Saturday, July 29, 2017

This Past Week in D.C.

What a dramatic week this past one has been in the U.S. capital! After writing about the POTUS last week I had no intention of getting back to Trump politics this week, but given all the hullaballoo, excitement and even the nervousness with all the major news events unfolding, I simply could not ignore revisiting the subject.

For years the Republicans have been trying to put the death nail to the affordable healthcare act – more popularly known as the Obamacare, named after the past president. And if anyone could have resuscitated the troubled Obamacare repeal and replace bill, it was Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader with a track record of getting tough things done within the Senate.

But after years of pleading, months of negotiating, and weeks of just barely edging the contentious bill forward, it suddenly died. And it happened in a dramatic way. According to the CNN, the end was unexpected, as McConnell watched Sen. John McCain -- his longtime friend and occasional political rival -- walk to the center of the Senate floor and turn his thumb down to vote "no."

McCain’s was a signature statement about what’s wrong with the Trump administration. "We should not make the mistakes of the past that has led to Obamacare's collapse, including in my home state of Arizona where premiums are skyrocketing and health care providers are fleeing the marketplace," McCain said in a statement.

All 48 Democrats voted no, along with three Republican senators — McCain, as well as Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.

McCain had returned to Washington for the health care vote on Tuesday, nearly a week after his office announced he had been diagnosed with brain cancer. The Arizona senator delivered a powerful speech from the Senate floor Tuesday, focusing on a need to return to a more bipartisan approach.

From the published news reports, it appeared that Republican leaders attempted to convince McCain to change his vote before the "skinny repeal." Senator Mitch McConnell and Vice President Mike Pence were seen before the vote speaking with McCain, but the senator stuck with his "no," effectively killing the bill.

From the TV images, one can see McConnell’s face ashen; he stood still and silent for few minutes before he could air his disappointment with a cracked voice. As Vice President Pence walked out of the senate podium, the Senate Minority leader, Senator Chuck Schumer delivered an emotional speech thanking Senator McCain for his inspirational speech and vote. He stressed the importance of bipartisanship moving forward in dealing with the plethora of problems facing the nation. Later on Friday while speaking with reporters, Schumer said, “I have not seen a senator who speaks truth to power as strongly, as well and as frequently as John McCain. The very same courage he showed as a naval aviator during Vietnam he showed last night and has shown time and time again.”

Schumer also praised Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who along with McCain voted down the GOP bill. They both have been critical “no” votes in halting the Senate GOP’s legislative efforts on health care. “They were amazing and women are in so many instances stronger than men,” he said. “They brag less about it, but they are.”

This past week also saw the nasty infighting within the White House where the newly appointed Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci trashed the White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. In an interview with the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, Scaramucci said, “Reince is a f―-ing paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac.” If you had thought that you had heard enough of trash talk from the candidate Trump wait for his communications chief who seemingly is destined to take it to new lows.

In my many years as a White House watcher, as a federal employee, as a Presidential Schedule C appointee, as a very proud public servant during 14 years as a staff member in the House and the Senate, I cannot recall a more frightening, more disturbing specter of a debauched human being than White House Chief of Communications, Anthony Scaramucci from whose mouth emerge the demonic toads of inhumanity,” Jim Moore writes in the Huffington Post.

Priebus is known as a Washington D.C. insider with lots of political connections. He was, however, suspected as the one leaking out sensitive information to the press, which he squarely denies. He submitted his resignation on Thursday and was replaced by ex-General/secretary John F. Kelly, which was announced via a tweet on Friday afternoon by who else but the President.

Kelly since January has been secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, after Trump nominated him for the position. The 67-year-old Kelly is a retired Marine Corps general who held senior command positions in Iraq and served as the combatant commander of the United States Southern Command. He was also senior military assistant to two secretaries of defense, Robert Gates and Leon Panetta.

In the meantime, President Trump has expressed his disdain for his ‘beleaguered’ Attorney General Jeff Sessions who refuses to take the hint and resign honorably before perhaps getting fired by his boss. Many lawmakers have come to the defense of Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia-gate.

"I understand [Trump's] feelings about it, because this has been a big distraction for him," Sessions told in an interview with Fox News.

The U.S. Senate had voted almost unanimously (98-2) on Thursday to slap new sanctions on Russia. The vote will force Trump to choose between a tough position on Moscow and effectively dashing his stated hopes for warmer ties with the country or to veto the bill amid investigations in possible collusion between his campaign and Russia.

By signing the bill into law, Trump cannot ease the sanctions against Russia unless he seeks congressional approval.

Russia took its first steps on Friday to retaliate against proposed American sanctions for Moscow’s suspected meddling in the 2016 election, seizing two American diplomatic properties in Russia and ordering the United States Embassy to reduce staff to 455 matching the number of Russian diplomats in the United States by September 1. This retaliation with echoes of the Cold War would affect hundreds of staff at the U.S. embassy and far outweigh the Obama administration's expulsion of 35 Russians in December.

Late on Friday, the White House issued a statement saying Trump would sign the bill after reviewing the final version. The statement made no reference to Russia's retaliatory measures.

On Friday North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that appears to have the ability to hit Alaska and major US cities. South Korea's joint chiefs of staff said they estimate that the intercontinental ballistic missile tested Friday is more advanced than one launched earlier in July based on the range it traveled.

A combination of US, South Korean and Japanese analyses of the launch from Mupyong-ni, near North Korea's border with China, shows the missile flew about 45 minutes, going 3,700 kilometers (2,300 miles) high and for a distance of 1,000 kilometers (621 miles). If the missile were fired on a flatter, standard trajectory, it would have major US cities like Los Angeles, Denver and Chicago well within its range, with possibly the ability to reach as far as New York and Boston, according to David Wright, a missile expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists. However, early analysis of Friday's test cannot determine how heavy a payload the missile was carrying in its warhead, Wright said. Obviously, the heavier the payload, the shorter the range.

Michael Elleman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, however, estimated a range of at least 9,500 kilometers (5,900 miles) for the North Korean missile, per Reuters news agency -- less than that estimated by Wright, but still potentially putting Los Angeles within reach.

The ICBM test prompted a fresh round of condemnation from the United States, China, Japan and South Korea. Read More

US President Trump condemned the missile launch and said the US would act to ensure its security. "Threatening the world, these weapons and tests further isolate North Korea, weaken its economy, and deprive its people," Trump said in a written statement. "The United States will take all necessary steps to ensure the security of the American homeland and protect our allies in the region."

Per KCNA (Korean Central News Agency), North Korea’s leader Kim is quoted as saying "the whole US mainland" is now within North Korea's reach. He called Pyongyang's weapons program "a precious asset" that cannot be reversed nor replaced. Many of his countrymen are convinced that developing the missile program as a nuclear deterrent is absolutely necessary.

They may be right. After all, with such a deterrent, American experts tell us that the USA will not have the stomach to pre-emptively attack Pyongyang.

In the wake of the test, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., and Adm. Harry Harris, commander of US Pacific Command, called the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Gen. Lee Sun Jin, to express "ironclad commitment" to the US alliance with South Korea and discuss military response options. Hours after that call, the US and South Korean military conducted a live-fire exercise as a show of force in response to the test, according to Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis. The exercise included firing missiles into the ocean.

Less than six years in power, Kim has tested more missiles than his father and grandfather combined. He is absolutely committed to the missile program and not interested in tempering its activities. Threats from Trump has not been able to sober him.

The latest test has spurred calls for a response from the Trump administration. Administration officials have warned that "all options are on the table" but a clear path forward has yet to materialize. Trump may find himself in a situation with no good choices.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Preibus replaced by Gen. Kelly

John F. Kelly is taking over for Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff, President Donald Trump announced via a tweet on Friday afternoon. The news came after days of reports about tensions between Priebus and the administration’s new director of communications, Anthony Scaramucci. Kelly since January has been secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, after Trump nominated him for the position. The 67-year-old Kelly is a retired Marine Corps general who held senior command positions in Iraq and served as the combatant commander of the United States Southern Command. He was also senior military assistant to two secretaries of defense, Robert Gates and Leon Panetta.
To read the full news, click here.

A World without Islam

Thanks to my friend, Dr. Yunus, for sharing Graham Fuller's piece "A World without Islam."

What if Islam had never existed? To some, it's a comforting thought: No clash of civilizations, no holy wars, no terrorists. Would Christianity have taken over the world? Would the Middle East be a peaceful beacon of democracy? Would 9/11 have happened? 

Here are my comments below:
I can see some problems with his interpretation of the mythical world without Islam. He tries to downgrade the influence of Western Christianity amongst the European crusaders saying that they were driven more by economics than anything else (p. 4). He argues that Islam did not have much to do with the resistance movement against imperialist except that it was a unifying force. I heard a lecture of late Palestinian professor Edward Said at Cal Tech in the 1980s where he had the opposing view saying that it was in Islamic states or territories with Muslim population where the colonists encountered maximum resistance; territories could be won by force but Islamic people never gave up in resisting imperialism.
Fuller admits that without Islam, the imperialist forces like the USA would have much easier time though trying to divide and rule the Middle East. and Asia. And that, interestingly, OBL is looked upon in many non-Muslim countries as the  "next Che Guevara" - something I did not quite think of earlier.
Finally, Fuller admits that world without Islam would be no better than what we have today. He says, "In fact, remove Islam from the path of history, and the world ends up exactly where it is today." The conflicts would still remain between the East and the West simply because of two different dimensions and ethos that is at the heart of the issue - Western Christianity and Eastern Orthodox Christianity. He says, "The culture of the Orthodox Church differs sharply from the Western post-Enlightenment ethos, which emphasizes secularism, capitalism, and the primacy of the individual. It still maintains residual fears about the West that parallel in many ways current Muslim insecurities: fears of Western missionary proselytism, a tendency to perceive religion as a key vehicle for the protection and preservation of their own communities and culture, and a suspicion of the "corrupted" and imperial character of the West."
 
Overall, Fuller's is a very interesting piece and should be read by anyone interested in global affairs.

Witnesses of the Unseen

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is now available. Contact him at koehlercw@gmail.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com. Reprinted with permission from PeaceVoice.
In what follows below he reviews memoirs of two innocent Gitmo prisoners.
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To read Witnesses of the Unseen: Seven Years in Guantánamo is to run your mind along the contours of hell.
The next step, if you’re an American, is to embrace it. Claim it. This is who we are: We are the proprietors of a cluster of human cages. This torture center is still open. Men (“forever prisoners”) are still being held there, their imprisonment purporting to keep us safe.
The book, by Lakhdar Boumediene and Mustafa Ait Idir – two Algerian men arrested in Bosnia in 2011 and wrongly accused of being terrorists – allows us to imagine ourselves at Guantánamo, this outpost of the Endless War.
“‘Take him outside,’ the interrogator told them. They led me up a flight of eight or nine concrete steps to a long gravel drive. It was pitch black out, and completely quiet. There was no one around. One of the soldiers grabbed my left arm, and another took my right. And then they started running.
“I tried to keep up, but my legs were shackled together. First, my flip-flops fell off, and after a few barefoot strides, my legs fell out from under me. The soldiers didn’t even slow down. They kept a firm grip on my arms while my legs bounced and scraped along the ground, gravel biting into them. When the run finally ended, the soldiers brought me back to the interrogation room, bloody and bedraggled.”
This is one fragment, one story of the seven years these two innocent men endured: these two fathers who were pulled away from their wives and children, yanked from their lives, stuffed into cages, interrogated endlessly and pointlessly, humiliated, force-fed (in Lakhdar’s case) . . . and finally, finally, ordered by a US judge to be freed, when their case, Boumediene v. Bush, was at long last heard in a real court and the lack of evidence against them became appallingly clear.
The book is the story of the courage it takes to survive.
And it’s a story that can only be told because of the work of the Boston legal firm WilmerHale, which spent more than 17,000 pro bono hours litigating the case, “work that would have cost paying clients more than $35 million.”
Lakhdar and Mustafa were freed in 2008 and began rebuilding their lives. They eventually decided they wanted to tell their story – to an American audience. Daniel Norland, who was a lawyer at WilmerHale when the case was making its way through the court process (but was not part of the litigation team) and his sister, Kathleen List, who speaks fluent Arabic, conducted more than 100 hours of interviews with the two men, which were shaped into Witnesses of the Unseen.
In October 2011, the two men, who were living and working in Sarajevo, were among six Algerians who wound up being arrested by Bosnian authorities and charged with plotting to blow up the American embassy in Sarajevo. They were held for three months, then released. There was no evidence to back up the accusation.
But this turns out to be the beginning of their story, not the end of it. The men were released not back to their own lives but to an authority more powerful than the Bosnian judicial system: They were released to the Americans, who had begun rounding up Muslims . . . uh, terrorists. Evidence, or lack thereof, didn’t matter. These men were shipped to a new military prison, built at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba – an offshore prison, in other words, unencumbered by the US Constitution. The detainees there allegedly had zero rights. That was the whole point.
Much of what Lakhdar and Mustafa describe is the efficiency of the US military in dehumanizing its prisoners. The beatings and physical pain inflicted by guards, interrogators and even medical personnel were only part of it. The men also endured sexual humiliation, endless mocking of their religion – “I heard . . . that a soldier went into someone’s cell and flushed his Qur’an down the toilet” – and the cruel, teasing “misplacement” or censorship of letters from the prisoners’ loved ones.
Several years into his imprisonment, Lakhdar went on a hunger strike, which meant he was subjected to force-feeding, which the U.N. Human Rights Commission has called a form of torture:
“The soldier brought out an apparatus with a long yellow tube and started measuring out the length of tube he needed. He stopped when he got to a marking somewhere between 45 and 50 inches. That was the amount of tube he was going to insert through my nostril. . . .
“It’s almost impossible to explain what a feeding tube feels like to someone who hasn’t experienced it. I felt like I was choking, and being strangled, and yet somehow still able to breathe, all at the same time.
“The soldier taped the tube in place. I could see the Ensure trickling through the tube, one droplet at a time. It felt cold as it reached my stomach. I later learned that a full feeding normally takes fifteen to twenty minutes, but that first time they went exceptionally slowly. I sat in the clinic, chained to the chair, a tube protruding down my throat, for the rest of the afternoon and all through the night.”
It took no less than a Supreme Court ruling to start ending this nightmare.
In early 2007, a US Circuit Court judge had refused to hear Boumediene v. Bush on the grounds that Guantánamo prisoners had no Constitutional rights. But the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal, and in June 2008 ruled that Guantánamo counted as part of the US and, as Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, the government couldn’t “switch the Constitution on and off at will.”
Thus the case went back to the Circuit Court and a real hearing got underway, leading to one of the most appalling revelations in the book: “Our lawyers had told us, in the days leading up to our trial, about a recent bizarre development in our case: the government had dropped its allegation that we had plotted to blow up the US Embassy in Sarajevo. Just like in Bosnia seven years before, authorities were eager to toss around bomb-plot allegations right up until a court required them to provide evidence.
“Instead, our lawyers told us, the government now said that the reason it considered us ‘enemy combatants’ was that it had evidence – classified evidence that I wasn’t allowed to see – that we had made a plan to fly to Afghanistan and join Al Qaeda’s fight against American forces there. This was the first time I had ever heard this allegation. No one – no police officer, no Bosnian official, no American interrogator – had ever asked me a single question about it.
“And it was a ludicrous allegation. . . .”
And the judge ruled in their favor and they eventually were set free, to reclaim their lives, to see their children for the first time in seven years – and to give their story to the world.
But as long as Gitmo remains open and the Endless War continues – and no one is held accountable – there is no ending to this story, just an open wound.

McCain does it

Senator John McCain was one of three Republican "no" votes against the GOP health care plan early Friday morning, and is being hailed as the man who killed the so-called Obamacare "skinny repeal."
"We should not make the mistakes of the past that has led to Obamacare's collapse, including in my home state of Arizona where premiums are skyrocketing and health care providers are fleeing the marketplace," McCain said in a statement.
All 48 Democrats voted no, along with three Republican senators — McCain, as well as Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.
McCain had returned to Washington for the health care vote on Tuesday, nearly a week after his office announced he had been diagnosed with brain cancer. The Arizona senator delivered a powerful speech from the Senate floor Tuesday, focusing on a need to return to a more bipartisan approach.
It appeared Republican leaders attempted to convince McCain to change his vote before the "skinny repeal." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Mike Pence were seen before the vote speaking with McCain, but the senator stuck with his "no," effectively ending the bill.
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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Indian Americans for Trump


Most Indian Americans have been behind Trump since day 1 when he was running in the primaries. President Trump has been rewarding them handsomely  for their loyalty. Here is the link to an article on the subject.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Bande Mataram

If you still have any doubt about saffronization of India, don't doubt any more. It is a fact in Modi's India. Now all students must sing the Hindutvadi song - Bande Mataram - if  they study in any school.
The Madras High Court on Tuesday ruled that 'Vande Mataram' must be sung schools, educational institutes and government offices.
Justice M. V. Muralidharan said that schools must be made to follow it at least once a week either on Monday or Friday, whereas, the national song must be sang in offices once a month.
"Vande Mataram is of Sanskrit origin, and written in Bengali which is ought to be sung in every school and college," Muralidharan added.
He further directed the Director of Public Information to upload and circulate the translated version of Vande Mataram in Tamil and English, thereby making it available in the government websites and also in the social media.
"Let a copy of this order be marked to the Chief Secretary of the Government of Tamil Nadu, who shall issue appropriate instructions to the concerned authorities," he asserted.
Muralidharan said that in the event, if any person or organisation has difficulty in singing or playing the national song, he or she shall not be compelled or forced to sing it, provided there are valid reasons for not doing so.
"The youth of this country are the future of tomorrow. This court hopes and trusts that this order shall be taken in the right spirit and also implemented in letter and spirit by the citizenry of this great nation," he added.
Incidentally, the Supreme Court is also hearing a petition asking the Centre to make the singing of Vande Mataram mandatory in schools.
While the apex court had in April given the Centre four weeks to reply, the next date of hearing is scheduled for August 25. (ANI)
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Click here to read the story from the Outlook India.

US holding Iranians 'in gruesome prisons'

TEHRAN: Iran's judiciary chief on Monday accused the United States of holding Iranians "in gruesome prisons", as the two countries trade charges of illegally jailing each other's citizens.
"You are keeping our innocent citizens in gruesome prisons. This is against the law and international norms and regulations," said Sadegh Larijani, head of the judiciary, quoted by Iran's state broadcaster.
"We tell them that you must immediately release Iranian citizens locked up in US prisons."
To read more, click here.

HRW: Saudi terrorism is killing people in Yemen

Doha, Qatar - The Executive Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) has questioned Saudi Arabia's accusation of Qatar funding terrorism while the Kingdom itself continues to carry out "terrorism that is killing people in Yemen".
The conflict in Yemen has escalated dramatically since March 2015, when the Saudi-led forces launched a military operation against the rebels.
Since the conflict began, more than 10,000 people have been killed and millions have been driven from their homes.
To read more, click here.

Are America’s Wars Just and Moral? by Patrick J. Buchanan

"One knowledgeable official estimates that the CIA-backed fighters may have killed or wounded 100,000 Syrian soldiers and their allies," writes columnist David Ignatius.
Given that Syria’s prewar population was not 10 percent of ours, this is the equivalent of a million dead and wounded Americans. What justifies America’s participation in this slaughter?
Columnist Eric Margolis summarizes the successes of the six-year civil war to overthrow President Bashar Assad.
"The result of the western-engendered carnage in Syria was horrendous: at least 475,000 dead, 5 million Syrian refugees driven into exile in neighboring states (Turkey alone hosts three million), and another 6 million internally displaced. … 11 million Syrians … driven from their homes into wretched living conditions and near famine.
"Two of Syria’s greatest and oldest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, have been pounded into ruins. Jihadist massacres and Russian and American air strikes have ravaged once beautiful, relatively prosperous Syria. Its ancient Christian peoples are fleeing for their lives before US and Saudi takfiri religious fanatics."
Realizing the futility of U.S. policy, President Trump is cutting aid to the rebels. And the War Party is beside itself. Says The Wall Street Journal:
"The only way to reach an acceptable diplomatic solution is if Iran and Russia feel they are paying too high a price for their Syria sojourn. This means more support for Mr. Assad’s enemies, not cutting them off without notice. And it means building up a Middle East coalition willing to fight Islamic State and resist Iran. The U.S. should also consider enforcing ‘safe zones’ in Syria for anti-Assad forces."
Yet, fighting ISIS and al-Qaida in Syria, while bleeding the Assad-Iran-Russia-Hezbollah victors, is a formula for endless war and unending terrors visited upon the Syrian people.
What injury did the Assad regime, in power for half a century and having never attacked us, inflict to justify what we have helped to do to that country?
Is this war moral by our own standards?
We overthrew Saddam Hussein in 2003 and Moammar Gadhafi in 2012. Yet, the fighting, killing and dying in both countries have not ceased. Estimates of the Iraq civilian and military dead run into the hundreds of thousands.
Still, the worst humanitarian disaster may be unfolding in Yemen.
After the Houthis overthrew the Saudi-backed regime and took over the country, the Saudis in 2015 persuaded the United States to support its air strikes, invasion and blockade.
By January 2016, the U.N. estimated a Yemeni civilian death toll of 10,000, with 40,000 wounded. However, the blockade of Yemen, which imports 90 percent of its food, has caused a crisis of malnutrition and impending famine that threatens millions of the poorest people in the Arab world with starvation.
No matter how objectionable we found these dictators, what vital interests of ours were so imperiled by the continued rule of Saddam, Assad, Gadhafi and the Houthis that they would justify what we have done to the peoples of those countries?
"They make a desert and call it peace," Calgacus said of the Romans he fought in the first century. Will that be our epitaph?
Among the principles for a just war, it must be waged as a last resort, to address a wrong suffered, and by a legitimate authority. Deaths of civilians are justified only if they are unavoidable victims of a deliberate attack on a military target.
The wars in Syria, Libya and Yemen were never authorized by Congress. The civilian dead, wounded and uprooted in Syria, and the malnourished millions in Yemen, represent a moral cost that seems far beyond any proportional moral gain from those conflicts.
In which of the countries we have attacked or invaded in this century — Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen — are the people better off than they were before we came?
And we wonder why they hate us.
"Those to whom evil is done/Do evil in return," wrote W. H. Auden in "September 1, 1939." As the peoples of Syria and the other broken and bleeding countries of the Middle East flee to Europe and America, will not some come with revenge on their minds and hatred in their hearts?
Meanwhile, as the Americans bomb across the Middle East, China rises. She began the century with a GDP smaller than Italy’s and now has an economy that rivals our own.
She has become the world’s first manufacturing power, laid claim to the islands of the East and South China seas, and told America to keep her warships out of the Taiwan Strait.
Xi Jinping has launched a "One Belt, One Road" policy to finance trade ports and depots alongside the military and naval bases being established in Central and South Asia.
Meanwhile, the Americans, $20 trillion in debt, running $800 billion trade deficits, unable to fix their health care system, reform their tax code, or fund an infrastructure program, prepare to fight new Middle East war.
Whom the Gods would destroy…
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of Churchill, Hitler, and “The Unnecessary War”: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World. To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

Suu Kyi's kangaroo parliament


My attention has been drawn by the report that the lower house of the parliament in Myanmar has passed a motion rejecting a statement by the United Nations human rights envoy to the Southeast Asian nation that was critical of the government’s handling of security issues and human rights.
 
Such a motion passed by a parliament that has been behaving like a kangaroo parliament to evade serious charges of crimes against humanity should not surprise anyone. For too long, the regimes - military and civilian alike -  that have had ruled Myanmar have been committing genocidal crimes against the Rohingya people and  have been protective of their national agenda for that eliminationist policy. They have never embraced diversity and religious pluralism in an artificial country of more than a hundred ethnic groups that was drawn by the British Raj. And the way things are moving, there is little hope that such a calculus is going to change in a foreseeable future.
 
It is no accident that the Myanmar's lower house of parliament is upset with Yanghee Lee's genuine complaints against the NLD government that no progress has been made in the human rights front and that without "real and discernible progress on human rights" Myanmar cannot expect lifting of the UN monitoring process. (Forget the harsh reality that such UN observations or monitoring have done nothing to sober the savage and rogue behavior of Myanmar government.) Suu Kyi's Myanmar has not made an iota of difference in improving human rights of minorities, esp. Muslims of the Arakan state. It did not allow and continues to disallow a fact-finding UN mission to investigate charges of atrocities perpetrated  by the government security forces against the Rohingyas. Its attitude will not modify with carrots but requires hard sticks.
 
For too long the civilized world has been fooled by Suu Kyi. It is time to call a spade a spade and punish the regime where it hurts to save the lives of millions of minorities that call Myanmar their ancestral home. Otherwise, it is shame on our generation for failing in this vital task!
 

Where did humanity go wrong?

Here is the link to a must-see video on religion and humanity by an agnostic Jew who was schooled in Catholic schools in  the UK - Lesley Hazleton.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Jet-setting Buddhist monk wanted on sex charge being sent back to Thailand

A former Thai Buddhist monk wanted on child sex charges will be sent home from the United States to face trial, Thai police said on Tuesday, the latest scandal to raise questions about the state of Buddhism in a fast-changing society.
Wirapol Sukphol, formerly known by his monastic name Luang Pu Nenkham, sparked an uproar in 2013 when a YouTube video appeared showing the then-monk on a private jet with a Louis Vuitton bag, behavior deemed contrary to Buddhist teachings and a monk's vow to shun material goods.
Later that year, he was expelled from the monkhood after being accused of having sexual intercourse - a grave offense for monks - with an underage girl. He then fled to the United States.
Investigations led to the filing of charges of child molestation, child abduction, public fraud, money laundering and computer crime against him, police said.
"Authorities in the United States will send him back to Thailand tomorrow night," Paisit Wongmuang, director of the special investigation police division, told reporters.
Wirapol was not available for comment and it was not clear if he had a lawyer.
Buddhism is deemed to be one of the three pillars of Thai society alongside the nation and monarchy. Temples remain at the center of the community, especially in the countryside, despite the rapid encroachment of the modern, materialistic world.
But the institution that organizes Buddhism and oversees the monkhood  has come under scrutiny in recent years after a series of sex and money scandals.
The military government has been pushing to bring Buddhism under greater control since March, when an influential temple defied a three-week siege by police searching for its former abbot on money-laundering charges. He is still on the run.
This year, the government introduced a bill that appears to significantly reduce the influence of Buddhism's supreme council.
Last month, the National Buddhism Office said it would propose another law to force the country's tens of thousands of temples to declare their finances.

Terrorist with chainsaw wounds five in Swiss town of Schaffhausen

It is becoming a pattern these days. When a horrendous terrorism is perpetrated by a non-Muslim anywhere around the globe to terrorize intended victims often time such crimes are described by other terms. However, when if the criminal is a Muslim, mentally deranged, challenged or whatever, by default or design, such crimes are promptly described as acts of terrorism. What a double standard! Consider the latest crime below in Switzerland.
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Manhunt underway after chainsaw attacker wounds five in Swiss town of Schaffhausen

SCHAFFHAUSEN, Switzerland, July 24 (Reuters) - A chainsaw-wielding loner who mostly lived in the woods stormed into an insurance office in a Swiss town on Monday, wounding two members of staff and three other people before fleeing, police said.
Police put the center of Schaffhausen into lockdown and launched a manhunt for the suspect they identified as 51-year-old Franz Wrousis. They said the assault was "not an act of terror," but also not random.
"This is not an attack against a hypothetical person. This is clearly against people from the insurer," police Major Ravi Landolt told a news conference, adding that the exact motive was still under investigation.
Swiss authorities distributed pictures of the suspect whom Chief Prosecutor Peter Sticher described as "aggressive, dangerous and mentally conspicuous."
They warned residents to avoid contact with the man, who they said had twice been convicted of weapons offenses and was believed to be living in the wild since moving out of a home in the eastern Swiss canton of Grisons.
Two of the victims were seriously injured but their lives were not in danger.
Swiss health insurer CSS said two of its employees were injured when the man charged into their office on a shopping street in the center of Schaffhausen, a medieval town of 36,000 people on Switzerland's northern border with Germany.
"They're currently in the hospital and being operated on," a spokeswoman said.
CSS did not yet have information on any possible link the suspect might have to the company, she said, and also did not know if the three others injured were customers or passersby.
Police said the other three victims had been in the same office building or in the immediate vicinity.
Police had recovered a vehicle sought in connection with the incident, which they said was apparently the work of the single suspect. (Additonal reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi in Zurich; editing by Michael Shields and Mark Heinrich)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Did Aung San Lead at Panglong – or Follow?

Stanley A. Weiss is a business leader and founder of Business Executives for National Security. His memoir, Being Dead is Bad for Business, is available online and a collection of his selected writings, titled Where Have You Gone, Harry Truman?, will be published by Disruption Books on July 31.
Major General Aung San is revered by Myanmar’s Bamar majority as the Bamar nationalist leader who guided the country from British colony to independent state after World War II.  Some of that sentiment, like the affection Americans have for John F. Kennedy or the veneration that Israelis share for Yitzhak Rabin, are rooted in a life cut tragically short by an assassin’s bullet. In fact, it was 70 years ago this week, as Aung San presided over a meeting of his Executive Council, that an armed gang led by a rival politician stormed into the building and killed Aung San, a bodyguard, and six government ministers.
The anniversary, which Myanmar commemorates as Martyrs’ Day, signifies a dream deferred. If only Aung San had survived, many believe, the promise of a strong, unified nation would have been achieved, with lasting peace between the ethnic Bamar majority and the roughly 135 ethnic minorities that have been part of this land for more than a millennia – instead of the near-perpetual war that many of them have fought against the state since 1947. It’s a story that suits the Bamar majority, but one many ethnic minorities – the very groups necessary to make Myanmar a truly unified nation – vigorously contest.
For the Bamar, Aung San has long represented the highest aspirations of nationhood. And because the Bamar have dominated the state and represented the country to the world, it is their identity and their historical narratives that color Western understanding.At the heart of this legend is Aung San’s role in a 1947 conference between the Bamar majority and ethnic minorities, known as the Panglong Conference, which produced a blueprint for a unified Burma. Until three months ago, I had no reason to doubt Aung San’s leadership role in Panglong. Now I’m not so sure. As Aung San’s daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi, leads Myanmar today, reportedly pursuing a new “21st Century Panglong, getting this history right is the key to understanding what’s really at stake in Myanmar – and how to move forward.
As I’ve written before, the present conflict goes back to 1886, and – like many modern conflicts rooted in decisions made during this period – starts with the British.  When Britain conquered the Burmese monarchy, British leaders feared empowering the majority of the population that were ethnic Bamar, choosing instead to put ethnic minorities in important colonial positions. During World War II, ethnic minorities fought with Britain while Aung San led the Bamar who sided with Japan, switching sides aft the last minute when the allied victory seemed assured. As I described in a column last April:
[F]or their loyalty, the hill tribes expected British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to make them independent territories. But when Clement Attlee and the Labor Party won the 1945 British general election instead, Attlee not only turned his back on ethnic minorities, but invited the leading Burmese general to meet with him in London – where he offered to give Burma, led by Burmans [the Bamar ethnic group], complete independence. That general’s name was Aung San.
In the Bamar version of the story, upon returning home, Aung San wisely and benevolently recognized the interests of the ethnic minorities, leading him to convene the February 1947 Panglong Conference with Shan, Karen, Chin, Kachin, and Karenni ethnic minority leaders. There, he negotiated an agreement that would lead to the creation of the Union of Burma, which the ethnic groups could opt out of after 10 years if they felt mistreated. This paved the way for the creation of a true nation, but Aung San’s untimely assassination as he prepared to take over from the British voided the promise of Panglong and led to the conflict with ethnic minorities that bedevils the country today.
It’s a story line that I and many others have taken on faith and supported for many years. As I wrote in April:
Aung San brought several of the hill tribes together in the Shan town of Panglong in February, 1947, where he negotiated a power-sharing agreement. But it was not meant to be: Aung San was assassinated, derailing Panglong and leading most of the hill tribes to declare war against the Burman majority.
After that column ran, I received an email from my friend Harn Yawnghwe, the respected son of the revered Sao Shwe Thaik, the long-time Shan leader and first president of the Union of Burma, who ruled from 1948 through 1952. His short note startled me. “Aung San did not bring the hill tribes together at Panglong in 1947,” he wrote. “After World War II, ethnic leaders were restive. They knew the British might abandon them, especially after the July 1945 elections. It was my father who organized an ethnic leaders conference in Panglong in February 1947 to see if they could work together to preserve their status.”
In 1947, Attlee called Aung San to London for talks on the future of Burma – without inviting any of the ethnic minorities.  According to Harn Yawnghwe, his father, leading the Supreme Council of the United Hill Peoples, cabled Attlee in London to make clear that Aung San did not represent the minorities. His intervention led to the inclusion of an article in the January 27, 1947 agreement between Aung San and Attlee, stating the objective “to achieve the early unification of the Frontier Areas and Ministerial Burma with the free consent of the inhabitants of those areas.”  In other words, as Harn Yawnghwe’s note to me made clear, Aung San had nothing to do with organizing the Panglong Conference – instead, he was forced to rush to the ethnic leaders’ conference already occurring at Panglong to fulfill his vision for independence.
If true – and I have little reason to believe Yawnghwe isn’t being truthful – it’s the equivalent of learning that John F. Kennedy wasn’t primarily responsible for saving the crew of PT-109 after it was sunk by a Japanese destroyer in 1943, as legend goes, but instead played a supporting role.
Why does this matter? One, because it dramatically changes our understanding of Aung San and his legacy. Two, because it shows how the lessons today’s peacemakers have learned from Panglong may not be the right ones.
Two months ago, Aung San’s daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi, convened the second round of her “21st Century Panglong” peace talks with ethnic groups. Thus far, like Suu Kyi’s leadership, the conference has seen more pomp than purpose. “It was organized as if the leaders of the groups were treated like lower segments,” one attendee from a non-governmental organization told me, “and the NLD [Suu Kyi’s party] and others got the red carpet while the ethnic groups didn’t even know where they should sit.”
Perhaps the real lesson of the 1947 Panglong Conference is this: make yourself heard or you’ll be left out of the equation. Only when the ethnic groups made it clear to Attlee that Aung San didn’t represent them did the U.K. change course, forcing Aung San to the negotiating table. Maybe it’s time for the ethnic leaders of today to send a similar message to the United States and others: Aung San Suu Kyi does not represent us. And maybe it’s time the United States insist more forcefully that Suu Kyi – and Myanmar’s true source of power, the military – heed the interests of minority groups. Foreign investment from the United States and other Western powers matters to a military deeply entrenched in Myanmar’s economy; that gives us leverage. Our investment and aid should come with conditions.
In Myanmar’s Mon State, across the Thanlwin River, a steel bridge connects Mon State with Belugyun Island. In April, thousands of local people came out in protest. Why? Myanmar’s Lower House had approved legislation from Suu Kyi’s party naming the bridge after Aung San. “The protesters said they wanted their ethnic Mon culture and heritage to be respected in the naming of the bridge,” one article explained, “and they meant no disrespect to General Aung San.”
Today, as the Bamar celebrate the legacy and achievements of their fallen hero, it’s worth remembering that there are many hundreds of other values, stories, and interests in this ancient land.  Whether Myanmar can ever become a unified nation – and I’m not optimistic – will depend on whether the ethnic minorities have the same rights as the Bamar.
Only then will Myanmar build not just stadiums, markets, and roads in memory of a distant past, but real bridges to the future, ones that everyone is allowed to cross – as equal citizens.
 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Trump’s messy half year tenure

On Friday, Sean Spicer, President Trump’s spin master, a.k.a. the White House press secretary, resigned after telling President Trump that he vehemently disagreed with his appointment of Anthony Scaramucci, a New York financier, as his new communications director. After offering Scaramucci the job on Friday morning, Trump asked Spicer to stay on as press secretary, reporting to Scaramucci. But Spicer rejected the offer.
Scaramucci is a Long Island-bred former hedge fund manager who is currently the senior vice president and chief strategy officer at the Export-Import Bank.
Spicer had an almost impossible, if not, very difficult, task to answering questions from the press on the president’s erratic or irresponsible conducts, statements and positions that changed more frequently than the sand dunes of the Sahara. He had very little clue on his boss’s latest position on anything – either local or international – except that he was expected to do the devil’s job of ‘damage control’ for the POTUS.
It is not difficult to understand why Spicer became such a butt of the joke amongst late night TV talk show hosts. His role at the White House has so far been brilliantly played by actress Melissa McCarthy in the Saturday Night Live. With his departure, we shall surely miss McCarthy.
Spicer’s top deputy, Sarah Huckabee Sanders (the daughter of Christian fundamentalist, ex-governor Huckabee), will serve as the press secretary instead.
Twitter is having a field day with Scaramucci's old tweets, which he is trying to delete fast before they catch the eyes or draw the ire of his new boss. "Full transparency: I'm deleting old tweets," Scaramucci wrote on Saturday, adding that his "past views" have "evolved."
Those "past views" include endorsements of gun control, (ex-president) Barack Obama and even Hillary Clinton, who he called "incredibly competent." In the same 2012 tweet, he expressed hope that she would run for president in 2016. "I like Hillary," he said in one tweet. And in another: A "Hillary run makes everyone better."
Other tweets indicated a clear lack of support for then-candidate Trump, whom he called an "odd guy." During a 2015 appearance on Fox News, he called Trump a "hack politician" and said his rhetoric is "Anti-American and very, very divisive."
Now that Scaramucci has been named the new Goebbels for the White House, surely, his mental ‘evolution’ will be needed to keep his job under a president who cares only about himself and his family, and likes to be surrounded by sycophants and not honest advisers.
It is worth noting here Trump’s  50-minute interview with The New York Times, published Wednesday, when he said that he would not have chosen Jeff Sessions to be his attorney general (AG) had he known Sessions would recuse himself over matters related to the 2016 presidential campaign. In his interview, Trump had harsh words for the Justice Department investigation into potential coordination between his associates and Russia to influence the 2016 election, suggesting the probe was unfair due to conflicts of interest. [Note: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had selected former FBI Director Robert Mueller to take over the investigation as special counsel after Trump fired Comey.]
Trump suggested it would be wrong for Mueller to investigate his family's finances. The Times reported that when asked if that would be a red line, Trump responded in the affirmative, but would not say what action, if any, he would take.
According to the legal experts in the CNN, Trump's remarks represent an extraordinary rebuke from the President toward the nation's top law enforcement official who happens to be one of his earliest political allies. The relationship has cooled down in recent months. But Sessions and his deputy said that they intend to remain in their posts and are not stepping down voluntarily.
Sessions has not been truthful during his AG confirmation hearing. Sessions met Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at least two times in 2016: once at the Republican National Convention in July, and once at his Senate office in September.  A third meeting, during a reception the Mayflower hotel in Washington, has also been reported, but Sessions has denied having private meetings at that reception. Sessions did not disclose any of those meetings on his security clearance forms, and during his confirmation hearing denied any “communications with the Russians.” The meetings were only publicly disclosed following a CNN report in May.
There is little doubt that the Trump administration is in a mess. It tried to write a premature obituary for the Obamacare, but that attempt miserably failed. The Republican Senate majority leader failed to put the death nail on the Obamacare.
On Saturday, the Congressional leaders reached an agreement on sweeping sanctions legislation to punish Russia for its election meddling and aggression toward its neighbors. This defies the White House’s argument that President Trump needs flexibility to adjust the sanctions to fit his diplomatic initiatives with Moscow.
According to the NY Times, the new legislation would sharply limit the president’s ability to suspend or terminate the sanctions — a remarkable handcuffing by a Republican-led Congress six months into President Trump’s tenure. It is also the latest Russia-tinged turn for a presidency consumed by investigations into the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russian officials, including conversations between Trump advisers and Russian officials about prospective sanctions relief.
Mr. Trump may be forced to either veto the bill, which would fuel accusations that he is doing the bidding of President Putin of Russia, or sign legislation imposing sanctions his administration has opposed.
On Saturday in a series of early morning messages on Twitter, President Trump asserted that he has the “complete power to pardon” relatives, aides and possibly even himself in response to investigations into Russia’s meddling in last year’s election although he had no need to use the pardon power at this point.
It is true that the POTUS has the authority to pardon others for federal crimes, but legal scholars debate whether a president can pardon himself. If that happens, it would be the first of its kind, and that too, only in Trump’s America!
What a messy six months of ‘making America great again’!

Rohingya situation 'hardly improved': UN envoy

Human rights has worsened in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state following a four-month-long military crackdown, a UN representative said Friday.
“The general situation for the Rohingya has hardly improved since my last visit in January, and has become further complicated in the north of Rakhine,” said Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, at the end of a 12-day information gathering visit.
“I continue to receive reports of violations allegedly committed by security forces during operations,” she said.
Security forces launched a four-month long operation in the troubled Rakhine state, where Muslims and Buddhists often engage in violence, after a militant group killed nine policemen in Maungdaw Township last October.
The government has said at least 106 people were killed during the operation but Rohingya groups have said approximately 400 Rohingya were killed.
During the operation which ended mid-April, aid groups and media were prevented from entering the region.
Lee said that after the operation, Rohingya were attacked by unknown assailants for applying for citizenship.
The Rohingya are denied citizenship by the Myanmar government, which asks them to register as Bengalis – suggesting they are illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.
The ethnic group, however, maintains it belongs to Myanmar and citizenship is their birthright.
- Fact-finding mission denied access
Likewise, some village administrators and other Muslims were attacked for working with the state authorities, she said.
“This leaves many Rohingya civilians terrified, and often caught between violence on both sides,” Lee said.
Government figures show 34 Rohingya civilians killed and 22 others kidnapped by militants since last October.
Lee said the government led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi has denied her request to visit several places in eastern Shan state and southeastern Kayin state, so as to impede her investigation.
“I was just able to visit Lashio in Shan state and Hpa-An in Kayin state,” she said, adding, individuals who she interviewed continue to face intimidation, including being photographed and questioned before and after meetings.
Thousands of people were internally displaced in Shan state, as fighting intensified between government troops and ethnic armed groups, since the present government came into power last March.
Lee said the Rakhine community in Kayuk Pyu of Rakhine state – where the government is implementing the Special Economic Zone project -- is also facing land confiscation with little or no consultation or compensation.
The government has refused entry to a UN team probing allegations of killing, rape and torture by security forces against Rohingya during a four-month security operation in the Maungdaw area in northern part of Rakhine.
The fact-finding mission was established by the UN Human Rights Council after a UN report issued in February uncovered widespread human rights violations by security forces in Rakhine.
Lee urged the Myanmar government to allow the fact-finding mission to begin its investigation, and said she passed on the message to Suu Kyi during a recent meeting she had with her in the capital of Naypyidaw.



Review of Ilan Pappe's book

Ludwig Watzel reviews Israeli historian Ilan Pappe's book - “Ten Myths About Israel”, which came out in Germany in 2016 under the title ” What’s wrong with Israel? The Ten Main Myths of Zionism”.

Click here to read - What Israel is Really All About by Ludwig Watzal.

Soros's Sorrows

George Soros, the philanthropist, is a very controversial man in our time. He always had eyes for making money and made billions in doing what he was good at. In that process, he made many critics including the Dr. Mahathir Mohammad of Malaysia. One thing no one should argue about is his sincerity for human rights. He is driven to make things better for all, including the Palestinians in Apartheid Israel. As a Hungarian Jew such activism does not bode well amongst many Jews who like to falsely label him as an anti-Semite. Such accusations are sickening and ludicrous.
Soros is treated as a villain in his native Hungary. The reasons are obvious. The government there is a neo-fascist government that does not like human rights activism of Soros.
Here is Uri Avnery's latest piece where he writes about Soros.
He writes, "Anti-Semites always preferred the Zionists. Adolf Eichmann wrote in his confession that he saw the Zionists as the “valuable element” of the Jewish people. And so on.
Abraham Stern, called Ya’ir, an underground leader in British Palestine, split from the Irgun and founded a new group (called the “Stern Gang” by the British) whose main policy plank was to cooperate with Nazi Germany against the British, on the principle that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. He sent emissaries to German embassies but was ignored by Hitler. Eventually he was shot by the British."
Netanyahu is a good friend of the Hungarian leader Victor Orban, the neo-fascist, and an anti-Semite bigot.
Avnery writes, "Well, life is full of contradictions. As are we.
Netanyahu’s Hungarian adventures were not over with the Soros and Horthy affairs. Far from it.
While in Budapest, he took part in a closed meeting with the leaders of Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Some fool forgot to cut the line to the Journalists outside, and so they could listen in to some 20 minutes of Netanyahu’s secret speech.
To his East European soul mates, extreme right-wing semi-democrats all, our Prime Minister poured out his heart: the liberal West European governments are “crazy” when they impose conditions regarding human rights on their aid to Israel. They are committing suicide by letting in masses of Muslims. They don’t realize that Israel is their last bulwark against this Muslim invasion."

The Murder of Muslims by Farzan Versey


Farzan Versee has been writing on India and minority issues for quite some time. Here below is her latest article, which I produce in its entirety.
==============
In India today, nationalism has a religion. Hinduism. We may pussyfoot around it and refer to it as Hindutva, saffronisation or, what the ruling rightwing Bhartiya Janata Party calls “fringe elements”, but the discourse is clearly embedded in the faith of the majority community.
Slurs against Muslims have become commonplace. A country that wants to declare the cow as the mother of the nation and where minorities have to prove their patriotism not by allegiance to the flag but to the political party in power is bound to descend into chaos.
Two years ago, a mob brandishing hockey sticks and knives barged into Mohammed Akhlaq’s house in Dadri in north India and assaulted all the family members before killing him because they suspected there was beef in their fridge. The meat was sent to the forensic lab and it was found to be lamb.
When one of his killers died (of natural causes), he was given a martyr’s funeral; his coffin was draped in the national flag and there were speeches by leaders from Hindu organisations that have direct access to the government.
Last month towards the end of Ramadan when Junaid boarded the train to return home with his Eid shopping bags, he might not have imagined that the elderly man whom he offered the seat to would egg on a mob punching him and his friends. Abuses flew. “Beef eater”, “antinational”, “mullah”. They pulled at their skull caps and newly-sprouted beards. Knives came out telling them to go to Pakistan. They were bleeding. Nobody came to their rescue. Junaid was stabbed. He died. He was 16.
At the stations en route some of the lynch mob got off, enough to let the cops shrug about little evidence.
A scuffle for seats got transformed into a fight for political and religious space. Or, perhaps, religious assertiveness is seeking out reasons.
Meat trader Alimuddin Ansari was beaten up by a mob and his van, ostensibly with cattle meat, was set on fire in Jharkhand. There seemed to have been a dispute with some people who were extorting money from him. Such excuses have become the norm where the victim is invariably Muslim, for it was not a spontaneous act. His movements were tracked for hours before he was murdered.
Mohammad Majloom and Inayatullah Khan of Latehar were taking their cattle to a fair many miles away. Five men with a mission waylaid them. After they killed the 35 and 13 year old, they tied a noose around their necks and hung them from a tree.
“Prima facie it appears to have been a case of a gang attempting to loot cattle,” the cops said. For those in a hurry to rob and make a quick escape with the cattle to profit from it, they seemed to have relished in committing the murders. Not only did they kill the two, they hanged them. The hanging was a message. To shame. To hold them up as an example. How dare they not respect their gau mata, the cow mother, their religion?
It is disconcerting that mobs are using cow protection as the higher cause even to settle petty disputes. The shaming has got a further boost because the videos are uploaded and shared. The message gets more traction. What is so evident in these viral videos is that the so-called ‘jihadi mentality’ that Muslims are accused of does not respond in kind. The victims are just overwhelmed by the suddenness of the attack; in some instances they are pleading, in one the man does not even have the energy or presence of mind to protest as they grab his hair and kick him. He just takes it like a stoic who has become accustomed to lie on a bed of nails.
***
Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India, has not uttered a word condoling any of these deaths. He tweets mourning for the loss of lives in a fire in Portugal, but makes no attempt to reach out to the families of those killed by men purportedly supporting his party’s Hindutva dream, a dream to reclaim ancient India and transform the country into a Hindu nation.
When he does speak, it is evasive: “All (state) governments should take stringent action against those who are violating law in the name of cow protection.”
How will this happen when some state governments are handing out expensive beef detection kits to the cops to smell for trouble, effectively converting the police force into cow protectors too? The very fact that there are several cow protection groups is worrying, for they aren’t animal rights activists but soldiers of the faith.
“Bolo Jai Shri Ram” (Hail Lord Rama), is the war cry. People are stopped in the streets and asked to owe allegiance to their god. A mentally unstable woman was slapped and forced to utter the words; a cleric was pummelled just outside the mosque by a group insisting he chant the phrase; journalist Munne Bharti was driving with his elderly parents. Suddenly, their car was surrounded by a group. They threatened to set the car on fire if they did not chant “Jai Shri Ram”. They did. An adult was frightened, for himself and his aged parents.
***
How is this not about religion, then?
It was always about religion, perhaps by a few skewed minds. 25 years ago Bal Thackeray, the leader of the militant Shiv Sena, had asked for the disenfranchisement of Muslims. He would address huge rallies at an open ground referring to Muslims as “katuas”, the cut ones without a foreskin. After the Babri Masjid was demolished in Ayodhya, on the instructions of these political parties, and the riots reached what was then Bombay, the men in the streets would point at the crotches of Muslim men and snigger, “katua”. They were stopped and asked to strip for a random check by random people. Unlike the Sikhs after the riots in 1984 who discarded their turbans and shaved off their hair to protect themselves, Muslims could not get back their foreskin.
At the All-India Hindu Convention held last month in Goa, for 4 days all the cars at the venue were sprayed with cow urine to purify them. “Their car needs shuddhi karan. We do it to all objects — watches, clothes, sometimes even handbags. It’s a spiritual exercise.”
How people choose to practise their faith is a personal matter. But when you have a cow piss soda, cow dung and urine being made a part of ayurvedic medicines and astrologers treating people in hospital OPDs, then it becomes obvious that the cow and beef are incidental here. They are only the more potent batons to beat the minorities. There is also the commercial angle. Giving a charlatan guru called Ramdev land and business rights to run an empire ostensibly selling indigenous products is a strategy to bring the devil close to your home.
Young Hindu women are training in self-defence to protect them from “love jihad”, a bogey created by the rightwing suggesting that Muslim men are luring them to fall in love to later convert them.
In May last year, there was a report about a camp in Uttar Pradesh training the youth wing of militant Hindu organisations to protect the country from terrorists. In the video images they are aiming their air guns and sticks at men wearing skull caps. The governor had justified the drill: “Those who cannot defend themselves, cannot ultimately defend the country and there is nothing wrong if some youths are getting arms-training purely for self defence.”
That instead of urging these fit youth to join the army, they are being brainwashed to target a particular group makes the intention clear.
How is this not about religion?
***
The fallout of such brainwashing is not restricted to the extremist Hindutva proponents alone. There is a not-so-subtle attempt to deflect from the Hinduness of the terror by liberals too. An academic who has taken it upon himself to explain India to Indians on social media from his perch in the US has written about the global Muslim victimhood industry by playing victim: “One cannot use the term ‘Muslim terror’ (but Hindu or Christian or Left terror is fine) or even Islamic terror without worry of being termed communal, bigoted, or Islamophobic. The appropriate phrase is ‘Islamist terror,’ which, we are expected to clarify, has nothing to do with Islam.”
Some commentators have begun to call India Lynchistan, the land of lynching. We do not seem to realise that mobs thrive on notoriety. They are not seeking a popular mandate, because they already are the popular mandate. Paper tiger responses only embolden their cause. The truth is that nobody in mainstream media or in activism or with an outsider’s perspective, like Dr. Amartya Sen, has had the courage or the will to call these planned lynchings as Hindu terrorism.
Is such nomenclature important? It is. Because it is a systematic attempt to annihilate the minorities, specifically Muslims. (Quite different from Islamist terrorism whose victims are mainly Muslim and, in some cases like the ISIS’s victims, also people who are liberal enough to support Muslims.)
Muslims immediately distance themselves from any jihad violence, even though that does not assuage their neighbours from seeing them as potential suspects. Hindus are not doing so in large enough numbers, and they are chary of admitting the faith angle because they believe that Hinduism is not a monotheistic faith with allegiance to one book and one god. It is amorphous and therefore fluid, they reason.
The caste system and its treatment of Dalits and the backward castes certainly reveals ‘fluidity’. All the government-engineered riots have been masterminded by a vile intellect that outsources the war to the police and army and pumps up the trading class to decimate minority businesses. The murder of minorities is only a more violent assertion of this sheltered ghettoisation of the elite majority.
There are many who use their internet liberalism to rationalise their own subtle bigotry. That many of them also have a stake in steak does lend weight to their public “I’m not too Hindu” utterances.
In one such recent piece, the headline flashed about how Hindu victimhood is a manufactured cry. In the first para itself, though, the writer gave a clean chit to Muslims quoting, of all people, George Bush: “India is a country which does not have a single al-Qaida member in a population of 150 million Muslims.” Hindus do not have to prove whether they have allegiance to any extremist organisation, even if they elect them to power.
The usage of Islamist phrases like fatwa and jihad to explain Hindu terror acts and suggest they are only “mimicking” reeks of another version of Islamophobia and projects violence by Hindu extremists as a reaction to centuries of abuse by Muslim rulers. This historic narrative pushes the ‘tolerate Muslims despite their past’ idea, the moral compass revealing who considers itself the superior side.
These recent attempts to call out Hindu extremists is not organic. They are a response to some of us wondering why we did not link the Hindu word with terrorism. We have woken up or, in good old Hindu speak, and in deference to many of us being converts from the ancient religion, our third eye has been awakened.