Forbesganj-Case: Politicians’ Secular Image At Stake

June 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, TMO

NEW DELHI: While the Forbesganj incident is proving to be a major embarrassment for Bihar government’s “secular” image, it has made the state’s opposition parties extra-conscious about their “secular” image. Taking the lead are Congress leaders in Bihar. Four Muslims were killed from police firing at Forbesganj in Araria district on June 3. A “clash” between the police and locals also caused injuries to several people, including some policemen. Demanding a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)-probe into the incident, Bihar Congress leader Mehboob Ali Qaiser has blamed the state’s deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi for the incident. Qaiser alleged that during his visit to Forbesganj on May 29, Modi had apparently pressurized the administration to settle a local dispute over a link road that passed through plot of land allotted to an upcoming starch factory. The agitated mob was apparently against the upcoming factory blocking the only road to their village, which they have been using for the past 50 years. In protest, they had demolished a part of wall constructed by the management of this starch factory. The director of this industrial unit is the son of local Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashok Kumar Aggarwal.

Qaiser’s implication is that primary purpose of Modi’s Forbesganj-visit was to ensure that local people’s agitation was silenced and the starch factory’s construction was not disturbed. The developments have certainly proved politically more costly than perhaps Modi and his supporters envisaged. The opposition parties are using the opportunity to question the secular and “pro-Muslim” image won by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Television footage of the incident and comments made by certain celebrities are helping the Bihar’s opposition leaders further. There is footage of an officer stomping on body of a person injured in the police officer. Questioning the incident, Bollywood filmmaker and social activist Mahesh Bhatt deliberated at a press conference in Patna: “Will chief minister Nitish Kumar allow Bihar to go the Gujarat way?”

Bhatt has raised a valid point as the manner in which police firing took place in Forbesganj is hardly suggestive of an unruly mob having been targeted. If the intention of police was to disperse people agitating against the “wall,” they could have used tear-gas shells, fired in the air or below the agitators’ knees.  The upper parts of victims’ bodies were hit by 15 of 16 bullets, according to post-mortem report. Prospects of the victims being agitators are ruled out by local reports. Eighteen-year-old Mushtaq Ansari, who ran a betel shop to support family, was going to offer Friday prayers when the police picked him and fired four bullets into his torso. When he fell down, the police kicked him brutally. Infant Naushad, was being carried by his mother, when he was killed by two bullets in his back. Six bullets killed Shazmin Khatoon (27), who was pregnant. Mukhtar Ansari (22) succumbed to four police bullets, three in his head.

It may be recalled that despite BJP and his party (Janata Dal-United) being allies, Nitish Kumar did not allow entry of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi during campaign for Bihar assembly elections. Kumar apparently did not want to lose votes of Muslims in Bihar. Against this backdrop, the Forbesganj-incident has provided opposition parties ample political ammunition to question secular credentials of Kumar’s government.

Led by Congress leaders, Ranjit Ranjan and Lalan Kumar, several party activists observed a day-long fast at Kargil Chowk in Patna (June 12). They also held a demonstration there. “We want a judicial probe or an inquiry by CBI within a stipulated period of six months, besides registration of criminal cases against the local administration and policemen,” Kumar told media persons. Besides, he said: “The state government should also dismiss all the officials and policemen involved in the incident.” In addition, the state government must ensure compensation of ten lakh (one million) rupees to bereaved families of each of the deceased, Ranjan said.

The state Congress leaders want Bihar government to ensure a speedy trial and punishment to guilty policemen and officials responsible for firing. They want registration of a case under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code against the police officials. They have also demanded registration of a case against local BJP leader Ashok Aggarwal and his arrest.  “Congress workers will protest till the state government registers a case and removes Araria police superintendent of police,” Ranjan said.

Though Kumar ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident soon after its occurrence on June 6, he took more than a week to take other steps. He ordered removal of removal of Forbesganj sub-divisional police officer R.K. Sharma for “dereliction” of duty on June 12. He announced compensation of three hundred thousand rupees to family of seven-month-old boy killed in the police firing. He made these announcements before leaving for China. There was no word on compensation for families of three other victims. He stated: “As a judicial inquiry has been put in place, we will go by its findings and recommendations. Let me make it clear that the guilty will not be spared.”

The opposition leaders and activists, however, are not satisfied with this response of Bihar chief minister. Bihar’s main opposition party, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) has decided to conduct a probe into the Forbesganj-case and send its report to National Human Rights Commission, the central government and the Bihar Governor. Strongly criticizing the state government, RJD leader Ramchandra Purve said: “Four innocent poor people were killed by police when they were protesting silently… and it is a barbaric act by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. He is more sensitive and concerned about anything happening outside the state… The RJD will expose his double face over the issue.”

Other opposition parties, including the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and left parties have also demanded stern action against those involved in Forbesganj-case. They have threatened to protest if the state government fails to take necessary action.

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Largest Student Union in Europe Joins Boycott of Israel

June 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By James Haywood and Ashok Kumar

The University of London Union (ULU) has voted 10-1 to institute and campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) in support of Palestine. The motion called for “thorough research into ULU investments and contracts” with companies guilty of “violating Palestinian human rights” as set out by the Palestinian Boycott National Committee (BNC). Ashok Kumar, Senate member for LSE, speaking in favour of the motion, argued, “We have precedents for boycotting campaigns at ULU, especially with South Africa and the boycott campaign over Barclays bank, that supported the Apartheid regime. We are now responding to the Palestinian call for civil action in support of their fight against racism.”

The motion also called on other students’ unions to join in the campaign for Palestinian human rights. ULU is the largest students’ union in Europe with over 120,000 members from colleges across London. ULU senate consists of the presidents of the 20 students unions representing every University of London University. James Haywood, President-elect at Goldsmiths Students’ Union, stated, “We are delighted that this motion has passed, and with such a clear vote as well. We have seen throughout history that boycotts are a crucial nonviolent tactic in achieving freedom, and target institutions, not individuals.”

Sean Rillo Raczka, incoming ULU Vice President, “I’m delighted that ULU has passed this BDS policy on Israel. We stand in solidarity with the oppressed Palestinian people, and as Vice President next year I will ensure that the University of London Union does not give profit to those denying the human rights of the Palestinians”

The text of the motion passed is as follows:

Union notes:

(1) to boycott is to target products, companies and institutions that profit from or are implicated in, the violation of Palestinian rights

(2) to divest is to target corporations complicit in the violation of Palestinian human rights, as enshrined in the Geneva Convention, and ensure that investments or pension funds are not used to finance such companies

(3) to call for sanctions is to ask the global community to recognize Israel’s violations of international law and to act accordingly as they do to other member states of the United Nations

(4) that in 2009 The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa released a report stating that Israel was practising a form of apartheid in the occupied West Bank, (http://www.hsrc.ac.za/Media_Release-378.phtml)

(5) that Israel continues to build a 8 metre high “annexation” wall on Palestinian land inside the post-1967 occupied West Bank, contravening the July 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice (the highest legal body in the world, whose statutes all UN members are party to) and causing the forcible separation of Palestinian communities from one another and the annexation of additional Palestinian land.

(6) that within the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, Israel continues a policy of settlement expansion in direct violation of Article 49, paragraph 6 of the 4th Geneva Convention which declares “an occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into territories it occupies.”

(7) that the Gaza Strip continues to face a suffocating siege from land, sea and air by Israel, and continues to suffer military incursions into the territory by the Israeli army

(8) that Palestinians living in Israel continue to suffer third-class citizenship and are heavily discriminated against from healthcare, education, landownership and in many cases having ‘unrecognized’ villages completely demolished

(9) that there continues to be millions of Palestinian refugees throughout the world who are racially discriminated against by not being allowed to return to their homes in Israel and the Occupied Territories, which is legally recognized under international law, including United Nations resolution 194.

(10) that ULU and the NUS nationally adopted the call for BDS in the 1980s when it was called for by South Africans fighting racism and apartheid

(11) that Ronnie Kasrils, the Jewish South African Minister of Intelligence said “The boycotts and sanctions ultimately helped liberate both blacks and whites in South Africa. Palestinians and Israelis will similarly benefit from this non-violent campaign that Palestinians are calling for.”

(12) that the call for BDS has come from over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations, including student organizations, as well as organizations within Israel and across the global; and that the campaign is founded on the basis of anti-racism and human rights for all

Union Believes:

(1) that unions should work to support the Palestinian people’s human rights and uphold international law

(2) that BDS is an effective tactic, which educates society about these issues, economically pressures companies/institutions to change their practices and politically pressures the global community

(3) that unions have a moral responsibility to heed the call of oppressed peoples, like we did so proudly during the BDS campaign to end South African apartheid

(4) that the BDS movement has united human rights campaigners from different nationalities, races, religions and creeds across the world

Union Resolves:

(1) Institute thorough research into ULU contacts with investments and companies, including subcontractors that may be implicated in violating Palestinian human rights as stated by the BDS movement

(2) Pressure University of London universities and affiliate students’ unions to divest from Israel and from companies directly or indirectly supporting the Israeli occupation and apartheid policies;

(3) Promote students’ union resolutions condemning Israeli violations of international law and human rights and endorsing BDS in any form;

(4) Actively support and work with Palestine solidarity organizations such as the BDS Movement, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, British Committee for Palestinian Universities , Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions

(5) Affiliate ULU to the Palestine BDS National Committee and engage in education campaigns to publicize the injustice of Israel’s discriminatory policies against the Palestinians and its illegal occupation

Contact: James Haywood, President-Elect, Goldsmiths University Students’ Union
http://www.bdsmovement.net/2011/largest-ulu-7064

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