12 convicted in Kandhamal riots case

November 29, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Comments Off on 12 convicted in Kandhamal riots case

 In this August, 2008 photo, policemen stand guard in front of a Baptist Church during the riots in Kandhamal.

In this August, 2008 photo, policemen stand guard in front of a Baptist Church during the riots in Kandhamal.

Odisha, November 27, 2012: Twelve persons were convicted and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment on Tuesday by a fast track court at Phulbani in Kandhamal district for their involvement in the communal riots of 2008.

Additional Sessions Judge B.N. Mishra also imposed fine of Rs. 5,000 on the convicts. In case of non-payment of fine, each convict had to undergo additional imprisonment for one year.

Prosecution lawyer Pratap Kumar Patra said 10 other accused in the same case were acquitted by the court for want of evidence. There were six witnesses in this case.

According to the prosecution, the incident occurred on August 29, 2008, at Gudakia village under Raikia police station limits.

The complainant, Mudia Digal, alleged that the accused were involved in rioting and arson, including torching of houses of the minority community. Police had arrested 22 persons of which 12 were convicted.

Large-scale communal riots erupted in parts of Kandhamal district after the murder of VHP leader, Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati and four of his associates at his Jalaspata ashram on August 23, 2008.

At least 38 persons were killed and many had become homeless in Kandhamal district.

– the hindu

Muslims participate in all kinds of politics without giving up their Muslim identity

November 29, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Comments Off on Muslims participate in all kinds of politics without giving up their Muslim identity

A Muslim man holding the Indian tricolour flagDelhi, November 27, 2012: Hilal Ahmed is an associate fellow at the Delhi based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) and specialises on political Islam, Muslim’s political representation and the evolution of Muslim modernities in South Asia.

In this series, the logic of protest, TCN will talk to a number of academicians, civil rights advocates, and members of intelligentsia and try to encourage a constructive debate on the issue.

M. Reyaz spoke with Hilal Ahmed over phone on the ‘politics of selective protests.’ Excerpts from the interview:

Q. Why do we see disproportionate response to the Palestine issue amongst Indian Muslims?
Hilal Ahmed: Before answering your questions, I must tell you that Muslim as community is not a homogenous monolithic category and hence we need to delve deeper in the labels of issues represented and rearticulated in different contexts. We also need to understand the ways in which certain popular and mediatized debates become ‘Muslim issues.’ These processes are complex, very complicated, and without unpacking them it would be inappropriate to mark a few ‘protests’ as Muslim protests! I think we need to make a distinction between the everyday lives of Muslims and the media type images of Muslims.

However, I do not think that this question is unimportant. India had a sympathetic policy towards Palestine that provided a scope to different political ideologies to articulate the issues in their own ways. For instance, for the left-liberals, broadly speaking, Palestine has always been a question of nationhood, right to self-determination and human rights. Similarly, for Muslim political groups, it has been a question of identity and protection of religiously sacred places of worship. Precisely for this reason, it has always been possible to establish a derivative link between the Palestine issues and the political realities we encounter in India.

Q. But why Muslims generally tend to ignore Muslim-Muslim conflicts like in Syria, Mali, etc., or for that matter methods use by Al-Qaeda and Taliban.
HA: I have reservations with your question. This is what I had hinted at initially, that we need to make distinction between mediatised interpretation and realities of everyday lives. I, for example, know of many aalims who are against Taliban or their type of ideologies. But the media has a preconceived notion of ‘narrow-minded’ Muslims and so most mediated messages, visuals appear in that direction.

Q. Why don’t we see similar protests over issues that concerns Indian Muslims, like ‘arbitrary’ detention of Muslim youths, reservations, discrimination, etc.
HA: I don’t think that is the case. I can, in fact, give you several examples of Muslim groups organising protests or marches in massive numbers. Ali Anwar organized a massive gathering in Delhi over the issues of Pashmanda (marginalised) Muslims. Many similar marches have been organised in Tamil Nadu or in other parts of the country.

Moreover, I can for certain tell you that Muslims in India participate in all kinds of movements, without giving up their Muslim identity.

Q. But does such protest serve any purpose?
HA: As a social science researcher, I am not in a position to judge that without proper research or study. Impact is long-term process and so I can’t really judge that.

Q. Can there be more effective ways to fulfill your demands rather than protests?
HA: This is a political question that has its own specificity. But I would like say that it is very important to look at the ways in which politics is intellectually understood by those who practice it. In my view, the intellectual level of our politicians in general, Muslim politicians in particular, is not as high as that of earlier generation, like Azad, Gandhi, Nehru, or in later years Lohia. One may have reservations with the rightist politics LK Advani or Abdullah Bukhari, but they intelligently provided arguments and justified their respective causes. We don’t see many politicians like them these days.

Interesting things are happening though, and is not as bleak as it appears. Politicians like AIUDF’s Badruddin Ajmal or MIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi have intelligently merged the identity issue with larger demands of empowerment or other issues. We should not see it from communal-secular binary, but wait to see how things churn out.

– tcn

Women restricted from entering popular Sufi shrine

November 29, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Comments Off on Women restricted from entering popular Sufi shrine

Six other dargahs in Mumbai apart from the Haji Ali dargah have also banned women from visiting their tombs.

Haji Ali Dargah (shrine) in Mumbai

Haji Ali Dargah (shrine) in Mumbai

Mumbai, November 6, 2012: The famous Haji Ali Dargah (shrine) in Mumbai has banned the entry of women in its sanctum sanctorum, a move that is being criticized by people from all walks of life.

The sanctum sanctorum of the Sufi shrine is a place where the remains of saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari are buried.

The shrine, 500 yards into the Arabian Sea off Mumbai, has invoked Islamic law, the Sharia, to stop women from going into its interiors.

“According to the Sharia, this is a sin. It is un-Islamic. We cannot allow it,” said Mohammed Sharif Kadri, the maulana (cleric) at the shrine.

Six other dargahs in Mumbai apart from the Haji Ali dargah have also banned women from visiting their tombs.

“If Islamic scholars have issued a fatwa, in accordance with the Islamic law of Sharia, and have demanded that women not be allowed in dargahs, we have only made a correction,” Rizwan Merchant, trustee of the Haji Ali dargah, said.

Merchant said that women are allowed in the dargah’s compound but are restricted from entering the sanctum sanctorum.

“They can read their prayers, do namaaz and offer shawls and flowers. We are only requesting our sisters not to enter inside the dargah. Women will not be allowed inside the sanctum sanctorum,” he said.

The decision was taken more than six months ago, but the issue came to light only when women’s group Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) voiced objection.

The move by the dargah’s trust board has sparked protests from several quarters who found it to be “highly discriminatory and grossly regressive”.

Congress leader Digvijaya Singh other political leaders in condemning the move:

“I am not in favour of this, all Muslims should oppose,” the Congress general secretary said.

Shahnawaz Husain of the Bharatiya Janata Party said that the trust should “rethink and take back their decision”.

Author Dilip said, “anything that (says) women should not be allowed in a certain part of our society is certainly regressive.”

– ibtimes

Nuncio in Damascus: Do not forget the Syrians and pray for them

November 29, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead

Comments Off on Nuncio in Damascus: Do not forget the Syrians and pray for them

For Msgr. Mario Zenari, the conflict is likely to fall into oblivion. The dead are no longer news. Yesterday 10 children were killed in a neighborhood south of the capital. The Church is the only remaining institution offering hope and help to the people affected by the bombings, starvation and kidnappings. The invitation to say a prayer for the Syrians in view of Christmas.

Hundreds have been killed in SyriaSyria, November 27, 2012: “The violence in Syria is in danger of becoming a forgotten conflict. At first the dead were news. Now the victims are increasing day by day, there is talk of even hundreds killed, but no one says anything, it has become routine. Like all wars, forgetfulness will envelop the Syrian war, too.” With this dramatic confession, Msgr. Mario Zenari, the Papal Nuncio in Syria, told AsiaNews of the plight of the people of Damascus, the last town to officially enter the war. “Because of the embargo”, he explains, “it is difficult to get humanitarian aid, but in the upcoming season of Advent I invite you all to pray for Syria, to devote a moment of the day to the suffering of these people. Do not let the suffering endured by the Syrians be forgotten.”

The prelate said that from the beginning of November, “the humanitarian situation is hell; it has also involved the capital, now transformed into an armored city.” The drama is especially acute in the suburbs: Darayya, Qudssaya, Irbin. Here they fight day and night, the bombs have pulverized even the few houses left standing. Yesterday, 76 people died in bombings. Among these were also 10 children struck by a cluster bomb while playing in a soccer field located in a southern district of the capital.

“Several of my employees”, said Msgr. Zenari, “have been living in the Nunciature, because they cannot return to their homes, others no longer have a roof and spend the night in basements or in makeshift shelters. The parishes have turned into dormitories. The convents try to offer hospitality to everyone, even in the garden.” “But now”, continues the nuncio, “with the arrival of displaced people, they are in danger of dying of starvation and the cold. Every day I receive calls from religious and priests who ask me: What can we do for these people?. The Church has made all its spaces available, from the office rooms, to the storerooms, to the very places of worship. However, without external aid and the possibility of a ceasefire, even these efforts are likely to be a small drop in the bucket.”

Bishop Zenari confesses that the most common question among the Syrians is: “How long will this war last?” Since the last attempts in June by Kofi Annan to obtain a ceasefire, the conflict is no longer a temporary emergency, but has become a daily reality that seems endless. “This uncertainty”, said the nuncio, “is killing the hope of returning to normality, which adds to the pain for their loved ones killed.”

Having recently returned from a trip to Italy, in a short time the prelate witnessed the war’s deterioration: “Now the population lives in even more dramatic conditions than a few months ago. To the pain for the bombings, and the vendettas among political and religious groups, there has also been added local crime, which sides with no one. There are hundreds of kidnappings in the country that are wiping out families, not just rich ones, but now even those of the poorest. These criminals by their own admission do not support any political or military faction. They are exploiting the climate of instability for their own interests. The media, unfortunately, does not talk about it, but many families, even here in Damascus, are affected by this scourge, which has made their lives even more painful.”

The diplomat explained that there are two types of kidnappings. The first is political and is used by groups on both sides to demand the release of prisoners. The second is motivated by ransom.

This is very common and is forcing the population even to take up public collections to free their loved ones, who often risk of being killed anyway in the general indifference. The Nuncio said that the Church is active also in this field and in all the parishes where there are these cases, committees have been set up to negotiate with the kidnappers. “The Church”, he affirms, “is the only real institution that has remained intact in the country, where every State and private body is breaking apart. Everyone turns to her: Christians, Muslims, Alawites and Sunnis. Clergymen, priests, religious men and women often attempt, at the risk of their lives, to bring reconciliation and forgiveness even where it seems impossible.”

According to the prelate, we must prevent this war from falling into oblivion.  The West has a duty to inform itself, to try to understand this situation, even if the media and governments are prone to easy answers. Msgr. Zenari clarifies that there is no Arab Spring occurring in Syria, as it has in other Middle Eastern countries, such as Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya. After a year of riots and demonstrations, too many external factors have entered into this war. The population has no voice and has only one desire: to go back to living. (SC)

– asianews

If I were the Devil…..

November 28, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-miscellaneous

Comments Off on If I were the Devil…..

This was 47 years ago. April 3, 1965. An amazing prediction.

Do you remember the famous ABC radio commentator, Paul Harvey?
Millions of Americans listened to his programs which were broadcast over 1,200 radio stations nationwide.
When you listen to this, remember, the commentary was broadcast 47 years ago on April 3, 1965.

It’s short… less than three minutes. You will be amazed.

If I were the devil - Paul Harvey

– fwd: joe dcruz

Public Prayer battles heating up

November 28, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-world

Comments Off on Public Prayer battles heating up

Detroit city resident stands up and leads a prayer during a public meeting of the Detroit City Council in Detroit, Nov. 20

A Detroit city resident stands up and leads a prayer during a public meeting of the Detroit City Council in Detroit, Nov. 20

USA, November 26, 2012: It happens every week at meetings in towns, counties and cities nationwide. A lawmaker or religious leader leads a prayer before officials begin the business of zoning changes, contract approvals and trash pickup.

But citizens are increasingly taking issue with these prayers, some of which have been in place for decades. At least five lawsuits around the country—in California, Florida, Missouri, New York and Tennessee—are actively challenging pre-meeting prayers.

Lawyers on both sides say there is a new complaint almost weekly, though they don’t always end up in court. When they do, it seems even courts are struggling to draw the line over the acceptable ways to pray. Some lawyers and lawmakers believe it’s only a matter of time before the Supreme Court will weigh in to resolve the differences. The court has previously declined to take on the issue, but lawyers in a New York case plan to ask the justices in December to revisit it. And even if the court doesn’t take that particular case, it could accept a similar one in the future.

Lawmakers who defend the prayers cite the nation’s founders and say they’re following a long tradition of prayer before public meetings. They say residents don’t have to participate and having a prayer adds solemnity to meetings and serves as a reminder to do good work.

“It’s a reassuring feeling,” said Lakeland, Florida., Mayor Gow Fields of his city’s prayers, which have led to an ongoing legal clash with an atheist group. The City Commission’s meeting agenda now begins with a disclaimer that any prayer offered before the meeting is the “voluntary offering of a private citizen” and not being endorsed by the commission.

Citizens and groups made uncomfortable by the prayers say they’re fighting an inappropriate mix of religion and politics.

“It makes me feel unwelcome,” said Tommy Coleman, the son of a church pianist and a self-described secular humanist who is challenging pre-meeting prayers in Tennessee’s Hamilton County.

Coleman, 28, and Brandon Jones, 25, are urging the county to adopt a moment of silence at its weekly meeting rather than beginning with a prayer.

A number of groups are willing to help with complaints like those filed by Coleman and Jones. Annie Laurie Gaylor, the co-founder of the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, says complaints about the prayers are among the most frequent her organization gets.

Gaylor’s organization sends out letters when it is contacted by citizens, urging lawmakers to discontinue the prayers. Other groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State send out similar letters.

Ian Smith, a lawyer with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, says his organization has gotten more complaints in recent years. That could be because people are more comfortable standing up for themselves or more aware of their options, but Smith also said groups on the right have also promoted the adoption of prayers.

Brett Harvey, a lawyer at the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian group that often helps towns defend their practices, sees it the other way. He says liberal groups have made a coordinated attempt to bully local governments into abandoning prayers, resulting in more cases.

“It’s really kind of a campaign of fear and disinformation,” Harvey said.

Harvey has talked with hundreds of towns about their policies and been involved in about 10 court cases in the past three years. Right now, his advice differs for different parts of the country because the law is in flux.

Courts around the country don’t agree on what’s acceptable or haven’t considered the issue. In 1983 the U.S. Supreme Court approved prayer before legislative meetings, saying prayers don’t violate the First Amendment’s so-called Establishment Clause, which prohibits the government from favoring one religion over another. But the case didn’t set any boundaries on those prayers, and today courts disagree on what is permissible.

For example, one court ruling from 2011 says that prayers before legislative meetings in Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia should be nondenominational or non-sectarian. That means the prayer leader can use general words like “God” and “our creator” but isn’t supposed to use words like “Jesus” ”Christ” and “Allah” that are specific to a single religion.

The law is different in courts in Florida, Georgia and Alabama: In 2008 a federal court of appeals overseeing those states upheld the prayer practice of Georgia’s Cobb County, which had invited a rotating group of clergy members to give prayers before its meetings. The prayers were predominantly Christian and often included references to Jesus.

Towns that get complaints, meanwhile, have responded differently. Some have made changes, some willingly and others with misgivings. Other towns have dug in to defend their traditions.

Citizens in Lancaster, Calif., for example, voted overwhelmingly in 2010 to continue their prayers despite the threat of a lawsuit. Mayor R. Rex Parris says the city of 158,000 has already likely spent about $500,000 defending the practice, and he expects to spend more before the case is over. He said the issue is worth it because it has brought the town together.

“Once the people realize you are standing up for more than fixing potholes, that sense of community really starts to coalesce,” he said.

Other towns have gone the opposite route, stopping prayer altogether when challenged. Henrico County, Va., stopped prayers recently after lawmakers reviewed recent court decisions and determined it would be too difficult to police the content of prayers.

Still other towns have modified their practices rather than give them up entirely. Earlier this year Kannapolis, N.C., population 45,000, stopped allowing council members to deliver prayers before meetings after getting a Freedom From Religion Foundation letter. Now members pray silently. Council members didn’t want to change the way they prayed, but they also didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars fighting a losing lawsuit.

In Sussex County, Del., lawmakers also agreed to alter their practice this year. For decades the County Council president opened meetings by leading the Lord’s Prayer, which appears in the New Testament. Michael H. Vincent, the current president, said it makes him feel better to begin by “asking a higher power for some guidance in our decision making process.”

Now, however, after a lawsuit, the council has settled on beginning with the 23rd Psalm, a prayer that appears in the Old Testament and is therefore significant to both Christians and Jews.

One of the Delaware residents who challenged the prayer, retired Lutheran minister John Steinbruck, says he’s satisfied with the resolution, though he would have preferred a moment of silence. Though the fight in Sussex County is over for now, others are just starting.

“I think that step by step by step, maybe every community is going to have to deal with this,” Steinbruck said.

– ap / charisma news

Pakistani defence of minority rights

November 28, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Comments Off on Pakistani defence of minority rights

Romana Bashir has dedicated her life to interfaith harmony and women’s education in order to change the country’s mindset. Today she is a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Women’s presence in political institutions and civil society is “a positive sign”.

Pakistani (and Christian) women lead the defence of minority rightsPakistan, November 26, 2012: The extremist attack against the Christian village of Shanti Nagar, in 1997, gave her the strength to launch a campaign in favour of persecuted minorities. Today she has broadened her activities to include education, in particular among women, harmony and interfaith dialogue. This has earned her an appointment as a lay member to the Commission for Relations with Muslims of the Pontifical Council for lnterreligious Dialogue (PCID). The woman in question is Romana Bashir, a Pakistani Catholic who has dedicated her life to the weakest in society and to “changing attitudes and culture in Pakistan”.

On 6 February 1997, some 60,000 extremists attacked a Christian village in Punjab Province. The attackers ransacked 13 churches and destroyed hundreds of homes. They came from Khanewal, a militant stronghold, and by the time they had finished, some 2,500 people were left homeless.

After this outrage, many activists and ordinary citizens decided to defend the rights of minorities and promote inter-faith harmony.

Together with Arif Gill, Romana Bashir, a Catholic woman, has become one of the most respected and active figures in the field since 1998, a year after the tragic events of Shanti Nagar.

Bashir has centred her work on community-based patriotism and shared work. She joined the Christian Study Centre (CSC), which promotes freedom of expression, justice, dignity and equality. In 2009, she was appointed head of the CSC branch in Rawalpindi, in replacement of the late Francis Mehboob Sada.

Today she is involved in various activities and programmes, meeting with Muslims, tribal and civil society leaders, in order to develop a culture of dialogue and harmony for the common good.

Romana Bashir is also committed to women’s education, hoping to change the dominant ways of thinking and culture of Pakistan, especially in relation to women.

In an interview with Assist News Service (ANS), she said that Pakistani women “have grown,” especially among minorities, and “this is a great consolation for us.”

At a political and social level, women “increasingly present.” Examples that she cites are Hina Rabbani Khar, the current foreign minister, and Asma Jhangir, a former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association.

Women’s “presence is a positive sign,” the Catholic activist explained because “Women in Pakistan are convinced that the nation needs to change and extremism should be fought. It is a very important message that gives hope”.

– asianews

Saudi women tracked after flight of suspected convert to Christianity

November 28, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead

Comments Off on Saudi women tracked after flight of suspected convert to Christianity

Women face many restrictions in Saudi Arabia

Women face many restrictions in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia, November 26, 2012: Saudi Arabia,has introduced a tracking system that monitors any cross-border movements by female citizens following the case of a woman who apparently converted to Christianity and fled the country.
The measure, which uses SMS technology, came into force last week. It alerts a woman’s male guardian (father, husband, or other male relative) by text message when she leaves the country, even if they are travelling together.

In the ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia, women are not permitted to leave the country without the permission of their male guardian, who must sign a consent form at the airport or border.

The latest move to further restrict their freedom was condemned by Saudi writer Badriya al-Bishr, who said that women are held under a “state of slavery” in the kingdom.

It has been reported by Saudi media that the introduction of the tracking system was triggered by the escape earlier this year of a woman from Al-Khobar who had apparently converted to Christianity.

Two male colleagues have been accused of helping the woman, who went to Lebanon and is now in Sweden. Her expatriate Lebanese boss, Henna Sarkees (51), a Christian, has been charged with abusing his position to coerce her to convert, and an un-named Saudi national has been charged with helping her to leave the country.

They were due to stand trial in September, but the case has been repeatedly deferred.

It has also been alleged that an official from the passport office in Al-Kharj was complicit in her escape by providing falsified authorisation for travel.

The woman’s family have been trying to secure her return to Saudi Arabia; the Saudi Embassy in Sweden has been asked to find a diplomatic means of repatriating her.

But she may face serious repercussions: conversion to Christianity is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, where an extreme and puritanical version of Islam, Wahhabism, is strictly enforced.

Women are severely restricted: they are obliged to wear the full veil, cannot leave their homes without a male companion and are not allowed to drive.

There has been some reform; King Faysal introduced compulsory education for girls in the 1960s, and today female graduates outnumber their male counterparts. But unemployment among women is high, exceeding 30%.

In October, King Abdullah granted women the right to vote in the 2015 municipal elections and reduced the powers of the religious police, who enforce compliance with sharia.

– barnabas team

CSF: Will other Rites & Churches follow? – Rs. 100-crore charity works

November 28, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Comments Off on CSF: Will other Rites & Churches follow? – Rs. 100-crore charity works

A view of the audience at the centenary celebration of the Catholicate organised by the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church in Kochi on Sunday.Kerala , November 26, 2012: To mark the centenary of the establishment of the Catholicate of the Malankara Church, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church has announced Rs. 100-crore worth of charitable work to be carried out in the centenary year.

The Catholicos, Baselios Marthoma Paulose II, who made the announcement at the launch of the centenary celebrations here on Sunday, said the work would include building houses for the homeless members of the church, meeting the wedding expenses of widows’ daughters, providing education assistance and health insurance for the poor and relief to farmers in debt. Aid would be given for the treatment of cancer and heart diseases and also for dialysis, the Catholicos said.

In a veiled reference to the earlier split in the church, he called for peace and unity in the Syrian church. “We hold the same beliefs, and we should be in the same camp,” he said. He said that the Malankara Church was founded by St. Thomas the Apostle in AD 52 and hence the church was now celebrating the 1960 anniversary together with the centenary of the Catholicate.

A large number of religious, political, church and community leaders—including Mar Joseph Powathil, Mar Aprem, K.V. Thomas, Vellappilly Natesan and Tony Chammany—attended the public meeting. Tens of thousands of Orthodox church faithful from all over the State showed up. A huge rally was taken out in the city to mark the centenary. In view of the huge crowd expected to attend the meeting, the police had announced traffic regulation. However, there were disruptions of traffic on the key roads in the city.

The Catholicate of the Malankara Church was established in 1912. Murimattothil Ivanios Metropolitan of the Kandanad diocese was installed as the first Catholicos in 1912.

– the hindu

Chief Justice Altamas Kabir on human rights, influence of neoliberal capital and the role of Supreme Court

November 28, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Comments Off on Chief Justice Altamas Kabir on human rights, influence of neoliberal capital and the role of Supreme Court

Altamas Kabir became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on Sept. 29, 2012

Altamas Kabir became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on Sept. 29, 2012

USA, November 27, 2012: A high-powered delegation comprising of the Law Minister of India, Ashwani Kumar; Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India, Altamas Kabi; Supreme Court judge Swatanter Kumar; Attorney-General of India, G.E. Vahanvati; Senior Advocate Rakesh Munjal and Professor S. V. Sivakumar, Director of the Indian Law Institute (ILI), visited Harvard University during the week of Nov 12.

Q. Justice Kabir, what was the purpose of your visit of the delegation to Harvard Law School?

AK: It was basically to enter into an understanding and agreement with Harvard’s Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research and theIndian Law Institute which is affiliated to the Supreme Court. Both are research oriented bodies, so we were looking for some cooperation in research to work in the area of Human Rights, specifically relating to children and especially adolescent girls who are often exploited and trafficked. So we had a series of discussions on these issues and then additionally on bonded labor and child labor: how we could address the elimination of these practices. We have laws for these issues but their implementation is not very satisfactory. So we wish to work out programs and have an exchange of ideas between students and faculty between Harvard and ILI, even have working groups formed.

Another of the area we wish to look deeper into is that of displacement of people on account of war, ethnic conflict or even because of migration like that of migrant labor – this especially hits children severely as they are denied healthcare and education.

So as part of our collaboration, we wish to make some data available – data that ILI has collected on these various issues – and hope that data can be utilized by anybody in our research partnership to analyse and come up with ideas of conflict resolution.

Q. Does the issue of displaced people also include what are called Internally Displaced People, the IDPs?

AK: Yes, included in the issues we wish to address is also the issue of IDPs, especially on account of ethnic conflicts. The laws relating to refugees are complex owing to the peculiar geography of India. We have Pakistan, China, Burma, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka among our neighbors – with some of these neighbors we’ve had boundary disputes. Now a question was raised during our visit here about some of the draconian acts we have, especially in the border areas, Maybe there is no other way.

Q. But, sir, in reference to these laws, we know that human rights abuses are committed on their strength?

Yes, that is true – there is the case of this woman, Irom Sharmila, who has been on hunger-strike for 12 years now trying to fight such laws, but most people in India do not seem to be aware of her.

Q. There are still a huge number of pending cases in India and the problem of under-trials is acute. How do you view the issue?

AK: For that we are pursuing Alternate Dispute Resolution mechanisms which include Arbitration, Conciliation, Lok Adalats (People’s Courts) and Mediation.

Q. How do you see the role or influence of neoliberal capital and policies that has been suspected of trying to influence economic policies and judicial outcomes?

Capital has always been around and has tried to exert an influence on the judiciary. But now when it is flexing its muscle and also when public money is mis-utilized, then something must be done. Such forces or interest groups, if they behave as if they are the law, must be taken to task. We cannot allow the state to be milked. So in such cases courts step in and attempt to rectify the situation. Sometimes no one is willing to even take up such cases involving abuse of power and corruption by powerful people. In those cases, the court directs various authorities to act in ways to resolve the situation and monitors continuously under a process called continuing mandamus.

Q. The law minister observed at a panel earlier at the Harvard Law School that the judiciary should operate between what he termed “judicial activism” and “judicial imperialism.” What do you make of that?

AK: The courts have been given the powers of judicial review and monitoring if there are instances of the executive (branch of the government) not doing what it is supposed to. For instance it has recourse to various articles like Article 142, 227 and 232 which expressly gives it all pervasive powers allow it to order judicial review. The court has been very very conservative till now but is now using its discretionary powers more often to make sure the the executive also functions and delivers as it is supposed to.

Q. How did you think this trip went?

AK: This trip has been very inspiring and rewarding. We’ve had the advantage of the views of the people here. There seemed to exist similarity of thought, there was a meeting of minds. We really want to take the research forward. We are hoping for some kind of written agreement between Harvard and the ILI soon, hopefully in the December-January time-frame.

– tcn

« Previous PageNext Page »