Indian Elections and Non-Resident Indian Nationals – What would Gandhi do?

Absentee Ballot campaign march in London, conducted by Pravas Bharat in January 2013

Absentee ballot campaign march in London conducted by Pravas Bharat in October 2012

What would Gandhi do?

If Mahatma Gandhi were alive today and happened to be living abroad he would have fallen foul of the Indian election rule which requires non-resident Indians (NRIs) to be physically present in the constituencies where they are registered to be able to exercise their franchise.

NRIs are allowed to vote in Indian elections, but only if they are present at a polling booth. This is unreasonable and impractical. (Other democracies like the UK, USA, Canada, Germany and Philippines have successfully implemented an absentee ballot system). In today’s globalised world, people move across the globe for higher education, work advancement, knowledge and research, among other things. That should not become a drawback. That shouldn’t be a reason for anyone to be refused his or her voting rights.

Pravasi Bharat, a UK-based activist group that campaigns for an absentee ballot system for NRIs, believes that this is a denial of a fundamental right of NRIs who are temporarily out of India. The group has been protesting this denial through non-violent demonstrations, protests, petitions and most recently, a hunger strike.

Pravasi Bharat believes in the principles and ideologies of Mahatma Gandhi, and expresses its dissent in Gandhian ways. A citizen’s right to exercise his or her vote is one of the keystones of democracy, and what better way to fight for a democratic right than follow the father of the world’s biggest democracy. Each time this group encounters a roadblock, they ask – What would Gandhi do?

“This is our genuine democratic struggle and we will continue our battle in all democratic ways, following the methods shown by Mahatma Gandhi,” says the group’s co-founder Nagendar Chindam.

Pravasi Bharat was founded in 2012, with the group organising an online petition, writing letters and having peaceful demonstrations. One of the group’s demonstrations was held at the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Tavistock Square gardens, London. Since then the statue has continued to be a part of Pravasi Bharat’s initiatives, with the groups of people assembling in front of it growing with each event.

Pravasi Bharat first held a demonstration in August 2012, urging the government of India to provide an absentee voting option for NRIs. The group then submitted a petition to the High Commission of India in London. Neither initiative garnered a response from the Indian government.

In October 2012, taking inspiration from Gandhiji’s Salt March, the group organised a London March as a form of protest against the Indian government’s apathy to their request. The march began at the Gandhi statue in Tavistock Square gardens and ended with a non-violent demonstration outside the High Commission of India.

at the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Tavistock Square, London

at the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Tavistock Square, London

After another period of silence from the Indian government, the group filed a public interest litigation with the Supreme Court of India in February 2013. Pravasi Bharat’s first victory came when the Supreme Court of India presided by the Chief Justice ordered the Government of India and the Election Commission of India to respond to the matter. As the legal battle continues, the need for an absentee ballot becomes more urgent with the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Having all their attempts to get the Indian government’s attention fail only made Pravasi Bharat seek more inspiration from Gandhi’s life. The group’s chairman went on a three-day hunger strike that ended on January 26, 2014, India’s Republic Day. Nagendar Chindam broke his fast in front of the Gandhi statue at Tavistock Square. A group of NRIs stood with him on the rainy, freezing day, pledging their support to Pravasi Bharat’s cause. This time, the High Commission of India in London noticed, and a meeting was set up with the High Commissioner. The High Commissioner heard the group out and promised to forward their request to the government of India.

As a group that promotes equality and democracy, Pravasi Bharat also campaigns against human right violations. The October 2012 death of NRI Savita Halappanavar in Ireland after being denied a necessary abortion was protested at Tavistock Square gardens in London. Pravasi Bharat wrote to the Irish embassy asking for an amendment in Ireland’s Abortion law. Pravasi Bharat protested the December 2012 fatal gang rape of a medical student in Delhi, India and wrote to the Indian government asking for stricter anti-rape laws. The laws in both countries were eventually amended after similar pressure from various other groups.

As it waits, yet again, for a response from the Indian Government, the group continues its campaign among NRI communities across the globe, asking them to fight for their votes. It believes that most NRIs will vote if an absentee ballot system is made available to them.

“Be the change you want to see” said Gandhiji. Pravasi Bharat takes that very seriously.

Article by Preethi Dumpala

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Gandhi Foundation.

The Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award 2013

Jeremy Corbyn with The Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award 2013

Jeremy Corbyn with The Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award 2013

The Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award for 2013 was awarded to Jeremy Corbyn, MP Islington North on 26th November 2013 at Portcullis House.

Thank you to all who attended

You can read Jeremy Corbyn’s speech by clicking here
You can also view photographs of the event by scrolling down the right hand column of our homepage to reach the Photo Gallery

The Trustees of The Gandhi Foundation agreed to offer him our International Peace Award in recognition of his consistent efforts over a 30 year Parliamentary career to uphold the Gandhian values of social justice and non‐violence. Besides being a popular and hard‐working constituency MP he has made time to speak and write extensively in support of human rights at home and world‐wide. His committed opposition to neocolonial wars and to nuclear weapons has repeatedly shown the lack of truth in the arguments of those who have opposed him.

Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi











The death of Nelson Mandela at the age of 95 has moved people all over the world. The outpouring of grief is similar to the one when Mahatma Gandhi died. It is one of those inexplicable quirks of history that both these giants who shaped the modern world started their long march for justice in South Africa. As a young man looking for a better future Gandhi could have found any of the many countries of South and East Africa that he could have settled in as did many Indians in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe. But it seems some divine force brought Gandhi to South Africa which at the time epitomized the oppression of a people in their own country in the form of apartheid. It is in South Africa that Gandhi started a struggle against injustice and his experiences there were of immense importance in his strategy to confront the British Raj in India. Gandhiʼs nascent movement for justice in South Africa inspired and galvanized a whole generation of South African freedom fighters like Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Desmond Tutu and many others. After Gandhi departed for India he left his son Manilal back in South Africa to continue the struggle. Manilal was present at a crucial meeting of the ANC in 1949, where he pressed the party to unconditionally adopt nonviolence but with little success. The attitude of the party toward the Gandhian ideal of nonviolence was in subsequent years best summarized by Desmond Tutu. He said: “Gandhi was to influence greatly Martin Luther King Jr., the leading light in the American Civil Rights Movement, as well as the South African National Congress of Nelson Mandela. So many, many people expected our country to go up in flames, enveloped by a catastrophe, a racial bloodbath. It never happened. It never happened because in the struggle against an evil of injustice, ultimately it did not take recourse to violence, and because you and so many others in the international community supported the struggle.” Nelson Mandela wrote a wonderful article for the 3rd January 2000 issue of TIME magazine. The issue celebrated People of the Century. Mandela wrote about one of his teachers: Gandhi. His story was called The Sacred Warrior and shows some of the ways Gandhi influenced him. This is what he wrote: Gandhi dared to exhort nonviolence in a time when the violence of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had exploded on us; he exhorted morality when science, technology and the capitalist order had made it redundant; he replaced self-interest with group interest without minimizing the importance of self. India is Gandhi’s country of birth; South Africa his country of adoption. He was both an Indian and a South African citizen. Both countries contributed to his intellectual and moral genius, and he shaped the liberation movements in both colonial theatres. He was the archetypal anticolonial revolutionary. His strategy of noncooperation, his assertion that we can be dominated only if we cooperate with our dominators and his nonviolent resistance inspired anticolonial and antiracist movements internationally and in our century. Both Gandhi and I suffered colonial oppression and both of us mobilized our respective peoples against governments that violated our freedoms. The Gandhian influence dominated freedom struggles on the African continent right up to the 1960s because of the power it generated and the unity it forged amongst the apparently powerless. Nonviolence was the official stance of all major African coalitions, and the South African ANC remained implacably opposed to violence for most of its existence. Gandhi remained committed to nonviolence; I followed the Gandhian strategy for as long as I could but then there came a point in our struggle when the brute force of the oppressor could no longer be countered through passive resistance alone. We founded Unkhonto we Sizwe and added a military dimension to our struggle. Even then we chose sabotage because it did not involve the loss of life and it offered the best hope for future race relations. Militant action became part of the African agenda officially supported by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) following my address to the Pan-African Freedom Movement of East and Central Africa (PAFMECA) in 1962, in which I stated, “Force is the only language the imperialists can hear, and no country became free without some sort of violence.” Gandhi himself never ruled out violence absolutely and unreservedly. He conceded the necessity of arms in certain situations. He said, “Where choice is set between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence… I prefer to use arms in defense of honour rather than remain the vile witness of dishonour …” Violence and nonviolence are not mutually exclusive; it is the predominance of the one or the other that labels a struggle.

Nelson Mandela was indeed a great soul as even though his people suffered so much under the apartheid regime and he himself spent 27 years in jail in conditions that could destroy most people, he was able to forgive the oppressors and establish a rainbow nation of peace and harmony. It is the small and often many insignificant episodes in the lives of great souls that separates them from the rest and here is one such moving incident in the life of Nelson Mandela. In around June 1961 Mandela spent some time in a farm at Liliesleaf in Rivonia a suburb of Johannesburg. His then wife Winnie brought him an old rifle for target practice. One day he shot a sparrow with it and was mortified when the five year old son of a friend rounded on him saying: “Why did you kill that bird? Its mother will be sad”. Mandela said, “My mood immediately shifted from one of pride to shame. I felt this small boy had far greater humanity than I did.” It was an odd sensation for a man who was the leader of a nascent guerilla army. That regret he felt at his action and his willingness to learn from a five year old is the making of a great man. It is a matter of great pride for Indians that Mahatma Gandhi has had such a enormous impact on so many people all over the world. Mahatma Gandhi was able to articulate the glorious heritage of India which had been stifled by invading armies for around a thousand years. Newly independent India also played an active role in bringing freedom to other numerous colonized countries.

Nitin Mehta
8th December 2013

Conflict Resolution: From Gandhi to Galtung By Anupma Kaushik

Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi

Peace can be defined as a two sided concept. On the one hand it implies absence of violence and on the other the presence of positive, harmonious, cooperative relationships. These two aspects are referred to as negative and positive peace. Johan Galtung clarifies that peace research is based on the assumption that peace is as consensual a value as health. He further states that interdisciplinary and multilevel approaches are needed for peace research besides adoption of symmetry. Peace research needs to draw from all corners of the world and in order to understand an issue the researcher needs to see it from either side but the solution should not be based on the assumptions of one party alone. No party should be allowed to prevail over the other. Solutions should be found from which both parties might benefit. Findings should be symmetrically available. Peace research should be open in all its phases, never clandestine, never classified. Galtung also opines that for peace research most modern techniques of empirical study should be used. Data should be collected, processed, analysed and systematised into theories so as to provide a deeper understanding of the nature of conflict and that of peace. Last but not the least is the relevance of research. Research should help in the realization of peace. A researcher should not stop by ending a research project with policy implication but should get involved in concrete action by making propaganda among intellectuals and the public; persuading the establishment into action and challenging the monopoly of decision makers.1 Thus the scope of peace research is very wide. It covers the efforts for understanding of conditions that may prevent violence and also steps necessary for creation of conditions for furtherance of harmonious relations.2

Peace research recognizes that people as people are not always peace loving. Often governments are prodded on by an angry nation but more commonly governments share their nation’s  idiosyncrasies and they even find it useful to play them up in order to have backing for their rule and policies. In other words irrational nationalism is deeply enshrined in people’s feelings about themselves and other people.3 In order to eliminate conflicts ways are to be devised to prevent misconceptions.4

Conflict consists of three components: incompatibility, action and actors. It is a situation in which a minimum of two actors strive to acquire at the same moment in time an available set of scarce resources. Examples of extreme conflicts are war, systematic repression, sexual and domestic violence, totalitarianism and genocide. In conflict both the parties want to win but that often is not possible or does not resolve the conflict completely and permanently.

Conflict Resolution is a social situation where the armed conflicting parties in a voluntary agreement resolve to peacefully live with and/or dissolve their basic incompatibilities and henceforth cease to use arms against one another. Thus conflict is transformed from violent to non-violent behaviour by the parties. In theory there are seven distinct ways in which the parties can live with or dissolve their incompatibility. First, a party may change its goal i.e. its priorities. The second way is when parties stick to their goals but find a point at which resources can be divided. The third way is horse trading in which one side has all of its demands met on one issue while the other has all of its goals met on another issue. The fourth way is shared control. The fifth way is to leave control to somebody else and the sixth way is resorting to arbitration or other legal procedures that the parties can accept. The seventh way is that the issue can be left till later or even to oblivion.5

There are certain conflict catalysts which can be divided into positive and negative. Positive catalysts are creative. They promote but streamline the conflict and create a healthy atmosphere for communication, understanding and cooperation for reconciliation whereas negative catalysts activate the conflict, format it, bring a bad taste to it. They substantiate the conflict and escalate it to an irrepressible stage, to the point of liquidating the parties. Negative catalysts are fear, force, bad language, exaggeration, secrecy, distrust, prejudice and adding new conflict issues. Positive catalysts are fearlessness, faith, love of opponent, empathy, morality, openness, introspection, confining to conflict points, readiness to compromise, voluntary initiation of dialogue.6

In analyses of conflicts, an analysis of incompatibility is necessary i.e. identification of conflicting interests, positions and needs of the parties. Then conflict strategies are to be analysed through which parties aim at reducing the influence of the other side and enhancing the influence of its own side. The behaviour of the other side is watched carefully. A positive announcement must be followed by positive steps otherwise the former is regarded as propaganda and the later as the reality. Once there is shift in behaviour a dynamic development may follow and build momentum. The parties may search for compatible positions and finding them will attempt to create new structures via which these can be expressed. Spoilers may be dealt with carefully for they will attempt to shift the conflict back to upper level.7

In civil wars and intra-state conflicts concerned parties will have a longer shared history of conflict and cooperation. The dividing lines can be ideological, economic, social, ethnic or racial. Here the most important issues are: first, to construct a social and political system that gives reasonable social and political space to all groups. The second is the issue of security as the one party that wins acts against the other. Thus it is important to end violence in a way that it removes this security dilemma. Without the parties being secure, subjectively and objectively, peace is unlikely to be sustainable. Democracy can be a solution here as it gives a way to handle the participation of parties in a society after a violent conflict and to give space to a host of actors who have previously been suppressed or excluded from having influence. Democracy also gives choices apart from winning and perishing such as winning but not gaining complete dominance; being strong enough to play a role; having some strength which can be enough to prevent undesirable developments or losing but still keeping a position in society. But for this to be a reality three conditions are important. First, the winner must be committed to respecting the rights of the loser and make a come back. In other words defeat with security. Secondly, the state should not be seen to belong to any of the parties, and thirdly, a neutral peace keeping force. Reconstruction of society on principles of inclusion is also necessary for example to solve the problem of refugees. This signifies that the extreme condition that gave rise to the flight has been removed. Human rights’ provisions and international connections are also important.8

There can be territorial solutions within a state in the form of self determination, autonomy and federalism. In self-administration devolution of power takes place from the centre to local level. Autonomy is given by the centre and is subject to policy changes by the centre. It can be of weaker or stronger type. Autonomy can also be guaranteed by outside actors not just subject to policy of the centre. Federalism is created for many units with uniform constitution and the central government is composed of constituent units.9 These are useful especially in cases where minority groups are regionally clustered. Self-control of regional groups over their internal affairs allows the protection of dignity, identity and cultures by placing minority groups on an equal footing with the rest of the national security.10 These go a long way in building positive peace where exploitation is minimized or eliminated and there is neither overt violence nor structural violence. For structural violence is built into the very structure of social, cultural and economic institutions and is more indirect and insidious than observable physical violence. It denies people important rights such as economic well being; social, political and sexual inequality; a sense of personal fulfilment and self worth. Thus positive peace-building implies establishment of non-exploitative social structure i.e. something that does not currently exist.11 This also implies that structures and institutions need to be created that are capable of ensuring human rights and managing the effects of democratization and liberalization.12 In other words positive peace cannot exist without human rights.

Gandhian Approach to Conflict Resolution

The people who established peace studies in the west – Johan Galtung and Kenneth Boulding were admirers of Gandhi.13 However in the west peace studies have taken a very different path to that of Gandhi. Probably the reason was that Gandhian peace demands a great deal of sacrifice from the practitioner. He calls it satyagraha i.e. ‘adherence to truth’ and truth and non-violence are the main planks of satyagraha. A person who resolves to adhere to truth cannot remain silent at the sight of violence which is negative of truth. Truth functions in the form of nonviolence or love. While the lover of truth ought to oppose violence such an opposition would mean ‘fight the evil’ while ‘love the evil doer’. It is a dynamic soul force based on the concept of self-suffering. As there are many forms of injustices there are many forms of satyagraha too such as non-cooperation, civil disobedience, fasting, hijrat, hartal, picketing, boycott, and renunciation of titles, honours and positions.14

Dr Anupma Kaushik is Associate Professor in Political Science, Banasthali University



1- J. Galtung, ‘Peace Research: Past Experiences and Future Perspectives’ in Radhakrishna (ed), Peace Research for Peace Action, Gandhi Peace Foundation, Indian Council of Peace Research, Sahitya Kendra Printers, New Delhi, 1972, pp- 13- 31.

2- Mahendra Kumar, Current Peace Research and India, Gandhian Institute of Studies, Varanasi, 1968, p- 9.

3- Gunnar Myrdal, ‘Peace Research and Peace Movement’, Ghanshyam Pardesai (ed), Contemporary Peace Research, Radiant Publishers, New Delhi, 1982, p- 30.

4- Ghanshyam Pardesai, Contemporary Peace Research, Radiant Publishers, New Delhi, 1982, p- 4.

5- Peter Wallensteen, Understanding Conflict Resolution, Sage Publication, London, 2007, pp- 3- 51.

6- Pooja Katariya, Conflict Resolution, Deep and Deep, Delhi, 2007, pp- 68- 73.

7- Peter Wallensteen, Understanding Conflict Resolution, Sage Publication, London, 2007, pp- 54- 56.

8- Ibid, pp- 121- 152.

9- Ibid, pp- 171- 172.

10- Ho- Won Jeong, Peace and Conflict Studies: An Introduction, Ashgate, USA, 2006, p- 235.

11- David P. Barsh and Charles P. Webel, Peace and Conflict Studies, Sage Publication, New Delhi, 2002, pp- 6- 8.

12- Roland Paris, At War’s End, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2004, p- ix.

13- Negeen Zinovieff, ‘Ancient Wisdom’, The Gandhi Way, No 96, Summer 2008, Glasgow.

14- Pooja Katariya, Conflict Resolution, Deep and Deep, Delhi, 2007, pp- 68- 73.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Gandhi Foundation.


The Buck Stops at Your Door Mr Chidambaram by Gladson Dungdung

The Buck Stops at Your Door Mr Chidambaram

By Gladson Dungdung

July 10, 2012

The Adivasis live and die with the Nature. They believe in the super natural God, therefore; they worship the Nature in every occasion. The Adivasis’ economy is totally based on the Agriculture and Forest, which also depends merely on rainfall. Therefore, the villagers get together and pray to their Super Natural God before and after the harvesting. The Adivasi communities also have their own democracy, which is totally based on ‘consent’, which they practice in every village in every occasion. On 28 June, 2012, the Adivasis of Kottaguda, Sarkeguda and Rajpenta village in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh had gathered at Kottaguda village to plan for the performance of the traditional festival “Beej Pandum (seed Festival) so that they would celebrate the festival and start sowing the seeds on their lands as the Monsoon has reached to the region.

Unfortunately, 17 of them were attending this kind of meeting for the last time in their life. The Cobra battalion of the CRPF and the Chhattisgarh police, who were deployed in the region in the name of elimination of the Maoists, surrounded the villagers and fired on them without giving any signal to the villagers. Consequently, 16 of them got bullets in their chests, heads and other parts of the body, and died on the spot and one was brutally killed the next morning. The Security Forces claimed of killing 18 dreaded Maoists and celebrated it as one of the grand successes in anti-Naxal Operations. Similarly, P. Chidambaram, the Union Home Minister had also claimed that the Security Forces had shot top Naxal leaders in Chhattisgarh, and when the encounter was questioned he attempted to cover up it.

However, when the breaking news of encounter appeared in the television screens and the print media, the story seems to be totally untrue. The question immediately came into one’s mind was, how could 18 top Maoists have a meeting in a village, which is situated merely at a distance of 3 km from the CRPF camp? The truth of Bijapur encounter was finally revealed. A brave Journalist Aman Sethi, who has been tirelessly reporting on the state sponsored crime against the Adivasis of Chhattisgarh; this time also exposed the lies of the top cops, the Chhattisgarh government and Home Minister P. Chidambaram. According to his report, the security forces fired at a peaceful gathering of villagers, killing 20 of them, including five children aged 12-15, and sexually assaulted at least four girls during the encounter. The conclusion of the story was no Maoists were present in the village that day. The villagers had gathered to discuss the upcoming seed festival, when the security forces fired on them, which led to death of 20 villagers including 5 children.

The report of a three member Fact-Finding team comprising of Mr. J P Rao, Mr. Kopa Kunjam and Dr. Nandini Sundar, who visited Kottaguda, Sarkeguda and Lingagiri villages on 3rd and 4th July 2012 revealed further shocking facts. According to the report, these villages were attacked by the Salwa Judum Militia in 2005. They had killed 2 people and almost all the houses in all three villages were burnt. Consequently, the villagers had migrated to Andhra Pradesh and returned to their villages only in 2009. They were again attacked by the Security Forces this time, which led to death of 17 villagers including 7 minors. Apart from that, 9 have been injured, and at least 5 women have been beaten, assaulted and molested.

When the truth was unearthed, the Union Home Minister and Architect of the ‘Operation Green Hunt’ P. Chidambaram said ‘deeply  sorry’ for killing of innocent civilians. The pertinent question here would be, is saying merely ‘sorry’ enough for brutal killing of 17 innocent Adivasis? Secondly, why are the political parties keeping quit in this matter especially the opposition party the BJP? Would they have behaved in the similar manner if 17 innocent non-Adivasis would have been killed in the cold-blooded murder? Will the BJP keep quit if the similar incident takes place in the Congress rule state? Who is responsible for massacre of innocent Adivasis? Is it not P.Chidambaram, who has been deploying the Security Forces in the Adivasis regions since, 2009 in the name of eliminating the Maoists?

The CRPF DG Vijay Kumar shamelessly justified the criminal acts of the Security Forces saying that it was impossible for the forces to know who they were firing at that night. He further says that the entire area is a “very hazy world”, in which it is impossible to identify who is a Naxal and who is not. The can be raised are why did the Security Forces fire on the villagers if they didn’t know whom they were firing on? Who had given them order to fire on the innocent villagers? And can the Security Forces fire on anybody merely on the basis of suspicion? The SDM Kuruvanshi, who has been appointed to investigate, questions the villagers that why they were meeting at night? He also doesn’t want to visit villagers but has summoned the villagers to his office, which clearly indicates that the state is determined not only to deny justice to the Adivasis but also continue the state sponsored crime against them.

The Teheka’s editor Shoma Chaudhary raised a most important question is her column ‘editor cut’ that Why is life in Bastar so cheap? A simple answer to this question is, since the Indian state seems to believe that all the Adivasis living in the forest regions across the country are Maoists/Naxals, who are biggest threat to the ‘investment climate’. The India’s Economist Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh is always worried about the investment climate rather than its constitutional duty to protect the rights of its citizens. In fact, the Indian State is determined to grab the resources of the Adivasi regions at any cost, which will pave the way to India becoming the super power. Therefore, the Security Forces have been deployed in the forests to kill the Adivasis, who oppose to surrender their land, forest, water and other natural resources to the Indian state in the name of growth and development.

However, when we raise the question on fake encounter, the counter question comes back to us is why we keep quite when the Maoists kill the Security Forces? The answer for this question can be found in another question i.e. why does the Indian State send the security forces to the forest, where it didn’t reach in last 60 years? Is it for the protection of the villagers or to facilitate the mineral loot? If the Indian state sends the Security Forces to provide security to the people, then why do the security forces kill the innocent villagers, torture them and rape the women instead of protecting them? For whose security, the Security Forces are deployed in the Forests? Is it not true that the Security Forces are deployed in the forest to protect the corporate interest rather than protecting the people?

Whatever may be the intellectual arguments, but the fact is that the hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in anti-Naxal operations across the country since 2009 but no major investigation Chidambaram must leave his office, precisly because he is responsible for the brutal killing of all the innocent villagers including 17 innocent Adivasis of Kottaguda, Sarkeguda and Rajpenta villages of Chhattisgarh. The questions should be asked to Mr. P. Chidambaram that is it enough to say sorry after taking away the precious lives of 17 innocent people? Will he go for the CBI probe in all the cases of fake encounters took place in anti-Naxal operations across the country? And will he punish the top cops for killing the innocent civilians or let them enjoy the impunity? Remember, the buck stops at your door Mr Chidambaram.

Gladson Dungdung is a Human Rights Activist in India.
He can be reached at:

World Civilian Coalition Gathers for Global March to Jerusalem

World Civilian Coalition Gathers
for Global March to Jerusalem

Beirut -The International Executive Committee of the Global March to Jerusalem announces the completion of the preparations for the Second International Conference where the representatives of the International Committees involved in the organization of the Global March to Jerusalem will meet. The conference will be held in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon on Tuesday and Wednesday 17th-18th January 2012.

This meeting will be held to implement the decisions of the previous meeting, held in Amman last month, in which there was a consensus to form an International Central Committee representing all regions of the world and an International Advisory Board of eminent international figures for the march. The date for the onset of the March was agreed to be on the 30th of March, 2012, which marks the 36th anniversary of Palestinian Land Day, when peaceful protest against massive expropriation of Palestinian land was brutally met with deadly force by Zionist troops. About 40 delegates representing the International Committees throughout the seven continents of the world will be attending the meeting in Beirut.

The conference will adopt a structural process for the March, and its committee structure will be filled with appointees. The general policies for the international actions will be mandated in Beirut to ensure their success. The conference will also discuss the national events and actions that will be launched in all countries starting from mid January, 2012 and until the date of the march towards Jerusalem or the nearest possible point to it, from inside Palestine and the neighbouring Arab countries, as well as the convoys from Asia, Africa and Europe that will converge on the march date. In addition to that it will coordinate international activities that will coincide with the March in different countries.

The committee would like to confirm that the Global March to Jerusalem and all the accompanying local events and actions aim to shed light on the issue of Jerusalem (the City of Peace) as the key to peace and war in the region and the world. The racist Judaisation policies of the occupation and its ethnic cleansing practices against Jerusalem, its people and holy sites threaten this peace. Such practices are internationally recognized not only as crimes against Palestinians but as crimes against the whole of humanity.

The International Executive Committee also emphasized that through this peaceful march they envisage to mobilize Arab and Muslim nations alongside all freedom loving peoples of the world to put an end to Israeli violations of international law through its continuous occupation of Jerusalem and the rest of Palestinian Land. Israel’s persistence in continuing its racist and ethnic cleansing practices through the construction of the Apartheid wall, the expansion of settlements and the escalation of killing, destruction, displacement and Judaisation reveals the extent of its crime. This kind of behaviour demands an international rally to support the right of Palestinians to freedom, independence, self-determination and the right of return. This peaceful march is inspired by our belief and the belief of those who support our cause throughout the world that the massive participation of the people of the world is a practical, nonviolent way to achieve justice and preserve peace by ending the Israeli occupation in Palestine and its capital Jerusalem.

The International Executive Committee of the Global March to Jerusalem GMJ-ICC 
Jan. 10th 2012

For more information, please contact:
Zaher Birawi: +44 7850 896 057 OR Dr. Paul Larudee +1 510 224 3518.


Killing, Denial and Manipulation – By Gladson Dungdung

30 August, 2011

Suniya, his wife and Mangri Honhaga (right)

30 year-old Mangri Honhanga along with her 4 month-old son Dula Honhanga and other family-members had desperately come toRanchi the capital city of Jharkhand after travelling for more than 6 hours right from Saranda forest in West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand last week with the hope of getting justice. Both the mother and child have been suffering from illness – Dula is grade-3 malnourished patient and Mangri has been suffering from anaemia but they have no choice rather than facing all kinds of sufferings. The life was little better for them before 2 bullets of COBRA Jawans end the life of 38 year-old Mangal Honhanga the father of Dula and Mangri’s husband. Therefore, they had come to share their pains, sufferings and agony with the Chief Minister, the Top cops and of course, with the Media. Mangri Honhanga only knows that her husband was picked-up by the police from her house, taken to the forest and finally dead body was handed over to her.

Suniya Honhanga (27) and Ronde Honhaga (25) both the younger brothers of Lt. Mangal Honhanga are eyewitnesses of the brutal killing of their elder brother Mangal Honhanga narrated and exposed that what had happened with them in the forests at the end of June. Though the monsoon was on its pick-hour but the sky was clear and the morning was sunny on June 28, 2011. It was 10 O’clock in the morning when Suniya Honhanga and Mangal Honhanga were having mangoes in the courtyard of their house, they had just returned after ploughing the paddy field. Suddenly, they noticed the arrival of more than 300 security personals in their village called ‘Baliba’, situated at Chhotanagra police station in Saranda forest, which is indeed the heaven of the corporate sharks and also the abode of the Maoists.

The Superintendent of Police (West Singhbhum) Arun Kumar and CRPF commandant Lalchand Yadav were leading the operation. The forces caught Suniya Honhanga and Mangal Honhanga and took them to “Chabutra” (public sitting place in the middle of village) and asked all the villagers to reach to the spot. Once the villagers gathered, the forces tied all of them (men, women and children) with ropes collected from the village itself. The SP, CRPF Commandant and Jawans abused and threatened the villagers to face dire consequences if they don’t stop feeding, sheltering and supporting the Maoists. The villagers were kept whole the night in tied position. On the next day, 6 villagers were put in a chopper of Indian Air Force and transported to undisclosed location and another 16 villagers including Mangal Honhanga and Ronde Honhanga were asked to go with the paramilitary forces to the forest. But luckily, Suniya Honhanga was escaped.

Ronde Honhanga narrates the further developments in the forests. All the 16 villagers were asked to carry the luggage of the paramilitary forces whole day without food and water. In the night they were asked to sleep in the forest itself. On 30, June, the security forces asked them to move towards Chhotanagra police station. Hence, they started travelling at 3 O’clock in the morning. Meanwhile, Mangal Honhanga and another villager Tasu Sidu stop for a while and Mangal Honhanga took side for toilet. The COBRA Jawans assumed that Mangal Honhanga is running away. Therefore, they fired three times – one bullet in sky and two bullets on Mangal Honhanga. Consequently, he fell on the ground and died there. Tasu Sidu witnessed it. Immediately, the Jawans wrapped the dead body and didn’t show the villagers unless they reached to Chhotanagra police station. The dead body was transported to Chaibasa for post-mortem and finally, the police handed over the dead body and sent all the 15 villagers to Baliba village.

The SP Arun Kumar organized a press conference in Chaibasa and told the media persons about their grand success in anti-naxal operations. However, he accepted that Mangal Honhanga was innocent villager and a bullet of the security forces hit him while there was crossfire between the security forces and the Maoists. However, the villagers unearthed the truth, according to them there was no exchange of any fire; it was a clear case of brutal killing by the security forces. Since, the villagers knew the truth therefore, the top cops asked the officer-in-charge of Chhotanagra police station to offer compensation package to the family members of the deceased. Rs. 3 lakh and a job were offered to the family members. Ironically, the death certificate does not state the cause of death. This is one of the classic examples of killing, denial and manipulation by the police and security forces while carrying on the so-called anti-naxal joint operations.

In another similar case, the police killed a villager and coined it as the result of crossfire. On 18 August, 2011 the security forces arrive to Baliba village again. They caught 6 villagers including Ladura Barjo, Mangal Barjo, Sanika Barjo, Dubiya Barjo, Mangra Guria and Soma Guria. These people were taken to “Chabutra” of the village and, kicked and severely beaten with stick, tiles and butt of the guns. Consequently, Soma Guria fell down and became unconscious. On the next day, the security forces took them to the forest. Soma Guria was not able to walk but he was dragged towards the forest. According to the eyewitness, when he died due to injuries in the forest, the security forces fired two bullets in his chest. On 20 August, the villagers were handed over the dead body of Soma Guria and told that he was killed in crossfire.

In fact, the security forces land to any village, rob the houses, catch the innocent villagers, torture them, exploit women and shoot the man, and finally, they hand over the dead bodies to the family members after couple of day and tell that their man was killed in the crossfire. Thus, the endless inhuman acts of the security forces continue in the Saranda forest. The villagers are tired of sharing their pains, sufferings and agony. But do they have any choice? The security forces captured the house containing a ration shop of Patur Gagrai of Tiril Polshi village on August 3. He is also the president of village education committee. The police blame that he supplies ration to the Maoists. In another case, the security forces raped 3 women in Karampada village on August 1 and 15 people were picked up from Hatnaburu village on August 24 alleging them as members of the CPI-Maoists without any proof. The fact is, whenever, the security forces go for the anti-naxal operation, and they victimize the innocent villagers. The billion dollar question is, can the security forces rape women and kill the men in cold-blooded murder even if they are member of the CPI-Maoists?

The story does not end here. When the Jharkhand Human Rights Movement (JHRM) intervened and exposed the killings of Mangal Honhanga and Somu Guria by the security forces, the top cops started branding the JHRM as Maoist’s organization. The Kolhan DIG Naveen Kumar said, “The allegations by the family are Maoist sponsored. It is just to harass and disrupt police operations.” He also said that Mangal Honhanga was a rebel. Similarly, the IG and spokesperson of Jharkhand Police R.K. Mullick said that Mangal Honhanga had some explosive with him. What a brilliant idea of the top cops of Jharkhand for coining an innocent Adivasi as Maoist to bury their inhuman acts. However, when there was ample pressure, the Inspector General of Police did inquiry and found that both Mangal Honhanga and Soma Guria were innocent Adivasi and the security forces shot them when they declined to follow their instructions. The irony is still, the Home Secretary and the Director General of Police are tirelessly attempting to coin both the killings as results of the crossfire.

The most important point is, speaking about rights has become crime in the largest democratic country on the earth especially, when the rights are for the under privilege communities.  However, if you speak for the middle class or upper middle class, you’ll become the hero. Perhaps, second Gandhi, second Nehru or Second Patel. For instance, when the teachers of thousand of public and private schools asked their children (students) to take part in Anna Hazare’s movement after deserting their studies, it was glamorized by the 24×7 news channel instead of questioning and taking action against the teachers. In another similar case, when the poor children took part in a movement against POSCO project in the state of Odisha, the state government threatened the organizers for taking action against them in the name of violating the child rights. What kind of democracy is this?

Indeed, it’s very clear that if you stand against the police atrocities and reluctant to be alienated from the natural resources (land, forest and mineral), you’ll be coined as the extremists. Precisely, because both – questioning against police atrocities and displacement ultimately expose the corporate nexus with the government’s anti naxal-operations for mineral interest. Obviously, the Indian state bothers about the ‘threat to the investment climate’ rather than protecting its citizen’s rights and the constitution. Though the Jharkhand police have accepted the killing of Mangal Honhanga and Soma Guria but my assumption is, the family members would be shut up with the compensation packages and the cops will enjoy impunity as usual.

When I completed this piece, a report appeared in the news paper, which states that the Adivasis of Tholkabad village in Saranda Forest have vacated their village and went to elsewhere in fear of the police torture. Since, right from the beginning, when I started writing on so-called anti-Naxal operations, I have been mentioning that the ‘Operation Green Hunt’ was launched with the clear intention to create fear, insecurity and livelihood crisis in the villages so that the villages would leave the vicinity. Consequently, the government can hand over the Adivasis land to the corporate shark comfortable. The Jharkhand government has allotted iron-ore to 19 steel companies including Mittal, Jindal, Tata, Atro-Steel and Torian in Saranda Forest. Therefore, of course, they want to clear the land.

Published in the Jharkhand Mirror.

Gladson Dungdung is a Human Rights Activist and Writer. He can be reached at:

The Indian Anti-Corruption Campaign of the Politician Anna Hazare

Arundhati Roy- photograph © Jean-Baptiste Labrune

I’d rather not be Anna

by Arundhati Roy

Click on the link below to read the original article from The Hindu 21st August 2011

“While his means may be Gandhian, his demands are certainly not.”


A Response by Dr Felix Padel

I’ve been up since 4am, woken by hearing Arundhati Roy interviewed on the BBC world service – they seemed to cut her critique of Anna’s failure to critique corporate roots of corruption – & connivance of the media in promoting him – rather short!

Opinions differ wildly about Anna’s integrity. Like her, I see him as authoritarian & narrow-minded. While he’s bringing into much-needed focus the enormity of corruption, he’s focusing on the main bribe-takers – i.e. the politicians – rather than the main bribe-givers – the corporations and banks, and is as rigidly insisting on rapid implementation of his own deeply flawed & authoritarian version of the Lokpal bill as the govt’s pushing its own ludicrously flawed version. Rapid implementation can be extremely dangerous if it sets up a flawed structure that will “take over the government” with even less accountability.

What we see in the Anna phenomenon is a reduction of Gandhi’s fasting technique to a ridiculous extreme, superbly manipulated by the media. I can’t agree that the essence of Gandhi was in this fasting trick though, or that a public threat to fast to death is necessarily “violent violence”. It can be sometimes I’d say “non-violent violence”. E.g. when he used it in West Bengal, when he did actually succeed in stopping massive-scale Hindu-Muslim violence through a fast-to-death that came extremely near completion, I’d say this was in a sense a homeopathic use of violence against one’s body to stop massive outer violence. Yes there was a manipulation of public opinion, but in the sense of exercising a “correct control”, bringing a mood of extreme public violence under control.

Understanding the difference between what Gandhi did & what Anna’s doing is important & instructive. Arundhati’s recent article is the first time she has used “Gandhian” in a positive sense, to make clear the difference between the two.
But the idea that Gandhi was manipulative, and did become an adept user of media-power, is also part of why Arundhati dislikes Gandhi.

On the use of public fasting, do see the Lepchas. Their fast, which has gone on in relay for 4 years, has made very little impact, probably because they are so remote, in northern Sikkim, and as Buddhists, seen as very marginal in India – unlike Anna, who taps into the mainstream Hindu aesthetic. Also marginalised because the vested interests in big dams by construction, energy & mining companies are so extreme – at the centre of the whole issue of “ecocide” that Anna’s not addressing at all.

This video [& article], better than any other I’ve seen, reveals the full horrendousness of what is actually happening to all the rivers coming down from the Himalayas.

In West India, the Ganga & Yamuna descending from the glaciers have become or are becoming rivers no more, but a series of tubes chiselled through rock, leaving devastating waste and decaying ecosystems. In northeast India, 300 new big dams are being constructed on Brahmaputra tributaries in Arunachal alone – mostly already under construction to sabotage widespread protests. The Teesta is the major river in Sikkim, running north-south. This video shows the one big dam already completed with appalling impacts – 27 more are planned/under construction. It shows the Lepchas fast, and I’d say it’s an appropriate use of fasting, and deserves far more publicity.

When I tuned into the BBC world service just now at 3.45am just as Arundhati was being interviewed on Anna. What she said opened my eyes more to the heinous nature of the Anna charade. My brother had questioned “what does she mean comparing Anna with the Maoists as trying to overthrow the government?” I’d replied that partly, it’s because he’s being used by the BJP to overthrow the Congress leadership of the present government. This answer’s inadequate, partly because he’s made a public display of humiliating BJP politicians whenever they come to support him (though this doesn’t stop them coming).

She spelt out this aspect more precisely – he’s attacking the government full-on – but not the corporations or banks at all! Attacking the bribe-takers – among whom politicians are pre-eminent! But not the bribe-givers: every “AAM ADMI” [ordinary man] in India is a bribe-giver by definition – just to get routine bureaucratic work done, one has to give a bribe, so his solution is to focus on penalising the bribe-takers rather than the bribe-givers.

However the main bribe-givers are in effect, structurally, the corporations and banks – sometimes (with the latter) doing this illegally in massive bribes, but also doing this in “legal” ways, through revolving doors, corporate “largesse” and use of banking power. By not saying a word about the corruption stemming from the big companies, the World Bank & other banks (who also largely control the media) – it becomes clear who his real backers are, & why the media are highlighting him so assiduously.

In this sense, he’s truly attacking the role of government, even more than the Maoists do, but in the same way that Naomi Klein outlines in “Shock Doctrine”. In other words, what he’s really promoting seems to be the corporate state & a privatizing of government.

I’m examining these aspects more closely from now on. Attaching a document I’ve just made, highlighting statements by the 2 Anna-supporters I personally respect most, but also the confusion over details that Anna is promoting (highlighted by Arundhati on the BBC) at the same time as demanding an immediate implementation of the Lokpal bill. It’s interesting in this light that videos I’m looking at of Anna don’t seem to translate him…….. The Tehelka articles by Shoma are very revealing*, but I don’t agree with her final comments that Anna himself has complete integrity or that his intransigence on changing his own version is only a slight fault….

* latest one is

Dr Felix Padel is an anthropologist who has lived in India for 30 years.


A Septuagenarian from Maharastra…

By Liz Crisp

I travel regularly to India. Prior to my current trip, I was asked to write something for ‘The Gandhi Way.’ I thought to myself – what on earth can I write about? Then one day, a 74 year old man from a village in Maharashtra decided to go on hunger strike. The press were hailing him as the new Gandhi-ji. The world was watching.

Here is my diarised account of Anna Hazare’s fast, based on reports in the Indian press.*
*(The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Hindu plus second hand reports from Hindi language papers Punjab Kesari and Hindustan).

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Day seven of Anna Hazare’s hunger strike: just like Anna, India’s support for him is still going strong. From Bollywood stars to aam aadmi (common man), from famous Swamis to street Babas; the papers are full of people sporting Gandhi topis, Anna banners and the Indian tricolour.

At Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan, the streets are flooded with rivers of people. Thousands of supporters throng Mumbai to hold a midnight vigil. All over India, people are carrying out direct action to show their solidarity to Team Anna’s campaign. Students are refusing to accept their degrees. Others are only willing to graduate in Topi hats in place of the traditional cap and gown. Rickshaw drivers are striking. Villagers from Anna’s hometown decline to wash for a day. Everywhere, people are mobilised into fighting corruption in their own localities. So far, it’s all been peaceful. Team Anna contrasts its campaign against the recent London riots.

Many are cashing in on the opportunity. The Times of India (which I seem to remember publishing an article a few weeks ago about the hunger striker being childish) is boasting of orchestrating the biggest ever online election. The mobile phone networks and bulk SMS vendors are raking in fortunes by the day. Delhi street beggars are calling this a fifteen day mela (festival) as they make a booming trade from topis, flags, and Anna paraphernalia. Whilst Anna starves, food vendors are more than trebling their daily profit feeding the hungry crowds. Delhi’s poor are making the most of free food distribution. The Hindustan Times reports one man saying, ‘I don’t know what the Lokpal Bill is. I’m just here for the good food’

Even Baba Ram Dev is back in a happier limelight after his own anti-corruption campaign disaster. Apparently the yoga guru’s strategy involved the use of guns and capital punishment. After he staged his hunger strike, as with Anna, the police turned up to arrest him. A violent scuffle broke out and Baba Ram Dev escaped in woman’s clothing – much to the disgust of his supporters. His hunger strike  lasted but 3 days before he gave it up. Doctors advised him it was bad for his health (isn’t that the point of a hunger strike??). Afterwards, he kept a low profile, particularly as his own integrity was called into question when his closest aide, Bal Krishna, was suspected of obtaining a passport with false documents. However, a couple of days ago a jubilant Baba Ram Dev was pictured riding on the back of Anna’s fame, atop of a car, waving the Indian flag to a sea of people.

After a spate of embarrassing scam exposures against the Government (e.g. A Raja case, 2G Spectrum licences, the Commonwealth  Games and cash for votes), it seems the anti-corruption crusade in itself has become a platform for opportunists. The Indian people are sick of being cheated but who can be trusted when corruption seems to be everywhere? A while ago, the opposition BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) announced its primary strategy was to be fighting corruption. But it is likely that most political parties will have skeletons in their cupboards, so who could take this seriously?

However, if the media is to be believed, the public appear to have put their faith in Hazare. The Gandhian has a long track record of social activism. He has proved genuine concern for his causes without benefitting personally. And he is also a very experienced hunger striker. From 1983 to date, he has completed 12 hunger strikes, from which his demands have either been all or partially met. The Maharashtra Government are so used to his protests that they have a special policy for dealing with Anna.

Previously Anna was little known outside of Maharashtra (opinion polls showing Baba Ram Dev being much more famous). With this latest national campaign, Anna has been propelled into the public limelight. On 4 August, the Government sent their Lokpal Bill to Parliament’s Standing Committee for consideration by 3 months. Hazare considered it a toothless piece of legislation and unfairly weighted against complainants. He submitted an alternative Jan Lokpal Bill which includes everyone under its ambit, from the local village Panchayat to the Prime Minister. His Bill also requires officers to publish a charter that accounts their public duties and demands a lokpal to be set up in every state. He wants his Jan Lokpal Bill accepted by 30 August 2011 or he will fast until his death.

The snowballing success of this campaign has been aided by a group of powerful allies, now forming ‘Team Anna’. This includes the formidable ex-commissioner Kiran Bedi, who was once re-named ‘Crane Bedi’ for daring to tow away Indira Gandhi’s car for being illegally parked. Bedi may have got a bit carried away herself today, as she’s just been slated for trumping the slogan ‘Anna is India! India is Anna!’ This smacks bad memories of Indira’s Emergency slogan (‘Indira is India! India is Indira’!).

Anna’s critics say he is forcing his view in a way that could be described as fascist. They disagree that one person should assert their view as being correct and therefore it must be enforced. Anna’s deadline does not allow due process to be followed according to democratic principles. The Parliamentary Standing Committee needs sufficient time to conduct wider consultation and include all views. Some say that his Bill will not address corruption as the Lokpal itself could also be corrupt. It’s also been suggested that corruption is endemic throughout Indian society and not confined to politicians. Change needs to occur at all levels.

To date, the Government has remained quiet. On the seventh day of Anna’s strike, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh finally speaks. He says his door is always open for discussion.

Day 8, 23/08/11

Doctors report that Anna’s body is beginning to show signs of starvation. They say they are not overly concerned as the human body can go without food for at least 30days.

Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, has finally begun direct communications. He sent a letter stating that he is willing to send Team Anna’s Jan Lokpal Bill to the Parliamentary Standing Committee for “holistic consideration along with everything else.” Singh appealed to Anna to end his fast so that he could “regain full health and vitality.”

Parliament carries out no business that day. They are too busy arguing over how to handle Anna and the Lokpal bill. Other state parliaments are disrupted by similar debates. It’s not business as usual for Indian politics today!

According to the press, Anna’s critics are beginning to become more vocal. Muslims have expressed disappointment that his strategy does not represent them. Team Anna members have arranged to meet with Muslim leaders to smooth things over. Dalit leaders are reported as being riled. It was a Dalit, BR Ambedkar, who architected the Constitution. They say Anna is making a mockery of the democratic system – the political process is not ‘2 minute noodles’. Anna’s demands, print The Hindustan Times, are becoming associated with urban, upper-caste Indians and exclude lowercastes and Muslims. The Hindu prints an article where the writer describes Team Anna’s tactics as ‘messianic politics’, questioning if the masses at Ramlila Maidan represent all the people.

Day 9, 24/08/11

Manmohan Singh meets Anna. No agreement is reached. Parliament is split over the inclusion of the Prime Minister in the Lokpal and therefore Manmohan won’t make guarantees before the consultation process is completed. Anna is demanding that the Government’s Bill be withdrawn and replaced by his own one. Singh declines.

Government negotiators are reported to have said that Anna’s health is his own problem. The Government later deny that this statement was ever made.

Anna’s health is deteriorating. Doctors have given him two choices over the next 24 hours – either finish the strike or go to hospital. Anna is adamant he is staying put. If he dies, he calls for his supporters to fill the jails.

Day 10, 25/08/11

Manmohan Singh say “he [Anna] has made his point… I respect his idealism. I respect him… His life is much too precious and I urge him to end his strike.”

Singh says that Hazare’s Lok Pal Bill will be considered in Parliament, along with the Government’s own Lokpal Bill and A. Roy’s  alternative version. Government, the Lok Sabha, the opposition and Maharashtra Chief Minister all appeal to Hazare to end his strike.

Anna is still fasting. He wants the Government’s Bill withdrawn. Anna frenzy is still going strong amongst the people. Large scale protests are reported across India. So far, they are still peaceful.

Chief of IBN 18 (TV station) writes a letter to Anna in the Hindustan Times (26/08/11). He applauds his action to date but pleads with him to stop now. He fears that, in the event of Anna’s death, violence will erupt on the streets. Comparison is drawn to Gandhi-ji, who never fasted until death. Gandhi-ji understood the beauty of compromise and said that fasting should never be undertaken “out of anger. Anger is a short-term madness.”

Dalit opposition is reported, concerns are expressed that Anna does not support their reservation rights [for public sector jobs] under the current Constitution.

Government is considering a framework for consultation on key pieces of legislation in the same style as the European White Paper  system.

Day 11, 27/08/11

Anna apologises to Manmohan Singh if he hurt him. He says his campaign is against the system and not individuals.

There are reports of a few violent protesters in Delhi – a relatively minor incident, with no police retaliation. Culprits are arrested. Large scale, peaceful protests continue across India.

Parliament plans a discussion tomorrow. Anna will maintain his fast until after this debate.

Day 12, 27/08/11

Day 12. Triumph for Team Anna! Government has agreed to submit Anna’s Lokpal proposals.

Anna breaks his fast.

Disaster! No English newspapers!

The End…

So Anna symbolically ends his fast by the hands of two children, one Dalit and one Muslim, serving him honey and coconut water. The papers report on sympathetic hunger strikers across the country also ending their fasts. Of course, this story is no way complete and a new chapter begins as the Government faces the major task of working out an acceptable implementation plan.

Critics have slated Anna for being rigidly uncompromising. But The Times of India report that Team Anna were planning to throw in the towel had the Government not agreed their proposals (‘How Team Anna pulled a Fast One’). Anna’s health was more critical than his doctors presented and the team feared that the protests could turn ugly if he died. Anna has been careful to encompass marginalised communities in his post-fast speech. Team Anna pay homage to the politicians, BR Ambedkar and the media.

The Jan Lokpal may not be the answer to all evils. However, if it can remain free from corruption, it will at least give some power to local people. In the coming days, Anna is to talk about further goals, including the right to reject and recall elected representatives. Team Anna bid the people to “neither give nor take a bribe.”

What has amazed the world over the last 12 days is that, whilst the Indian people have been justifiably infuriated over the issue of corruption, large scale protests have been carried out with practically no violence. The London rioters should look and learn!

Anna is not a powerful politician or a celebrity yoga master. He is a septuagenarian with a Gandhian philosophy and cast iron resolve. He has managed to capture the hearts of the people, win over the media and move a government into submission.

But will it make a difference? I shall be watching this space…


Liz Crisp is a long-time friend of The Gandhi Foundation

Do We Also Have the Democratic Rights? – By Gladson Dungdung

10 July, 2011

people at the mass meeting

On July 5, 2011, the Adivasis of Munda Khutkatti areas – Khunti, Murhu and Arki blocks of Khunti district gathered in Kachary Maidanof Khunti situated at a distance of 31 kilometres from the state capital of Jharkhand. In fact, the Khunti district administration had given them permission to hold a rally and mass meeting against the police atrocities. However, when the villagers started arriving to Kachary Maidan, Manoj Kaushik the Superintendent of police (Khunti) also reached to the venue and questioned Birsa Munda the leader of “Mundari Khutkati Ewam Bhuihari Parishad,” “Why you have brought so many people to protest against the police?” Birsa responded, “Villagers are facing police atrocities therefore they have come to express their pains and sufferings to the Deputy Commissioner”. The SP went back to his office after hearing Birsa’s response.

Meanwhile, the inspector of Khunti police station P.K. Mishra also started inquiring about the programme and the riot controller vehicle along with paramilitary forces reached to the venue. The police of Khunti, Arki, Murhu, Rania, Torpa and Karra police stations were already present in the venue. It seems that there was supposed to be an encounter between the police and the Maoists. As usual they assume it as a Rally and Mass Meeting of the Maoists. In fact, the police and administration consider all the rallies, mass meetings and protests organized against the police atrocities are as the programmes of the Maoists. Simultaneously, they had started their operations of stopping people in the entry points of Khunti. They stopped 3 buses at Arki and 2 buses and 3 Jeeps at Murhu block. However, 30 vehicles (buses and Jeeps) could able to reach to the venue and many people came by bicycles and by foot as well. There were more than 5000 people in the ground including more than 100 victims of police atrocities.

The Rally and Mass Meeting was organized by the “Mundari Khutkati Ewam Bhuihari Parishad”, which is a traditional organization of the Adivasis and it has legal validity as far the laws of 5th Scheduled Area are concerned. It was 1 O’clock in the afternoon. The villagers started walking towards Khunti town by raising slogans against the police atrocities. They were shouting, “Police Atyachar Band Karo” (Stop police atrocities), “Nirdosho ko Jail se riha karo” (release the innocent from the prison) and “Maowadiyo ke name per Gramino ko pratarit Karna band karo” (stop torturing the villagers in the name of Maoists). These people had decided to raise their voices when the police and paramilitary forces crossed their limit of perpetrating atrocities against the villagers. Needless to say, that the police torture has become part and parcel of their lives.

I had also gone to participate in the Rally and Mass meeting. After hearing slogans against the police, the Police Inspector of Khunti police station Mr. P.K. Mishra and his guards stopped the villagers saying that they should not shout slogans against the police. “Why don’t you organize Rally against the Maoists, when they kill our police forces,” ‘P. K. Mishra questioned. In response, the villagers said that they have come to raise their voices and they are against of both the parties who perpetrate violence against the villagers. They are made sandwich by both the parties. However, P.K. Mishra didn’t hear the villagers and asked them to stop raising slogans against the police. The villagers continued their rally but the police stopped them three times. The police wanted to block the Rally and asked the villagers to go back to their villages. The villagers were not ready to do so. Since I was part of the Rally therefore I intervened on the matter and told the Inspector P.K. Mishra that he should not seize the democratic rights of the villagers.

Meanwhile, I introduced myself as a Human Rights Activist and also a member of the “Assessment and Monitoring Authority” under the Planning Commission of India and showed him my visiting card. He was looking like a wounded lion. He snatched and threw my card on the ground, humiliated me and threatened me saying, “shut up! If you don’t stop, I’ll tear down you and dry up”. “I don’t bother about losing my job,” he added. Meanwhile, four bodyguards of the Inspect got down from the vehicle and abused and started beating me but when the crowd intervened, they stopped. After sometime, the rally resumed and backed to the Kachahari Maidan and mass meeting was started. The villagers started sharing their plight one after another.

Since the launching of so-called anti-Naxal Operations known as “Operation Green Hunt’ in the areas, the innocent villagers have been facing police atrocities. On August 5, 2010, the police and paramilitary forces went to Birbanki village of Arki block and started abusing and beating the villagers. They also scattered belongings and caught two innocent villagers – Daud Samad and Lukin Munda alleging them as feeding the Maoists. Both are well known social workers of the region. Similarly, on October 30, 2010 the police and paramilitary forces caught three girl students of Narang village – Jasmani Soy, Magdali Purty and Juliyana Purty (age between 15-16)and put them in Jail for more than 45  days alleging them as members of the CPI- Maoist. They were set free from the prison but no policeman was punished for detaining the innocent girls.

Again on 27 November, 2010, the police and paramilitary forces entered in Basudih village of Arki block and tied up villagers and beaten them severely. The police arrested innocent villager Soma Marsal Purty and put him in the Jail after branding him as a Maoist.  Similarly, on June 4, 2011 the police went to Bankira village of Arki, while coming back the police arrested Johan Hansa and Karma Singh Munda of Kuita village and put them in the Jail. On June 5, 2011, the police went to Ittihasa village and bet Sanika Munda, Laka Munda and Durga Munda severely alleging them as sheltering the Maoists in the village without any proof.

The police and paramilitary forces also torture the villagers during the prayers. On June 5, 2011, the villagers of Sareyad village of Arki block were having Sunday Mass in the village church. The police and paramilitary forces captured the Church and targeted villagers from the windows of the Church and shouted, “Shoot them”. After hearing the police there was a chaos in the Church and few villagers came out of the Church. The police and paramilitary forces bet them severely. Thereafter, they asked the villagers to prepare food for them. They ate and also bet severely to the person who cooked food for them.

Similarly, on June 5, 2011, the villagers of Kudunba of Arki block had gathered for prayer at Bankira at 8 O’clock in the morning. The police rounded them and asked them to sit separately – men one side and women on the other side. Thereafter, they bet the men severely and tied up hands of 25 men behind their back with the ropes, which the villagers use to tie-up their cattle. They also caught four girls – Seteng Nag, Hanna Nag, Mariam Kandir and Jaiwanti Nag. The police took 25 men and 4 girls to the forest in the name of search operations. The villagers were kept in the forest for 2 days without food and water. Finally, 2 persons – Mansid Nag and Masih Nag were put in the Jail alleging them as the Maoists. Mansid Nag works as a tailor and Masih Nag is a para-teacher and also works as a traditional medicine practitioner.

Amidst, a delegation met the Deputy Commissioner of Khunti Mr. Rakesh Kumar and a memorandum was submitted to him. Surprisingly, he said, “I’m hearing about the police atrocities first time”. “I know about the laws of 5th Scheduled Area and will take action,” he assured. The Dy. Superintendent of Police (Khunti) Mr. Anil Shanker was in a hurry to send the villagers back to their villages, he asked me several times, “Please send the villagers to their villages”. When the villagers were sharing their pain, suffering and sorrow in the mass meeting, a chopper of the Boarder Security Force (BSF) suddenly appeared in the vicinity and flew two rounds over the Kachary Maidan and returned to Ranchi. Perhaps, the top copes of Jharkhand were inside the Chopper, had come to see the Maoists in the mass meeting. Since inception of the state, the police have killed 550 people and arrested 4090 villagers in Jharkhand in allegation of being the Maoists. However, the police failed to prove the allegations.

Of course, there is a tendency in the police and administration that anyone who raises voice against the police atrocity is either a Maoist or their supporter. The most pertinent questions are do the villagers have democratic rights? Do we really live in a democratic country? And do we also have the democratic rights like other people of this country enjoy? Where should people go to plea for protection of their democratic rights? While talking to individuals, many villagers said that they are against of the Maoists however, if the police atrocities didn’t stop, then they can also take up the guns if the power only comes from the barrel of guns. I believe that this is the last warning for the Indian state. Therefore, instead of shutting down the democracy, the Indian state must hear the pains, sufferings and sorrows of the people and deliver justice to them.

Gladson Dungdung is a Human Rights Activist and Writer. He can be reached at:

Gandhi Inspires Obama

8th September 2009
Wakefield High School, Arlington, Virginia

President Obama went to Wakefield High School in Arlington to give a national speech welcoming students back to school. He called for students to take responsibility and to learn from their failures so that they succeed in the end.

A student asked President Obama:

Hi. I’m Lilly. And if you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?

President Obama replied:

Dinner with anyone dead or alive? Well, you know, dead or alive, that’s a pretty big list. (laughter) You know, I think that it might be Gandhi, who is a real hero of mine. Now, it would probably be a really small meal because — (laughter) — he didn’t eat a lot. But he’s somebody who I find a lot of inspiration in. He inspired Dr. King, so if it hadn’t been for the non-violent movement in India, you might not have seen the same non-violent movement for civil rights here in the United States. He inspired César Chávez, and what was interesting was that he ended up doing so much and changing the world just by the power of his ethics, by his ability to change how people saw each other and saw themselves — and help people who thought they had no power realize that they had power, and then help people who had a lot of power realize that if all they’re doing is oppressing people, then that’s not a really good exercise of power.

So I’m always interested in people who are able to bring about change, not through violence, not through money, but through the force of their personality and their ethical and moral stances. And that’s somebody that I’d love to sit down and talk to.

Source: The White House Press Office


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