Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Behind The RTE ACT

The right to education act that makes it a basic right of Indian citizen to have access to education is a laudable step by the Centre but in its present form it endangers the private and religious institutions, opines the writer.

It is gratifying to know that full attention is now being paid to education in our country and in lieu of this, the Parliament passed the RTE Act in 2009. It is a promising piece of legislation which opens the way for the education of the underprivileged young. In its draft form it was under discussion for two years and is now in effect from 1st April, 2010.

In the wake of this Act by the Central Government, State Govenments will also enact legislation so that equal opportunities for education are ensured for children of age 6 to 14 years. In future, it seems, everyone in India will thus study up to VIII class. Our legislators have recognized that every child has the right to education. It is the obligation of every parent and every teacher to provide education.

The spirit behind the above move initiated by the Central Government should be hailed and let us pray that it gains ground and becomes effective. While this Act grants the right to education to every child in India, it defines also what education is. It answers also the following questions – Where will 6 – 14 years old study? What is the responsibility of parents and teachers? What subjects will be taught? How will these children progress from one class to another in order to gain more education? What kind of educational institutions will provide education? What will be the composition of the management of these schools? Who will have the right to establish such educational institutions? What will be the Government’s stance towards the educational institutions which fail to meet the standards set by Government? Will teachers and educational institutions be held guilty of depriving 6 – 14 old of education, if they do not impart the same education which is prescribed by the Government?

RTE Act provides answers to all the above questions. It is therefore, all the more important that the Act be thoroughly analyzed in a purely objective manner. It is also worth-studying what will be the position of minority institutions after the enforcement of this Act.

The first and foremost question is – What is education? To this the Act responds thus: Education is what is prescribed by the Government through legislation. This question is answered at length by various Articles and Clauses of the Act:
Article 3A states that every child has the right to gain full time elementary education in a formal school, which is of acceptable standard and in accordance with the prescribed norms and quality.

Full time and elementary education are explained in the Act thus:

Article 2F: “Elementary education” means the education from first class to Eighth class. Such education will be imparted in schools.

The Act defines school thus: “School means any recognized school imparting elementary education”.

On studying these Clauses of RTE Act the following salient points emerge:

1. Education is which is recognized by the Government or its related bodies.
2. Education is which is gained in a formal school on a full time basis in a satisfactory manner.
3. Education is which is in accordance with the norms and regulations laid down by the government or its related bodies.
4. Education is which is recognized by the government as elementary education and which is imparted from class I to VIII.
5. Education is which is gained at schools recognized by the government by 6 – 14 years old (or by older children)1

While keeping in mind the above points let us also take note of the explanation of Article 8 of the Act:

The term compulsory education means obligation of the appropriate government to –
I. Provide free elementary education for every child of the age 6 – 14 years.
II. Ensure compulsory admission, attendance and completion of elementary education of every child of the age 6 – 14 years.

It emerges from the above that it will be compulsory for every child up to 14 years to be admitted to a government school. Likewise, an institution which does not impart full time elementary education will also be held guilty. Such educational institution will be culprits which fail to impart education in accordance with the norms and regulations laid by the government or which fail to secure government permission after fulfilling the educational and other norms prescribed by the government:

17-(5) Any person who establishes or runs a school without obtaining certificate of recognition or continues to run a school after withdrawal of recognition, shall be liable to fine which may extend to one lakh rupees and in case of continuing contravention to a fine of ten thousand rupees for each day during which such contravention continues.

Madrasas and Private Schools

It is worth-reflecting that the provision for the education of 6 – 14 years old is only for the schools established or recognized by the government. There cannot be any school, educational institution, Madrasa, Maktab, Pathshala or Gurukul other than the government school for these children. The Act clearly holds guilty one who provides education to children of this age group. With this Act in force, Madrasas or Pathshala are illegal. For Article 8 of the Act reads as follows: “No school is to be established without obtaining certificate of recognition”.

The above Article has 5 Clauses which further explain the above law and also lay down the penalty for those who violate this law:

No school, other than school established, owned or controlled by appropriate government or the local authority shall, after the commencement of this Act, be established or function, without obtaining a certificate of recognition from such authority, by making an application in such form and manner, as may be prescribed.

It is fairly clear from the wording of the Act that no institution can be established or run unless it abides by the norms and regulations prescribed by the government and obtains the government certificate of recognition. It goes without saying that Madrasas cannot be run under this Act.

RTE Act And Article 30 Of The Constitution Of India

Article 30 of the Indian Constitution grants minorities the right to establish, and run educational institutions of their choice. The Constitution has granted this right so that the religious, cultural and linguistic minorities may preserve their faith, culture and language and be equal citizens of the country. With this Fundamental Right minorities should not have faced any difficulty in establishing and running their educational institutions. However, after Independence governments have made this very complicated and for 50 years this state of affairs lasted. The Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Constitution were not implemented. For governments laid down the condition of obtaining NOC for establishing school. Then another condition was prescribed that government will issue the certificate of minority institution. Both these orders of government were in conflict with article 30 of the Constitution. Yet, minorities faced all these obstacles for 55 years in establishing educational institutions of their choice.

There have been numerous instances of the problems faced by minority institutions in obtaining NOC in most states of our country. I know such institutions which have been struggling for the last 30 years for securing NOC in vain. Some institutions in Bihar managed to get NOC only when Deputy Chairman of Bihar Legislative Council reprimanded the officials of the Department of Education. The same problems plague the issue of the declaration of minority institution. It would have been commonsense that the government would have passed an Act or issued a circular, spelling out the conditions and features of a minority institution. However, governments both at Centre and in States never did so. It is a tragic story of the Indian educational system that minority institutions had to move to High Court and Supreme Court for obtaining the certificate of being a minority institution.
Minorities, especially Muslims, have been subject to the hurdles created by government for years. Muslims establish an institution yet it being a minority institution is declared by the government. How strange is this? An analogy will be that the government passes a law to the effect that a child’s parentage will be established only on the basis of a declaration by hospital superintendent. Until now Parliament or legislative bodies have not passed any legislation which spells out the conditions for getting NOC or minority institution certificate. For 55 years the harassment of educational institutions of Muslims and minorities went unabated. With the establishment of Minority Education Institution Commission, minorities have got some relief. However, they are now confronted with the recent RTE ACT, which lays down the condition that no school can be established without recognition:

18-(1) No school, other than a school established, owned or controlled by appropriate government or the local authority, shall, after the commencement of this Act, be established or function, without obtaining a certificate of recognition from such authority, by making an application in such form and manner, as may be prescribed.

An unrecognized school will have to pay a fine of Rs. 1 lakh. Only the government can answer how minority institutions will be protected against the mischief perpetrated by the government officials.

If a body intends to establish a school upto class V in accordance Article 30 of the Constitution, the officials of the appropriate government will not allow it. For under the RTE Act they can give permission to only elementary education i.e. from Class I to VIII. Such problems will arise and minorities in particular will suffer. Legislators should not disregard the fact that it has been very hard for minority institutions to secure NOC. Given this, securing recognition will be much more difficult.

RTE Act And Minority Institutions

Constitution of India grants minorities their right to establish and run educational institutions of their choice. However, Article 3(1) the RTE Act binds these minority educational institutions that they should provide education to 6 – 14 year old children until they complete their elementary education. One of the consequences of this Article will be that around 25% students will be enrolled in minority educational Institution as a matter of their right. It will render Article 30 of the Constitution of India as null and void.

Article 12(c) of the RTE Act stipulates that 25% children from weaker sections have the right to be enrolled in school. The Article further clarifies that even in pre-school, prior to class I, there will be 25% students of the same section. Article 12 of the Act is general in its application and embraces such minority educational institutions which provide elementary education. They will be obliged to admit 25% children of the weaker sections. This Article too contravenes the Fundamental Right enshrined in our Constitution.

National Syllabus

The RTE Act envisage also national syllabus, as is evident from sections Article 7 sub section 6A. This Article is in conflict with Articles 26, 29 and 30 of Fundamental Rights encapsulated in the Constitution of India. The above article of RTE Act will prove as an obstacle for religious, linguistic and minority educational institutions. Articles 26, 29 and 30 of the Fundamental Rights of the Constitution have been put in place for the very purpose that minorities should be free to teach their own syllabus or may use the syllabus prescribed the government with some alteration. However, once national syllabus is enforced, minority institutions will be divested of their right to teach their own syllabus. Let us not disregard the reality that every state designs text books with an eye on the needs, historical, geographical and social conditions of the state and thus students gain better knowledge about their state. This is quite natural. National syllabus will culminate in inter-state rivalry.

National syllabus or a uniform educational institution seeks to mould all the students in a particular way and to deprive their parents of providing any alternative educational system for their children. Such thinking is peculiar to old communist or RSS activists. It is beyond logic why HRD Ministry had adopted this line of thinking. Our children should have educational institutions of their choice, so that their parents may send them there, if they so wish.

Quality of Education

After the enforcement of this Act every child of the age group 6 – 14 years old will have the right to get free and compulsory education in neighbourhood school until he completes elementary education. A student admitted to school will not be prevented from promotion to the next class. Nor can he be expelled from the school until he completes elementary education. The above clauses should be read in conjunction with Article 30 of the Act which says: “No child shall be deployed to pass any Board examination till completion of elementary education.”

In other words, whether students study or not, whatever be their mental ability, they will be admitted to school. It should be responsibility of state government and local authority to complete their attendance. It is teachers’ duty to impart them education. However, students will be able to secure certificate of class VIII even without appearing in any examination. It is indeed radical thinking. The reason behind the above move is the problem of drop outs.

Owing to the problems of drop outs education has not been gaining ground. Despite the best efforts of the government, children leave schools. What accounts for this is the mind-set of these students, their parents and guardians that since government will not provide any job, it is pointless to pursue education. They prefer to remain illiterate which gives them freedom to take up any job. The RTE Act, however, proposes a solution that whether students learn or not, they are assured of getting a certificate of class VIII. It goes without saying that such students will be highly incompetent, thanks to this overflowing affection of the government.

It is worth reminding that there will be examination free system not only up to class VIII. All Board examinations up to class XI are now going to be abolished. Only when students are in class XII they will have examinations for the first time. It is anybody’s guess as to how many of them will pass the first board examination in their life and how many of them will be eligible for pursuing higher education.

Constant testing and evaluation induces competitiveness and hard work among students. They are able to display their abilities in the light of their results. With the introduction of the examination-free system, all these opportunities will be lost. There will be illiterate degree holders who will be a burden on the country and highly incompetent in today’s globalized world.

Students cannot be harassed

Article 17 of the Act specifies: “No child shall be subjected to physical punishment or mental harassment.” Mental harassment is a very vague and relative term. A teacher’s query about homework or absence may be misconstrued by students as mental harassment. It creates problems for teacher as they will be liable to legal action.

Another clause of the Act states that if a teacher or Principal reprimands a student, he will be subject to disciplinary action.

Neighbourhood School

The Act makes a repeated reference to neighbourhood school, a term exported from the USA. This term does not exist in our legislative parlance. The Act does not specify as to which schools qualify as neighbourhood school. It could be a school which is already running in accordance with Article 30 of the Constitution or a school with screening and written examination or a school which admits only 80% marks holder students. Even standard schools will have to admit 25% students of neighbourhood. It will result in producing not only incompetent students at government schools, it will destroy also the academic excellence of quality schools.

School Management

The Act lays down also the structure of school management. It states that three-fourths of management will consist of parents or guardians, of whom 50% will be women. School committees along the above lines have been functioning in some states. Their efficiency and success has not been evaluated so far. This part of the Act also stands in need of revision. For it is contrary to Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution of India and contravenes the Fundamental rights granted to linguistic and religious minorities.

It is needed that such amendments be made in Act which may help maintain education in Madrasas and their identity. The Act should make allowance for the rights for the rights granted to linguistic and religious minorities by the Constitution of India. It should help raise the standard of education. The Act should reflect the cultural traditions, morals and manners of our country.

Muhammad Wali Rahmani
(The writer is the Chairman of Madrasah Modernization Committee of HRD Ministry)

UN Reaches Out To Congo Rape Survivors

Monday, October 4, 2010

U.S. Army Killed Afghans For Sport?

When America stepped into Afghanistan in 2001 with the promise of setting common Afghans free from the orthodoxy of Taliban, the world had expected an Afghanistan where human values are respected. But the allegations of killing civilians without any reason have shaken people’s belief in the American promise.

AT JOINTBASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, WASH. The U.S. soldiers hatched a plan as simple as it was savage: to randomly target and kill an Afghan civilian, and to get away with it.
For weeks, according to Army charging documents, rogue members of a platoon from the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, floated the idea. Then, one day last winter, a solitary Afghan man approached them in the village of La Mohammed Kalay. The “kill team” activated the plan.

One soldier created a ruse that they were under attack, tossing a fragmentary grenade on the ground. Then others opened fire.

According to charging documents, the unprovoked, fatal attack on Jan. 15 was the start of a months-long shooting spree against Afghan civilians that resulted in some of the grisliest allegations against American soldiers since the U.S. invasion in 2001. Members of the platoon have been charged with dismembering and photographing corpses, as well as hoarding a skull and other human bones.

The subsequent investigation has raised accusations about whether the military ignored warnings that the out-of-control soldiers were committing atrocities. The father of one soldier said he repeatedly tried to alert the Army after his son told him about the first killing, only to be rebuffed.

Two more slayings would follow. Military documents allege that five members of the unit staged a total of three murders in Kandahar province between January and May. Seven other soldiers have been charged with crimes related to the case, including hashish use, attempts to impede the investigation and a retaliatory gang assault on a private who blew the whistle.
Army officials have not disclosed a motive for the killings and macabre behaviour. Nor have they explained how the attacks could have persisted without attracting scrutiny. They declined to comment on the case beyond the charges that have been filed, citing the ongoing investigation.

But a review of military court documents and interviews with people familiar with the investigation suggest the killings were committed essentially for sport by soldiers who had a fondness for hashish and alcohol.

The accused soldiers, through attorneys and family members, deny wrongdoing. But the case has already been marked by a cycle of accusations and counter-accusations among the defendants as they seek to pin the blame on each other, according to documents and interviews.

The Army has scheduled pre-trial hearings in the case this fall at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, home of the Stryker brigade. (The unit was renamed the 2nd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, when it returned from Afghanistan in July.) Military officials say privately that they worry the hearings will draw further attention to the case, with photos and other evidence prompting anger among the Afghan civilians whose support is critical to the fight against the Taliban.

The “Kill Team”

According to statements given to investigators, members of the unit - 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment - began talking about forming a “kill team” in December, shortly after the arrival of a new member, Staff Sgt. Calvin R. Gibbs, 25, of Billings, Mont.

Gibbs, whom some defendants have described as the ringleader, confided to his new mates that it had been easy for him to get away with “stuff” when he served in Iraq in 2004, according to the statements. It was his second tour in Afghanistan, having served there from January 2006 until May 2007.

The first opportunity presented itself Jan. 15 in the Maiwand district of Kandahar province. Members of the 3rd Platoon were providing perimeter security for a meeting between Army officers and tribal elders in the village of La Mohammed Kalay.
According to charging documents, an Afghan named Gul Mudin began walking toward the soldiers. As he approached, Cpl. Jeremy N. Morlock, 22, of Wasilla, Alaska, threw the grenade on the ground, records show, to create the illusion that the soldiers were under attack.

Pfc. Andrew H. Holmes, a 19-year-old from Boise, Idaho, saw the grenade and fired his weapon at Mudin, according to charging documents. The grenade exploded, prompting other soldiers to open fire on the villager as well, killing him.

In statements to investigators, the soldiers involved have given conflicting details. In one statement that his attorney has subsequently tried to suppress, Morlock said that Gibbs had given him the grenade and that others were also aware of the ruse beforehand. But Holmes and his attorney said he was in the dark and opened fire only because Morlock ordered him to do so.

"He was unwittingly used as the cover story," said Daniel Conway, a civilian defense attorney for Holmes. "He was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Morlock, Holmes and Gibbs have each been charged with murder in the shooting. Attorneys for Morlock and Gibbs did not return phone calls seeking comment.

A father's warning

On Feb. 14, Christopher Winfield, a former Marine from Cape Coral, Fla., logged onto his Facebook account to chat with his son, Adam, a 3rd Platoon soldier who was up late in Afghanistan. Spec. Adam C. Winfield confided that he’d had a run-in with Gibbs, his squad leader. He also typed a mysterious note saying that some people get away with murder.

When his father pressed him to explain, Adam replied, “Did you not understand what I just told you.” He then referred to the slaying of the Afghan villager the month before, adding that other platoon members had threatened him because he did not approve. In addition, he said, they were bragging about how they wanted to find another victim.

“I was just shocked," Christopher Winfield said in a phone interview. “He was scared for his life at that point.”

The father told his son that he would contact the Army to intervene and investigate. It was a Sunday, but he didn't wait. He called the Army inspector general’s 24-hour hotline and left a voice mail. He called the office of Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and left another message. He called a sergeant at Lewis-McChord who told him to call the Army's criminal investigations division. He left another message there.

Finally, he said, he called the Fort Lewis command center and spoke for 12 minutes to a sergeant on duty. He said the sergeant agreed that it sounded as if Adam was in potential danger but that, unless he was willing to report it to his superiors in Afghanistan, there was little the Army could do.

“He just kind of blew it off,” Christopher Winfield said. “I was sitting there with my jaw on the ground.”

Other killings

Eight days after Winfield tried to warn the Army, according to charging documents, members of the 3rd Platoon murdered someone else.

On Feb. 22, Marach Agha, an Afghan civilian, was killed by rifle fire near Forward Operating Base Ramrod in Kandahar province, where the 3rd Platoon was stationed. The Army has released few details about the slaying but has charged Gibbs, Morlock and Spec. Michael S. Wagnon II of Las Vegas with murder.

Wagnon has also been charged with possessing “a skull taken from an Afghan person's corpse.” He allegedly took the head sometime during January or February 2010, but court documents do not specify whether it belonged to the Afghan he is charged with killing.

An attorney for Wagnon, who was on his second tour in Afghanistan and also served in Iraq, did not return a call seeking comment.

More mayhem followed in March, when Gibbs, Wagnon and three other soldiers - Staff Sgt. Robert G. Stevens, Sgt. Darren N. Jones and Pfc. Ashton A. Moore - opened fire on three Afghan men, according to charging documents. The documents do not provide basic details, such as the precise date of the shooting, the identities of the victims or whether they were wounded.

Members of the 3rd Platoon found their next victim on May 2, documents show. Gibbs, Morlock and Adam Winfield - the son of the former Marine who said he tried to alert the Army three months earlier - are accused of tossing a grenade and fatally shooting an Afghan cleric, Mullah Adahdad, near Forward Operating Base Ramrod.

Winfield’s attorney, Eric S. Montalvo, said his client was ordered to shoot but fired high and missed. He and Winfield's parents say they can't understand why the Army has charged their son, given that his father tried to warn officials about the platoon.

Military police caught wind of the final killing a few days later, but only by happenstance. Records show they were coincidentally investigating reports of hashish use by members of the 3rd Platoon.

After word leaked that one soldier had spoken to military police, several platoon members retaliated, records show. They confronted the informant and beat him severely - punching, kicking and choking the soldier, then dragging him across the ground. As a last warning, the documents state, Gibbs menacingly waved finger bones he had collected from Afghan corpses.

However, the informant talked to the MPs again and told them what he had heard about the slayings, according to court documents.

Some members of his unit, he said in a statement, “when they are out at a village, wander off and kill someone and every time they say the same thing, about a guy throwing a grenade, but there is never proof.”

This time, the Army acted quickly and made arrests.

The Washington Post
By: Craig Whitlock

Losing Credibility For Prejudice

Some of the issues play spoiler for the internationally accepted media norms and ethics. Come they and media, both electronic and print, news become a reflection of the views its controllers and owners hold. Neutrality in the news item goes anywhere else untraced making it an opinion article that seems to wrongly have found place in a news column instead of the editorial page.

Such a news item appeared recently in the daily Times of India. The write up that deservedly should be in the opinion page was misplaced among national news items.
It deals with news related to some Lucknow Muslim women who did not accept that their “talaq” had taken place even though some religious scholars had issued “talaqnama”. A BBC Urdu report attributed to the women Nishat Fatema and Arshi Bibi that the talaqnama was issued without their “consent” as their husband had bribed the maulvis Rs 2,500 for issuing that talaqnama. Three angry women had roughed the maulvis over this in June. And now in practical defiance to the “talaqnama” two of them, supported by around a hundred others, entered forcefully their martial hose, the residence of Abdees, says a recently TOI report.

The report titled “Divorced women jolt maulvis: After beating the clergymen, they re-enter in-laws’ home” is all praise for the “outspokenness” of the women while at the same time it uses undue words and pattern to refer to the religious scholars and institutions.

Though the news is solely about Lucknow and the “talaqnama” issued by maulvis is never a “fatwa” the report unnecessarily but mischievously has dragged Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband and its fatwas into it. “This year has seen at least a dozen anti-women fatwas from Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband,” reads an irrelevant sentence of the news.
The news does not have any clear mention that the “women” were protesting against a move by a shariat court in Lucknow while at the same time listing many fatwas issued by Dar-ul-Uloom. It leaves strong suspicion in the mind of readers that this “talaqnama” too was issued by the seminary Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband.

Nevertheless, while going on to enlist “some recent fatwas” the report mentioned some fatwas which were issued months back. Surprisingly, the reporter of such a leading newspaper has also failed to understand that fatwas are no “inventions” or “self-coined” by maulvis that Dar-ul-Uloom or any mullah can be held responsible for that.

In the report, one Shahnaz Begum has been quoted as saying, “Maulvis are scared they may lose their importance once women begin to exercise their brains. And each issue, from condoning triple talaq to pronouncing anti-woman fatwa, only shows their insecurity.” This quotation is the result of wrong notion in the minds of Begum and the reporter as well, that fatwas are fabricated by maulvis to ensure that patriarchal control remains.

In an attempt to show that Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband has been in a business of issuing “anti-women” fatwas “continuously” the report has in a box “some recent fatwas” issued during a period of “April 2010-2011 to “August 2010”. Unfortunately, many of the fatwas were never issued during the period the report mentioned; it tells how carelessly the report has been prepared without considering authenticity. Just take an example. The fatwa regarding Muslim women working in offices was uploaded on Dar-ul-Ifta of Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband website in the first week of April (it might have issued even earlier) and the report says that it was “issued” in May 2010.

Many other fatwas would have been mentions as “some recent fatwas by Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband” which were really “recent” but only those “old” and “recent” fatwas were selected to find a place in the TOI report box that seems anti-women if taken out of their context.

The report is not only an example of becoming news influenced by a particle state of mind but also it questions the authenticity of the materials published in leading newspapers. It will be dangerous if people lose trust in the media.

The Only Package Kashmir Needs Is JUSTICE

In the face of this mass upsurge, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has two options. He can declare that since the people have thrown away the confidence of the government, it is time for the government to dissolve the people and elect another. Or he can admit, without prevarication or equivocation, that his government has thrown away the confidence of the ordinary Kashmiri.

If the Prime Minister does not take bold steps to address the grievances of the Kashmiris, there's no telling where the next eruption will take us.

Whatever his other failings, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah deserves praise for acknowledging that the protests which have rocked the Kashmir valley these past few weeks are ‘leaderless' and not the product of manipulation by some hidden individual or group.

This admission has been difficult for the authorities to make because its implications are unpleasant, perhaps even frightening. In security terms, the absence of a central nervous system means the expanding body of protest cannot be controlled by arresting individual leaders. And in political terms, the spectre of leaderless revolt makes the offer of ‘dialogue' or the naming of a ‘special envoy' for Kashmir — proposals which might have made sense last year or even last month — seem completely and utterly pointless today.

Ever since the current phase of disturbances began, intelligence officials have been wasting precious time convincing the leadership and public of India that the protests are solely or mostly the handiwork of agent provocateurs. So we have been told of the role of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and ISI, of the ‘daily wage of Rs. 200' — and even narcotics — being given to stone pelters. A few weeks back, an audio recording of a supposedly incriminating telephone call was leaked to the media along with a misleading transcript suggesting the Geelani faction of the Hurriyat was behind the upsurge. Now, our TV channels have “learned” from their “sources” that the protests will continue till President Obama's visit in November.

Central to this delusional narrative of manipulated protest is the idea that the disturbances are confined to just a few pockets in the valley. Recently, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters the problem was limited to Srinagar and two other towns. No doubt, some areas like downtown Srinagar, Sopore and Baramulla were in the ‘vanguard' but one of the reasons the protests spread was popular frustration over the way in which the authenticity of mass sentiment was being dismissed by the government. For the women who came on to the streets with their pots and pans and even stones, or the youths who set up spontaneous blood donation camps to help those injured in the demonstrations, this attempt to strip their protest of both legitimacy and agency was yet another provocation.

In the face of this mass upsurge, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has two options. He can declare, like the party apparatchiks in Brecht's poem, that since the people have thrown away the confidence of the government, it is time for the government to dissolve the people and elect another. Or he can admit, without prevarication or equivocation, that his government has thrown away the confidence of the ordinary Kashmiri.

This was not the way things looked in January 2009, when Omar Abdullah became chief minister. Assembly elections had gone off well. And though turnout in Srinagar and other towns was low, there was goodwill for the young leader. Of course, those who knew the state well had warned the Centre not to treat the election as an end in itself. The ‘masla-e-Kashmir' remained on the table and the people wanted it resolved. Unfortunately, the Centre failed to recognise this.

It is too early to gauge the reaction to Mr. Abdullah's promise of a “political package” once normalcy is restored. But the people have thronged the streets are likely to ask why this package — which the chief minister himself admitted was “long in the pipeline” — was never delivered for all the months normalcy prevailed. What came in the way of amending the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act? Of ensuring there was zero tolerance for human rights violations? Of strengthening the “ongoing peace process both internally and externally”, as the all-party meeting in Srinagar earlier this month reminded the Centre to do?

At the heart of this missing package is the Centre's failure to craft a new security and political strategy for a situation where militancy no longer poses the threat it once did. The security forces in the valley continue to operate with an expansive mandate that is not commensurate with military necessity. Even if civilian deaths are less than before, the public's capacity to tolerate ‘collateral damage' when it is officially said that militancy has ended and normalcy has returned is also much less than before.

The immediate trigger for the current phase of protests was the death of 17-year-old Tufail Mattoo, who was killed by a tear gas canister which struck his head during a protest in Srinagar in June against the Machhil fake encounter of April 30. Many observers have blamed his death — and the deaths of other young men since then — on the security forces lacking the training and means for non-lethal crowd control.

Tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon are used all over the world in situations where protests turn violent but in India, live ammunition seems to be the first and only line of defence. Even tear gas canisters are so poorly designed here that they lead to fatalities.

Whatever the immediate cause, however, it is also safe to say that young Tufail died as a direct result of Machhil. Though the Army has arrested the soldiers responsible for the fake encounter, the only reason they had the nerve to commit such a heinous crime was because they were confident they would get away with it. And at the root of that confidence is Pathribal, the notorious fake encounter of 2000. The army officers involved in the kidnapping and murder of five Kashmiri civilians there continue to be at liberty despite being charge-sheeted by the CBI. The Ministry of Defence has refused to grant sanction for their prosecution and has taken the matter all the way to the Supreme Court in an effort to ensure its men do not face trial. What was the message that went out as a result?

Had the Centre made an example of the rotten apples that have spoiled the reputation of the Army instead of protecting them all these years, the Machhil encounter might never have happened. Tufail would not be dead and angry mobs would not be attacking police stations and government buildings. Impunity for the few has directly endangered the lives of all policemen and paramilitary personnel stationed in Kashmir. There is a lesson in this, surely, for those who say punishing the guilty will lower the morale of the security forces.

Mr. Abdullah may not be the best administrator but his biggest handicap as chief minister has been the Centre's refusal to address the ordinary Kashmiri's concerns about the over-securitisation of the state. Today, when he is being forced to induct an even greater number of troops into the valley, the Chief Minister's ability to push for a political package built around demilitarisation is close to zero.

At the Centre's urging, Mr. Abdullah made a televised speech to his people. His words do not appear to have made any difference. Nor could they, when the crisis staring us in the face is of national and international proportions. Today, the burden of our past sins in Kashmir has come crashing down like hailstones. Precious time is being frittered in thinking of ways to turn the clock back. Sending in more forces to shoot more protesters, changing the chief minister, imposing Governor's Rule — all of these are part of the reliquary of failed statecraft. We are where we are because these policies never worked.

The Prime Minister can forget about the Commonwealth Games, AfPak and other issues. Kashmir is where his leadership is urgently required. The Indian state successfully overcame the challenge posed by terrorism and militancy. But a people in ferment cannot be dealt with the same way. Manmohan Singh must take bold steps to demonstrate his willingness to address the grievances of ordinary Kashmiris. He should not insult their sentiments by talking of economic packages, roundtable conferences and all-party talks. He should unreservedly express regret for the deaths that have occurred these past few weeks. He should admit, in frankness and humility, the Indian state's failure to deliver justice all these years. And he should ask the people of Kashmir for a chance to make amends. There is still no guarantee the lava of public anger which is flowing will cool. But if he doesn't make an all-out effort to create some political space today, there is no telling where the next eruption in the valley will take us.

Siddharth Varadarajan
The Hindu

Only Wealthy Criminals Benefit From Premature Release

In Karnataka, the authorities have allegedly misused the legal right to premature release of inmates through giving this benefit to the wealthy criminals while neglecting the poor applicants.

The move by the Karnataka state governor HR Bhardwaj to stall the premature release of 594 prisoners from the state’s jails has been welcomed by the Karnataka unit of Transparency International, a global civil society anti-corruption organisation.

State chairman of the organization, headquartered in Berlin, Justice MF Saldanha said that the governor’s move would help check a deep-rooted scam.

The Yeddyurappa government recommended this year the premature release of 594 prisoners. Questions were arisen as to undeserving people were recommended while poor applicants who should have been recommended were neglected. Mr. Bhardwaj had objected over all the prisoners being released in one go on Independence Day.

The executive has been vested with premature release of prisoners on grounds of good conduct for a period of time or for exceptional productivity. The release is conventionally timed to coincide with Independence Day.

The last time such premature release happened in Karnataka was in 2006, during the chief ministership of HD Kumaraswamy when 296 prisoners were set free.

In the view of this year’s recommendation by Karnataka government for early release of the prisoners and the subsequent objection by the governor over it, the TI also smells rat in this initiative and it has submitted a petition to the governor in this regard. In a representation submitted to Mr. Bhardwaj, justice Saldanha said that he suspected that there were ‘fraudulent grounds’ for the recommendation of the state government to release the prisoners on Independence Day.

It is believed that whopping sums of money are collected for recommending release of prisoners. The applications by the poor for premature release were rejected, though they deserved it, as they could not afford the amount collected in the name of fee. According to the media reports, the prison and home department officers collect as much as Rs 5 lakh as fee for recommending release. Usual criminals and criminal gangs have to pay even more.

Some of the relatives of the inmates have accused that such pacts take place in Vidhana Soudha, the seat of the state legislature of Karnataka.

While this benefit should be given to the poor and farmers, the prosperous criminals buy their release for wealth. Suspicions have been expressed that minister and secretary level officers are involved in this racket.

A former judge, Saldanha said that the Raj Bhavan must call for the records from the minister in-charge of prisons and the home minister in respect of all applications filed by poor persons which have been rejected. That alone would let the cat out of the bag.

Mr. Saldanha also recommended the formation of a committee to scrutinise the case files of all those who have been recommended for release. “I am quite confident that 100% of them will be on the basis of large scale corruption. During the 10 years that I spent in the Karnataka high court, as many as 41 such cases came to our notice,” justice Saldanha said.

“It is also more important that not a single undeserving prisoner should be released and conversely, and more importantly, the more deserving, particularly from the poorer sections and farmers, should be afforded the benefit,” the petition said.

MS Desk

Private banks for Minorities

The announcement by the minority affairs ministry to instruct private banks for opening more branches and conducting development programs in the minority communities areas will be counterproductive as interest based loans will ruin the lives of people.

The Union Minister of Minority Affairs Salman Khurshid has been announcing a slew of schemes meant for the welfare of minorities since he took charge of the portfolio. Tragically, after more than six decades of Independence, the minorities in India still need various schemes for their upliftment.

The Sachar Committee formulated to analyse the economical, social and educational condition of the Muslim community found during its survey that the community is far backward in most fields. In the report, Justice Sachar recommends some immediate steps be taken to bring the community in the mainstream. The promise of implementing these recommendations by the secular Congress government has been serving as an election agenda to lure the minorities and get their votes.

Recently, Mr.Salman Khurshid took a step towards implementing the committee’s recommendations. His ministry has set up a national data bank along with the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. The stated objective of this step is to collect statistics for different social, economical and basic amenities of the social and religious minorities.

He also said that among the total 2573 schools to be established under Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, 453 are for the blocks dominated by minorities. Besides this, Mr. Salman Khurshid said that the government has approved development of various facilities in education departments of 90 minority dominated districts. So, in those districts, 559 schools, 6679 additional classes, 37 hostels and 34 laboratories for primary, secondary and high school standard education will be constructed. These all are positive developments taking place in the ministry for the minorities.

One initiative of the ministry is a cause for worry among the muslim community. The ministry has directed the private sector banks to open more branches in the Muslim-dominated districts and introduce various development programs there. This is not considered positive considering that the private sector banks are purely profit oriented enterprises. While the good intention of Mr. Khurshid-that of development of the minorities-is beyond doubt many wonder whether this initiative will yield the sought out results.

When the government really wants that economically backward Indians to live a dignifed life, have a source to earn their livelihood and also have a house to live in, it launches schemes like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme, Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojna, and Indira Awas Yojana ,etc. There is no involvement of the banks in these schemes.

The finance ministry under “Prime Minister’s15-Point Programme” opened 1759 branches of public sector banks in 2007-2008. These banks during the period distributed Rs. 2, 31,223 crores as loan to the sectors where minorities are not the dominating population.

Developmental programs initiated by the banks require the beneficiaries to take interest based loans from them. In reality, such programs instead of making people prosperous mar their lives.

It is a fact that only those resort to bank loans who lack financial resources to meet their needs or who want to benefit from a certain scheme but do not have financial means. The subsequent burden of interest levied due to inability to pay the debt in time, compels them to take extreme step that include even ending their lives. There is no denying that thousands of farmers in our country are committing suicide owing to these reasons.

In the past too, poor would take loans from rich but there is hardly any occurrence in which a person had committed suicide due to debt. But, nowadays, it is a trend.
Welfare programs initiated by the private banks cannot serve as a solution to economic problems the minorities face. Schemes without the burden of high interest bank loans should be introduced for these areas. If not then zero-interest loans should be made available.

Staff Writer

Media Scan

MP Police Killed Kargil Hero for Medals

The Madhya Pradesh police killed a former army man who had fought in Kargil, allegedly in a fake encounter.

According to the wife Yasmin Khan, the block unit Congress chief in Bhind district of MP, her husband was killed “in cold blood by the Bhind police to get medals and promotions.”

Amjad, who was shot dead for being a “dacoit”, was in the Army for 10 years and had fought the 1999 Kargil war before becoming a social worker. He was an active Youth Congress leader of the district, she said.

A police team visited their home and told Khan's family that they (Amjad and three youths) were being taken for questioning in some case.

All four were killed in an encounter with police in the ravines of Bhind district on August 22. Police had claimed that they were “dacoits”.

Deputy Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, Rakesh Singh Chaturvedi said that there was no criminal record against Amjad. In an attempt to get medals, the Bhind police hatched a conspiracy and killed the four persons, including Amjad.

CIA Runs Covert Afghan Arm In Pak

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is running a 3,000- strong covert army to hunt down key leaders of Taliban and al- Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, reports say.

This disclosure has been made in a new book “Obama’s wars” by journalist Bob Woodward. The book also says that the heavily- armed irregular force manned entirely by Afghan personnel operates in small units called Counter- terrorism Pursuit Teams and is modelled after the US Special Forces. This was reportedly confirmed by the officials.

The brigade- sized force, officials said is “one of the best Afghan fighting force that has made major contribution to stability and security”.

‘New York Times’ said, “Firing missiles from unmanned drones patrolling over Pakistan's turbulent northwest tribal region at a rate that has outstripped the Bush administration's record is bad enough and now to have brigade size paramilitary units operating inside Pakistan marks a significant expansion of the covert war that the Obama administration has waged there.”

These forces, the paper said, conducted clandestine raids into Pakistan as part of stepped- up campaign against al- Qaeda and Afghan Taliban havens there. “The covert army captures and kills Taliban fighters and seeks support in Tribal areas,” the ' NT' reported and quoted Pentagon officials as saying that these Afghan units were closely working with American Green Berets to go after Taliban fighters.

Karnataka BJP Leader Arrested For Transporting Cows

How impractical the state government of Karnataka is was shown by its own. A BJP leader was arrested transporting cows to a slaughter house.

Since the initial stages when the amendment bill was not passed in the assembly nor was it approved by the council, the common public had been against the amendments which not only prohibit completely anything related to the business of cows and buffaloes but also gives undue authority to people to enforce this law, when there is every possibility of this authority being misused.

The bill is a direct attack on the food culture of people and their freedom to trade anything they want. Nevertheless, the BJP government is adamant on its stand neglecting the public opinion.

But to practice what you preach is not what politics is about. The BJP leader M. R. Hegde of Honavar taluk, 38 km away from Bhatkal, is in the animal husbandry business. He sells cattle for his living.

According to a Kannada daily report, around 40 volunteers of Hindu Jagran Vedike seized the truck of Hegde stuffed with 9 animals including one bull, one buffalo and other cows in Honavar taluk.

The members of the Vedike gheraoed the lorry, beat up the BJP leader and then handed them over to the police. Cases have been filed against the leader, the driver Raju Swami and one more person present on the lorry.

British Troops Accused Of Trafficking Opium

The British troops in Afghanistan have been accused of trafficking heroine from Afghanistan.

The Ministry of defence, called the allegation of the troops using military aircraft for the purpose “unsubstantiated”. However, the military police has initiated a probe with the inquiry focusing on service personnel at airports in Camp Bastion and Kandahar.

According to a BBC report, security has been tightened, with additional sniffer dogs being used as part of the crackdown at the bases.

A MoD spokeswoman said that they are aware of these allegations and are taking any such reports very seriously.

“We have already tightened our existing procedures both in Afghanistan and in the UK, including through increasing the use of trained sniffer dogs. Any of our people found to be engaged in trafficking of illegal narcotics will feel the full weight of the law,” the spokesman has been reported by to have said.

Afghanistan is the source of 90% of the world’s opium. The multimillion dollar trade in poppy production is used to fuel the insurgency. It allows the insurgents to purchase weapons with which they then attack the Afghan government and international forces, destabilising the region.

NIA to File Report On Kerala IPS Terror Suspected

A senior Kerala IPS officer is under National Investigation Agency (NIA) scanner for alleged terror links.

According to the reports, Inspector General of Police Tomin J. Thachankary has been questioned by the NIA thrice.

Thachankary, a 1987 batch IPS officer, is accused to be in association with certain people having terror links and it is said he met them during his visit to Qatar earlier this year. The charges however were denied by the officer.

A team of the probing agency is likely to visit Qatar to record statements of officials at the Indian Mission there. After this the agency will file its report.
The Centre had ordered full investigation after it received a report from its Qatar mission as well as from other security agencies about the alleged misconduct of Thachankary. When the Kerala government came to now in April that he had not taken permission for his trip to the Middle East it suspended him. The reports say that during the trip he had asked officials of the Indian embassy in Qatar about details of four people who have links with now arrested south Indian commander of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) T. Nasir. The charges, however, were denied by the IPS officer.

Thachankary was also suspended in July 2007 in the wake of a first information report (FIR) filed in a vigilance court, accusing him of amassing assets worth Rs.95 lakh between Jan 1, 2003 and March 31, 2005.

UN Inquiry Finds Israel’s Flotilla Raid ‘Wilful Killing’

A UN inquiry has found that Israel broke the international law by storming an aid flotilla bound for Gaza. It also said that killing of the activists on the flotilla was comparable to “summary executions”.

In May this year, Israeli military had raided a Gaza bound peaceful caravan of activists from different countries that was carrying aid for Gaza breaking the Israeli naval blockade of the city. The raid saw nice Turkish activists killed. It resulted into bitterness between Israel and Turkey.

The sharply critical report found that there was “clear evidence to support prosecutions” against Israel for “wilful killing” and torture committed in the raid.
Meanwhile, Israel has dismissed the conclusion as biased and against the Jewish state, but said it would review the report in greater detail.

Shane Dillon, who was arrested for being onboard another ship in the flotilla, said he hopes the conclusion could prompt nations worldwide to support humanitarian relief for Gaza.

“Hopefully, international governments and EU governments will take action and support the next flotilla that is due to leave in mid-November for Gaza with more aid,” Dillon said.

Israel maintains that its soldiers acted in self-defence. However, the report found that Israeli commandos’ response was disproportionate and “betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality”.

Poor Children Die as Governments Neglect Them

An extra four million of the world’s poorest children have died over 10 years because governments are “turning a blind eye” to those most in need, says a report by the leading charity ‘Save the Children’.

It is pathetic that children are dying at a rate of one every three seconds. In the report “A Fair Chance of Life” the organization held guilty some of the countries of neglecting the citizens with economically weak background while at the same time helping the richer communities.

Jasmine Whitbread, Save the Children International’s chief executive, said: “It is a disgrace that some countries are ‘ticking a box’ on child mortality without ensuring that the poorest and most vulnerable children benefit equally.

“Nearly nine million children under the age of five die every year – many of them from easily preventable or treatable illnesses – just because they can’t get to a doctor or because their parents can’t afford food that is nutritious enough to keep them alive.”

She added that the governments must not be blind to the issue of equity, they must be held accountable for reducing child mortality across all groups in society, regardless of wealth or background.

At recently concluded Millennium Development Goal conference in New York the U.N. general secretary and other leaders resolved to spend $40 billion for different anti-poverty and women and children’s health goals. It is believed that this will enable the world of saving the lives of more than 16 million women and children, preventing 33 million unwanted pregnancies, protecting 120 millions of children from pneumonia and 88 million children from stunting, advancing the control of deadly diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS, and ensuring access for women and children to quality facilities and skilled health workers.

Mullah Omar Tells Afghans the Taliban Are Winning

The spiritual leader of Afghanistani Taliban Mullah Omar said that the insurgents will soon recapture whole Afghanistan and has asked the American troops to avoid wasting more tax dollars and lives.

In an end-of-Ramadan message posted on jihadist websites and relayed by the Site Intelligence Group, the Taliban leader urged his fighters to adhere to his code of conduct and avoid harming civilians.

“The victory of our Islamic nation over the invading infidels is now imminent and the driving force behind this is the belief in the help of Allah and unity among ourselves,” reportedly said Mullah Omar adding, “In the time to come, we will try to establish an Islamic, independent, perfect and strong system. In remarks directed to the American people, Mullah Omar said the U.S. military has failed.

“You should know that your rulers have continuously told you lies since the beginning of the aggression on Afghanistan until this very day. They have wasted hundreds of billions of dollars of your tax money in the shape of financial expenditures and your manpower in Afghanistan and have still been wasting them,” he said.

“Therefore, they should abandon their headlong stubborn policy. Otherwise, the Americans will themselves face humiliation and disgrace before anyone else.” (Agencies)

Islamikaran On Work In India: RSS Chief

The RSS Sarsanghachalak Mohan Bhagwat has alleged that there is an organized effort of Islamikaran to end Hindus from India.

He was speaking to a meeting held in Gandhi Bhawan of Belgaum. The stated purpose of his visit to the city was to address a public gathering in Gurudev Ranade Mandir and to strengthen the unity of Hindus.

Bhagwat, however, made clear that the unity of Hindus has foiled the attempts of Islamikaran. “Hindus throughout India are lured through different means to change their religion. It endangers the unity of the country,” said Bhagwat adding that “Hindus must face this challenged unitedly.” It is a matter of great concern for the community that while Hindus convert to other religions the followers of other religion do not embrace Hinduism as their religion.

Sexual Abuse Continue Creating Trouble for Churches

The ghost of sexual abuse continues haunting the church. The past few months witnessed multiple incidents of sexual abuse committed by the religious leaders of Christianity outside India. But now it was the turn of Indian churches.

Kerala’s Syro-Malabar Church was rocked by the release of a controversial book which accuses its clergy of a range of misdemeanours and abuses.

The book titled “Here Is The Heart Of The Priest”, the autobiography of Shibu Kalaparamban, a former member of the Church’s Vincentian congregation alleges that Catholic priests and nuns have broken the vows of chastity and engaged in sexual sins including homosexuality, child abuse and illicit relations.

Kalaparamban, who was a priest for 13 years, reportedly said that “homosexuality and blue films have become part of religious life.

An official has responded by describing the book as “an all-out attempt to malign the Church.” “I have read the book and feel very sorry about what is written. It is unfortunate,” said Father Paul Thelakat, spokesperson for the Syro-Malabar Church.
A similar controversy broke out in Kerala in 2009, when the autobiography of former nun Jesme alleged a prevalence of sexual abuse and lesbianism in Catholic convents.
The internationally practiced act of sexual abuse remains to be a cause of concern. Recently, the Pope Benedict XVI who visited Britain apologized to the victims of the sexual abuse by priests. People, however, demand that instead of apology, practical steps must be taken to restore the faith of people in churches.

Beggar Found To Be Living In 5 Star hotel

Begging seems to be a lucrative business in the Gulf as the local police found out recently.

An Asian beggar who was recently arrested for begging was found to be residing in a five star hotel, Major Mohammad Rashid Al Muhairi, director of Tourist Security in the Dubai police said.

Without identifying or naming the Asian person arrested, Al Muhairi said the man had been deported earlier, but had returned seeing the high income, the illegal practice offered, “Khaleej Times” reported.

Al Muhairi said, as many as 360 people had been arrested in the city during Ramadan and Eid this year.

He said, most of the people arrested for begging were foreigners on visit visa with the majority of them being Asians followed by Arabs.

India Offers $ 20 Million More Aid To Pakistan

Days after Pakistan agreed to take the initial $5 million aid from India for flood victims, India increased the amount five times.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna told that the $ 25 million assistance will be routed to Pakistan through United Nations.

Out of this amount, $ 20 million would be contributed to the “Pakistan Initial Floods Emergency Plan” launched by the UN for the coordinator of humanitarian affairs while the balance of $ 5 million would be contributed to the World Food Programme for its relief efforts in Pakistan.

The Minister said that the decision to increase assistance to Pakistan has been taken after more concrete assessment emerged of the damage because of floods and the urgent needs of the people. He informed the House that Pakistan has conveyed its deep appreciation of India’s offer of assistance.

The recent floods in Pakistan have been described as the worst in that part of the world in the last 80 years. According to latest figures given by UN, 17.2 million people have been adversely affected by the floods and the death toll is more than 16 hundred. More than 1.2 million houses have also been damaged or destroyed and infrastructure, crops and livestock have also suffered damaged. All the four provinces in Pakistan and Pak Occupied Kashmir have suffered the consequences of floods.

I Need No Lessons about Cow Protection: Bhardwaj

Facing criticism over his stand over the controversial Karnataka animal preservation bill and in a rare instance of a constitutional authority the state governor Mr. H. R. Bhardwaj said that he does not need lessons from BJP about protecting the cows as he himself was a Brahmin.

The amendment bill passed in the assembly and the council when came to the governor for signing he forwarded it to the President Mrs. Pratibha Patil with signing. The signature of the governor is mandatory if the bill has to be made a law.
“I am a Brahmin. I need not learn from anybody about cow protection,” Bhardwaj said, slamming Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ministers attacking him for not giving his assent to a bill banning cow slaughter.

Several ministers and state BJP chief K.S. Eshwarappa have been criticising Bhardwaj for not assenting to the bill and had organised a state-wide demonstration to press Patil for early nod to the legislation.

Daughter Of Terry Jones Calls Her Father Mad

The daughter of the pastor Terry Jones, the man who had announced to celebrate the 9/11 attack anniversary by burning copies of the Holy Qur’an said that her father had gone mad and needed help.

Although Jones could not fulfil his plan but merely the announcement was enough to create religious tension between the Christian and Muslims.

According to the reports, Emma Jones, 30, even emailed her father urging him to drop his plan but he did not reply back.

“My father is not one to give up,” said Emma. “As a daughter, I see the good-natured core inside him. But I think he needs help,” she said adding, “I think he has gone mad.”

Terry Jones, said his daughter, spent years in building a Christian community Germany. This community was Bible-oriented but later it was changed. Emma who left the community aged 17 said that his father preached and did things that she didn't find biblical at all. “He demanded total allegiance to himself and his second wife,” she said. His first wife, her mother, died in 1996.

Emma Jones said the community kicked out her father in 2008, when he returned to the United States. “I really hope he comes to his senses,” she said.

Woman Refused Entry in Mumbai Hospital For Not Removing Burqa

It came as a shame to the secular India when a woman in Mumbai was refused entry by a security guard from King Edward Memorial Hospital (KEM) located in Parel (Mumbai), for not removing her veil.

The incident coincided with the day the French Senate passed the bill to ban women from wearing the burqa in public spaces across the country.

The media reports read that Tanveer Fatima (47) was refused entry in KEM Hospital, as she had her face covered with a burqa. It all happened when Fatima along with her husband and another relative reached the hospital as her uncle was not well.

“We brought our uncle to the hospital, as he is ill. However, the moment I tried to enter, he stopped me and they asked me to show my face and my hair too. I am ready to show my face but showing my hair is too much. They said that it is compulsory because the image should reflect in the CCTV. They even told me to keep my face open inside the hospital,” reportedly said Fatima.

On the other hand, Vinay Girish Meshram, the security guard told reporters that they were ordered by their seniors to ask all to follow such instructions because of security reasons and were also given a circular, which they claimed was handed out by the Mumbai Police Commissioner's office. Being asked by the reporters to show the circular, the security guard refused. And when Bhoiwada police station was contacted to confirm the presence of such a circular the officials at the station were unaware of such a circular being passed.

Chappal Wearing Students Denied Entry In Rahul’s Programme

In what seemed to be a precaution that the young Indian leader Mr. Rahul Gandhi may be the next victim of shoe protestors, students of Panjabrao Krushi Vidyapeeth College (Maharashtra) who wore chappals were denied entry into the auditorium.Mr. Gandhi was to interact with them.

Authorities later however allowed entry of students wearing chappals but by that time a large of number of students had returned.

The print and electronic media were also not allowed entry into the auditorium. A brief TV footage showed security personnel collecting some sneakers and belts presumably of students who were asked to remove them.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah are among some prominent political leaders who became victims of shoe protests since the trend began when an Iraqi journalist hurled a shoe at US President George W Bush in Baghdad in December 2008.

During the interaction with around 400 students Rahul faced a volley of questions ranging from farmers suicides in Vidarbha to the need for a separate Union Budget for Agriculture like Railways. “The Government is providing more funds for Agriculture sector growth,” he said.

He also said that the Central and state governments were spending a lot on welfare schemes but benefits were not reaching to the last person. “There is a fault in the system and you (students) will have to rectify it,” he added.

Obama Says Islam Not The Enemy

The U.S. President Mr. Barrack Obama has said that Islam is not the enemy.
Speaking at the Pentagon on the occasion of the ninth anniversary of 9/11 terror attack Obama said. “As Americans, we will not and never will be at war with Islam. It was not a religion that attacked us that September day. It was al-Qaeda, a sorry band of men, which perverts religion.”

Mr. Obama urged Americans not to succumb to “hatred and prejudice,” and vowed: “Just as we condemn intolerance and extremism abroad, so will we stay true to our traditions here at home as a diverse and tolerant nation.”

Earlier, a Florida Pastor Terry Jones had announced to burn the copies of the Holy Qur’an to mark the anniversary of the terror attack that is associated with some Muslims.

It is said that Obama has been trying to bridge the gap between Americans and the Muslim community throughout the world due to the wrong policies of former U.S. president George W. Bush. His famous Cairo speech in which he wished good relations with the Muslim countries is considered a landmark in this regard.

Employees Can Take CCL Without Sacrificing Paid Leaves

There’s good news for women government employees. They can now avail 730 days of child care leave (CCL) despite having a bagful of earned leaves.
Earlier, mothers without earned leave could alone avail full 730 days of CCL during their entire tenure. This was leading to considerable anguish among women government servants.

The leave, which is treated like an earned leave, can be availed by women with children aged less than 18 years.

A memorandum issued in 2008 by the department of personnel under the prime minister had put the condition that CCL can be availed only if an employee has no earned leave left. The government had also clarified in the memorandum that the leave may not be granted in more than three spells in a calendar year and for less than 15 days at a time.

Such leave can be granted to a probationer in extreme situations, but only if the sanctioning authority is fully satisfied.

“These orders take effect from September 1, 2008. Earned leave, if any, availed by women employees before availing CCL subsequent to the issue of the [earlier memo] may be adjusted against CCL, if so requested by the employee,” the new memorandum says.

Girlfriend Can’t Be Prosecuted For Cruelty: SC

The Supreme Court has decided that a girlfriend, concubine or live- in-partner cannot be prosecuted for cruelty by an estranged wife. However, the husband and other family members can be made liable for the offence.

A Bench of Justices Altamas Kabir and A K Patnaik in a judgement said that under Section 498A, it is the husband and his other relatives who can be prosecuted but not the girl friend, live- in partner or concubine even if they are staying with him.
Under Section “498A, husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty, whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine,” ruled the court.

Israel Makes Gaza War Commander Military Chief

The next military chief of Israel, General Yoav Galant, is linked to the allegations of war crimes.

A former special forces commander and one time lumberjack Galant, 51, was confirmed by the government as the next Chief of Staff and will replace incumbent Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi in February.

As the Army’s commander for southern Israel, he oversaw the devastating December 2008-January 2009 offensive in the Gaza Strip in which 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.

A U.N. probe said both Israel and Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during the 22-day campaign, which Israel launched in response to rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave.

After Major-General Galant was nominated last month, pending formal Cabinet approval, Israeli human rights group B’Tselem called for thorough scrutiny of his role in the Gaza campaign, codenamed “Operation Cast Lead”.

“Galant's suitability for the position must be considered in light of his responsibility for suspected violations of human rights during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, which he commanded,” B'Tselem said in a statement. The group said that investigations into the operation had focused on rank and file soldiers and that there was a need for an inquiry into the conduct of senior commanders. (Agencies)

Vijay Mallya’s Website Hacker Yet To Be Traced

Even though some of the media reports had said that the hacker of the M.P. Vijay Mallya’s website was based in Pakistan the reality remains that the investigating agencies are yet to trace the hacker group.

The case, which was forwarded to the Cubbon Park police, was later transferred to the cyber crime police due to lack of technical knowledge.

A senior investigating officer from the cyber crime police station said, “We haven’t yet received the log sheet regarding the website from Vijay Mallya or his associates. Unless we receive the log sheet, we cannot get the details on the service providers without which it is difficult to trace the IP address.

But for this, we could have traced the origination of the mail and arrested the accused within a period of 48 hours.”

The website, which was hacked into on Independence Day had an offensive message posted allegedly by a Pakistani hacker group.

In a similar incident, the chief minister had received an e-mail which threatened to kill him and his colleagues, on August 29. The mail which was signed as Jihad, Pakistan, was traced to a cyber cafe in Malleswaram.

The investigating officer added that such cases of hacking happen mostly in countries like Nigeria, Italy and Australia and was not common in Pakistan.

Dalits Forced To Migrate, Demand Justice

A fact-finding team, comprising women activists that visited Challakere village in Chitradurga district of Karnataka, to look into the alleged social boycott of Dalits in Budihalli village, has urged the Government to provide suitable rehabilitation package to the 35 affected families.

Notably, about 35 families of the Madiga (Dalit) community from Budihalli had migrated to Challakere village on August 18, 2010 mainly because of intense social boycott and continuing sexual exploitation of its women by landowners belonging to the Nayaka and Golla communities of Budihalli village.

This was stated in the fact-finding report that was released recently. Revenue Minister Karunakara Reddy had recently asked the families to return to the village, where they will be provided all the facilities by the Government. However, the villagers, said Geeta Menon from Stree Jagruti Samiti and one of the members of the committee, the families were not prepared to accept the Reddy’s offer.

Instead, the affected families demanded rehabilitation around Challakere, either through employment or through cultivable land.

Based on the demands of the members of the Madiga community the all-woman fact-finding team made several recommendations, which included stringent legal action against the perpetrators of sexual crimes against women, transfer of the deputy commissioner for not conducting an impartial inquiry and not providing any relief to the deprived community, to start gruel centres to prevent starvation, create sustainable livelihood for the community, constitution of an independent body comprising community members, women's organisations, Dalit bodies and human rights groups to ensure proper utilisation of funds, including Rs. 63 lakh sanctioned for the development of the community.

Pak President, PM’s Offices Bugged

Pakistan’s Presidency, the Prime Minister’s Secretariat, ministries and important offices are being bugged, intelligence reports said.

“Almost all the important offices are being bugged. The President’s and Prime Minister’s offices are also not safe,” a senior government official said quoting intelligence reports.

A top government official dealing with internal security revealed that a modern bugging device that uses rays to listen to indoor conversations from a distance of even half a km is being used by certain foreign missions and operators to spy on almost all the government top offices surrounding the Presidency.

Sibal Firm on Quota For Poor In Schools

Even as the Supreme Court referred to a Constitution Bench the petitions challenging the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, the Centre made it clear that it is not inclined to reconsider the particular provision of the Act that makes it mandatory for every private educational institution to reserve 25 per cent of the seats for children from poor families.

Union human resources development minister Kapil Sibal firmly said “we won’t budge an inch” in implementing the 25% reservation for underprivileged kids under the RTE Act.

He told that the 25% reservation for the children belonging to poor is meant to enable them having access to education and the provision had been made after a series of deliberations.

The RTE Act, which came into force on April 1, says all schools should provide admission to 25% children from the neighbourhood.

Sibal also pointed out that one of the main challenges to enforce the RTE Act is the severe shortage of 12 lakh among elementary school teachers. “The state governments have to take up the matter urgently,” he said.

Chinese Pilots Who Faked Resumes Back In The Air

Chinese pilots who had lied about their flying experience have been allowed to return to work after they took remedial action to make up their hours.
Chinese media reported that a probe in 2008 had found about 200 pilots had falsified elements of their resumes.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China said they had found 192 pilots whose “flying experience to different degrees did not accord with reality.”
Some had their licenses revoked, but others were given the chance to retrain and had been allowed to fly once more.

“Those pilots given compulsory retraining were, after a thorough inspection of their qualifications, allowed to resume their posts,” it said.

The official Xinhua news agency said that with the rapid expansion of the aviation sector in China, “airlines turn a blind eye to fake records since they are happy to see more pilots certified by the administrative agency.”

China’s aviation industry was jolted by an accident in the northeast of the country last month in which 42 people died when a Henan Airlines jet crashed short of the runway.

Until that crash, there had been no other major accident as a result of stricter safety rules and relatively young fleets of mainly Western-made aircraft. (Agencies)

Arab States Snub US over Israel Resolution

Even after the efforts by the United States and the European Union the Arab countries insist over their stand about Israel that it also sign up to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Israel is believed to be the only Middle East power to possess nuclear weapons; an allegation the country continue to deny.

The 22 Arab nations would forward resolution about this issue at the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and it was last year that the resolution was passed calling for Israel to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and putting all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive safeguards of IAEA.

Prior to this conference scheduled to be held on 20-24 September the Arab Group plan to urge to keep the item ‘Israeli nuclear capabilities’ on the agenda of the general conference and ... will submit a draft resolution. The Arab Group requests the IAEA member states to support the draft resolution and vote in favour of it.”

Brussels and Washington believe that zeroing in on the Jewish state would jeopardise a proposed conference in 2012 on the creation of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction. It could also have a negative effect on re-launched peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

America and EU asked the Arab countries to withdraw the resolution as it would jeopardise Middle East peace talks. However, they are silent over the possibility that the nuclear owner Israel may use the weapons to jeopardise peace in the Middle East.

Starvation Keeps Brain Sharp

New research from Washington University in St. Louis suggests that, in fruit flies, being hungry may provide a way to stay awake without feeling groggy or mentally lathargic.

The study showed that starvation nearly tripled the amount of time they could survive without sleep. This happens because of a protein that helps the fruit fly brain manage its storage and use of lipids, a class of molecules that includes fats such as cholesterol and fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A and D.

Like humans, flies deprived of sleep one day will try to make up for it by sleeping more the next day, a phenomenon referred to as sleep debt. Scientists tested the starving, sleepless flies for two markers of sleep debt: an enzyme in saliva and the flies” ability to learn to associate a light with an unpleasant stimulus. Both tests showed that the starving flies were not getting sleepy.

“If you’re starving, you want to make sure you’re on the top of your game cognitively, to improve your chances of finding food rather than becoming food for someone else,” said Matt Thimgan, a postdoctoral research associate. (Agencies)

Russia Plans To Spend $613 Bn On Arms

Russia plans to spend 19 trillion rubles (613 billion dollars) to purchase new weapons over the next decade as it seeks to modernise its Soviet-era army, defence minister Anatoly Serdyukov said in a recently released interview.

The government is in the process of approving a plan to ramp up the arms budget for 2011-2020 by 46 percent from the previous estimate of 13 trillion rubles, Serdyukov told Bloomberg news agency in an interview.

Serdyukov, who spoke following his talks with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates in Washington earlier this month, also said Russia was interested in US technologies. He did not elaborate.

Much of Russia’s military equipment dates back to Soviet times and the government has in recent years promised extra money for modernisation.

Russia has been negotiating with France for months to buy a Mistral helicopter carrier, in its first ever purchase of military hardware from a member of NATO. The talks have been mired by disputes over technology transfer however. (Khaleej Times)

Muslims Flee Kashmir Valley, Like the Pandits

In a reminder of the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley in the early 1990s, Muslims caught this time between stone- throwers and security forces are moving from Srinagar to Jammu in the dark of the night.

“I didn’t inform anyone in the neighbourhood where I was headed,” Abid Ahmad, who left Srinagar and came to Jammu with his family, said on the condition that his locality be not disclosed as it could spell trouble whenever he returned.

Many like Ahmad are fleeing the strife- torn Kashmir Valley - where violent protests and clashes have left over 100 dead in the past three months - to escape the stones hurled by mobs and the retaliatory guns of security forces. And they usually undertake their journey to Jammu, 294 km south, between 3 am and 4 am. “ It’s the time when stone- throwers are resting and the policemen are busy warming themselves around bonfires on roadsides,” said Ahmad, who started his journey from Srinagar along with his family at 3 am. While Kashmir is a Muslim- majority area, Jammu is dominated by Hindus.

Over 100 families, according to unofficial estimates, might have reached Jammu post- Eid (Sept 11), when mobs went on the rampage in Srinagar.

Sharing their miseries, the migrants tell their Kashmiri Hindu friends, who had migrated to Jammu 20 years ago: “Now we know why the Pandits fled and that too in the darkness of night.”

Over 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits living in the valley migrated when violence erupted there in 1990. Most of them came to Jammu and were housed by the government in various camps on the edges of the city. They had to initially live in tents until the authorities built one- room tenements for them. (IANS)

Pakistani Scientist Jailed For 86 Years In US

A New York court sentenced the Pakistani scientist Aafia Siddiqui to 86 years in prison for attempted murder of US officers in Afghanistan. It sparked outrage throughout Pakistan and hundreds of activists demonstrated, chanting anti-US slogans.

Siddiqui, a mother of three, was found guilty of grabbing a rifle at an Afghan police station in the town of Ghazni where she was being interrogated in July 2008 and trying to gun down a group of US servicemen and FBI agents.

Defense lawyers, however, argued there was no physical evidence, such as finger prints or gunpowder traces, to show Siddiqui even grabbed the rifle.

Aafia Siddiqui, 38, is also suspected to have links with the Al-Qaeda and she was dubbed “Lady Qaeda” by the US tabloids. Nevertheless, Siddiqui was never charged with terrorism.

“It is my judgment that Dr Siddiqui is sentenced to a period of incarceration of 86 years,” Judge Richard Berman said, imposing a heavy sentence .

Siddiqui, a neuroscientist who trained at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brandeis University denied shooting at US officers and called in rambling commentaries for world peace.

She also referred repeatedly to claims that prior to the July 2008 incident she had spent the past five years in secret prisons, including at the Bagram US military base near Kabul, where she was tortured and “brainwashed.”

Her case also attracted the attention of human rights groups, which supported her claim to have been abducted in 2003 and placed in a secret network of US prisons.

Western Diplomats Walkout Over Ahmadinejad Speech

US diplomats and other Western delegations walked out of a United Nations summit as the Iranian president said some believe the 9/11 attacks on the US was the work of Americans to save Israel.

Ahmadinejad said there was a theory that “some segments within the US government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy and its grips on the Middle East in order also to save the Zionist regime.

“The majority of the American people as well as other nations and politicians agree with this view,” he said.

P.J.Crowley, the US assistant secretary of state, told reporters that the statement was “totally outrageous”.

“Those killed in the attacks were people of all faiths, all nationalities. They were killed by 19 people, a plot perpetrated by al-Qaeda,” he said.

Ahmadinejad accused the US of building up its nuclear arsenal instead of dismantling it and reiterated his call for a nuclear-free world.

In his speech, Ahmadinejad condemned some of the permanent members of the UN Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the US - for monopolising nuclear power.


The ongoing unrest in Kashmir valley has caused unprecedented loss to life and property. Media Scan correspondent Amin Masoodi writes in the article below.

During past 100 days of an unprecedented wave of ongoing unrest in Kashmir valley more than 107 people, most of them youth and children have been killed by security forces firing on protestors.

Curfew, protests and clashes is nothing new to strife-torn Kashmir valley but it has now become the order of the day. Even on the day of Eid, massive protests were held in Srinagar, which later turned violent, triggering fresh wave of unrest in the valley. Few government buildings were set ablaze in the heart of Srinagar city on Eid.

The fresh cycle of violence started from here and at least 19 civilians’ were killed by security forces firing the next day. The Valley continues to reel under strict curfew restrictions for the past four months and there seems to be no end to the ongoing tension in the near future.

The ongoing turmoil in Kashmir for the past four months has inflicted a loss of over Rs 26,000 crore in business. Valuable academic sessions have been lost and public property worth crores destroyed.

The education system in the Valley has received a great set back due to curfews, protests, clashes and strikes. Despite claims of the state government that most of the educational institutions were functioning normally in the valley, students at large have failed to attend schools during past few months.

Even the examinations have been postponed time and again due to the ongoing tension.

A meaningful Kashmir-centric dialogue between Delhi and representatives of Kashmiris is inevitable at this moment to at least bring back the situation under control and restore much awaited normalcy.

People in Kashmir have been demanding withdrawal of troops from Kashmir soil, scrapping of special powers given to the security forces in 1989 when militancy broke out in valley, abolition of draconian laws including the Public Safety Act (PSA) and release of all political prisoners languishing in jails and interrogation centers for years.

Despite strict curfew, people have held protests across Kashmir valley and followed the protest calendar given by the separatists from time to time.

The newspapers are not being published and local cable channels have also not been able to telecast news bulletins after Eid due to the strict restrictions imposed to prevent protests. People are facing great hardships due to the restrictions and life has come to a halt.

Miserably failing to bring the situation under control, the state government sought army’s help and the counter insurgency force was deployed in strength in north Kashmir towns of Kupwara, Trehgam, Handwara and Baramulla. Even as a deterrent army was deployed in some areas of Srinagar to enforce curfew but still the protests and clashes took place.

To prevent further protests and bring situation under control, thousands of youth have been arrested under different acts. Separatists have been jailed and also put under house arrest and time and again curfew remains enforced in the valley but the tension continues in the strife-torn valley.

Hundreds of people have been injured in the police action during the ongoing tension and dozens have been maimed. To break the cycle of protests, army, CRPF and police launched crackdowns in major towns and hundreds of youth were arrested. In the summer capital of the state, curfew was relaxed in several parts after seven days of clampdown after Eid while in most of the urban areas army was out to contain the protests.

Two civilians were killed and three others injured when police and paramilitary opened fire on a group of protesters near Palhalan, Pattan. People at large allege that police and CRPF had let loose a reign of terror in the valley and peaceful protests are being targeted.

A youth was killed and at least 12 others injured in Anantanag when security forces opened fire on a funeral procession of teenager Maroof Ahmad Nath whose body was recovered from river Jehlum, one week earlier. He went missing after being chased away allegedly by the CRPF cadres.

The anti-riot Rapid Action Force (RAF) called in last month for mob control was sent back to New Delhi after it too proved to be a failure.

The RAF personnel were brought in last month on the request of chief minister Omar Abdullah to contain spiralling unrest proved ineffective. All the three companies have left the valley and reported to their base camps last week.

During their engagement, the RAF personnel were deployed in several sensitive areas including downtown Srinagar and Sopur and at least 30 cops were wounded in clashes across the valley. Like Indian army, RAF also carried out flag marches in several parts of the city but failed to act as deterrent to protesters.

Their deployment also generated controversy with United Nations (UN) saying that the force was misusing their logo as cops were carrying helmets and shields with the UN mark.

Interestingly 2010 witnessed stone pelting as a violent means of protests in the valley. The protesters were accused by the government of using a stone pelting as a violent means of creating tension.

Security forces cited stone pelting as a substantial reason for their firing in retaliation as many cops were injured in stone pelting. Even Congress leader and state school education minister Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed’s house was attacked with stones when he was celebrating Eid with his family at Damhal-Khusipora in Anantanag. Earlie protestors had attacked many politicians’ houses during protests across the valley.

Not only the people of Kashmir are demanding the withdrawal of AFSPA from the state, some politicians too openly support their demand. Independent MLA, Mr. S. A. Rasheed said that police and CRPF too need to be made accountable, which do not come under the purview of the said law.

Rasheed viewed that the present stance of union and state governments regarding AFSPA is insulting to people of Kashmir, which according to him was a mere eyewash to divert attention from real issues.

“There are talks of removing this law from few districts only, but how will that make any difference,” the MLA asked adding that the repealing of AFSPA from whole of the state is necessary to instill confidence amongst the beleaguered people of the Valley.

By Amin Masoodi