Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson

This past week has been anything but jolly for America with the death of two stars – actress Farrah Fawcett and music icon Michael Jackson. Farrah’s death was not so sudden; she was suffering from cancer and it was a question of days when she would lose her battle. And she died on Wednesday.
But Michael’s was unbelievable! Simply earth-shattering, shocking! No one predicted that he was going to die this soon. He was only fifty years old with parents and siblings living. Well, he had his health problems and has been under physician’s care. But still he was healthy enough to rehearse for his upcoming July European concert “This Is It” tour just the night before. So, when I heard about his death in the evening news, June 25, I could not believe it. I listened for hours to understand how he had died and what people’s feelings were for him. If the reaction of the mourners is one way to measure how one has touched others emotionally, Michael definitely was immensely popular, in spite of the controversies that haunted him for the past two decades. He was not just a star that entertained and made money of his stardom. He was a megastar that touched so many through his superb entertainment since the tender age of five.
I remember when I had come for my studies to the United States, one of the first things I did was to buy his album – the Jackson Five. Later I bought few other albums with his more popular songs. He had by then established himself as a highly gifted singer and a successful stage performer. Listening Michael was not enough to understand his impact on the audience. You had to see him perform; see how he glided backward with effortless grace in a move that would forever after be known as the moonwalk and his movement on the stage like a robot.
As a student at the University of Southern California, I lived a few blocks north of the campus and just within 20 yards of the Shriner Auditorium where he occasionally performed. I could not buy those expensive tickets. The closest I came to watching any of the Jackson 5 was when I bought a ticket for a charitable show for the LAPD where his sister performed a dance routine. Janet was not a star then.
Fortunately, for many of us, we had the videos to see his electrifying performances. By 1982 his singles — ''Billie Jean,'' ''Beat It,'' ''Thriller,'' and so many more had become very popular. The Thriller became the world's best-selling album of all time. There were hardly enough hours in the day for the fledgling MTV network to show the iconic music videos he shot to promote what was quickly recognized as a masterpiece. The 24-year old kid had definitely by then become the King of the Pop. Those videos were simply sensational and wonderful to watch! No star, not even Madonna, could generate so much excitement as Michael was capable of. He was simply the best among all those entertainment stars.
Michael was a very soft spoken person. He had a soft and caring heart and used his extraordinary music talent to fight poverty and raise awareness for caring of children around the globe. He raised millions of dollars in 1985 to fight hunger in Africa through an album “We are the World.”
Although Michael was past his youthful years, he remained a child in his heart and exhibited child like qualities who loved children much. He raised millions of dollars in charity for them. He developed the Never Land Ranch in 1988 and, with its museum and amusement park, tried to entertain children. And yet, his love for them became his greatest nemesis. In 1993 and 2005, he would be falsely charged by some greedy parents of improper mixing or activities with children. He was acquitted of all such charges. However, those false charges ruined him financially and mentally, and adversely affected his music career. He failed to repeat his successes of the 1980s.
In spite of all the popularity he enjoyed, Michael remained a very shy and insecure person. His marriage with Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of another music sensation Elvis Presley, fell apart in 1996 after just two years. He kept a very low profile in the 1990s. But his was an indomitable character that would not be subdued by such mishaps in life. He joined with Pavarotti for a charity concert to raise millions of dollars for global refugees in 1999.
With all the troubles in love, life and failed marriages, he would still seek out talented young musicians and help them launch their career. Many of today’s young American musicians owe their success to him.
Michael was the greatest and most successful music entertainer of all time. He sold 750 million albums, something that is unbelievable for any singer, and would probably never be matched in our lifetime by any musician. He was also a smart investor. It is, therefore, quite puzzling to learn that in his death he owed some $400 million in debt.
Michael was a mega-star by any measure in the entertainment industry. Our world has not seen a singer, composer, producer, dancer and choreographer of his caliber combined in a single individual. He earned millions and gave away also in millions in charity. Although he hasn’t sung lately, he was immensely popular everywhere. He is more known globally than any individual in our planet. Through his music, he will live for ages. To label him as the “King of Pops” is lowering his greatness. He was simply the unrivalled Emperor of popular music.
And yet, Michael was a very lonely person. The bad publicity had hurt his tender soul and forced him to seek solace and find the meaning of life outside America in the Middle East where he lived for months before returning to the USA recently. The only person that he confided in and felt comfortable about sharing his inner pains and thoughts was his brother Jermaine. It was all too natural that when he died, it was Jermaine who told the world that his loving younger brother, the most talented of the Jackson siblings, Michael had died at 2:26 p.m. on Thursday, June 25 at the UCLA Medical Center. With Michael’s death, we lost not only a music icon, we lost a caring, charitable brother. Like Jermaine, let’s pray - May Allah be with you always, Michael.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Comments on NY Times Op/Ed on Iran's recent election - Koran and the Ballot Box

Ref: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/21/opinion/21gerecht.html

I disagree with many assertions of the author, REUEL MARC GERECHT, an ex-CIA agent, who had his hands full one time trying to topple regimes in the Middle East that were deemed anti-USA. In his analysis of the current events in Iran, he says, "God’s will and the people’s wants were no longer compatible."

Gerecht forgets that Khatami was as much a product of Islamic learning as is Khamenei and so is Montazari and even Sistani. None of them ever questions whether God's will and people's wants are compatible. Wherever it is incompatible that is where people have deviated from God's will. Pure and simple! In His infinite Mercy, God did not intend anything harmful for human beings - but has given them a choice which can go either way depending on the nafs of the person. The greatest source of peace and saqinah is derived from following His ways. If today, Iranian masses or anyone for that matter anywhere around the world is questioning God's wisdom in what is good or bad, it is as much a product of failure of those who tried to govern by God's law as is the mere realization that we are living in the age of Kali when Satan's ways appear more attractive to mortals than God's way.

The writer claims that Iran's revolution "was the first attempt by militant Muslims to prove that “Islam has all the answers” — or at least enough of them to run a modern state and make its citizenry more moral children of God." I don't think Gerecht understands the concept of vilayet-e-Faqih as articulated in Imam Khomeini's writings and speeches. Nowhere did the shi'ite Imam claim that he and any of those trying to act as trailblazers for the future Imam have all the answers how to govern perfectly. No, they don't. But that does not mean that a pious man is less qualified to rule than an impious one. What he was able to do was break that passivity that had dominated the shi'ite society too long with the ultimate result that until the hidden Imam comes there is nothing for them to do other than wait and see.

Was the Shah's rule better? Even today, if there is a vote on this issue - I am sure the answer may still be - NO, in spite of the fact that the current generation does not have as much zeal as their father and mother had. It is always difficult to sustain revolutionary zeal! As Khomeini had said, this government of ours will stay as long as our people are vigilant and caring about it to protect it by doing what is morally right. If the Iranian people feel differently today, then something in that equation has gone awfully wrong - from the governing to those governed.

It is also wrong to assert that common masses have not benefited from the Islamic Revolution of 1979. But like any revolution, it definitely has not befriended every John or Jane Doe. I am curious to learn from the author: what are the metrics for such an assertion?

The author's assertion that Moussavi is Obama's best hope shows his lack of understanding on a matter of national consensus. No Iranian, even the so-called pro-western Rafsanjani, let alone Moussavi, wants to see a halt to the nuclear program. There is absolute agreement all across Iran on the nuclear issue. And mind that I don't have any reason to doubt that the program is anything but for peaceful use for energy need. Many in the USA is simply parroting the Israeli position to throttle the program. They are foolishly hoping that with Moussavi the program will be shut down.

Bottom line: After the fall of the Shah, the West has been on a collision course with Islam - especially on its desire to see that Muslims don't have a model to go after other than westernization to mend their houses, demolished in hundreds of years of colonization. This they tried through several means, from holding Iranian assets to imposing crippling economic and trade embargo, let alone imposing a very costly war on Iran for nearly ten years. With the global economic control the West and esp. the USA have, it was difficult for any regime to survive and make their citizens happy. I am sure if the West was not so much into punishing Iran for its experiment with hukumat-i Islamiyah, things would have been much better for the common people. [There was a time when CIA tried to topple any regime that was perceived unfriendly to the USA. The same experiment to topple Sk. Mujib's regime was unleashed in the early 1970s (not for stopping Islam though but for the mere fact that the new country had emerged without the blessing of the USA in the cold-era, and was therefore deemed non-kosher per Kissinger), which succeeded just within 4 years.]

The hard fact is multi-national groups and organizations, let alone their backers from D.C., London, Paris and Munich, are too powerful players to be ignored any more. They can break any country's back into submission these days unless the people are still resistant to that change espoused by the foreign masters. If Iran has survived for the last three decades it shows the strength of its character, something that Bangladeshis did not have to protect theirs from foreign meddling.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Netanyahu’s Doublespeak: Can He Be Restrained?

After President Obama’s seminal speech in Cairo it was all too natural that Israel’s Netanyahu, the master spinner, would try his utmost to deflect world opinion to portray himself as a man of peace. He has learned the art of doublespeak quite well from his predecessors – all serial killers from Ben-Gurion to Olmert. On June 14 he decided to deliver his own speech. If we were expecting a change of heart from this narcissistic individual whose extremist views and actions have not only killed many unarmed Palestinians but also led to the assassination of Rabin, we were mistaken. The speech was not meant for Palestinians but for the western audience, especially Obama, to deceive them. It was a deceitful speech, true to his nature!

While the civilized world has rightly recognized that the root of the conflict lies in uprooting of the Palestinian people from their ancestral homes and continuous refusal of the Zionist state to withdraw from the Occupied Territories allowing the Palestinian people to live as free citizens, Netanyahu said that “root of the conflict has been and remains - the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish People to its own state in its historical homeland.” What did you expect from this smooth-talking winker? Six years ago he said, “A Palestinian state – NO!” because “Yes to a Palestinian state means No to the Jewish state.”

In his speech, Netanyahu invoked the myth of historic rights by saying, “The connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel has lasted for more than 3500 years. Judea and Samaria, the places where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, David and Solomon, and Isaiah and Jeremiah lived, are not alien to us. This is the land of our forefathers.” He continues, “Eretz Israel is the birthplace of the Jewish People.” There is no denying that like the indigenous Palestinian people, the Hebrews – the Jewish people - once lived in Palestine. They were not the first settlers to the land though. Before the modern-day birth of Israel, in her 3500 year old history, Jews had even ruled the territory for approximately 400 years, while Muslims had ruled the territory for nearly 1200 years (638-1918 CE). More importantly, there was continuous presence of the Palestinian people for nearly five millennia, while Jews cannot claim such continuity. Not only were the Jews exiled and evicted from the territory in the Roman era (after the failed revolt of Bar Kokhba in 135 CE) before the conquest of the territory by Muslim Caliph Umar ibn Khattab (RA) in 638 CE, they suffered similar fate in the pre-Roman era in the hands of Assyrian and Babylonian rulers. If religion was to be used as a valid criterion for justifying real estate claim, Palestinian Muslims, who revere the same prophets – from Abraham to Jesus, have more rights to Palestine.

Netanyahu said, “In 1947 when the United Nations proposed the Partition Plan for a Jewish state and an Arab state, the entire Arab world rejected the proposal...” It is not difficult to understand why the Arab world rejected the UN proposal. What the UN did was not only illegal going against its own charter, but also criminal to the core. It gave 56% of the territory to the Jewish state when the Jews only possessed 6.5% of territory before the partition was declared. When the Balfour Declaration was made, promising a Jewish homeland, they possessed only 2.5% of the land. The Balfour Declaration in itself was another travesty when, as Arthur Koestler rightly concluded, “One nation solemnly promised to a second nation the country of a third nation.” And thanks to Zionist terrorists of Haganah, Irgun and Stern Gang, the territory originally allotted to the Zionists by the UN was enlarged to include four-fifths of Palestine.

Instead of land, if we are to look at population, in 1880 there were only 30,000 Jews in Palestine, scattered among 600,000 Muslims and Christian Arabs. By 1930 their numbers had grown to more than 150,000. When Britain conducted a census in Palestine in 1922, there were about 84,000 Jews and 670,000 Arabs, of whom 71,000 were Christians. By the time the area was partitioned by the UN, these numbers had grown to about 600,000 Jews and 1.3 million Arabs, 10 percent of whom were Christians. Thus, the Jews comprised less than a third of the entire population, and yet, they were allotted 56 percent of Palestine. Is it difficult to understand why Arabs did not welcome the partition plan, which was illegal and unfair?
Netanyahu said he was ready to conduct negotiations with the Palestinian community “without preconditions.” And then, he put several preconditions! Netanyahu said, “Palestinians must clearly and unambiguously recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. The second principle is: demilitarization. The territory under Palestinian control must be demilitarized with ironclad security provisions for Israel… And obviously, the Palestinians will not be able to forge military pacts.” This pre-condition is disingenuous given the fact that by his use of the phrases “nation-state” of the “Jewish people”, Netanyahu is proposing to de-legitimize and uproot some 1.5 million non-Jews (i.e., Palestinian Muslims and Christians -- the so-called Israeli Arabs) who live within the pre-1967 Israeli proper.
We should recall that in September 1993, Arafat sent a letter to the then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in which he stated unequivocally that the PLO recognized the right of Israel to exist in peace and security, accepted UN Resolutions 242 and 338, committed itself to a peaceful negotiated resolution of the conflict, renounced the use of terrorism and other acts of violence, affirmed that those articles of the PLO covenant that deny Israel’s right to exist were not longer valid. Even Hamas, the much maligned Palestinian organization in Netanyahu’s speech, is ready to accept the two-state solution with a Palestinian state living side by side Israel in the territories occupied in 1967. On June 16, 2009 Ismail Haniya, the leader of Hamas, made that announcement at a joint news conference in Gaza City with visiting former US president Jimmy Carter. Carter told reporters that solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict according to the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as the joint capital of the two states, was the best method of achieving a comprehensive and lasting peace.
Like all Zionists, obviously, Netanyahu is against sharing Jerusalem. His position on Jerusalem is unacceptable to all Muslims, and not just Palestinians.
Netanyahu’s call for demilitarization of the future state of Palestine is also criminal. If past and present records of war crimes are a sure way to decide who should be demilitarized, it is Israel that deserves demilitarization more than the Palestinian side to protect unarmed civilians. He wants to turn the proposed Palestinian state into another Gaza by having full control over air and sea. If Gaza is not enough of an eye-opener for all to see what such control will do to the new state, what will? He also talks about “defensible borders” which, as rightly noted by Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery, is a code-word for “no return to the pre-1967 borders”. This is an untenable position and violates several UN resolutions.
Netanyahu said, “The Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside Israel's borders. For it is clear that any demand for resettling Palestinian refugees within Israel undermines Israel's continued existence as the state of the Jewish people.” What he means is that he is against return of millions of Palestinian refugees. This is at odds with the U.N. Resolutions. One may recall during and after the 1948 war, about 420 Palestinian villages in the territory that became part of the State of Israel were destroyed and some 700,000 Palestinian residents were driven out. By 1964 when the PLO was formally organized, there were, according to the UN estimate, 1.3 million Palestinian refugees, with one-fourth in Jordan, about 150,000 each in Lebanon and Syria, and most of others in West Bank and Gaza refugee camps. Nor should we forget that when Israel launched pre-emptive strikes on June 5, 1967 and within six days occupied the Golan Heights, Gaza, the Sinai, Jerusalem, and the West Bank another 320,000 Arabs were forced to leave the additional areas in Syria, Egypt, Jordan, and Palestine that were occupied by Israel. A number of UN resolutions were adopted with U.S. support and Israeli approval, reemphasizing the inadmissibility of acquisition of land by force, calling for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories, and urging that the more needy and deserving refugees be repatriated to their former homes.

As to the settlements, Netanyahu said Israel has no intention of building new settlements. However, building construction inside the settlements will continue to “enable the residents to live normal lives.” It is obvious that like his predecessors, Netanyahu will continue to ignore pleas from the international community including those of President Obama in Cairo to halt settlement expansion. While Israeli settlements are illegal per international law, he said, “The settlers are neither the enemies of the people nor the enemies of peace. Rather, they are an integral part of our people, a principled, pioneering and Zionist public.” We should have known that the Zionist state was a colonial settler enterprise much like what South Africa once was before the apartheid wall fell!

The USA has a strong role in any peace effort involving the Middle East. Former President Carter has said in this book - Palestine Peace and Not Apartheid, “The U.S.’s constant policy had been predicated on a few key UN Security Council resolutions, notably 242 of 1967 and 338 of 1973. Approved unanimously and still applicable, their basic premise is that Israel’s acquisition of territory by force is illegal and Israel must withdraw from occupied territories. More specifically, U.S. policy was that Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza were “illegal and obstacles to peace.””

It is high time that the Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress take immediate steps to support the President's statement that "the United States does not recognize the legitimacy of further settlements" and support a solution to the conflict based on UN Security Council Resolution 242 and General Assembly Resolution 194, the foundation of the Arab Peace Initiative. Let not a sly voice coming out of Israel choke the euphoria generated in the civilized world with a prospect of a real peace in the Middle East.

References:
See Uri Avnery on explanation on this term “winking” in the Israeli context: http://usa.mediamonitors.net/content/view/full/63324
http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Speeches+by+Israeli+leaders/2009/Address_PM_Netanyahu_Bar-Ilan_University_14-Jun-2009.htm
See this author’s article – The Case of Jerusalem: The Holy City Between Zionist Claims and Justification of Apartheid, http://www.palestine-pmc.com/details.asp?cat=3&id=806.
Arthur Koestler, Promise and Fulfillment, London, 1949, p. 4.
Roger Garaudy, The Case of Israel, Shorouk International, London (1983), p. 51.
Jimmy Carter, Palestine Peace and not Apartheid, Simon & Schuster, New York (2006), p. 65.
Ibid., p. 58.
This view is also shared by Israeli scholar Uri Avnery: http://usa.mediamonitors.net/content/view/full/63565
http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/middleeast/news/article_1483936.php/Hamas_leader_says_ready_to_accept_state_on_1967_borders__Roundup__
Netanyahu said, “I told President Obama in Washington, if we get a guarantee of demilitarization, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, we are ready to agree to a real peace agreement, a demilitarized Palestinian state side by side with the Jewish state. Whenever we discuss a permanent arrangement, Israel needs defensible borders with Jerusalem remaining the united capital of Israel.”

http://usa.mediamonitors.net/content/view/full/63565
Carter, op. cit., p. 58.
Ibid., p. 59.
Op. cit., pp.38-39.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Comments with BDR corruption accusations

Ref: http://www.newsfrombangladesh.net/view.php?hidRecord=269578

Thanks to Major (Retd.) Zaman for going over the trouble in tabulating data on seized goods, including drugs, arms and ammos, by our BDR forces stationed around the border with India and Burma. Like most of our honest Army officers he is very concerned with any negative publicity or stereotype about our defense forces. One may recall that during the early hours of the BDR mutiny some rebel jawans read out a laundry list of their grievances against Army officers that were on deputation. This included charges of corruption, esp. against late Maj. Gen. Shaqil and his wife. In the absence of government probing to find the veracity of such accusations, we can only pray and hope that such accusations of corruptions are baseless and are not true.

As some of you may already know, as a certified six sigma master black belt, I get excited with numbers. The problem with these limited data, something that has also been acknowledged by Zaman, is that they do not help us one way or another to prove any claim, neither for nor against. If we were interested in proving that BDR has been doing a wonderful job in recent years, say, e.g., in the 2002-06 period, what we needed was the ratio of goods seized against total entering and exiting due to smuggling. But we don't have such figures, and what we have is just some raw numbers on what had been confiscated on our side. We have also only 5 data points (for all but value of seized goods), which is too little for any statistical inference.

Does higher number there mean, better or weaker performance by our BDR? We can't say without making some crude and irrational assumptions, which may be absolutely wrong. The yearly trends are not helpful here. There was a downward trend in value of goods seized since 2004 and falling to its lowest value in 2007 (after extrapolating the last data point on a yearly average). BTW: the bomb data had an outlier in 2006. What could explain such a big catch in that year in 2006, as against previous years? Was the BDR doing a lousy job before, and all on a sudden became extra alert that year? Or, that too much bombs entered/exited the country that year? Only the heroin had a somewhat upward trend overall. Does that mean, BDR was catching more as more heroin was coming in to meet greater addiction demand inside Bangladesh, or that they really were lucky with some big catches while the internal demand remained the same?

Nevertheless, I tried to find any correlation between the various variables. I failed to find any strong correlation between most of these factors. The only strong ones are: between phensidyl and wine, followed by heroin and ammo, followed by revolver and wine. So, here is a caveat for our wine drinkers: you are very prone to take phensidyl, and use revolver to settle your disputes; and the heroin users are more prone to collect ammo!

Comments on the so-called BDR interrogation audio tapes

From the interrogation of Jawans reported in the audiotape the only thing that one can accuse against some politicians was that they were contacted by the Jawans with their grievances against the Army officers. Even if we are to assume that the tape is authentic and the statements of the jawans are true, nowhere is there a claim that those politicians contacted had approved a blueprint for the killing of officers. I failed to hear such in the tape.

We are told that there was a long list of grievances including alleged corruption with the dal-bhat program and many other promotion related issues where the Jawans felt that they were not fairly treated by the officers. From the TV interviews of some retired officers it also came out quite clear that the use of 'tui' rather than 'tumi' was also the norm rather than exceptions against the jawans. I was told by some friends here just last weekend about corruption of late Maj. Gen. Shaqil, whose wife used to visit Houston, TX. So, there may be some truth to those allegations. And Allah knows best. But no matter how bad those charges were, there is absolutely no justification for killing anyone, not even Shaqil's wife. It is cold-blooded murder!

It is not difficult to understand that some BDR reps met and spoke with some politicians to air their grievances, who themselves might not have liked heavy-handed treatment of theirs following 1/11. The human nature is to interact with people who had their share of bad experience. I remember following Saqa's grab of my parental properties, how often some other victims of land-grab would write and call me to share their sad stories and how I could assist them.

Sympathy does not necessarily translate into condoning a crime. So, while the politicians were sympathetic to the Jawans on their grievances, they may not have known at all about the criminal intent of the few masterminds that had decided to kill officers if their issues were not solved before the Darbar Hall meeting on the fateful morning of 2/25. That is why they were well prepared with all their criminal plans.

Was there a foreign hand involved? From the reports submitted, we don't know at this time as much we don't know if the CIA was involved in the killing of Sk. Mujib. We also don't know if Gen. Zia himself was involved with Dalim-Rashid-Faruq-Huda gang, something that is accused of him by some historians. That is the unfortunate reality of our time with many such conspiracies, even with the 9/11! These are not too thorough. Before any investigation, within minutes the Bush Administration declared that OBL was behind, and all subsequent investigations appeared to establish that hypothesis. Ignored were all other theories of how the 9/11 episode was an inside job to justify neocons’ war against the Muslim world where the twin towers were brought down not as a result of planes hitting the buildings but because of a “planned implosion.” Do most Americans agree with the government version? How about the conspiracy theory? I am at least glad to see that official investigation reports on the BDR carnage did not establish views expressed by some government ministers who were too keen on establishing a connection with religious extremists. Similarly, we shall probably never know if India/Pakistan and/or Ershad were involved in the killing of Gen. Zia, and subsequently Manjur. I am told by a retd. Brigadier who was close to Manjur that the latter had nothing to do with the killing of Zia, and that the assassination was done by two hot-headed FF officers Moti and Mahbub, who did not like how Zia was allowing more and more control to the repatriated and Pakistan-minded officers and politicians. So instead of bringing Zia to the cantonment they simply killed him. Many people suffer from temporary insanity and do things that they later themselves cannot justify!

While many conspiracy theorists would like to discover conspiracy - local and/or foreign - with everything, proving such assertions are quite often very difficult. It is all that easy to finger point either India or Pakistan with the BDR massacre. But proving involvement is quite difficult without hard evidences - the smoking guns. Many big players also take a long term approach in matters of strategy realization thus making it difficult to establish a causal relationship. Hopefully one day, when the cloud is gone we shall be able to see the horizon better!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Does Race Have Anything To Do With IQ?

Remember the colonial days when vast territories of Asia, Africa and Latin America were under white men’s rule? The failure of the non-Whites to resist European colonization and plunder of their territories automatically relegated them to a lower human status. In the 19th century, thus, in addition to the rise of social Darwinism, anthropologists contributed to racism. The search for the “missing link” between apes and Homo sapiens became a passionate pastime among the anthropologists and social Darwinists. They studied aborigines to see if they would fill the gap. Since anthropologists were Europeans and white, their race was put at the apex of hierarchy and the blacks at the bottom. The fact that both black and white human beings shared some common features with apes did not matter; apparently their thick lips, origin in Africa and black color reinforced the stereotype of association between apes and black people. Conveniently ignored were other signs, e.g., the apes have thin lips (it is the jaw that protrudes for apes), straight hair and ash-white skin (once the black hair is removed) showing closer resemblance of apes to the white people.

Count Arthur de Gobineau (1816-82) was one such theorist who turned racism into a cultural and political issue, by saying that the deterioration of the modern age resulted from the mixing of superior and inferior races. He divided humanity into the black, yellow, and white races, and claimed that only the pure white, or Aryan, race was and could be truly noble. According to him, some societies remain in embryonic state, e.g., the pure blooded yellow and black races, which are unable to achieve the level of a civilized nation. He held to the belief that racial groups were physically, mentally and morally different and any attempt to civilize these embryonic groups would meet with failure.

In his chapter on “Characteristics of Human Races,” Gobineau provided the traits of the black and yellow races as follows. Black: “The animal character … is stamped on the negro from the birth… mental faculties are dull or even nonexistent… He kills willingly for the sake of killing…” Yellow: “little physically energy and inclined to apathy … desires are feeble, will-power obstinate… tends to mediocrity in everything… He is practical, in narrowest sense of the word… does not dream or theorize… invents little.” He described the white race as a superior type in beauty, intelligence and strength. Finally, he determined that all civilizations, e.g., Indian, Egyptian, Assyrian, Greek and Roman, were all created from one primary source – the white race.

Probably we should pardon Gobineau on the ground that like most Christians and Jews of his time, in his denunciation of the black people, he was motivated by inherent racism that he discovered within the Bible. In his book, Racial Myths, professor Juan Comas, says, “In the Old Testament we already find the belief that the physical and mental differences between individuals and groups alike are congenital, hereditary, and unchangeable. The Book of Genesis contains passages apparently assuming the inferiority of certain groups to others: “Cursed be Canaan; the servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren,” while some sort of superiority is implied … with Abraham and his seed.” Following such Biblical teachings, the Blacks were considered not to possess souls!

Following Gobineau’s theory, it was all too natural for Europeans to believe that they were on a God-given mission to civilize others. Much later, during Hitler era we would see the worst form of application of Gobineau’s theory in Nazism where only Germans were considered superior to all other races. Truly, Nazi ideology cannot be separated from racism. Through this ideology, Nazis were able to "justify" their horrible actions by making the Jews seem less human.

Racism went hand in hand with degradation of the “other” people who were perceived inferior to those practicing it. In the 1870s, the Chinese immigrants to the USA were perceived as being “inferior to any race God ever made” and as people without any “souls to save, and if they have, they are not worth saving.” The Japanese Americans did not fare any better in the early 20th century. A 1913 article in the Sacramento Bee captures the mood of the time, “The Jap will always be an undesirable. They are lower in the scale of civilization than the whites, and will never become our equals.”

In a recent article, “Rising Above I.Q.” (NY Time, June 7, 2009), Nicholas Kristof mentioned something that many of us knew for quite some time: there is no genetic or racial contribution to the black-white difference on I.Q. Drawing upon research findings from psychologist Professor Richard Nisbett’s book - “Intelligence and How to Get It”, he says that there also seems to be no genetic difference in intelligence between whites and Asians. It is education and the drive to succeed which are most important factors that translate into success. These findings must come as a shock to all those racists that believed too long in lies and myths spread by Gobineau and other Social Darwinists.

In his study on intelligence, Dr. Nisbett studied three groups of people in America – Jews, Chinese-Americans and West Indian (Caribbean) Blacks and found these groups to outperform others. For example, Jews have received about one-third of all Nobel Prizes in science received by Americans. One survey found that a quarter of Jewish adults in the United States have earned a graduate degree, compared with six percent of the population as a whole. Asian-Americans (especially the Chinese-Americans), in general, have earned better grades than other students (much in contrast to Gobineau’s characterization that yellow race tends to mediocrity). West Indian blacks with roots in the Caribbean are one-third more likely to graduate from college than African-Americans as a whole, and their median household income is almost one-third higher. Nisbett says that the evidence is overwhelming that what is distinctive about these three groups is not innate advantage but rather a tendency to get the most out of the firepower they have. A common thread among these three groups may be an emphasis on diligence or education, perhaps linked in part to an immigrant drive.

As we know quite well, a country that has allowed immigration has always prospered better than those countries that did not. American success story owes it to its immigrant community who had energized the country through their hard work and drive to succeed. Even if the first generation immigrants were not all highly educated, they made sure that their children studied hard and worked harder than others to succeed. Immigrants are also a small minority and as such their smallness in number in the society has put an extra burden to succeed in their adopted homes.

Jews always have been minorities in the countries they lived (outside the Zionist state). They have also known from their bitter experience that they could lose or be robbed of everything they possessed except their intellect, and as such, they have inculcated the importance of education within their own family. It is no-brainer that they are more educated and have been controlling top positions in both academic and corporate world.

When comparing the social status of most Black Americans with others, including those from the Caribbean islands, one usually forgets that most Black Americans come from broken families who don’t have father figures in their families; most children are raised by single mothers. Then for centuries they saw how they were discriminated and badly treated. None of these factors helped to encourage a young Afro-American to understand the wisdom behind education and hard work. If you factored in such information, it is not difficult to understand why they are behind West Indians whose success has been identified to be rooted in: the classic diligence and hard work associated with immigrants, and intact families. [Digression: In the article, I was somewhat intrigued to see General Colin Powell’s name mentioned as if his IQ had something to do with his success. He is from Caribbean parents who settled in the USA. However, he was a C-average undergraduate student in NY. The reason behind his success is hard work plus Republican leaning, a rarity amongst Blacks in America. Thus, the Republican governments, keen on getting support from the Blacks, who are traditionally Democrats, found a natural ally in Powell, who during Reagan and Bush Sr. Administrations was promoted to become a 4-star general, superseding many qualified White Americans. The rest is history.]

Unfortunately, what the Nisbett study does not say is that success, like failure, has ripple effects in the society it originates. Thus, one’s success story in the community can encourage others to follow his/her footsteps to better their lives. And as long as there is no discrimination, such successes can boost the morale of others to succeed. But when a person is denied success in spite of all the right characteristics, such can adversely demoralize others that are close to that person. And the sad fact of our life is discrimination happens too often. I know many such examples where persons with less education, less skill, less experience, and less qualification have been chosen over more talented, educated, qualified, better candidates. Jews in the pre-Hitler era in Germany have been accused of such discriminatory practices against Germans, monopolizing the entire system wherever they had been able to grab some important positions. They denied entry of Germans into many coveted positions.

Today, top positions in many important institutions, financial and otherwise, in the western world, esp. the USA, government/public and private sectors, are held by Jews. Such role models of success can have a tremendous positive impact to boost the latter generation of Jewish people to succeed. Thus, as a race, they are more prone to succeed, something that others can’t claim as much. Based on years of analysis, some analysts have even accused that once the Jewish people had held those top level positions, they ensured that the next in line would also come from their group (e.g., by forcing early retirement or firing of a talented non-Jewish aspirant for the position). If such accusations are true, one can only ponder as to how long can such discriminatory practices be sustained! Have not these guys learned anything from their German experience?

Success can also have a caustic effect. Success of a community can translate into a belief that it is more deserving of those high positions than someone coming from outside its racial, ethnic group. It can instill a racist mentality. Thus, discrimination of others becomes part of success story of a particular group. I remember while working as a Director of a multi-billion dollar global company how often I was tutored by my boss and peers about the importance of perception in the business world, and how I should do succession planning in leadership so that someone perceived better suited for a job was preferred over a more qualified and talented person. I was literally told that so and so did not really fit the position compared to someone else who appeared more like them. Interestingly, my experience was at odds with their perceptions.

In spite of the reality that prejudice and discrimination are quite common in our world, and that education and hard work may not always translate into success, there is no denying that Professor Nisbett is right in that “Intelligence and academic achievement are very much under people’s control.” Let’s motivate our children and loved ones to excel in these two sectors without worrying too much about the outcome – the material success. Let future take its own course while we take control of the present. That would hopefully be the beginning of our drive to regain our lost heritage. That will be enough for now.

References:
Milton Kleg, Hate, prejudice and racism. State University of New York Press, pp. 95-6.
Ibid., p. 98.
As to Islam, Professor Comas says, “Mohammedans have never displayed racial intransigence or intolerance to other peoples so long as those peoples adopted the faith.”
Nor should we be oblivious of the fact that Nazis were greatly influenced by Protestant leader Martin Luther’s writings against the Jews. He described the Jews as seeds of the devil.
This statement was made by Frank M. Pixley, representing the city government in San Francisco, in his 1876 testimony before the Congressional Joint Special Committee on the question of Chinese immigration. As quoted in Kleg, op. cit., p. 108.
Kleg, op. cit., p. 109.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/07/opinion/07kristof.html

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Obama’s Speech Tries to Close the Gap with the World of Islam

President Barack Obama was in Egypt on Thursday, June 4, delivering a seminal speech on improving relationship between the world of Islam and the USA. From the troubling relationship, it is difficult to believe today that it was the Muslim kingdom - al-Mamlaka al-MaÄ¡ribiyya - more commonly known to the outside world by its Latinized name - Morocco that was the first country to recognize the new state – the USA when others had taken on a wait-and-see approach. In his speech, as much as Obama wanted to reassure his 1.6 billion intended audience about the dawning of a new era, he also had to remind his own constituencies back in the USA about facts that they have forgotten.
A vast majority of the Africans brought to the new country to work in its fields as slaves were Muslims who had lost their God-given human rights in the hands of White slave masters. They were responsible for laying the foundation for the new civilization that was to become the envy of our time being the most powerful nation on earth. Many of the children of those former slaves have gone back to their roots to reclaim the faith of their forefathers before they were brought in chains to this country, while others have chosen to at least name their own children with Muslim names. Some of these Afro-American Muslims have excelled as great poets, writers, singers, musicians, actors, athletes, sportsmen and business entrepreneurs.
America today has over seven million Muslims, mostly from immigrant background. Through their vibrant culture, integrity and work ethics, they have enriched their adopted home. They have excelled in every field from literature and arts to science and technology. Their talented engineers and architects have built and designed some of the tallest buildings in the USA. Their gifted doctors and researchers have developed life-saving drugs. Their brilliant minds have won Nobel Prizes. There is hardly a university today in the USA where no single American Muslim is teaching. Similarly, there are very few hospitals without a Muslim physician. Not surprisingly, their income and education are higher than average Americans. They have remained part of mainstream America and for the first time have been able to send a Muslim to the Congress who took the oath of office as a Congressman at the Capitol Hill by placing his hand on the Qur’an.
Yet, American relationship with the Muslim world has been a thorny one since 9/11, which saw some 3000 people die on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. With a Christian fundamentalist occupying the White House, war was declared first against Afghanistan and then Iraq that saw the arrogance of Pharaohnic power killing hundreds of thousands of Muslims and maiming millions. The world has never seen before so much violence committed by the powerful against the powerless, unarmed civilians. The world has never witnessed so much bombing and so much destruction of towns and cities. It was a genocidal campaign that discriminated none. Nothing within Iraq, the cradle of civilization, was spared from such vindictive savagery. She saw her museums looted, treasury robbed, libraries gutted, historical sites ruined, religious shrines and ancient mosques desecrated and demolished. The invaders forgot that what Rome and Greece are to western civilization, Baghdad is to Islamic civilization.
Bush’s global war on terror saw American government violating established international laws on treatment of prisoners and detainees, committing the worst kind of war crimes the world has ever seen. Through her beastly acts in places like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, America gave new meanings to words like sadism and torture. Overall, the war brought out the worst in America sowing seeds of deep anger and hatred throughout the Muslim world that produced the likes of Zarqawi who would tarnish the image of Islam with their insane criminal activities.
And worse yet, Iraq did not pre-empt any activity to qualify her for attack from the USA. There was no WMD. It had no link with al-Qaeda. The Bush-Cheney Administration lied to its own people, the UN, the EU and rest of the world and provided false information to justify its war against Iraq. The world saw how an international body like the UN would be exploited and later sidelined by the most powerful nation on earth. It seemed UN’s very existence depended on sanctifying America’s whims and unilateral moves.
The war saw the worst form of yellow journalism justifying America’s illegal hostilities and discovered new terminologies like “embedded journalism” and “extraordinary rendition”. The war also witnessed how independent journalists questioning America’s deception and war tactics would be shot at point blank.
In this culture of war on terror, America soon forgot that those who attacked America on September 11, 2001 were once trained by her own CIA and that the Talibans that sheltered the al-Qaeda’s leader were also once financed by the USA to fight America’s proxy war against the Soviets. By some accounts, 9/11 was a blowback phenomenon. The Mossad, the Israeli spy agent, had known all about its preparation and yet deliberately failed to inform her counterpart agency in the USA of the impending attack so that the American government might be pulled on its side to do Israel’s dirty war in the Middle East and Palestinian rights totally ignored. 9/11 also allowed Israel to unleash her worst form of savagery upon the Palestinian people. Every day within the occupied territories felt like a Nakba – the day of catastrophe - for the Palestinian victims.
Too many things were wrong in the Muslim-American relationship during Bush’s era. Something had to be done soon to mend the relationship. America had lost too much in her war efforts in the Muslim world – more than 4500 soldiers, and hundreds of billions of dollars. But more importantly, American victory in the battlefield seemed unsustainable and was feeling like Pyrrhic victory. The American economy is in shambles. If the war were to continue indefinitely, as was desired by the military industrial complex, signs were all clear to predict America’s premature death as the global mega-power.
So when Obama chose to speak on June 4, his was to call a truce with the world of Islam. He could not afford a Pyrrhic victory for America. He needed Muslims to rescue America from the curse of war brought about by his dim-witted predecessor. He did not come to lecture but to open a dialogue. And he could not have found a better place than Cairo to deliver his message. Cairo is undoubtedly the heart of the Arab world and the largest metropolis in the Middle East. Obama’s hosts included Al-Azhar and the Cairo University. Al-Azhar remains the oldest surviving university in our world. It has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning for more than a millennium. And for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt's advancement. Together, these two institutions of higher learning represented the harmony between tradition and progress. And who can deny the importance of finding that harmony, something that has sadly been missing from much of the Muslim world?
Obama sounded sincere and not arrogant – the latter trait becoming the trademark of America’s presidents since the days of Reagan, and more visibly with the Bush Jr. presidency. In spite of Obama’s assurance to the Israelis, the enemies of peace will paint him negatively for deviating from the war-mongering days of Bush. His speech will not be welcomed by the Zionist extremists who have hijacked Judaism and have gotten used to taking a free ride on the back of the USA, pushing the country to fight their proxy war in the Middle East. With the kind of blind, robotic support they enjoy amongst the “Amen Corner” within the Capitol Hill, they will not relent from their evil ways to push Obama into fighting yet another war – this time against Iran. Obama will also have his ears full from the extremist, pro-war forces and groups within America that are closely linked with the military industrial complex. They are against change and want the USA to pursue the old, failed hegemonic ways, which during the Bush-era had not only antagonized the vast majority of Muslims and other peace-loving citizens around the globe but also isolated the USA from the European friendly states that got tired of America’s bullying.
As Obama has rightly acknowledged no single speech of his could eradicate years of mistrust between the world of Islam and the USA, esp. in the aftermath of 9/11 and America’s wars in the Muslim world – now ravaging from Pakistan to Somalia. But it is important that the healing process starts. With that speech in Cairo, Obama has taken that first baby step towards translating mistrust into trust and giving hope where there was none before.
Barack Obama’s most important viewers were the Muslims from Indonesia to Senegal. If the election result in Lebanon is one way to measure the impact of his message, there is no denying that he has immensely succeeded in relaying his message. There, just days before Obama’s speech, no one had predicted defeat of Hizbullah-led coalition to a pro-Western coalition in legislative elections.
It seems that Muslims are ready to trust Obama and give him the opportunity to mend fences with the world of Islam. The trillion dollar question is: will the war-party allow him to continue on this fence-mending task?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Is IQ related to Race?

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/07/opinion/07kristof.html

In a recent article, Rising Above I.Q. (NYT, June 7, 2009), NICHOLAS KRISTOF mentioned something that many of us knew for quite some time: there is no genetic contribution to the black-white difference on I.Q. Drawing upon research findings from psychologist Prof. Richard Nisbett’s book - “Intelligence and How to Get It”, he says that there also seems to be no genetic difference in intelligence between whites and Asians. It is education and the drive to succeed which are most important factors that translate into success. This finding may come as a surprise to those who had believed otherwise. One may recall that following Gobineau’s theory of racial superiority of Whites, it was all too natural for Europeans to believe that they were superior human beings with God-given mission to civilize others. Much later, during Hitler era, we would see the worst form of application of that theory in Nazism where only Germans were considered superior to all other races.

In this study, Dr. Nisbett studied three groups of people – Jews, Chinese-Americans and West Indian Blacks and found these groups to outperform others. For example, Jews have received about one-third of all Nobel Prizes in science received by Americans. One survey found that a quarter of Jewish adults in the United States have earned a graduate degree, compared with 6 percent of the population as a whole. Asian-Americans, esp. the Chinese-Americans have earned better grades than other students. West Indian bl acks with roots are in the Caribbean are one-third more likely to graduate from college than African-Americans as a whole, and their median household income is almost one-third higher. Nisbett says that the evidence is overwhelming that what is distinctive about these three groups is not innate advantage but rather a tendency to get the most out of the firepower they have. Well, I have slight disagreement here, since Jews do have some innate advantage over others. A common thread among these three groups may be an emphasis on diligence or education, perhaps linked in part to an immigrant drive.

As we know quite well, a country that has allowed immigration has always prospered better than those countries that did not. American success story owes it to its immigrant community who had energized the country through their hard work, and drive to succeed. Even if they were not all highly educated, they made sure that their children studied hard and worked harder than others to succeed. Immigrants are also a small minority and as such their smallness in number in the society has put an extra burden to succeed in their adopted homes.

Jews always have been minorities in the countries they lived (outside the Zionist state). They have also known from their bitter experience that they could lose everything they possessed except their intellect, and as such, they have inculcated the importance of education within their own family. No wonder that they are more educated and have been controlling top positions in both academic and corporate world.

Unfortunately, what the study does not say is that success, like failure, has ripple effects in the society it originates. Thus, one’s success story in the community can encourage others to follow his/her footsteps to better their lives. And as long as there is no discrimination, such successes can boost the morale of others to succeed. But when a person is denied success in spite of all the right characteristics, such can adversely demoralize others that are close to that person. And the sad fact of our life is discrimination happens too often. I know many such examples where persons with less education, less skill, less experience, and less qualification have been chosen over more talented, educated, qualified, better candidate. Jews in pre-Hitler era in Germany have been a ccused of such discriminatory practices. They started monopolizing the entire system wherever they had been able to grab some important positions. They denied entry of Germans into many coveted positions. Today, most of the top positions in many important institutions in the western world, esp. the USA, government /public and private, are held by Jews. Jews succeed because they have many success stories that they can still relate to, something that others can’t claim as much. Rumors are ripe that once they had held those positions, they ensured that the next in line would also come from their group. How long can they sustain such a process is questionable!

Success of a community thus can translate into a belief that it is more deserving of those high positions than someone coming from outside its racial, ethnic group. Thus, discrimination of others becomes part of success story of a particular group.

It is undeniable that most Black Americans come from broken families, they don’t have father figures in their families; most children are raised by single mothers. Then for centuries they saw how they were discriminated and badly treated. None of these factors hel ped to encourage a young Afro-American to understand the wisdom behind education and hard work. That is it is not difficult to understand why they are behind West Indians whose success have been identified to be: the classic diligence and hard work associated with immigrants, and intact families. [Digression: I am somewhat intrigued to see General Colin Powell’s name. Yes, he is from Caribbean parents who settled in the USA. However, he was a C-average undergraduate student in Geology at City College of New York. The reason behind his success is hard work plus Republican leaning, a rarity amongst Blacks in America. Thus, the Republican governments, keen on getting support from the Blacks, who are traditionally Democrats, found a natural ally in Powell, who during Reagan and Bush Sr. Administrations was promoted to become a 4-star general, superseding many qualified White Americans. The rest is history.]

In spite of the reality that discrimination is quite common in our world, and that education and hard work may not always translate into success, there is no denying that Professor Nisbett is right in that “Intelligence and academic achievement are very much under people’s control.” Let’s motivate our children to excel in these two sectors without worrying too much about material success. That would hopefully be the beginning of our drive to regain our lost heritage. That will be enough for now.

Endnote: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colin_Powell

Monday, June 8, 2009

More comments on NFB postings on the Tipaimukh Dam

Ref: http://newsfrombangladesh.net/view.php?hidRecord=267804
and http://www.newsfrombangladesh.net/view.php?hidRecord=267803


It is good to see Mr. Meer Husain's informed views on great dangers posed by the dams. As a concerned expatriate and environmental geologist he has been at the forefront of making a scientific case that relates arsenic poisoning found in groundwater of Bangladesh and the West Bengal with the dams like the Farakka. In this write-up he has put up a couple of rhetorical questions and offered valid suggestions, which I am afraid, Govt. of India will ignore, as it has done in the past a number of times. A visit to the Teesta and Padma rivers during the dry seasons is good enough to see the devastating effect of Indian dams on Bangladesh. A friend of mine who recently had taken a boat ride on the Teesta wrote to me, "We had to physically push the boat like you push a bullock cart." That says a lot about what these Indian dams are doing to Bangladesh!

On the Indian side of the proposed Tipaimukh Dam, thousands of Manipuri Indians will be displaced from their villages, and most of the once-beautiful place will be submerged under water for most of the year. The decision to build hydro-electric dams to alleviate hunger and poverty has never worked; more people have become poor than rich. And yet, India, with the highest number of dams in the world, is determined to add not only this one, but few hundred ones over the next decades, which will inevitably bring in untold misery to the people on all sides. Arundhati Roy had her losing battles with the Indian Government trying to stop the Narmada Dam projects.

In his recent write-up Barrister Munshi has mentioned about a litigation filed at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh to challenge the 1996 Treaty on Farakka. I am not convinced of any good outcome from such a litigation either. As I know during the signing of the 1996 Treaty, the 1997 UN Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses and the 2004 Berlin Rules on Water Resources simply did not exist. It is not difficult to understand why the 1996 Treaty had failed to omit internationally accepted safeguards and guarantees that those latter conventions contained.

As we all know having a treaty between dissenting parties is usually better than not having one since the absence of it, as the JRC findings on share of water on the Ganges have repeatedly demonstrated, gives the stronger party the bullying right to unilaterally withdraw as much as it wants without any restriction. However, we have also found out through our bitter experience that India has never kept her side of the treaty obligations on ensuring Bangladesh's share of water (that were agreed between the two parties). She has violated many clauses of the 1996 Treaty. If she had honored her side of the treaty clauses, the situation on Bangladesh side would not be this bad today. This comment of mine should not in anyway be interpreted as my endorsement of hydroelectric dams or the ensuing treaties to safeguard the weaker party. Much like Arundhati Roy, I am totally opposed to such dams and prefer alternative eco-friendly means to cater to energy needs of our people. To confine our choices on technology to those envisioned and formulated in the 1920s and 1930s, is simply stupid.

As I have mentioned in my writings, sadly, self-interest rules our world in which the powerless has hardly anything to demand or bargain for a fair share. Bangladesh is a smaller and weaker nation compared to its giant neighbor. International agencies like the WB, IMF and ADB are all too eager to finance dam projects of this kind.

My more important question has been: what options are left for Bangladesh to make her case to stop construction of such killing dams when hard facts on the ground, protests and complaints have failed to produce desired results with an arrogant and short-sighted neighbor like India? Can our intellectual community invest its valuable time, away from political bickering and blame-game, into suggesting options that are meaningful? Issues like Tipaimukh and Farakka Dam are too important for every concerned citizen to find these confined to narrow partisanship that plagues Bangladesh politics. We cannot afford another self-destructive and suicidal choice with the Tipaimukh. The sooner the better.

Suggestions for a productive dialogue on a national issue

Comments on M. T. Hussain's "India’s Farakka Barrage to Tipaimukh: Bangladesh’s Options"

One would like to believe that as an elderly writer Dr. M.T. Hussain, who claims to have had a very close rapport with (late) Mr. B.M. Abbas, is better positioned to guide our younger generation on a complicated issue like India’s construction of a hydroelectric dam at Tipaimukh. In the past, his articles have shown a penchant for demeaning everything Awami League (AL) – more like opposition for the sake of opposition, something that he may have learned quite well from his iconic leader – Mowlana Bhashani[1] who was termed the “prophet of violence” by the Time magazine in 1969.

If we were expecting something constructive this time, Dr. Hussain has disappointed us again. Like most of his articles, this one, too, is rich with rhetoric that outruns facts. It is loaded with accusations, mostly unfounded as I have shown elsewhere [2], against the AL leadership for the problem with the Farakka Barrage but short on substance offering meaningful solutions that we could have taken in the past and what our generation could do today with the latest threat of the proposed Tipaimukh Dam. He ought to know that his deplorable partisanship is counterproductive, let alone being silly, for a healthy and objective dialogue that we need today on a plethora of issues that matter to Bangladesh. As the recent election in Bangladesh has adequately demonstrated, the new generation that is born after 1975 is not as narrow-minded, dwelling upon the old past but is more concerned about things that affect them presently. As much as the days of political idolatry are absurd these days, politics for the sake of politics is equally insane!

Instead of wasting time of his readers reading silly accusations that belie facts, let him invest his valuable time to offering suggestions that are meaningful to our generation so that we can defeat hegemonic powers like India on issues that affect our people. Can he do that?

Endnotes:
[1] http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,844753,00.html
[2] http://www.newsfrombangladesh.net/view.php?hidRecord&7807

Russo on 9/11 - His conversation with Nicholas Rockefeller

Ref: http://www.mathaba.net/0_mail. shtml?x=620518

I was not aware of this video but am not too surprised with the content. Like many Libertarians Russo suspected conspiracy - pointing out serious flaws with the 9/11-industry of lies and deceptions, as he and others have put it. In this video however he was able to name Nicholas Rockefeller of the Rockefeller dynasty. Nick is a very powerful man who works behind the scene and is in advisory board of many think tanks like the CFR.

Here are some info about Russo from the internet:
Russo was born in Brooklyn in 1943 and raised in Long Island . He began promoting rock and roll shows at a local theater while still in high school and boosted the careers of some of the most successful rock acts of the 1960s, including Janis Joplin and The Grateful Dead. He was also manager of fusion band The Manhattan Transfer. Longtime movie producer and 2004 Libertarian presidential candidate Aaron Russo died at age 64, having succumbed to cancer in August of 2007.

The Hollywood veteran made his name with popular films such as "Trading Places," starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd, and Bette Midler's "The Rose." In later years, his interests and energies=2 0turned to political activism.

Russo joined the Libertarian Party after losing the Nevada GOP gubernatorial primary to Kenny Guinn in 1998. Russo picked up 26 percent of the vote in a four-way race and planned to run an independent campaign in 2002, but was forced to pull out to concentrate on overcoming bladder cancer, which, in 2003, he said he had done.

Russo came back in 2003, launching a bid for the presidency, first as an independent and later as a Libertarian. "I want to do what Ross Perot did, what Jesse Ventura did, and I want to come out and speak the truth – be plain-spoken, tell it like it is, and bring America back to its Constitution and Bill of Rights," Russo said in 2003.

Russo will be best remembered for “ America : Freedom to Fascism..” It is one dynamite documentary, in which Russo embarks on a “Roger & Me” search for the law – any law – that legitimatizes the U.S. government's ability to tax a working-man's wages. Haunting the halls of Congress, the Department of the Treasury, and the Federal Reserve, Aaron Russo found any legitimate requirement for Americans to pay tax on their wages as elusive as Michael Moore found former General Motors chairman Roger Smith to be. It was “somewhere,” but nobody could say where.

In the process he met any number of characters, from tax protesters to Libertarians (presidential candidate and Texas congressman Ron Paul, and Idaho's own Rep. Phil Hart are interviewed) to some gutsy former IRS agents proclaiming the whole U.S. income tax scheme a sham, a fraud. But nowhere, nowhere, could anybody cite an actual law that gave the United States government any claim on income from wages.

From Farakka to Tipaimukh – the Dams that Kill

In recent days, Bangladesh seems to have woken up to the danger posed by construction of the Tipaimukh Dam in the neighboring Manipur state of India. There are some in Bangladesh who have a habit of translating national issues of this kind into deplorable partisanship thereby fostering disunity when national unity is needed. In so doing they commit acts of treason.
In what follows before delving into the Tipaimukh project I would like to share some facts surrounding the Farakka Barrage. Although the construction of the Farakka Barrage was completed during the Mujib rule in 1974-5, the decision to build this dam can be traced back to 1951. In those days, hydroelectric dams were popular methods to generating electric power. India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan planned on building hundreds of hydropower dams from rivers that flowed down from the Himalayas. The Farakka dam was built to divert water from the Ganges River into the Hooghly River during the dry season (January to June), in order to flush out the accumulating silt which in the 1950s and 1960s was a problem at the major port of Kolkata on the Hooghly River. A series of negotiations between the Pakistani and Indian governments failed to persuade India into abandoning the Farakka project. The World Bank, the I.M.F and other international financial institutions financed the project. So, one wonders how could Sk. Mujib be blamed for the Farakka Barrage!
After Bangladesh’s independence the Indo-Bangladesh Joint Rivers Commission met over 90 times to discuss the Farakka Barrage issue, but without any results. The Bangladesh team was headed by Mr. B. M. Abbas. In April 1975, Bangladesh agreed to a trial operation of the Farakka Barrage for a period of 41 days from April 21 to May 31, 1975 to divert 11,000-16,000 cfs (cusecs) with the understanding that India will not operate feeder canal until a final agreement was reached between India and Bangladesh on the sharing of Ganges water. Bangladesh was assured of getting 40,000 cusecs during the dry season.
Unfortunately, soon after Sk. Mujib’s assassination in August 15, 1975, taking advantage of the political change in Bangladesh, India violated the agreement (MOU) by cheating and diverting the full capacity of 40,000 cusecs unilaterally. The matter was brought to the attention of U.N. General Assembly, which on November 26, 1976 adopted a consensus statement directing the parties to arrive at a fair and expeditious settlement. On November 5, 1977 the Ganges Waters Agreement was signed, assuring 34,500 cusecs for Bangladesh. The five-year treaty expired in 1982 and after several shorter extensions lapsed entirely in 1989. The JRC statistics shows very clearly that Bangladesh did not get her due share during all those years (1977-91). There was no improvement of the situation during the first Khaleda Zia Administration (1991-96) with average water share reduced to 10,000 to 12,000 cusecs, with one extreme event of only 9,000 cusecs, during the dry season.
After Sk. Hasina was elected Prime Minister, she visited India and signed a treaty with her counterpart Deve Gowda on Dec. 12, 1996. The Treaty addressed the heart of the conflict: water allocation (35,000 cusecs) during the five months of the dry season (January-May – see the Table below). During the rest of the year, there is sufficient water that India can operate the Farakka diversion without creating problems for Bangladesh. The treaty stipulated that below a certain flow rate, India and Bangladesh will each share half of the water. Above a certain limit, Bangladesh will be guaranteed a certain minimum level, and if the water flow exceeds a given limit, India will withdraw a given amount, and the balance will be received by Bangladesh (which will be more than 50%).

Period Average India's Share BD's Share

flow (cusecs) (cusecs)

1949-1988

(cusecs)

Jan

1-10 107,516 40,000 67,516

11-20 97,673 40,000 57,673

21-31 90,154 40,000 50,154



Feb

1-10 86,323 40,000 46,323

11-20 82,839 40,000 42,839

21-30 79,106 40,000 39,106



March

1-10 74,419 39,419 35,000

11-20 68,931 33,931 35,000

21-31 64,688 35,000 29,688



April

1-10 63,180 28,180 35,000

11-20 62,633 35,000 27,633

21-30 60,992 25,992 35,000



May

1-10 67,251 35,000 32,351

11-20 73,590 38,590 35,000

21-31 81,834 40,000 41,854


The statement of Mr. I.K. Gujral, External Affairs Minister in the Rajya Sabha on December 12, 1996 on the visit of Prime Minister of the People's Republic of Bangladesh to India and the signing of the treaty on the sharing of Ganges water at Farakka reads: “[D]uring the critical period within the lean season, i.e. from March 1 to May 10, India and Bangladesh each shall receive a guaranteed flow of 35,000 cusecs of water in an alternating sequence of three 10-day periods each. This is aimed at meeting the fundamental requirements of both our countries through a just and reasonable sharing of the burden of shortage. The Treaty also has the merit of being a long-term arrangement combined with scope for reviews at shorter intervals to study the impact of the sharing formula and to make needed adjustments. While the Treaty will be for 30 years and renewable on mutual consent, there is a provision of mandatory reviews at the end of 5 years and even earlier after 2 years with provisions for adjustments as required. Pending a fresh understanding after the review stage, Bangladesh would continue to receive 90% of its share in accordance with the new formula. We would thus avoid a situation where there is no agreement on the sharing of the Ganga waters between India and Bangladesh… As the House would recall, we have already taken initiatives in the commercial sphere by extending tariff concessions to Bangladesh on a range of products of export interest to them. We propose to extend commercial credits of Rs. 1 billion to enhance trade relations further.”

In the light of the above facts, it is difficult to sustain accusations that the 1996 Treaty went against the interest of Bangladesh, becoming a fait accompli. I have never heard an intelligent person say that a treaty signed with the aim of getting fair and equitable share is worse than not having one. Was the 1977-treaty silly, too? More outrageous is the implied assertion by some that the AL government that had ruled only five years in the post-Mujib era of 34 years is solely to be blamed for all the maladies facing Bangladesh today, including the Tipaimukh Dam, soon to be constructed by India.
It is true though that India had not kept her side of the bargain since signing of the treaty. The Joint River Commission (JRC) statistics, as quoted by Syful Islam in the New Nation, March 9, 2009, shows that in 1999 Bangladesh got 1,033 cusecs of water at Teesta barrage point against its normal requirements of 10,000 cusecs of water. After JRC meeting in 2000 the water flow rose to 4,530 cusecs, in January 2001 it reduced to 1406 cusecs, in January 2002 to 1,000 cusecs, in January 2003 to 1,100 cusecs, in November 2006 to 950 cusecs, in January 2007 to 525 cusecs and in January 2008 to 1,500 cusecs.
India’s behavior mimics those of Israel in dishonoring every treaty that the rogue state had signed with the Palestinian Authority. Should not she be ashamed of her iniquity?
Let’s now look at the disastrous effect of the Farakka Barrage on Bangladesh. The immediate effects have been (1) reduction in agricultural products due to insufficient water for irrigation; (2) reduction in aquatic population; (3) river transportation problems during dry season; (4) increased salinity threatening crops, animal life drinking water, and industrial activities in southwest Bangladesh. The long term effects, which are already being felt, include: (a) one fourth of the fertile agricultural land will become wasteland due to a shortage of water; (b) thirty million lives are affected through environmental and economical ruin; (c) an estimated annual economic loss of over half a billion dollars in agricultural, fisheries, navigation and industries; (d) frequent flooding due to environmental imbalance and changes in the natural flow of the Ganges. A BSS report of 2004 stated that over 80 rivers of the country dried up during last three decades due to the construction of the Farakka barrage on the Indian side of the river Ganges.
Bridge and Husain, researchers in Kansas, USA, have identified Farakka as the root cause behind arsenic poisoning with groundwater in Bangladesh and West Bengal State of India.
As to its impact in India, the South Asian Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), report (Nov. 1999) to the World Commission on Dams is quite revealing. It says, “Farakka Barrage Project taken up for the resuscitation of the navigational status of the Port of Calcutta has resulted in massive devastation in Malda on its upstream and Murshidabad on its downstream in West Bengal. Huge sedimentation, increasing flood intensity and increasing tendency of bank failure are some of its impacts. Erosion has swept away large areas of these two districts causing large scale population displacement, border disputes with Bihar and Bangladesh, pauperization and marginalisation of the rural communities living by the river and creation of neo-refugees on the chars.”
So, it is clear that even the supposed beneficiary - the state of West Bengal - did not benefit from the project. Farakka Barrage has rightly been termed by some environmentalists as the greatest man-made eco-disaster of our time. If we had imagined Farakka was the last of such criminal calamities imposed on Bangladesh, we are wrong.
Syful Islam mentions about a study conducted by the “International Rivers”, a U.S.-based NGO that protects rivers and defends the rights of communities, which revealed that India had already built 74 dams, Nepal 15, Pakistan 6 and Bhutan 5 in the Himalayan region in the recent years. It also found that 37 Indian, 7 Pakistani and 2 Nepalese dams were under construction in that area. The study also identified that India had planned to build 318 dams, Nepal 37, Pakistan 35 and Bhutan 16 to add over 1,50,000 MW of additional electricity capacity in the next 20 years. With 4,300 large dams already constructed and many more in the pipeline, India is one of the world's most prolific dam-builders. India is committed to building more than 100 dams in eight states of the north-east corner alone.
If these numbers are true, it is important that the current government issues a white paper disclosing actions taken, if any, by past and present governments to stop India from such projects that are going to be built on international rivers harming Bangladesh.
Let’s now look at Tipaimukh. Manipur needs about 140 MW of power to fulfill the unrestricted demand at the peak hours (1700 hrs to 2200 hrs). The total availability of power from all the Central Sector plants located in Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura comes to around 105 MW. The Tipaimukh Dam plan, built on the river Barak, which bifurcates into two streams as it enters Bangladesh as the rivers Surma and Kushiara, has been on the drawing board for nearly 40 years. According to the implementing agency, North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO), this 390-meter-long, 163-meterhigh dam would have an installed capacity of 1,500 MW. As a multipurpose project, the dam also aims at flood moderation, improving navigation, irrigation and aquaculture in the region. Efforts were made in the past to get the World Bank or JBIC (a Japanese development bank) to back the project, but their involvement is still elusive. It is costing India Rs. 6,800 crore — an escalation from the earlier estimated expenditure of Rs 5,163 crore. The foundation stone of the Tipaimukh project was laid by India’s Union minister for industries and Cachar’s representative in the Lok Sabha, Sontosh Mohan Dev, along with other central ministers, on December 16, 2006. According to a NEEPCO source there, the work in January of 2007 mainly dealt with underground drilling at the reservoir site of the project. The Brahmaputra Board, a wing of the Union water resources ministry, drilled those sites in 1997.
The proposed dam is unpopular in the Manipur State where it is being constructed. Experts there have rightly termed it a geo-tectonic blunder of international dimensions. The Indian government's decision to construct the Tipaimukh Dam in the North-east India is not only arrogant it is criminal to the core. It will have lasting devastating impact in the entire region. It will adversely affect millions of Bangladeshis living down south in the north-east corner of the country, weakening their means of livelihood, forcing them to become internally displaced people, and thereby worsening Bangladesh's overall economy. It will harm bilateral relationship between the two neighboring countries. Bangladeshi people have already suffered miserably from the Farakka Barrage and cannot afford to see another one built to threaten them.
Our experience in the past fifty years has also taught us that humanity has brought more harm than good by challenging the natural course of rivers. Man-made systems like hydroelectric dams have failed to wipe out famine and hunger. More people have become poor than rich, which often time is concentrated amongst the very few that are involved with construction project. As Arundhati Roy has once said about dams, “They're a guaranteed way of taking a farmer's wisdom away from him. They're a brazen means of taking water, land and irrigation away from the poor and gifting it to the rich. Their reservoirs displace huge populations of people, leaving them homeless and destitute. Ecologically, they're in the doghouse. They lay the earth to waste. They cause floods, water-logging, salinity, they spread disease. There is mounting evidence that links Big Dams to earthquakes.”
What really concerned me most is the stupidity of the Indian government decision to go ahead with hydroelectric dams to meet her electric demand. This decision seems too short-sighted, too irresponsible, and can only antagonize people on either sides of the border. If India cares about meeting energy needs in the north-eastern corner she would better serve the interest of her people by choosing the nuclear alternative. India has several nuclear power plants that are operating in various parts of India. It is inconceivable that she cannot afford to build one extra plant in the north-east corner of the country to meet her energy demand.
Again, I want to know: what did the previous administrations in Bangladesh do about this dam? How is the new government planning to deal with this issue? What can conscientious human beings of our planet do to stop India from building dams that kill people?
As hinted earlier, the very people targeted for drawing the benefits of the Tipaimukh dam living in the Manipur State had long been fighting a losing battle to stop this project. It is highly unlikely that demonstrations and protests inside Bangladesh would push India to abandon the project now, esp. after spending hundreds of crores of Rupees in front end loading (FEL) activities.
While we are critical of Indian government’s decision to construct dams that produce devastating results affecting tens of millions of people, we have to be self-critical of our own failure to bring world attention to the gargantuan harm that India’s Farakka has already brought upon Bangladesh. If we had succeeded in that endeavor, India today wouldn’t be building the Tipaimukh dam. Whether we like it or not, we must realize that self-interest rules the day. In our world, there are no permanent friends or enemies. We are continuously reminded that what is permanent is self-interest and that has to be pursued vigorously. That says a lot about moral bankruptcy of a world that we live in and share with our neighbors in which might is increasingly becoming right, and the powerless has no effective means to fight against powerful enemies and nations that prey upon them.
At this stage, what actions and programs are meaningful for Bangladesh? Can India be persuaded to abandon dam projects on international rivers in favor of alternative options for energy need? Given India’s long history of dishonoring her agreements on Farakka with Bangladesh, can she be trusted for keeping any new promise? Are the UN and/or the ICJ only options Bangladesh has to redress her grievances?


Ref:
http://www.cyberbangladesh.org/disaster.html
http://www.cyberbangladesh.org/disaster.html
http://rezwanul.blogspot.com/2007/04/farakka-lost-battle-for-bangladesh.html
http://www.geocities.com/athens/academy/5772/treaty.html
http://rezwanul.blogspot.com/2007/04/farakka-lost-battle-for-bangladesh.html
http://www.indianembassy.org/policy/Foreign_Policy/ganga.htm
http://nation.ittefaq.com/issues/2009/03/09/news0711.htm
http://www.cyberbangladesh.org/disaster.html
http://www.waterconserve.org/shared/reader/welcome.aspx?linkid=30378
http://www.physics.harvard.edu/~wilson/arsenic/references/Bridge+Husain.htm
http://www.sandrp.in/dams/impct_frka_wcd.pdf
http://www.sos-arsenic.net/english/groundwater/waterbattle.html
http://internationalrivers.org/en/south-asia/india
http://internationalrivers.org/files/WRR.V20.N2.pdf
http://www.e-pao.net/epSubPageExtractor.asp?src=news_section.opinions.Opinion_on_Building_of_Tipaimukh_Dam.Q_A_Tipaimukh_Hydro-electric_Project_1
http://www.sos-arsenic.net/english/groundwater/waterbattle.html
http://internationalrivers.org/files/WRR.V20.N2.pdf
http://www.telegraphindia.com/1070102/asp/northeast/story_7208477.asp
http://www.kanglaonline.com/index.php?
template=kshow&kid=691
http://www.narmada.org/gcg/gcg.html
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf53.html
http://www.mapsofindia.com/maps/india/nuclearpowerplants.htm
http://www.sos-arsenic.net/english/groundwater/respond.html; Barrister Harun ur Rashid, The Daily Star, January 05, 2005.
See this author’s article offering an alternative recommendation for India: http://usa.mediamonitors.net/content/view/full/62938

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Indian Government’s intention to construct the Tipaimukh Dam is criminal

Anyone who has visited a hydroelectric power facility knows that there is tremendous ecological impact felt on either side of the dam. One side gets flooded while the other side only sees trickling water flowing downstream, unless sluice gates are opened periodically to release and control water flow. If the flow of water is managed solely by a hostile government such can create a devastating effect on the surrounding territories, especially those living in the downstream of the river. Such a unilateral decision to construct a dam is criminal when the river is international with its water flowing through multiple countries, i.e., not limited to the country of origin.

In the 1940s and '50s many hydroelectric dams were built in the western world to produce cheap electricity. However, with time many developed countries have abandoned the process altogether and moved into more safer and environment-friendly alternatives. Nuclear technology has become one such alternative to address growing energy demand.

Unfortunately, as with almost any new technology these days, the western world has a monopoly in the nuclear technology also. Thus, while these countries know about the devastating effect of fossil fuels to our atmosphere and the grave ecological impact of hydroelectric power generation plants, they are not willing to transfer the much-needed environment-friendly nuclear technology to technologically weaker countries. Not only that as we have seen even when a developing country like Iran likes to pursue this technology to meet its growing energy needs, let alone ensuring a cleaner atmosphere, they are barred entry into the caste-ridden nuclear club. [See this author's article on "Letter from America - Obama, Israel and Iran" or "Will Obama Capitulate to Netanyahu" - for a discussion on why the USA, in particular, is against Iran's pursuit of nuclear energy.]

Suspicion runs so deep among these paranoid nuclear-Brahmins that they think that one day the untouchable nomo-Sudras will take revenge upon them, let alone demand the same Brahmin status. And this they can't allow by hook or crook. As a result of this tug of war, there has not been much progress to either technology transfer or lowering of the green-house effect. Consequently, more vulnerable countries like Bangladesh are forced to deal with devastating effect of global climate change. To these low lying countries, natural calamites like the Sidr and the Aila are now becoming regular yearly features to deal with! Experts tell us that by the middle of this century, Bangladesh will have 30 million people that will be uprooted from their homes in the coastal areas requiring relocation elsewhere. They will add to the misery of the country.

In the last several years, populous countries like India and China that have already joined the nuclear club, and yet feel that they are looked down as the nomo-Sudras by the traditional blue-eyed, white nuclear-Brahmins, have tried to extract some advantage in the form of technology transfer by promising reduction in carbon emission; but not always successfully. And as far as the real untouchables are concerned - countries that have failed to join the nuclear-club yet - there is not much that they can bargain for. They are simply ignored. And worse yet, their worst nightmares are the former nomo-Sudras like India.

Indian government's desire to construct the Tipaimukh Dam in the North-east India is not only arrogant it is criminal to the core. It will have lasting devastating impact in the entire region. It will adversely affect millions of Bangladeshis living down south in the north-east corner of the country, weakening their means of livelihood, forcing them to become internally displaced people, and thereby worsening Bangladesh's overall economy. It will harm bilateral relationship between the two neighboring countries. Bangladeshi people have already suffered miserably from the Farrakah Barrage and cannot afford to see another one built to threaten them. The proposed dam is also unpopular in the Manipur State where it is being constructed. Experts there have rightly termed it a geo-tectonic blunder of international dimensions.

The Indian government decision seems too short-sighted and can only antagonize people on either sides of the border. If India cares about meeting energy needs in the north-eastern corner she would better serve the interest of her people by choosing the nuclear alternative.

India has several nuclear power plants that are operating in various parts of India. It is inconceivable that she cannot afford to build one extra plant in the north-east corner of the country to meet her energy demand.

References:
Ref: http://www.newagebd.com/2009/jun/04/nat.html
http://www.kanglaonline.com/index.php?template=kshow&kid=691
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf53.html; http://www.mapsofindia.com/maps/india/nuclearpowerplants.htm

Crime and Policing in Bangladesh - Comments on Swiss Ambassador's Concern

Ref: http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=91134

Crimes are on the rise everywhere and not just limited to the cities in Bangladesh. On June 4, the Mirror of UK reported how two Brits - Nigel Farmer and and Dano Sonnex had knifed two French students Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez at least 244 times during an horrific three-hour torture ordeal last June. Here in my backyard in Philadelphia on an average some 500 people are murdered every year by criminals. And as to mugging, the Swiss diplomat ought to visit any U.S. big city downtown area to get a flavor of that crime, especially after the sunset. Theft is also quite common. Just last week, daughter of my in-law lost her new bike which was stolen from her front yard in a secured complex in a well-affluent part of West Chester, Pennsylvania. While living in Los Angeles, I also lost two cars and a bike. A comparative study would show that there is less crime in Bangladesh compared to most western countries.

Having said that these observations do not absolve the government in Bangladesh in its failure to fight crime effectively. It ought to do everything that is in its capacity to stop crime of any sort ensuring safety and security of everyone from ordinary citizens to our guest diplomats and their family members. The police force is too small and paid too little, which encourages corruption. Interestingly though, it is less corrupt than our civil administration. For this, the credit goes to the top cadre of the Police Administration setting personal examples of honesty. For example, the current IGP - Mr. Nur Mohammad is a person of untarnished image and integrity that every Bangladeshi can feel proud of. There are many honest officers within the Police force that have never taken bribe.

In the USA, for every 10,000 citizens, there are 38 police staffs. The comparable number in Bangladesh is only 8.5. On a per capita basis, Bangladesh spends only Tk. 115 - a very small fraction on policing compared to any western country (the comparable figure in the USA is $385). The Bangladesh Police force is poorly trained and ill-equipped to combat crimes of the 21st century. It suffers from serious budgetary constraints; the working condition is simply miserable. Because of the century-old tradition the force is vulnerable to political pressure and have been exploited in the past by some government administrations as political weapon to violate human rights.

In the past some retired police officers have made suggestions for an overhaul of the entire police administration requiring administrative and legal reforms plus introduction of community policing. Unfortunately, the previous administrations paid little attention to such recommendations. The civil bureaucracy have always worked against desired reform of the Bangladesh Police Force. And this must change for greater good of our people. The non-police civilian staff are also highly corrupt that won't, e.g., pay off the necessary voucher or travel allowance of an on-duty police officer unless bribed. Because of its adherence to antiquated Police Act, the Bangladesh Police Force is constrained on several grounds, e.g., to be operationally neutral, organizationally autonomous, functionally specialized, institutionally accountable and socially service-oriented.

In his M.Sc. dissertation on Criminal Justice and Police Management, submitted to the Department of Criminology, University of Leicester, UK, in 2008, SP Mohammad Abdullahel Baki has thoroughly covered a plethora of problems facing Bangladesh Police and offered practical solutions for improvement. The Home Ministry of Bangladesh Government may do well to carry out the recommendations made therein to improve the health of security in the country.

Useful Ref: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2009/06/04/inside-the-horror-flat-where-two-french-students-were-tortured-and-murdered-115875-21415137/

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

More on so-called Peelkhana Government Inquiry Report

Ref: http://www.newsfrombangladesh.net/view.php?hidRecord=267125

[Interestingly, the above write-up from Ms. Ranu Chowdhury (from San Jose, CA) in the NFB is a carbon copy of a letter posted earlier in the bd-mailer by Mr. A. O. Chowdhury (from NY). The response below is for the original post by Mr. Chowdhury in the bd-mailer.]

It is good to hear the views of Mr. A.O. Chowdhury on the so-called inquiry document, which was only 50-page long and not some 300 pages that was reportedly submitted by Mr. Anisuzzaman Khan. I am intrigued by Mr. Chowdhury's statement that "a subaltern of the military could perhaps produce a better and more objective one [report]." The jury is out on such bloated claims of military officers against civilian bureaucrats!

As we all know the BDR-inquiry took much longer than originally anticipated, some underlying reasons are even stated within the body of the text. Being a 9/11-like episode in Bangladesh there was no shortage of analysis and speculations - for and against from all quarters, including all-knowing caricatures like Sunita Paul. So, I am not surprised to learn from Mr. Chowdhury that he had not learned anything new. If he was looking for a smoking gun, obviously, he was disappointed. If BNP die-hards were looking for RAW-involvement, the report failed to please them. If an AL die-hard (including minister Col. Faruq) was looking for involvement of the ISI and Islamic militants, the report is a slap to its wishes. The report had failed to find the real culprits who had planned the tragedy. Hopefully, with the arrest of some politicians that had helped the rebels to flee, one day we shall know that part of the missing truth. Let's keep our fingers crossed on that! [But again, knowing the polarized environment we live in, I won't be surprised if such a truth will be dumped as a tampered one when it goes against one's whims and desires!]

Mr. Chowdhury accuses that a "controversial" person by the name of Mr. A.K. Akhand, a retd. CID officer, was chosen by the Home Ministry to derail the inquiry. Sadly, I am yet to find a single government official who can escape from such branding. Akhand's activities were to be overseen by Mr. Abdullahel Baki, Special SP, Special Branch, Police HQ. Baki is a very intelligent officer, known for good problem-solving skills, with an engineering degree from the BUET. He had served in international peace-keeping missions in the 1990s. He submitted his M.Sc. dissertation on criminal justice and police management at the University of Leichester, UK last year. Like many who had known him, I was very happy to see that he would supervise the inquiry of Mr. Akhand, the retired Police officer. He had all the skills required for an honest, fact-finding inquiry into the BDR carnage.

Unfortunately, within days of Baki's appointment, some Bengali newspapers started printing that he was a "controversial" officer since he was in Chittagong, serving as the DC-North, when the arms-haul took place in 2004. He allegedly had protected the government interest by letting the arms-smugglers hide! It is difficult to imagine that he had done anything illegal other than follow orders from the chain of command that might have reached all the way up to the BNP-run Home Ministry. However, that issue became such a hot topic that almost all the newspapers started saying that if Baki was kept in the BDR inquiry, the truth on the criminals responsible for the crime and mutiny might be compromised.

Interestingly, according to newspapers reports, such information on Baki's alleged involvement on the Arms-haul case was leaked out by some "un-named" sources within the CID. Was it professional jealousy or nasty partisan politics to victimize someone because he had served under the BNP-government in the port area of Chittagong when the arms-haul took place? Subsequently, Mr. Baki was replaced by Mr. Arif to oversee the inquiry. I can only pray and hope that the latter is as capable as Mr. Baki.

Having known Mr. Baki personally, I was very disappointed with the announcement. I strongly feel that if the media were more discriminating against printing views from unknown sources we could have been spared of this fuss with "controversial" character, and our country would have been better served by the superior skills of an experienced, investigative and neutral officer. Mr. Baki was even painted as a partisan officer who had benefited from the BNP rule, while he did not. I remember when the goons of BNP had started treating Bangladesh as their father's properties through their monumental abuse of power, and unfathomed crime and corruption (making Bangladesh a laughing stock of the entire world for its unenviable corruption ranking), Baki had the guts to stand out against BNP political Dons like Salauddin Q. Chowdhury in some land-grabbing cases in Chittagong. For his boldness to fight crime and rescue victims, he was promptly transferred in 2005 to Mymensingh. And not only that, he was sued by the same land-grabbing syndicate of SaQa on false charges that in his recommendation for police action against the land-grabbing syndicate he had crossed or over-exercised his normal line of duty. And yet, thanks to the print media, this same person, was painted as a "controversial" person in February of 2009, when he was appointed by the AL Home Ministry. Was there a conspiracy to remove him from overseeing Akhand's inquiry? Interestingly, the same media that had ensured his replacement now cries foul with the inquiry findings! Blame if you do and blame if you don't!

I am sure with a highly nasty partisan outlook we have in all matters Bangladeshi, we shall not see any reduction of this line of accusation of who is "controversial". I am, therefore, not too surprised that some BNP partisans are now all agog to find faults with the inquiry report of Anisuzzaman, and all others ones by various government agencies. In our political culture, unless something is to their exact liking, our spin masters will continue to muddy the water of the Bay of Bengal to find the rare fish even when it is not there!

Having said that I am not oblivious of the fact that Bangladesh deserves better and can do a better job if we put our heads together, shun narrow partisanship and do things in a civilized, matured way. Will that day ever come for Bangladesh?

Regards,
Habib Siddiqui