Archive for the 'human rights' Category

On the media’s need for whipping boys

Nandini Sundar on her blog:

I am sick to death of TV panel discussions which ask whether human rights activists are soft on the Maoists, romanticise the Maoists and so on. Why doesn’t someone ask if our honourable politicians and security experts are soft on police torture and extra judicial killings?

Television is not interested in a serious discussion – all they want are whipping boys. The sight of Arnab Goswami mocking Prof. Haragopal for giving an “academic analysis” was especially nauseating, compounded by his showing off about “Emily Durkheim” (sic!). Why bother to have a panel at all, if only hysterical calls for the army to be sent in to wipe out the Maoists count as ‘analysis’, and every other viewpoint is seen as biased?

The media’s vocabulary is also very limited. I remember a particular excruciating interview with Binayak Sen where he said he “decried” violence and the anchor repeatedly asked him if he “condemned” it. As far as I know, the two words mean roughly the same thing. Nowadays, even before the media asks me, I start shouting “I condemn, I condemn.” I wake up in my sleep shouting “I condemn.” I am scared to use other words to describe complex emotions, because the media is unable to understand anything else. More:

The killing of a young boy



 Digital image analysis by an expert for Channel 4 has confirmed that these photographs showing 12-year-old Balachandran Prabakaran before and after he was shot dead, were taken with the same camera. Images: No Fire Zone/Channel 4

Digital image analysis by an expert for Channel 4 has confirmed that these photographs showing 12-year-old Balachandran Prabakaran before and after he was shot dead, were taken with the same camera. Images: No Fire Zone/Channel 4

Callum Macrae, director, “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka,” in The Hindu:

It is a war that has produced some truly terrible images, but this one is particularly disturbing. A young boy sits looking distressed, like a child who has been lost in a supermarket. He has been given a biscuit or some kind of snack. In the second photograph, he is looking anxiously up, as though hoping to see someone he recognises.

The boy is Balachandran Prabakaran, the 12-year-old son of Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabakaran.

These photographs, which we are releasing today, form part of the new evidence in the forthcoming feature documentary “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka,” the culmination of three years of research which will be shown for the first time next month in Geneva, to coincide with the U.N. Human Rights Council meeting. The new evidence in the film is certain to increase pressure on the Indian government not only to support a resolution on Sri Lanka and accountability, but also to ensure that it is robustly worded, and that it outlines an effective plan for international action to end impunity in Sri Lanka.

The new photographs tell a chilling story. This child is not been lost of course: he has been captured and is being held in a sandbag bunker, apparently guarded by a Sri Lankan Army soldier. In less than two hours he will be taken, executed in cold blood — and then photographed again. More:

Missing: the boy on the bicycle

Mohamed Hanif in Dawn:

Six years after Hafiz Saeed Rehman went missing from Sariab Road Quetta, the police dug up a grave to look for him. The High Court ordered that a body be exhumed because Quetta police, after giving half a dozen other explanations for his disappearance, had started saying that Hafiz Saeed had been killed. His father Allah Bakhsh Bangulzai who has been campaigning for his son’s release for nine years, didn’t believe the police. “I knew it wasn’t his grave, I knew my son wasn’t dead,” insists Allah Bakhsh, who runs a small grocery store near his house. Allah Baksh Bangulzai’s faith wasn’t just the faith of a father who can’t bring himself to believe that his eldest son might be dead. He had seen with his own eyes the body that was buried in that grave. Nine year earlier looking for his newly disappeared son Allah Baksh had done the rounds of the mortuaries. “They showed me two bodies,” says Allah Baksh. He had a really good look. “They were both my son’s age. One boy had his throat slit. Another one had his legs cut off just below his knees. I was relieved neither of them was my son.”

Hafiz Saeed became one of almost 1300 disappeared Baloch citizens whose families have been holding almost a perpetual vigil for their release. They travel from distant villages and towns to hold three-month-long protest camps outside Islamabad and Karachi Press Club but our press usually ignores them. When Voice of Missing Baloch Persons recently held a rally to mark one thousand days of their protest, no TV channels covered it.More:

Impunity in India

“Major Avtar Singh of the Indian Army’s counterinsurgency in Kashmir killed dozens. India refused to punish him. So did Canada and the U.S., where he killed his family and committed suicide.” Shubh Mathur in Guernica:

On Saturday June 9, 2012, Major Avtar Singh, formerly of the Indian Army and living in Selma, California, shot his wife and three children. Before turning the gun on himself, he called the Sheriff’s office and told them that he had killed four people. The SWAT team that responded to the call found his youngest and oldest sons, ages three and seventeen, and his wife, dead of gunshot wounds to the head; the middle son, fifteen years old, was critically injured, but alive. He died a few days later, from wounds to the head.

 The execution-style gunshots to the head were identical to those which killed Major Singh’s most famous victim, the Kashmiri human rights lawyer Jalil Andrabi. Andrabi was abducted, tortured and murdered in 1996 for exposing abuses carried out by the Indian Army in Kashmir. Major Avtar Singh was also wanted by Kashmir’s courts and Interpol for the murder of twenty-eight people in Kashmir in the course of his career as an officer in 35 Rashtriya Rifles, a counterinsurgency unit of the Indian Army. The story of his crimes and the manner in which he evaded justice for sixteen years is a grim chronicle of Indian crimes against humanity in Kashmir and of the silence of the international community which has abetted these. The impunity exploited by India and enabled by the international community clearly corrupted Singh’s conscience, to judge by the murder of his family and his subsequent suicide. Until it deals with the gross human rights violations in Kashmir and an impunity that harkens back to its colonial past, India’s proud claims as the world’s most populous democracy are fatally tainted. More:

Remembering Sri Lanka’s killing fields

Gareth Evans in Project Syndicate:

Three years ago, in the bloody endgame of the Sri Lankan government’s war against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, some 300,000 civilians became trapped between the advancing army and the last LTTE fighters in what has been called “the cage” – a tiny strip of land, not much larger than New York City’s Central Park, between sea and lagoon in the northeast of the country.

With both sides showing neither restraint nor compassion, at least 10,000 civilians – possibly as many as 40,000 – died in the carnage that followed, as a result of indiscriminate army shelling, rebel gunfire, and denial of food and medical supplies.

The lack of outrage mainly reflects the Sri Lankan government’s success in embedding in the minds of policymakers and publics an alternative narrative that had extraordinary worldwide resonance in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. What occurred in the cage, according to this narrative, was the long-overdue defeat, by wholly necessary and defensible means, of a murderous terrorist insurrection that had threatened the country’s very existence.

The other key reason behind the world’s silence is that the Sri Lankan government was relentless in banning independent observers – media, NGOs, or diplomats – from witnessing or reporting on its actions. And this problem was compounded by the timidity of in-country United Nations officials in communicating such information as they had.  More:

Embracing the darkness

The British decision to end its decade-long boycott of Narendra Modi speaks volumes of how human rights are so easily sacrificed at the altar of commerce, writes Jyoti Malhotra in The Hindu:

In the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament, Judas Iscariot agreed he would hand over Jesus to the priests for 30 pieces of silver. Last week when the British government agreed to embrace Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, it should have lent an ear to one of its own citizens, Yusuf Dawood of West Yorkshire, two of whose brothers were lynched by a rampaging mob in the Gujarat riots of 2002.

Saeed Dawood, 42 at the time, and Sakil Dawood, 37 at the time, were travelling to Surat along with Mohammed Aswat and Imran Dawood on February 28, 2002, when their car was attacked by a mob about 70 km from Ahmedabad. All four were British citizens.

Aswat’s body was found alongside Imran Dawood in a field, but at least Imran was alive. He was flown back to the United Kingdom, while Aswat was buried in a village near Surat. The other two went missing, but a month later in March, DNA from bone fragments found in an abandoned factory supposedly near the site of the attack was matched to a sample from Saeed Dawood’s mother.

The Andhra Pradesh Forensic Science Laboratory, in a report to the British High Commission on May 8, 2002, concluded that Saeed Dawood had been killed by a mob. The BBC reported last week that “an internal British report at the time (had) described the violence as pre-planned with the support of the state government.”

Clearly, the David Cameron-led government has now decided that 10 years is long enough in the life of a nation to wipe the tears from the eyes of one of its own — and move on. More:

Remembering Kashmir

Majid Maqbool at 3quarksdaily:

On days when I’m alone at home some vivid images and memories of my childhood rush back. They arrange themselves in disturbing ways, unsettling previous memories. Sometimes these memories write themselves in solitude. Sometimes they are forgotten, only to return later from the oblivion: in the middle of some conversation, for example, while travelling, or at night, in the dreams. Sometimes it’s too painful to write down compelling memories. Sometimes remembering them is the only way of making peace with them. And all these memories are unforgettable, lingering in some corner of mind, waiting to be summoned.

I write because I remember. Because what I remember makes me who I am.

I remember, for example, those military crackdowns that loomed large over my childhood like black clouds: people ordered out of their homes early in the morning by the Indian troops, and assembled in open fields and playgrounds. And then that fearful wait for the next order of the troops. The troops lining up people, one frightened person after another, in front of that dreaded army gypsy. And whenever a masked mukbir (informer) seated inside the guarded army vehicle made a particularly shrill signal or a coded gesture, the person paraded in front of him was immediately frisked away by the troops. Often, he never returned home. More:

The short life and painful death of Baby Falak

This is all six chapters of a story that ran in a serialized form on India Real Time. Through dozens of interviews, court documents, police records, medical records and counseling reports, the Wall Street Journal’s Paul Beckett and Krishna Pokharel reconstruct the sad life and death of Baby Falak

NEW DELHI–The story of Baby Falak is a close-up look at the underbelly of Indian society: prostitution, human trafficking, bride selling, and domestic violence.

It also is the story of a small group of ordinary people – a young mother, a rebellious teenager, a taxi driver, a tire repairman, a lonely graduate — trying to escape the tribulations of their daily lives, and of the people who exploited them, the institutions that failed them, and the people who helped them. 

The events that transpired over 10 months, from mid-2011 to early 2012, moved millions, at least briefly, to unprecedented outrage and introspection, as if India were asking itself: “Are we like this only?”

CHAPTER ONE: Escape from Bihar

There is nothing special about Muzaffarpur. The city’s roads have been pummeled then buried under the weight and dust of pedestrians, bicycles, rickshaws, motorbikes, and SUVs. Its low, brick-and-concrete stores are piled high with the brightly-colored flotsam of modern Indian life — flipflops, candy, tobacco packets, plastic water jugs, tarps. In the center of town, the railway station appears as a bastion of permanence: It has a tower, perhaps 50 feet tall, that is painted light pink. more

Tibetan self-immolations over Chinese policies

Since March 2011, more than 30 Tibetans – monks, nuns and lay people – have set themselves on fire, reportedly in protest against Chinese policies in Tibet. Visit The Guardian interactive and click on the faces to find out more.

No country to call home

Long persecuted in their native land, the stateless Rohingya have sought sanctuary across the globe. In Mother Jones magazine, Magnum photographer Saiful Huq Omi documents their predicament.

Saiful Huq Omi, a photographer based in Dhaka, Bangladesh, first focused on Burma’s Rohingya refugees in 2009, when he began documenting their lives in Bangladesh, Malaysia, and the United Kingdom. The Rohingya—an ethnic, religious, and linguistic minority from Burma’s northern Rakhine State—have been persecuted for decades; nearly a million of them are estimated to reside in Burma, while another half million have sought refuge in Bangladesh. Smaller populations have fled to other countries.

The 1982 Citizenship Law of Burma stripped the Rohingya of their nationality, making them legally stateless. As Amal de Chickera, the head of the Statelessness and Nationality Projects for the Equal Rights Trust, explained in a recent conversation with Omi: “While many individual citizens of Burma experience human rights violations, the Rohingya are specifically targeted and face discrimination as a group. Outside of Burma most Rohingya are irregular migrants with no legal status. Because they are stateless they have to travel illegally, and are thus targeted and often become victims of arbitrary detention, deportation, extortion, trafficking, and smuggling.” more

This is not zero tolerance, Mr. Prime Minister

Siddharth Varadarajan in The Hindu:

You see, 10 years ago, I visited a woman named Raja Begum in Anantnag. She was the mother of Zahoor Dalal, one of the five men murdered in Pathribal. Throughout the time I spent in her house, she wept quietly in one corner and didn’t say a word. All the talking was done by another relative. As I left, I made one last attempt, asking her whether there was anything she wanted to tell the people of the country. “Zahoor can’t come back but those who did this should be punished before my eyes,” she replied. “Why did they pick up an innocent man and murder him? If there is a government, if there is justice, the people who did this must be punished.”

I wrote about Pathribal and its aftermath countless times but wanted to make another push for justice in this case. My question to Dr. Singh, then, was really Raja Begum’s, the partial discharge of a debt journalists accumulate as they run from story to story. And as expected, the Prime Minister promised to look into the matter. I have no idea what enquiries or exertions he has made on the case since then but the facts themselves are quite simple. And, in the context of the recent exposé of fake encounters in Machhil in Kupwara, they reveal a pattern of impunity that ordinary Kashmiris will be condemned to endure until India gets a Prime Minister brave enough to put a stop to it.

A group of terrorists, most probably from the Lashkar-e-Taiba, arrived at the Chattisinghpora village in Anantnag district in the dead of night on March 20, 2000. They made all the Sikh men assemble and gunned them down in cold blood. Five days later, L.K. Advani, who was Union Home Minister at the time, told a nation still recovering from shock that the heinous crime had been solved with the killing of five “foreign militants.” In an FIR filed on March 25, officers from the Rashtriya Rifles and the Special Operations Group of the State police said they had managed to corner and kill the five terrorists in a fierce encounter at Pathribal-Panchalthan. The bodies of the men, which had been burned beyond recognition, were buried in a common grave.

Unfortunately for the army, the five men killed were not terrorists or foreign nationals. They were civilians who had been picked up in and around Anantnag on March 24. More:

Chinese handshake: a shameful kowtowing

What lies behind India’s craven crackdown on peaceful Tibetans in order to please China, asks Mihir Sharma in Business Standard

The awe-inspiring leadership of the People’s Republic of China probably doesn’t concern itself much about public opinion among those people not fortunate enough to be born Chinese. But they certainly scored a pretty impressive own-goal during the BRICS summit in New Delhi last week, efficiently aided by India’s timorous leadership. It isn’t just that the Chinese delegation at the Oberoi ate all the mutton chops at the lunch buffet (true) or that they shut off all traffic around Khan market at lunchtime (also true) — although a power that carelessly antagonises Lutyens’ Delhi lunchers is unwisely overconfident.

It was, of course, what millions of Delhiites saw that will have turned them off China-sympathy: Tibetans being rounded up, made to squat in the sun; the ever-sensitive Delhi Police indulging in the worst sort of racial profiling, demanding that people who look even vaguely Tibetan prove their credentials or be locked up. People of Manipuri descent wondered why they left home without their passports. Those living in dozens of Tibetan-dominated areas were cordoned off from the rest of the city like Palestinians on the West Bank. The Tibetan poet, Tenzin Tsundue, was bundled offstage by the cops after an academic discussion at the India Habitat Centre, and sent to Tihar. more

From India, a view of what China works to block

Sruthi Gottipati and Rick Gladstone from New Delhi in NYT:

Over the past year, nearly 30 Tibetans in remote areas of western China have set fire to themselves to draw attention to what they call Chinese government repression, but the visual images of their protests have seldom been seen by outsiders. Censorship authorities in China, which regards the immolation as a form of terrorism, have made sure of it.

On Monday, however, a 26-year-old Tibetan exile in New Delhi offered the world a visceral view of a self-immolation, setting himself on fire at a demonstration to protest the impending visit to India by China’s president, Hu Jintao. Photographs of the man, a literal human torch in flames who sprinted for 50 yards with contorted screams before he collapsed by a tree, raced around the world by way of India’s unfettered press and the Internet.

“From head to toe, he was full of fire,” said a witness, Tenzin Dorjee, the national director of Students for a Free Tibet. “He was shouting. I was in shock. There were women crying.”More:

Tibetan exiles rally around Delhi self-immolator

Edward Wong from Dharamsala in NYT:

By Tuesday afternoon, posters of the man in flames were plastered along the narrow streets of this town adopted by Tibetan exiles. Monks, merchants and tourists stared. In the early evening, more than 200 people walked through the town center waving Tibetan flags and carrying banners that proclaimed the critically injured man, Jamphel Yeshi, a martyr.

The shocking images of Mr. Yeshi’s self-immolation in New Delhi on Monday have provided the Tibetan exile movement with a rallying point and an iconic expression of the anger and frustration that Tibetans suffer over Chinese rule. At least 29 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in Tibetan areas of China since March 2011, and many have died. But Chinese security forces have clamped down across the plateau, so only a handful of the self-immolations have been recorded and transmitted, and only in grainy cellphone photographs or video. More:

Young and vulnerable

A new UNICEF report presents a hard-hitting view of the condition of poor children in urban India, writes T.J. Rajalakshmi in Frontline. 

COMPARISONS between and studies of living conditions in rural and urban India are aplenty, though disaggregated data on the specific deprivations confronting populations in urban centres are not all that easy to find. This results in disproportionate allocation of resources to urban settlements. One of the consequences of the lack of disaggregated information and uneven advances, often because of a serious lapse and lack of interest on the part of policymakers, is that children in informal settlements and impoverished neighbourhoods in urban areas are excluded from essential services and social protection. This is one of the crucial revelations in the State of the World’s Children 2012 report of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) titled “Children in an Urban World”. The findings of the report seem to suggest that there is a universality in the living and other conditions of the working poor. The focus of the report is somewhat skewed towards detailing the conditions of children of the urban poor in the developing world without identifying the systemic reasons for them. more

One Tibetan woman’s tragic self-immolation

Tsering Kyi had witnessed the erosion of her family’s way of life and the repression of her fellow students’ protests. This month she doused herself in five litres of petrol and set herself alight. In The Guardian, Jason Burke tells her story.

As a young girl, Tsering Kyi’s favourite days of the year were the eve of her village’s annual move to their summer pastures and the eve of their return. The lives of the 30 nomadic households of Tethok, in China‘s Gansu province, followed the rhythm of the seasons. In the spring they would load their household on to yaks and ride up into the high valleys and hills where their herds would find grass and the children would play with frogs in the lakes and streams. As the winter approached, they would return to lower grazing.

A day before they moved all the heavy items would be packed and sent ahead. The women and children would remain behind, sleeping under the stars, to follow the next day. This was Kyi’s favourite time. more

Sri Lanka: A child is summarily executed

In The Independent:

The short clip dates from the final hours of the bloody 26-year civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the secessionist rebels of the Tamil Tigers, the LTTE.

A 12-year-old boy lies on the ground. He is stripped to the waist and has five neat bullet holes in his chest. His name is Balachandran Prabakaran and he is the son of the LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran. He has been executed in cold blood. Beside him lie the bodies of five men, believed to be his bodyguards. There are strips of cloth on the ground indicating that they were tied and blindfolded before they were shot – further evidence suggesting that the Sri Lankan government forces had a systematic policy of executing many surrendering or captured LTTE fighters and leading figures, even if they were children.

The footage – dating from 18 May 2009 and which seems to have been shot as a grotesque “trophy video” by Sri Lankan forces – will be broadcast for the first time on Wednesday night in a Channel 4 film, Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished – a sequel to the controversial investigation broadcast last year which accused both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government of war crimes and crimes against humanity. More:

Channel 4: Sri Lanka’s killing fields

Norwegian wood

Is it a cultural disconnect, plain racism or something more sinister that lies behind the bizarre Norway kids’ case, asks Namita Bhandare in Hindustan Times.

Has there been anything more outrageous, cruel and insensitive than the Norway kids case? Dark as a Scandinavian winter, this unbelievable story shows no sign of ending soon.

On February 15, three weeks after the ministry of external affairs reached an understanding with the Norwegian government for custody of the minor Indian children, currently in separate foster homes, to be handed over to their paternal uncle, the ministry summoned Norway’s ambassador to India to express its concern about the delay in handing over the children.

In Norway, the parents this past week had an hour-long supervised visit with their children. The uncle, a Kolkata-based dentist is already in Norway, staying in a hotel, meeting with welfare officials and psychologists, presumably to ensure that he’ll be a fit guardian. He has been warned by Child Protection Services (CPS) to not make any contact with the parents. more

A blot on our conscience

The story of an abused and battered two-year-old baby Falak battling for life has gripped the imagination of a nation. But Falak’s story reveals a sordid, widespread malaise of human trafficking. That we choose to ignore it says something about our priorities as a nation, writes Namita Bhandare in Hindustan Times

For close to a month, a two-year-old baby girl called Falak has gripped the imagination of a nation. Brought in with a fractured skull, bite marks and bruises, she has undergone four surgeries, and is on and off the ventilator. Who knows how her story will end? Will she have permanent brain damage? Will she end up institutionalized? Will she live? For now, it’s just a struggle to make it through another day.

Falak was brought to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences by a 14-year-old child entrusted with the baby’s care. Sold into a brothel where she got into a ‘relationship’ with a married man, that girl is now in a juvenile home. There’s a third woman in this tale: Falak’s biological mother, 22-year-old Munni, who was sold by her first husband through an agent to a man in Rajasthan.

It’s hard to say which of the three, the child, the carer or the mother, have suffered the most but there is one common strand: the home ministry says this is a case of human trafficking, a euphemism for what columnist Nicholas Kristoff more bluntly calls the ‘21st century slave trade’.  more

Taliban cut nursing woman’s breast, asked others to eat pieces

Iftikhar Firdous in The Express Tribune:

Peshawar: Kashmala Bibi* says her cousin’s breasts were cut into pieces when five militants walked into their house and saw the woman breastfeeding her child. One of the insurgents then asked the other women around to eat the pieces.

This is one of the many tales of horror recorded in a report titled “Impact of crisis on women and girls in Fata”.

The report, released by human rights organisation “Khwendo Kor” (Sisters’ Home in Pashto) with financial support from UN-women, is based on case studies of women from the tribal belt living in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s IDP camps.

Women in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) are more susceptible to violence and abuse in a post-conflict scenario, whether or not they are part of the conflict, it says.

Another stark revelation made in the report is that women in camps were forced to have sexual intercourse in exchange for food and non-food items. Girls and widows were at greater risk.

The surveys from Nahqai and Jalozai camps further show that women were uncomfortable going to restrooms because there was little privacy as men constantly lurked around.

“A security officer forced me to have sex in exchange for cooking oil and pulses when I was collecting food at the main entrance of the camp,” a 22-year-old woman Nighat* from the Jalozai Camp is quoted as telling the discussion group. More:

Lesson from Mumbra

Samar Halarnkar in Hindustan Times:

On June 15, 2004, the school and the suburb awoke to the depressing news that Ishrat Jahan Shamim Raza, 19, a pretty, round-faced alumna of the school was one of four people dead in a shootout with the police across the state line in Ahmedabad. The bodies of Ishrat and three men, two of them supposedly Pakistanis, were laid out for the media beside the alleged getaway car, a Blue Indica. AK-47s lay by their side. Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) DG Vanzara, head of the 21-man police squad, said Jahan and her associates were operatives of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, and they were planning to assassinate Narendra Modi, Gujarat’s chief minister.

In the seven years since, much of that story collapsed.

In 2009, an Ahmedabad Metropolitan magistrate ruled the “encounter” a staged, extra-judicial killing. When the Gujarat government appealed against the verdict, the Gujarat High Court set up a special investigation team (SIT), which on Monday — after four chiefs, detailed ballistic examinations (including one that showed the officer who supposedly shot the “terrorists” never once fired his weapon) and interrogation of the police officers involved — agreed there was never a shootout. As for Vanzara, feted once as a hero, he was arrested in the extra-judicial killing of a suspect in another case. He is presently in jail.

Mumbra was seething and sorrowful when Ishrat’s body came home. She was, after all, a local role model. The eldest daughter of a lower-middle-class migrant family from Bihar, Ishrat studied science at Mumbai’s Guru Nanak Khalsa College. Her father dead, she ran tuition classes and undertook embroidery jobs in Mumbra to supplement the family income. When the SIT verdict came this week, Ishrat’s family and Mumbra rejoiced, saying they knew all along she was never a terrorist.

Was Ishrat, then, an innocent teen shot by brazen officers in search of reward and promotion? More:

A burning issue

Another Tibetan monk, the eight in recent times, sets himself ablaze to demand independence from China, reports Edward Wong in New York Times

BEIJING — A 19-year-old former monk in a Tibetan town in westernChina set himself on fire on Saturday in a desperate plea for Tibetan independence, according to reports on Sunday by Tibet advocacy groups. The flames were put out by police officers stationed on the street, and he was taken to a police station, the reports said.

The former monk, Norbu Damdrul, was the eighth monk or former monk to set himself on fire to protest Chinasince March. All the self-immolations have taken place in Tibetan areas of Sichuan Province that lie in the remote region Tibetans call Amdo. At least four Tibetans have killed themselves in the wave of self-immolations, which scholars of modern Tibet say are a new and startling protest strategy by monks. more

Kashmir’s mass graves

For years, people whispered about the thousands of disappeared young men in Kashmir. But only now are the bones finally speaking. Basharat Peer in Foreign Policy:

Srinagar: On a pleasant September morning, Mohammad Sidiq, a sand-digger in his early 30s, pushes his long wooden boat out onto the River Jhelum, which cuts through the heart of Srinagar, the biggest city in the disputed, Indian-controlled province of Kashmir. As the sun rises over the blue-gray pines and bleached snows of the Himalayas circling the city, Sidiq paddles out with his partner, using long-handled shovels and corkscrews to draw sand from the riverbed. It’s slow, hard work, but a day’s labor nets a boat full of sand, which sells for $50. While describing the modest economy of his work, Sidiq speaks of his relationship to the Jhelum, a wide green river that flows quietly through the Kashmir Valley, across the disputed, mountainous border, known as the Line of Control, and into Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. “No man can bear what this river has witnessed,” he says, staring across water.

Sidiq has been working on the river for 12 years now. Every week or two, as he hoists a shovel full of sand from the riverbed, he finds himself staring at a skull, a broken skeleton, or a shattered femur. “Most of the dead were young men. You could see their shiny teeth; you could tell from the skull, he was very, very young. One day I found a young man…. He had been badly tortured. Both his hands and feet had been chopped off,” says Sidiq as he sits beneath the majestic maple trees lining the riverbank.

A fellow sand-digger in his early 40s, Naseer Ahmed, found a skull in March. “It was a small skull. It would have been a 16- or 17-year-old boy. The other day, it was a thigh with flesh still on it,” Ahmed said. “It is a haunted river.” More:

Previously in AW: The dead begin to speak, by Arundhati Roy

Children who sell themselves

Sonia Faleiro, author of Beautiful Thing, in IHT writes about children offering themselves directly to traffickers because ‘they could no longer go hungry’.

While investigating child labor in India last month for a book, I found myself in the northeastern state of Bihar, an established source of children for trafficking networks.

Here, alongside the expected stories of abduction, I heard of another unexpected and heartbreaking path to servitude. Children as young as 10 had begun to directly offer themselves to traffickers because they could no longer go hungry.

I met 14-year-old Arun Kumar, who told me of his experience.

Kumar lives with his uncle and two younger siblings in Amni village, a day’s journey by bus from Patna, the Bihar state capital. more

Man of God or agent of war?

A mysterious death in a Raipur hospital reveals routine cross-border raids in Andhra Pradesh by Chattisgarh police, writes Aman Sethi in The Hindu

They lock the door when a post-mortem is under way, but the smell of death seeps through the exhaust vents of the mortuary at the Medical College Hospital in Raipur. Outside the morgue, a pack of dogs sniffed the air experimentally; inside, the corpse of Gangraj, a middle-aged Adivasi man lay in body bag in a refrigerated chamber.

On August 24 this year, Chhattisgarh’s local press reported that Gangraj, Maoist arms supplier, had died in a hospital in Raipur. It was reported, he procured weapons for the guerrilla army of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and was a key accused in the April 6, 2010 ambush in which the rebels killed 76 troopers of the CRPF in a few hours.But, who was Gangraj? Where was he arrested? How did he die? more

Kashmir’s half-widows

In Guernica, Mallika Kaur on Kashmir’s ‘half-widows’, women whose husbands have disappeared and never heard from again, and the impact of these disappearances on families.

On the International Day of the Disappeared, which was observed on August 30, the International Committee of the Red Cross has noted that “[t]he tremendous impact that disappearances have on the daily lives and long-term prospects of the families, and indeed of entire communities, is still largely overlooked.” Overlooked also is how such apathy towards the “disappeared” in fact fuels the type of insecurity that continues to threaten sustainable peace. Kashmir’s “half widows” are a case in point.

Bilquees Begum* repeatedly asks whether my tea is too sweet. She smiles and adds how her husband Ahmed told her that city people liked their tea tasteless. But her smile disappears as she opens a brown suitcase, which the family keeps under lock and key. Inside are all the legal papers that Bilquees cannot read, but knows by heart. more

‘Where is the body, the remains? I want to know. I want to see’

Muzamil Jaleel in The Indian Express:

The report by the J&K State Human Rights Commission establishing the presence of unmarked graves in Kashmir holding 2,156 unidentified bodies has given a glimmer of hope to hundreds who have been grieving for their spouses, siblings, children and friends who have gone missing over the past two decades, without any news.

As their wait for a closure, one way or the other, may now be just a DNA test away, here are stories of some of them:

A knock on the door one cold night

It has been nine years but Bilquees Manzoor hasn’t forgotten that knock on the door of their house at Rawalpora on the cold night of January 18. “When we opened the door, we found soldiers waiting outside,” says the 26-year-old. “They pushed us aside and started searching the house. When they finally left, they took my father along.” Manzoor Ahmad Dar had returned from his chemist shop just hours before. Bilquees says she and her family tried to resist but were pushed aside. Then only 17, she began searching for her father, starting from the Army camp where the raiding party of soldiers was stationed. “He (Major Malhotra) told us that he has been picked up for questioning and would be released soon,” she says. Bilquees says it was Major Malhotra who led the soldiers who picked up her father.

Some time later, a probe was initiated into the custodial disappearance of Dar. On the basis of the inquiry, the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Srinagar, directed the Sadar Police Station to register a case against Major Malhotra and his men of 35 Rashtriya Rifles. But when they still got no news of Dar, the family approached the J&K High Court. On its directions, the DGP constituted a special team to investigate the case. The police sent several written communications to the Army and asked them to produce Major Malhotra and other accused soldiers before the inquiry officer. However, police say, there was no response from the Army. The accused Army officer was meanwhile shifted to Assam and promoted as Colonel with the Assam Regiment. More:

Death of an activist

Shehla Masood, an Anna Hazare activist and a crusader for RTI was shot dead in broad daylight in Bhopal.

In a broad day light murder, an RTI activist and a strong supporter of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement, Shehla Masood was shot dead around 11.30 am on Tuesday.

Unidentified assailant shot her dead from point blank range while she was leaving in her car to attend a demonstration in support of Anna Hazare.

About 35 years old, Shehla was still sitting in the driver’s seat when she was attacked, however, no one heard any gun shot. When the car didn’t move for a while, the family members came out only to find that she had collapsed on one side with blood oozing out from her chest. more

Her father Sultan Masood says that as a lower middle class person he is powerless to have an effective probe and does not expect justice for his daughter’s death.

Bhopal: Sultan Masood, the father of slain RTI activist Shehla Masood, said on Thursday that he did not expect justice for his daughter, because as a lower middle class person, he was powerless to have an effective proble.

He also alleged that in January this year, Shehla had filed a complaint with the Lokayukta that she feared threat to life from IPS police officer Pawan Shrivastava.

The way the police were handling the probe created suspicion about their sincerity, he said. more

Just an hour before she was killed, Shehla Masood was on twitter.!/shehlamasood, Her last tweet, ironically and tragically, was on events in the Lok Sabha. ‘Adjourned’ she said. An hour later, her own life was cut short.

Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields

About Jon Snow’s Channel 4 documentary, Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields, in The Guardian: Much of the footage, which documented the summary executions, rape, torture and bombing – all apparently sanctioned by the Sri Lankan government – of tens of thousands of Tamils in the last days of the civil war after the UN pulled out of the country in September 2008, was shocking. Soldiers filmed laughing on mobile phones while they shot bound prisoners in the back of the head. Civilian women lying dead on the ground, having been raped and mutilated by the government troops to whom they had tried to surrender. Hospitals being targeted.

At Channel 4: Documenting the final weeks of the bloody civil war when an estimated 40,000 people died, the Channel 4 documentary Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields reveals shocking new evidence of serious war crimes. The film includes footage of government soldiers executing bound prisoners; the dead bodies of naked, abused women dumped in a truck; and the bombing of civilian hospitals.

Watch at Channel 4

And here’s the link to the report of the UN Secretary General’s panel of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka.

Dying to tell the story

Umar Cheema, investigative reporter at The News International, Pakistan’s largest English-language daily, in The New York Times:

On Sept. 4, I was driven to an abandoned house instead of a police station, where I was stripped naked and tortured with a whip and a wooden rod. While a man flogged me, I asked what crime had brought me this punishment. Another man told me: “Your reporting has upset the government.” It was not a crime, and therefore I did not apologize.

Instead, I kept praying, “Oh God, why am I being punished?” The answer came from the ringleader: “If you can’t avoid rape, enjoy it.” He would employ abusive language whenever he addressed me.

“Have you ever been tortured before?” he asked.

“No,” I said.

“These marks will stay with you forever, offering you a reminder never to defy the authorities,” he replied.

They tortured me for 25 minutes, shaved my head, eyebrows and moustache and then filmed and photographed my naked body. I was dumped nearly 100 miles outside Islamabad with a warning not to speak up or face the consequences.

The following months were dreadful. I suffered from a sleep disorder. I would wake up fearing that someone was beating my back. I wouldn’t go jogging, afraid that somebody would pick me up again and I’d never return. Self-imposed house arrest is the life I live today; I don’t go outside unless I have serious business. I have been chased a number of times after the incident. Now my son asks me questions about my attackers that I don’t answer. I don’t want to sow the seeds of hatred in his heart. More:


Who killed Pakistani journalist?

A well-known Pakistani journalist who recently wrote an article about al-Qaeda infiltration in Pakistan’s Navy has been found dead. Saleem Shahzad was abducted over the weekend in an upscale neighborhood in Islamabad. His body was found in a canal in Mandi Baha Uddin in Pakistan’s northern Gujarat district.

After his disappearance, the Human Rights Watch alleged that Shahzad had been picked up by the ISI and that the intelligence agency had threatened him last year as well when he had reported on the quiet release of Mullah Baradar, an aide to Mullah Omar, who had been captured by Pakistan earlier. More in Dawn and in The News.

Click here to read his article in Asia Times Online: Al-Qaeda had warned of Pakistan strike

Is the ISI involved? In Time: While the ISI was said to have bristled at previous reports by Shahzad, his disappearance happened two days after he wrote a story for Asia Times Online that said that al-Qaeda had attacked a naval base in the port city of Karachi on May 22 after talks had broken down between the Pakistan navy and the global terrorist organization.

The hawks of South Asia: in Foreign Policy