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COUNTDOWN TO ELECTION 2018-VI

Meltdown follows polarization, beacons dangers

 

Shahid Islam
 
It’s heading towards a train wreck. After years of calmness marked by intentional silence and behind-the-scene planning, a strong opposition alliance has coalesced itself almost like an army unpredictably pouncing on its enemy to attain both surprise and success.
Under the lead of internationally famed Dr. Kamal Hossain, this new opposition bandwagon is a utilitarian heavyweight; capable of dislodging the incumbent regime with an assessed 60 per cent popular votes, if the upcoming election is a fair one by the minimal standard.
Full Story
Shahid Islam
 
It’s heading towards a train wreck. After years of calmness marked by intentional silence and behind-the-scene planning, a strong opposition alliance has coalesced itself almost like an army unpredictably pouncing on its enemy to attain both surprise and success.
Under the lead of internationally famed Dr. Kamal Hossain, this new opposition bandwagon is a utilitarian heavyweight; capable of dislodging the incumbent regime with an assessed 60 per cent popular votes, if the upcoming election is a fair one by the minimal standard.
Unraveling of vital institutions
Does this almost unprecedented polarization have anything to do with the unraveling of the vital institutions of the nation which have been rendered almost dysfunctional by years of partisan moulding and patronization? If not, why an Election Commission (EC) member walks away from a scheduled meeting, blaming the constitutional body empowered to conduct the polling for stifling his voice?
“Freedom of expression” is blocked, said Commissioner MahbubTalukder, as he walked away from a scheduled EC meeting on Monday. He is now on his way to the USA on temporary leave, as he claims, but rumours abound that, like the former Chief Justice SK Sinha, his departure from the country is an‘adieu under coercion’ of the power that be.
Sources say Commissioner Mahbub failed to put before the EC the crystalized sentiments of the voters on how the power of the incumbent MPs be reined in to ensure label playing field for all the participating contenders in the election; how the deployment of the military be structured and staggered to ensure they have the judicial power to punish those hell bent on disrupting polls by vote rigging and muscle-wielding? And, why the use of the Electronic voting Machine (EVM) not be altogether scuttled due to the irritation and the inconvenience it will have created to untrained, mostly illiterate voters?
The EC, reportedly under the influence of the bosses desirous to control it to cling onto power, shelved aside Mr. Talukder’s these and other agenda-points and, stirred his dissent; leading to his boycotting the meeting. Where does this single incident leave the credibility of the EC as a neutral body to act as a referee in the electoral game is now anybody’s guess.
 
Gaffe and the gunner
In Bangladesh, the election time invariably ushers in the potent occasion for the country’s armed forces to act as neutral sentinels to ensure the prevention of foul-playing, mostly by ruling party thugs; who often indulge in vote rigging with help from partisan, corrupt, police and other security forces. This time, to make things worse, a sleazy controversy relating to the army chief, General Aziz Ahmed, a decorated gunnery officer, is further poisoning the air.
Days ago, renowned civil society activist and freedom fighter Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury divulged in a TV talk show that the army chief had once faced court martial due to some arms having been lost from the armoury of the unit he once commanded. Dr. Chowdhury later amended his statement by stating: “General Aziz faced a court of inquiry, not a court martial,” and, it was a ‘gaffe’ meant not to undermine the General’s stature or credibility.
The army too rebutted Dr. Chowdhury’s claim, but not without simultaneously initiating a complaint (GD) against him with the police, which the police accepted as a crime of sedition. Besides, Dr. Chowdhury is being sued in another allegation of land grabbing.
And, combined with the EC’s exposed credibility crisis following Commissioner Mahbub’s walkout from the scheduled EC meeting, there is a discernible meltdown of the nation’s vital institutions that the voters and the observers find too disconcerting to live with.
 
Facts vs. fictions
As if the situation is not molten enough to jolt the nation into a pinpricked numbness with respect to what may unfold in coming days— when the government is in no mood to comply with the combined opposition alliance’s seven point demands as the ‘minimum prerequisites’ to joining the poll—the PM had added more combustive elements to this burning cauldron.
In gatherings arranged to unveil the plaques to the Padma Bridge under construction, the PM accused the BNP and the Jamaat for being behind the 2009 BDR mutiny; the incarcerated BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia of being a ‘murderer’ and, being behind the August 21, 2004 grenade attack on the AL rally; and of money laundering and other crimes of grand larceny by Khaleda’s family members.
Any PM of any nation is presumed to be well informed of the facts, not the fictions that often dwarf facts of irrefutable colossus. If the PM is certain and sanguine about the BNP and the Jamaat’s involvement in the BDR mutiny—which she conjectured with Khaleda Zia’s leaving her cantonment house more than an hour before the mutiny began—why Khaleda was not implicated as one of the accused in the raft of the cases under process relating to the BDR mutiny? And, what prevented her name from an inclusion into the August 21 grenade attack case in which her son Tarek Rahman had lately been sentenced with life-long imprisonment?
 
Face off, and the Armageddon
These are few of the tell-tale signs that once again reveal the depth of revulsion and the irreconcilable stances that fashion the inner alchemy of the two major political parties; emotionally and politically. More than the BNP, the AL thinks they are the creator and the irreplaceable, indispensable, master of this nation. For them, even a smidgen of flexibility or compromise is out of question. That’s a stance that bellicose warriors take; not seasoned, patriotic politicians willing to walk miles to preserve peace, happiness and tranquility in the society they live in and lead.
In the final analysis, are we talking of an Armageddon awaiting to undo our nation - state by robbing it of the remnant of the democracy, the rule of law, and the fundamental ethics of governance by the consent of the majority? Perhaps we are. For the election is barely months away; the EC is in topsy- turvy; the police and other security forces are so much detested by the people that anything they do, even with good intent, is an instant suspect. And the state of the bureaucracy and the media? Here is the story.
 
Busted bureaucracy, beheaded media
A privately conducted survey revealed lately that over 78 per cent of the BCS officers recruited since 2010 have Chhatro League (AL’s student organ) background. How could that happen in a system that is supposed to be talent-based? One argument could be: all meritorious students are in the Chhatro League; which is fallacious, spurious, and nothing but sheer distortion of facts.
Now that these bureaucrats will act as the returning and other key officials in the ensuing polls, can voters trust them as being fair and neutral? Can voters also trust the PM, her cabinet, and the virtual one party parliament to be the custodian of the poll time governance?
Above all, can voters trust the government of the day for allowing the mass media to depict and disseminate the truths before, during and after the election amidst the dreaded, dangling, Digital Security Act (DSA) that even allows police to confiscate a journalist’s computer, or arrest him for composing something long before it gets published? Simply put: the DSA has beheaded the media, period.
No wonder our editors have been begging to the government that such laws not be enacted. But the government—that thinks it has the monopoly over the truth—is not willing to budge; as it shows equal or more stubbornness in conceding that a credible election can only be held under a neutral, caretaker regime; a fact for which it had fought tooth and nail while being in the opposition.
 
Wilting vulnerabilities
These are factors that lay open the wilting vulnerabilities of our internal politics, and pave ways for external intervention to sip in. That’s because we forgot that our bureaucracy must quench, neutrally, the demands of the masses; our military must remain trustworthy enough to stand for the national sovereignty and national security as neutrally as an avid judge will weigh over the merits of the facts laid before him to reach upon a fair verdict. And, our EC should have intervened when so many Deputy Commissioners (DC) were posted on the eve of the election to various districts from various ministries and the PMO; where they have been personal staffer of the incumbent ministers and the PM. Didn’t that constitute an irrefutable conflict of interest?
Unless such brazen madness and insatiable crazes to cling onto power by any means are reined in for the greater interest of the nation, the days ahead will invite daunting dangers of the kinds that no government, however entrenched and powerful, can surmount or subvert.
 
Shahid Islam is a globally acclaimed poet, novelist, political analyst, and practitioner of international laws. Author of 11 books and over 5,000 articles, he’s also a former military officer and diplomat.

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KHASHOGGI MURDER
US, European powers threaten Saudi crown prince

Alex Lantier

Mounting evidence that Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the gruesome October 2 murder of Saudi journalist and Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi has unleashed a political crisis of global proportions.

Over the weekend, Turkish officials again charged that Saudi Arabia sent a 15-man death squad to the Saudi consulate, armed with a bone saw, to murder and dismember Khashoggi and transport his remains out of Turkey. The daily Sabah wrote that Khashoggi’s Apple watch, synced to the iPhone he left with his Turkish fiancée Hatice Cengiz outside the consulate, recorded his murder: “The moments when Khashoggi was interrogated, tortured and murdered were recorded in the Apple Watch’s memory.”
US intelligence officials endorsed the authenticity of these recordings, possibly taken from bugs planted by Turkish intelligence in the consulate. They told the Washington Post: “The voice recording from inside the embassy lays out what happened to Jamal Khashoggi after he entered. You can hear his voice and the voices of men speaking Arabic. You can hear how he was interrogated, tortured and then murdered.”
Full Story

Alex Lantier

Mounting evidence that Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the gruesome October 2 murder of Saudi journalist and Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi has unleashed a political crisis of global proportions.

Over the weekend, Turkish officials again charged that Saudi Arabia sent a 15-man death squad to the Saudi consulate, armed with a bone saw, to murder and dismember Khashoggi and transport his remains out of Turkey. The daily Sabah wrote that Khashoggi’s Apple watch, synced to the iPhone he left with his Turkish fiancée Hatice Cengiz outside the consulate, recorded his murder: “The moments when Khashoggi was interrogated, tortured and murdered were recorded in the Apple Watch’s memory.”
US intelligence officials endorsed the authenticity of these recordings, possibly taken from bugs planted by Turkish intelligence in the consulate. They told the Washington Post: “The voice recording from inside the embassy lays out what happened to Jamal Khashoggi after he entered. You can hear his voice and the voices of men speaking Arabic. You can hear how he was interrogated, tortured and then murdered.”
Charges against closest US ally in ME
These charges against America’s closest Middle East (ME) ally, also the world’s largest oil exporter at the heart of the global financial system, expose the brazen criminality of the entire financial aristocracy. A profound contradiction underlies the official response to Khashoggi’s murder. US and European businessmen and politicians are deeply tied to the brutal Saudi regime, which underwrites both US war strategy in the Middle East and the capitalist financial system as a whole.
They are flocking to the “Davos in the Desert” conference planned for this month in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. The initial conference last year was attended by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Among those still slated to attend this year’s conference are US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, and BlackRock investment firm CEO Lawrence Fink, whom Barron’s magazine recently crowned the “New Conscience of Wall Street.”
While conference attendees “cringe at lending their names or prestige to Crown Prince Mohammed’s gathering,” the New York Times reported, the murder charges against Riyadh leave “many financiers and technology executives in a deeply awkward position. Some have made multibillion-dollar investments in Saudi Arabia; others are managing billions of dollars of Saudi money. They want to keep the money flowing …”
At the same time, however, a debate is emerging in the imperialist capitals over whether to use the Khashoggi murder to push for a change in personnel at the top of the Saudi regime. After US senators threatened to invoke the Global Magnitsky Act recently, allowing Washington to impose sanctions on top Saudi officials, the Saudi stock exchange plunged 7 percent.
 
Donald Trump pledges “severe punishment”
Speaking on CBS television yesterday, Donald Trump pledged “severe punishment” for the “terrible and disgusting” killing, while pledging to continue arming Saudi Arabia to the teeth. The Saudis “are ordering military equipment. Everybody in the world wanted that order,” Trump said, adding: “I tell you what I don’t want to do. Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon, all these companies. I don’t want to hurt jobs. I don’t want to lose an order like that. And you know there are other ways of punishing, to use a word that’s a pretty harsh word, but it’s true.”
“There are other things we can do that are very, very powerful, very strong and we’ll do them,” he said, without specifying what this meant.
The UK, German and French foreign ministries issued a joint statement calling for “a credible investigation to establish the truth about what happened, and—if relevant—to identify those bearing responsibility for the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, and ensure that they are held to account. We … expect the Saudi Government to provide a complete and detailed response.”
 
Saudi monarchy’s total rejection of threats 
The Saudi monarchy responded with an aggressive statement stressing its “total rejection of any threats and attempts to undermine it. … The kingdom also affirms that if it is [targeted by] any action, it will respond with greater action.” With Saudi Arabia providing key oil exports to the world market to make up for supplies lost as Washington re-imposes sanctions on Iran, it warned that Saudi Arabia “plays an effective and vital role in the world economy.”
Turki Aldhakhil, the manager of Saudi Arabia’s Al Arabiya news, penned a piece threatening that Saudi Arabia could form a military alliance with Russia and slash its oil exports, sending oil prices to over $100 a barrel and devastating the already crisis-ridden world economy. He wrote, “The truth is that if Washington imposes sanctions on Riyadh, it will stab its own economy to death, even though it thinks that it is stabbing only Riyadh.”
US and European threats are utterly hypocritical and mark a new stage in their decades-long campaign of bloody imperialist wars, occupations and intrigue in the Middle East, from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan, that have cost millions of lives and turned tens of millions into refugees.
They did not object as the Saudi regime executed hundreds of people per year and viciously attacked political opposition among working people. This year, Riyadh ruled it would decapitate the 29-year-old female political activist Israa al-Ghomgham, her husband, Moussa al-Hashem, and three others for the crime of organizing peaceful demonstrations against the monarchy. This provoked no observable change in US or European policy toward Saudi Arabia.
Seven years after working-class uprisings toppled US-backed dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt, the NATO powers are united with the Saudi royal family in their fear of the working class in Saudi Arabia and beyond. One former diplomat bleakly told the Washington Post that Prince “Mohammed knew that if meaningful jobs were not found for Saudi Arabia’s young and highly educated population, and if the oil-dominated economy were not diversified, ‘they were doomed.’”
Current US calls for a change in personnel at the top of the Saudi monarchy aim to strengthen it against opposition at home, whip its foreign policy more closely into alignment with US interests, and in particular to block any move by Riyadh toward closer alignment with Russia or China.
The hypocrisy of attempts to wrapping this bloodstained agenda in the fraudulent banner of human rights was exemplified by former CIA director John Brennan’s column on the Khashoggi murder in the Washington Post, titled “The US should never turn a blind eye to this sort of inhumanity.”
Reports of Khashoggi’s disappearance, Brennan intoned, “have the hallmarks of a professional capture operation or, more ominously, an assassination.” Citing his long professional experience with Saudi officials, Brennan added: “I am certain that if such an operation occurred inside a Saudi diplomatic mission against a high-profile journalist working for a US newspaper, it would have needed the direct authorization of Saudi Arabia’s top leadership—the crown prince.”
 
CIA: world’s leading expert in torture and killing
Who does Brennan think he is kidding, pretending to be repulsed by the “ominous” signs of an assassination? If he can recognize the hallmarks of state murder, it is because the CIA is the world’s leading expert in torture and killing. Its thousands of drone murders, its network of “black site” prisons and torture centers, and its bloody history of coups and provocations are infamous internationally, as proof that the single most dangerous force in the world is American imperialism.
Based on his selective outrage, Brennan outlined a plan for reacting to Khashoggi’s murder with a campaign against the Saudi regime similar to US threats against Russia.
Ideally, the Saudi regime would punish “those responsible,” Brennan wrote, but if it “doesn’t have the will or the ability, the United States would have to act. That would include immediate sanctions on all Saudis involved; a freeze on US military sales to Saudi Arabia; suspension of all routine intelligence cooperation with Saudi security services; and a US-sponsored UN Security Council resolution condemning the murder. The message would be clear: the United States will never turn a blind eye to such inhuman behavior, even when carried out by friends, because this is a nation that remains faithful to its values.”
The CIA’s grotesque invocation of American “values” as a justification for stepping up US intrigue in the Middle East is absurd on its face.
Intrigues by the CIA and allied intelligence services trying to engineer a change in the Saudi regime’s ruling personnel, it can be safely predicted, will only produce more economic turmoil and bloodshed.

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Spectacle that goes in the PM’s press conference

Arshad Mahmud

Instead of asking hard questions, journalists appear to indulge in shameless Devi Bondona
In August 1998, halfway through his second term, President Bill Clinton gave a press conference, laying out a new policy that he claimed would boost the American economy. He spoke for about ten minutes and then invited questions from the reporters. More than a dozen of the White House press corps stood up wanting to be the first to ask a question.

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Arshad Mahmud

Instead of asking hard questions, journalists appear to indulge in shameless Devi Bondona
In August 1998, halfway through his second term, President Bill Clinton gave a press conference, laying out a new policy that he claimed would boost the American economy. He spoke for about ten minutes and then invited questions from the reporters. More than a dozen of the White House press corps stood up wanting to be the first to ask a question.

To the president’s utter shock and dismay, the first question had nothing to do with the economic policy but dealt, instead, with his reported affair with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern, who was then just 22 years old, less than half his age.
Looking somewhat shaken and embarrassed President Clinton faintly said he was expecting questions on the major policy he just announced. To his utter dismay, most of the questions that followed during the hour-long news conference focused mainly on the Lewinsky affair, with the reporters telling him that it was their duty to ask the president about the most pressing issue of the day because that was what the American people wanted to know.
Indeed, that is what the journalists should do in a democracy—hold the powers that be to account by asking hard questions that are uppermost on the minds of the majority people.
Of course, one should not be oblivious of the ground reality in Bangladesh, where independent journalists are feeling increasingly vulnerable to government pressure and coercion, especially after passing last week of the Cyber Security Law, empowering police to arrest anyone deemed hostile to the state.
But that does not mean they should completely abandon their primary role and turn into shameless schmoozers. That is the impression you get these days when you watch the prime minister’s live press conferences.
Instead of asking questions on the pressing issues like pervasive lawlessness, state-sponsored plundering of the banks by people like Abdul Hye Bacchu, Salman Rahman of Beximco and Dr H.M.B  Iqbal, a former Awami MP; indiscriminate arrest of opposition activists and critics, the handpicked journalists indulge in brazen Devi bondona (flattery) of the prime minister. For the record, reporters of two most important newspapers—ProthomAlo  and  Daily Star—are never invited.
To be sure, this trend is nothing new and as far as I can recall it started before I became a journalist nearly 40 years ago.
Since then, most of the heads of government made it a practice to woo journalists by proffering them all kinds of sops—cash handouts, residential plots, press officers in embassies, and if nothing solid in terms of financial benefits, then make them members of the prime minister’s entourage on foreign trips.
I know because I was offered such enticements by successive governments starting from Gen Ershad in the mid-1980s. Thankfully I could decline those offers in part because I thought it was immoral and partly because of my good income from the foreign newspapers I worked for, namely The New York Times and The Guardian of London.
Watching the last press conference held by Sheikh Hasina on Oct 2, I wondered why my colleagues didn’t ask these questions:
Could you tell us the names of the foreign leaders who told you during their meetings on the sidelines of the just concluded UN conference that they wanted to see you return to power in the next election.
Another question: You’re aware about the news reports on the banks being looted by people close to the power. Why Abdul Hye Bacchu, the ex chairman of BASIC Bank, is not being arrested yet when the finance minister AMA Muhith publicly called him a dacoit and the Central Bank repeatedly said he swindled more than 4000 crore taka from the bank.
A follow up question could have been: Why a branded bank defaulter like Salman Rahman of Beximco, the alleged mastermind of the two share market scandals, could become the prime minister’s adviser.
[Arshad Mahmud is a Bangladesh-American journalist]


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APARTHEID REINFORCED IN INDIA
Billions in defence purchase amid rising hunger and poverty

Mizan Ali

In less than three months of the deaths of three below-10 siblings of starvation in New Delhi, the Indian capital witnessed signing of a defence contract worth $ 5.43 billion between Russia and India the host nation.
Russia-India signed their biggest defence deal in over two decades for S-400 long-range, surface-to-air missile systems last week.
In an unrelated incident, three children of a family all aged below 10 years were starved to death in the Indian capital little less than three months before signing of the multi-billion dollar defence contract.

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Mizan Ali

In less than three months of the deaths of three below-10 siblings of starvation in New Delhi, the Indian capital witnessed signing of a defence contract worth $ 5.43 billion between Russia and India the host nation.
Russia-India signed their biggest defence deal in over two decades for S-400 long-range, surface-to-air missile systems last week.
In an unrelated incident, three children of a family all aged below 10 years were starved to death in the Indian capital little less than three months before signing of the multi-billion dollar defence contract.

‘Autopsies conducted on three siblings brought dead to the hospital pinpointed the cause of death as malnutrition and starvation while ruling out homicide,’ reported the times of India on July 26.
Not only these two apparently unrelated incidents but many more incidents like out flow of illicit wealth abroad, widening inequality, human development index, suicide of farmers every year, killing of people over protecting cows, forced conversion of the religious minority groups into Hinduism signify how the mindset of Indian ruling elites shaped up during the seven decades of its independence from colonial rule.

Apartheid reinforced
Apartheid ingrained in Indian society since medieval past having elite endorsement and state sanction continues to be reinforced ever since the end of colonial rule.Though being the 2nd largest defence importer in 2017, India’s population in extreme poverty and the income inequality between its rich and poor are on the rise.
Irrespective of whatever is written in the constitution of India, reinforcement of apartheid system in the post-independence era systematically made attempts either to crush or marginalize the forces opposed to it.
The movement of self-determination in Kashmir, the Khalistan movement and the insurgencies in the seven sisters in Northeast India are some of its glaring example.
Fomenting enmity in the neighbourhood Indian ruling elite tend to justify the accelerating pace in its defence expenses but the use of sophisticated defense weapons and deployment of army in selected civilian areas in various parts of the country only suffice how the ruling elites reinforce the system of apartheid in India.
India’s systematic failure to respect, protect, and ensure fundamental human rights to a huge majority of its population is raising concern among some of its own citizens. Violating persistently in access to their education, health, housing and property, freedom of religion, free choice of employment and equal treatment before the law, how long India can fool the world may be seen in the days to come.
Is Indian apartheid a new phenomenon linked with any particular political party?
Is not India an example of monumental failure of elites in the post-colonial rule of any country in the world, particularly against the backdrop of its aspiration for a permanent position in the UN Security Council?
Is not Indian apartheid a threat to global peace and security?

Manmohan’s confession
Manmohan Singh, while being prime minister of India in December 2006 compared discrimination of the Dalits in his country to the apartheid system in South Africa. Singh’s candid confession however, contradicts official Indian position of denying the existence of discrimination and untouchability in India.
A piece in the Hindu in 2007 brought it before public how ‘Indian officials were busily denying the existence of caste discrimination and untouchability,’ in February 2007,a few months after Singh’s assertion. The Hindu commented, ‘Attitude of the Indian bureaucracy flatly flies in the face of not only the Prime Minister’s own statement, it does not fit in with India’s own track record in dealing with caste discrimination against Dalits,’ commented The Hindu criticizing the official Indian position before a UN committee in charge of monitoring the implementation of the Convention on Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Despite all the laws in the books,’ the story mentioning research findings noted, ‘social and economic discrimination against Dalits persists to an alarming degree.’
According to the daily, ‘Dalits are poorly represented in the professions, business, media, and the higher levels of the government including the police, the army, and the judiciary’.
‘In an overt form,’ the ‘deep rooted’ and ‘rampant’ caste discrimination in India is ‘a political reality’ as well as ‘social fact’, the newspaper pointed out.

The Hidden Apartheid
‘Hidden Apartheid’ was produced by the Human Rights Watch in February 2007, as a “shadow report” in response to India’s submission to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (“Committee”), which monitors implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (“Convention”).
The report documented India’s systematic failure to respect, protect, and ensure Dalits’ fundamental human rights. Severe violations persist in their access to education, health, housing, and property, and freedom of religion, free choice of employment, and equal treatment before the law. The report also documented routine violations of Dalits’ right to life and security ofperson through state-sponsored or sanctioned acts of violence, including torture.
As a State Party to the Convention, India is obligated to prohibit and bring to an end caste-based discrimination. Article 1 of the Convention guarantees rights of nondiscrimination on the basis of “race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin.”
In 1996, the Committee concluded that the plight of Dalits falls under the prohibition of descent-based discrimination. The Committee is a body of independent experts responsible for monitoring states’ compliance with the Convention.
India’s report to the Committee was more than eight years overdue. Although it covers more than a decade of India’s compliance with the Convention (from 1996 to 2006), it does not contain a single mention of abuses against Dalits—abuses that India’s own governmental agencies have documented and verified.
The 1950 Indian Constitution abolished the practice of “untouchability” in all its forms, and a number of laws and special measures have since been adopted to address caste-based discrimination and abuses. India has consistently cited these laws and policies to show that it is protecting Dalits’ rights.
Measures to protect Dalits’ rights, is a ‘welcome’ move writes the Hidden Apartheid, pointing out, at the ground level they have been either ‘implemented sporadically’ or‘often not at all’.
India failed to enforce its laws in violation of its obligations under Article 2 of the Convention to pursue by all appropriate means a policy of eliminating caste discrimination, and to ensure that all public authorities and institutions do not engage in caste based discrimination, the report said. India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), a statutory government body and apex national institution to protect human rights and redress grievances, according to the report, commented that the ‘law enforcement machinery is the greatest violator of Dalits’ human rights’. ‘Police responsibility for the widespread torture of Dalits in custody, rapes of Dalit women, and the looting of Dalit property,’ the report said quoting the NHRC, ‘are condoned, or at best ignored.’

Indian Muslims no better
The reinforcement of apartheid on Muslums in India is, indeed, well documented. In the mid-2000s, the Indian government commissioned two studies — the Sachar Committee Report of 2006 and the Misra Commission Report of 2007. These highlighted a higher prevalence of discrimination towards Muslims and socio-economic deprivation among them as compared to other religious groups. Their story is no different from that of the Dalits and little concrete action, has been taken to address these issues at the policy level. If anything, the situation has only worsened.
Muslims say that in general they feel non-Muslims resist or hesitate to rent out or sell property to them in the capital, reported Times of India in 2009. According to the report the Muslim community in Delhi says that ‘what happened to Emraan Hashmi in Mumbai is an everyday occurrence in the capital which is otherwise a melting pot of regional and communal identities.’
Muslims say that in general they feel non-Muslims resist or hesitate to rent out or sell property to them in the capital. It’s virtually impregnable wall of prejudice, suspicion and ignorance that prevents members of the community from leading a normal life in the capital with choices that is available to everyone else.
It is not just an average Muslim but even well placed professionals engineers, doctors and journalist who can’t find a place in Delhi’s upscale residential colonies.

Cow terrorism killed 23
Cow terrorism in India killed 23 people since 2014 reported Times of India in June 2017. Whether due to government’s inaction to fight communal hatred or serious lack of political will to make laws work, increase of such violence across India reinforces and promotes the system of apartheid.
Cow vigilantism itself is not new in India, and violence over the protection of cows has occurred in the past but the frequency, impunity, and flagrance of the current instances of cow-related violence are unprecedented, according to Wikipedia.Getting the job done by vigilantes suit the convenience of the ruling elite, it allows the state ‘not guilty of violence’certificate since the act can be termed spontaneous. When the followers of apartheid take the law into their own hands, it is for a good reason — for defending their religion. The moral and political economies of this arrangement are even more sophisticated.

Extreme poverty, inequality widened
The system of apartheid in practice in India over the years led to the increase in the number of extreme poor in the country, though the global size of such population is on the decrease.
India now has a greater share of the world’s poorest than it did thirty years ago reported the Telegraph on October 6. It was home to ‘one fifth of the world’s poorest people’ then the report quoting a world bank study said pointing out ‘today it accounts for one-third – 400 million’.
The study, the state of the poor: where are the poor and where are the poorest?, found the number of extremely poor people declined from half the world’s population in 1981 to one fifth in 2010.
‘Growing inequality threatens India’s democracy and the implicit social contract upon which modern India is founded,’ reported the Al Jazira in January last.
‘Income inequality in India today is higher than any time since 1922 when income tax was first introduced,’ the report said terming the share of top one per cent population on the national wealth, ‘already phenomenal’ and was ‘still increasing’.
According to the report top one percent Indian ‘owned 73 percent of the addition to wealth that occurred’ in 2017 while only a year ago, the same population ‘owned 58 percent of the stock of wealth’.

Money laundering byf the powerful
How the powerful elite in India get away with abusing their positions for personal gain at public’s expense may be understood from the size of illicit money exported by them since the end of colonial rule.
Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a Washington DC-based research and advocacy organization recently assessed the flow of illicit money from various countries of world including India. According to its findings amount of ‘dirty money’ India exported in the decade that ended in 2011, came to a whopping $344 billion, making it world’s fifth largest developing country exporter of illicit cash after China, Russia, Mexico and Malaysia.


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ICC prosecutor warns Israeli demolition of Khan al-Ahmar ‘Constitutes War Crime’

Online agencies

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, issued a statement Wednesday reminding Israel that the demolition of Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar, in the occupied West Bank, would constitute a war crime.
“I have been following with concern the planned eviction of the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank. Evacuation by force now appears imminent, and with it, the prospects for further escalation and violence,” Bensouda, who is reviewing Israel’s aggressive expansion of illegal Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank, wrote in the statement.

“It bears recalling, as a general matter, that extensive destruction of property without military necessity, and population transfers in an occupied territory constitute war crimes under the Rome Statute,” the statement said.

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The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, issued a statement Wednesday reminding Israel that the demolition of Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar, in the occupied West Bank, would constitute a war crime.
“I have been following with concern the planned eviction of the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank. Evacuation by force now appears imminent, and with it, the prospects for further escalation and violence,” Bensouda, who is reviewing Israel’s aggressive expansion of illegal Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank, wrote in the statement.

“It bears recalling, as a general matter, that extensive destruction of property without military necessity, and population transfers in an occupied territory constitute war crimes under the Rome Statute,” the statement said.

International human rights groups have already warned Israel that the demolition and forcible transfer of a population under occupation is a war crime but that hasn’t stopped Israel’s high court from upholding the green light on the demolition. The European Parliament has also condemned the planned demolition as a breach of the well established international humanitarian law.
Bensouda’s reminder comes days after Israeli occupation forces entered the Bedouin village with bulldozers prompting confrontations with the members of the Jahalin tribe that live in Khan al-Ahmar and international activists that are resisting Israel’s attempt to displace the over 30 families that have lived there since the 1950s, when they were expelled from the Naqab (Negev) desert.
Israel and Palestinian activists have argued the demolition is part of a plan to connect the settlements of Ma’ale Adumim and Kfar Adumim with the occupied city of East Jerusalem, which Israel has illegally annexed.
According to Israeli authorities, the village was built illegally. However, the United Nations has shown that it is nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits. Between 2010 and 2014, Israel approved only 1.5 percent of all permit requests by Palestinians.
Bensouda also warned she will “continue to keep a close eye” on the developments in Gaza, where Palestinians demanding the end of the occupation and their right as refugees to return home, have sustained weekly protests since March 30.
Israel’s response to the protests have been widely condemned for use of excessive force and what human rights groups have called a “shoot to maim or kill” policy.  Since the Great March of Return began in March, Israeli forces have killed at least 205 Palestinians and wounded over 18,000, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.
Israel is not a member of the ICC and does not recognize its jurisdiction. Despite this, Israelis suspected of committing crimes on Palestinian territories could face charges.


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BJP Union Minister MJ Akbar resigns over sexual misconduct

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A renowned Indian Journalist who later turned to be a BJP politician, MJ Akbar, resigned as minister of state for external affairs on Wednesday after facing charges of sexual misconduct dating back to the years he was a journalist and newspaper editor.
Akbar, now 67, has been accused of inappropriate behavior by about twenty woman journalists as part of the #MeToo campaign.

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A renowned Indian Journalist who later turned to be a BJP politician, MJ Akbar, resigned as minister of state for external affairs on Wednesday after facing charges of sexual misconduct dating back to the years he was a journalist and newspaper editor.
Akbar, now 67, has been accused of inappropriate behavior by about twenty woman journalists as part of the #MeToo campaign.

“Since I have decided to seek justice in a court of law in my personal capacity, I deem it appropriate to step down from office and challenge false accusations levelled against me, also in a personal capacity. I have, therefore, tendered my resignation from the office of MoS for external affairs. I am deeply grateful to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and to the external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj for the opportunity they gave me to serve my country,” Akbar said in a statement.
The minister has sued journalist Priya Ramani for criminal defamation in a Delhi court for sparking off the allegations against him.
Journalist Priya Ramani was the first to level allegations of misconduct against Akbar via tweet on October 8 in which she said that an article she wrote for Vogue India a year ago on her experience was actually about MJ Akbar.
A day after Union minister M.J. Akbar filed a defamation case against a journalist, two more women came forward with their accounts of alleged harassment by him, undeterred and unafraid as the #MeToo juggernaut continued to roll on.
However, he had more to reckon with as new allegations tumbled out of his 1990s cupboard when he was editor of several publications.
In a quick reaction, Priya Ramani welcomed Akbar’s exit. “As women we feel vindicated by MJ Akbar’s resignation. I look forward to the day when I will also get justice in court #MeToo,” she said.
Indian National Democratic Alliance government led by Prime Minister Norendra Modi had come under immense pressure to remove him from office after the allegations surfaced against Akbar, who was on an official overseas visit when the first accusations were made.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which initially maintained a stoic silence on the issue, has now distanced itself from Akbar; claiming that the incidents date to a time when Akbar was not a member of the party.
Giving in to the mounting pressure to take action against the complaints of sexual misdemeanour, the women and child development (WCD) ministry announced the setting up of a committee to examine all issues emanating from the ‘#Metoo’ movement, which captures stories of harassment recounted by women.
“I believe in the pain and trauma behind every single complaint. Cases of sexual harassment at work must be dealt with a policy of zero tolerance,” WCD minister Maneka Gandhi said, proposing the committee last week. There has been no action yet towards forming the committee.
Meanwhile, women activists Wednesday welcomed the resignation of Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar, terming it a victory of the #MeToo movement in India, and asserted that the determination and courage of about 20 women journalists “belatedly forced” the Union minister to step down.
Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, said it was the determination and courage of 20 women journalists who came forward to expose Akbar that has “belatedly” forced him to resign.
On Tuesday, around 19 women journalists, who have worked with ‘The Asian Age’ newspaper, had come out in support of their colleague Priya Ramani who has accused Akbar of sexual harassment, a joint statement issued by them had said. The journalists had urged the court to hear their testimonies against Akbar, claiming that some of them suffered sexual harassment by the minister and others have been witness to it.


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