Many dangers for India ahead despite Modi's decline

Since Narendra Modi began campaigning to be Prime Minister of India in 2013, he and his party, the BJP, gave the impression of an unstoppable march, culminating in a massive electoral victory in 2014. The BJP's story went like this: Anti-incumbency was strong, and the people were sick of Congress corruption. As Chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi had administered the Gujarat miracle, reaching developmental heights unheard of elsewhere in India. Given the chance, he could do the same for the entire country. If there were accusations that he had also been Chief Minister during an organized massacre of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, well, was there any proof? Hadn't the courts given him a clean chit? And anyway, with so many terrorist threats facing India, maybe a tougher hand like Modi's was needed: to keep Kashmir in line, to fight the Maoist rebels in central India, and, of course, to stand up to Pakistan.

None of the elements of the story were actually true. Economist Jean Dreze showed that Gujarat's economic achievements were middling. They also "largely predate(d) Narendra Modi, and have as much to do with public action as with economic growth". Nirmalangshu Mukherji showed that there was, in fact, no clean chit and there was plenty of evidence of Modi's involvement in the massacres of 2002 in Gujarat. The Indian state under Congress had shown plenty of "toughness", if "toughness" includes the willingness to violate human rights, in Kashmir, in Chhattisgarh and elsewhere in the counterinsurgency war against the Maoists. As for Pakistan, even the "toughest" leaders on either side need to be careful, given the possibility of mutual nuclear annihilation.

A caravan for Genaro, part 2

A guest blog by Sheila Gruner

The caravan arrived in Tumaco last night and today the streets filled up for 3-4 hrs with Afrodescendents, Indigenous people, campesinos along with students, urban activists and a host of other allies. Chants of companero Genaro Garcia - Presente! Presente! Presente! rang through the ally ways, entered windows of schools, shops and offices and resonated against graffitied walls with messages for peace and the urgent need for dialogue to end the conflict.

There was an entirely cohesive voice as this mass of people, many of whom had only recently met, and perhaps never did get a chance to speak directly, moved through the streets in an act of solidarity and outrage and celebration of a possible new society. It was the voice of those who have suffered such loss themselves and understand the urgency to denounce and to be present in a way that still celebrates life and what has been achieved so far, in the defense of collective well being and the deep ties to land that were referred to throughout the days of the caravan.

Without the unilateral ceasefire declared by the FARC the march may not have been possible. The police presence was limited, although did trail the caravan and coordinate with the organizers. The some 200-250 people were marshalled by the Guardia Cimarrona and organizers from the Congreso de los Pueblos who left a sense of complete dedication to the task, many being disciplined and dedicated young people who lead and flanked the crowd until it reached its destination in the public space where the culminating political and cultural event took place.

The march itself started at Tumaco's City Hall and moved through many neighbourhoods, sending a clear message of support for the family and community affected by the loss of Genaro and to make a statement that the invisibility and violent and longstanding silencing of Afrocolombian communities of the Pacific and elsewhere, the attempted erasure of their historical vindications and attacks on social organizations, is deeply unacceptable and can not be tolerated.

The Caravan for Peace to Tumaco - a guest blog

Sheila Gruner is in Colombia marching with the Caravan for Peace "Genaro Garcia". The following is a guest blog about the march.

A Caravan for Genaro - guest blog by Sheila Gruner

The Caravan for Peace to Tumaco "Genaro Garcia" is currently underway, starting in La Maria Piendamo, to Popayan, Pasto and on to Tumaco, engaged in diverse actions and expressions of solidarity with the family, community and Afrodescendent movement of slain activist and leader Garcia.

Genaro Garcia was a tireless human rights defender, working on behalf of displaced people and the Black communities of the South Pacific coast in Colombia. The legal representative of the AfroColombian community council "Alto Mira and Fronteras", Genaro defended the territorial and political rights of his community, including the rights to autonomy and self determination and to live free from the impositions of external armed groups vying for control of his region. He was highly recognized at the national level as well as by international organizations (link to IAHRC article).

I met Genaro at an encounter organized by the Black Communities process (PCN) and the Indigenous Authorities Gobierno Mayor in December 2014, a meeting aimed at developing a collective inter-ethnic position regarding the effects of the peace process and how to ensure the rights and well being of Afrodescendent and Indigenous people are not undermined in the process - but rather maintained and strengthened.

NDP purge of pro-Palestine candidates plays into Harper’s hands

The Conservative Party is on the hunt, and with the help of the NDP and Liberals, they are cleansing Canadian politics of anyone who might think of Palestinians as human beings.

In the first weeks of the election campaign, two NDP politicians have had to distance themselves from statements about facts that are utterly obvious to anyone who knows Israel/Palestine, one nominated candidate has had to resign, and many more NDP members have been blocked by the party from seeking nominations to run for office.

Quebec NDP candidate Hans Marotte expressed past support for the first Palestinian intifada, a mass movement against Israel’s occupation to which Israel responded with the “broken bones” policy of violent repression. When the Conservatives dug up his comments, Marotte said it was proof they couldn’t find anything more recent. He didn’t recant, but he was effectively silenced.

Ontario NDP candidate Matthew Rowlinson had to issue a statement apologizing for signing an “incendiary and inaccurate” letter that included the documented and provable claim that ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is ongoing in Jerusalem. The “inaccurate” part of the letter said that Israel seeks a Jerusalem free of Palestinians. As for “incendiary,” we would do better to look at some of the weapons Israel deploys against Palestinians — more on that to come.

Then there are those who have been dumped by the party. Nova Scotia NDP candidate Morgan Wheeldon had to resign for calling Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza, which killed more than 2,200 people including more than 500 children, a war crime. NDP member Syed Hyder Ali, who had wanted to run in Edmonton, was told to withdraw his name — because he also said that Israel was guilty of war crimes. Jerry Natanine of Nunavut, the mayor of Clyde River, was tossed because, in his words, “I often side with the Palestinians because of all the hardship they are facing and because nothing is being re-built over there.”
Out of date, out of touch

"Sovereign" Deportations: The Dominican Republic deportations cannot occur without US blessing.

If the Dominican Republic had decided in 2013 to nationalize its industries, announcing a deadline of June 17, 2015 for the expropriation of all foreign-owned enterprises on its side of the island, it is unlikely that the US would throw its hands up and say nothing could be done because the DR was a sovereign country. We know it is unlikely, because the US overthrew the president on the other side of the island in 1991 and in 2004 for trying to raise the minimum wage. More likely, there would be a regime change in the DR and a more friendly government would be put in place, to much celebration from US elites and media.

But when, a court in the DR pronounced "La Sentencia" in 2013, stripping Dominicans - people born in the DR - to undocumented Haitian parents of citizenship, and the Dominican Congress established a June 17, 2015 deadline for these hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent to establish residency by navigating a bureaucratic labyrinth of unbelievable complexity, US officials mumbled their concern. Since June, tens of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent have left the DR. Greg Grandin, writing in the Nation, has called it a "slow-motion, undercover pogrom". They have left under threat of violence. They have accepted "voluntary" deportation because their only alternative was involuntary deportation. They are living in camps on the border between Haiti and the DR, not unlike the camps where hundreds of thousands of people were forced to live after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Displaced people living in camps have reached the culmination of a process that renders them without power or protection. The natural disaster of the earthquake was prolonged and made vastly more deadly by Haiti's lack of sovereignty. This completely engineered disaster of deportation shows how Haiti's lack of sovereignty is intertwined with the DR's.

Now that North American media have begun to publish on the deportations, many of them discuss Haiti's invasion of the DR in 1822. Historian Anna Ellner helps make sense of this 19th century history, and reveals it to be completely distorted in most accounts. Ellner (whose excellent blog post was linked by Grandin, who has also helped maintain a focus on this issue) presents a different history, one in which Haiti and the DR were "siblings in a struggle for freedom".

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The state murder of an activist

By now, the facts are well known to millions, but it is worth going over them again. On July 10, a 28-year old woman, an activist with the Black Lives Matter movement, who had recently moved to Texas for a new job at a university, was being followed too closely by a speeding car on a highway. She changed lanes to get out of the driver's way, and that should have been the end of the story, a non-event in her life. But the driver, 30-year old Brian Encinia, was a police officer, and he put his flashing lights on and made her pull over.

Three days later she was dead in a jail cell.

I found out about Sandra Bland's death after I watched the video of her arrest and abuse by Brian Encinia. When I watched it, I thought it was another routine example of police abuse and violence against black women in the US, like the crazed attack on a 14-year old girl in a swimsuit by Eric Casebolt in June (also in Texas).

Instead, it turned out I was watching the beginning of a long, drawn out sequence of torture and murder. Murder is the only word that can describe this, since, even if the extremely implausible story of her suicide turns out to be true, there is no way she would be dead now if she hadn't been arrested. Not unlike the murder of Eric Garner by a group of police in New York last year, the main killers being Daniel Pantaleo and Justin Damico of the NYPD. Or the murder of Walter Lamer Scott by Michael Thomas Slager, who gunned the man down while he fled. These are just a fraction of the cases that have been highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement (which numbered Sandra Bland among its activists).

And Black Lives Matter, while gathering the numbers and leveling a systemic critique, can conceivably only focus on a fraction of the hundreds of people killed by law enforcement personnel in the US each year. Killings by US police are far higher than most other Western countries. There are different ways of counting, and different institutions doing the counting. But whether you look at the Guardian's database, the Killedbypolice.net database, the Fatal Encounters database, or some other, we seem to be living in the midst of an upsurge of murders by police, targeting especially ordinary unarmed black citizens, male or (now) female.

#HackedTeam & Colombia: How Surveillance Helps a Violent State

In the past few years, debates about universal surveillance, software and internet freedom, privacy and civil liberties have opened through the efforts and sacrifices of people like Wikileaks, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and Anonymous. The governments and private security industry that have been exposed through leaks, hacks, and whistleblowing, have been forced to respond. Some of these responses involved attacking and prosecuting the messengers. Others have involved denial, apology, and the perpetually fresh doctrine of the "change of course": "yes, we used to violate people's rights, but that's all over now". Some public figures attempted to argue against privacy on principle: "If you have nothing to hide, why should you need privacy?" But, as Glenn Greenwald wrote, none of these anti-privacy people were willing to give him their email passwords on television, despite having nothing to hide.

A small number of those implicated in surveillance violations took a defiant stance, as in: "yes, we violate privacy, and we are very good at it." One security company, dedicated to offensive hacking, stood out as particularly defiant: The Italy-based Hacking Team, headed by David Vincenzetti. Go to their website today and watch the banners flash along: "DEFEAT encryption." "Total control over your targets." "Thousands of encrypted communications per day. Get them. In the clear." While many of Hacking Team's competitors were more sheepish, or at least discrete, about their violations of people's privacy rights, Hacking Team staked out a marketing space based on flamboyance.

With such a casual attitude to violating citizens privacy on behalf of their clients, the hack against Hacking Team that occurred on July 5 was almost inevitable, and it is very difficult to find any sympathy for Hacking Team's cries that their privacy has been violated. The hashtag #HackedTeam trended for quite a while, along with others like #IsHackingTeamAwakeYet.

The hackers released into the public domain the specialized software that Hacking Team uses to violate people's systems, exploits HT had discovered and were keeping secret to sell, as well as 400GB of email archives, presentations and documents. Wikileaks speedily made the email archives searchable online.

The Beginning of the End for Kagame?

On June 22, 2015 it was reported that the director-general of Rwanda's National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), Emmanuel Karenzi Karake, was arrested in London. One report, by Judi Rever in the Digital Journal, refers to Karenzi Karake accurately as "Kagame's spy chief". Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, rose to power as an intelligence chief himself - working for Yoweri Museveni, the ruler of Uganda, during the 1980s Bush War in that country. Kagame would not choose a spy chief lightly, and Karenzi Karake is absolutely in Kagame's inner circle.

Interpol is responsible for the arrest, and was acting on indictments issued by a Spanish Judge, Fernando Andreu Merelles, in 2008. Merelles issued indictments for forty of Kagame's men, all of whom were in command positions of Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) at the end of the Rwandan Civil War and genocide of 1994. Having defeated and replaced the Rwandan government that committed the genocide, Kagame's RPF hunted and massacred Rwandan refugees during and after the Rwandan civil war, in the areas they controlled (and in the DR Congo).

The evidence of these massacres is irrefutable. In standard accounts of the genocide, including the basic Human Rights Watch book Leave No One to Tell the Story by Alison Des Forges, massacres by the RPF are presented, though no estimates are given on their scale. A famously buried report by UN investigator Robert Gersony, which has since surfaced, estimated the scale to be in the tens of thousands - during the civil war. Some of the largest, and best documented massacres by the RPF occurred after they had already won the war - the worst and most infamous being the Kibeho massacre of April 1995.

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Israel's battles in sports, law, and science

Sports. In early 2014, two young athletes, named Jawhar (then 19) and Adam (then 17), were returning from a soccer training session in the West Bank. Israeli soldiers ambushed them, shot them, set dogs on them to maul them, dragged them across the ground, and beat them. The Israeli soldiers targeted their feet and legs - ten bullets in 19-year old Jawhar's feet, one bullet in each of 17-year old Adam's feet. No more soccer for Jawhar and Adam (1).

So, now, Israel's war on Palestinians is so comprehensive that it includes soccer. Jawhar and Adam are not unique for being targeted as Palestinian athletes. Sports writer David Zirin wrote about another player, Mahmoud Sarsak of the Palestinian national soccer team (2), who Israel seized on his way to a contest in 2009, and held without trial or charges for years. He was released after he went on a 92 day hunger strike in July 2012.

With such a determined, deliberate, violent campaign against soccer, Israel has generated some questions about its own status in the international soccer association, FIFA. Spurred on by the vicious attacks on Jawhar and Adam, as well as discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel, the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) led efforts to expel Israel from FIFA, and a motion was making its way to the 2015 international gathering of FIFA.

Then, in May, something happened. At the same time that FIFA was supposed to hear the motion on the expulsion of Israel for racism and its war on Palestinian soccer, the FBI moved against FIFA officials and arrested them for the corruption that FIFA has long been notorious for. Then the Palestinian Football Association amended the motion to expel Israel. Instead of expelling Israel, FIFA has struck a committee to 'monitor' Israel's compliance with FIFA rules. Some commentators have argued that the the passage of the amended resolution was still a major loss for Israel (3). Others have argued that the PFA last-minute amendment was yet another betrayal of principles by the Palestinian Authority (4).

Was the timing of the FBI raids completely coincidental, or were the raids timed to show that the US could create consequences for FIFA for trying to expel Israel? Did the Palestinian Football Association back down from its principled stand because of pressure applied behind the scenes?

ISIS Is The Child of Chaos, Not Religion

In the third week of May, ISIS took the city of Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria, in two, big, high-profile victories. Though ISIS has constantly been in the news for years now, these two cities seem to return the sense of an unstoppable march of Islamist forces across the Middle East. As the beheadings began almost immediately in Ramadi, ISIS also bombed a mosque in Qatif, a Shia-majority city in Saudi Arabia during Friday prayers. Qatif, incidentally, is a place where Saudi armed forces and police have violated human rights with their usual impunity for years, detaining and even opening fire on protesters from the Shia community. From all of these reports, the sense given to readers is one of unstoppable momentum.

But as Ahmed Ali, in the NYT Opinion section on May 21 clarified, the situation is otherwise: “…the Islamic State is not on an unstoppable march. In Iraq, and to some extent Syria, it remains on the defensive. In April, the Islamic State’s defenses in large swaths of Salahuddin Province and the provincial capital, Tikrit, collapsed.”

So, ISIS has not had unstoppable momentum. After spending many months and many lives trying to take the Kurdish city of Kobani, Syria, they have been repeatedly repulsed since the beginning of 2015. Kurdish forces in Iraq have counterattacked them in Mosul and are keeping them under pressure there. And, although each time there is a battle in an Iraqi city, the Western media discuss the close proximity of that city to Baghdad, that does not mean that Baghdad is likely to fall to ISIS any time soon.

Syria, though, is another story. The stage in both countries is set not for ISIS victory, but for perpetual conflict.