Saturday, November 16, 2019

Analysis Finds U.S.-Led Wars Since 9/11 Killed 801,000 at a Cost of $6.4 Trillion

New research finds the so-called war on terror launched by the Bush administration after the 9/11 attacks has left over 800,000 people dead at a cost of $6.4 trillion. In a pair of reports published this week by the Costs of War Project at Brown University, researchers warn the true death toll is much higher, once indirect deaths are factored in. Writing in The Hill, professor David Vine argues, “This means that total deaths during the post-2001 U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, and Yemen is likely to reach 3.1 million or more — around 200 times the number of U.S. dead.”

Friday, November 15, 2019

Another school shooting

Two school students were killed by a fellow student in Southern California. To read more: click here:

Kashmir After Abrogation of Article 370

Kashmir After Abrogation of Article 370: Lies and Propaganda Galore

Ram Puniyani

It is over three months that the Article 370 has been abrogated. The procedure laid down by the law has been given a go bye and through a majority in Lok Sabha, bypassing the people of Kashmir the act has been done. While many a falsehood has been promoted, lately two such surfaced yet again. Paying tribute to Sardar Patel on 31st October, Sardar’s anniversary, Narendra Modi, dedicated the abolition of this article to him. Interestingly it was Sardar who was crucial part of the Committee which had drafted the said article. Also it was Sardar Patel who had moved the resolution of Article 370 in Constituent Assembly as Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, one dealing with the issue as External Affairs minister, was away to US at that time.
With lapse of time not only the ancient and medieval history is being doctored to suit the communal politics, even the recent history is also under mutilation by likes of Modi who are currently ruling the roost. The other point which the Prime Minster and the other top officials are harping strongly is that it was this article due to which terrorism was getting a boost! The point they want to make is that with the abrogation of this article terrorism will be controlled in the troubled state. As public memory is short it is necessary to recall that while hurling the disaster of demonetization on the country, similar claim was made that counterfeit currency is fuelling the terrorism and demonetization will wipe out the militancy in Kashmir. As the matters turned out along with other claims about merits of demonetization even this claim turned out to be totally hollow and false.
As a blockade has been put on Kashmir, normal life brought to standstill, local leaders arrested and national leaders not permitted to visit the valley, in a very clever manner a delegation of some European right wing MPs has been put together by some business person, in the name of an NGO. The invitation to the MP, Chris Davies, who said that he will like to meet the local people on his own; was withdrawn right away and the compliant MP’s did come for a the trip. Their job was to give the ‘All is well’ certificate to the Modi Governments move after the ‘conducted tour’, which they enjoyed.
During this period despite the presence of military in large numbers, despite the claims that the abolition of this article will curtail terrorism in the valley, already disturbing killings have been taking place. In one such tragic incident five migrant workers from West Bengal have been done to death, shot dead in Jammu Kashmir’s Kulgam. Prior to this there was attack on people related to fruit trade. In another shocking and painful incident one person died and fifteen injured in a grenade attack in Srinagar, in a vegetable market where vendors were targeted.
On one hand the people of J&K are feeling humiliated as their state has been demoted to a Union Territory and on the other there are boasts that this is what was the dream of Sardar Patel!
The false hood that India has eliminated one big reason behind terrorism is totally away from truth. This understanding negates the facts of history and builds the narrative to suit the politics being pursued by BJP. Why was militancy there in Kashmir? As such the story begins with Pakistan’s attack on Kashmir, in the form of Kabayalis (Tribal), who were backed by the Pakistan army. Since Kashmiri people did not want to succumb to the “Two Nation Theory” propagated by communal elements, since they were more for secular democracy, they did request Indian Government to quell the Pakistani aggression. The complex process leading the treaty of Accession and later article 370 through Indian Constituent Assembly has been dealt with extensively by serious commentators.
The efforts of likes Shyama Prasad Mukherjee to put pressure to forcibly merge Kashmir with India, the rise of communal politics in India sent the feeling of disenchantment to Sheikh Abdullah in particular, the one who as such was instrumental in accession of Kashmir to India. To cut the long story short, Sheikh’s apprehensions were answered by putting him in the prison and this is what sowed the seeds of alienation among people of Kashmir. This alienation of Kashmir people duly supported by Pakistan is what has been the root cause of terrorism in Kashmir. Article 370 was the protective cover which by giving the autonomy to the state of J&K was a big obstacle to the proliferation of terrorism as such. Of course the global situation where by America sowed the seeds of Al Qaeda to fight against Russian army added on to the problem as the Al Qaeda and its clones, after defeating the Russian army in alliance with anti Soviet Forces, made their entry into the troubled state, and communalized the militancy. Thirty years down the line now the picture is being presented in an obverse way.
What was needed was to instill more democracy in the state and involve the disgruntled elements into the process of dialogue. Of course the negative role of Pakistan, backed up thoroughly by America has been the major factor. The problems can be solved only when the correct diagnosis of the issue is made. The warped understanding of recent history by communalists, is dictating the current politics and so the blame of militancy is being put on article 370. Article 370 has also been blamed for lack of development in Kashmir.
The truth is that in social development indices Kashmir’s indices are better than many states and above the national averages. Time alone will tell how Pakistan behaves, how the cancerous Al Qaeda type elements will be tackled within the state. An all round process of dialogues on the issue is a must. Strengthening of democratic process seems to be the only way to restore peace and overcome the violence which is the tormenting the people of Kashmir!

Babri Mosque: Ayodhya Judgement Unjust - message from NAPM

Ayodhya Judgement Unjust: 
An Assault on the Secular Fabric of the Constitution

13th Nov, 2019: The National Alliance of People’s Movements condemns the ‘unanimous’ verdict by the 5-judge Bench of the Supreme Court in the Ayodhya matter. The judgement, instead of holding accountable before law all those who criminally demolished the 450 year old Babri Masjid has rewarded the violators. The judgement legitimizes majoritarianism and mobocracy and strikes at the very secular fabric of our Constitution. Full of contradictions, the verdict only pays sermons to the values of equality and fraternity, but ends up violating these very principles in its relief.
The judgement also does not pass the test of logic. Despite the Court stating at the outset of the hearing that the judgement in the matter of title dispute would be pronounced based on facts and not faith, the final judgement has ended up privileging faith in a disproportionate way and opening a dangerous flood gate. On the one hand, the Court upheld that a masjid stood at the ‘disputed site’, that there was no evidence of a temple below the mosque (the Court accepted presence of a non-muslim structure), that idols were unlawfully sneaked into the mosque in 1949 and that the mosque itself was unlawfully demolished in 1992. However, on the other hand, while issuing directions, the Court ordered that a temple be constructed at the very site of demolition of the mosque, which not only defies logic but is also a gross abuse of the due principles of law and natural justice. To camouflage this, the Court directs that 5 acres land be given for ‘rehabilitation of the mosque’. There is no clarity as to the legal and constitutional basis for arriving at such a decision !
The invocation of Article 142 of the Constitution in this context would infact give rise to many new challenges in the future. This was a clear title suit where the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Wakf Board was agitating for its legal rights and the question was not about ‘finding alternative land for the mosque’. The judgement conveys an impression to muslims that despite being equal citizens of the country, their rights are not equal before the law. This is an extremely worrying message from the highest court in today’s times when muslims are already being targeted and marginalized in many ways. It is as if the Court is granting them a favour by offering the land. Further, granting the land (beneath the mosque) as a legal right to the same party which demolished the mosque is a historical insult to the values and principles enshrined in the Constitution.
Another unprecedented and unconstitutional aspect of the judgement is addressing the two sides as ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’ which is clearly in violation to the secular character of the state and can prove quite dangerous. There were no parties with these names before the Court. The Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board was a petitioner representing that specific disputed land (and not the entire Muslim community of the country). Nor is ‘Ram Lalla Virajman’ (on behalf of Vishwa Hindu Parishad) a representative body of all Hindus.
Despite the verdict mandating that the central and state government must strictly implement the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 which stipulates maintenance of status quo on the character of disputed sites as it existed in 1947, the judgement sets in motion a very dangerous precedent of allowing majoritarian faith over facts. Based on this, any community / sect can use their faith to contest the ownership of any structure and forcibly take over and demolish it by vicious campaigning and support from highest powers of state machinery. And it is no exaggeration to state that in the delicate circumstances that our nation is in today, the majoritarian political and religious forces would fully abuse such a judicial precedent and indulge in persecution of minorities.
Be this as it may, the ‘Ayodhya matter’ itself is far from resolved and accountability is yet to be fixed on those who indulged in the criminal act of demolition. There are many unanswered questions. What happened of the Liberhan Commission’s Report? Why has the CBI been dragging its feet even 27 years after the demolition ? Why haven’t the perpetrators of the crime been prosecuted and brought to justice ? Within days of the verdict, we also observe that the All India Hindu Mahasabha has now written to the Prime Minister and Home Minister to withdraw all cases against the karsevaks responsible for the Babri demolition !
It is also a harsh reality that the political leaders, party and their violent affiliates who were behind the ‘Rath Yatra’ and demolition of the masjid in 1992 and the Gujarat pogrom of 2002, are in power in the centre and the state, to who the Apex Court’s verdict hands over the ‘disputed land’ on a platter despite admitting that they were guilty of criminal acts. Ironically, these communal elements are now preaching to others that the ‘bitter past must be left behind’ in the interest of a ’new India’, seeking peace and brotherhood !  With a combination of draconian measures including the abrogation of Article 370 and lockdown of Kashmir for over 100 days, the communal criminalization of Triple Talaq, the proposed Citizenship Amendment Bill and proposals to extend the NRC across the country, the present verdict not only emboldens and encourages these powers but also gives them legal sanctity in the pursuit of their ‘Hindu Rashtra’ project.
If the Apex Court was of the view that such a judgement was the ‘need of the hour to let peace prevail and move ahead’, the judgement should have said so, in so many words that it was depriving one party of their rightful ownership of the disputed site for pragmatic reasons, placing the imposed ‘compromise’ on record and acknowledging the sacrifice expected of the Muslim community. Without such an express acknowledgement, it would be very unjust to call this decision, justice.
We demand that the Supreme Court reviews this faulty judgement within the framework of the Constitution and decides it again on the basis of fact, law and logic and not on the basis of ‘faith’. This is important since this is not just the case of one ‘disputed religious site’, but is necessary to ensure that hate-mongering elements do not get an opportunity to carry forward their divisive agendas and violate the Constitution. We also demand that the state stop registration of false cases and persecution of anybody who critiques this judgement on the basis of law and logic. All those responsible for the criminal act of demolition must be brought to book at least now.
We hope that in this challenging climate of struggle for justice, the common citizens of the country and in particular, people belonging to both Hindu and Muslim faiths maintain peace. Democracy-loving citizens and groups need to be ever vigilant to ensure that in the garb of ‘temple construction’, there is no further hate and bloodbath. At a time when the very right of citizens to question, reason and expression are trampled upon and all dissent is termed as anti –national, we must be on our toes to defend our democracy.
NAPM deeply appreciates the courage and peace-loving nature of the common masses, in particular the Muslim community and resolves to stand by them in these trying times. NAPM commits itself to fight alongside those who are wronged and continue its collective struggle for a just society based on peace, equality, reason, freedom, liberty and fraternity.
Let to organize to save our country from right-wing majoritarianism and strive to ensure that the values of the Constitution as well as the aspirations of Gandhi, Ambedkar, Maulala Azad, Bhagat Singh, Periyar, Shubash, Phule, Savitribai, and others are kept alive.

Al Jazeera: Explainer: What is genocide?

The Gambia has filed a case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing Myanmar of committing genocide against its Rohingya minority.
Myanmar's security forces unleashed a savage campaign against the long-persecuted Muslim-majority ethnic group in August 2017 in response to attacks by an armed group. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape the crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine state.


The case filed by The Gambia at The Hague-based court alleges that Myanmar's actions in its campaign against the Rohingya "which include killing, causing serious bodily and mental harm, inflicting conditions that are calculated to bring about physical destruction, imposing measures to prevent births, and forcible transfers, are genocidal in character because they are intended to destroy the Rohingya group in whole or in part".
Myanmar, a Buddhist-majority country, denies allegations of genocide.
As in the case of crimes against humanity and war crimes, the international community has a duty to prosecute genocide - but what exactly is genocide and who does the term apply to?

Convention on the Prevention of Genocide

Polish scholar and activist Raphael Lemkin in the early 1940s coined the neologism genocide, combining "geno" from the Greek word for race or tribe with "-cide", derived from the Latin word for killing.
Genocide was first defined and criminalised in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
According to the convention, genocide is defined as the killing or harming of the members of a national, ethnic, religious or racial group with the intent to destroy the group in whole or in part. Harm can include mental harm, imposing difficult conditions on the group, preventing births, or forcibly removing children to another group.
As such, the definition of genocide can only be applied to actions against one of these four groups.Lemkin had envisioned a broader definition but according to Mark Drumbl, professor at Washington and Lee University: "Political pressures during the negotiations of the genocide convention, notably between the United States, United Kingdom and Soviet Union narrowed the protected groups only to those four groups."
As a result, some groups remain unprotected by the convention, including, for example, those who are killed and harmed with intent to destroy because of their gender, sexual identity or occupation.
According to Reed Brody, commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists who was instrumental in the prosecution of former Chadian President Hissene Habre among others, this does not mean that killing members of a group for their sexual orientation, for example, cannot be prosecuted as a crime against humanity. Yet, it cannot be prosecuted as genocide, which is also defined as an international crime in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Proving intent

When it comes to the prosecution of genocide, the most difficult and crucial point is proving the accused party's intent to destroy - wholly or partially - the targeted group. 
In the context of the Myanmar case, Brody said: "Direct evidence of genocidal intent rarely exists, but one can look at the derogatory official language towards the Rohingya, for example.
"The plans to change the demographic and ethnic composition of the Rakhine state, evidence of an organised plan of destruction and the extreme brutality of the atrocities against the Rohingya all point to the existence of direct intent."
Ilias Bantekas, professor of law at Hamad bin Khalifa University, agreed."What is important in proving genocide is the context and existence of a plan or a system," he said. "This requires the input from expert investigators and forensic experts, not to mention military experts."

Rarely prosecuted

It took 50 years for the first case to be tried under the 1948 convention.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) took the lead in the Akayesu case in which Jean-Paul Akayesu, mayor of the Taba commune during the 1994 violence in Rwanda that killed more than 800,000 people in about 100 days, was convicted for genocide in 1998.
Why is genocide so rarely prosecuted?
Drumbl says this can be attributed to an absence of political will on the part of governments.For his part, Bantekas adds that "the vast amount of resources required to prove a system or a plan involving a system or a plan involving a multiplicity of actors makes genocide difficult to prosecute."

International Court of Justice to Address Atrocities Against Rohingya

(The Hague) – The Gambia’s case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for violating the Genocide Convention, filed on November 11, 2019, will bring the first judicial scrutiny of Myanmar’s campaign of murder, rape, arson, and other atrocities against Rohingya Muslims, 10 nongovernmental organizations said.

States that are party to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide agreed that genocide “whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish” and, by extension, have an obligation not to commit it. The convention permits member states to bring a dispute before the ICJ alleging another state’s breach of the convention, and states can seek provisional measures to stop continuing violations. Myanmar became a party to the Genocide Convention in 1956.

“The Gambia’s legal action triggers a judicial process before the world’s highest court that could determine that Myanmar’s atrocities against the Rohingya violate the Genocide Convention,” said Param-Preet Singh, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch.  “The court’s prompt adoption of provisional measures could help stop the worst ongoing abuses against the Rohingya in Myanmar.”

The nongovernmental organizations supporting the initiative are No Peace Without Justice, the Association pour la Lutte Contre l’Impunit√© et pour la Justice Transitionnelle, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, the Global Justice Center, Human Rights Watch, the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute, Parliamentarians for Global Action, and the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice.

In its first Genocide Convention case, the ICJ imposed provisional measures against Serbia in 1993 and eventually found that Serbia had violated its duty to prevent and punish genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Canada, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Turkey, and France have asserted that Myanmar committed genocide against the Rohingya. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has encouraged its 57 members to bring Myanmar before the court. Malaysia’s prime minister has also alleged that Myanmar committed genocide against the Rohingya and called for efforts to bring Myanmar before the court.

“As a country recently emerging from decades of brutal dictatorship, The Gambia’s leadership on the Rohingya genocide is especially striking and welcome,” said Alison Smith, international justice director at No Peace Without Justice. “Other members of the Genocide Convention should follow The Gambia’s lead and lend their clear and unwavering support.”

In September 2019, the United Nations-backed Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar concluded that “Myanmar is failing in its obligation to prevent genocide, to investigate genocide and to enact effective legislation criminalizing and punishing genocide.” The fact-finding mission highlighted “the enormity and nature of the sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls” during Myanmar’s military campaign as one of seven indicators of the state’s intent to destroy the Rohingya people.

“The Gambia’s proceedings before the ICJ offer countless survivors of sexual violence and other victims some hope that Myanmar could legally be held to account for its ruthless campaign against the Rohingya,” said Melinda Reed, executive director at Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice.

Legal actions addressing individual criminal responsibility are also underway at the international level. The fact-finding mission has called for the investigation and prosecution of Myanmar’s military leaders for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Rakhine State in Myanmar, the state where most Rohingya lived.

The UN Human Rights Council has established an Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, which is mandated to collect evidence of the most serious international crimes and prepare files for criminal prosecution. The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has sought to open an investigation for the crime against humanity of deportation and possibly other offenses, but a broader investigation would need a referral by the UN Security Council.

The Myanmar government has failed to prosecute or punish perpetrators of human rights abuses. The current domestic commission of enquiry established by the government follows eight failed commissions and lacks credibility, and its chair has stated that it will not hold those responsible for abuses to account

“The Gambia’s case before the ICJ could pressure Myanmar to reverse its course of violence and live up to its obligation under the Genocide Convention to punish those responsible,” said Andrea Giorgetta, Asia director at the International Federation for Human Rights.

On November 11, the 10 organizations convened a meeting in The Hague with Abubacarr Tambadou, The Gambia’s attorney general and justice minister, and members of his legal team; several representatives of the Rohingya community; and others who have supported this initiative. The meeting provided an update on the initiative, addressed the implications of state responsibility under the Genocide Convention for deterring further crimes and providing redress the victims, and discussed the role that civil society groups and other stakeholders could play in such an inter-state dispute.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Al Jazeera on Babri mosque

India's Supreme Court has awarded Hindus control of a disputed religious site in the town of Ayodhya for the construction of a temple, in a landmark verdict announced amid heightened security across the country.
In a unanimous decision over the site claimed by both Hindus and Muslims, the five-judge bench asked the government to set up a trust that will construct a temple for Hindu deity Ram.
"The judgement is not satisfactory but we respect it. We will have discussions and then decide further course of action," Zafaryab Jilani, Sunni Waqf Board lawyer, was quoted as saying by NDTV news channel.
Faizan Mustafa, vice-chancellor of NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad, termed the verdict "controversial".
"The judges tried their best to have a kind of a balance but ultimately it's the mystery of the faith over rule of law, because they [judges] said that we can't be doing anything about the Hindu belief and if they believe that Ram was born here ... we have to accept it," he said.
"Belief is good for the purposes of religion, but can it become a basis to resolve property disputes?"
Al Jazeera's Anchal Vohra, reporting from New Delhi, said a board of trustees [appointed by the government] would be formed in three months to essentially decide how to go about the construction of the temple.
She added the alternative site for Muslims would be decided by the central government or the state government.
"Muslim intellectuals had already offered this when the mediations took place early this year as a possible solution to have broader peace between the two communities," Vohra said.
Muslims said they prayed at the mosque for generations until 1949, when Hindu activists placed idols of Ram.
The 460-year-old mosque was demolished in 1992 by Hindu mobs triggering nationwide religious violence that left about 2,000 people dead, most of them Muslims.
Muslim-majority Pakistan, India's rival neighbour, responded to the decision on Saturday.
"This decision has shredded the veneer of so-called secularism of India by making clear that minorities in India are no longer safe; they have to fear for their beliefs and for their places of worship," the foreign office in Islamabad said in a statement. 
"The Indian government should ensure the protection of Muslims, their lives, rights and properties and avoid being yet again a silent spectator of Muslims becoming the victims of Hindu extremists and zealots.
"The international community, the United Nations and other human rights organisations in particular should play their role by restraining India from its pursuit of an extremist ideology."

Hindus welcome verdict

The streets of Ayodhya wore a deserted look with very few businesses operating.
At some places, people were seen raising slogans of Jai Shree Ram (Hail Lord Ram) and congratulating each other.
Most Hindus celebrated the court's decision while Muslims hoped that Ayodhya would remain peaceful. In 1992, dozens of Ayodhya Muslims were killed in the wake of violence.
"The Hindus of India have for so long wanted a temple at the place where Ram was born," Rajesh Kumar said.
n the Muslim-majority area of Jamia Nagar in the capital New Delhi, people said they did not get justice.
"[That] the Hindu mob which demolished Babri Masjid went unpunished only proves India's incompetence as a democracy," Nabiya Khan, a student, told Al Jazeera.
"December 6, 1992 and November 9, 2019, will be remembered as days of death of secularism in India."
Mohammad Mussa, 58, of Zakir Nagar, said the mosque on the site belonged to Muslims.
"Whatever the judgement is, we should accept it because we live in an India run by the right-wing BJP which thinks this country belongs to Hindus only. Muslims should stay calm and not react to anything because there are forces who want bloodshed in the country."

Appeals for calm

The Supreme Court on Saturday said a structure existed under the Babri Mosque, which was not built on vacant land.
A 2010 lower court ruling had divided the disputed 2.77 acres (1.12 hectares) into three equal parts, with two-thirds going to the Hindu community and one-third to Muslims. That order was challenged by both sides.
The five-judge bench, headed by the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, opted to hand over the site to one of the Hindu groups that had staked a claim to it.
Muslim organisations have appealed for calm to prevent communal flare-ups.