All posts by Chinmoy Banerjee

Letter to the President of India from Admiral L Ramdas (Retd.)

Admiral L Ramdas (retd)

PVSM AVSM VrC VSM

Former Chief of the Naval Staff

Gaurav Puraskar

Magsaysay Awardee for Peace

LARA-‐RAMU FARM

Village Bhaimala

P.O.Kamarle.

Alibag,402209

Maharashtra

Tel

02141-°©‐248711/

248733

Mob

9860170960/

9422383930

lramdas@gmail.com

29 July 2017

Honorable President Shri Ram Nath Kovindji,

Let me at the outset congratulate you on assuming office as the 14th

President of the Republic of India.

The Armed Forces of India – of whom you are the Supreme Commander,

have a different and special relationship with their President and I was

especially struck by your unambiguous reference to the fact that it is

your duty to “protect the Constitution and uphold its values.”

Yes, you are now every Indian’s President, and I deeply appreciate that

you have pledged to work for the oppressed and downtrodden. In your

acceptance speech you spoke of your own experience of poverty and

exclusion and have pointed out that it was your commitment to the spirit

of service, in the great traditions of our country that has brought you

from your village of Paraunkh, to Rashtrapathi Bhavan in the capital.

You have also stated that “my election to the post of President reflects

the greatness of Indian democracy”, and stressed that you will “serve

the Nation in the spirit of ‘Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah’ (May all be

happy)”.

Like you, we in the armed forces too are also sworn to defend our

Country and also to protect and defend the Constitution of India. And it

is on this important aspect sir, that I, as one of the senior most retired

servicemen in the country, would like to share some of my thoughts and

concerns with my Supreme Commander today.

I am proud to have served my country for nearly 45 years in uniform. I

retired as the Chief of the Naval Staff on 30 September 1993, after

joining the first course of the Joint Services Wing – the forerunner to

todays NDA. I too come from a humble background – my grandfather was

a village postman in the small South Indian town of Palghat, and our

family joined many of those who migrated from a rural area to then

Madras- and eventually to Bombay and finally to Delhi. It was also there

I was personally witness to the terrible violence and savagery of

partition and proud to also see men like my father, shelter his good

friend Ghulam Mohammed and his family in our home – telling the mobs

baying for his blood that they would have to kill him first. These were

the formative years as I grew up – a child of Independence.

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In many ways, my life in the service parallels our trajectory since

Independence. The compelling reason that attracted many of us to join

the services in those days was the powerful motivation that we would be

laying the foundation and helping to build this new, free and

independent country.

Although the country has achieved a lot and made progress in certain

areas, in many others we have remained backward, and stuck in our age

old blind beliefs, regressive social mores, and in recent times have

allowed the forces of religious hyper nationalism to endanger the

fundamental constitutional provisions and promises of a tolerant,

equitable nation where there would be dignity for all and freedom of

thought, speech and expression. I fear our Constitution is under attack

and faces grave threats from the forces that have been let loose.

Sir, we in the Defence Forces are a microcosm of India. We have people

of all faiths, denominations, castes and creed to make up our very

professional military force. We work as a team, do not discriminate or

shower largesse on any one class, caste or community, and in the Navy

especially, believe in the age old saying that “We swim or sink

together”. The emphasis in the Services has always been on

inclusiveness and camaraderie.

Alas these values and traditions, built and nurtured over nearly seven

decades, are today threatened as never before.

The increased intolerance at all levels, the shocking assault and

treatment of our minority communities – especially Muslims, the growing

tendency to take the law into their own hands by lynch mobs and Gau

Rakshaks – and the continuing impunity with which your own community,

Dalits, as also OBCs, Adivasis and women, are targets of physical,

sexual and verbal abuse and attacks brings no credit to our proud

heritage and tradition.

The age old principles of dignity and respect for all, have almost totally

given way to a barely concealed right to those with money and power to

do as they will – and corruption in all these many forms has increased

across the board.

While in uniform we are governed by our respective Army, Navy and

Airforce acts to which Servicemen have to conform. One foregoes the

Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Constitution. However this is not

so with retired personnel who revert to their primary role as citizens.

Sir, I feel it is important to point out that during my nearly 25 years in

retirement I have engaged with a large number of issues and struggles

of the people of this land. I was part of a seven year long struggle to

save farmers including myself,being evicted thanks to SEZ; Muslims,

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Dalits and Adivasis targeted as either terrorists, anti nationals or

Maoists; the indiscriminate application of Armed Forces Special Powers

Act (AFSPA) and the trampling of all norms to protect environment. To

add to all of these has been the increasing use, by this and earlier

regimes, to be quick to use the allegation of sedition and label people,

incuding myself, as anti-national merely for expressing dissent or a

point of view which is different from the mainstream – be it on nuclear

matters,or promoting dialogue for peace with our neighbours, including

Pakistan. I have on several occasions pointed out that the hydra headed

monster of religious intolerance is causing permanent damage to our

plural, syncretic and secular democracy.

Last week I watched with deep distress a dalit woman and Bezwada

Wilson, a recent Magsaysay award winner like me, spoke of the

continued indignity of their lives as manual scavengers. And every day

we are reading and hearing of unwarranted attacks on our Muslim and

even Christian minority. It would be tragic if we allowed all the

struggles of our freedom fighters to undertake this unique task of

building a secular, plural and rainbow nation of faiths, creeds,

communities, languages and gender, to end up in an un-democratic,

intolerant, Hindu Rashtra kind of structure, when our neighbours are

striding in the opposite direction – be it Bangla Desh, Nepal or Sri

Lanka.

India has always followed the path and shown the way towards non

violence and tolerance – essential pre-conditions for Peace in our

region. People still speak of our contribution to the dynamic idea of

Panch Shila . We are looking to you Sir to use this historic mandate and

extraordinary opportunity of being the second Dalit to occupy the

highest office in the land, to steer this nation away from the narrow path

of violent hyper nationalism towards the concept of Dharma and

Righteousness in the grand tradition of all our Saints, Sufis and Gurus.

I believe that the President and Supreme Commander is in a unique

position to wield his power and authority wisely and creatively.

As the Supreme Commander and President – you have it in your hands to

outline and chart a totally new direction for our people and to advise the

Prime Minister and his cabinet accordingly. You have only to call on the

millions of foot soldiers, the women and the men who are yearning to

see a very different India, to work with you to realise the vision of all

those women and men who have contributed to building our vast and

amazingly rich and plural heritage.

As a former Service Chief, I can confidently say that the spirit of service

and camaraderie and a nationalistic impulse which is tolerant and

inclusive, still obtains in our armed forces. If you show the way and give

the call – believe me our years of discipline because of which we have

honoured the principle of civil control over the military and have never

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veered towards any kind of Military takeover as in our neighbourhood –

we veterans are ready to contribute towards national development in

the best sense of that word. Let us always remember though that civil

authority does not mean civil service or bureaucratic control. As

Supreme Commander you also have the privilege of ensuring that the

genuine demands of the service and ex service men and women are

studied and honoured .

We are inhabiting an India where there is growing discrimination, and

also growing alienation of our youth and unrest in the temples of

learning – our universities. There is also growing fear and insecurity.

And given that our comrades in the armed forces – our sailors, airmen

and jawans – come from villages and towns across the country – they

cannot but be affected deeply by what they are seeing around them.

Their morale and self esteem is constantly under threat. How does a

sergeant in the Air Force feel when his own father, Mohammed Akhlaq is

made a target of utterly irrational mob behavior and killed – merely on

the suspicion of keeping beef in their home?

In the long run this will affect their own professional performance and

therefore our National Security.

I have written several letters over the years to several Presidents, and

Prime Ministers, sharing my thoughts and fears. Some have responded

and some have not. I believe it is not just our right, but our

responsibility as senior citizens who have held the highest positions in

the country, to bring some of our observations and concerns to you and

it is in that spirit that I write this letter.

I look forward to hearing from you Sir- and also to meeting you when I

next travel to Delhi. I have every reason to believe that you will rise to

the occasion as our Supreme Commander and will not fail us in this

critical hour.

With highest regards,

Jai Hind

L.Ramdas

Honorable Shri Ram Nath Kovind

President of India

Rashtrapati Bhavan

NEW DELHI

110011

5

Trump, Modi, and the Rise of Right-Wing Populism

david-barsamian

Hari Sharma Memorial Lecture 2017

Trump, Modi and the Rise of Right-Wing Populism

David Barsamian

September 8, 2017

6.30 PM -8. 30 PM

Room 1800 SFU Harbor Centre

515 West Hastings Street, Vancouver

Despite the vast differences in the trajectories of their rise to power Donald Trump and Narendra Modi share some significant similarities. They both speak to and in the name of a “people” they identify with the nation, promise economic transformation addressing the grievances of the middle class in one case and the aspirations of the upwardly mobile in the other, and unify and radicalize their base by scapegoating immigrants and Muslims in the US and Muslims and Christians in India.

While both Trump and Modi attack the traditions and institutions of liberal democracy, Trump has empowered the forces of racism and white supremacy and Modi has supercharged the forces of Hindu nationalism with deadly effect.

Appealing to the Indian people with the promise of prosperity through neoliberal development and a Hindu revivalist state, the Modi government has unleashed violence against all who stand in the way of its agenda The nation is the battle cry: the military and the cow are the holy of holies, in the name of which people can be killed and criticism silenced.

David Barsamian is a tireless and wide-ranging investigative journalists who has altered the independent media landscape, both with his weekly radio show Alternative Radio—now in its 32th year—and his books with Noam Chomsky, Eqbal Ahmad, Howard Zinn, Tariq Ali, Richard Wolff, Arundhati Roy and Edward Said. His forthcoming books are with Noam Chomsky and Arundhati Roy. He lectures on world affairs, imperialism, capitalism, propaganda, the media, the economic crisis and global rebellions.

Barsamian is the winner of the Media Education Award, the ACLU’s Upton Sinclair Award for independent journalism, and the Cultural Freedom Fellowship from the Lannan Foundation. The Institute for Alternative Journalism named him one of its Top Ten Media Heroes. He is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center. He was deported from India on account of his work on Kashmir and other revolts and is still barred from traveling there.

This is a free event but RSVP required:  Chin Banerjee, cbanerjee@telus.net; Harinder  Mahil, hmahil@telus.net

Rally for Pluralist India

Rally for Pluralist India

Sunday, July 30, 5.00 PM

Surrey City Hall Plaza

13450 104 Avenue, Surrey, BC

There has been a systematic attack on the rich pluralist society and culture of India since Narendra Modi came to power with a Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) majority in 2014. A secular, democratic republic with guaranteed citizenship rights and constitutional protection of minorities is in the process of being converted to a fascist theocratic Hindu Rashtra, a state serving a majoritarian agenda that is identified with the “nation.” Institutions are subverted, education commandeered, dissent suppressed through violence and intimidation, and Dalits and minorities increasingly subjected to mob violence encouraged through impunity. A spate of recent lynchings of Dalits and Muslims has generated a resistance movement in India under the banner of “Not in My Name” that has held demonstrations across India as well as in London, Boston, and Toronto.

Progressive South Asians in the Vancouver area came together recently in Surrey to form “Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI)” to raise our voice in solidarity with the resistance in India. We invite everyone to join us for a rally at the Surrey City Hall plaza next to the Surrey Central Library on Sunday, July 30 at 5 pm.

For more information call Gurpreet Singh at 778 862 2454 or Parshottam Dosanjh at 604 512 8371.

Conference on nuclear threat

Poster Neuclear Conference 2017-2

Gathering in the Shadows of a Nuclear Winter

Conference

 Saturday Sept 9, 2017 Rm. 1700 SFU Harbour Centre, 515 West Hastings St,   Vancouver, BC (Unceded Musqueam, Sqamish, and Tsleil-Waututh  Territories)

no mouse would ever construct a mousetrap.” Albert Einstein

There is an urgent need to attend to the crisis of the nuclear threat in the world today. 2017 began with  the Doomsday Clock being set forward by 30 seconds to two-and-a-half minutes to midnight. Currently both the US and Russia are expanding their arsenals and new players are entering the field. Donald Trump’s statements have increased the threat of nuclear proliferation. One hundred and twenty countries met at the UN on March 27 to push for a ban on nuclear weapons though the nuclear-armed nations led by the US refused to participate.

The principle of “Mutually Assured Destruction,” with the apt acronym of MAD, which has been the basis of human security since the Soviet Union challenged the US monopoly of terror in 1948 has been destabilized by the current US superiority in first strike capability. The answering Russian progress in the development of hypersonic missiles only accelerates the race toward destruction. Within this global situation the escalating militarism of nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, locked in hostility since birth in 1947 and engaged in  daily border skirmishes poses an imminent danger. Apart from the increasingly shrill rhetoric of nationalism in both countries, there is evidence that India is reconsidering its policy of No First Strike, about which Pakistan has always been deeply skeptical in any case.

There is also the growing concern that the logic of development and the demands of climate change will lead to greater dependence on nuclear power plants, whose benign promise is belied by the disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima. India is moving rapidly in this direction despite protests from from environmentalists and people living in the coastal areas.

The goal of the conference  is to focus on the existential threat facing us by bringing together in conversation nuclear scientists, scholars, writers, and anti-nuclear and peace activists from India, Pakistan, Canada, and the US The purpose of the conference is to situate the extremely dangerous nuclear stand-off and hostility between India and Pakistan within the global concern with militarism and the nuclear threat, to address the dubious value of nuclear power as an answer to climate change, and to contribute to developing people’s initiative for peace and sustainable development.

Organized by South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD) with generous financial Support from  Dr. Hari Sharma Foundation and Institute for the Humanities, Simon Fraser University. Co-sponsored by Committee of Progressive Pakistani Canadians (CPPC)and School for International Studies, SFU.

Admission is free but registration required. RSVP Chin Banerjee, cbanerjee@telus.net

Lunch will be provided for presenter and organizers. Others who wish to share catered lunch should send cheque for $10.00 to SANSAD at 906-608 Belmont Street, New Westminster, BC V3M 0G8.

PROGRAM

September 9: Room 1700 SFU Harbour Centre

9.30 AM: Welcome

9.45 AM: Rap music by Jovian Radheshwar

10.00 AM – 1.00 PM: Session 1: Moderator: John Hariss. Presenters: Admiral Ramdas, Lalita Ramdas: “The UN Treaty: Nuclear Haves and Have-nots … What Next?”; M V Ramana,  “Nuclear Energy and Nuclear Disarmament: Can the two co-exist?”; Sirish Rao, Wanpovi Kathy Wan Povi Sanchez,”What we do to mother earth we add to our soul wounding”.

1.00 PM -2.00PM: Lunch

2.00 PM: Music Sejal Lal

2.15 – 5.00 PM: Session 2: Moderator: Sid Shniad. Presenters: Pervez Hoodbhoy: “Nuclear Instability in South Asia”; Robert Anderson; Annie Ross: “They have taken our Land and used it to destroy the rest of the World”; Paul Meyer: “The Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty and the pursuit of Nuclear Disarmament”; Derrick O’Keefe.

PARTICIPANT PROFILES

John Harriss is Professor of International Studies at Simon Fraser University. He was Director of the School for International Studies from 2006 until 2013 and again in 2016.

Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy is currently Zohra and Z.Z.Ahmad Distinguished Professor of Physics and Mathematics at Forman Christian College, Lahore, having taught for 44 years at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. He graduated from MIT with a Ph.D in nuclear physics. In 1968 he won the Baker Award for Electronics, and in 1984 the Abdus Salam Prize for Mathematics. In 2003 he was awarded UNESCO’s Kalinga Prize for the popularization of science. In 2010 he received the Joseph A. Burton Award from the American Physical Society and the Jean Meyer Award from Tufts University. In 2011, he was included in the list of 100 most influential global thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine. In 2013, he was made a member of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Affairs, a position he currently holds.

Paul Meyer is Adjunct Professor of International Studies and Fellow in International Security at Simon Fraser University and a Senior Fellow with The Simons Foundation Vancouver. Prior to assuming his current appointments in 2011, Paul had a 35 year diplomatic career with Canada’s Foreign Service, including serving as Canada’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN and the Conference on Disarmament, Geneva (2003-2007). He teaches diplomacy at SFU’s School for International Studies, and his research interests include nuclear arms control and disarmament, outer space security and international cyber security.

Jovian Radheshwar is a rap artist, poet and recording artist.

Born in Bombay and raised in New York, Jovian taught Black Studies and Political Science in Santa Barbara, California. His musical inspirations include Outkast, Nas and Pink Floyd. He currently lives in Vancouver where he teaches Political Science at Douglas College. Jovian finds in rap a powerful medium for making a statement both personally and politically.

As MC Bitter Buffalo on the album “No Hooks” (2012), Jovian collaborated with Bobby Musgrave (Pensive Blue Polar Bear) and Ed Keenan (DJ California Condor) in exploring the endangered nature of existence in a technologized modern world. As part of the Endangered Species collective, he performed shows in Santa Barbara, Isla Vista, Goleta, and Los Angeles, California.

Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas was commissioned in the Indian Navy in 1953, trained as a Communication Specialist at the Royal Naval Staff College, UK, and headed the naval academy at Kochi. He was prominently engaged in the Indo-Pak war of 1971. He received Vir Chakra, Param Vishist Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, and Vishisht Seva Medal. He was the Chief of Naval Staff of the Indian Navy from 1990 till his retirement in 1993. Since his retirement he has been deeply engaged in anti-nuclear, peace, social justice, and democratic rights issues. He received the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2004 for his work on denuclearization and demilitarization of South Asia. He is in the forefront of the movement for peace between India and Pakistan. He is a member of the Citzens Whistleblowers Forum (CWF) formed in February 2017 to track corruption.

Lalita Ramdas is an activist in women’s rights, particularly women’s education, environmental issues, peace, Indo-Pak friendship and denuclearization. She is one of the founding  members of Greenpeace India and has served as Chairperson of Greenpeace International from 2007 to 2010. She launched the Rainbow Warrior II in 2011. She has worked as an informal educator in the slums of Delhi and founded “Ankur”, a society for alternative education. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize as one of “1000 Peace Women” in 2005.

M. V. Ramana is the Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia and the author of The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India (Penguin Books, 2012) and co-editor of Prisoners of the Nuclear Dream (Orient Longman, 2003). He is a member of the International Panel on Fissile Materials and the Global Council of Abolition 2000. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Leo Szilard Award from the American Physical Society.

Annie Ross is an Indigenous (Maya) teacher and artist working along and with community in Canada. She teaches Environmental Ethics in First Nations Studies at Simon Fraser University.

Elder Kathy Wan Povi Sanchez  MA., is an activist/ organizer who believes in beloved communities in the transformative culture of peace . Her activism on nuclear non-proliferation, human rights, and the rights of our Mother Earth, brings spirit-rooted awareness into environmental justice advocacy and policy changes to end violence against women, girls and Mother Earth. She is currently the Environmental Health and Justice program manager for Tewa Women United, NM USA  www,tewawomenunited.org

Sid Shniad is a lifelong social justice activist who spent most of his working life as a trade union researcher at the Telecommunications Workers Union. He has been active in the anti-war movement and is a founding member of Independent Jewish Voices Canada (www.ijv.ca), an organization dedicated to justice for Palestine, where he is currently a member of the national steering committee.