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Amend "discriminatory" law, give reservation to Dalit Muslims, Christians: Parties told

By Our Representative
The Minority Coordination Committee (MCC), a Gujarat-based civil rights organization, has come up with a 14-point demands list for inclusion into political parties’ election manifestos for the 2019 polls. To be sent to political parties and their candidates shortly, these demands seek obligatory formation of minority commissions in every state and having a minority department in each state by promulgating law in Parliament.

Why India needs to emulate Oscar Romero as untruth, injustice, divisiveness "gain ground"

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
On October 14, 2018, Pope Francis canonised Archbishop Oscar Romero. In his homily during the ceremony, the Holy Father lauded Romero for leaving "the security of the world, even his own safety, in order to live his life according to the Gospel, close to the poor and to his people, with a heart drawn to Jesus and his brothers and sisters".

How Balasaheb Deoras was made to believe: He was "foolish" to follow Bhagat Singh

By Shamsul Islam*
March 23, 2019 is the 88th anniversary of the martyrdom of three great revolutionaries, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev, who were hanged at Lahore for working to overthrow the British rule in India. The British government like any other colonial power thought that with the physical elimination of these freedom fighters their ideas and dreams of a secular and egalitarian independent India would also dissipate.

Ex-IIT, IIM scholar threatens: Would sit on indefinite hunger strike to "save" Ganga

By Chandra Vikash*
As already reported, a United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues team visited  Haridwar in support and solidarity with 26-year old Sant Atmabodhanand, who hails from Kerala. He is fasting for making River Ganga Aviral (free-flow) and Nirmal (pollution-free).

Skill India? 80% of engineers "not employable", no change in last nine years: Report

Counterview Desk
“The National Employability Report: Engineers”, prepared by a high-profile consultation firm, Aspiring Minds, with offices in India, US, China, The Philippines Dubai, has expressed concern that low employability of engineering students of India “is a stubborn issue that has shown little or no macro improvement over the last seven years.”

Govt of India labour reforms would make unorganized workers "more vulnerable"

By Manohar Chauhan
A senior women's rights leader, Parilata Mohapatra of the Swarozgari Mahila Sangh, Odisha, has expressed concern that though 94% of the domestic workers in the state work in the un-orgainsed sector only 6% work in the organized sector, the Government of India (GoI) decision for coming up with new labour codes, repealing 44 labour laws, would make them even more vulnerable.

Winnability "not important" for Cynthia Stephen, Karnataka civil society candidate

By KP Sasi*
The debates on the forthcoming elections have already started. Activists and people's movements who have been contributing actively without the representations in Parliament have started discussing on strategies. The usual debates are on. All these debates have been repetitions of the debates we have heard for decades. Some will decide to opt out.

If implemented, Supreme Court order would "threaten" conservation, climate, tigers

Counterview Desk
The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), a global coalition of more than 200 organizations dedicated to advancing the forestland and resource rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, and rural women, has said in statement issued from Washington DC that evicting millions of indigenous and local peoples from their forest homes – as ordered by Indian Supreme Court – might prove to be “highly detrimental to conservation in India”.
Pointing out that “conservation organizations and rights groups agree: the decision threatens conservation, climate, and tigers”, RRI, quoting UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, regrets, “This is a phenomenon seen around the world. Indigenous peoples and local communities are treated as squatters when in fact the lands belong to them, and they have protected and stewarded their holdings for generations.”
Text of the RRI statement: The Indian Supreme Court decision in February to remove mil…

Refugees as criminals? US govt report blames Amit Shah for calling Bangladeshis termites

Counterview Desk
The chapter “Freedom of Movement” of the US State Department’s “India 2018 Human Rights Report”, released recently, has criticized BJP chief Amit Shah for terming alleged Bangladeshis who may be in Assam as “termites”, because their names were struck down from the list of National Register of Citizens, under preparation in the state.
Pointing out that four million residents were excluded from Assam’s final draft list, leading to “uncertainty over the status of these individuals, many of whose families had lived in the state for several generations”, the report regrets, the Indian law does not even contain the term “refugee,” treating refugees like Rohingiyas as “any other foreigners.”
“Undocumented physical presence in the country is a criminal offense. Persons without documentation were vulnerable to forced returns and abuse”, the report says.
Text of the Freedom of Movement chapter: The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, a…

A courageous journalist who was committed towards sustained ecological growth

By Sheshu Babu*
Very few journalists stood by peoples'rights and dared to expose atrocities committed by corporates and government. One such fine committed journalist was Darryl D'Monte who inspired younger generation. He passed away on March 16 in a Mumbai hospital.

India's party-based democracy has created a "self-perpetuating" political aristocracy

By Mohan Guruswamy*
With the seventeenth Lok Sabha elections fast approaching, we increasingly hear them described as a Celebration of Democracy! It very well might be, but for who and how still remains to be seen.
This reminds me of a tale from the Mahabharata, when many years after their victory in the great eighteen-day war, King Yudhishtra decides to perform the Ashvamedha yagna at Hastinapur.

Ganga depletion leading to loss of indigenous livelihoods: Fasting saint tells activist

Counterview Desk
In a letter to Ramnath Kovind, President of India, Chandra Vikash, who is convener of the civil rights organization Global Academy for Indigenous (Dalit) Activism (GAIA), Delhi, has expressed the apprehension that crores of indigenous (Dalit) livelihoods would be affected if the Government of India fails to ensure “free-flow” of River Ganga and other rivers, making them “pollution-free”.

Gujarat model? Industrial effluents "invade" borewells, discharge coloured water in farms

By Rajiv Shah
In a major embarrassment for Gujarat model, of the 21 samples taken by officials of the state government's environmental watchdog Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) in two villages of Vadodara district and analyzed by its laboratory in Gandhinagar, the state capital, to find out pollution level in groundwater, 16 were assessed as highly contaminated – these were, in fact, found to be discharging reddish, brownish, reddish, or yellowish water.

Hindutva rulers discussing China to "divert" attention on who handed over Azhar to Pak

By Shamsul Islam*
The present RSS-BJP rulers are using every dirty trick to hide the fact that blood thirsty criminal, perpetrator of the Pulwama massacre, Azhar Masood is roaming free thanks to the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government which was ruling India in 1999.

Fascist danger? 2019 election campaign "might witness" communal and hate speeches

By Sheshu Babu*
As the country is preparing for elections, all politicians are trying to outsmart each other in promises and rhetoric. Amidst of statements of leaders, some are really very disturbing. For instance, Sakshi Maharaj, MP, Lok Sabha said that the upcoming elections will be fought in the name of the country and there will be no elections after that.

Confront gravity of threat to democracy: 73 intellectuals to India's opposition parties

Counterview Desk
As many as 73 intellectuals -- including academics, artistes, social workers and writers -- in an appeal to non-BJP opposition parties regarding 2019 elections have said, since the threat to democracy from Narendra Modi and BJP is real, they should not only "rise above political competition" but also come up with a minimum programme suggesting their firm commitment in democratic institutions and the Constitution.

Gujarat government bravado and "slow death" of agriculture in the state

By SagarRabari*, Persis Ginwalla** 
Why is Gujarat, an otherwise ‘developed’ state, with an agricultural growth rate ostensibly much higher than other states of India, as claimed repeatedly by the Government of Gujarat (GoG), reeling under the anger of farmers? If the GoG’s claims of development are indeed true, then why is the average monthly farm income at a mere Rs 3573? And why is Gujarat at number nine in the country in terms of farmers’ incomes?

Industry in India "barely growing", export growth 0%, whither moral anchors?

Counterview Desk
In a sharp critique of the Modi government, the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A), one of world renowned economist Prof Kaushik Basu, who is Professor of Economics and Carl Marks Professor of International Studies at Cornell University, has told students at the IIM-A’s 54th Annual Convocation on March 16, 2019 that they have a “special responsibility” on their shoulders, “the responsibility to reject narrow sectarianism, uphold scientific thinking, openness to new ideas, and freedom of speech.”

Operation All Out? Ban on Jamaat-e-Islami in J&K part of "ongoing repression": PUDR

Counterview Desk
The People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), a civil liberties and democratic rights organization based in Delhi, believes that there aren’t sufficient grounds for banning Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), insisting, the ban has been instituted as part of the “ongoing repression” in the Kashmir Valley. Seeking revocation of the ban, PUDR says, the ban suggests the “cavalier attitude” of the Government of India, which has “ignored” provisions of law and Supreme Court judgments.
Text of the statement: PUDR draws attention to the illegality behind the decision of the Central Government-ruled Jammu and Kashmir to ban Jamaat-e-Islami of Jammu and Kashmir on February 28, 2019. While attention has been focussed on the escalation and de-escalation of tension between India-Pakistan, the Central Government has intensified repression in the state. The J&K administration has picked up hundreds of persons and booked them under preventive detention laws.…

Scheduled castes got a "raw deal" under Govt of India credit schemes: Economists

By Our Representative
In a detailed presentation before a seminar in Delhi in front of civil rights and Left-wing politicians, two senior economists with the Transdisciplinary Research Cluster on Sustainability Studies (TRCSS), Jawaharlal Nehru University, Dinesh Abrol and Rollins John have said that the Government of India’s (GoI’s) credit schemes meant for the country’s marginalized communities, as also minorities and women, have failed to take off.

Extreme repression, corporate loot, cultural genocide "characterise" India's tribal belt

Counterview Desk
As Lok Sabha polls approach, there is considerable ferment in one section of the population -- India's Adivasis, forming about 8.6 per cent of India's population. Things became particularly critical following the February 14, 2019 Supreme Court order, allegedly seeking to evict lakhs of tribals from their forest lands.

In Modi's chest-thumping, self-valorisation Air Force has not even incidental role to play

By Anand K. Sahay*
Narendra Modi has proved a red-hot, election-time, hyper-nationalist. We saw this after Uri when key Uttar Pradesh state polls were 12 weeks away, and now after Pulwama when the Lok Sabha election is six weeks away. At other times, he has shown a lack of skill to craft a politics which lessens security threats. Kashmir is a perfect example.

Modi govt "controlling" statistics, data bodies for political considerations: 108 economists

Counterview Desk In an appeal, 108 economists and social scientists across the world have taken strong exception to the Government of India (GoI) seeking to release economic data which it considers politically unfavourable, pointing out, such an approach is bound to put “the national and global reputation of India’s statistical bodies is at stake.”

Would women's reservation become gateway for backdoor entry for the savarna elite?

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has declared that his party would reserve 33% seats for women in Parliament and state assemblies, as their representation "is very low". He went a step ahead and suggested that he would also ensure that 33% women are taken into the Union government's various services.

Salt farmers hit: Railways "uproots" track in Little Rann of Kutch on Dandi march day

By Pankti Jog*
Agariyas from Dhangadhra and Patadi, the towns situated along the Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, may not participate in voting on April 23, the day polling takes place in the state, as a mark of protest against an “insensitive step” that the Indian Railways has taken – to close down the Kuda-Dhangadhra Railway line and uproot the track.

Forest rights: Supreme Court Feb 28 stay temporary, BJP govts "supporting" corporates

Counterview Desk
On February 28, the Supreme Court stayed its two-weeks-old order directing 21 states to evict 11.8 lakh illegal forest dwellers whose claims over the forest land have been rejected by the authorities, but civil society organizations believe it is a temporary reprieve, as state governments have been asked to file affidavits giving details about process adopted in rejecting the claims.

Agitating for martyrdom of soldiers, why is BJP silent on saints dying for Ganga?

By Sandeep Pandey*
In 2011 Swami Nigmanand died on the 115th day of his fast against illegal mining in Haridwar. Matri Sadan, the ashram with which he was associated alleges that he was killed by poisoning in the hospital at the behest of a mining mafia. Swami Gokulanand, who sat on first fast organised by Matri Sadan along with Swami Nigmanand in 1998, was murdered in 2003 in Nainital by mining mafia.

Only 12.7% schools comply with Right to Education, progress just 1% per year

Counterview Desk
A civil society report written in the shadow of the upcoming national elections, marking the completion of five years of the i.e Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), has sought to focus on its performance against the backdrop its Election Manifesto 2014 "Ek Bhatat Shreshtha Bharat… Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas", which made a number of commitments on education.

Odisha tribal, Dalit rally asks gram sabhas to takeover community land, demands housing

By Our Representative
Hundreds of landless and homestead-less people from different gram panchayats, including Kharadi, Ampolba, Sukinda, Dudhjori, Lembo, Sansailo, Haripur, Hathibari and Kuchika, coming under of Sukinda tehsil, staged a protest rally and dharna on March 11 before the tehsil office of Jajpur district demanding land rights. The protest rally began at the Sukinda Cricket Stadium giving the slogan “Patta Nai to Vote Nai”.

2019 polls: Political parties told to fight "undeclared" emergency, protect people

Counterview Desk
The Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JJM), claiming to be a coalition of more than 30 “progressive” organisations, activists and intellectuals working in different parts of Jharkhand for the rights of poor, Adivasis, Dalits, women and minorities, has said that India is passing through a phase of “undeclared emergency”, and the 2019 elections provide an “important opportunity” to reverse this predicament.

NREGA wages "abysmally low" at Rs 179 per day: Demand to increase them to Rs 600

Counterview Desk
In a letter Prime Minister Narendra Modi, NREGA Sangharsh Morcha secretariat, representing a collective of civil society organizations and independent activists working on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) across the nation, has regretted that “NREGA wages have been abysmally low at a national average of Rs 179 per day”, violating the Minimum Wages Act (MWA), 1948.
Insisting that NREGA wages have been illegally delinked from MWA, the Morcha has said, alongside, one sees is “unpredictable delays in payments” forcing workers to turn away from this programme, “jeopardising growth and development in the country.” It demands, that the MGNREGA wage rates “in all states should be raised to Rs 600.”
Text of the letter: NREGA has been a lifeline for the poor, with one in every three rural households working in it. About 5 crore households access some employment under this Act every year. Even though most households are able to access t…

Ayodhya mediation? Sri Sri's choice shocking, he has "close connections" with RSS

Counterview Desk
Well-known political observer Shamsul Islam, retired faculty, University of Delhi, in an open letter to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has argued that the mediation order in the Ayodhya case is bludgeoning of the Indian constitutional polity which the Supreme Court is “duty-bound" to safeguard.
Especially taking strong exception to the choice of spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shakar, Islam recalls a March 2018 interview to a leading Indian periodical, asking Muslims to "give up" their claims on Ayodhya, even as  warning that if it was not done it would lead to "a situation like Syrian civil war".
Text of the letter: You know more than anyone else in the world that Indian constitutional polity treats all citizens equally irrespective of their race, creed, religion, language, culture and gender. But the observation of the Bench (consisting Justices S.A. Bobde, D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer) headed by you in the Ram Janam…

Govt of India refusal to give black money reports on demonetization "violates" RTI Act

By Our Representative
Obtaining the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) board of directors minutes “approving” the demonetization decision of the Government of India (GoI) 28 months after he made a Right to Information (RTI) plea, senior RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak regrets, these do not have any mention of “the black money reports submitted by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP, an autonomous research institute under India's Ministry of Finance) and two other research institutions.”

BJP put up highest number of candidates with crimes against women for MP, MLA polls

Counterview Desk
In its note, “Women's Political Participation and Representation in India”, released on the International Women’s Day (March 8), the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) has found that just nine per cent of MPs and MLAs across India are women, adding, among the state assemblies, none of the states have more than 10% women candidates.

Financial inclusion? Not micro-loans; India's poor "need" investment in health, education

By Moin Qazi*
India has grown into a global powerhouse. Its economy is soaring but the picture on the ground is still quite arid. The green shoots that you see are only a patch of its landscape. Most Indians are hapless victims of inequity. India is one country where intense poverty abounds in the shadow of immense wealth.

Indo-Pak conflict, adversely affecting Kashmiri women, being used to "reap" political mileage

Counterview Desk
The Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), a leading network of feminist organisations and grassroots activists in Asia Pacific having 236 member-groups from 27 countries in the Asia Pacific, has sharply criticized powerful forces in India and Pakistan getting involved in “unsubstantiated claims and counterclaims that are encouraging hyper-nationalism and religious fundamentalism” following the Pulwama terror attack on February 14.

Senior Afghan scribe "finds" a trusted friend in India following Indo-Pak standoff

By Nava Thakuria*
As India is maintaining standoff with Pakistan for weeks now, an Afghan scribe came out with logic for stronger relationship between India’s secular democracy and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. His views come at a time when the situation worsened between New Delhi and Islamabad soon after the Pulwama terror attack on a convoy of CRPF on February 14 killing over 40 personnel.
Abdul Mujeeb Khalvatgar, senior Afghan radio journalist, while talking to members of the Guwahati Press Club from Kabul through video-conferencing has argued that Hindustan (India) and Afghanistan remain friends for centuries. But often the political disturbances in Pakistan make trouble in Indo-Afghan relationship.
“However these difficulties are short lived and both the friendly nations soon come to the business as usual,” stated Khalvatgar, adding that Afghanistan is itself a victim nation of terrorism and all progressive forces on the globe should get united against the menace of ter…

2019 to be last polls India to have? Need to "prove wrong" such doomsday pundits

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
General Elections 2019 are round the corner! The dates of the elections have not yet been announced by the Election Commission of India (ECI). In all probability they will do so by March 15. The ECI has within its powers to announce the dates 28 days before the actual elections, though by precedence they do so between 30-45 days earlier. Elections are expected to be held between April 20 and May 15 in various phases (unfortunately, there is plenty of fake news doing the rounds on social media!).

Conserving Ganga: Delhi-Haridwar march to start on March 9 in support of fasting saints

Counterview Desk
Several people's organizations are all set to begin a foot march from Delhi to Haridwar in support of sadhus fasting for conservation of Ganga, starting on March 9. The march will end on March 17. A statement ahead of the march, issued by well-known civil rights leaders, Sandeep Pandey, Faisal Khan, and others, says, "If the government had listened to saints then 40% of Indian population who live on banks of Ganga or one of its tributaries would have directly benefited."

Stopgap relief "unacceptable": Odisha tribal rally seeks cancellation of Feb 13 SC order

By Our Representative
Thousands of tribals and forest dwellers under the banner of Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha, marched in a protest rally in Bhubaneswar demanding dismissal of the February 13 Supreme Court (SC) eviction order from forest land. It was started from Master Canteen at 11.00 am. with slogans “BJP Sarkar Jawab Do!”, “BJD Sarkar hosh me Aao!" ‘Gram Sabha sarkar Zindabad!, “Supreme Court ra February 13 adivasi birodhi Adesh ku radd karo”, “Abedan hoithiba samasta jungle jami ku verification karo”, etc.

Beti padhao? India's 30% girls from poorest families "haven't set foot" inside classroom

By Our Representative
When the whole world is going to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, the current scenario of girls’ education in India is very precarious. Nearly 40% of adolescent girls aged 15-18 are not attending any educational institution, aid Ambarish Rai, National Convener, Right of Education (RTE) Forum, has said.

How Modi's interview for Doordarshan was "censored" in 2014, resulting in political flutter

By Firoz Bakht Ahmed*
It is well-known how, after Ashok Srivastava interviewed Narendra Modi for the Doordarshan (DD) News ahead of the 2014 elections, a big chunk of it was edited. The edited portion included, among other things, Modi referring to Priyanka Gandhi his daughter and sharp attacks on Sonia Gandhi's political adviser Ahmed Patel and her son-in-law Robert Vadra.

Does democratic India need more draconian laws than the ones under the British rule?

By Prabhakar Sinha*
Democratic India has far more draconian laws than the India under the British imperial rule. In fact, the Rowlatt Act whose opposition led to the massacre of more than a thousand men, women and children at the Jallianwala Bag is very mild and liberal compared to the Prevention of Terrorism Act, (POTA), 2002, Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), 1985, Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA), 1971, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967, Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA), 1958, and numerous other laws enacted by the Union and the State governments after Independence.

India's defence budget dips to 2.1% of GDP from 3.5% in 1980s "despite" Modi rhetoric

By Our Representative
A senior expert with the conservative US thinktank American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC, has regretted that India is behind China in Asian arms race, and it's "high defense-spending totals mask the weakness of its weapons systems" as "the threat is growing".

India's military hardware in "vintage" state, main problem is democracy: Top US daily

By Our Representative
In a scathing commentary that would, ironically, sound music to diametrically opposite sides – Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on one hand, and Pakistan’s powerful military establishment, on the other – the top US daily “The New York Times” (NYT) has said that India has lost the air dogfight to Pakistan, insisting, this raises questions about India’s “vintage military”.

"Misleading" satellite images being shared on Balakot surgical strike on Jaish camp

By Dr Vinay Kate*
With every passing day more questions are being raised about the surgical strike India did in Balakot as a response to Pulwama attacks. So far the Indian media has claimed mass casulaty of 300+ terrorists of Jaish-e-Mohammad in this surgical strike, but there is hardly any report from foreign media about the same.

Bridging the gender gap? Women in India work 9 hrs a day on average, men 7 hrs

By Moin Qazi*
All lives have equal value. No matter where they live on the planet. No matter what state, city, and country you're born in, whether you are male, female.
– Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The Gates Foundation captures in it mission goal the true spiritual concept of human creation. But today we know that not all lives have equal opportunity. Gender remains a critically important and largely ignored lens to view development issues across the world. Gender inequality is not only a pressing moral and social issue but also a critical economic challenge.

Hindu right "successfully" mobilising virulent, vitriolic WhatsApp messaging: 2019 polls

Counterview Desk
A WhatsApp-sponsored report, written in partnership with Queen Mary University, published in a prominent open space e-journal, The Conversations, has raised the alarm that the 2019 elections India would be what it calls “WhatsApp elections”, with its huge spread through damaging “fake news”, Pointing out that fake news spread through the social media site “has led to serious violence in India”, it predicts, “There’s a danger this could also pose a threat to the democratic process.”

India, Pakistan told to eliminate nuclear weapons: N-war "would kill" 2 billion

Counterview Desk
The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), a non-partisan federation of national medical organizations in 64 countries, representing tens of thousands of doctors, medical students, other health workers, and concerned citizens, claiming to share the common goal of creating a more peaceful and secure world freed from the threat of nuclear annihilation, has warned that “an unprecedented global catastrophe” awaits the globe against the backdrop of warmongering in India and Pakistan.