Behind the Billowing Smoke


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Jawed Naqvi

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By Jawed Naqvi

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BEFORE he was stopped for questioning at the Boston airport last week, Azam Khan was perceived as a ghetto-embracing politician, an Indian Muslim with a provincial worldview.

He was once quoted as famously wanting to lead a mob to tear down the Taj Mahal because it symbolised a waste of money. He had earlier claimed that the Babri mosque could only be demolished over his dead body. Well? And he runs an educational institution after a Muslim hero who strove to restore the caliphate in Turkey against Kemal Ataturk’s modernising efforts.

After he was checked at the Boston airport, following which he kicked up a right royal fuss, Azam Khan comes across as the gross neighbour who walked into a house in mourning with an eye on the warm biryani.

The minister from Uttar Pradesh mistimed it though. He had gone to the United States to be feted by the Indian diaspora but was quizzed at the airport where security happened to be on a higher alert than normal.

He claimed he was singled out for being a Muslim. It is perfectly possible that the computerised data on the US terror watch flickered when it saw someone close to his description, and why not?

After all, Muslims have been in the thick of these things. Two Muslim migrants had shockingly wreaked havoc in Boston the other day, evidently in pursuit of their religious calling. They attacked a marathon race, making it the third time when people with Muslim names targeted sportspersons at events where the prize was a cornucopia of human fellowship.

How does Azam Khan respond to the fact that people bearing Muslim names killed 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972? They targeted a friendly Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in 2009.

Who knows what the computer threw up on him, but Azam Khan is known to be so self-absorbed he wouldn’t have noticed that Meera Shankar was handed a pat-down at a US airport when she was India’s ambassador in Washington DC. It’s a country in serious trouble. Former defence minister George Fernandes and movie actor Shahrukh Khan were questioned too.

What seems even more ironical for Azam Khan’s pervasive sense of victimhood is the fact that Narendra Modi has been denied a US visa, ostensibly because of the extremist politics he practises in Gujarat.

The tangled skein of terror and counter-terror of course goes beyond easy references to religious pursuits as the source.

The example of Timothy McVeigh has been cited in the context of the Boston tragedy. McVeigh was a former US soldier with a disturbed childhood. He was decorated with a military medal for his services in the Kuwait-Iraq expedition before he rammed a truck loaded with explosives in Oklahoma into a government building packed with people.

His grouse with the American government seems to have had little to do with his Roman Catholic faith.

McVeigh was executed with a lethal injection, but every year militarist American policies create more and more disturbed war veterans. The Guardian in February detailed a horrific tragedy unfolding in the United States with practically every military outing.

Describing what it said was a suicide epidemic among US war veterans, The Guardian homed in on the heartrending story of William Busbee, “archetype of the US soldier” whose mother feels he was let down by the army he loved so much.

“Libby Busbee is pretty sure that her son William never sat through or read Shakespeare’s Macbeth, even though he behaved as though he had,” wrote The Guardian. “Soon after he got back from his final tour of Afghanistan, he began rubbing his hands over and over and constantly rinsing them under the tap.”

The reference was to Lady Macbeth’s writhing with guilt at the cold-blooded murder of King Duncan by his trusted lieutenant, her husband.

“Mom, it won’t wash off,” the 23-year old William Busbee said. “What are you talking about?” the mother replied. “The blood. It won’t come off.”

The paper records how on March 20 last year, the “soldier’s striving for self-cleanliness came to a sudden end. That night he locked himself in his car and, with his mother and two sisters screaming just a few feet away and with SWAT officers encircling the vehicle, he shot himself in the head.”

Busbee became part of a gruesome statistic. In 2012, for the first time in at least a generation, the number of active-duty soldiers who killed themselves, 177, exceeded the 176 who were killed while in the war zone, the report noted. “To put that another way, more of America’s serving soldiers died at their own hands than in pursuit of the enemy.”

But who is the enemy that young men like William Busbee and Timothy McVeigh are routinely deputed to fight? Before the blood of the three victims killed in the Boston blast was dry, President Obama had sanctioned $133 million or thereabout to arm religious extremists fighting the secular albeit undemocratic Assad regime in Syria.

The trouble is that many of the beneficiaries of the American largesse in the Syrian conflict are the same people whose ideological perversion was responsible for the tragedy of the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001.

This cynical American pursuit of make-believe strategic security becomes equally untenable when the Boston bombers turn out to be inspired by anti-Russian religious bigots who are considered to be kosher by Washington as long as they don’t harm Americans.

I can fully understand Azam Khan getting frisked at the Boston airport, but it is difficult to accept the rest of the story behind Boston’s billowing smoke, which masks America’s unending tryst with self-inflicted horrors.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

jawednaqvi@gmail.com

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Re-posted from DAWN.com

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16 Injured in Blast near BJP Office in Bangalore


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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The blast on Wednesday damaged two cars, a motorcycle and a van of the Karnataka State Reserve Police. (Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint)

The blast on Wednesday damaged two cars, a motorcycle and a van of the Karnataka State Reserve Police. (Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint)

Yesterday, April 17, 2013, just a few weeks ahead of key elections in Karnataka state (scheduled for May 5, 2013), a blast ripped through the Malleshwaram area of Bangalore near the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) office. The blast gutted several vehicles including a police van parked near the BJP office and injured 16 people including eight police officers on duty.

According to several eyewitnesses on spot it was a “big explosion that shook nearby buildings.” Television footage showed several cars and two-wheelers at the blast site were badly damaged.

Television footage showed several badly damaged cars and two-wheelers at the blast site.

There are conflicting reports about the blast. Initial reports suggested that a gas cylinder had exploded. Raghavendra Auradkar, Bangalore police chief told reporters: “We initially thought it was a gas cylinder explosion. [Now] we believe it is a motorcycle blast – a motorcycle [has been] destroyed,” he said. BBC reported that “bombs had been planted on bicycles 150 metres (500 feet) apart near a crowded fruit market.”

Banglore Blast - Injured policemen - 2

Press Trust of India news agency quoted Lalrokhuma Pachau, Karnataka police chief: “Due to the blast, 16 people are injured – eight policemen on duty and eight civilians. Nobody is critically injured. All are being treated at hospital … As of now, we do not know what material was used in making the bomb.” Pachau added that officials of the anti-terrorism National Investigation Agency had reached the site.

This is the first major bomb attack in India since the September 2011 blast outside Delhi’s High Court that killed 13 people.

R.P.N. Singh, Federal junior Home Minister, said investigators were “looking at all possibilities” and requested the public not to “give credence to rumours.”

R. Ashok, Karnataka Home Minister, said it was a “terror attack”; however, he did not elaborate.

The Union home ministry has pointed to an Indian Mujahideen (IM) signature in targeting crowds.

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Explosions near Boston Marathon Finish-Line: 3 Dead, More than 100 Hurt


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Explosion at Boston Marathon - 00

The Boston Marathon held on Patriots’ Day, the third Monday of April every year, is an annual event hosted by several cities in Greater Boston in eastern Massachusetts. Inspired by the success of the first modern-day marathon competition held in the 1896 Summer Olympics, the Boston Marathon, one of six World Marathon Majors, began in 1897, and is the world’s oldest annual marathon. Since then, the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) manages this event. Amateur and professional runners from all over the world compete in the Boston Marathon each year. The event attracts 500,000 spectators each year, making it New England’s most widely viewed sporting event.

The Boston Marathon started with just 18 participants in 1897 now attracts an average of about 20,000 registered participants each year. In 1996, the Centennial Boston Marathon established a record as the world’s largest marathon with 38,708 entrants, 36,748 starters, and 35,868 finishers.

Yesterday, April 15, the third Monday in April, the day the state of Massachusetts celebrates Patriots’ Day to commemorate the U.S. war of independence every year, was the day of the annual Boston Marathon. On this bright and radiant spring day, around 3 pm ET, cheers became screams and panic. A pair of bombs ripped through the crowd at the finish line of the Boston Marathon killing at least two people and injuring more than hundred people. The two explosions occurred a few seconds apart knocking some runners off their feet.

Many were seriously injured by shrapnel. According to the officials, at least 17 people are critically wounded, and the injuries resulting in several amputations.

Dozens of police vehicles, ambulances, and fire trucks converged at the scene.

The Wall Street Journal citing two unnamed people briefed on the investigation reported that investigators found what could be five more undetonated explosive devices around the Boston area. However, FBI Boston Special Agent In Charge Richard DesLauriers declined to comment on media reports that police found unexploded devices.

This happens to be the worst bombing in the US after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In a televised address, President Barack Obama vowed to bring those behind the attack to justice.

A White House official said that President Barack Obama has promised to hunt down those responsible for the attack. No one has been arrested and whether the attack came from a foreign or domestic source has to be determined he said.

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Rights activists hit out at attacks on Sri Lankans


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By V.P. Raghu

March 20, 2013 – Deccan Chronicle

Chennai: The attacks by fringe groups on Sri Lankans arriving in Tamil Nadu, in the name of protests against human rights violations against island Tamils, has drawn criticism from rights activists in the state.

At least five cases of attacks on visiting Lankans were reported in the state in the last one month. This is apart from the attack on Sri Lankan institutions in Tamil Nadu. “I condemn such acts. Such kind of violence cannot be justified. These acts of terror against individuals should not be tolerated,” noted Dr. V. Suresh, national general secretary, PUCL.

Echoing Suresh’s views, another human rights activist, A Marx, said nothing could be gained by attacking visiting tourists and Buddhist monks. “While students are taking the protest in the right direction, some groups are indulging in violence,” noted Marx. These violent groups fear that the students will push them out of the protest arena, he said, adding, “So, to stay in the picture, they indulge in violence, which is highly condemnable.”

Attack on Buddhist Monks from Sri Lanka

Tamilnadu Police accompanying Buddhist monks and pilgrims from Chennai Central railway station up to Gudur in the state of Andhra Pradesh to ensure their safety. (Photo: dinakaran.com)

Pointing out that all Sri Lankans of Sinhalese origin, are not anti- Tamil, Suresh said many Sinhalese human rights activists had been fighting for the Lankan Tamils’ cause for years. “The house of senior lawyer J. C. Weliamuna was bombed for supporting Tamils in Lanka,” he recalled.

A senior official from Tamil Nadu police said almost all the accused in these cases had been arrested. “11 persons were arrested in the case of February 21 attack on Sri Lankan MP’s vehicle in Nagapattinam.

In connection with the attack on the Lankan monk on March 16 at Thanjavur, 12 persons were arrested. All the three persons connected with the attack on the Buddhist monk at Chennai central station on Monday, were secured,” the official pointed out.

In Trichy on February 26, the police had to intervene when a bus carrying Sri Lankan nationals was targeted. Similarly on March 3, vehicles carrying Sri Lankans from Chennai airport to Egmore were blocked on GST Road by a group. The police had to escort the Lankans to their destination.

Re-posted from Deccan Chronicle

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Politically Motivated Activists Bring Shame to Tamils of Tamilnadu


Here is the news that appeared in the Deccan Chronicle on March 17, 2013.
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Lankan monk roughed up in Thanjavur temple

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Student Monk  from Sti Lanka roughed up at Brihadeeswarar temple in Thanjavur, Tamilnadu, India.

Student Monk from Sti Lanka roughed up at Brahadeeswarar temple in Thanjavur, Tamilnadu, India. (Photo: Deccan Chronicle)

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Thanjavur: A Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka, currently pursuing archaeological studies in Delhi University, was rou­ghed up by some activists of pro-Tamil Eelam outfits at the world renowned Big Temple here on Saturday.

The Lankan had come here as part of a 20-member team, comprising students of postgraduate diploma in archaeology in Delhi University, on a study tour to the 1,000-year-old Brahadeeswarar temple.

As the students were going around Big Temple, a group of activists belonging to various outfits, including the MDMK and Naam Tamizhar Katchi, singled out the Sri Lankan national, clad in saffron robes, and beat him up, the police said. The attackers also raised slogans demanding that he leave Tamil Nadu immediately.

Besides the lone Sri Lan­kan, four Myanmaris were also part of the team while others were Indians, sour­ces said.

The monk was escorted safely to the local archaeological office from where the students left in a van to Tiruchy en route to Chennai. But, when the van was nearing Tiruchy, some unidentified persons pelted stones and slippers on it near Ariyamangalam. Though the van was damaged, the occupants escaped unhurt.

The police escorted the visiting students to the airport. Later, the Sri Lankan national left for Chennai by flight.

Twelve activists were taken into custody in connection with the incident.

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Video – Here is a video clip posted on Nakkheeran Web TV:

 

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Deccan Chronicle - Monday, March 18, 2013

Attack on Mahabodhi society warded off

Police personnel deployed in front of Mahabodhi society in Egmore after a group of men tried to attack the building. (Photo - Deccan Chronicle)

Police personnel deployed in front of Mahabodhi society in Egmore after a group of men tried to attack the building. (Photo: Deccan Chronicle)

Chennai: In yet another attack on Sri Lanka-linked establishments in Tamil Nadu, a group of men tried to vandalise the Mahabodhi society in Egmore on Sunday.

The police arrested 18 cadres of Naam Tamilar Katchi in connection with the attempt to break into the society office in Kennet Lane opposite the city police commissioner’s office. Anticipating trouble, city police had deployed a small team of armed police to guard the society.

According to eyewitnesses, a group of around 20 people reached Kennet Lane around noon and broke open the lock of a gate of the society.

“There were three only policemen who, however, prevented the protesters from doing further damage even as they sought additional personnel to handle the situation. Over 50 policemen were rushed to the spot.

The agitators were picked up before they could enter the society building where a number of visiting Sri Lankans, mostly Buddhist monks, stay on their visits to the city,” the police said. All arrested were remanded to judicial custody.

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Impact of Armed Conflict on Children


Children at both ends of the gun

Child soldiers are “more obedient, do not question orders and are easier to manipulate than adult soldiers.”

War games in the divided city of Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Photo: War games in the divided city of Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina). The psychosocial effects of armed conflict on children can be devastating and may haunt them through life, says the Machel report, particularly when children are attacked by those they have considered neighbours and friends, as happened in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia. ©

The exploitation of children in the ranks of the world’s armies must end, says a new United Nations report. “One of the most alarming trends in armed conflict is the participation of children as soldiers,” declares the report, by Graça Machel, the Secretary-General’s Expert on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children.

The report says the use of child soldiers is a problem created by adults, to be eradicated by adults. It calls for a global campaign to demobilize all child soldiers and to “eradicate the use of children under the age of 18 years in the armed forces.” The report further calls upon governments to renounce the practice of forced recruitment, which has put increasing numbers of children under arms against their will.

“Children are dropping out of childhood,” commented Devaki Jain of India, one of Ms. Machel’s Eminent Persons’ Group of advisers. “We must envision a society free of conflict where children can grow up as children, not weapons of war.”

The use of child soldiers is hardly new. “Children serve armies in supporting roles as cooks, porters, messengers and spies,” the report notes. “Increasingly, however, adults are conscripting children as soldiers deliberately.” Children under 15 years of age are known to be serving in government or opposition forces in at least 25 conflict zones and it is estimated that some 200,000 child soldiers under 16 years of age saw armed combat in 1988. Generally, however, child soldiers are statistically invisible as governments and armed opposition groups deny or downplay their role.

The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child defines childhood as below the age of 18 years, although it currently recognizes 15 as the minimum age for voluntary or compulsory recruitment into the armed forces. However, momentum is building for an Optional Protocol to the Convention that would raise the minimum age to 18.

With new weapons that are lightweight and easy to fire, children are more easily armed, with less training than ever before. Moreover, as was stated in one background paper prepared for the Machel report, child soldiers are “more obedient, do not question orders and are easier to manipulate than adult soldiers.” And they usually don’t demand pay.

A series of 24 case-studies on child soldiers, covering conflicts over the past 30 years, makes it clear that tens of thousands of children — many under the age of 10 — have been recruited into armies around the world. In Liberia, children as young as seven have been found in combat, while in Cambodia, a survey of wounded soldiers found that 20 per cent of them were between the ages of 10 and 14 when recruited. In Sri Lanka, of 180 Tamil Tiger guerrillas killed in one government attack, more than half were still in their teens, and 128 were girls. Solid statistics are hard to come by, however, as most armies and militia do not want to admit to their use of child soldiers.

According to the report, children are often press-ganged from their own neighbourhoods where local militia or village leaders may be obliged to meet recruitment quotas. In the Sudan, children as young as 12 have been rounded up from buses and cars. In Guatemala, youngsters have been grabbed from streets, homes, parties, and even violently removed from churches. In the 1980s, the Ethiopian military practised a ‘vacuum cleaner’ approach, recruiting boys, sometimes at gunpoint, from football fields, markets, religious festivals or on the way to school.

The report deplores the fact that children are often deliberately brutalized in order to harden them into more ruthless soldiers. In some conflicts, children have been forced to commit atrocities against their own families. In Sierra Leone, for example, the Revolutionary United Front forced captured children to take part in the torture and execution of their own relatives, after which they were led to neighbouring villages to repeat the slaughter. Elsewhere, before battle young soldiers have been given amphetamines, tranquillizers and other drugs to “increase their courage” and to dull their sensitivity to pain.

Some children become soldiers simply to survive. In war-ravaged lands where schools have been closed, fields destroyed, and relatives arrested or killed, a gun is a meal ticket and a more attractive alternative to sitting home alone and afraid. Sometimes a minor soldier’s pay is given directly to the family.

For girls, recruitment may lead to sex slavery. The report notes that in Uganda, for instance, young girls abducted by rebel forces were commonly divided up and allocated to soldiers to serve as their ‘wives’. A case-study from Honduras, prepared for the Machel report, illustrates one child’s experience of joining armed groups:

“At the age of 13, I joined the student movement. I had a dream to contribute to make things change, so that children would not be hungry … later I joined the armed struggle. I had all the inexperience and fears of a little girl. I found out that girls were obliged to have sexual relations ‘to alleviate the sadness of the combatants. And who alleviated our sadness after going with someone we hardly knew? At my young age I experienced abortion … In spite of my commitment, they abused me, they trampled my human dignity. And above all, they did not understand that I was a child and that I had rights.”

It is difficult to reintegrate demobilized children after a peace settlement is reached. Many have been physically or sexually abused by the very forces for which they have been fighting, and have seen their parents killed, sometimes in the most brutal manner, in front of their eyes. Most have also been led into participating in murder, rape and other atrocities. These children have no skills for life in peacetime and they are accustomed to getting their way through violence.

The report urges that all future peace agreements include specific measures pertaining to the demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers, ranging from job creation and the rebuilding of schools, to the training of teachers who are sensitive to the special needs of child victims of war.

The report calls on governments to regularize recruitment procedures for their armed forces and to prosecute violators to ensure that under-age recruitment does not occur. The Machel report also illustrates how the recruitment of children can at least be minimized when parents and communities are better informed about existing national and international law.

While much remains to be done, there have been some successes. In Peru, for example, forced recruitment drives reportedly declined in areas where they were denounced by parish churches. And in Myanmar, protests from aid agencies led to the release of boys forcibly recruited from a refugee camp. In the Sudan, humanitarian organizations have negotiated agreements with opposition groups to prevent the recruitment of children.

Source: UNICEF

UNICEF campaign for the disarmament of (female) child soldiers in Sri Lanka

A billboard campaign in Sri Lanka highlighting the plight of girl child soldiers. (Photo: Rebecca Murray/IRIN)

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Pakistan: Rumors of American Plot to sterilize Muslims. Nine Anti-Polio Workers Murdered.


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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A Pakistani health worker gives anti-polio vaccine to a child

A Pakistani health worker gives anti-polio vaccine to a child on the last day of a three-day anti-polio campaign in Lahore, Pakistan, March 14, 2012. (Xinhua/Jamil Ahmed)

Is a lawyer competent enough to declare that polio vaccines sterilize male children? Yes. In Pakistan, in the city of Peshawar, a 42-year-old lawyer named Sartaj Khan said: “These vaccines are meant to destroy our nation. The [polio] drops make men less manly, and make women more excited and less bashful. Our enemies want to wipe us out.”

Pakistan is one of the world’s three remaining polio-stricken countries the other two are Afganistan and Nigeria.

Dr. Shakeel Afridi

Dr. Shakeel Afridi

The Pakistani investigation of the deadly raid by a Navy SEAL team on May 1, 2011, on Osama bin Laden’s residence revealed that Dr. Shakeel Afridi, a Pakistani physician helped the CIA to run a fake vaccination program to establish the presence of bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad.

After the disclosure of Dr. Shakeel’s involvement in locating bin Laden, the Pakistani Taliban and other militant organizations banned polio campaigns in their respective areas. The extremist groups in the Pashtun belt of northwestern Pakistan spread the rumor that the army of health workers employed to vaccinate the country’s children is on the United States’ payroll, and the Americans were using the anti-polio campaign to sterilize or spy on Muslims.

The rumor spread by the extremists has resulted in the murder of nine anti-polio workers by gunmen riding motorcycles this week. Some of those killed were teenage girls.

Aseefa Bhutto Zardari - Ambassador for Polio Eradication in Pakistan

Aseefa Bhutto Zardari – Ambassador for Polio Eradication in Pakistan

Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, ambassador for Polio Eradication, strongly condemned the violence that killed the four female anti-polio workers. “Everyone involved in the polio campaign are selfless volunteers. They do this to save lives, they do this to save Pakistan.”

When a 14-year-old anti-polio worker Farzana Rehman was assassinated in her hometown of Peshawar by unknown gunmen, Aseefa Bhutto Zardari said: “We must not be deterred, better security precautions will be taken. Through our passion and dedication, we shall eradicate this crippling disease from our homeland, we shall continue to fight in the names of those who have lost their lives for the cause. We shall continue to fight for young girls like Farzana. Terrorists do this to scare us, they do this to try and stop us, we shall not be silenced and we will not stop the need, come what may,”

Following the violence, the United Nations pulled back all staff involved in the vaccination campaign and Pakistani officials suspended further vaccination in some parts of the country.

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Ajmal Kasab the 26/11 Pakistani Terrorist Hanged Atlast. Indians Satisied.


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Ajmal Kasab, the only terrorist caught alive during the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai in 2008, was hanged at the Yerwada Jail in Pune at 7.30 am IST today.

Today, Wednesday Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said that the Indian government tried to reach to the family members of Mumbai terror attack accused Ajmal Kasab, who was hanged this morning in Pune’s Yerwada jail. He said: “Kasab has been hanged to death today morning at Pune’s jail. He was taken to Pune from Mumbai two days back. Kasab has been buried in Yerwada jail premises itself.”

Here are some reactions on the hanging:

K. Unnikrishnan, father of NSG commando Major Sandeep who died during the 26/11 terror attacks:  

“I have said in the past during my emotional moments that he should be hanged by the lamp post. But today I say it is done. This is one step. Surely , this is not a closure for us. The investigation must continue and the other culprits should be booked by Pakistan more than by India.”

Smita Salaskar, wife of police officer Vijay Salaskar who was killed during the attacks:

“With this hanging, homage has been paid to my husband. But the real homage will be the conviction of other accused shielded in Pakistan. Late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray had also demanded Kasab’s hanging. His wish and our wish have been finally fulfilled. The entire family is happy to hear the news that Kasab was hanged, ahead of the fourth anniversary of the attack. I hope the death sentence of Parliament House attack convict Afzal Guru would also be executed soon.”

Eknath Omble, brother of police officer Tukaram Omble who died while trying to capture Kasab:

“I am proud and very happy that my brother’s efforts have paid off. We are very happy and satisfied. Ajmal Kasab should have been hanged in public, but I know our law does not permit this. Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has stood by his promise that he would take decisions that would satisfy the Indians.” 

Sushil Kumar Shinde, Minister of Home Affairs:

“Ajmal Kasab was hanged in Yerwada at 7:30 this morning. The President had rejected Kasab’s mercy plea on November 5. I signed it on the 6th and the Maharashtra government signed it on the 8th. The same day, we decided that he will be hanged on the 21st. We would have considered Pakistan’s request for the body, however, we have not yet received a request. The External Affairs Ministry had informed Pakistan that Kasab will be hanged.”

Salman Khurshid, Minister of External Affairs:

“Everything has been done as per law. This shows the law applies to everyone the same. If Pakistan or the family asks for the body, we will consider it. Right now, we don’t have any such request. Our letter was not accepted by the Pakistan foreign office. We then sent them a fax indicating that the hanging will take place. We have fulfilled our obligation. Hope rule of law will prevail in Pakistan as well.”

Prithviraj Chavan, Maharashtra Chief Minister:

“According to the law, proceedings were carried out. He was moved to Pune from Mumbai two days ago. The judge had fixed the date for hanging and the sentence was carried out accordingly. Kasab had refused a will.  He has been buried in Yerwada jail. With this it has been proved that India’s rule of law prevails. If someone breaks the law of land, he will be punished, even if it takes time and expenses. Any attack on the country will not be tolerated.”

R R Patil, Maharashtra Home Minister:

“This was an attack on our country. Many of our citizens were killed, including our brave officers. Nine terrorists were killed but one was caught alive. The special 26/11 court awarded death penalty to Kasab, the High Court and Supreme Court upheld it. He filed a mercy petition, but was rejected and he was hanged at 7:30 am this morning. This is a tribute to people and police officers who lost their lives during the attack.

Omar Abdullah, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister tweeted:

“Gotta hand it to the Govts at the centre & in Mumbai for the mature way they handled this. Shows we can still keep a secret if we need to.”

Narendra Modi, Gujarat Chief Minister:

Narendra Modi tweeted this message: What about Afzal Guru, who attacked Parliament, our temple of democracy, in 2001? That offense predates Kasab’s heinous act by many years.

Digvijaya Singh, Senior Congress leader tweeted:

“Finally Kasab hanged. GOI should pursue the case of the Handlers in Pakistan. Afzal Guru’s case should also be expedited now.”

Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, BJP leader:

“Better late than never. This was in order. The enemy of the country has been punished.”

Milind Deora, Minister of State for Information Technology tweeted:

“So much for the right-wing sponsored ‘Congress is soft on terror’ debate! The Government’s actions make me a prouder Indian.”

Ujjwal Nikam, Special public prosecutor:

“It is a victory for the country. By hanging Kasab, we have paid homage to all those policemen and innocent persons who lost their lives. By Kasab’s conviction and death penalty, we have proved how the entire conspiracy was hatched in Pakistan. We have set an example that India will not tolerate such attacks and the accused will be brought to justice.”

Lalu Prasad Yadav, President Rashtriya Janata Dal:

“Kasab’s crime was established in the court of law and justice was accordingly served. Bad deeds will lead to a bad outcome.”

J.K. Dutt, National Security Guard Chief:

“On hearing the news of Kasab’s hanging, I felt all the ten terrorists who were involved in the incident were accounted for. But there is still some distance to be covered because there are other conspirators behind this incident sitting elsewhere and they need to be brought to account. We must remember those who lost their near and dear ones (during the 26/11 attacks), the incident will remain with them.”

Anna Hazare, Anti-corruption activist:

“It’s taken too long to hang Kasab. He should have been hanged in public (chauraha). A public hanging of Kasab would have been a lesson for anybody who causes loss of life in our country.”

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Taliban: Agent or Victim?


In their attempt to assassinate girl-activist, Malala Yousufzai, has the Taliban inadvertently rescued the narrative of violence against women?

By AFIYA SHEHRBANO ZIA 

October 24, 2012

Just as in other patriarchal societies, violence against women (VAW) in Pakistan is endemic and cuts across all classes and ethnicities. Men of all ideological bents instrumentalise the political economy of VAW as a highly lucrative and politically successful strategy of maintaining material supremacy and social power.

Over the last three decades, Pakistan has been at the receiving end of donor-assisted campaigns and gender-empowerment awareness programmes on violence. These projects were sub-contracted to NGOs that had been set up by feminists who themselves, in the 1980s, had been involved in direct action activism on cases of violence. With the sponsorship of international development assistance, “women’s NGOs” steadily embraced the concept and become advocates of linking VAW to neo-liberal development agendas. This has re-directed analysis and activism from its primary focus on survivors and perpetrators of violence. Instead, increasing attention and funding has led to a change that is more in tune with the UN and donor-preferred approach known as ‘Gender-Based Violence’ (GBV).

The shift has meant more than a replacement of acronyms. The impetus of both, VAW and GBV activism, may be the overlapping themes of violence but for the latter, the emphasis is much more on the context and sites where violence is ‘gendered’ and sustained. The long-term developmental aim of GBV is to change power inequalities between men and women in society. Exacerbating factors such as poverty, injustice, discrimination or lack of awareness or dis-empowerment of women and girls, is the core of the GBV agenda. However, the UN preference for GBV linkages with developmental goals has meant that the politics of VAW have deflected or at least, diluted, the focus from the immediate perpetrators, purpose and benefits of violence. Instead, the GBV approach looks closer at socially constructed masculinity rather than material-based patriarchy, to be the direct motivation or cause of criminal intent behind such violence.

Perversely, this is allowing generations of perpetrators to metaphorically but also literally, get away with murder. This is because GBV projects offer to rehabilitate masculinities, change the broader power structures, and improve the justice-education-health systems or gender relations in communities, rather than simply recognize the criminal and his immediate motivation. Nor do GBV projects sponsor punitive methods to address such violations. The recent attack on a 14 year old girl-activist, Malala Yousufzai, by the Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Swat, Pakistan, has pushed the reset button on the momentum that was being gained by Gender-Based Violence (GBV). The Taliban’s attack may have inadvertently rescued the narrative of the VAW approach, which calls for more direct focus on immediate causes and perpetrators and more urgent responses to cases of violence against women.

Responses to the Taliban attack

The range and multitude of the global response to the attempted assassination of Malala have been far-reaching. They span from Madonna’s puzzling bareback tribute to the young activist at a concert just days after the attack, to the equally jingoistic decision by the government of Pakistan to name three of its Frontier Corps platoons, ‘Malalai’, ‘Shazia’ and ‘Kainat’, as a ‘tribute’ to all three school girls targeted and injured by the Taliban. While the case has received near-universal condemnation, various interest groups in Pakistan are competing to add to the multiple layers of ascribed motivations, causes and responsibilities. There is also much political mileage to be availed in view of the sweep of outrage and sympathy across the world. A virtual supermarket of ‘Blame’ brands are available for commentators ranging from American hegemony, imperialism, drone attacks and even, anti-Islam blasphemous material produced in the West.

Pakistani women protesting with banners and signs

”We demand the end of Extremism and Terrorism” – Protest in Pakistan by left and women’s groups. Photo: member of WAF.

While GBV approaches link the low rate of literacy and abysmal indices for girls’ education in the country to gender based discrimination, the narrative that has spun around Malala’s case has thrown up a host of deeper, unresolved and critical issues with reference to violence. The Taliban has categorically reclaimed religious patriarchy as a deliberate base for the kind of violence it consciously employs. In several press releases, the Taliban spokesman has refuted all the defenses being spun by Islamists and conservatives (such as drone attacks), as the motivation behind the assassination attempt. The statements have impatiently corrected the rationalisations and confirmed that they attacked Malala specifically for her adversarial intent to “secularise society” by educating girls according to a non-Islamic curricula. Her aimed defiance to the Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) qualifies her as anti-Islamic and the Taliban claim, “We did not attack her for raising voice for education. We targeted her for opposing mujahideen and their war”. The aim to kill her was the natural culmination of their larger campaign of systematically blowing up girls’ schools over the last five years, in northern Pakistan.

For decades, women’s rights activists resisted the monopoly of violence claimed by the state, and unpacked the lease of this to men in communities who then target women with impunity under the guise of cultural practices and patriarchal traditions. Over the last two decades, with donor encouragement, several development practitioners became engaged with the idea of instrumentalising Islam as a tool for women’s empowerment. This premise allowed them to pursue the case for educating women and girls through religious didacticism. It also allowed for the co-option of clergy who resisted contraceptive use to become its promoters. Theoretically, it was thought that this strategy would counter what were labeled ‘anti-Islamic’ traditions that sanctioned violence against women. VAW proved far more resilient. What these activists underestimated was that instrumentalising Islam is not a parochial privilege limited to rights based activists. The Taliban and sympathetic Islamists do not doubt nor resist the need for women’s education as a Quranic prescription– just its nature, purpose and ‘secularising’ ends.

The debate is shifting away and being reframed by all the actors involved and reconfiguring around notions of religious and secular forms of violence. As a result, the symbol of woman as a carrier of both the virus and cure, the seed of destruction and resurrection, war and peace, continues to serve as the barometer of Pakistan’s unresolved issue of Islamic vs secular options and pursuits.

Clarity in the Taliban agenda

In the post War on Terror (WoT) period, incrementally, Pakistani women have been the direct targets of Islamic militancy. At first, activists struggled to decode the patriarchal impulses and gendered impact of a more generic conflict. By 2007, however, the Swat Taliban came to have virtual control over Swat. Girls’ schools were bombed, barbers and music shop owners were attacked, women warned not to come to the bazaars or hospitals or to leave their houses alone, and were assaulted when in violation of regulations. Women performers, called the ‘dancing girls of Swat’ were assaulted, and at least one, Shabana, was shot dead and her body hung on display at a crossing dubbed Khooni Chowk (Bloody Crossing) as a symbol of the Taliban’s regimen of moral cleansing. The use of women as a signpost is not exclusive to the Taliban but unlike in inter-community or inter-ethnic murders, Islamic militants leave messages to the state, government and citizens by literally pinning post-its to dead bodies routinely and systematically. So too, Shabana’s body was strewn with currency notes as a mocking reminder of the fate of those deemed un-Islamic (in her case, prostitutes) by the Taliban’s sharia rule.

Unlike men of sub-nationalist movements or even mainstream Islamists, the Taliban are overt and unapologetic in their exploitative and symbolic use of the female body. Despite the self-confessed assassination attempt on Malala and repeated explanations of why they will continue such acts, the Islamists and conservatives in Pakistan have launched a counter-campaign to disassociate this crime (against Malala) from the criminal (the Taliban militant). The argument in the media spin that followed the targeted assassination attempt was that Malala had been attacked by an abstraction – American hegemony, imperialism, Islamic freedom, militancy, Westernisation, class aspirations, honour, nationalism, secularism, women’s rights. By not recognizing the self-confessed murderer, Islamists absolve the criminal and dissolve the crime.

Such unprecedented violence has diverted attention and hindered the struggle of women and human rights activists who were more committed to normative and routine public and private cases of VAW. Activism meant rescuing women under threat, offering legal assistance and providing shelter as well as, pressurizing the state and justice system to deal with the perpetrators. Even as we observed the course of the ‘war on terror’ and its fall-out in Pakistan, the growth of GBV projects continued to divert the emphasis away from direct action and towards developmental and rehabilitative approaches. Islamic militants such as the TTP have directly challenged all apologia that argues that they are victims of some misguided masculinities, brutalized by tribal war and poverty. Neither do they view themselves as jihadi proxies used and discarded by the Pakistani state, or as citizens who are denied justice. They do however agree with some sympathisers who continue to view the Taliban as products and resistance armies of US anti-imperialism. Is it viable to continue viewing the conscious agent as a victim?

Agent as victim

To deflect the direct responsibility of a crime away from the individual and place it on the breadth of society, government, the state, global powers or imperialism, then empties the perpetrator of criminal motivation and refills him with a higher, larger-than-life, mission.

The creation of such noblesse oblige is done by converting the agent into a victim. This laundering opens a new line of defense. It suggests (as several Islamists have done) that, under certain circumstances, a case of justifiable homicide may be made. However, in the views of the same sympathisers, this flexibility is a limited moral commodity.  The defense of a higher moral purpose as the motivation for murder is not a universally available tool for all citizens regardless of class, creed or gender. It is a selective application reserved only for those who are deemed Islamic enough and soaked in the cause of promoting/defending Islam as defined by powerful or political clergymen.

In other words, Malala may be worthy of sympathy due to her status as a minor but does not qualify for justice because of her near-fitna (seductive, luring, chaotic) activities. In the minds of these apologists, her would-be assassins were absolved of their crime even before they were caught, despite their stated motivation (which has not been cited as the drone attacks but due to Malala’s adversarial intent to secularise her society) and even prior to a judicial hearing. In such a world-view, justice must not be blind but dependent on the perceived beliefs or religious weightage of the individuals or parties involved.

One of the complaints made by proponents of the Taliban-as-victim group, is that violations against women by secular landed politicians, do not receive as much media attention or outraged response. This is a completely dishonest proposal. The case that is often quoted as ‘exaggerated’ or ‘sensationalised’ to expose the Taliban’s Islamic justice system following the peace deal with the government in 2009, is that of a woman flogged by Taliban ‘police’ in the streets of Swat. The mobile phone amateur video went viral on national and international channels.  In 2008, soon after the new incumbent civilian government was installed, two high profile cases involving the landed politicians of the ruling party were equally ‘sensationally’ splashed across the media. With reference to one of these cases of the alleged ‘live burial’ of girls who refused their arranged marriages, Pakistani women’s groups lobbied, protested and came on TV channels demanding the removal of the cabinet minister from the said constituency. They did so, in protest of his defense of such ‘traditions’, which he offered as a justification for this crime. To suggest that religious militancy is the only crime that is picked up by the media or liberal groups is an intellectually dishonest claim. The spectacle of the flogging caught on video made the case more visual and hence caused more outrage than the other cases.

Reclaiming agendas

This defensiveness stems from a more common refrain used by the apologists of Islamists’ politics of violence – that secular political forces are no better. Feminists, including myself, have persistently made this critique of not only liberal, secular men, but also of the state, as abusers of the political potential of women’s bodies and also because their acts sanction a regulation of women’s sexuality and all its manifestation. However, the Malala case falls outside of this framework. The concern of the Taliban in this case was not to regulate the girls’ sexualities (although it may be elsewhere), nor to accrue material benefit, nor revenge for drones and nor was the purpose to restore ‘honour’, as some communities employ this motivational excuse in cases of VAW. In these non-theocratic cases, perhaps the GBV framework is a useful one. However, the Taliban are not hiding behind socioeconomic or tradition based excuses. It is time for analysts to recognise the self-acclaimed agency of the perpetrators and clearly identify the victim in cases of VAW, rather than defend the criminal as a victim and dissolve the crime as an abstraction.

The TTP has reminded us of the simple core of VAW and reiterated what feminists always knew – VAW removes any threat that the liberationist ‘Woman’ may pose to the religio-patriarchal social order. If eliminating girls’ schools do not do the job, then a stronger signal of directly removing all agents (women/girls), should secure the message for those who may be harbouring plans to disrupt the Islamic order they seek to impose. Foreign donors scramble to rebuild schools, and the state attempts to resist militancy by giving symbolic significance to the services and resilience of girls such as Malala, in order to boost their public relations campaign in the fight against militancy in north Pakistan. Meanwhile, the Taliban has recovered the simple lesson of success achieved by direct action, and the symbolic value and immense ideological success available through the act of removing the obstacle. Will we?

About the author

Afiya Shehrbano Zia is a feminist researcher and activist based in Karachi, Pakistan.  She is the author of,‘ Sex Crime in the Islamic Context’ and several published articles on women, religion and secularism

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Articles by Afiya Shehrbano Zia

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