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xyzt Relationship Status: Yes, I'm alone, but I'm alone and free
Oct 21st 2021 at 1:09:07 AM

Bangladesh violence needs to stop: UN. ‘Attacks on minority Hindus are against Bangladesh’s constitutional values’

The attacks on minority Hindus in Bangladesh are against the values enshrined in its Constitution and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government needs to ensure an impartial inquiry into the incidents, the UN said on Monday. Communal tension continued to remain high in Bangladesh as violence spread to northern district of Rangpur during the weekend.

“Recent attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh, fuelled by hate speech on social media, are against the values of the Constitution and need to stop. We call upon the Government to ensure protection of minorities and an impartial probe. We call upon all to join hands to strengthen inclusive tolerant Bangladesh,” said Mia Seppo, UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh.

The developments of the past several days have already drawn international attention. Sources told The Hindu that “all of the community leaders including ISKCON” met the Indian High Commissioner Vikram Doraiswamy at the Indian mission in Dhaka on Monday evening.

The message from the top UN official based in Dhaka was prompted by a nearly week-long spell of communal violence targeting the minority Hindus during the just concluded Durga puja celebrations. The violence reached Pirganj of Rangpur district during Sunday night when a village of fisherfolks in the area was targeted by a group of arsonists.

Arson attack

Late on Sunday, a large number of properties belonging to the minority community were set on fire by groups of people. The attacks in Rangpur followed the script of the incidents that unfolded earlier in Comilla, Noakhali, Chittagong and other areas.

“The incident in Comilla that triggered the violence was orchestrated by some people to disturb inter-community ties and defame our government,” said Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan to the media.

A reported incident of desecration of the Quran during the Durga puja celebrations in Comilla town went viral on social media last Wednesday, which quickly triggered mob attacks against puja pandals.

On Monday, the situation remained tense in Chittagong and Comilla where some of the worst communal attacks were witnessed that led to the death of at least four attackers in police firing and two devotees of the ISKCON temple in Noakhali district.

In spotlight for lynching: the Nihang Sikhs, their history in Punjab, and current status. Nihang is an order of Sikh warriors, characterised by blue robes, antiquated arms such as swords and spears, and decorated turbans surmounted by steel quoits.

A group of Nihangs has claimed responsibility for the brutal murder of a 35-year-old man at the Singhu border farmers’ protest site on Friday, allegedly because he had disrespected the Sikh holy book. In April 2020, Nihangs had attacked a Punjab Police party in Patiala and chopped off the hand of an assistant sub-inspector when stopped for a curfew pass in the midst of the lockdown.

Who is a Nihang?

Nihang is an order of Sikh warriors, characterised by blue robes, antiquated arms such as swords and spears, and decorated turbans surmounted by steel quoits. The order can be traced back to the creation of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699, according to Sikh historian Dr Balwant Singh Dhillon. “Etymologically the word nihang in Persian means an alligator, sword and pen, but the characteristics of Nihangs seem to stem more from the Sanskrit word nihshank which means without fear, unblemished, pure, carefree and indifferent to worldly gains and comfort,” he said.

Is there a count of Nihangs in Punjab?

Scholars say it is difficult to give a specific count, given that Nihang Sikhs are divided into many factions. Broadly, there are three factions: Baba Budha Dal, Tarna Dal, and Baba Bidhi Chand Dal. The Budha Dal (basically considered a faction of the elderly) and the Tarna Dal (formed as a band of the young) are divided into further factions, including around a dozen factions in the Tarna Dal.

Bhai Pritpal Singh, head granthi of the gurdwara Dukh Nivaran Sahib, Patiala, said there are more than 30 factions of Nihangs in Punjab, big and small. According to Rajinder Kaur, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Guru Nanak College, Budhlada, “Because of a large number of factions and their dynamic nature — they keep moving from one place to another (chakravarti or chalda vaheer) — it is very difficult to have a specific count of the Nihangs”.

Dr Dhillon said the Nihangs today constitute a small community. In the absence of a central command or leadership, they are loosely organised. They are stationed at their deras all year round, but set out on an annual pilgrimage of Anandpur Sahib, Damdama Sahib, Talwandi Sabo, and Amritsar, and take part in religious events and exhibit their martial skills and horsemanship.

“The lynching can never be justified but the issue of desecration of sacred scripture of Sikhs is a very sensitive issue, so politicians have avoided getting into it,” a Sikh scholar said.

“Another factor was that politicians did not want to have confrontation with Nihangs, who leave their homes and have no fear of death.”

What is Nihang Sikhs’ role in history?

Nihangs played a major role in defending the Sikh panth against attacks and persecution by Mughal governors in the early decades of the 18th century, and then during the invasions of the Afghan Ahmad Shah Durrani between 1748 and 1767. When the Khalsa army was divided into five battalions in 1734, a Nihang or Akali battalion was led by Baba Deep Singh Shahid.

Nihangs also took control of the religious affairs of the Sikhs at the Akal Bunga (now known as Akal Takht) in Amritsar, where they held the grand council (Sarbat Khalsa) and passed the Gurmata (resolution). Their clout came to an end after the fall of the Sikh Empire in 1849; the British appointed a manager (sarbrah) for the administration of the Golden Temple in 1859.

During the militancy years, the then Baba Budha Dal chief Nihang chief, late Baba Santa Singh, fell afoul of the mainstream Sikhs when he, at the instance of Indian government, went on to rebuild the Akal Takht that had been damaged during Operation Bluestar in June 1984. “Some Nihangs, including Ajit Singh Poohla, collaborated with the Punjab police to eliminate Sikh militants,” Dr Dhillon said.

There were others who supported the militants. Dr Gurmeet Singh Sidhu, professor and Guru Gobind Singh Chair at Punjabi University, Patiala, recounts an instance where a Nihang misled a police party about the movement of alleged terrorists in an area.

What is their source of income today?

The major Nihang factions have under their control a number of gurdwaras, where devotees make offerings. The major factions also have agricultural land, and earn income by renting out shops in their properties. The Budha Dal also runs three schools. “Admission in the schools is purely on merit,” Budha Dal secretary Diljit Singh Bedi said. Asked about income and expenditure, Bedi said, “There are a number of cantonments of Budha Dal in different parts of the state, where the in-charges maintain records of income and expenditure.”

How are Nihangs different from other Sikhs, and other Sikh warriors?

“Nihangs observe the Khalsa code of conduct in its strictest sense. They do not profess allegiance to any earthly master. Instead of saffron, they hoist a blue Nishan Sahib (flag) atop their shrines,” Dr Dhillon said.

Nihangs use the slogans ‘chhardi kala’ (forever in high spirits) and ‘tiar bar tiar’ (state of ever-preparedness) for unforeseen events.

“The Nihangs are fond of a drink called shardai or sharbati degh (sacrament drink) which contains grounded almonds, cardamom seeds, poppy seeds, black pepper, rose petals and melon seeds. When a small measure of cannabis is added to it, it is termed sukhnidhan (treasure of comfort). A higher dose of cannabis in it was known as shaheedi deg, or sacrament of martyrdom. It was taken (while) battling enemies,” Dr Dhillon said.

Edited by xyzt on Oct 21st 2021 at 2:05:27 PM

Iaculus Pronounced YAK-you-luss from England
Pronounced YAK-you-luss
Oct 21st 2021 at 9:55:24 AM

The Washington Post's India correspondent, Rana Ayyub, presents the case that India is a fascist state. It's a long, grim read.

What's precedent ever done for us?
FFShinra Beware the Crazy Man. from Ivalice, apparently Relationship Status: Too sexy for my shirt
Beware the Crazy Man.
Oct 22nd 2021 at 5:42:58 PM

Keep an eye on Pakistan guys.

Back in September, the Army Chief (the de facto ruler in Pakistan) decided to cycle out the ISI Chief to a Corps commander role (an unspoken prerequisite if the guy ever wants to be Army Chief himself one day) and exchange him for a current Corps commander.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, the de jure leader of Pakistan (and one who was, essentially, selected by the Army to replace Nawaz Sharif, who was always at loggerheads with the Army during his return to power), decided to use what would normally (for Pakistan) be a routine job change to try and enforce his on-paper prerogative of agreeing or disagreeing with the Army Chief's choice and exercised it. As to why, some say he wants to retain the current ISI Chief, who supposedly likes Imran Khan, so as to cement his own rule (generally by his opponents or at least those not beholden to him) while others (usually his own supporters) say its to reestablish civilian supremacy over the army by forcing the Chief to go through proper channels and for Khan to actually make his own choice just to prove a point to the Army.

In any case, today (yesterday in Pakistan), a notice was supposed to come from the Prime Minister's office officiating the Army Chief's choice. It did not occur. What happens next could be anything from a nothingburger to a coup de tat. As it happens, soldiers' leaves have been cancelled....

Final Fantasy, Foreign Policy, and Bollywood. Helluva combo, that...
xyzt Relationship Status: Yes, I'm alone, but I'm alone and free
Oct 23rd 2021 at 6:05:09 AM

Glasgow climate meet | India doesn’t rule out ‘net zero’ commitment. But New Delhi to insist on earlier pledges for tech transfer funds from developed countries

India has not entirely ruled out the possibility of agreeing to a “net zero” climate target, though it will not budge on demanding that developed nations make good their previous commitments, such as an annual $100 billion to developing countries for mitigating the impacts of climate change, facilitating technology transfer and putting in place a tangible market-based mechanism to activate the moribund carbon credit markets, senior officials said.

Ahead of the 26th meeting of the United Nations’ Conference of Parties (Co P) that begins in Glasgow on November 1, the focus on making the meet a success is to have all nations commit to “net zero”, or a year by when a country’s fossil fuel emissions will peak and at some point be neutralised by taking out excess carbon from the atmosphere.

All countries doing this by 2050, scientists say, will mean a chance of restricting the average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, provided emissions fall to around 45% of the 2010 levels by 2030.

Impact on development

This, however, means deep and significant cuts to fossil fuel use that can affect the development trajectory of India and other developing countries.

A study by the think tank Council for Energy Environment and Water projects said that for India to achieve the net zero target even by 2070, usage of coal, especially for power generation, will need to peak by 2040 and drop by 99% between 2040 and 2060. The consumption of crude oil across sectors will need to peak by 2050 and fall substantially by 90% between 2050 and 2070.

India’s long-term position in climate talks has always been that it will eschew the use of fossil fuels but only gradually because it cannot compromise on development, which is now primarily reliant on coal. Also because it goes against the core principle of “common but differentiated responsibility” that requires developed countries, which are responsible for the climate crisis, to take on deeper cuts and pay developing countries for the environmental damage from rising temperature as well as finance their transition to clean energy sources.

However, the U.S, and EU delegations, in recent months, had several meetings with the Indian officials to chart out a more ambitious pathway to cut emissions.

“All options are on the platter,” a senior official who will be representing India at Glasgow told The Hindu, “but it will depend on how the negotiations will progress and whether we will be able to move ahead on getting developed countries to honour their commitments”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is expected to be present in Glasgow for the Leaders Summit on the first two days that has at least 120 heads of state who've confirmed participation.

There are also expectations that even if India doesn’t announce a net zero target, it may hint at an updated set of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), or a firmer set of commitments that could include higher clean-energy targets or reductions in specific categories of emissions.

India, the world’s third largest emitter, last announced its ND Cs in 2015 in which it committed to increasing the share of non-fossil fuel sources to 40% and reduce its emissions intensity per unit of GDP by nearly 33-35% of 2005 levels and create a carbon sink of 2.5-3 billion tons of CO 2 equivalent.

India's average per capita emissions was 1.96 tons/person/annum, the European Union’s was 8.4 and the United States was 18, the official said. Net zero didn't imply that all countries would have to go down to zero but that some could take much deeper cuts than others in a way that the overall emissions stayed on a 1.5C pathway, the person added.

FFShinra Beware the Crazy Man. from Ivalice, apparently Relationship Status: Too sexy for my shirt
Beware the Crazy Man.
Oct 23rd 2021 at 3:06:02 PM

I should note also, speaking of Pakistan, that the TLP (far right group, anti-anything not Sunni, extreme interpretation of Sharia, etc) is protesting again over the arrest of their leader, who the government has not yet released.

I expect nothing from this, as they seem to come out of the woodwork any time the Army has a problem with the elected government (see my above post), but it would not be the first time a Pakistan Army catspaw went over their skis and caused real trouble.

Final Fantasy, Foreign Policy, and Bollywood. Helluva combo, that...
xyzt Relationship Status: Yes, I'm alone, but I'm alone and free
Oct 24th 2021 at 2:24:40 AM

Rising trade, and rising tensions, point to India’s China conundrum. Contradictory trends even as New Delhi hailed ‘a breakthrough for pharmaceutical industry in China’

India’s trade with China rising to record levels in 2021 and set to cross the $100-billion mark for the first time has underlined the challenge New Delhi faces as it looks to recalibrate relations amid a more than year-long border crisis while remaining locked in a deep commercial embrace.

The two seemingly contradictory trends in relations have come into sharp focus this month when, three days after the 13th round of talks between military commanders ended in a deadlock with both sides trading accusations, New Delhi hailed “a breakthrough for the Indian pharmaceutical industry in China” with Hyderabad-based Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories set for a potential windfall, becoming the first Indian pharmaceutical company permitted to launch an anti-cancer drug in the lucrative China market.

Huge potential yet to be realised

Both Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla and Ambassador to China Vikram Misri this week highlighted the potential of trade ties. Mr. Misri highlighted pharmaceuticals as particularly having “huge potential yet to be realised”. He said, in an interview to the Global Times in Beijing, discussions “were on-going on the boundary crisis” and “we hope that both sides can resolve this [border] issue, because it is casting a shadow on bilateral relations”.

Mr. Shringla also linked the border standoff to overall relations noting in a seminar this week that “it was against the backdrop” of both sides developing “a broad-based relationship” that was “clearly predicated on ensuring that peace and tranquillity were not disturbed” that ties, including trade, took off since the normalisation of relations in 1988.

Trade ties have boomed to record levels during the past year — a period which officials in New Delhi acknowledge has marked the lowest point since 1988, in the wake of the crisis along the Line of Actual Control which erupted last summer with China’s unprecedented mobilisation of troops.

Figures released this month by China’s Customs showed the two-way trade after nine months reached $90.37 billion, up 49.3% year-on-year. India’s imports from China reached $68.4 billion, up 51.7%, a reminder of continuing dependencies on goods that India has imported in large quantities over the past two decades, such as electrical machinery and active pharmaceutical ingredients (AP Is), as well as the emergence of new imports such as medical supplies, which India has bought more from China than any other country during the pandemic, from ventilators to PP Es.

China’s global exports of medicine and medical supplies were up 108% this year, and medical supplies appear to have become the latest trade dependency. India also imports up to 70% of AP Is from China, more than 90% of solar components and a large share of auto components as well.

If the trading relationship has appeared to remain largely immune to the border crisis, where relations have changed dramatically are on the investment front, with curbs on Chinese companies remaining, and in the telecom sector where Chinese companies have been kept out of 5G trials. The massive inflow of Chinese funds into the tech sector has also been stopped. Chinese private equity and venture capital investments fell below $1 billion for the first time since 2017, according to industry research firm Venture Intelligence.

Market access impediments

Mr. Shringla said the size of the trade deficit, which is also set for a record this year, and “a number of market access impediments including a whole host of non-tariff barriers, for most of our agricultural products and the sectors we are competitive in, such as pharmaceuticals, IT/ITES, etc”, have remained two important concerns.

He also noted India was looking to reduce those imbalances through initiatives such as the Production Linked Incentives (PLI) scheme aimed at “enhancing the resilience of India’s manufacturing sector”.

India’s message to China has been that business cannot be usual while peace on the border remains disturbed. Business has, however, boomed, with no signs of slowing down even as the border crisis shows no signs of easing

xyzt Relationship Status: Yes, I'm alone, but I'm alone and free
Oct 27th 2021 at 3:34:45 AM

Despite Mass Hunger, Modi Govt Keen to Divert Foodgrains. Foodgrains being used for ethanol production matter little for the US since it does not have to worry about mass hunger. But the Modi government, not to be outdone, has also announced an ambitious plan for shifting surplus grains to ethanol production.

The Narendra Modi government’s attempt to “explain” away India’s slipping from being 94th on the global hunger index in 2020 to 101st in 2021, a rank well below that of neighbours Pakistan, Nepal or Bangladesh, by questioning the “methodology” of the index, is jejune enough. But even more shocking is its total inability to see the reason behind the acute hunger in the country.

Precisely when India has been slipping on the global hunger index, the country has had more foodgrain stocks than are required by it according to official “norms”. In fact, on September 1, 2021, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) had 50.2 million tonnes of foodgrain stocks against the required “norm” of 26.2 million tonnes. The obvious conclusion to draw from this fact is that it is the lack of purchasing power in the hands of the people that restricts their ability to buy food in adequate quantities and explains their acute hunger. But the conclusion that the government draws is that people cannot possibly be hungry if there are surplus food stocks, and hence the hunger index must be lying.

A surplus of foodgrain stocks is “surplus” only with respect to a given level of prices and of purchasing power (in money terms) in the hands of the people. People may as well be starving despite the existence of such a “surplus”, the solution for which would be either a lowering of prices or augmentation of purchasing power in people’s hands.

In fact, numerous economists and civil society organisations, not to mention political parties even outside of the Left, have been urging the government to augment purchasing power by making cash transfers into the hands of the people, and to finance such transfers even through an increase in the fiscal deficit if necessary. Such action cannot possibly exacerbate inflation in a situation of “surplus” foodgrain stocks and of pervasive existence of unutilised industrial capacity.

On the contrary, since the inflation currently occurring in the economy is basically because of the government’s attempt to raise revenue through indirect tax hikes and not because of any excess demand, it would be reduced rather than increased by enlarging the fiscal deficit and rolling back indirect tax hikes.

But, like a naive schoolboy obediently following his headmaster’s instructions, the Modi government is determined to please international finance capital by keeping the fiscal deficit down to levels the latter finds “acceptable”, and hence avoid any cash transfers to people.

As a result of the meagre purchasing power in people’s hands, we have a combination of three seemingly incompatible phenomena: acute hunger, surplus foodgrain stocks, and yet rampant inflation. And the combination appears so impossible to an uncomprehending government that it cannot even accept the possibility of its occurrence. Hence, it just denies the existence of acute hunger. Behind this denial is not just the typical BJP make-believe (“there cannot possibly be acute hunger if the Great Saviour is at the helm”); there is in addition, in a very real sense, a total lack of comprehension of simple economics.

In fact, not recognising the prevalence of hunger, the government is making all sorts of efforts to reduce excess foodgrain stocks which have persisted all these years despite large-scale exports. And the latest of these efforts is to encourage biofuel production.

All over the world, there is a tendency to substitute fossil fuels with ethanol, which is supposed to be “cleaner”. And a larger proportion of grains is being diverted for ethanol production than before. In the US, maize is being used for ethanol production; but this matters little for the US since it does not have to worry about mass hunger and does not figure in the world hunger index. But the Modi government, not to be outdone, has also announced an ambitious plan for shifting to ethanol: it would be promoting a mix of gasoline and ethanol with the proportion of the latter being 20%, and for this purpose using rice and sugarcane.

A senior government official has been quoted as saying that this would pose no problems for India’s food security, since “the government has enough stockpiles of grains at warehouses of the state-run Food Corporation of India”. The official’s remark betrays the same ignorance of basic economics as most other statements of the government.

Excess stocks of foodgrains, instead of being seen as the outcome of the prices in the market and the state of purchasing power of the people, are adduced as proof of plenitude. By this reasoning, even if there is a famine in the country, that fact would not be acknowledged at all as long as there are plenty of foodgrain stocks in FCI godowns!

It is not just the diversion of grains for ethanol production that must be opposed by all right-thinking persons in the country. The available grains should instead be getting distributed among the people by putting purchasing power in their hands so that their hunger is allayed. But even the use of sugarcane for ethanol production, insofar as it leads to a diversion of land away from foodgrains, will lead to a still greater decline in per capita foodgrain availability than has been the case till now.

In fact, even when there is such a decline in per capita foodgrain availability, there would still be surplus foodgrain stocks in the economy. This is because the very modus operandi of a neo-liberal economic regime is to generate a perpetual surplus of foodgrain stocks, no matter how low the per capita foodgrain availability is.

The reason is simple. Whenever there is a fall in foodgrain stocks below the “norm”, there is a fear of inflation. Hence, finance capital, worried about the loss through inflation of the real value of financial assets, immediately puts pressure on the government to counter such inflation by cutting back its spending and by inducing the imposition of a tight monetary policy. But no such countervailing efforts are made in the opposite case when foodgrain stocks are excessive. Fall in food stock levels, in short, are quickly eliminated, but not excesses in food stock levels. As a result of this asymmetry, there is always, in general, a state of “surplus” food stocks.

Alongside this asymmetry, there is a second asymmetry. There are two ways to eliminate any shortfall in foodgrain stocks below the accepted “norms”. One is through an increase in production and hence supplies, and the other through a reduction in demand, such as through cuts in public spending and a tighter monetary policy (which basically reduce purchasing power with the people).

Of the two, the much easier way for the government is the latter, both because it takes less time to show its effects, and also because when public spending is being cut, the required government investments, for increasing foodgrain output, would scarcely be forthcoming. Hence, the tendency over time is for the purchasing power with the people to keep getting restricted while per capita foodgrain output, and hence per capita foodgrain availability, keeps falling, which means an increase in the magnitude of hunger. This is exactly what has been happening in India.

Thus surplus stocks will exist even with a secular decline in per capita output and per capita availability of foodgrain and a secular increase in hunger. Not only does the existence of surplus stocks not indicate the absence of hunger, but the typical tendency in a neo-liberal economy is to have surplus stocks along with growing hunger. This tendency will only be exacerbated by the diversion of foodgrains or of sugarcane (toward which foodgrain land will be diverted) for ethanol production, in fact, not just exacerbated but absolutely ensured.

The Modi government’s decision to increase the diversion of grains and sugarcane for ethanol production, therefore, is certain to reduce per capita grain availability and to increase the magnitude of hunger. This is because at the first sign of stocks falling below the “norm”, there will be a squeeze on the purchasing power with the people, thus “resolving” the problem of shortage (as manifested in the fact of stocks falling below the “norm”) through a further increase in the magnitude of hunger.

This has serious general implications. There is much enthusiasm in the West among progressive circles for “green energy” within which biofuels are included, and for increased production of biofuels, a diversion of grain output is recommended. No matter what the relevance of this prescription in the context of advanced countries, its replication in Third World countries like India will have disastrous consequences for the magnitude of hunger.

Odisha continues its long fight against witch-hunting. Awareness and sensitisation are key to eradicating the evil practice that has claimed 362 lives in eight years

For five years, Tribeni Sandha, 45, has done everything she can to return to her remote Gobarlundi village in Odisha’s Ganjam district. But a homecoming is still a far cry for her. For fellow villagers, she is a witch and can harm others.

“In 2017, we, three families in the Gobarlundi village, were paraded naked and forced to consume excreta of human and animals. A penalty of ₹2 lakh was imposed on each of us as penalty. As we could not pay the penalty, we were thrown out of the village. Since then, we have moved the State Human Rights Commission and knocked on the door of courts, but I cannot return [to the village],” said Ms. Sandha.

In 2019, four Dalit women were driven out from the same village after being branded as witches. They, too, now lead a nomadic life.

Last week, Haripada Patra lodged a complaint at the Joda Police Station in Keonjhar district, stating that he feared for his life. Fellow villagers had twice attempted to attack him by accusing him of practising black magic.

Despite the State government coming up with the Odisha Prevention of Witch-hunting Act, 2013 and the Composite Action Plan to Prevent Witch-hunting-2017, the inhumane trials of witch-hunting, as may have been practised in medieval times, continue to haunt people living in rural pockets of the State.

In the seven years between 2014 and 2020, as many as 344 people have been killed on suspicion of performing witchcraft in Odisha. This year, 18 persons have already lost their lives.

The State government has directed all District Collectors to carry out training and sensitisation of anganwadi workers in villages on the evils of witch-hunting and various preventive measures for it. The administration hopes these anganwadi workers can later go on educating other villagers.

Women self-help groups (SHG) have also been roped in to educate villagers on the issue.

“Though the government has enacted an Act to punish people who are involved in the heinous act, this, however, cannot be enforced in all cases. A larger awareness is required to do away the evil practice,” said Debendra Sutar, a rationalist who has been following witch-hunting cases for several years.

According to Mr. Sutar, while tribal tradition can be blamed for the existence of such an archaic practice, in many cases, organised and influential groups of villagers perpetrate the crime.

“The main motive behind branding someone as a witch is to gobble up the property of others, seek sexual favours from widows or unmarried women, and create village funds. In most cases, the victims are scared of approaching the police to complain against such influential groups,” he said.

While the Women and Child Welfare Department has taken on the responsibility of educating anganwadi workers and women SH Gs, the School and Mass Education Department has been asked to include story-based lessons on the evils of witch-hunting in the school syllabus. The Health Department has been given the task of generating awareness on the symptoms of simple diseases and their treatment, instead of taking the help of “witch doctors”, another aspect to the issue.

Law enforcement agencies, especially the police, are required to act proactively and sternly against culprits. The State Police have been asked to register cases against witch-hunting, and act immediately against criminals as the offence is cognisable and non-bailable. In districts such as Sundargarh and Mayurbhanj, where cases of witch-hunting are high, the police conduct awareness programmes at weekly local markets.

Mr. Sutar said the District and Sessions Judge of Rayagada on October 21 upheld the death sentence given to nine persons, who had brutally killed three persons by injecting pesticides in their body parts, and the judgment would go a long way in instilling fear in the minds of criminals.

Ominae Organized Canine Bureau Special Agent
Organized Canine Bureau Special Agent
Oct 28th 2021 at 2:35:10 AM

Heard about the changes done at ISI. Wondering if it'll make waves soon concerning Afghanistan.

"Exit muna si Polgas. Ang kailangan dito ay si Dobermaxx!"
xyzt Relationship Status: Yes, I'm alone, but I'm alone and free
Nov 8th 2021 at 7:09:03 AM

Mediapart's ‘Rafale’ report says CBI not probing ‘kickbacks’ despite presence of related papers

French portal Mediapart has alleged that Dassault paid at least €7.5 mn to middleman Sushen Gupta from 2007 to 2012 through “overbilled” IT contracts with a shell company to secure the €7.87 bn deal Rafale deal with India. Despite the existence of related papers since October 2018, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has not yet taken up a probe, it alleged.

A response from the CBI to the allegation is still awaited.

The probe agencies have accused Mr. Gupta of being instrumental in the routing of commissions in the 2010 Agusta Westland VVIP chopper deal via Mauritius-based shell company Interstellar Technologies Limited and several other such entities.

Arrest by ED

In March 2019, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested him in that case, based on the disclosures made by Rajiv Saxena, who was deported from the United Arab Emirates. The latter disclosed that Interstellar Technologies was controlled by Mr. Gupta and another accused, Gautam Khaitan. The funds were further transferred by him to other entities in different countries.

According to the French portal’s report, the Attorney General’s office in Mauritius had sent the documents to the CBI Director on October 11, 2018, in response to a letter of request seeking information in the chopper deal case. A week earlier, on October 4, 2018, the CBI got a complaint alleging corruption in Rafale deal from lawyer Prashant Bhushan and former Union Minister Arun Shourie.

“...His (Sushen Gupta’s) Mauritian company, Interstellar Technologies received at least 7.5 million euros from the French aviation firm between 2007 and 2012, thanks to IT contracts that were clearly overbills, and from which most of the money was discreetly sent to Mauritius using a system of alleged false invoices. Some of these invoices even got the name of the French company wrong, referring instead to Dassult Aviation,” said the Mediapart report.

According to the portal, Mr. Gupta was hired as a middleman by Dassault in 2001, after India announced that it wanted to buy fighter jets; the official bid process itself was only launched in 2007.

“Other documents obtained by Indian detectives show that in 2015, during the final negotiations of the Rafale contract, Sushen Gupta got hold of confidential documents from India’s Ministry of Defence detailing the stance of the Indian negotiators, in particular how they calculated the price of the aircraft. Dassault has refused to comment on these documents. Sushen Gupta did not respond when contacted by Mediapart,” stated the report.

Three-part investigative series

In a three-part investigative series in April, Mediapart said Dassault paid €1 mn to Defsys Solutions, one of the Gupta family’s Indian companies, for the production of 50 replica models of the Rafale jet, but French authorities were not shown any proof that they were actually made.

Further in July, the French publication reported that a French judge will conduct a judicial investigation into the Rafale deal on charges of corruption following a decision by the French national financial prosecutors' office (PNF).

The Rafale deal has faced several questions in the past pertaining to allegations of corruption, favoritism and deviations in procedure.

Explained: Why is India hosting an NSAs’ meeting on Afghanistan with regional players?

India is hosting the ‘Delhi Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan’ on November 10-11. The meeting will be held at the level of National Security Advisors (NS As) and will be chaired by NSA Ajit Doval.

What’s the meeting about, and why is India hosting it?

With security concerns pertaining to Afghanistan weighing heavily on New Delhi’s mind, it has taken the initiative to organise a conference of regional stakeholders and important powers on the country’s current situation and the future outlook.

India’s top security establishment, the National Security Council Secretariat, has taken the lead in organising the in-person meeting. Invitations were sent to Afghanistan’s neighbours such as Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, and other key players including Russia, and China.

So, India will host Pakistan at a conference on Afghanistan?

No, that’s not happening.

Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf announced last week that he would not attend the meeting, apparently to lodge a protest against India’s alleged negative role in Afghanistan.

At a press conference in Islamabad after meeting with the Uzbekistan NSA, Yusuf, upon being asked whether Pakistan would attend the conference organised by India, said: “I will not go, a spoiler can’t be a peacemaker.”

“I think the region’s obstacles are in front of you, there is no need for a debate on this. On the one hand is India… unfortunately (because of) the government’s behaviour and ideology there, I don’t see how this (peace) process will move forward — not just for Pakistan but the region.

“The world has unfortunately kept its eyes closed and isn’t talking to India as it should,” Yusuf said.

Yusuf said if peace is established in Afghanistan, it could become a major trading hub as a corridor of connectivity in the heart of Asia. Had Yusuf consented to come, it would have been the first high-level visit to India from Pakistan since 2016.

How does India view Pakistan’s refusal to attend the conference?

A government source said the Pakistani position reflects its mindset on Afghanistan, where it has played a “pernicious” role.

“Pakistan’s decision is unfortunate, but not surprising. It reflects its mindset of viewing Afghanistan as its protectorate. Pakistan has not attended the previous meetings of this format. Its media comments against India are an unsuccessful attempt to deflect attention from its pernicious role in Afghanistan,” the source said.

And how does India view the response from the other countries it invited?

The response to India’s invitation has been “overwhelming”, sources said. “Central Asian countries as well as Russia and Iran have confirmed participation.”

According to the sources, this will be the first time that all Central Asian countries, and not just Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours, would be participating in this format.

“The enthusiastic response is a manifestation of the importance attached to India’s role in regional efforts to promote peace and security in Afghanistan,” a source said.

While Yusuf announced his decision to stay away to reporters, “formal responses” to India’s invitation are awaited from both Pakistan and China, the sources said

What is India’s thinking ahead of the conference?

This could be India’s attempt to secure for itself a seat at the table to decide the future course of action on Afghanistan.

“When you are not at the table, you are on the menu… this conference is India’s attempt to set the table, be on the table, and decide the agenda,” a source told The Indian Express, underlining the need to actively engage with the world to protect India’s security interests.

Until the fall of Kabul, India had not engaged with the Taliban through publicly-announced official channels.

New Delhi has made it clear that there are red lines around the actions of the new Taliban dispensation in Afghanistan — that it should not allow safe havens for terror on its soil, the administration should be inclusive, and the rights of minorities, women, and children must be protected.

But so far, the signs from the Taliban — whose government bears a strong imprint of the Pakistani ISI — have not been encouraging. This has been the assessment shared by New Delhi with its interlocutors in the last month or so, since the Taliban formed their cabinet.

The Pakistani NSA’s response describing India as a “spoiler” shows that Rawalpindi is not keen to participate in any process that is initiated by India.

What happened at the earlier meetings in this format?

Two earlier meetings under this format have been held in Iran, in September 2018 and December 2019. The third meeting in India could not be held earlier due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The high-level participation at the meeting being hosted by India, the source said, “reflects the widespread and growing concern of regional countries about the situation in Afghanistan and their desire to consult and coordinate with each other”.

“India has an important role to play in this process,” the source said.

xyzt Relationship Status: Yes, I'm alone, but I'm alone and free
Nov 12th 2021 at 11:33:32 PM

Civilian killings in Kashmir | A throwback to the 1990s. A spate of targeted killings in Kashmir has kept the minorities and migrant workers on edge. Peerzada Ashiq reports on how the attacks have once again disrupted the hard-earned goodwill between the majority and minority communities in the Valley

At Bohri Kadal, the spice market of Kashmir, the air was thick with the fragrance of spices. It was the second Monday of November. Just as the market closed for the day, unidentified armed militants, hiding in a dark alley, emerged around 8:10 p.m. They followed a local salesman and waited for him to open a parked car nearby. As Mohammad Ibrahim Khan, 45, climbed into the driver’s seat, the militants pulled the trigger. Khan, a loyal salesman of Sandeep Mawa from north Kashmir’s Bandipora, died.

“Security agencies had told me during the day that militants might target me. I left the market around 3 p.m. in a different car. I had asked the salesman to get my car in the evening,” said Mawa, whose father Roshan Lal Mawa was shot four times in October 1990 but survived the attack. It was only in 2019, 29 years after his father was attacked, that Mawa decided to re-open the spice shop. He got a rousing reception by the Kashmiri Muslim traders on that day.

Khan’s killing ended the brief lull that followed a spree of targeted killings by militants across the Valley in October. Fear has once again gripped the minority community and non-local labourers.

A fresh bout of violence The flowers have started wilting in the mild autumn sun in south Kashmir’s Vessu area in Kulgam district, 65 km from Srinagar. The Vessu migrant colony has many rows of single-storey accommodations. It was developed by the Department of Disaster Management, Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction and is a designated enclave for Kashmiri Pandits. Many Pandits left the Valley in the 1990s in the face of raging militancy, but some bravely returned and took up government jobs.

In the first two weeks of October, watchtowers overseeing the boundary walls of the colony multiplied. Bunkers guarding the colony were wrapped in a tight net, to repulse any grenade thrown at them. Heavily armed guards in bulletproof vests man the gates round the clock. Only those known to the inhabitants are allowed inside. All visitors have to submit their identity cards at the gate checkpoint. The cards are returned only once the visitors leave the premises. Most of the daily grocery — milk, vegetables, bread — is delivered inside. “We have sought installation of floodlights so that the security personnel manning the pickets maintain eye contact with their colleagues during the night,” said a police official.

The security bandobast and installation of floodlights have been approved for most of the Pandit colonies in the Valley located in south Kashmir’s Hall in Pulwama district, Mattan in Anantnag district and Vessu in Kulgam district; north Kashmir’s Natnusa in Kupwara district and Weervan in Baramulla district; and central Kashmir’s Sheikhpora in Budgam district and Tulmulla in Ganderbal district.

Sanjay Raina, a teacher at a government middle school in Anantnag, decided to return to the Valley in 2010 along with his wife under an employment package announced by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2008. “We were among the last Pandit families to leave in 1990. Our family left in May (1990) after close friends and neighbours started saying that all was not well and we should save ourselves for the time being. We faced indirect threats and left for Jammu,” Raina recalled.

After a fresh bout of violence in October this year, only 18 families decided to stay back at the Vessu colony out of the 450 Pandit families that had returned and taken up government jobs. The rest left for Jammu. “Most Pandits preferred to leave for Jammu early October. The atmosphere had suddenly changed here,” Raina said, without qualifying what happened.

Over the past few years, 3,841 Pandit employees, who took up jobs under the 2008 employment package for 6,000 educated Pandit migrants, started to bring their relatives and extended families to the Valley. They wanted the new generation to know about their roots. However, that dream is now shattered.

It was around 12 p.m. on October 7 when Raina was asked by his Muslim colleagues to leave the school premises and head home, immediately after news broke on social media about the the killing of a female principal and a teacher. “For a week, we were not allowed to come out of the Vessu colony,” Raina said.

For many, 2021 is like a replay of the 1990s. Raina is jittery. Till September, Raina, an early riser, would go on a one-and-a-half-hour run and exercise in a nearby industrial area in the morning. He would also go to the nearby Muslim neighbourhood for evening chats, take long strolls on the school lawns and frequently visit his apple orchards. All that has stopped suddenly. “If I see any unknown person walking towards me, I get scared. I had to change my timing and route towards school. My colleagues advised me against going on strolls,” Raina said

For the first time in 18 years, since the Nadimarg massacre saw the killing of 24 Kashmiri Pandits by gunmen in Pulwama on March 23, 2003, militants have carried out targeted killings. They left 11 civilians dead in October this year. The civilians included widely respected Pandit pharmacist Makhan Lal Bindroo, female Sikh school principal Supinder Kaur, Jammu-based Hindu teacher Deepak Chand, two golgappa sellers and three labourers. Unlike the past, the militant outfits, The Resistance Front and the United Liberation Front, claimed responsibility for the killings and justified the same in their statements issued online.

The killings have once again disrupted the hard-earned goodwill between the two communities in Kashmir. Even the five-month-long street violence, over 100 deaths and a cycle of shutdowns in 2016, triggered by the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen ‘commander’ Burhan Wani, did not harm this relationship. “We felt no fear in 2016 when the streets were burning. It did not disturb our routine,” Raina said. Another Kashmiri Pandit recalled: “There were times when Pandit boys from the Vessu colony would play cricket in the fields with Muslim friends. Later, we were told that a few Muslim players they were playing with had joined the militant ranks. But there was no such fear.”

This time again, the community is being forced to make some hard choices. Most family members of the Kashmiri Pandit government employees decided to leave for Jammu immediately after the attacks. According to the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) government figures, 40,142 Hindu families were among the 60,000 families which migrated from the Valley in the 1990s. Among the rest were 2,684 Muslim and 1,730 Sikh families.

A volcano waiting to erupt Locals believe that the shrinking political space, among other factors, has resulted in a sudden spurt in militancy in Kashmir this year. There are also many who see the J&K government’s push to reclaim Pandit property from Muslim owners or encroachers as a trigger for the new wave of violence against minorities.

In the last week of September this year, J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha launched a specially designed portal for Kashmiri Pandits living outside for time-bound redress of grievances related to their immovable properties. He said this was being done “to rectify the mistakes of the past”. The government machinery was directed to address the cases within 15 days of the filing of the complaint. Complaints from Pandits living outside J&K and abroad poured in. According to officials in the Divisional Commissioner’s office, over 3,000 applications from Pandits living outside J&K were received within a fortnight. In scores of cases, even eviction notices were served to owners, mostly Muslims, considered as encroachers and illegal occupiers.

The J&K administration also sought details from Pandits about properties sold after 2007 to prepare a list of distress sales of properties. In 1997, the J&K government had passed The Jammu and Kashmir Migrant Immovable Property (Preservation, Protection and Restraint on Distress Sales) Act, which seeks to preserve, protect, and restrain the distress sales of immovable property of Pandit migrants. In March 2020, the requirement of written complaints for survey or measurement of a migrant property, proviso 2 of sub-section (2) of Section 6 of the Act, was omitted for speedy redress.

The property cases were addressed on a priority basis. The authorities removed a Muslim owner, Sara, wife of Nissar Ahmad Reshi, after 15 years, among others. “The land recorded in the name of Prabhavati Raina, wife of Late Shambunath Raina, a resident of Vessu, was illegally occupied by Sara. With the eviction of unauthorised occupation of the land, the migrant breathed a sigh of relief,” an official said, after the eviction was successfully conducted by a local police officer and a magistrate in September.

Sudhir Pandita (name changed), a Kashmiri Pandit in his late 30s, has been camping in the Valley for several weeks now, to recover the land occupied by three Muslim occupiers, after he heard that the action is prompt in such cases. “I have put up a complaint on the portal. The status still shows pending. I am hopeful that my issue will get resolved. I tried all other means to get back my land. Three Muslim families have encroached on our ancestral agricultural land. We are threatened whenever we ask them to vacate,” Pandita said.

Sanjay Tickoo, who heads the Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti, a body of 808 Kashmiri Pandits families that did not leave the Valley in the 1990s, sees such controversial property cases as a trigger behind the violence against minorities. “After August 5, 2019 (when the Centre ended J&K’s special constitutional status), the volcano was only intensifying without any vent in the Kashmir Valley. The J&K government started making claims of organising Hindu festivals for the first time, which is not true. Then, the property cases became a trigger for the fresh cycle of violence,” Tickoo said.

The reclaiming of properties by Pandits from current Muslim occupiers or buyers or owners comes with its attendant problems, Tickoo said. “There are properties that were handed over to Muslims on the power of attorney but without registering them in the revenue records. Such owners are scared that they will lose property rights now. The distress sale cases post 1997 will also result in action against many Muslim owners. It will also annoy the land mafia in Kashmir. Srinagar city has most such problematic cases,” he said.

Insecure at home

Tickoo has stayed in Muslim neighbourhoods for the past three decades but he no longer feels secure. The condition of non-migrant Kashmiri Pandits can be gauged from the fact that he was shifted at midnight by the security forces on October 5 because they feared that he was on the target list of the militants.

It was in June this year that Tickoo smelled a rat and wanted to convey his fears to the Raj Bhavan but could not get an audience. “There was talk on the streets that October will see a turn of events. It was like 1989-90 when our Muslim neighbourhood all of a sudden started talking about Pandits leaving the Valley. This time, too, the whispering voices came true. The community has been a target for a long time now. Unfortunately, the L-G administration could not sense and prevent it,” Tickoo said.

For nearly a month Tickoo has been living at an undisclosed location in the city. He is not allowed to return to his home in Srinagar’s civil lines, where his wife and children stay. “Unlike the 1990s, militancy is faceless this time. The security agencies are yet to crack the cases and stop the trend,” he said.

The Pandit leader, who braved many pressures and threats in the past, fears that the remaining Pandit population will leave if the attacks are not stopped. “Four Pandit families in Anantnag have already left for good. The new generation of Kashmiri Pandits does not want to live in this uncertainty. If there are more killings, the small Pandit population will leave forever,” Tickoo warned.

A senior police official said pickets were being worked out in districts to safeguard Pandits. “It will take time. There are a few difficulties. We did offer five to 10 security personnel to a few vulnerable Pandit houses. Many refused because of accommodation issues. We need to set up accommodation for the personnel first,” he said.

Putting up a brave face

Besides Kashmiri Pandits, security agencies have been working round the clock to ensure that attacks against non-local migrant workers also stop. The deaths of five non-local workers — two street vendors, one carpenter and two labourers — have already triggered panic among the migrant workers.

The second week of October saw labourers leaving the Valley in droves. This has impacted different labour-intensive sectors such as horticulture, construction, and brick kilns.

Birendra Paswan, a resident of Bhagalpur in Bihar, was the first on October 5. The non-local vendor, selling golgappas in the old city’s Madeen Sahib area, was killed post sundown from close range, with the attacker making a video on his body camera. The wooden single-room accommodation where Paswan stayed in Alamgari Bazar remains locked. Scores of non-local Hindu workers, who came with him, have left the Valley but many find it hard to end business relationships forged over decades.

“I have made a name for myself here thanks to my plaster designs, tiling and paint work. I have my co-workers at half-a-dozen construction sites at present in the old city. Locals trust me so much that I take advance money. I am in demand. How can I think of leaving,” Sanjeeb Kumar, 55, a resident of Bihar’s Darbhanga, asked. Kumar said he could get his three daughters married with the money he made. “Tiling, plaster and paint are three areas where the non-Kashmiri workforce is better. People prefer us for our fine work. Who will construct such beautiful houses here if we leave the Valley?”

Sangram, in his 20s, and Kanaya Lal, in his 40s, are among the hundreds of non-local labourers who run over 277 industrial units at the Lassipora Industrial Area in Pulwama, which is known for cold storage, juice plants and cement floor tiles. “I am from Uttar Pradesh’s Azamgarh area. I feel as insecure in Azamgarh as in Kashmir. Fear is everywhere. But we are able to earn ₹700 per day here compared to just ₹400 back home. Besides, we get non-stop work,” Sangram, who works at Billo Tiles, said.

Kashmir is heavily dependent on non-local workers to run businesses such as horticulture, hair salons, copper and gold designers, and brick kilns. According to the J&K Brick Manufacturers’ Association, over 80,000 non-local labourers work in the Valley’s brick kilns. “The sudden exodus of the migrant labour force has already affected the manufacturing capacity of brick kilns in Budgam. It’s going to slow down the construction sector this season. We are hopeful that the labourers will return by the next summer and we are able to keep pace with the demand,” Nazeer Jan, a brick kiln owner, said.

An island of hope

Away from the violence in Srinagar, Pulwama’s idyllic Haal area, around 35 km away from the capital, is fast emerging as an island of hope. A Pandit couple lives amid the ruins of around a dozen empty houses of Kashmiri Pandits, who left in the 1990s. Perched on an undulating highland with tall walnut trees is the house of Poornima, a housewife, and Ashok, an employee in the local postal office. A garland of marigold hangs from the sun-facing wall of the house, typical of Pandits in the Valley.

“We have maintained very good relations with our neighbours. We just finished harvesting apples from the orchards together. I helped my Muslim neighbours to pick apples and they helped me too. We have never faced any problem,” said Poornima, whose son works as a junior engineer in the Valley.

Tickoo has urged the majority community to come forward and help create an atmosphere of peaceful existence in Kashmir. “If one has to compare the role of the majority community between 2021 and the 1990s, I would say they failed us more this time. Except for a few mosques denouncing the killings of the minorities, we saw no spontaneous shutdown or street protests by the majority community. The civil society could not do much,” Tickoo said.

He appealed to the authorities to allow Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, also a head cleric, to lead the Friday prayers at Jamia Masjid and help galvanise support in favour of the minorities. “Unfortunately, the government did not heed my request and the Mirwaiz was not allowed to lead the prayers. His statement would have gone a long way to create a positive narrative,” he said.

School teacher Raina has one big fear. “Who will prune my apple trees if the security situation keeps me away from my orchards? My apple trees will get uprooted by a spell of heavy snow in the coming winters. If I am not able to nurse them in time, I am not sure if my orchid will be in full bloom again,” a worried Raina said.

Edited by xyzt on Nov 13th 2021 at 1:04:33 AM

xyzt Relationship Status: Yes, I'm alone, but I'm alone and free
Nov 19th 2021 at 1:38:06 AM

Three Controversial Farm Laws Will Be Repealed, Narendra Modi Announces. While still claiming that the laws were good, Modi claimed his government had not been able to convince all farmers on the matter and so was repealing the laws.

New Delhi: In a televised ‘address to the nation’ on Friday morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the three controversial farm laws passed in September 2020 stand repealed by the Union government. Farmers across the country have been protesting against these laws since even before they were passed. They believe that the laws will benefit large corporates and hurt farmers.

Hundreds of farmers have been camping at Delhi borders since November 2020 with the demand that the government repeal the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. At least farmers have lost their lives during the protest, unions have said.Contrary to the BJP’s claims that only large farmers were protesting, a study found that lives lost during the protest were of small and marginal farmers, and landless cultivators.

Contrary to the BJP’s claims that only large farmers were protesting, a study found that lives lost during the protest were of small and marginal farmers, and landless cultivators.

Before coming to the point, Modi spent a good amount of time claiming that his government had uplifted India’s farmers and done “everything possible” to help them. After spending ten minutes extolling his government’s claimed achievements, he moved on to praising the three controversial farm laws brought in by his government. He then moved to talking about the protests. “It is important for us that we have not been able to convince the benefits of these laws to all farmers. We have been trying and trying, using different mediums, and talks have been on. We have heard their arguments and understood them. We were even ready to change some provisions and suspended these laws for two years. The matter is also before the Supreme Court.”“I apologise to the nation, because there seems to have been something lacking in our efforts, because of which we were unavailable to explain the truth to some farmers. Today is Guru Nanak Jayanti and not the time to blame anyone. I would like to announce to everyone that we have decided to repeal these laws. I hope the protesting farmers will now return to their homes, return to their farms, and we can start afresh.”

In the early parts of his speech on Friday morning, Modi made it a point to try and establish his closeness to farmers. “In the over five decades of my life, I have witnessed the struggle of farmers closely. That is why after becoming prime minister, my government gave farmers’ issues primacy.”“Most people don’t know that most farmers in India are small farmers, with less than two hectares of land. Their entire life is based on this small plot of land. It’s how they feed themselves and their families. Inheritance over generations makes these plots even smaller. To help small farmers we have worked on beej, beema, baazar, bachat. We have joined farmers to soil health cards, insurance and other facilities. Agricultural production has also increased because of soil health cards.”

The farmers’ protests have been impossible to ignore for the Modi government, with farmers camping at Delhi’s borders for more than a year now and making clear that nothing less than a total repeal would assuage them. Opposition parties from across the country too have supported the farmers’ protests. Farmers had also decided to make this an electoral matter, and actively campaigned against the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of assembly elections.States going to the polls early next year – including Punjab and Uttar Pradesh – have been at the centre of the farmers’ protests. Most poll watchers believed that the farm laws would have an impact on voters in parts of these states.The Samyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella organisation of farmers’ bodies that has been spearheading the protests, welcomed the move. At the same time, it also reminded the prime minister that the movement was not just for the repeal of the farm laws, but also to demand remunerative prices for produce.

The SKM also asked why this decision had taken so long, since farmers had lost their lives in the protest. The statement reads:“Samyukt Kisan Morcha welcomes this decision and will wait for the announcement to take effect through due parliamentary procedures. If this happens, it will be a historic victory of the one year long farmers’ struggle in India. However, nearly 700 farmers have been martyred in this struggle. The central government’s obstinacy is responsible for these avoidable deaths, including the murders at Lakhimpur Kheri.SKM also reminds the Prime Minister that the agitation of farmers is not just for the repeal of the three black laws, but also for a statutory guarantee of remunerative prices for all agricultural produce and for all farmers. This important demand of farmers is still pending. So also is the withdrawal of the Electricity Amendment Bill. SKM will take note of all developments, hold its meeting soon and announce further decisions.”

Congratulations to the farmers for managing to hold out this long till the upcoming assembly elections for UP and Punjab. Hopefully, if he sticks to this, maybe now our dear leader would first focus on improving other important areas of rural regions like agricultural infrastructure, human capital etc before trying his efforts with the reforms. Or if that is too much to ask, maybe first get these laws to work with resounding success in the states you already rule and then try to use the popularity from that to get acceptance everywhere.

Edited by xyzt on Nov 19th 2021 at 3:20:21 PM

FFShinra Beware the Crazy Man. from Ivalice, apparently Relationship Status: Too sexy for my shirt
Beware the Crazy Man.
Nov 19th 2021 at 1:00:05 PM

He needed to be humbled. Now maybe he will be a bit less roughshod.

Final Fantasy, Foreign Policy, and Bollywood. Helluva combo, that...
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