Kashmir: "All is Hell"
August 9 to 13 a civil liberties team submitted its Report on Kashmir after abrogation of Art. 370 on 5th August. Team consisted of Jean Dreze economist, Maimouona Mollah, CPI(M) and AIWDA, Kavita Krishnan, CPI-ML Lib (Maale) and Vimal Bhai, Gandhian and. NAPM.

While the Press Club of India permitted this Press Conference from its premises, it did not allow use of a projector to show the pictures, audio interviews and video / film which the team had incredibly prepared in such short time. It was indeed shocking and ironical, that the Press forum was curbing its own freedom.

In October, 1985, when some people leased the Report on 'Operation Bluestar' and Oppression in Punjab on behalf of the Citizens for Democracy, a civil rights body, it was also reported on the effects of military occupation of the Golden Temple at Amritsar and Punjab in general, but concerned citizens were able to visit Punjab a clear one year after the entry of armed forces into the Swarn Mandir in June, 1984, after the army's withdrawal and restoration of democratic rights.

What was indeed bold and impressive was that this team was able to visit Kashmir, a mere four days after the abrogation of Art. 370 in Parliament and meet scores of people from all walks of life, students, women, shopkeepers etc. from different communities besides Kashmiris, be the first team to venture out of Srinagar to Sopore, Bandipur, Anantnag, Sopian. Pulwama and the rural areas, take their live audio interviews, photos, make a film despite Section 144 and curfew all over in the presence of about 5 lakh military and para-military forces (about 1 military person to 10 civilians).

There is enormous anguish and anger in the Kashmir valley. Every person the team met in Kashmir except the spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) referred to the situation in the Valley arising out of the removal of special status of Jammu & Kashmir under Art 370, as 'ZULAM" or Oppression and 'DHOKA or Betrayal. The common view was that Art. 370 acted as a bridge between India and Kashmir, and with its abrogation, all links and ties have been severed.

Kashmir has become an 'open Jail'. Seventy-million people are locked in. All of Kashmir including offices, shops, establishments, hotels, schools and colleges, is closed. There is total lack of communication channels of phone, mobile and internet giving the general sense of Imprisonment.

Hundreds of young boys, even children, have been abducted from villages, their homes or the streets and detained in Police Stations or Army Camps. There are also those whose whereabouts are not known. Their total number cannot be specified.

Many well known political persons are under house arrest and hundreds of political people and youth have been arrested or detained but their numbers and particulars are not known. The figure of 600 such political persons are under some kind of arrest or detention, is what the Team has reliably gathered.. Except that it is definite that social activist Professor Hamida Naim, Dr Moonim Shakeel and Advocate Mia Abdul Qayoom are under detention . The team tried to meet the ailing CPI(M) leader Yusuf Tarigami, but on reaching his house, they were told he is under house-arrest and cannot be visited.

AS a result, there is a great sense of fear among the public. People would not speak on camera. The audio interviews do not show or identify the person speaking.

At the same time, the Team clarified that the people they met, except the BJP spokesperson, extended a great welcome to them and showed much warmth and hospitality.

The Press is muzzled, no known newspaper from mainstream Indian media are available. There are few Kashmiri newspapers with little news but plenty of announcements of marriages being cancelled.

Whereas the Indian TV media is omnipresent with its viewpoint that all is well in Kashmir (which makes Kashmiri all the more upset and angry because they think, in the words of the team, that "All is Hell".)

Women are angry at Khattar's derogatory and demeaning remarks about Kashmiri girls; Many of them asserted that patriarchy is a separate issue and they would fight their gender battles independently.

The economy of the Kashmir valley is at a standstill what with curfew, shops and markets closed, no transport, no telecommunications, people locked-in at their homes and villages.

It is a big lie that Kashmir is not developed, and that Kashmiris are poor, backward and uneducated; the villages are well developed and the younger generation is highly educated, well aware of Kashmiri's history and its relationship with India.

The impression the team came back with is that as Kashmiriat has been attacked, the people of Kashmir, irrespective of religion and community, will not take this betrayal and humiliation lying down and united, they will rise again on the basis of peaceful resistance.
Dr Aurobindo Ghose,
Human Rights Activist

Population Bomb
Education, the economic dependence of women and a rural-urban divide all play roles in India's population, which is bursting at the seams and poses a resources, such as water and energy. India has more than 600 million young people and needs 12 million jobs for them each year. Population is an issue which can no longer be put off till tomorrow.

In times gone by, around the time when Dr Guha had worked out his invention, Sanjay Gandhi, son of India's then-reigning prime minister Indira Gandhi, opted for a compulsory sterilisation programme to halt the population boom in 1976. Over six million men were sterilised in just a year. Nearly 2,000 men died because of botched operations.

In the ensuing elections, India voted the Gandhis out of power. Nobody in authority has dared to do anything as dramatic as this since those dark days.

Dr Guha, nearing 80 and still sprightly, could finally give India a solution to a problem which has seriously shackled the nation's future. He won't meet the tragic fate of Dr Subhas Mukherjee, who was the real architect of 'test-tube baby' procedure but lost the rights of invention to Louise Brown only because his work hadn't appeared in any international journal. In 1981, Dr Mukherjee was found hanged in his Kolkata apartment.
Jayanta Dey, Kolkata

Charity Christmas
German Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany invites you to enjoy the festive Christmas atmosphere with music and mouthwatering food options. Artisans from local organisations will sell their handicrafts to raise money for charity. Enjoy this unique shopping experience with German 'Gluhwein' (mulled wine), German sausages grilled live. This year the Consulate General Christmas is following 'Sholapith craft or Shola craft', an age old craft tradition of Bengal which faces the threat of extinction. Many of the delicate, intricate items and products will be showcased at the fair.
Display of Handicrafts by NGOs & small business
Music by Live Band
German Gluehwein (mulled wine), beer & bardecued sausages
More about Shula art:
The equisiste traditional craft of Bengal. Sholacraft, has only very few remaining aged veteran and export artisans and without any documented skill/craft techniques. Many of the delicate, intricate items and accessories like pith helmets are no longer produced. Though at present most crafts persons produce only low-value customery and the religious need of the people, few of the existing Sholapith craftsmen are still able to make perfect motifs designs and create the most extraordinary and exquisite items of decoration and artistic figurines. The art has also the potential to have newer avenues of expression.
German Consulate, Kolkata

Rights of Forest Dwellers
The Hon'ble High Court at Calcutta has pased the final order quashing the approval of Hydel Power Plant in Ayodhya Hills of Purulia District in West Bengal accorded by the Central Government clearly stating that it violates Forest Rights Act, 2006.

The Hon'ble High Court at Calcutta has further quashed the permission granted to the Hydel Project by the State Government.

The Hon'ble High Court at Calcutta has also quashed the so called resolutions of two Gram Sabhas illegally manufactured and cited in the court by the authorities as evidence of forest dwellers' support for the Hydel Project.

Congratulations for all activists and friends including the lawyers involved in the matter. It has been a great contribution in the struggle to establish the rights of forest dwellers and good learning for us all.
Samar Bagchi, Kolkata

Rewriting History?
Former GDR minister Modrow said recently that Soviet Union's contribution to the victory over Nazism must not be forgotten.

Politicians in the west are actually stressing not only the danger of revising the results of World War II but also of rewriting history, which results in a redistribution of merits. Both lead to the fact that History repeats its lesson. So said, former GDR Minister.

It is worth mentioning that a large number of listeners came to Modrow meeting. The hall with the capacity of 150 people was crowded with twice as many interested young people.

After Erich Honecker, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Socialist United Party of Germany (SED), was dismissed on 18 October 1989, Egon Krenz was elected SED General Secretary.

Until November 13,1989, the GDR Council of Ministers was effectively headed by SED Politburo member Willi Stoph, who was later succeeded by Modrow. Only the Minister of National Education, Margot Honecker, voted against him. He held this position until 12 April 1990.
Rossa Primavera, News Agency

Pragya Thakur
It is unfortunate that "Pragya Thakur... has been dropped from the Defence Consultative Committee." Her expertise in motorcycle bombs would have given India a decisive military edge over its enemies.
Mukul Dube

Roosevelt and Truman
It is somewhat surprising that BJ, in his Calcutta Notebook ((November 17-23), has confused Roosevelt with Truman. The Great Depression that started in the USA in 1929-30, engulfed the entire capitalist world. In the USA, Herbert Hoover was replaced by F.D. Roosevelt as president in 1932 amidst countrywide poverty and unemployment. Roosevelt tried to rebuild the economy by his New Deal, implying larger public investment an increased wages, which was called 'cooperative capitalism'. It was Keynesianism of some sort. Yet it is not true that the US economy was rescued immediately by it. Even in 1940, the rate of unemployment was at out 10%. By then the Second World War had begun and as if went on, all the anti-axis forces, including Stalin's Soviet Union purchased large amounts of materials from the USA, which hugely boosted up internal demand. Thus, it was some kind of military Keynesianism that lifted the USA out of crisis. The USA got directly involved in the War only after the Pearl Harbour on 7 December, 1941. In 1945, Roosevelt died, while serving his fourth term as President and his death was mourned even by the Chinese communist press in Yenan. The first decision taken by his successor, Harry Truman, was to drop atom bombs on two Japanese cities and killing and maiming innumerable innocent civilians.
N K Chatterjee,
Bolpur, Birbhum

The exuberance that that excited Bengali speakers on this side of the border during the tumultuous events culminating in the 1971 liberation war on the other side has dissipated into thin air. During a Bangladesh Vs. Pakistan cricket encounter at the Eden Gardens a couple of years back the stands were conspicuously empty while a small pack in a corner of the stadium continuously chanted "jitega bhai jitega, Pakistan jitega". Since 1971 India has been steady in its quest for becoming a military power and this irks the neighbour whose HDIs and GDP growth rates are considerably better. Both neighbours suffer from the malady of looking for an emotional solution to every genuine problem and so there is no satisfactory treaty on the 54 rivers that flow from India into Bangladesh. To the contrary, on the Western front, the two belligerent neighbours, warriors of many wars and battles, have made the Indus river treaty work since the 1960s under the tutelage of the World Bank. The Bengali neighbour's apathy towards one another is reflected in the 9th Bangladesh Book Fair that is being held in the city. That the fair is well organised at a prime location in the heart of the city speaks of strong bureaucracy at work. However, crowds are wanting and publishers due to a lack of appropriate enthusiasm on this side of the border are muted in their presence.
Soumya Guhathakurka, Kolkata

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Vol. 52, No. 28, Jan 12 - 18, 2020