Tricolour at 8 am, rebel flags at 4 pm Avijit Ghosh|

16 08 2008


Courtesy: Times of India Epaper

Avijit Ghosh|TNN


Srinagar: At exactly 8am, CRPF hoisted the Indian tricolour at Lal Chowk in the heart of Srinagar on Independence Day. At 3.45pm, Lal Chowk wore a totally different look. Hundreds of slogan-shouting protesters swarmed the area and at 4pm planted the flags of Jamaat-e-Islami (which looks like the Pakistani flag) and the terrorist outfit, Hizb-ul Mujahideen, on top of the same tower where the Indian flag had been hoisted.

If one were to go by the symbolism of the spectacle at Lal Chowk, the Valley’s a l i e n at i o n from the Indian Union seemed complete. One of the slogans of the protesters drove the m e s s a g e home— “Jiyo, jiyo Pakistan, hum hain Pakistani.” Other slogans included “Islam Zindabad,” “Lad ke lenge azadi” and “Allah-u-Akbar.”

The crowds had a free hand through much of Friday. They were aggressive in their gestures, but did not resort to violence. Driving around the city, it was obvious that CRPF’s presence was vastly reduced, especially in old Srinagar area. Police too remained mere onlookers as the protesters kept jumping and screaming slogans at Lal Chowk for at least 20 minutes.
In the evening, there was news of police firing in the Habba Kadal area in which more than 20 protesters were injured. Between 8pm and 9pm, the city observed a blackout— rather was forced to do so as activists went around enforcing it at buildings where lights were switched on. What happened to the Indian national flag at Lal Chowk? Prabhakar Tripathi, the CRPF PRO, said the national flag was
taken off around 10.00am to protect it from rain. Apart from Lal Chowk, the national flag was also hoisted by governor N N Vohra at Bakshi Stadium.

In the afternoon after the namaz, the demonstrators spilled out into the streets from nooks and crannies of Srinagar. Many protesters carried black flags; a few wore black armbands. A majority of them were young—in the 15-30 age group. Women and children too marched in the procession raising slogans for “azadi’’.

Around 1pm in the Safa Kadal area, loudspeakers blared out from mosques, “humko chahiye azadi’’. A procession on M a u l a n a Azad Road a ro u n d 3.30pm had at least 5,000 p e o p l e. A ro u n d 2.45pm, before the namaz at Jamia Masjid in old S r i n a g a r town was over, a bunch of 15 women in burqas burned the tricolour.

T he women shouted: “Bharat teri maut aye, Millat aayee, Millat aayee.’’ When asked, one of them identified herself as a member of Dukhtaran-e-Millat, a pro-separatist women’s organization. Their action spurred the young. They danced shoulder to shoulder. And they shouted pro-Pakistan slogans at the top of their voices.

In his speech at the mosque, APHC chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq said the protests would continue till Monday. Which means shops will continue to remain closed. On Saturday, there is a ceremony called Rasm-e-Chahram (fourth day of mourning) at Pampore, about 15km from Srinagar, for Hurriyat leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz, who was killed in police firing. People from different parts of the state are expected to reach there, making it another massive gathering.

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Playing into the hands of the jihadis B Raman

13 08 2008
Source: rediff.com

India is still reeling under the impact of three rounds of serial blasts in quick succession in Jaipur on May 13, 2008, in Bengaluru on July 25 and in Ahmedabad on July 26. The police have been unable to make much headway in the investigations into the Mumbai suburban train blasts of July 11, 2006, in which 188 innocent civilians were killed and other terrorist strikes, which have followed one after the other in different parts of the country. The Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states of Rajasthan, Karnataka and Gujarat have been as clueless in the face of this terrorism as the non-BJP ruled states.

There is a huge jihadi iceberg, which has been moving from state to state spreading death and destruction. We have not been able to locate this iceberg, trace its movement and destroy it. We don’t even know who are behind the so-called Indian Mujahideen, which has claimed responsibility for many of these terrorist strikes. They have had many failures in the form of unexploded improvised explosive devices — over 30 of them.

The conventional wisdom in investigation is that every failure by the terrorists takes the police one step closer to a successful identification of the terrorists responsible. Over 30 failures — over 20 of them in Surat in Gujarat — and yet we are as clueless as ever. Were these failed IEDs examined by a single team? What were their conclusions? No answer.

The so-called Indian Mujahideen [Images] had sent three e-mail messages claiming responsibility — two before the explosions took place and one after the explosion. It has been reported by The Hindu that one more message purporting to be from the Indian Mujahideen has been received by a newspaper warning of terrorist strikes in Godhra in Gujarat where a group of Hindu pilgrims travelling in a railway compartment were burnt to death by a group of Muslim fanatics in February 2002, which provoked acts of retaliation by sections of the Hindus all over the state.

We take pride in the fact that we are a nation of high-class experts in information technology. And yet, we have not been able to make any break-through in our investigation through an examination of these messages.

It is agreed by all analysts that one of the objectives of the perpetrators of these blasts in different states of India outside Jammu and Kashmir [Images] was to create a divide between the Hindus and the Muslims. Fortunately — thanks to the prompt action by the concerned state administrations and to the good sense of the two communities — the terrorists have not succeeded in this objective.

But what the terrorists have failed to achieve so far in other parts of India through their repeated acts of terrorism, the Government of India and the Bharatiya Janata Party have achieved for them in Jammu and Kashmir — the government through its shockingly ham-handed handling of a sensitive issue and the BJP by its cynical exploitation of the communal tensions arising from the government’s mishandling for partisan political purposes with an eye on Hindu votes in the next elections, which are expected before next May.

Ham-handed handling of vital national security issues has become the defining characteristic of the Government of India. We have been seeing it again and again since the Mumbai suburban train blasts of July 2006. Important decisions have been taken — whether relating to Pakistan or China or terrorism — without examining their implications for national security. Many sensitive issues have been handled in a shockingly inept manner — thereby giving the impression of its being a government of novices with very little understanding of such issues.

Nothing illustrated its ineptitude more dramatically than the casual manner in which it watched without intervening when the decision to transfer a plot of land to the ownership of a board for the maintenance of a Hindu shrine (Amarnath) in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley was taken by the local administration headed by the Congress party without a proper examination of its likely impact on Muslim public opinion and its likely exploitation by the Muslim radicals, and then when the leaders of the Muslim community protested against it, it was cancelled without examining its likely impact on Hindu public opinion in the Hindu-majority Jammu division of the state.

The agitation launched by the Hindus of Jammu against the cancellation could have been justified if they had kept it confined to demonstrations and protests. Instead of doing so, they used the agitation for indulging in deplorable acts such as trying to disrupt communications with the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley and allegedly preventing the Muslim farmers of the valley from sending their produce of fruits to the rest of India for sale.

This was a dangerous turn in the agitation and was interpreted by many as an economic blockade of the Muslims in order to force them to concede the demands of the Hindus in relation to the transfer of the land. A similar situation was sought to be created in 1990 by the jihadis in the valley by preventing the fruit farmers and artisans from sending their produce to the rest of India for sale. The government of V P Singh, the then prime minister, immediately intervened and had their fruits etc flown from Srinagar [Images] to the rest of India at the government’s expense on special Indian Airlines flight. It also organised Kashmir trade fairs in Delhi [Images] and other parts of India and helped the Kashmiri farmers and artisans to bring their produce out for sale.

One would have expected the Government of India to have promptly acted in a similar manner to break the alleged blockade by the Hindus of Jammu. It did nothing of the sort. It kept fiddling as the situation went from bad to worse. Angered by government inaction, the fruit farmers, instigated by the Muslim radicals and jihadi terrorists, decided to take their produce to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir for sale. No government could have allowed this. The government’s efforts to stop this have led to instances of firing by the security forces on unruly mobs resulting in over 15 deaths.

One would have expected the BJP, which aspires to come to power in New Delhi after the next election, to exercise self-restraint and resist the urge to exploit the situation for partisan political purposes. The expectations have been belied. Its crude attempts to exploit the situation with an eye on the next election have added oil to fire and are threatening to take Jammu and Kashmir back to 1989, when the insurgency started. All the counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism gains of recent years in the state face the danger of being wiped out by the government’s inept handling and the BJP’s cynical exploitation of it.

In the situation as it is developing in Jammu and Kashmir, nobody seems to be interested in the national interest and in protecting the lives, property and economic interests of its citizens — whatever their religion. Partisan political interests have taken precedence over national interests.

Public opinion should force the government and the BJP to wake up and prevent a slide back to 1989. Otherwise, the Indian Mujahideen, whoever is behind it, and Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence will be having the last laugh.

B Raman





Chinese arms reaching insurgent in Northeast: India

11 06 2008

Courtesy: Khabarein.com
NEW DELHI, May 22 (KUNA) — India Thursday expresssed concern over the possession of Chinese origin arms by the insurgent groups in India’s Northeast and stated that such weapons were entering into the country through Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Chinese made weapons were increasingly being seized from insurgent groups in India’s Northeast and such arms have also reached the illegal arms market in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, a source in the Indian Defence Ministry told KUNA here Thursday. “Most of these arms are entering India through the Myanmar and Bangladesh route” it is clear from the design that they are of Chinese origin,” the source said. “We are concerned over growing Chinese influence in the region. The cost of the Chinese made weapons in the black market in the Northeast region is within the affordable range and this is a cause of concern,” the source pointed out. “While the trend had been growing over the last coupe of years, the seizure of a massive arms consignment in 2004 in Chittagong in Southeast Bangladesh brought things out in the open for the first time. It was one of the biggest-ever arms seizures in Bangladesh and raised alarm bells throughout the region, including us, after it was known that the Chinese-origin weapons were meant for Northeast insurgent groups,” the source said.

Over 1,700 assault rifles, 400 Uzi submachine guns, 150 rocket propelled grenade launchers and a large quantity of ammunition originating from Hong Kong were seized by Bangladesh authorities in 2004 at the port city of Chittagong.

India’s concerns were also echoed by leading global defence think-tank Jane’s Intelligence Review (JIR). In a report published this month, JIR said that China has replaced Cambodia and Thailand as the main supplier of weapons to insurgent groups in India’s Northeast and Myanmar as well as LTTE in Sri Lanka.

“Rebel group — United Wa State Army (UWSA) — in Myanmar acts as the middleman between Chinese arms manufacturers and insurgent groups in the Northeast, with most weapons routed through China’s Yunnan province, “India’s leading English daily “The Indian Express” reported Thursday, quoting JIR. UWSA is a 20,000-member group operating in eastern Myanmar. “China’s illicit arms trade with rebel groups — LTTE and the Kachin Independence Army in Myanmar — is also on the upswing,” the JIR said. “LTTE websites display photographs of a range of new Chinese weaponry, including the modern 5.56 mm QBZ-95 bull pup-design assault rifles that the rebels cannot claim to have captured from the Sri Lankan Armed forces,” the daily said.

“Taliban militia in Afghanistan have also been gaining access to Chinese arms. So are African conflict zones of Zimbabwe and Sudan,” The Indian Express reported, quoting JIR.





PRESS RELEASE: Oslo Peace Conference, South Asia

15 04 2008

CONFERENCE ON SOUTH ASIAN CONFLICTS UNDERLINES SPIRITUALITY AND PEACE AS THE WAYS FORWARD

Oslo, Norway. April 12, 2008: Bringing together top leaders, senior diplomats and experts from diverse backgrounds, a historic Conference on Peace and Reconciliation in South Asia concluded in the “peace capital” of the world today, calling for peaceful resolution of the unsettled issues and highlighting “spirituality” as a way forward.
The two-day Conference, which focused on the internal armed conflicts in South Asian nations of India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Nepal, was organized by ‘The Art of Living Foundation’ of spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and discussed possible solutions and ways and means to achieve them. Another aim of the initiative was to highlight the need to promote dialogue and evolve a consensus among the stakeholders to deal with the problems, which have together taken millions of lives in the last few decades.
Norway’s Special Envoy for the Peace Process in Sri Lanka Jon Hanssen-Bauer, Members of European Parliament Erika Mann and Nirj Deva and Aud Kvalbein, Deputy Mayor of Oslo were some of the prominent European speakers in the conference.
From Asia, Ramvichar Nitam, Home Minister of the Naxal insurgency-affected state of of Chhattisgarh and MDMK chief Vaiko represented India, while Sri Lankan perspective was presented by Arumugham Thondaman, Minister for Youth Empowerment and Socio-Economic Development ,Jayalath Jayawardhne, MP,Dr Rajiv Wijesinghe( Gen Secy. of the Peace Secretariat) and prominent Buddhist Monks Dr. Brahmanawatte Seevali Nayaka Thero, Deputy Secretary General, Sri Lanka Amarapura Mahanikaya and Dr Maduluvave Sobitha Nayaka Thero, Chief Incumbent of Nagavihara Kotte,. Besides, renowned experts, academics and members of The Art of Living Foundation from various nations also participated in the unique initiative.
“It is a humongous task to find harmony in diversity. We must continue to pursue the path of peace. Conflicts are bound to come and we have to make them a stepping stone to achieve the ultimate goal of global peace,” Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the main motivation behind the initiative, said.

”Whether it is inter-religious conflict, or intra-religious conflict, or it is a conflict between communist or capitalist ideology, it all starts in the minds of people, in the hearts of people. When such conflict begins, they shut themselves for reasoning, prejudice overtakes, and communication goes haywire. It’s here we need to build the trust among the communities. Spiritual leaders, religious leaders, can play a bigger role in this” Sri Sri added.

“Through this conference, we appeal to Sri Lankan government, Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelam (LTTE), Buddhist monks in China, Chinese government, Myanmar regime…everyone for peace and restraint, and to have a preference for coming to the table for resolution of issues,” the globally known Indian spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said in his concluding remarks.
During the course of the conference, a host of subjects such as ‘the role of civil society and the governments in conflict resolution’,’role of media in the conflict resolution’ and ‘Peace building in South Asia’ were discussed in detail. Separately, workshops on the Naxal insurgency problem in India, ethic Tamil strife in Sri Lanka and Burma were also conducted.
Deliberating upon the Tamil problem in Sri Lanka, top Norwegian peace negotiator Jon Hanssen-Bauer said: “The common understanding between the government and the LTTE has been that talks are aimed at finding a political solution that are acceptable to all communities in Sri Lanka. For Norway, any solution endorsed by the Sri Lankan people is of course acceptable to us.”
Participants also expressed concern at the existing situation in Sri Lanka . Mr Thondaman, minister from Sri Lanka said,”I am strongly of the opinion that there is no military solution. His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has been preaching the attainment of inner peace for years, through yoga, meditation and stress relief. An individual at peace, within himself, he obviously influences the inner peace of other individuals around him.”
Buddhist Master Seevali Nayaka Thero said that today there is so much conflict happening and this is the time to think for both the Government and LTTE about how many lives are being lost because of this war. “In any place, in any country, only by war you cannot solve the problems. Only peace talks, and reconciliation, can solve the problem,” he added.
MDMK leader Vaiko speaking about Sri Lanka said,”a whole ancient race is about to be wiped out. I would appeal to the European Union to put pressure on the Sinhalese government to end its military offensive on the LTTE, ” ”Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has done a commendable job by convening this conference of this scale” he added.
Meanwhile, the conference also zeroed down on the problem of ‘Naxalism’, which has been identified as “the single largest threat to the internal security of the country” by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the past. The ultra-Left Naxal movement, which started in late 60s, today affects one-third of the total districts of India and has been responsible for killings of thousands of people in states battling the menace.
Explaining the government’s perspective, Home Minister of Chhattisgarh Ramvichar Nitam said that the problem also had a serious socio-economic aspect to it. He outlined various steps taken by the state government to bring the Naxal youth into the mainstream and counter the insurgency militarily.
On its part, the Art of Living Foundation has also taken a lot of initiative in educating youth in the affected districts about the importance of spirituality. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has also persuaded the Naxalites for dialogue, and called upon them to give up violent means. Nirj Deva, Member of European Parliament, who conducted the workshop on Naxalism, said that he would take up the issue with fellow Parliamentarians and work towards increasing awareness and action in this regard.
Among other prominent participants were Khin Maung Win, Deputy Executive Director, Democratic Voice of Burma, Francois Gautier, Editor-in-chief, La Revue de I’lnde, Brahma Chellaney, Centre for Policy Research, India, Wasim Zaman, Director, CST for South and West Asia, United Nations Populations Fund and Sashi Raj Pandey from Nepal.