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Does Scottish syndrome plague India, Bangladesh too?

M. Shahidul Islam

What good is leadership if it fails to unite others for a common goal? The just concluded Scottish referendum has been an ideal showcase of leadership on the part of both the British Prime Minister and the First Minister of Scotland.  It has saved the UK from an impending disintegration on one hand and sent the message of a peaceful exercise of democratic rights reverberating across the globe, on the other.

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M. Shahidul Islam

What good is leadership if it fails to unite others for a common goal? The just concluded Scottish referendum has been an ideal showcase of leadership on the part of both the British Prime Minister and the First Minister of Scotland.  It has saved the UK from an impending disintegration on one hand and sent the message of a peaceful exercise of democratic rights reverberating across the globe, on the other.

The politics surrounding it should be emulated by many governments striving to stave off protracted crises and secessionist movements in their own backyards. Especially India and Bangladesh have much to learn from this splendid exercise of democratic tools capable of defusing public anger and lingering discontents.

Westminster style stunt
Faced with an impending and seemingly unavoidable breakup of the union, British Prime Minister David Cameron brought on board the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party leaders and made a promise to the Scotts to empower their regional lawmakers with the mandate to devise laws on tax, spending and welfare. This promise worked wonder. Following the referendum, an exuberant Cameron said, “We will ensure that those commitments are honoured in full.”  He also promised draft legislation to that effect in the House of Commons by January 2015.
The lessons of the Scottish election are stark for the South Asians:  Respect for the will of the people had saved the UK in 2014 while the disrespect for the will of the people truncated Pakistan in 1971. In India, democratic desire of the regional sub-groups and nationalities must be respected likewise. The Scotts need not wage hartal for their rights, nor do they need to take up arms. Before the election, Cameron emphatically proclaimed: “We could have blocked this referendum. But we respect the will of the Scottish people.”
To the contrary, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina insisted prior to the January 5 election that holding the election without main oppositions’ participations was a ‘constitutional necessity’ and that ‘another election will be held later.’ She had chosen to renege on that promise only to rekindle fresh agitation to set the nation on the course of devastation once again.
Bangladesh aside, crisis of democracy and governance has been a perennial problem in South Asia; hampering peace, security and stability. In India, democratic choices of the minorities have been censored for decades, resulting in the activation of a myriad of armed secessionist movements in the Northeastern states in particular, abutting Bangladesh. It’s time both Dhaka and Delhi follow the Westminster’s war book and resolve their festering and protracted crises to ensure regional peace and stability. Make no mistake that misguided policies and an insatiable lust for power lie at the root of many of the festering crises in the region.

Perception of security
We all know that the cure to fundamentalism is scrupulous exercise of democracy and guarantee of the rule of law. Crying the wolf of Islamic terrorism did not help the NATO and Israel. It will not help India and Bangladesh either. Terrorism sprouts and thrives in the swamps of persecutions, authoritarianism and deprivation.
The gradual narrowing of political space, particularly in Bangladesh, for the opposition of all stripes will invariably allow fanatic and revolutionary forces to sprout and further destabilize the status quo. The Ruling AL’s euphemism of ‘development sans democracy’ is simply disastrous. The prescription is likely to turn Bangladesh into Iraq or Libya where developments mushroomed for decades in the absence of democracy. Malaysia, to the contrary, successfully synergized development and democracy and emerged as a model of social cohesiveness and prosperity.
In the Indian administered Kashmir, Delhi should comply with the UN Security Council Resolution 47 of April 21, 1948 and hold a plebiscite to decide the fate of the Kashmiri people. Pakistan must do the same unless it decides to willingly leave the people of the so called Azad Kashmir to join their brethrens in the Indian-controlled Kashmir across the demarcated Line of Control (Loc).
Following the creation in India of a new state with the passage of the Telengana Bill in the Lok Sabha in February 2014, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) of the hilly Darjeeling and the surrounding areas along the Napalese border asked Delhi to take a unilateral decision and create a new Gorkhaland state within West Bengal.  “We would now request the centre to similarly consider the just and fair demand for a separate state of Gorkhaland, which is amongst the oldest in the country,” GJM leader Bimal Gurung said in a Facebook post.

The Gorkhaland scenario
Continual denial by Delhi of the demand of about 800,000 Gorkha population of the area had already spelt serious trouble for Delhi in the past. In the 1980s, Subhash Ghising  led a ferocious movement demanding the creation of a  Gorkhaland state in the hills of Darjeeling and the adjacent areas of Dooars and Siliguri terai. Over 1,200 people died in that movement which culminated in the formation of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) in 1988. The DGHC administered the Darjeeling hills for 23 years with some degree of autonomy but Delhi chose to stop the fourth DGHC elections in 2004 and arbitrarily decided to make one Subhash Ghisingh the sole caretaker of the DGHC. This rekindled fresh unrest among the former DGHC councilors.
Meanwhile, creation of a Gorkhaland state has been equally opposed by West Bengal. Faced with autocratic decisions of Delhi and the West Bengal governments, Gorkhaland activists hardened their stance further and recently issued a new map of Gorkhaland, comprising ­apart from three hills subdivisions of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong ­of the Siliguri subdivision (encompassing almost whole of Darjeeling district if Naxalbari zone is included), Dooars areas of Madarihat, Malbazar, Nagrakata, Kalchini, Birpara, Banarhat, Chalsa, Bhaktinagar, Jaigaon, Kumargaon.
The crisis could be staved off by holding a referendum on time, as the UK did for Scotland. But false promises prior to elections and prevarications afterwards had been the hallmark of the politics of Delhi and Kolkata alike. Prior to the 2009 general elections, the BJP promised to create two smaller states in Telengana and Gorkhaland. Assured, the GJM supported the candidature of BJP’s Jaswant Singh who won the Drjeeling Lok Sabha seat with 51.5% votes. The promise turned into prevarication when, during the July 2009 budget session of the Parliament, three Parliamentarians­ Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Sushma Swaraj, and Jaswant Singh­ pleaded for creating a state of Gorkhaland and most of the other lawmakers remained mum.

People’s choice; Mamta’s manoeuvre
Instead, persecutions continued unabated. On 8 February 2011, three GJM activists were shot dead by police when they tried to enter Jalpaiguri district on a padyjatra led by Bimal Gurung. This led to more violence in the Darjeeling hills and an indefinite strike paralyzed the region for 9 consecutive days.
The choice of the people failed likewise to make any dent in the West Bengal Assembly where the GJM candidates won three Darjeeling hill assembly seats during the April 18, 2011 election on the platform of creating a new state in Gorkhaland.
Simply put, politics has been abundant since 1947 but the decision to grant the Gorkhaland the status of a separate state is yet to see the light of the day. A diversionary politics had meanwhile resulted in the creation of the Gorkhaland Territorial Authority on September 2, 2011 in the West Bengal Assembly and the publication of a gazette to that effect on March 14, 2012. This followed the GTA election on July 29, 2012 in which GJM candidates won from 17 constituencies while the remaining 28 seats were won unopposed. The election verdict went landslide toward creating a separate state.
Comparatively more popular West Bengal chief minister Maamta Banerjee has been no different with the Gorkhas within and the Bangladeshis across the border, whom she opted to deprive of the Teesta waters. During her 2011 election campaign, she promised to the Gorkhas to meet their demands while speaking from the same podium with Bimal Gurung in Pintail near Siliguri; duping the Gorkha leader to put his signature on a tripartite agreement.
Yet, as the prevarications and the politicking lingered, things turned sour again. On July 30, 2013, Gurung resigned from the GTA, citing interference from the West Bengal government. The BJP regime in Delhi so far did precious little to soothe the anger of the Gorkhas.

History overlooked
Many observers say the Gorkhas can hardly be blamed if they resume an armed struggle. They say if the British government can allow the Scotts to break up a more than 300 years old union, there is no reason why Delhi cannot honour the historicity of the people it governs as a democratic entity.
That historicity is too important for a new brand of politicians in Delhi and West Bengal and, it can only be overlooked at great peril. In 1835, the hills of Darjeeling encompassed 138 square miles (360 km2) which the British East India Company took possession from Sikkim through a ‘Deed of Grant.’ The area became bigger in November 1864 when the Treaty of Sinchula was added Bengal Dooars from the Cooch Behar state, along with the passes leading to the hills of Bhutan and Kalimpong, which were ceded to Britain by Bhutan. Darjeeling thus became about 1234 sq miles wide.
Smaller though it may be, Darjeeling’s political freedom was never tempered with by the Britt. Especially the gusto displayed by Gorkha regiments during the Second World War should have made Delhi give a second thought while deciding the Gorkhas’ fate. Besides, prior to 1861 and from 1870–1874, Darjeeling District was a “Non-Regulated Area” where acts and regulations of the British Raj did not automatically apply unless stated with specificity. The term “Non-Regulated Area” was changed to “Scheduled District” in 1874, which was again changed into the so called “Backward Tracts” in 1919. The status was known as “Partially Excluded Area” from 1935 until India’s independence in 1947.
There is no reason for Delhi to gauge the aspirations of this ‘distinct people’ as there is no justification for the regime in Dhaka not to allow its people to make a free and fair choice about who shall govern them. Democracy is universal, ubiquitous and one need not be a Scottish to follow the Scottish role model. Leaders should decide if referendum is needed on any matter crucial to the life of the people they lead.


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Old psy-war carrying on, at odds with Modi-vision?

Sadeq Khan

Sustained orchestra-tion of a “conspiracy theory” involving covert US “operation” to oust Sheikh Hasina from power in Bangladesh, ascribing the Indian Security State as the source of information, is being circulated in Bangladesh media by an on-line news agency. On September 3, the “India correspondent” of bdnews24.com reported on-line in unambiguous terms that Indian intelligence had unearthed a ‘major US operation to oust Hasina’.

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Sadeq Khan

Sustained orchestra-tion of a “conspiracy theory” involving covert US “operation” to oust Sheikh Hasina from power in Bangladesh, ascribing the Indian Security State as the source of information, is being circulated in Bangladesh media by an on-line news agency. On September 3, the “India correspondent” of bdnews24.com reported on-line in unambiguous terms that Indian intelligence had unearthed a ‘major US operation to oust Hasina’.

The report published in most Bangladesh dailies, and picked up in the vernacular media of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura States of India, read: “Indian intelligence officials say they have unravelled a US-funded move to topple Sheikh Hasina’s government in Bangladesh and ‘weaken’ the Left regime in Tripura. West Bengal’s ruling party Trinamool Congress, which is said to have been hugely funded by the US in its oust-Left drive in West Bengal between 2009-2011, has transferred millions of dollars to its fundamentalist associates in Bangladesh, they claim.
A central intelligence report (of the Government of India) accessed by a bdnews24.com correspondent in India says Trinamool MP in Rajya Sabha Ahmed Hassan Imran and another Maulana Asif Khan (originally from Teknaf) have been sending huge amounts of money to the Jamaat-e-Islami and BNP over the past six months. The BNP and Jamaat leaders have been meting out threats and pushing for a fresh election, almost in tandem with the US. Pakistani agencies are also involved.

US-Jamaat/BNP conspiring?
“Ahmed Hassan Imran, who was nominated to Rajya Sabha by none other than Mamata Banerjee, was actually a senior office bearer of the now-banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). It (the Indian intelligence report) provides details of its (SIMI’s) links with Muslim terror outfits and how he has been moving funds across the border. Imran was a correspondent of the Jamaat’s mouthpiece Naya Diganta and enjoys close personal relations with leaders like Motiur Rahman Nizami, Delwar Hossain Sayedee and Mir Quasem Ali, all of whom are up in the dock on the war crimes trials. Pakistan is strongly lobbying with other powerful Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia to force the Bangladesh government to stop the war crimes trials.
“US is backing the Jamaat-BNP combine because it has been promised a base in the Bay of Bengal in case they come to power. The (Indian) intelligence report says that the US is not only keen to bring down Sheikh Hasina government but also cripple the Left regime in Tripura with the ultimate purpose of ousting it in an operation akin to West Bengal in 2011.”
West Bengal and Assam newspapers followed up the story with Modi government in Delhi, and obtained partial confirmation from Rajnath Singh, the Indian Home Minister that Imran’s alleged funding of Islamists in Bangladesh and India, and the so-called “Saradha scam” connections as well as Mamata’s “chit fund” exposures were under investigation by relevant agencies.
Now the “New Delhi correspondent” of bdnews24.com has again reported, ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “arrival” in New York to present new India to the 69th UN General Assembly, on “details” of the conspiracy to oust Sheikh Hasina. The report, issued on-line after midday on 23 September and updated the same evening, reads: “Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will ask ‘sister’ Sheikh Hasina to be alert to threats she faces, when they meet in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly later this month.

Indian intelligence’s conspiracy phobia
Indian intelligence says it has already secured details on attempts by a Western intelligence agency to ‘destabilise’ Bangladesh by using elements of the army to bring down the elected government. Senior intelligence officials here (New Delhi) told  bdnews24.com on condition of anonymity that this western intelligence agency is cultivating some elements in the top echelon of Bangladesh army and plans to create a government of ‘national consensus’ after toppling Hasina. A senior defence intelligence official (of USA) operating in Dhaka under diplomatic cover is said to be the mastermind of these covert operations.
“The government of ‘national consensus’ planned by this agency intends to bring together some Awami League renegades, the BNP and other parties like the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Jatiya Party on the same platform to provide the country with a government of national consensus. Some army officials opposed to such machinations have already been sidelined to irrelevant positions, and efforts are also on to neutralise the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), so that there is no armed resistance to a military takeover to install the so-called national unity government. Narendra Modi has been briefed about ‘specific inputs’ received by Indian intelligence. Much of that has also been communicated to senior Bangladesh officials who visited Delhi as part of the delegation headed by Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali.
“This (Western Intelligence) agency first got the Left (government of CPM) out of power in West Bengal and now they want Hasina out. They want a base in Bay of Bengal and that is not possible with Hasina in power or the Left in some kind of position to influence Indian government.”
Quoting a top official of the Indian Prime Minister’s office, the bdnews24.com report went on: “PM Modi will raise this issue when he meets Hasina. He will assure her of firm action on the Saradha issue and tell her Indians responsible for conspiring against her government will be severely dealt with. He will also seek Bangladesh’s inputs on the Saradha illicit fund movements for facilitating the enquiry now being done by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).”

Delhi cool to conspiracy?
The US Embassy in Dhaka had earlier promptly denied the “intelligence leak” disinformation by the India Correspondent of bdnews24.com on September 3. The US Embassy spokesperson in her rejoinder had said that there was “absolutely no truth” to that story: “As you know, the United States and Bangladesh enjoy a strong friendship and close cooperation on a wide range of issues including countering violent extremism, building our trade relationship while improving worker safety, and enhancing regional economic engagement.
“Just this week, the United States was proud to announce that we officially offered the United States Coast Guard Ship (USCGS) Rush to Bangladesh on Aug. 8. The Rush will complement the Somudra Joy, which was transferred to the Bangladesh Navy last year…We look forward to further broadening and deepening our bilateral relations at our annual Partnership Dialogue, scheduled for October in Washington, DC.”
The Indian Security State officially neither confirmed nor denied this report. However, the government of India did take official cognizance of the contents of the report, as the Indian Home Minister publicly acknowledged that an investigation was on about alleged “terror-funding” by Indian parliament’s Upper House Member, Ahmed Hasan Imran in India and Bangladesh. He added, however, that the political leadership of India will not get involved in the matter and law will take its own course.
Indeed there is no hint in the public domain from the new political leadership in India that they may have any misgiving about US role in South Asia or about Indo-US strategic cooperation in the region. On the contrary, it is with equal enthusiasm that Delhi has prepared for Modi’s Washington visit, as the white House has set the stage “Modi arrival” in America. The Indian Diaspora has arranged for a grand public reception for Modi in Madison Square Garden, New York (two blocks away from Times Square), preparing an unprecedented spectacle welcoming a foreign visitor that all New Yorkers around could observe.

Modi busy with 35 engagements
Modi and Obama would interact Sep 29 and 30 in Washington, which would also see the US president hosting a dinner in honour of the Indian prime minister, although Modi will be taking only lemon sherbet as he would be observing the nine-day Navratri fast during his trip.
Modi has a packed schedule of 35 engagements during his Sep 26-30 America visit. He would meet UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, former US president Bill Clinton and his wife former secretary of state Hillary Clinton in New York. Modi would also meet the CEOs of Fortune 500 US companies, including Boeing, Pepsico, Google, General Electric and Goldman Sachs among others, and hold one-on-one meetings with some of them. Trade and investment, energy, science and technology, defence and security are expected to be the areas of focus during the talks with Obama. While in Washington, Modi would also meet Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner among others.
In New York, Modi will pay homage at the 9/11 memorial and meet 300 members of the Indian American business community. He would have his time full with scheduled and unscheduled interactions with US political leaders, the administration, the business community, civil society, with the US states and cities, and the “vibrant Indian Diaspora.”
His three bilateral meetings with neighbours - Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina - on the sidelines of the UNGA would hardly find him in confidante mood, nor would it be the proper place or situation for a regional power to “warn” SAARC colleague about suspected superpower indiscretion on the strength of a “leaked” conspiracy theory.

Projections of Indian dreams
Some analysts suggest that the new political leadership in Delhi is too busy at this stage with projection of Indian dreams in the global arena to spare much time for detailing out its South Asian agenda. Modi’s visit to the US caps a month of fast paced, high level diplomatic events that saw Modi interact with leaders of Japan, Australia and China­Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Chinese President Xi Jinping ­and also the inking of major agreements with the three countries.
As such, beyond promises of “harmonising” India’s relations with its close neighbours, the ruling party in India appears not to have as yet made up its mind about how to use its hegemonic power in its neighbourhood. The Indian Security State is possibly meanwhile carrying on with its “old” psy-war strategy, sometimes perhaps at odds, with the new political leadership, as seen in the September 3 “intelligences leak” wherein the “national spokesmen” of the BJP “privately” visiting Bangladesh was hit below the belt with “character assassination” by the “intelligence source” of the report.


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16TH CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT
Will empower Parliament to rule over all Constitutional bodies?

Faruque Ahmed

Parliament passed the 16th amendment to the constitution last week empowering itself to remove the Judges of Supreme Court raising nationwide protest against the step which critics have denounced as a measure to gag the independence of the higher judiciary. Earlier the power to impeach Supreme Court Judges on charges of misconduct and incapacity to perform the job was vested in the Supreme Judicial Council. It was comprised of the Chief Justice and two other senior most Judges of the appellate division of the Bangladesh Supreme Court.

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Faruque Ahmed

Parliament passed the 16th amendment to the constitution last week empowering itself to remove the Judges of Supreme Court raising nationwide protest against the step which critics have denounced as a measure to gag the independence of the higher judiciary. Earlier the power to impeach Supreme Court Judges on charges of misconduct and incapacity to perform the job was vested in the Supreme Judicial Council. It was comprised of the Chief Justice and two other senior most Judges of the appellate division of the Bangladesh Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, critics have raised questions whether or not the Parliament will have similar right to impeach the functionaries of other quasi-judicial constitutional bodies like the Election Commission, Public Service Commission, Anti-Corruption Commission and Human Rights Commission.
Law Minister advocate Anisul Haque made the matter clear at a talk show in Independent Television last week agreeing to a question that henceforth Parliament will exercise all power and authorities of the Supreme Judicial Council and it will obviously include watch dog power over other constitutional bodies. 
He said since all constitutional bodies were under the purview of the Supreme Judicial Council in matters relating to disciplinary measures, it is natural that Parliament will exercise power over them from now.

All constitutional bodies in danger
It appears that discussion on the 16th amendment to the constitution still remains largely confined to fears of gagging the independence of Judges of the higher court. But the TV talk show suggest that as the Parliament will watch the conduct and functioning of the other constitutional bodies, their independence may similarly come under severe threat. This is because Judiciary is meant to protect the basic rights of the people and interpret the constitutional laws which often find the government or the members of Parliament as accused in law suits. But if the Judiciary now feels shaken or functionaries in other constitutional bodies feel threatened, the foundation of the state may eventually fall apart.   
Constitutional bodies are pillar of the state and if they have to function keeping in mind the wishes of the lawmakers or stand to lose jobs at their whims the rule of law is bound to suffer. But it appears that the government is taking advantage of its total control on the House and making laws for holding on to power indefinitely. 
BNP chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia has blamed the government at a public meeting at Brahmanbaria last week saying, an unelected Parliament is now passing controversial laws one after another wrecking the foundation of the state.
Meanwhile, no sooner had the outcry over removal of Judges settled; the government has taken yet another move to gag the voice of the media. Apart from the introducing recent broadcasting policy to reign in the electronic media, news reports have revealed that the authorities are taking a new move to amend the Press Council Act, 1974 with some stringent rules for the media to follow.
The draft amendments include suspension of newspapers’ declarations and journalists’ accreditation cards for publishing ‘false, instigating, slanderous and anti-state’ reports. It also includes provision for suspension of government ads and duty free import of newsprint on similar charges. 
The draft law also recommends punishment for reporters including fine of up to Tk 10 lakh for publishing reports that may ‘hurt the interests of the country, instigate chaos and destroy religious harmony’.

Attack on Press Council
Some other provisions also include obtaining mandatory certificate from Press Council to work as newsperson and facing eligibility screening to become a journalist. The move is taking shape after appointment of a new chairman of the Press Council and his meeting with Information Minister Hasanul Huq Inu was held in mid-August, informed sources say.
News analysis giving the background of the formation of Supreme Judicial Council said former President Ziaur Rahman at first introduced it by a military decree as Chief Martial Law Administrator. Later it was incorporated in the constitution and remained in force for more than 35 years. It was accepted as a neutral mechanism to watch the conduct of the Judges and save them from political intervention of the party in power.
In fact, President Zia had issued the decree to take away the power of the president to remove the Judges of Supreme Court which Sheikh Mijibur Rahman had earlier taken in his own hands shelving the 1972 constitution while launching his one party BAKSAL rule in the country in 1974. 
The15th amendment to the constitution passed by the Sheikh Hasina government in 2011 had also retained the Supreme Judicial Council as a good work while dismissing some other Constitutional provisions which were initially decreed by martial law and later adopted as the basic laws. 
The government now claims that by removing the Supreme Judicial Council, Parliament has returned to 1972 constitution in which the power to remove Supreme Court Judges was its privilege.
But the question is that when the country is not having a freely elected Parliament and majority of its members were elected without a contestant from the opposition, there is nothing like Parliamentary democracy in our system any more. This can hardly justify handing over power to impeach the Supreme Court Judges to such a Parliament.


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Indian Maoists under aerial attacks

Shamsuddin Ahmed

For the first time Indian security forces have launched aerial attack on Maoist insurgents in a renewed anti-Maoist “Operation Green Hunt” simultaneously on land. Maoists have alleged innocent villagers in tribal areas have been killed in shells fired and bombs dropped from helicopter which started from Jharkhand and Bihar.

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Shamsuddin Ahmed

For the first time Indian security forces have launched aerial attack on Maoist insurgents in a renewed anti-Maoist “Operation Green Hunt” simultaneously on land. Maoists have alleged innocent villagers in tribal areas have been killed in shells fired and bombs dropped from helicopter which started from Jharkhand and Bihar.

The two-prong attack coincided the observation of the 10th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of India (CPI-Maoist), outlawed by the government.  The day will be observed any day from September 21 to 30. The programme includes cultural functions and meetings in remote hideouts in deep forest areas.
Maoists in their propaganda material quoted by speed news of Times of India claimed unknown number of innocent people in tribal villages have been killed in aerial attacks in Jharkhand and Bihar. Leaflets and posters warned the villagers to move cautiously avoiding brutal attacks of the government forces. It was also alleged that paramilitary and police forces have occupied schools and such other facilities and turned those into cantonments.

Cash awards on Maoists’ heads
Operation Green Hunt against the rising Maoists was launched more than five years ago with a plan of ending the insurgency within two years.  More than two lakh paramilitary forces plus state police force were deployed in Maoist infested states to combat the red rebels. But the operation has so far failed to tame the insurgents. Despite setbacks suffered by the Maoists with killing of some front ranking leaders including the party’s military strategist Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji and arrest of some others, the Maoist movement spread in 22  out of 29 states of India and the rebels coordinating with the separatist groups of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur and Tripura in the northernest states.
They have succeeded in creating a Red Corridor from the Orissa coast to Bihar comprising parts of nine states of central India.  Police admitted Maoists have a number of ‘free zones’­ free from government control - in the red corridor. This made the government worried. The fresh land-aerial operation is directed mainly against the red corridor.
Sensing possible attacks during the celebration of Maoist party’s founding anniversary, red alert has been raised and security beefed up in all the Maoist infested states. In Bihar and Jharkhand, railway authorities ordered cancellation of 28 passenger night trains in view of Maoist threat. Intelligence report said trains are among the soft targets of the Maoists. Cancellation order of passenger trains was, however, withdrawn later as it has raised panic among the people.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra government announced one crore rupees cash award to anyone giving information leading to the arrest of CPI(M) chairman Muppala Lakshman Rao alias Ganapathy,60, and 60 lakh rupees for information of any politburo and central committee member of the Maoist Party. They have been evading arrest for long and believed hiding and shuttling in deep forests of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Maharashtra.

Soldiers question strategies
A report from Delhi said paramilitary CRPF has suspended 17 troopers, including four junior officers, for leaving their colleagues in the same squad in perils during an anti-Maoist operation. Investigation revealed that the squad was ambushed by the Maoists in Chhatisgarh last year. Instead of counter attack they fled fearing the deadly red rebels. Sixteen troopers were killed and their arms were looted by them.
In most cases anti-Maoist operations were knowingly or unknowingly directed against innocent villagers. Hardly the Maoist fighters come on their way excepting when they laid mines on roads and trapped the forces in ambush. In an off-recorded conversation, CRPF commanders told a Tehelka reporter that they go into anti-Maoist operations with a clutch in their heart. In most operations they do not know who they are fighting or killing. Mines and ambushes are deadly for them.  Citing an example, they said on 12 June night of 2012, 21 villagers were killed in a fake encounter with Maoist. It was later revealed that tribal villagers gathered that night for a festival. Believing the Maoists are holding meeting they were attacked in which innocent villagers were killed. Two jawans were injured in forces’ own cross fire in the fake encounter.
Admittedly, armed Maoists are well trained, equipped with sophisticated arms and tactically far superior than the government forces. Equally deadly, fierce and brutal the red rebels have wiped out almost all the Chhattisgarh state Congress leaders in an ambush during the state election campaign last year.
Home Ministry had disclosed that 46,000 officers and personnel of the security forces deployed in anti-Maoist operation took voluntary retirement between 2007 and 2011, while 5,200 resigned, 461 committed suicide, and 64 were killed in incidents of internal clashes. Resignation of CRPF and BSF was alarming as they left fearing deadly Maoists attacks, and resignations were over 70 percent in 2011 compared to previous year. A police super committed suicide 12 March 2012 left behind a chit that blamed senior officers and politicians for the rising Maoist problem.
Maoist claim they are fighting for establishing the rights of millions of impoverished, deprived, neglected adivasis (oboriginals), tribal and low caste Hindus (harijans) living in mineral rich forest areas.  The CPI (M) has set the objective of capturing state power through arms struggle by 2050.


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Is China preparing for a regional war?

Special Correspondent

On his return home last week after visiting Maldives, Sri Lanka and India, Chinese President Xi Jinping told the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Generals on September 22 to be ready for a regional war.  Addressing the Generals at the PLA headquarters President Xi also directed them to improve their combat readiness and sharpen ability to win a regional war in the age of information technology, according to official Xinhua news agency.

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Special Correspondent

On his return home last week after visiting Maldives, Sri Lanka and India, Chinese President Xi Jinping told the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Generals on September 22 to be ready for a regional war.  Addressing the Generals at the PLA headquarters President Xi also directed them to improve their combat readiness and sharpen ability to win a regional war in the age of information technology, according to official Xinhua news agency.

The directives of President Xi came in the midst of standoff between the PLA forces and Indian troops over border dispute in Ladakh region.  Besides longstanding dispute with India, China has also territorial disputes in the South China Sea with Japan and Vietnam.

Indian army chief cancels Bhutan trip
Is Xi’s directive to the Generals a whimper or genuine, wonder the China watchers. Nevertheless, the developing situation has raised concern in Delhi. Indian Army chief General Dalbir Suhag has cancelled his four-day visit to Bhutan which was scheduled to start Tuesday.
Analysts say war over the disputed territory is possible but it is unlikely China will launch even a limited war in near future to resolve the border or territorial disputes with its adversaries.  President Xi Jinping asking the PLA generals to prepare for a regional war might be a message to those opposed creation of his 21st vision of Silk Road, a sea route from the shore of China over the South China Sea and India Ocean to Europe via African coasts. This would mean Chinese domination over the South China Sea and Indian Ocean. Japan, India and Australia opposing the move were reportedly trying to gang up with the US to contain the rise of China.
Indian media reports say more than 50 Chinese soldiers entered Chumar in Ladakh on (last) Saturday, days after 100 troops crossed into four/five km inside Indian territory. The Chinese argued that there was no actual line of control in the absence of border demarcation. Zee News TV footage showed Chinese raised more than a dozen tents in areas claimed as Indian territory in presence of Indian troops.
TV commentator was highly critical of President Xi accusing him of playing dual role with India.  Chinese troops camped in tents are showing no signs of withdrawing despite repeated warnings by the Indian army as the standoff passed off 13th day on September 24.  Hindustan Times report on September 23 said PLA has reduced its strength at one point but strengthened it elsewhere. The pull-here push-there is part of army manoeuvre to assess the strength of the opponents.  Xinhua reported that the PLA chiefs of staff met in Beijing on Sunday to discuss how to improve “the efficiency of military command under new circumstances”.

China: Modi’s main challenge
Defence analyst Jagannathan of India viewed that China is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s biggest foreign policy and defence challenge.  When President Xi tells his Generals to get prepared for a regional war, India must take note of it, pay more attention to China than ever before and remain eternally on guard.
India should also remember that the Chinese invented the art of winning a war without actually waging it, with Sun Tzu’s classic ‘The Art of War’ an idea being drilled into every Chinese general. The key elements of Sun Tzu’s approach to war are:  war is necessary for success; but a successful war must be short and decisive in order to be of worth and to ensure no economic damage is caused; so planning and execution are key; sowing confusion in the enemy even while maintaining unity in your own ranks are additional elements in the Sun Tzu scheme of waging war.
This is exactly what happened in 1962, when the Chinese waged war on India for a few weeks. After defeating the Indian army, China soon withdrew from most areas barring the ones of strategic importance to them in Ladakh (Aksai Chin).
Reports also said the Chinese have already put in place the logistics needed to intimidate the Indian forces along the border by building up infrastructure. According to Hindustan Times, the PLA held war games some 70 km away from Chumar’s border eight months ago, and the “exercise was conducted in a “war zone concept” of the Chinese army, with real time intelligence and direct contact with headquarters in Beijing. The report also quotes sources in Leh as saying the Chinese have already built a motorable track in the Ladakh region and are now trying to extend it further to India controlled areas.


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Scotland referendum entails implications for India

Jaspal Singh Sidhu in New Delhi

The BBC has monitored the world media to know the impact of the 18 September Scotland referendum ‘beyond the British Isles’. It shows that the Scotland development has emboldened separatism in the Europe but cast a ‘worrying spell’ on ‘nations’ in other parts of the world. Like India, other Asian ‘nations’ deliberately sought to keep mum over the referendum so that it should pass off as a ‘non-issue’.

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Jaspal Singh Sidhu in New Delhi

The BBC has monitored the world media to know the impact of the 18 September Scotland referendum ‘beyond the British Isles’. It shows that the Scotland development has emboldened separatism in the Europe but cast a ‘worrying spell’ on ‘nations’ in other parts of the world. Like India, other Asian ‘nations’ deliberately sought to keep mum over the referendum so that it should pass off as a ‘non-issue’.

The BBC report says “Most newspapers (in India) fear the referendum will fuel calls for similar exercise in Indian-administered Kashmir and the country’s north-eastern region.” On the eve of referendum, The Telegraph noted, “India is quietly hoping Scotland does not breakaway from the UK, but it has not only articulated its stance on the referendum but It worries about a separation rooted in the implications for Kashmir and the country’s east.”
The Scotland episode has challenged the political concept of ‘Nation-state’, hitherto hailed as the best model of governance which the West had bequeathed to the world.   Scotland is seeking its separation form United Kingdom (UK) after remaining together for 307 years. Though, the Scottish lost their separation bid last week, but it exposed the underbelly of a nation-state that ran a largest British empire in the history and colonized the best parts of the world.

Lesson for Europe, India
Now, the UK has officially admitted that it is a multi-nation state, with four distinct nations—not a single nation-state as touted to the world for three centuries. The political discourse in the UK has changed for all the time to come with Scotland promised more powers through a constitutional exercise which must follow a concomitant restructuring of the London Establishment to accommodate other three nations.
Similarly, other European ‘nations’, earlier known as ‘monolithic entities’ are, too, undergoing a process of disintegration with their separate and distinct identities asserting for independence. Scotland shows living TOGETHER for over 300 years as a NATION governed by a single State has not dissolved the distinctive cultural identities. That is why, Yugoslavia has broken into separate unit countries, Check salvia dissolved into Check and Salvia without a murmur, Catalonia and Basque are opting for separation from Spain and Italy and Belgium too facing separatist demands from their constituents. Outside Europe, Quebec in Canada has been inching for separation even after the former had lost two referendums, the last one only by a fraction (point five) in 1995.
The erstwhile Soviet Union, emerged as a bigger ‘united country’ after the  October 1917 revolution, got dissolved into 15 different countries after seven decades. And, Lenin who died soon after the October revolution, did not subscribe to the ‘melting-pot’ theory of America for assimilation of distinct identities and had observed in a debate on nationalities that ‘identities tend to take much more time to disappear than the classes’. In all, since 1980, as many as 39 new ‘nations’ have joined the United Nations.
The way Scotland referendum was conducted has shown that unlike India the separatism there was neither taken as “anti-national’’ activity by the London Establishment nor the latter used force to thwart it . Neither did the Establishment go in for any pre-emptive Indian-type move branding pro-independence campaigners as ‘disgruntled and foreign-agents’. The remarkable maturity and sobriety shown by the both sides—the unionists and pro-independence campaigners- have sent a strong message to other countries, particularly to India claiming to be a ‘largest democracy’ that the most complex and critical issues like ‘separatism’ could be tackled without shedding a drop of blood.

What’s right and wrong?
During a debate for Scotland independence, its ace campaigner, first minister Alex Salmond said, “Scotland is not oppressed and have no need to be liberated. Independence matters because we do not have powers to reach our potential.” On the other hand, neither the London ruling party leaders rushed to Scotland to check ‘hyper nationalism’—respected the opinion of the Scottish people--- nor there were riots in the name of ‘UK nationalism’. Another Scotland independence leader summed his sentiments as: “Independence is not anti-national …. in every Scottish brain there has been a tiny ‘blue-and-white’ cell which secretes an awareness…… ‘my country was independent once’……. would it be grand, if one day….. we achieve that …..”.
In the modern times, the democracies hail the cultural and religious independence of the peoples as their ‘birth right’ at par with their other fundamental rights in the political sphere. And, yearning for and seeking the fulfillment of such rights are, no longer, treated as ‘crime’ in the civilized world. One wonders, when Sri Lanka wages three decade old bloody war to contain separatism of Tamil Tigers and still under the delusion that the Tamil dissidence has been wiped out permanently. Even now, Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa, goes for a ‘tight-rope-political- walking’ after he, with help of other countries, had succeeded in establishing the Sinhalese racist regime as consequent to cold-blooded killings of thousands of Tamil civilians.
Ironically, India is still engaged in shaping the country’s political governance on the 19th century Western model of ‘nation-state’ based on the principle of “one people-one nation-one state” even as the model seemed to have exhausted its long-run in the UK where it had originated. Even after seven decades, the ‘political class’ has no agility to review the state structure freedom movement leaders had bequeathed to the Indians. Most of the pre-independence Congress leaders with their education in England had adopted the ‘model of democracy’ taken up from the British textbooks and were hell- bent for imposing that model even at the cost of the Partition of the country.

Territorial integrity & religious symbols
The Indian constitution too, was framed on the Westminster model without caring for ground realities of the country. As the problems began flowing from that model, India rulers adopted a strategy of proclaiming the constitution and Indian ‘territorial unity’ as ‘sanctimonious and holy’ and gradually loaded them with religious-level sentimentality. As corollary to that benchmark, political dissensions of every sort were dubbed as ‘anti-national’ and ‘criminal activities’. And, Indian ‘nationalism’ has been equated and based on the majority’s religious ethos and culture, which, in turn, rendered the minorities as ‘unpatriotic’ and a ‘threat’ to the country’s unity.
It was the ‘nation-state’ building process, taken up by Nehru-Patel after the Partition which saw the Sikhs as peoples branded ‘anti-national’ and their demands as ‘secessionist’ ones required to be suppressed by the army attacking the Golden Temple, Amritsar to be followed by the November Sikh pogrom in 1984 and a decade-long bloodshed in Punjab. And, the northeast has, too, remained a ‘boiling pot’ throughout the post-1947 era.
Eminent sociologist Shiv Vishwanathan says: “Nationalism could not be a substitute, merely replacing the White men with Indians with the same mentality, was not independence ….. 40 million people displaced by dams and 10 million by riots. Over a million troops outside the army are deployed for internal order and control”.
While Scotland referendum is coming with a whiff of a fresh thinking on governance issues, the Sangh Parivar has been crusading against what they called ‘Love-Jihad’ and pressing for ‘uniform civil code’ and scrapping of ‘article 370’, thereby treating Kashmir valley as mere a ‘real-estate’ ignoring that inhabitants there are having their own history and culture. Interpreting the county’s ‘territorial integrity’ through religious symbols and Hindu deities like ‘Bharat Mata’ tends to further deprive millions of ‘voiceless and hapless’ peoples of their ‘feeble voice’. The Sangh’s crusades are eating away the diversity of every sort which is indicative from the fact, recently thrown up by a national survey, that as many as 1500 oral languages have already been reduced to silence in free India.
Countercurrents.org. The writer has retired as a Special Correspondent with United News of India (UI) at its New Delhi Headquarters in 2008. Since then, has been working as free-lance journalist and writing on agriculture, human rights and political affairs. He can be reached at jaspal.sdh@gmail.com


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Indiscriminate arrest of newsmen in Assam

Nava Thakuria in Guwahati

The working journalists covering insurgency related incidents always face a two-edged sword (read threats) from both the insurgents and the government authority.

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Nava Thakuria in Guwahati

The working journalists covering insurgency related incidents always face a two-edged sword (read threats) from both the insurgents and the government authority.

If the media houses can’t be punished for ‘receiving a mail’ from the outlawed militant groups, can they ‘forward’ the same mail to someone may be for reporting purpose? These questions, which were raised, debated and defined among Guwahati based journalists decades back, have once again emerged after the arrest of Jaikhlong Brahma, a Kokrajhar based television journalist on 2 September 2014. Later Brahma was put under the National Security Act of India (NSA) meaning his prolonged detention under the government custody.
In fact, the Assam police took the advantages of the situation and said that Brahma “was not arrested as a media person, but as an individual who continued (to maintain) objectionable links with the militants for many years”.
The arrest of Brahma, who has been working for the privately owned satellite channel NewsLive, resulted in massive protests across Assam by the media organizations. The major protest was held at Kokrajhar Press Club on 8 September, where over 800 people were present and they unanimously demanded Brahma’s unconditional release.  Earlier Brahma was produced in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kokrajhar on 8 September, where he was denied bail and sent to eight-day judicial custody. The 44 years old journalist was produced in the same court on 3 September after his arrest and Brahma was remanded to police custody for five days.
Another television journalist (Rinoy Basumatary) from Kokrajhar in western Assam, who works for another Guwahati based satellite channel NewsTimeAssam, is also facing the arrest warrant by the police allegedly for the same reason. The police have already raided his residence in connection with the case and Basumatary hs since been absconding.
Brahma along with his colleagues have denied the police allegations that he was involved in “providing information about the movement of security personnel engaged in counter-insurgency operations to the militants belonged to National Democratic Front of Bodoland (IK Songbijit faction)”. The journalists said that neither Brahma nor any other scribe from Kokrajhar was involved in compromising India’s national security.

IFJ, CPJ condemned arrests
Meanwhile, two international media persons’ organizations came come out with statements deploring the arrest of Brahma. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), while condemning the Assam government for the arrest, insisted on Brahma’s immediate release.  “We demand an immediate and fair investigation into the matter.  The rights of the media to report are clear in India’s constitution and a journalist should not be arrested for simply reporting the information they disseminate,” said an IFJ statement issue from Brussels.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also expressed concern over the arrest of Brahma and arrest warrant to Basumatary. The media rights body called on the authority to ‘publicly disclose the evidence’ used to hold Brahma in custody.  “Accusations of compromising national security are common method used by Indian authorities to silence local journalists. CPJ research shows that several journalists including Aseem Trivedi, Sudhir Dhawale and Lingaram Kodopi have been arrested on anti-State charges in recent years. All three were eventually freed,” said a CPJ statement.
A protest meeting was also organized at Guwahati Press Club on 4 September that urged the Tarun Gogoi-led government in Dispur to release Brahma and withdraw Basumatary’s arrest warrant. Various speakers in the meeting categorically declared that they never glorify the insurgents’ terror acts, also strongly argued that a journalist has the right to communicate with the insurgent leaders for reporting purposes and only for that reason, he or she must not be made accountable.


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Update: September 15, 2014 OIC Secretary General in Uganda FIGHTING EBOLA, ERADICATING POVERTY, AND CONFRONTING EXTREMISM
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Update: September 15, 2014 World Summit on Media for Children
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Update: September 15, 2014 NEW IRAQI GOVERNMENT OIC welcome development
Update: September 15, 2014 Danish Foreign Minister at the OIC
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 OIC dairy 15 to 28 September  Developing global goodwill OIC Secretary General meets the Foreign Ministers of Russia and China  
 OIC dairy 15 to 28 September   OIC meeting on Ebola in Geneva
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