All posts by Chinmoy Banerjee

CERAS statement on Amarnath pilgrims

 

14 July 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — ATTACK ON HINDU PILGRIMS IN KASHMIR

CERAS condemns the fatal attack on Hindu pilgrims on their way to Amarnath, one of the most revered Hindu shrines, during this pilgrimage season. It also urges caution in ascribing blame.  The attack took place around 8.10 pm (IST) on Monday 10th July at Botengo village in Anantnag district in South Kashmir on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway.

Nobody has as yet claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack.  However, at least initially, unspoken assumptions and innuendo seemed to imply that Monday’s attack is the work of armed Kashmiri nationalists.  In this context, it is important to note that if indeed this were so, it would be a major aberration.

In fact Kashmiri nationalists have often publicly stated, and this year is no exception, that the pilgrims will not be harmed. A month ago well-known Kashmiri nationalist Syed Ali Shah Geelani stated: “The yatra [pilgrimage to Amarnath] has been going on for decades and the people here have treated the pilgrims with unique hospitality. They have always been hospitable, decent and received the pilgrims as their guests”.  And in the wake of yesterday’s attack, nationalist leaders have “expressed deep sorrow and grief over the killing of Amarnath Yatris in Anantnag … and strongly condemned it;” the attack “goes against the very grain of Kashmiri ethos”.

Since 1989 with the increase in Kashmiri nationalist militancy, many Pandits (Kashmiri Hindus) fled.  But many also remained.  Repeated invitations from Kashmiri nationalist guerrillas to Pandits to return to the valley, subvert any communalist narrative of the situation.  Just last year the guerrilla leader Zakir Rashid Bhat stated: “We request Kashmiri Pandits to return to their homes. We take the responsibility of their protection. They should look at those Pandits who have been living in the [Kashmir] Valley. Did they face any problems here?” The nationalists have always made it clear that their conflict is with the Indian state (which maintains one of the largest militarized presences in the world in Kashmir as a way of stamping out militant nationalism); that this is not a Hindu-Muslim conflict, nor is it a conflict where civilians are targeted.

In this context, the attack on the pilgrims yesterday raises many questions.  If it is not nationalist guerrillas who perpetrated the attack, then who is responsible?  And why? In the current state of affairs in India where there is steep escalation in Hindu nationalist rhetoric and actions, where fake news about Muslims killing Hindus has become standard operating procedure, and where Muslims have been attacked and killed by lynch mobs (7 in the last two years), the attack on the Hindu pilgrims to Amarnath has incendiary potential.

As details emerge there seems to be a somewhat better understanding of how the event unfolded.The bus had developed a flat tire and stopped so it could be fixed. Security forces cover the national highway from 4 AM to 7 PM for the Amarnath yatra  and there are definite time schedules for the movement of vehicles carrying pilgrims. The delay resulted in the bus being on the road after the 7pm curfew. The Director-General of the Central Reserve Police Force (one of many government para-military forces in Kashmir) stated: “These yatris [pilgrims] had not registered themselves, as is advised, and did not even become part of the yatra [pilgrimage] convoy, which is escorted by security forces, both to and from Amarnath, everyday. They also violated the 7 pm curfew on movement of yatris.”

One of the pilgrims in the bus, Yogesh Prajapati said that an Army jeep had started following the bus at some point and the terrorists might have aimed at the jeep but ended up hitting the bus.  Some in the media are also making reference to another incident in 2000 when pilgrims and locals who serve them as porters and horsemen were killed in crossfire between Indian security forces unidentified armed fighters.  However it needs to be pointed out that in that instance civilians, including pilgrims to Amarnath were not the targets, but were killed in the crossfire.

As of now there are no answers about who carried out this attack.  For decades, Kashmir has been used as a political football within India and across the border by Pakistan.  While condemning this terrible act of violence, it is also important not to engage in an unsubstantiated blame game, to not conflate communalism and nationalism and to be cognizant that those responsible focus on their own objectives with cynical disregard for the people whose lives are destroyed by their actions.

-30-

cerasmontreal@gmail.com

 

Justice for Omar Khadr

http://ijvcanada.org/2017/ijv-on-omar-khadr/

 

Independent Jewish Voices Canada          13 July 2017

 

IJV Statement On Omar Khadr

Torture and hopelessness were standard operating procedures at Guantanamo when Omar Khadr was a captive.

Independent Jewish Voices Canada welcomes the apology and compensation made by the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau to Omar Khadr after years of shameful treatment meted out to him by U.S. and Canadian authorities, under both Liberal and Conservative governments.

Khadr endured years of horrific imprisonment in the notorious Guantánamo Bay prison, for a long time denied access to legal counsel, subject to torture, finally confessing to various charges in a military “trial” (a process declared illegal under U.S. and international law by the U.S. Supreme Court) under threat of indefinite detention. He was abandoned to his fate by three Canadian governments—the Liberal governments of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, and the Conservative government of Stephen Harper. He was interrogated several times by Canadian CSIS agents, who only stopped as a result of orders from a Canadian court. The Harper government blocked Khadr’s transfer to a Canadian prison and his eventual release for as long as it could, even after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled several times in Khadr’s favour.

Canada’s active participation in Khadr’s mistreatment is part of a larger pattern of gross human rights violations in the course of the seemingly endless “war on terror” in which both Canada and the U.S. have been complicit in other ways, such as the handover of Afghan detainees for torture during the illegal war in Afghanistan.

The Harper Conservatives made Khadr the focus of a campaign of Islamophobia and xenophobia that has now been revived by the Conservatives and their supporters with vitriolic attacks on the recently announced compensation to Khadr. This campaign reflects a combination of ignorance, distortion and racism. These attacks mirror the xenophobic right-wing populist wave—dividing the world into the good West and evil Muslim/Arab east (with Israel counted as an honorary member of the former)–that swept the U.S. with Donald Trump’s accession to the presidency, and has been taken up by Canadian Conservatives, initially spearheaded by Harper and continuing under Andrew Scheer.

As a human rights organization that supports both Palestinian and Israeli rights, Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) strongly opposes any public utterances that support or promote racism or bigotry of any kind, including Islamophobia, anti-Arab racism and anti-Semitism. We also oppose the widespread violations of human rights and their justifications which have been a hallmark of both the “war on terror” and the more recent wave of xenophobia in both the U.S. and Canada. We call on Canadians to resist this wave and to defend the human rights of all people, in particular marginalized peoples everywhere who are subject to racism, discrimination, occupation or military invasion and attacks.

 

SANSAD mourns Hassan Gardezi

The following resolution was adopted at the SANSAD AGM on June 24, 2017:

We deeply mourn the passing of our dear friend and comrade Hassan Gardezi in April this year and wholeheartedly endorse the following obituary penned by Zahid Makhdoom:

DR. HASSAN NAWAZ GARDEZI

(19 February 1933 – 20 April 2017)

 

It is with extreme sorrow, the Committee of Progressive-Pakistani Canadians (CPPC), announce the passing of Dr. Hassan Nawaz Gardezi, one of the founding members of the CPPC. He truly had remained a lifelong and a tireless activist for justice, peace, secularism, and socialism, a huge inspiration to its members, friends, and associates. Death of a human being is always a sad affair. Somehow death of an individual always creates big craters in the lives of those who survive to see another day. But, when a person of such an intellectual and academic presence and stature, like Professor Gardezi, leaves from our midst the void left is simply impossible to bridge, the sorrow that follows exacts an enormous toll, the scars of the loss become indelible. Although his loss is impossible to even fathom, his contributions shall forever live to produce a universe of possibilities, a pathway to a just and a fair society.

 

Professor Gardezi had taught sociology to several cohorts in the reputable Canadian, American, and Pakistani universities. A large number of his students went on to become professors, journalists, writers, judges, lawyers, trade unionists. Many developed and maintained a lifelong relationship with him and his thoughtful spouse, Rosalie Gardezi. Whether in Pakistan or in Ontario or any place else that the Gardezis lived, their home was always a meeting place where intellectuals, activists, mandarins, and bohemians congregated. Lively discussions and debates were always welcomed. Hassan and Rosalie’s calming presence and amazing hospitality was a constant at these events.

 

After his retirement from being the head of the Department of Sociology at Algoma University at Sault Ste. Marie, Dr. Gardezi and Rosalie moved to Peterborough, Ontario. The choice of Peterborough was logical to them as their children were attending at the nearby universities. During his years of retirement, Hassan, maintained an exemplary life of an intellectual. Publishing regularly, attending and presenting papers at international conferences, engaging in activism for justice, peace, secularism, and socialism. He also wrote beautiful poems in his first language, Siraiki. He translated some classic Sufi tracts from the Siraiki language into the English language. His two-volume biography of Dada Amir Haider Khan, a leader of the Communist Party of India, presents a remarkable account of the emancipatory movements in the colonized South Asia and their nexus with the workers and peasant movements throughout the world.

 

As a visionary, Hassan always encouraged younger comrades and friends to organize. He indeed played a big part in organization of numerous organisations and associations struggling for just, fair, and peaceful society. Indeed, Hassan was instrumental in the organization of the CPPC. His vision is reflected in the mission of the CPPC. While we are still struggling to cope with the loss of this remarkable person, we continue to bask in the light of his vision, his compassionate and thoughtful fellowship and friendship, his unfathomable wisdom and generosity. Our hearts are with Rosalie and their beautiful children. May we all and may the Gardezis find peace.

_____________________________________________________

 

Hindu terrorism

Call It By Its Name

India needs to legally reclassify hate crimes as acts of terror.

Written by Tanika Sarkar | Published:June 28, 2017 12:06 am

faridabad, lynching, police, haryana railway police, faridabad lynching news, india news, indian express newsThis should lead to serious soul-searching in India where Junaid, a young man, looking forward to Eid , was first abused and then brutally knifed to death while his brother lies wounded in a hospital.

Two things stand out especially. First, such responses came in the wake of a series of severe Islamist terror attacks on London, and a large-scale one at Manchester, in very quick succession. Each was followed with calls for harmony — from religious organisations, from police forces and politicians, from large sections of urban publics. Second, and more important, the attack by a lone individual was immediately classified as terrorism, and is now being investigated within that format. Admittedly, this is a new departure in British civic and political life, partly shaped by the larger matrix of changes brought about by a marked leftist turn in Labour politics that Jeremy Corbyn, a long time anti-racist activist, has recently initiated.

This should lead to serious soul-searching in India where Junaid, a young man, looking forward to Eid , was first abused and then brutally knifed to death while his brother lies wounded in a hospital. The cause? They are Muslims, hence beef eaters, hence Pakistanis, and hence easy and natural target for butchery. Note the logic: All beef eaters and all Pakistanis — and by extension, therefore, all Muslims — are meant for slaughter.

Nor is it the logic of a few drunken oddballs, as it is made out to be. The killing has been preceded by so many others, of Dalits and Muslims, accused of cow slaughter or beef consumption, that we have simply lost count and memory of them. If they were calibrated by Far Right Hindu outfits in the past — nobody enquired into their possible organisational or mobilisational links — such bloodlust has now pervaded very large numbers of ordinary people, drunk or sober. It is a part of a broader pattern where a certain group proclaims something as punishable by death and torture — be it in the name of Bharat Mata, or cow or temple, or nationalism — and violence ensues. Atrocities have been naturalised in the past few years, they are a far too familiar landscape, part of the new normal.

Do we dare draw a contrast between political responses to the two deaths? At an NDTV debate, BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli remarked that our prime minister does occasionally condemn such violence. That no corrective action follows from his observations seemed, after all, a small matter to him. An exalted figure like the PM cannot possibly react to such daily trivialities. We live in strange times. Modiji embraced President Trump in the US, and we do not know that Trump abstains from beef. The Swachh Bharat campaign does not provide poor women with toilets, but when they are forced to relieve themselves in public places they are photographed by civil servants who allegedly beat another Muslim man to death when he objected to the gross abuse.

Have we had enough? Even some of us, even a few of us? Could we initiate a movement, asking that hate crimes be legally reclassified as acts of terror and be treated on par with them? May we demand that the entire Opposition — if it still deserves that name — unite under this demand immediately? After all, we have a useful precedent in a country which has, in recent times, suffered many more terror attacks than we have, and which has refused to discriminate between terror and terror.

The writer retired as professor, Centre for Historical Studies, JNU