up Tehran’s stricken economy and potentially ending decades of bad blood with the West.
Reached on day 18 of marathon talks in Vienna, the accord is aimed at resolving a 13-year standoff over Iran’s nuclear ambitions after repeated diplomatic failures and threats of military action.

It was hailed by Iran, the US, the EU and others but branded a “historic mistake” by the Islamic republic’s arch foe Israel.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, German Minister for Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and US Secretary of State John Kerry addressed a final press conference of the talks in Vienna, Austria on Tuesday.

Tectonic shift in relations
US President Barack Obama said the deal meant “every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off.” Obama sais in an address to the nation: “This deal demonstrates that American diplomacy can bring real and meaningful change”
“This deal offers an opportunity to move in a new direction. We should seize it.”
He vowed to veto any Congressional effort to block the deal, reached between Iran and the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.
Underscoring the tectonic shift in relations, Iranian state television broadcast Obama’s statement live, only the second such occasion since the Islamic revolution of 1979. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in his own live televised address that “God has accepted the nation’s prayers.”
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini described the deal as “a sign of hope” around the globe, while Russian President Vladimir Putin said the world had “breathed a huge sigh of relief.” Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a close ally of Iran, also offered his congratulations.
The deal puts strict limits on Iran’s nuclear activities for at least a decade and calls for stringent UN oversight, with world powers hoping this will make any dash to make an atomic bomb virtually impossible.
In return Iran will get sanctions relief although the measures can “snap back” into place if there are any violations. The international arms embargo against Iran will remain for five years but deliveries would be possible with special permission of the UN Security Council, Moscow said. Tehran has accepted allowing the UN atomic watchdog tightly-controlled “managed access” to military bases, an Iranian official said. Tehran will slash by around two-thirds the number of centrifuges from around 19,000 to 6,104, an Iranian “fact sheet” confirmed.

‘Not a perfect agreement’
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif acknowledged that the agreement was “not perfect for anybody” but described it as “an important achievement.”
Painful international sanctions that have slashed the oil exports of OPEC’s fifth-largest producer by a quarter and choked its economy will be lifted and billions of dollars in frozen assets unblocked.
The deal - which was built on a framework first hammered out in April - is Obama’s crowning foreign policy achievement six years after he told Iran’s leaders that if they “unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us.”
It was also the fruit of Rouhani’s attempts since his election in 2013 to end Iran’s isolation 35 years after the Islamic revolution.
The agreement may lead to more cooperation between Tehran and Washington at a particularly explosive time in the Middle East with the emergence last year of the Islamic State group, a common enemy, which controls swathes of Syria and Iraq.
The prospect of better US-Iran relations alarms Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab states, which are deeply suspicious of Shiite Iran and accused it of stoking unrest in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.
Israel, widely assumed to be the region’s only nuclear-armed state and which has never ruled out bombing Iran, is also unsettled, seeing the deal as too weak to stop its arch foe getting the bomb.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday called the deal “a bad mistake of historic proportions.”

Shift on diplomatic focus
Analysts see the move as a major step for the US to shift its diplomatic focus from the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific region. They also believe the deal could change the political dynamic in the Middle East as well as the wider world.
“Once the Iranian-US relationship is improved, Iran could work more closely with the US in anti-terror campaign. The cooperation would press other countries in the region to compete for US favor,” Li Weijian, a research fellow with the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, told the Global Times. Li believes that the agreement is likely to bring positive influence to China.
“China has played an important role in the nuclear talks. China’s performance in the nuclear deal shows China’s willingness to participate in international affairs and scores points for China’s ‘major-power diplomacy,’” Li said.


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Razon’s killing: Human cruelty, lawlessness shames the nation

Faruque Ahmed

In Bangladesh cruelty to human beings is becoming reckless. Chairman of National Human Rights Commission has said miscreants have gone beyond control, as justice is not meted out on time. Many tend to understand that ruling party nominees holding constitutional posts primarily make such comments as an eye wash. They are not serious in asking for accountability from the government which is however helping the miscreants in many ways to remain out of control.

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Faruque Ahmed

In Bangladesh cruelty to human beings is becoming reckless. Chairman of National Human Rights Commission has said miscreants have gone beyond control, as justice is not meted out on time. Many tend to understand that ruling party nominees holding constitutional posts primarily make such comments as an eye wash. They are not serious in asking for accountability from the government which is however helping the miscreants in many ways to remain out of control.

The slaying of a thirteen-year old boy Razon in the outskirt of Sylhet town proved once again how cruel and reckless man can become at will to bring shame on the society. They killed the boy on the spot proving the saying that ‘what is play to you is death to others.’ This time it is not the frogs but a hapless young boy was killed just to get some kicks.

Other incidents
Another incident at Parbatipur in the Dinajpur districts last week was equally cruel and shameful on our face. A teen age girl was raped there by an elderly man and he was later saved by the local ruling party leader on a bribe of Tk 50,000. The story said the locally influential person arranged arbitration and asked the man to pay compensation to the girl’s family.
They also received Tk 50.000 as their arbitration fees and asked the family not to go to any court of law to file a case. The poor family remained quiet. The cost of the girl’s honour was fixed by the influential leader who made equal amount of money in the process for himself thanks to the rape of the ill-fated girl.
Police and local administration knew the incident but they kept quite ignoring the mischief of the locally influential ruling party men. In fact, such rape cases and torture on women is a regular phenomenon and when it becomes public it tend to bring fortune to local men dominating the society.
It appears that these two cases, like thousands of other such cases, would have gone unheeded as the poor have hardly any means to reach out to local administration or court to seek justice. Only media reports on occasions break such monotony and bring cases to public notices. The slaying of the ill-fated boy at Sylhet took place early in the morning on July 8 and it went unnoticed for almost a week. The torturers themselves led their way to public uproar as they uploaded the 28-minute video boosting their feat. ‘We will upload it on Facebook. The world will see it.” This was what the murderers said while torturing Rajon to death, news report said. But question arises as to why they were so boastful and local police were so evasive of the torture to death of the boy who would regularly work as a vegetable vendor to help his family.

Police did not act on time
His father is a driver by profession and he never had much income and the boy lent his support to the family abandoning his school. News report said the body of the boy was recovered at mid-day on July 8 by police as it was abandoned by the killers who had earlier sought to hide it in a microbus. People resisted the move and it became public.
As per news report the boy who started early in the morning on that day for city wholesale market. He was caught on the way mistakenly as a thief when some muggers were chased by local guards of a market who attempted to steal a peddler’s van.  The guards handed the boy to the owners who started torturing him tying with a poll and lashing with metal rod all over the body.
They were joking while beating for over half an hour as the boy cried for help and water but the beastly torturers did not pay any heed until he died on the spot. The boy remained un-tracked over the day and when his father went to the local police station to lodge a diary, he found the body of his son over there.
The question is that why police did not quickly act until public outcry at national and international level called for drastic action to bring the killers to justice. As it appears the torturers come from a wealthy family with political linkage to ruling party. Police were helping them to cover up the matter. Four days thus passed when one of the prime accused were allowed to leave the country for Saudi Arabia where he works.

Lawlessness breeds anarchism
Latest news report said Bangladeshi expatriates who live in Jeddah came to know of his cruelty from the face book posting and laid siege on his house. They overpowered him and later handed him over to Saudi police. Back at home, police also arrested the prime accused as his cruelty was also being flashed in the face book posting.
Bangladesh is up in arms against the barbarity as the gruesome killing of the boy hogged global headlines. It clearly shows the extent of lawlessness and anarchy into which our society has plunged. Social media and newspapers all over the world decried the cruelty and demanded justice.
Rent seeking in rape cases by ruling party men is yet another barbarism and what is noticeable is that the degradation of our police and political leadership at various levels is being reflected in the society as it ends up paying heavy price in all fronts.
One cannot expect quality political leadership in the country in the absence of good governance, accountability and political tolerance. Lack of lawlessness and good governance and the rise of authoritarianism breeds anarchism which the society is now reaping.


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$4.4b pledge for Nepal’s post-quake reconstruction

Shamsuddin Ahmed

The $4.4 billion or 4.5 trillion rupees is a plenty of money for Nepal.  International donors and lending agencies pledged generous assistance for reconstruction and rehabilitation of the devastating earthquake of April 25 that left 10,000 people dead. The pledges for assistance came at a meeting on June 25 attended by 300 representatives, including ministers, from 56 countries and donor agencies. They have urged the Nepal government to ensure that their support should reach the needy and affected people and the money is spent for reconstruction of the economy and rehabilitation of quake victims.

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Shamsuddin Ahmed

The $4.4 billion or 4.5 trillion rupees is a plenty of money for Nepal.  International donors and lending agencies pledged generous assistance for reconstruction and rehabilitation of the devastating earthquake of April 25 that left 10,000 people dead. The pledges for assistance came at a meeting on June 25 attended by 300 representatives, including ministers, from 56 countries and donor agencies. They have urged the Nepal government to ensure that their support should reach the needy and affected people and the money is spent for reconstruction of the economy and rehabilitation of quake victims.

But many in Nepal questioned the government’s accountability, reliability, and transparency. They expressed serious doubts whether the government will be able to complete the reconstruction works within the five years timeframe.

Performances questioned
Questioning the government’s sincerity, a section media said when it was unable to provide Rs 15,000 to the quake victims, the Home Ministry submitted a bill in the Constituent Assembly seeking to provide lifelong financial support for the ex-VIPs. The bill was, however, withdrawn after severe criticism. But it showed how irresponsible the people in the government who are concerned only with increasing facilities of their own. Nepal’s immediate neighbours India came with the largest amount, $1 billion assitnce, a quarter of which in the form of grant, and China with second largest amount of $480 million to help Nepal’s reconstruction.
Diplomatic observers say that both the countries have demonstrated strategic diplomacy. India has disseminated the message to the globe that she holds extraordinary relations with Nepal – a message that the Western countries should play a lesser role in Nepal.
Soon after disastrous earthquake, Chinese President Xi Jinping had declared “China is ready to extend its support in the terms and conditions set by and proposed by Nepal.” It was an open-hearted support. What more one wants from a genuine friend? Other countries announced support ­ about half  in loans and half iin grants - for Nepal’s rebuilding are Japan $260 million; USA $ 130 million; Norway $30 million; UK  $110 million; Canada $60 million; Switzerland $25 million; Australia $16 million; South Korea $10 million; Pakistan  $1 million; Austria $1.2 million; Sri Lanka $1.5 million; Finland $2 million; Turkey $2 million; Asian Development Bank $ 600 million; EU $112 million; World Bank $500 million. Besides Brazil, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have also assured to support Nepal. But the donors have rightly raised question of Nepal government’s accountability, credibility and transparency. It has proved inefficient; quarreling politicians widely differed, greedy and power hungry failed to write constitution for the country in seven years. It is not surprising that Nepal has not been able to spend its development funds as per schedule, because of the bickering of the political leaders.  Therefore, the donor community has raised serious questions on the Nepal government’s performance.

The handling capacity
Local political observers also doubt whether the government will be able to complete the reconstruction works within five years. They have expressed concern on the government’s ineffective way of working.  Earthquake victims were desperately waiting for relief aid and financial support to construct temporary houses to escape the rainy season. Government has not been able to distribute financial support to the needy when political leaders were engaged in power politics and calculating the numbers to form a new government.
When the government was unable to provide fifteen thousand rupees to the quake victims, the Home Ministry submitted a bill for providing lifelong financial support for the ex-VIPs. When it was highly criticized, the bill has been withdrawn, some say temporarily. The people in the government were found irresponsible towards the people and concerned only with increasing facilities of their own.  Nepal is known as the country having the largest number of government holidays. During the crisis period also, such unnecessary holidays have not been eliminated.
The moot question is: Should Nepal accept the assistance in the form of loans? If a Greece like referendum is held, the answer is likely to be a big NO, insiders say. Nepalese know the government run by inefficient politicians may not be able to ensure quality of expenditure, ultimately leaving the poor nation heavily indebted.

Big boy on prowl
In early May, much ahead of the International conference on Nepal’s reconstruction on June 25, a question was raised by the people on the street: Do you want to help Nepal recover from the Quake? Then waive its existing external debts of around $3.8 billion, including $1.5 million each to the World Bank and Asian Development. A wise suggestion indeed! Nepal had to spend $217 million in repaying the debts in 2013, a burden this poor country can hardly able to carry.
India promising the highest amount of assistance to Nepal is not without reason. Upendra Gautam writing on Indian’s operational objectives in Nepal said its forces and external intelligence in Nepal are working to eliminate the Chinese and American connections and reduce their influence in Nepal. He said that they have seized the opportunity in the name of disaster rescue, relief and reconstruction assistance. Landlocked Nepal’s political conflicts and instability, social weakness, disaster, natural calamities or crisis caused by power failure are seen as a grand opportunity for India to pursue a monopoly control over Nepal’s internal management.


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Greece’s problem is not a tragedy, it’s a lie

John Pilger

An historic betrayal has consumed Greece. Having set aside the mandate of the Greek electorate, the Syriza government has willfully ignored last week’s landslide “No” vote and secretly agreed a raft of repressive, impoverishing measures in return for a “bailout” that means sinister foreign control and a warning to the world.

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John Pilger

An historic betrayal has consumed Greece. Having set aside the mandate of the Greek electorate, the Syriza government has willfully ignored last week’s landslide “No” vote and secretly agreed a raft of repressive, impoverishing measures in return for a “bailout” that means sinister foreign control and a warning to the world.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has pushed through parliament a proposal to cut at least 13 billion euros from the public purse - 4 billion euros more than the “austerity” figure rejected overwhelmingly by the majority of the Greek population in a referendum on 5 July.

The deal under duress
These reportedly include a 50 per cent increase in the cost of healthcare for pensioners, almost 40 per cent of whom live in poverty; deep cuts in public sector wages; the complete privatization of public facilities such as airports and ports; a rise in value added tax to 23 per cent, now applied to the Greek islands where people struggle to eke out a living. There is more to come.
“Anti-austerity party sweeps to stunning victory”, declared a Guardian headline on January 25. “Radical leftists” the paper called Tsipras and his impressively-educated comrades. They wore open neck shirts, and the finance minister rode a motorbike and was described as a “rock star of economics”. It was a façade. They were not radical in any sense of that cliched label, neither were they “anti austerity”.
For six months Tsipras and the recently discarded finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, shuttled between Athens and Brussels, Berlin and the other centres of European money power. Instead of social justice for Greece, they achieved a new indebtedness, a deeper impoverishment that would merely replace a systemic rottenness based on the theft of tax revenue by the Greek super-wealthy - in accordance with European “neo-liberal” values - and cheap, highly profitable loans from those now seeking Greece’s scalp. Greece’s debt, reports an audit by the Greek parliament, “is illegal, illegitimate and odious”. Proportionally, it is less than 30 per cent that of the debit of Germany, its major creditor. It is less than the debt of European banks whose “bailout” in 2007-8 was barely controversial and unpunished.
For a small country such as Greece, the euro is a colonial currency: a tether to a capitalist ideology so extreme that even the Pope pronounces it “intolerable” and “the dung of the devil”. The euro is to Greece what the US dollar is to remote territories in the Pacific, whose poverty and servility is guaranteed by their dependency.

Questioning the intent
In their travels to the court of the mighty in Brussels and Berlin, Tsipras and Varoufakis presented themselves neither as radicals nor “leftists” nor even honest social democrats, but as two slightly upstart supplicants in their pleas and demands. Without underestimating the hostility they faced, it is fair to say they displayed no political courage. More than once, the Greek people found out about their “secret austerity plans” in leaks to the media: such as a 30 June letter published in the Financial Times, in which Tsipras promised the heads of the EU, the European Central Bank and the IMF to accept their basic, most vicious demands - which he has now accepted.
When the Greek electorate voted “no” on 5 July to this very kind of rotten deal, Tsipras said, “Come Monday and the Greek government will be at the negotiating table after the referendum with better terms for the Greek people”. Greeks had not voted for “better terms”. They had voted for justice and for sovereignty, as they had done on January 25.
The day after the January election a truly democratic and, yes, radical government would have stopped every euro leaving the country, repudiated the “illegal and odious” debt - as Argentina did successfully - and expedited a plan to leave the crippling Eurozone. But there was no plan. There was only a willingness to be “at the table” seeking “better terms”.
The true nature of Syriza has been seldom examined and explained. To the foreign media it is no more than “leftist” or “far left” or “hardline” - the usual misleading spray. Some of Syriza’s international supporters have reached, at times, levels of cheer leading reminiscent of the rise of Barack Obama. Few have asked: Who are these “radicals”? What do they believe in?

The roaring debate
In 2013, Yanis Varoufakis wrote: “Should we welcome this crisis of European capitalism as an opportunity to replace it with a better system? Or should we be so worried about it as to embark upon a campaign for stabilising capitalism? To me, the answer is clear. Europe’s crisis is far less likely to give birth to a better alternative to capitalism... I bow to the criticism that I have campaigned on an agenda founded on the assumption that the left was, and remains, squarely defeated... Yes, I would love to put forward [a] radical agenda. But, no, I am not prepared to commit the [error of the British Labour Party following Thatcher’s victory]... What good did we achieve in Britain in the early 1980s by promoting an agenda of socialist change that British society scorned while falling headlong into Thatcher’s neoliberal trip? Precisely none. What good will it do today to call for a dismantling of the Eurozone, of the European Union itself...?”
Varoufakis omits all mention of the Social Democratic Party that split the Labour vote and led to Blairism. In suggesting people in Britain “scorned socialist change” - when they were given no real opportunity to bring about that change - he echoes Blair.
The leaders of Syriza are revolutionaries of a kind - but their revolution is the perverse, familiar appropriation of social democratic and parliamentary movements by liberals groomed to comply with neo-liberal drivel and a social engineering whose authentic face is that of Wolfgang Schauble, Germany’s finance minister, an imperial thug. Like the Labour Party in Britain and its equivalents among former social democratic parties such as the Labor Party in Australia, still describing themselves as “liberal” or even “left”, Syriza is the product of an affluent, highly privileged, educated middle class, “schooled in postmodernism”, as Alex Lantier wrote.

Not a done deal, yet
For them, class is the unmentionable, let alone an enduring struggle, regardless of the reality of the lives of most human beings. Syriza’s luminaries are well-groomed; they lead not the resistance that ordinary people crave, as the Greek electorate has so bravely demonstrated, but “better terms” of a venal status quo that corrals and punishes the poor. When merged with “identity politics” and its insidious distractions, the consequence is not resistance, but subservience. “Mainstream” political life in Britain exemplifies this.
This is not inevitable, a done deal, if we wake up from the long, postmodern coma and reject the myths and deceptions of those who claim to represent us, and fight.
John Pilger is an Australian journalist and documentary maker, based in London. He has twice won Britain’s Journalist of the Year Award, and his documentaries have received academy awards in Britain and the USFollow John Pilger on twitter @johnpilger


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Politics of Delhi statehood!

Dr. Abdul Ruff in New Delhi

Delhi state in India is not a full-fledged state and as such it does not enjoy all privileges and rights the full states do. So long as Congress and its secret ally BJP ruled Delhi there were no conflicts between central and state governments in Delhi as an understanding was discernible between them.

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Dr. Abdul Ruff in New Delhi

Delhi state in India is not a full-fledged state and as such it does not enjoy all privileges and rights the full states do. So long as Congress and its secret ally BJP ruled Delhi there were no conflicts between central and state governments in Delhi as an understanding was discernible between them.

Yet, it has been the demand of people of Delhi for years, expressed through previous Congress and BJP governments of Delhi before Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) began focusing on the subject, to obtain full statehood, but the central government, run by Congress and BJP alternatively, rejected the demand of Delhiites. Both pledged to fight for a full statehood for Delhi periodically, only to forget it thereafter.

Proposed referendum & BJP
Aam Aadmi Party, upon assuming power in Delhi, had  problems with central government on its rights and privileges, has proposed to hold a referendum whether Delhiites want their city to become a full-fledged state.
If Delhiites are given the right and privilege to exercise their preference to have a full-fledged state based not on linguistic or cultural or ethnic identity but on administrative convenience and efficacy. It could also lead to empowering people with the weapon of referendum for countering government policies inimical to their interests, as it has in Greece.
Both the BJP and the Congress have outrightly rejected the fresh demand by AAP led by Arvind Kejriwal for full statehood for Delhi state mainly because they want to show their anger towards Delhiites for rejecting them in the poll when AAP got all but 3 seats in the state, (BJP 3 and Congress none), making them  extremely annoyed. Naturally both play politics now with the statehood issue, showing anger towards Delhi people.
Known for their double-speak, hypocrisy and paranoia, the BJP and the Congress, who have labeled AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal a nihilist problem, have expressed against AAP’s proposal to hold a referendum on full-fledged state. For instance, Delhi BJP chief Upadhyay described AAP’s referendum proposal as yet another evidence of Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal’s “anarchist nature.”  They argue if Delhi is made full state that would be a defeat for Indian Constitution.
In 1978, the word referendum was proposed to be incorporated into the Indian Constitution. This was courtesy then Law Minister Shanti Bhushan, who moved the Forty-fifth Amendment bill, later amended to be titled the Forty-fourth. Its statement of objectives and reasons said that certain changes in the Constitution could not be made unless approved by the people of India by a majority of votes at a referendum in which at least fifty-one per cent of the electorate participate.

BJP, Congress’s unethical stand
Broadly, the Bill envisaged referendum for changes. These pertained to the secular and democratic character of the Constitution, abridging or abrogating of fundamental rights, impeding the conduct of free and fair election, and compromising the independence of judiciary. The proposal making referendum mandatory was to be incorporated after clause 2 of Art 368, which lays out the process of amending the Constitution. However, the clause of referendum was defeated in the upper house of parliament, Rajya Sabha, where the Janata Party didn’t have the requisite majority. It was consequently not incorporated in the Constitution, but the Forty-fourth Amendment Act retains the idea of referendum in its statement of purposes and reasons.
What the BJP forgets is that its leaders, AB Vajpayee and LK Advani, were then in the Janata Party government. As has always been the practice, the Cabinet would have approved the Amendment Bill providing for referendum before Bhushan introduced it in Parliament. Therefore, Vajpayee and Advani were as much party to the idea of referendum as any other member of the 1978 Union Cabinet. BJP has conveniently forgotten about its own referendum in Gujarat. PM Narendra Modi then designed and conducted a referendum during his tenure as CM. The referendum of April 2009 asked the Gujaratis to stamp ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on three related questions – did they want the money stashed in Swiss banks to be repatriated to India? Should the money be spent on the poor? Should the government initiate measures to unearth black money?
But congress refused to question the Constitutional validity of that referendum. Now all of a sudden these two national parties, routed by Delhiites, woke up to “protect” the Constitution. The result of the referendum was remarkable but not astonishing – 98 per cent of people wanted Indian money in Swiss banks to be brought back. Modi just used the idea for parliamentary poll. 

Precedence galore
Earlier, in 2011, when the movement for carving out the state of Telangana was cleaving Andhra Pradesh (AP), BJP state president G Kishan Reddy wanted then President Pratibha Patil to take the initiative for organizing a referendum on the contentious issue. He mooted this idea responding to Congress leader P Chidambaram suggestion that political parties of AP should evolve a consensus on Telangana instead of making contradictory demands on the Union government.
BJP’s preference was to directly seek the peoples’ opinion on the Telangana statehood issue is what AAP wants how, rather than to have it held hostage to intense competition among political parties. BJP and Congress now focus on issue against AAP.  
There are other instances. For instance, in December 1966, Parliament enacted the Goa, Daman and Diu (Opinion Poll) Act, outlining the process by which the status of these three places was to be determined.  On 16 Jan 1967, under the Opinion Poll Act (referendum), people voted to choose between two options – whether Goa should remain a Union Territory or merge with Maharashtra and Daman and Diu with Gujarat. Goa voted against the merger, polling 54.20 per cent of votes and it became a state in 1987.
Though styled as Opinion Poll, it was in essence a referendum, as it asked people to choose between one of the two options. This process was adopted though Goa then had a thoroughly divided 28-member Assembly.
Delhi is a different issue all together. Many important sectors of governance in Delhi are controlled by central government. Central government controls land, police in Delhi. Moreover, the BJP government, like the Congress party, is in a fault finding mission in Kejriwal government and does not cooperate with the elected government of Delhi state just because Delhiites have thrown both of these parties under Basin Bridge.

Referendum to help Centre
The idea of referendum that the 44th amendment envisaged could have had far deeper consequences than what AAP wants – that is, to determine whether or not the people of Delhi want a full-fledged state.
It seems the BJP and the Congress are deliberately fanning fears without foundations that a referendum in Delhi could trigger these tendencies in states susceptible to separatist movements. This is of course plain paranoia. The very first article of the Constitution 1 states that “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.”  Art 2 allows new states to be admitted into the Union. This is how Sikkim became a part of India, after, yes, a referendum was held there.
Obviously, the referendum AAP plans to hold will not have any legal sanctity and, therefore, the majority opinion thus expressed will not be binding on the Union government. AAP’s referendum, though, can mount moral, and popular, pressure on the Union to bestow on the Delhi government the powers other states enjoy, besides exposing the doublespeak of the BJP and Congress.
But for any referendum to acquire a moral edge must have a high percentage of voters’ participation and should not invite the charge of having been manipulated.  It shouldn’t be seen as a mere gimmick, as Gujarat’s referendum on black money was.  Thus, ideally, a referendum to have credibility must be supervised by the Election Commission. The Delhi Election Commission (DEC) can’t accede to the request of the Delhi government unless it has the approval of the Election Commission of India (ECI). 
If central government does not give full statehood or denies referendum to decide the future of Delhi, the AAP would activate a full-blown movement to win the status of a full-fledged state for Delhi which would strengthen its national strength further.  
Instead of the blockage mindset Congress-BJP duo has carved out for themselves to object to genuine cause of Delhi’s full statehood just for fun, a fair and  credible  gesture for full statehood would  help them  regain  some of if its lost votes and  prestige among Delhi voters.


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