Archive for the ‘India’ Category
The people of Bangladesh have launched mass protests. Many have been held to demand the death sentence for the Islamists convicted of war crimes during the 1971 War of National Liberation.
The Pakistani army tried to crush the Bangla people with a cruelty that resembled the Nazis’ on the Eastern Front,
“…… we were told to kill the hindus and Kafirs (non-believer in God). One day in June, we cordoned a village and were ordered to kill the Kafirs in that area. We found all the village women reciting from the Holy Quran, and the men holding special congregational prayers seeking God’s mercy. But they were unlucky. Our commanding officer ordered us not to waste any time.”
Confession of a Pakistani Soldier. Bangladeshi Genocide Archive.
Official estimates say more than three million people were killed in the 1971 war.
Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Bangladesh in protest over sentences handed out in relation to alleged war crimes during the 1971 war of independence.
It took decades for a tribunal to be set up to look at the atrocities committed at that time, and the first verdicts came this year, including the conviction of a senior leader of Bangladesh’s biggest Islamic party.
A former leader from Jamaat-e-Islami was sentenced to death in absentia. Another leader, Abdul Kader Mullah, was given a life sentence last week.
Some protesters feel the sentences have been too lenient, or that the process has been flawed.
Meanwhile, supporters of Jamaat-e-Islami held separate protests calling for Mullah’s release.
Some in Bangladesh say that public protests could put unnecessary pressure on judges presiding over the tribunal.
Nick Cohen, comments,
“Do I hear you say that Bangladesh is far away and the genocide was long ago?
Not so far away. Not so long ago. And the agonies of Bangladeshi liberals are nothing in comparison to the contradictions of their British counterparts.
The conflict between the Shahbag and Jamaat has already reached London. On 9 February, local supporters of the uprising demonstrated in Altab Ali Park, a rare patch of green space off the Whitechapel Road in London’s East End. They were met by Jamaatis. “They attacked our men with stones,” one of the protest’s organisers told me. “There were old people and women and children there, but they still attacked us.”
The redoubtable organiser is undeterred. She and her fellow activists are going back to the park tomorrow for another demonstration. Her friends are worried, however. They asked me not to name her after unknown assailants murdered Ahmed Rajib Haider Shuvo, one of the leaders of the Dhaka rallies, on Friday.”
Cohen continues, that the Jamaat is not challenged in the East End, indeed it is accepted as part of the Establihsment.,
The scoundrel left led the way down this murky alley, as it leads the way into so many dark places. Ken Livingstone and George Galloway have backed the Jamaat-dominated East London mosque, and Islamic Forum Europe, the Jamaat front organisation that now controls local politics in Tower Hamlets.
The Jamaat still have a fight on their hands, as,
The British-Asian feminist Gita Sahgal launched the Centre for Secular Space last week to combat such indulgence of theocratic obscurantism. She told me that Jamaat perverts traditional faith and she should know. Not only did she name alleged Jamaat war criminals living in Britain for Channel 4 in the 1990s, she is also Jawaharlal Nehru’s great niece and a distant relative of the Indira Gandhi who sent the army into Bangladesh. I admire Sahgal and Quilliam hugely, but they are mistrusted, even hated by orthodox leftwingers. The feeling is reciprocated in spades and perhaps you can see why.
Now what Cohen calls the “scoundrel left” is very quiet about their relations with the Jamaat genociders at the moment.
But a taste of what they think of Bangladesh can be got from Bob Pitt and his ‘Islamophbia Watch’
This is how Islamophobia Watch greeted in 2010 the decision in Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League to restore the secular state.
Under the heading “Bangladesh set to become again a secular state”, left-wing blogger Andrew Coates has enthusiastically hailed what he claims is a decision by the government of Bangladesh to restore the secular foundations of the country’s constitution.
He bases his post on reports that the Supreme Court in Dhaka has upheld a ruling that the government can reverse amendments made to the constitution in the period following the military coup of 1975. Coates approvingly quotes law minister Shafique Ahmed as saying: “In the light of the verdict, the secular constitution of 1972 already stands to have been revived. Now we don’t have any bar to return to the four state principles of democracy, nationalism, secularism and socialism as had been heralded in the 1972 statute of the state.
It is the same government that then set up the War Crimes Tribunal.
We wonder what Pitt and his friends think of the Jamaat thugs attacking Bangladeshis protesting at the genocide in London.
Joseph Anton. A Memoir. Salman Rushdie. Jonathan Cape. 2012.
In early September demonstrations against the video The Innocence of Muslims, took place across the world. Wednesday the 19th of the month saw the French leftist satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo published, to more protests, caricatures of Mohammed.
Two days later, Tahar Ben Jelloun argued, in Le Monde (21.9.12) against any concessions to Islamist inspired rage. He began by asking why Islam seemed so fragile that fiction, cartoons, or a bad film, His answer was the some Moslem countries encouraged this reaction to stave off creating states based on individual rights. Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses was the template for this strategy. It been used by the Iranian regime to quash any criticism of Islam, and to cement an “appartence absolue à la communité” (absolute adhesion to the community). Jelloun had no time for the provocations of Charlie. Yet he recommended ignoring them, and turning to the transcendental spirit of Islam.
Tareq Oubrou, the Rector of the Bordeaux Mosque, wrote on the same Le Monde Débats page, even more clearly against those who wished to suppress ‘blasphemy’. “La liberté de conscience et d’expression est un aquis occidental incontesté et incontenstable. Une avancée et un progrès philosophical-moral réels de notre humanité.” – Freedom of speech and conscience are established, unchallenged, and indisputable facts in the West. This is a step forward and real moral and philosophical progress for humanity”. Oubrou did not just repeat the standard argument (even sued by some Islamists, in the absence of a state ruled by the Sharia) that Muslims should submit to French law. All criticism of writing and art should be within their own terms, “La critique d’art se fait par l’art, la philosophie par la philosophie, and les idées par les idées.”
On the publication of Salman Rushdie’s Joseph Anton, at the end that Month Le Monde put the author on the front page followed by a long, respectful, article/interview. It dealt with Rushdie’s criticisms of “Actually Existing Islam” as well as the Satanic Verses and the Khomeini Fatwa that has marked his life.
The present work does not neglect this political-religious theme, “During the worst excesses of Soviet Communism…Western Marxists had tried to distance ‘actually existing Socialism’ from the True Faith, Karl Marx’s vision of equality and justice.” Now, with Communism’s faults there for all to see, “it was no longer possible to believe in a True Faith untainted by the crimes of the real world.” Yet, “as Islamic states forged new tyrannies, and justified many horrors in the name of God, a similar separation was being made by Muslims; so there was the ‘actually existing Islam’ of the bloody theocracies and there was the True Faith of peace and love.” (Page 356) The crisis is profound, and cannot be wished away by this appeal, Rushdie says, “something was eating away at the faith of his grandfather, corroding or corrupting it, making it an ideology of narrowness and intolerance, banning books, persecuting thinkers, erecting absolutions, turning dogma with which to beat the undogmatic. That thing needed to be fought and to fight it one had to name it and the only name that fitted was Islam.”(Pages 356-7) Read the rest of this entry »
Shahzeb Jillani has produced a programme on the Bangladeshi war of national liberation.
Boundaries of Blood was broadcast last night (Here).
He describes how nine months turmoil in ‘East Pakistan’ Bangladeshi “separatists” (fighters for national liberation), India intervened. The war then lasted 13 days.
Jillani, who was born in Sind, Pakistan, summarises this, “The defeat of the Pakistani army on 16 December 1971 was a triumph for India and the Bengali insurgents it had assisted.”
Although the programme was sensitive and throughly researched it is unlikely to appeal to all Bangladeshis or supporters of their great war of national liberation.
The atrocities committed by the Pak army were reported, but ‘balanced’ by reference to attacks on supporters of Pakistan. The scale of the genocide was left undecided - over 2, 3 million deaths? or less?
It was left uncertain.
This perhaps summarises some of what took place (here):
“…… we were told to kill the hindus and Kafirs (non-believers in God). One day in June, we cordoned a village and were ordered to kill the Kafirs in that area. We found all the village women reciting from the Holy Quran, and the men holding special congregational prayers seeking God’s mercy. But they were unlucky. Our commanding officer ordered us not to waste any time.”
Assisting the Army were Bangladeshi Islamists, such as supporters of the Jamaat-e-Islami, a brother party of the Pakistani Party of the same name.
They continue to have a strong domestic base, with support in the UK. Here they enjoy a role in ‘community leadership’ in the East End of London.
It is to the Pakistan’s great honour that a man like Lt Col Abdul Qadir Baloch can criticise the army’s actions during this war.
But sadly there is little evidence that this honesty is widespread. Some of the interviewees on the programme spoke of the reports of killings and other atrocities as “propaganda”.
In Pakistan Jillani reports,
One might expect that the Pakistani army’s failure in 1971 would have diminished its power in the country. But in my lifetime, its influence in shaping and running the country has grown exponentially.
In Pakistan: A Hard Country by Anatol Lieven (2011) one can detect absolutely no Pakistani remorse for the army’s mass murders. No apologies for its racism – that the regarded the Bangladeshi people as inferior, tainted by Hindi culture, and, clearly disposable.
The Pakistani willful denial of their role in the war’s slaughter some in Britain claim that all this was “long ago” and no longer relevant. A few even suggest that Bangleshis who bring this up are playing politics.
The Book That Still Upsets.
Taslima Nasrin has been under a cloud since 1994 (more here). In exile from Bangladesh for her secularism. For writing such as Shame (Lajja) – which criticised religion, and particularly political Islam. The cause of her reaction? Bloodshed. Those who were not followers of the Prophet were driven out of the country. Not just in the period of the partition of the sub-Continent. But in waves afterwards. In her own land the far-right parties of God continued to terrorise slaughter non-Muslims. In particular pogrom drives, “In the Hindu eviction drive, village after village was burned to the ashes” A Hindu was “a two-legged animal which had become a foreigner in his own land” Threatened, “You will be cut to pieces to be given to the cows as fodder.”
Brave Nasrin would not remain silent. She wrote. She fight. For “the disease of religious fundamentalism is not restricted to Bangladesh and..must be fought at every turn.”
Pogroms – Jamaat and other Islamist inspired – remain a threat.
Nasrin was and is not afraid to attack the failure of Bangladeshi left parties to defend Hindus. “Which party could be trusted after even eminent Communist Party leaders didn’t feel secure with their Hindu names?” Ignored by British press she remains in serious risk of attack by Islamists. Under sentence of death.
Yesterday Le Monde (here) gave a full page to Nasrin’s plight.
” Taslima Nasreen, 48 ans, est ne apatride trimbalant sa valise de pays en pays, de villes en villes, séjours fugaces en des havres provisoires.”
“She has no nation, who carries her suitcase from country to country, from city to city, hidden stays in fleeting havens.”
At present in India her refusal to stop criticising religion means her present home is increasingly provisional.
Since Nasrim criticised the burka. She suggested women take this “symbol of oppression ” off and burn it. As a result she has been again the target of a violent Islamist campaign. Last March two people were killed in demonstrations in Karnataka demanding her death. the Indian left accuses her of fomenting hatred against an already oppressed religious minority. She replies that she also attacks hard-line Hinduism. To no effect.
It looks probable that her stay – even under such restrictions she is barely free at all – in India will not last. They are already talking about a new exile, a new search for refuge. (More here).
It is hardly surprising that Nasrin’s case has not been loudly heard in Britain. By the ruling religiously inspired Establishment or by more liberal multiculturalists and much of the left. Lippy Bangladeshi atheists - a woman to boot – do not fit into the narrative of oppressed Islam. Nor any possible consensus about the role of faith in finding ”social justice’. She must be ‘nutty’. She is a pain. No doubt an ‘Islamophobe’. Better keep quiet about her. Just watch.
By contrast it is the duty of every revolutionary to stand shoulder to shoulder with Nasrin.
John Keane and Tendance Coatesy’s Bed-Time Reading.
John Keane’s The Life and Death of Democracy (2009) is a thick tome. I did not expect the theorist (here) of ‘civil society’ as the site of social progress to be sympathetic reading. But, in contrast to many of the books I’ve been looking at when writing recently I thought it would be stimulating, interesting, and well-argued (add usual adjectives for someone you don’t really agree with). Besides I’ve a soft spot for anyone who annoys the Iranian theocrats.
I have not finished it yet.
But so far I have been throughly annoyed. A good thing one might think. But in this instance I think not.
To begin with Keane spends a good deal of his time sharing his knowledge of philology with us. This runs through many pages. That is, for example, he has discovered that Democracy in ancient Greek is a feminine noun. That we should try to imagine a world in which this word is surrounded bya cluster of other substantives which are also feminine. How hard! That it implies a female personification for a form of government. Er, like la République, and la Démocratie, not to mention Marianne. And (hey) la Recrue (Recruit – a word in French which is feminine regardless of the sexual gender of the person).
Not content with this erudition Keane explores the origins of the element, demos. Apparently it goes back to Minoean Greek, and the famous Linear B. It meant something slightly different to do with people’s relation to the land. Strike me pink! English ‘Folk’ no doubt goes back some time too. Perhaps he could help us out here (he probably does, I have already got to the point where he labours over the origin of the word Thing in Old English and Common Germanic). Anyway, amongst other gems Keane notes that the Greek Hubris is (he claims) an import from Hittite, huwap (Page 63). I wonder really if this is true – Hittite, dead without any descendants. Pretty hard stuff. Keane also opines that there was an ancient Sumerian word which is “semantically” related to demos. ‘Semantically‘ mother is related to all the languages of the world, but one suspects he implies rather more than this kind of relation.
Tendance Coatesy has a strong bond, (stronger than semantics) with Sumerian culture. We consider that the Fall of Ur was a great disaster (Lament here). Things have gone down-hill ever since. Sumerian civilisation had the great advantage of being: 1) The founding one for writing. 2) Its speech was neither Indo-European, Semitic, African, Turkic, Asiatic or indeed with any known cognate language. 3) No-one can therefore claim it as ‘theirs’ .
Apparently Keane differs. He uses 20th Century discoveries about Sumer (written up in any text on the subject – believe me I have read plenty of them), that they ruled with some kind of City assembly. Uses? Yes, to wage war against Marx. Citing Marx’s famous article, British Rule in India (June 10th 1853 – New York Daily Tribune), he says the following, “Had Marx the opportunity to learn Sumerian..”
Thus Marxy got the whole notion of Oriental Despotism wrong. That government in hydraulic societies (as Wittfogel called them), were based on three departments: Finance, War and Public Works. That – going back to what Marx wrote – village life, was isolated in these societies, that custom ruled them while the government ruled above. Marx did not mention if such states had, or had not, assemblies, though he said they dominated said settlements despotically, warred, and taxed without their consent. Now the newspaper article uses pretty sweeping generalisations, cites Mesopotamia (where Sumer civilisation flourished) in passing, and is concentrated in India. Where he criticises British rule (main target) and criticises (in a patronising way) Indian traditional life. No references to Sumer as such in fact.
But then, unlike Keane and Tendance Coatesy Marx could not and had not read Sumerian. That is, before cuneiform was deciphered.
I suspect the theory of Oriental Despotism and the concept of the Asiatic Mode of Production have greater weaknesses than that, but no doubt Keane has struck a blow. Like his claim that Marx disliked Democracy because (sic) George Grote (a banker) wrote a paean of praise to Athenian Democracy this makes one wonder about slipping academic standards and ego inflation in the faculties.