Posts Tagged ‘Muslims’

More than 50 pc Muslim women backward in West Bengal : survey

April 13, 2007

If being born as a girl child is not the bottom-line, as revealed by the nation-wide survey on child abuse, perhaps being born as a Muslim girl in West Bengal is, so points out the National Family Health Survey II.

Be it education, media exposure (watching TV, cinema), health family planning or even in basic decision-making like whether a woman should visit her parents, go to market, or take care of her health, it is the Hindu women, who stalk much higher than their Muslim counterparts.

The National Family Health Survey II has pointed out a glaring gap of more than 50% backwardness among Muslim women, when compared with their Hindu counterparts, in key areas as education and health awareness.

For instance, the survey points out about 56.8 % of Muslim women has no media exposure as against 32.7 % of Hindu women.

Under media exposure, the survey shows that while 6.5% of Muslim women bother to read newspaper as against 17.8% of Hindu women, only 22.3% is interested in watching TV and 30% in listening radio as against 47.2% of Hindu women watching TV and 45% listening radios.

While educational backwardness, illiteracy are reasons of lack of information, TV watching or going to cinema are generally not encouraged because of religious reasons. Principal secretary of Social Welfare department, S.N. Haque, when asked on this said that even till recent times many affluent families would go without TV sets because pictures of women and men and the kind of clothes they wear, being aired, are prohibited in Islam. They are considered “najayez” in our religion.

Islam prefers women being covered up and being properly dressed with minimum exposure of skin. Even men are not allowed to go about in public in anything short of knee-length.

On newspaper reading habit, Haque said that since literacy rate of Muslim women is 20% less than that of Hindu women, reading newspaper is yet to catch up. Even very few Muslim homes keep daily newspaper. Men are in the habit of reading newspapers from local tea-stalls or stationery shop. “It is considered as an unnecessary expenses,” said Mr Haque.

What is worse, GK about anything, for example AIDS, is disastrously low. While only 10.3% of Muslim women have heard about AIDS, 31.2% of Hindu women are aware and updated on AIDS. Again while 47.8% of Hindu women is clueless about avoiding AIDS, nearly double the number of Muslim women (73.8%) is unaware how AIDS could be avoided. The state government has sampled a number causes behind educational backwardness: economic constraints, lack of school facilities in the locality, prejudice regarding education of women.

In health sector, knowledge about immunization, medication is poor among Muslim women. While there are cases of 24.5% fully immunized Muslim infants, the percentage is more than double (52.0%) in case of Hindu infants. Again, Muslim children, receiving one dose of Vitamin A, account to only 27.5% against 50.5% Hindu children, who are administered the dose.

In fact, while 80% of child deliveries among Muslims is not attended by doctors or trained health workers, only 40% of deliveries in Hindu families happens without supervision of any trained-on hands.

While cases of reproductive health problems, mal-nourishment are higher among Muslim women, the percentage of Muslim women suffering from anemia is much less, because consumption of red-meat among them is quite high.

Incidentally, though only 37.6% of Muslim women use modern contraceptive methods as against 50.2% Hindu women, the Muslim women are more open to discussing family planning with their husbands than their Hindu counterparts. Nearly 20.3% women can freely talk with their husband on family planning, whereas Hindu women would rather discus it with mother, sister, friends, neighbours and even daughters.

1. Reads newspaper at least once a week
Muslim–6.5%    Hindu—17.8%

2. Not exposed to media
Muslim–56.8%….Hindu—32.7

3. Percentage involved in decision making on own health care

Muslim–42%—Hindu—46%
4.Access to money

Muslim–42.5% …Hindu–54.0%

5. Knowledge about AIDS

Muslims–10.3%….Hindus–31.2%

Romita Datta, Hindustan Times  Kolkata, April 12, 2007

http://www.nfhsindia.org/westbeng.html

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Justice Rare for Victims of Minority Persecution in India

April 3, 2007

NEW DELHI, INDIA — For the first time an all-India picture has emerged of anti-Christian violence from a people’s tribunal.

Victims of Christian persecution from across India shared their horrific stories and highlighted the denial of justice to them before an independent people’s jury.

According to International Christian Concern (ICC), the depositions were part of « The Independent People’s Tribunal against the Rise of Fascist Forces in India and the Attack on the Secular State, » a three-day program which concluded here on March 22.

In its report, ICC said the independent jury was organized by non-profit organizations Anhad and Human Rights Law Network, and supported and attended by a plethora of rights groups, including Christian organizations, like the All India Christian Council (AICC) and the Christian Legal Association.

Of the 100 victims who submitted their statements, about 40 were Christian. The rest were mainly were from Gujarat state, which witnessed a wide-scale killing of members of the Muslim minority community in 2002.

Impunity of perpetrators of gang-rape

« I was gang-raped by my fellow tribal villagers, including the brother and father of the local legislator in January 2004, and I named everyone in my police complaint, but no one has been arrested till today, » lamented Taramani, a school teacher from Madhya Pradesh state’s Jhabua district.

Taramani’s village, Alirajpur, was one of the worst affected villages during the spate of anti-Christian violence that followed the infamous January 11 incident, in which a young girl was found dead in the compound of a Catholic school in Jhabua district. Hindu fundamentalist Hindu Jagran Manch (Forum for Revival of Hindus) blamed the murder on the church, and instigated a series of attacks on Christian individuals and their institutions. This was despite the fact that a non-Christian admitted to the crime.

« A crowd of about 250 people first launched an attack on my house and set it on fire and then some of them took me to a jungle and outraged my modesty, » said, Taramani, a widow.

With tears in her eyes, she added that when she returned she found the house completely gutted. “Even the police initially refused to register my complaint which they did only later and reluctantly.

« All that I have received from the government is Rs.30,000 ($700 USD), but no arrests. The perpetrators still tell me that nothing will happen to them, as they are very powerful, » she said.

Attackers remain at large

Another victim, Shobha Onkar, also from Alirajpur, could not help crying as she narrated how she was attacked by a mob in the aftermath of the January 11 incident. « About 300 people surrounded our house in the presence of the local police inspector and started breaking in. I thought I should open the door before they vandalized my house, but when they entered into the house, one of them hit me with a stick on my head. I started bleeding profusely, » she said.

« My son ran to the police and bent on his knees to plead them to rescue me, saying, ’They will kill my mother,’ but they did not budge, » she added.

Onkar also said that relatives of the local legislator belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were among the crowd.

Onkar’s house was badly damaged and completely looted. « The government gave me only Rs.6,000 ($140 USD) as compensation. And justice, which matters the most, was denied, as the perpetrators were not brought to justice, » she added.

There were also victims from the states of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir.

Lessons for the church

Dr. John Dayal, secretary general of the AICC who was one of the jury members, told ICC, « From the Christian perspective, the hearings were memorable and important. Christians of all denominations, and both men and women, came forward to depose for the first time in a major way. In my experience this is also the first time that an all-India picture has emerged of anti-Christian violence from a people’s tribunal. »

The all-India pattern of violence has lessons for everyone, and particularly for the church whether it is Catholic, Protestant or Evangelical, he said, adding that urgent steps needed to be taken. « Clergy and church workers have to be trained in human rights and basic law. »

Another memorable witness, said Dayal, was the compilation by the Rev. Madhu Chandra of AICC to prove the massive activity of Hindu extremists in the north-eastern Hindu majority states of Manipur and Assam.

« For me, the most heartening testimonies were of women — Muslim and Christian. »

Madhya Pradesh a daylight church

He also said it was obvious that « Hindutva pressure » was working. « The church in Madhya Pradesh is fast becoming a ’daylight church’ with mission activity in the evening and after sun down — which is how outreach programs can work in forest villages when people return home after sunset — has stopped. Only in full daylight can some work be done. And yet, the church hierarchy seems not too worried. »

In other areas, church activity is now confined to tribals alone, who constitute just a third of the population even in the so-called tribal belt of central India, he said. « This has serious ramifications. »

Dayal thanked the civil society, including « well-meaning Hindu Activists, » for their « unstinted support » to the Christian community.

No help from the State

Based on the statements of the victims and presentations by human rights activists, the tribunal noted that « demonization of minorities, both Muslims and Christians, and their consequent marginalization and physical attacks have been noticed all over the country, particularly in the states where the BJP is in power, like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Gujarat. »

In these cases, the victims have failed to get any help from the State. The role of the police is particularly dubious, as in most cases, the victims were not even able to file an FIR (first information report). It is often noticed that the victims are turned into perpetrators of crime. As a result, there is a sense of helplessness that the minorities feel.”

Rights activists also deplored the role of the media, mainly local newspapers in vernacular languages, in inciting anti-minority violence.

The tribunal was an initiative of Shabnam Hashmi of Anhad and attorney Colin Gonsalves of the Human Rights Law Network.

By Michael Ireland, Journal Cheiritan  , Sunday, 01 April 2007

Muslims in the Indian army, only 2% ?

March 6, 2007

Muslims in Army : Hiding what`s well-known 

The reason for the Muslim under-representation in the Indian army, or the Sikh over-representation, is something that lies partly in history, and its public disclosure would harm nobody.

There’s something surreal about India’s debate on Muslim under-representation in the Indian army. If the defence minister says the army has done no head-count of its Muslims, how did the army give an exact Muslim figure of 29,093 last month? The figure is backed by a retired lieutenant-general who says the Muslims are 2 per cent.

Whatever the exact percentage, a huge Muslim under-representation in our army is a fact. So is a huge Sikh over-representation. See the contrast. Sikhs form 1.86 per cent of India’s population but number around 8 per cent in the Indian army. Muslims form 13 per cent of India’s population but are 2 per cent in the army. Why should this truth about Muslim under-representation be suppressed? Or that of Sikh over-representation? But an irrational love of secrecy causes Indian rulers to hide information whose public disclosure would harm nobody.

Just as Muslims are under-represented in the army, so are the Bengalis, Biharis, Oriyas, south Indians or Gujaratis. And just as Sikhs are over-represented, so are the Jats, Dogras, Garhwalis, Kumaonis, Gurkhas, Marathas, Pathans and Punjabis.

The reason for this disparity lies in history. The Indian army’s recruitment pattern was set 150 years ago by India’s 1857 uprising. Traumatised by the rebellion, the British army adopted a recruitment policy that punished the groups which rebelled and rewarded the ones that stayed loyal. Because Muslims of Awadh, Bihar and West Bengal led the uprising, the British army stopped hiring soldiers from these areas.

Also blacklisted from these places were high-caste Hindus whose regiments in Bengal had also mutinied. In contrast, the British raised the recruitment of castes that had stood by the British to put down the uprising. These castes were the Sikhs, the Jats, Dogras, Garhwalis, Kumaonis, Gurkhas, Marathas, Pathans, plus Punjabis, both Hindus and Muslims. Honoured as martial races, they received preferential treatment in army recruitment for the next 90 years. Like any institution, the Indian army’s a prisoner of the past.

Even today, it favours enlisting men from the martial races. Their over-representation in the Indian army is huge. Figures bear this out. Of 2.87 lakh jawans hired by the army in the last three years, a disproportionate 44,471 came from three “martial” states, Punjab, Haryana, and the mountain state of Uttaranchal. So these states which account for 5 per cent of India’s population provided 15 per cent of India’s army jawans.

In contrast, the fewest recruits came from “non-martial” West Bengal, Bihar and Gujarat. These three states account for 30 per cent of India’s population, but they provided only 14 per cent of army jawans in this three-year period. So the Indian army has not only a religion-based disparity in recruitment, but also one based on caste and region. A glimpse of this discrimination was provided by a press release issued by a defence office in Jammu five years ago. Seeking recruits for the Indian army, the press release said: “No vacancies for Muslims and tradesmen.” Meaning that martial Dogras were welcome to apply, but not Hindu business castes like the Baniyas and the Khatris.

About the Muslim under-representation in the Indian army, the reasons are three. One was Partition. Before Independence, Muslims were around 25 per cent of the Indian army and 25 per cent of undivided India. But when India broke up and Muslim soldiers were asked to choose between India and Pakistan, they joined Pakistan en masse. So Muslim numbers in the Indian army dropped so drastically that they were only 2 per cent in 1953, according to India’s then minister of state for defence. Jawaharlal Nehru himself expressed concern that “hardly any Muslims” were left in the army. And Muslim numbers never really picked up in the last 60 years for a well-known reason.

India’s military establishment hesitates to hire Muslims as soldiers because it suspects Muslim loyalty to India. This discrimination is a natural outcome of India and Pakistan’s bitter hostility over 60 years. In similar situations, the same thing happens all over the world. The Israeli army doesn’t trust its Arab soldiers in jobs related to defence security. The Buddhist Sinhalese army under-recruits its Hindu Tamils lest their sympathies lie with the Tamil Tigers. After 9/11, US army recruiters would probably screen a Muslim American volunteer more thoroughly than a Christian American. Thanks to our four wars with Pakistan, the same anti-Muslim animus works here in army recruitment.

Proof of it lies in an enormous mass of documentary and other evidence which expresses distrust of Muslims. Otherwise, why does India have separate regiments for the Sikhs, Jats, Dogras, Garhwalis, Kumaonis, Mahars, the Nagas, even the Gurkhas, but not a single Muslim regiment? This is tragic but it’s a truth which shouldn’t be suppressed. It should be acknowledged and dealt with.

Events have consequences. Muslim under-recruitment in the Indian army is a consequence of Partition. India and Pakistan’s hostility is seen in both countries in Hindu versus Muslim terms. So it’s natural for India’s Hindu army establishment to distrust a Muslim who wants to join as a soldier.

This prejudice itself discourages qualified Muslim youths from applying, which drives down Muslim numbers even more. Another reason for Muslim under-recruitment is the relatively poor education of Muslims. When they try to enlist as soldiers, they are simply out-competed by better-educated Sikh, Hindu, and Christian youths. So Muslim leaders are quite right that Muslim under-recruitment in the army deprives the community of a good, life-long source of employment. It’s a sad situation not so easy to correct.

In life, however, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. The under-representation of Muslims and other caste or regional groups benefits the over-represented ones. The composition of the Indian army is totally askew numbers-wise. West Bengal’s population is eight times that of Uttaranchal. But Uttaranchal provided almost the same number of army recruits as West Bengal last year. Compare a “martial” Punjab with a non-martial Gujarat. Punjab’s population is half that of Gujarat. But it provided four times as many people to the Indian army as Gujarat. The Indian army hired far more recruits in Rajasthan than in Tamil Nadu though Tamil Nadu’s population is higher. Essentially, the Indian army is dominated numbers-wise by Sikhs and Hindi-speaking Hindus of north India. The current status quo suits them perfectly.

Arvind Kala / New Delhi March 04, 2006, Business Standard

www.business-standard.com

Armed forces are not a Holy Cow

March 1, 2007

Armed forces are not a Holy Cow

It is extremely unfortunate that the government has dropped the move to collate data on the status of Muslims in the armed forces. This follows an uproar over the steps taken by the Prime Minister’s High-Level Committee — PMHC — on the social economic and educational status of the Muslim community headed by Justice Rajinder Sachar to approach the defence forces for such data.

The Bharatiya Janata Party sought the President’s intervention in his capacity as the Supreme Commander of the armed forces to stop this ‘misguided’ survey. Former army officers held dharnas against the ‘divisive’ move, which they believe, would weaken a robustly secular institution. And former defence minister George Fernandes termed the PMHC’s work a ‘seditious act’ aimed at ‘communalising’ the armed forces!

After this, much of the media simply renamed the PMHC the Sachar Committee. The Congress defensively pleaded that its survey would be ‘purely a data-gathering and fact-finding exercise.’ The Prime Minister’s Office quickly distanced itself from the committee. Chief of Army Staff General J J Singh said: ‘It is not the army’s philosophy to disseminate or maintain (community-wise) information’; ‘we are not concerned with the faith or language’ of the people employed or ‘where they come from.’ And the defence ministry, which had sought the relevant data from the armed services, assured them it won’t forward it to the PMHC.

In the heat of emotion, it was all but forgotten that in our Parliamentary system, the President is not the court of last resort. He is the defence services’ Supreme Commander in a figurative sense. He does not possess the executive authority to start or stop a survey. Since then, former Deputy Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General R S Kadyan has approached the Supreme Court to ask that the survey be stayed. He argues the survey would help to ‘sow the seed of communalism in the defence forces.’

Numerous arguments were advanced by opponents of the move. These old that the very conduct of the survey would tarnish the armed forces’ image as a professional force; that words like caste, creed, religion and reservation are unheard of in regimental messes; that the army is one of the few reliably secular institutions in India, which is fully trusted by the religious minorities — unlike the police or paramilitary forces; it has an enviable record of protecting the lives of the minorities in communally charged situations.

Some of these arguments are undoubtedly valid. For instance, no one can seriously question the army’s secular credentials and its impartial role in protecting the life and property of the minorities when called upon to do so. The Indian Army represents a remarkable achievement. It is one of the few apolitical militaries in the Third World to function fully under civilian control.

And yet, the anti-survey arguments miss one essential paradox: namely, that the army does not fully reflect the rich diversity and plurality of Indian society. It suffers from under-representation of certain ethnic, religious and social groups, and from over-representation of some others, most notably the so-called “martial races” favoured under the colonial system of recruitment, including Sikhs, Gorkhas, Dogras, Jats, Rajputs, etc.

We are an apolitical and secular force: Army chief

Among the under-represented groups are people from the Northeast, Dalits, OBCs, and Muslims. We know from a note sent on January 9 by the army to the defence ministry that in 2004 it had only 29,093 Muslims among a total of 1.1 million personnel — a ratio of 2.6 percent, which compares poorly with the Muslims’ 13 percent share in the Indian population. Similarly, there have been complaints of under-representation from Dalit and Adivasi leaders and smaller linguistic groups.

To demand that their recruitment be increased is not to advance an anti-national, communal or divisive agenda, but to ask for diversity and balance. None other than then defence minister Jagjivan Ram raised the demand for greater Dalit recruitment in 1971.

Indeed, Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s greatest prime minister, who cannot even be remotely accused of a communal bias, noted in 1953 that ‘in our Defence Services, there are hardly any Muslims left. What concerns me most is that there is no effort being made to improve this situation, which is likely to grow worse unless checked.’ This concern was reiterated by Mahavir Tyagi, then minister of state for defence, who disclosed that ‘the percentage of Muslims in the armed forces, which was 32 percent at the time of Partition has come down to two. I have instructed that due regard should be paid to their recruitment.’

The PMHC was not being wayward in asking for information about the recruitment and status of Muslims in the army. It’s vital to collect ‘authentic information about the social, economic and educational status’ of Muslims in different government departments. Without such a data bank, we won’t know whether there is under-representation of different groups, what its extent is, and what its causes might be. Collating such information is also the best way of countering prejudices about ‘minority appeasement’.>

True, such information is relevant not just for Muslims; it is necessary for other groups too. But the PMHC’s brief pertains to Muslims. It was perfectly legitimate for it to solicit information about Muslims. This is in keeping with the National Common Minimum Programme of the UPA, which promised to promote the welfare of socially and economically backward sections among religious and linguistic minorities.

The issue of Muslim under-representation in the defence forces must be situated in context. As MIT-based scholar Omar Khalidi argues in his Khaki and the Ethnic Violence in India (Three Essays, New Delhi, 2003), the army embraced the discredited colonial ‘martial races’ theory which favoured certain ‘Fixed Classes’ like Gorkhas, Sikhs, Dogras and Rajputs in recruitment. Muslims were excluded from these, except for groups such as the Qaimkhani community of Rajasthan and UP, and units like the Grenadiers, Armoured Corps, Bombay Engineers Group and the J&K Light Infantry. It Is only in 1984, after the ‘revolt’ by some soldiers of the Sikh Regiment following Operation Bluestar, that the army adopted a better mix in what’s called the ‘All-India Class.’

Yet, the proportion of Muslims in the army remains under 3 percent. In the case of officers, this may be explained by educational backwardness among Muslims. But this cannot explain the community’s low representation among Other Ranks. We need to know whether this is because of a reluctance of Muslims to join the army, skewed distribution of recruitment, or because of unacknowledged barriers to entry, including prejudices.

General Kadyan’s petition is wrong to allege that if such information is collated, ‘it will create very illogical and unnecessary data which might create… in the mind of the minority communities… a feeling of their being less in number in the defence forces… giving them cause for… fear of the majority community.’ This presumption is fundamentally mistaken. There’s nothing ‘illogical’ about documenting the status of different communities in national institutions. The United States army, for instance, regularly compiles publicly available data on Muslims, Blacks, and other ethnic groups.

More generally, the armed forces cannot be an exception to the concept of citizenship in a multi-ethnic society. Nor can they demand to be shielded from scrutiny just because they perform a role in India’s defence. All citizens have a valid role to play in our national life. Real security derives not just from military defence, but other things including human security, justice, social cohesion and human rights. The armed forces are not a Holy Cow.

A data bank on the ethnic-religious composition of all our public institutions is a precondition for measures to promote the welfare of citizens, including affirmative action in favour of the underprivileged and under-recruited. It goes without saying that this should not take the form of quotas and job reservations. But that’s not an argument against diversifying recruitment or promoting equality of opportunity. There’s no reason why the government cannot unilaterally announce that it will endeavour to recruit more and more under-represented groups without embracing a quota system. A caring-and-sharing society must have adequate room for such measures.

Two other points are in order. In many countries, promotion of inclusive multi-cultural policies and diversity became possible only when they abandoned ostrich-like attitudes and confronted reality. For instance, the British police began an internal evaluation after the race riots of the early 1980s. An extensive survey was undertaken of the ethnic composition of the force and prevalence of race and ethnicity-related biases. This prepared the ground for diversity sensitisation programmes, retraining, and positive discrimination.

Second, there is disturbing evidence that certain Indian security and intelligence-related agencies simply don’t recruit Muslims. These include the Research & Analysis Wing, Intelligence Bureau and National Security Guard. This is totally unacceptable and unworthy of a plural society that aspires to a degree of equity. Even the CIA would be embarrassed if it were to exclude African-Americans. The PMHC should thoroughly probe such institutions. Exclusion, and attitudes that rationalise it in the name of ‘security’, are the surest recipe for alienation of our own citizens. We cannot afford this if we want a minimally decent and self-confident India.

Praful Bidwai, February 27, 2006, Rediff.COM

11,000 acres of Muslim Waqaf land alienated to MNCs

February 17, 2007

Over 1,500 acres alienated by APIIC in Manikonda wakf property: Owaisi

HYDERABAD: Majlis floor leader in the Assembly, Akbaruddin Owaisi, alleged that more than 11,000 acres of wakf lands had been alienated to multinational companies and leading software firms in and around the city.

Participating in the debate on the motion of thanks to the Governor on Wednesday, he said Microsoft, Wipro, Electronic City, Gem and Jewellery Park and the Indian School of Business (ISB) had come up on wakf land.

He said 1,600 acres alienated by the Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Corporation in Manikonda was wakf property, which has been confirmed by the district administration. These lands were worth over Rs. 20,000 crores. Mr. Owaisi demanded the lease deed with these firms be rewritten in favour of the board.

He sought 10 per cent quota for Muslims in the companies and educational institutions built on wakf land.

Faulting `narrow’ flyovers in the city, he said they would create more traffic snarls. Introduction of bus rapid transit system was the only solution to solve the traffic problems instead of MTRS. He thanked the Government for the old city’s special package.

Mr. Owaisi said the Governor’s address had ignored the five per cent reservation for Muslims and wanted the Government to initiate steps to overcome legal hurdles in its implementation.

The Hindu , 15 Feb, 2007

Nearly 70,000 killed in 17-year Kashmir insurgency: rights group

December 10, 2006

SRINAGAR, India: Nearly 70,000 people have died in the 17-year conflict in India’s portion of Kashmir, a local human rights group said Friday, a figure markedly higher than the latest police count.

The Jammu-Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society came up with the death toll after reviewing news reports and conducting door-to-door surveys in every district in Kashmir, Khurram Pervez, the head of the group, told The Associated Press. Most of dead were civilians.

Pervez said his group’s survey of news reports alone shows about 50,000 people have died, but he added, “We don’t subscribe to this figure as newspaper reports are mostly based on police handouts. Neither do we accept the government figure of 41,000.”

The latest police estimate said 19,987 rebels, 16,253 civilians and 4,982 security forces’ personnel were killed between January 1990 to November 2006.

However, Kashmir’s inspector-general of police, S.M. Sahai, acknowledged that many deaths went unreported in the early years of the violence.

“The initial years (of Kashmir insurgency) were chaotic … and hundreds of incidents went unreported,” Sahai said.

The All Parties Hurriyat Conference, the main separatist political alliance in the state, says more than 100,000 people have been killed in the nearly two decades of violence. A combination of police and human rights figures compiled by AP have previously put the death toll at 68,000.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, but both claim it in its entirety. The two nuclear-armed neighbors have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since independence from Britain in 1947.

More than a dozen Islamic groups in Kashmir have been fighting for independence or a merger with predominantly Muslim Pakistan since December 1989.

International human rights groups have accused both the rebels and the Indian army of abuses in Kashmir. India says Pakistan arms and supports the Islamic insurgents, but Pakistan says it only gives the rebels diplomatic and moral support.

The Associated Press  IHT , December 8, 2006

Chennai visitors no longer entitled to visa-on-arrival programme in Malaysia

December 9, 2006

PUTRAJAYA: Visitors from Chennai, India, are no longer eligible for the visa-on-arrival (VOA) when they land in Malaysia.

They now have to obtain their visas in their own country before entering Malaysia, said Home Affairs Ministers Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad. The ruling took effect from Nov 29.

The VOA, introduced for 24 countries requiring a visa to enter Malaysia was enforced on Sept 1, and available with a RM100 fee at immigration counters. It is valid for a month.

It was introduced to draw an expected 21 million people during the Visit Malaysia Year 2007 period. Among the countries are China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Up to Nov 6, over 14,500 visitors had applied for the VOA, of which more than 10,000 were from India.

The others were from China (1,634), Sri Lanka (980), Bangladesh (862) and Pakistan (796).

Records showed that 2,789 Indian tourists had overstayed, followed by 355 from China.

Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad said the Cabinet decided last week that the VOA would no longer be issued to those from Chennai as too many of them had over stayed.

“Due to many of them remaining in the country after the visa expired, I submitted a Cabinet paper to put a stop to it. The Cabinet agreed.

“I do not know how long the VOA freeze will be on those from Chennai but the number of overstaying tourists will be monitored from time to time,” he told reporters after launch ing the Biometrics Security System and the ministry’s Immigration Identity Card, cre ated by Multimedia Glory Sdn Bhd, here Friday.

Under the biometrics system the fingerprints of foreign workers are recorded to ensure they are legal workers right from the time they leave their country of origin.

It takes about 0.5 seconds to read the fingerprints, which, he said, was faster than the American system, which took about 40 seconds.

Workers from Bangladesh have been using the system for a year and it has been found to be successful in detecting many illegal workers, he said, adding that it will soon be introduced to workers from other source countries.

“There are about 1.9 million foreign workers in the country with illegal workers numbering between 500,000 and 700,000,” said Radzi.

He plans to have the system at the National Registration Department to enable all min istries and agencies to retrieve data of all Malaysians from one single platform.

On the Immigration Identity Card, he said, it had high security features and that students, workers from various sectors and those regarding Malaysia their second home would be issued with separate cards dif ferentiated by colours.

Workers who renewed their permits next year will be issued with the new cards while issuance of new cards for others will start with university students first, who numbered about 40,000, he said.

Friday December 8, 2006, The Star , Malaysia

NRIs sent $20 billion from Arabian Gulf Countries

November 14, 2006

* India recieved $23 billion remittance during 2005-06 from NRIS
* Non Gulf NRIs contributed only $ 3 billion
* A whopping amount of $ 20 billion was from Arabian Gulf
* Kerala recieved  the huge portion
* FDIS from GCC exceeded $ 2 billion this year
* India calls for more Arab investment

Nov 13, 2006,

New Delhi, Nov 13 (IANS) India Monday reiterated its solidarity with the Arab world, home to over a four million strong Indian diaspora, and called for converting longstanding historical and civilizational ties into a vibrant economic partnership.

‘We should use attitudinal ties between people to enhance trade linkages between India and the Arab world. Oil-exporting countries of the Arab world, in particular, should increase investment in India,’ Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said in his inaugural address at an international conference at the Vigyan Bhavan convention centre on promoting India-Arab economic relations.

The two-day conference, which is being attended by ministers, diplomats, academics, business and opinion leaders from India and Arab countries, has been organised by the Indo-Arab Economic Cooperation Forum and the Institute of Objective Studies.

Underlining India’s centuries old multi-faceted ties with the Arab world, Chidambaram spoke about geographical proximity, long-standing cultural and trading ties and ‘unbroken relation of cordiality’ between the two sides.

He, however, rued that the foreign investment from Arab countries in India are much below potential. Even rich Arab countries are not investing in India enough, he said.

To further accelerate bilateral trade and investment, the minister said that India will be signing bilateral investment protection agreement with more Arab countries and discussions are already going on for negotiating a free trade area (FTA) between the two sides.

Calling Indian workers in the Gulf countries ‘an investment of human capital in the Arab world,’ Chidambaram said remittances from Indians working in these countries worked out to a whopping $20 billion. In the first quarter of this year alone, remittances have exceeded $6 billion, he said.

Bilateral trade between India and the Arab world has been growing steadily and will scale new heights in the future, he said. FDI from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries has exceeded $2 billion this year.

Besides the continuing cooperation in energy sector, the Arab countries supply nearly 30 per cent of India’s crude oil needs, IT, infrastructure, biotechnology, nanotechnolgy, and financial services are key future areas of bilateral cooperation between India and the Arab world.

Anwar Ibrahim, former deputy prime minister of Malaysia, lauded the rise of India on the global stage and praised the strong fundamentals of India’s economy as exhibited in its high economic growth and its increasing attractiveness as a hub of investment for the world.

Alluding to Indian Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen’s concept of ‘development is freedom,’ Ibrahim, who was the guest speaker, said that the Arab countries should take a ‘closer look’ at India and called for balancing economic growth with a more humane social order.

‘In India and the Arab world, we have to maximise the opportunities that globalisation is creating to ensure that there is inclusive and all-round growth in our regions,’ said Mohammad Manzoor Alam, president of Indo-Aran Economic Cooperation Forum.

India received the highest inbound remittance estimated at $23 billion in 2005-06, while China received $21 billion. In 2004-05, China received $20 billion and India received $18 billion.

Interestingly, India received the highest inbound remittances with only 22 million non-resident Indians, while there are about 40 million Chinese residing outside China. Western Union managing director (South Asia) Anil Kapur said this was primarily due to the social and family structure in India.

Interestingly, India received the highest inbound remittances with only 22 million non-resident Indians, while there are about 40 million Chinese residing outside China. Kapur said this was primarily due to the social and family structure in India.

“The number of Indians going abroad is increasing every year and the money coming into the country in the form of remittances is also swelling,” MoneyGram International country manager Harsh Lambah said, adding the industry is all set to witness further growth. As per an estimate, about half a million Indians migrate annually.

Kapur also said this industry needs to be more organised as it would directly add to the foreign exchange kitty. Remittances are high in all the southern states, apart from a few in the north like Punjab.

Reservation in India : a Southern record

May 6, 2006

South India has an enviable history of reservation in education

THE controversy over the proposed Bill to introduce reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBC) in educational institutions has been characterised by a number of arguments against the proposal. Broadly, they have been that “reservation militates against merit and excellence” and that it harms “the interests of other communities, especially the economically weaker sections among the upper castes”. There is also the fervent contention that the system of reservations does not actually help the weaker sections among the OBCs and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (S.C. and S.T.) since the benefits are cornered by the affluent among them. The sum total of the arguments is that reservations in institutions of higher, professional education such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) would be nothing short of a sociological disaster.

Ironically, this line of reasoning has been most vehemently advanced from regions that have no real or concrete exposure to reservation in the education sector. This includes the majority of North Indian States. In contrast, in the four South Indian States as well as in Maharashtra and Gujarat, which have had varying degrees of experience in this regard, the opposition is marginal or absolutely nil. The overwhelming opinion among people in these States, and even in “excellence-pursuing” academic circles, supports the principle and practice of reservation. More important, the system seems to have got so embedded in the education sector in almost all these States that the reaction is notably balanced.

All these States have had to go through periods of turbulence on this question before acquiring the balance. Social activists and vast sections of the academia in these States, therefore, refute the arguments put forward to oppose reservation. A quick appraisal conducted by Frontline correspondents in these States, in the wake of the recent controversy, reiterated this.

The concept of reservation in education for historically oppressed sections of society took roots in South India over a century ago, along with the freedom movement. That a number of initiatives associated with the freedom struggle in this region had their lineage in the social reform movement against caste discrimination. According to B.R.P. Bhaskar, a veteran journalist and social analyst, this social reform lineage is a significant factor that differentiates between regions and societies that understand and support the concept of reservation for social justice and oppose it.

This concept was first advanced by Tamil Nadu, where the social and political assertion of OBCs and other deprived sections led to the creation of the powerful Dravidian movement. Reservation in education and public service began in the Madras Presidency (much of it is now in Tamil Nadu) as early as 1831. The British Raj initiated this in response to petitions from various public groups. Over the next few decades the provisions of reservation were progressively redefined and modified, correcting anomalies and rationalising affirmative action.

The process continued after Independence too and successive governments under the leadership of Dravidian parties such as the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) introduced “rationalising” classifications like “economic scale” and Most Backward Castes (MBCs). The sum total of these measures was that reservation in the educational institutions in Tamil Nadu rose to 69 per cent, a figure commensurate with the total population of S.C.s, S.T.s, OBCs and MBCs in the State.

Tamil Nadu had 69 per cent reservation even before the Mandal Commission recommendations, promoting 27 per cent reservation for OBCs, were introduced at the national level. In this context, the Supreme Court came up with a stipulation seeking to limit reservation in educational institutions to 50 per cent. This order was a result of efforts by a number of anti-reservation organisations and individuals trying to bring down the reservation quota in Tamil Nadu. But the cumulative initiatives taken by various governments led by the Dravidian parties successfully resisted these counter-moves. The net result of all this is that since 1994, Tamil Nadu’s 69 per cent reservation has the sanction of being part of the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution and hence is beyond judicial scrutiny. Equally important, the reservation system has the near-total support of the entire political spectrum of the State, barring a few fundamentalist Hindutva organisations.

The Tamil Nadu experience is reflected in the quota system in Karnataka and Kerala. Both these States had initiated reservations in the education sector for OBCs in the late 19th century or early 20th century, with periodic revisions and modifications. Reservation in education was initiated by the princely states of Travancore, Kochi and Mysore under the British Raj with widespread popular support. The tradition, naturally, helped imbibe schemes such as Mandal Commission recommendations as positive measures to advance social justice. According to Professor Ravivarma Kumar, former Chairman of the Karnataka State Commission for Backward Classes (KSCBC), “children in Karnataka are taught from the very beginning that reservation is very much part of the social justice system, so they learn to live with it”.

In Andhra Pradesh as also in Maharashtra and Gujarat, the process started relatively late. In Andhra Pradesh, it was initiated in the 1970s while in Gujarat and Maharashtra, the schemes were formalised in the 1980s and 1990s.

At present, Karnataka has 50 per cent reservation – 32 per cent for OBCs and 18 per cent for S.C.s and S.T.s – in all institutes of higher learning. According to Ravivarma Kumar, from 1992 to 2002, over 25,000 OBC students were able to gain admission to professional colleges in Karnataka thanks to this. Kerala has approximately 50 per cent reservation for its OBC, S.C. and S.T. populations, while Andhra Pradesh has 49.5 per cent reservation.

A number of “well-known experiences” over the past few decades in these States challenge the contentions against reservation. The life and career of former Karnataka Chief Minister and Congress leader M. Veerappa Moily is evidence of how reservation helped a family from a socially marginalised community come up the ladder of society. Moily maintains that but for reservation he would not have come up in life. He recounted to Frontline how, during the first two years of his undergraduate course, he lagged behind and after that became the class topper. “We have to have an inclusive society. The IIMs can’t become islands for the privileged. If this quota system is crude, let educationalists re-engineer and restructure it,” he commented.

Well-known writer and social analyst Professor Kancha Ilaiah, who is a faculty member of the Political Science Department of Osmania University, and T. Devender Goud, former Andhra Pradesh Home Minister and a senior leader of the Telugu Desam Party, support Moily’s views. Prof. Ilaiah said that but for reservation, OBC members would have been living in the medieval age. Goud pointed out: “It is because of reservation people like me could make a mark.” The TDP leader added that in all the four south Indian States, various OBC communities have registered a steady rise in education and social status.

Commenting on the merit versus reservation debate, Dr. M. Anandakrishnan, Chairman, Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS), pointed out that the assumption that reservation per se would lead to an erosion of excellence and quality was based on insufficient evidence. Anandakrishnan, who is a former Vice-Chancellor of Anna University, Chennai, said it was erroneous to argue that those who came under reservation were generally incompetent and could not cope with the level of performance expected in the IITs and the IIMs. He added that the reservation issue had been dealt with as an emotional one and was being unnecessarily politicised. “Reservation existed in many well-known universities in India, including those in Tamil Nadu such as Anna, Bharathidasan and Tiruchi universities and Osmania and Andhra universities in Andhra Pradesh. Yet the quality or prestige of these universities has not been vitiated,” he said.

Anandakrishnan argued that it would be a fallacy to imagine that OBC communities cannot throw up sufficient number of bright students to fill up their quotas in institutions of higher education. He said: “Assuming that 5,000 students were to be admitted to the IITs every year and 27 per cent reservation was made for students belonging to OBCs, it would work out to 1,350 seats for the OBCs. The number of IIT aspirants from the OBC communities is about one lakh. You cannot say that out of this 1,00,000, there will not be 1,350 candidates competent enough to get into the IITs.” The academician also pointed out that there is not much difference in the failure rates between the open category and the reserved category of students. “In fact, my experience as the Vice-Chancellor of Anna University showed that those who come under the reserved category tend to put an extra effort to perform better because they think that this is a rare opportunity for their upward social mobility and economic security,” Anandakrishnan emphasised.

The MIDS Chairman is of the view that the urge to preserve brand-named educational institutions as ivory towers on the argument that their quality would be diluted by reservation is similar to the historical social anomaly that sought to ban temple entry for lower castes on the argument that temples would be desecrated if they were thrown open to them. No temple was desecrated after it was thrown open to them, he remarked.

Professor Anil K. Gupta, Chair Professor of Entrepreneurship, IIM-Ahmedabad, is of the view that the construct of merit in many of the merit versus intellect debates is in terms of proficiency in the English language. “This is an absolutely gratuitous term of reference, which fails to understand real merit,” he said. Gupta added that in the context of this debate, one needs to take into consideration the fact that 60 to 70 per cent of those who win National Innovation Foundation Awards are school dropouts.

Prof. Ilaiah perceived the Merit versus Reservation argument as a kind of conspiracy by certain sections of the upper castes to make institutions such as the IITs and the IIMs the exclusive preserve of the English-knowing social elites. He also pointed out that, at the socio-political level, the South Indian States are credited with democracy that is more functional and economies that are better performing, despite the high level of reservation. “In a way, it is all because of reservation. After all, if the economy does well, whom do you sell your products to? It has to be to Dalits, OBCs and minorities. Only after the blacks were given equal opportunities did the American economy witness a boom. You have to make the deprived sections share power and become partners in progress,” Prof. Illaiah said.

There is also nuanced criticism of some aspects of the system. According to Prof. G.K. Karanth, head of the Bangalore-based Centre for Study of Social Change and Development of the Institute for Social and Economic Change, there is no point in making available higher education without creating the path to get there: “The State governments by insisting that the medium of instruction should be in the mother tongue, confines the students to a local world. Later they are not able to communicate. They might have a degree but no employment.” Karanth is of the view that reservation is benefiting only a few OBCs, especially the urban rich, the urban-educated and second-generation beneficiaries: “With people devising so many ways to earn money, the sense of social deprivation is not proportionate to the economic deprivation. We have been able to deny Public Distribution System benefits to those above the poverty line, but we have not been able to devise a foolproof method to remove creamy layer OBCs from the reservation list.”

Professor Gupta emphasised the need to have compulsory universal primary education if measures such as reservation in institutions of higher education have to go beyond window-dressing. According to Achyut Yagnik, social activist and writer, there are many nomadic tribes, denotified tribes and even religious minorities in Gujarat who have problems in gaining access to even primary education. “There are 20 Muslim communities on the OBC list in Gujarat but they find it difficult to get even certificates from the bureaucracy,” he pointed out.

Dr. P. Radhakrishnan, a Professor at the MIDS, is apprehensive that the relevance of the constitutional provisions on vital public issues such as reservation is in danger because of judicial delays and the tendency of politicians to manipulate constitutional provisions in some way or the other.

In spite of these concerns, the overall social atmosphere in States exposed to reservation is one of support. As B.R.P. Bhaskar points out, a number of historical, social and political factors have contributed to the general support in these States and the frenzied opposition in some other parts of the country.

“The social reform movement and the demands for reservation in these areas, especially in the southern States, had come up along with a general reform movement and the national liberation movement in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. It was a period of democratic aspirations and social churning, and one could see reform movements of all communities helping one another. The leaders of the Brahmin reform movement supported those who advocated reforms among OBCs, and both joined hands to lend a voice of solidarity to those who led a reform movement in the Muslim community,” Bhaskar said. Unfortunately, that climate no longer exists, particularly in those areas where movements against caste discrimination and oppression did not develop along with the general reform movement, he lamented. In fact, he added, at present we do not seem to have the socio-economic conditions to discuss the reservation issue objectively owing to widespread unemployment. He noted: “The competition for jobs is intense and many think that reservation divests their opportunities, little realising the negative impact of historical social subjugation and oppression of the disadvantaged sections and the need to rectify such negative impact.”

Front Line Magazine, Apr. 22 – May 05, 2006

VENKITESH RAMAKRISHNAN, T.S. SUBRAMANIAN, K. VENKATESWARALU,RAVI SHARMA & DIONNE BUNSHA,