Tag: south asia

What Oil Politics, Taliban, Islamophobia Mean to India

news7

The media must reveal the truth and help weak states rise above a crisis, not play up divisive forces.

By Ram Puniyani

The withdrawal of the United States Army from Afghanistan has brought the Taliban to power. The scenario in Afghanistan is alarming as minorities, and others, desperately attempt to leave the country. The record of the previous Taliban rule is flashing before the world, particularly the oppression of women and imposition of their version of Sharia law. It is their demolition of the Bamiyan Buddha that tells the world what the Taliban stands for. Some hope the exit of foreign powers will change Taliban rule, but events so far make this expectation ring hollow.

Regardless of how Afghans plot their future, it is most surprising that a section of the Indian media—which many disparagingly identify as godi media—has taken to non-stop coverage of the Taliban takeover. They are toeing the ruling party’s line, spending a significant share of airtime on perceived threats to India from the Taliban rule in Afghanistan.

These anchors on TV never spare a chance to criticise those who “felt the arrival of the Taliban in Afghanistan will not affect India”. The Special Cell of the Delhi Police recently arrested six suspected terrorists and alleged that they were trained in Pakistan to conduct terrorist strikes in India. Their alleged motive was to thwart the democratic process in Uttar Pradesh, where elections are due next year. The TV channels immediately caught on to this episode, claiming it connects with events in Afghanistan.

Other than attacking those critical of the ruling government, TV channels were busy for a month presenting viewers with the horrors Taliban rule entails. Their concerns may be valid, but the cheek-by-jowl coverage the Taliban is getting is out of proportion. They make it seem like the only problem Indians face is the Taliban coming to power in Afghanistan. For a large section of Indians, growing unemployment, the farmer movement, the rising atrocities against Dalits and women, and price rise are primary concerns. This narrative is absent from the media. Nor do they provide coverage to the intimidation of religious minorities in India, and even if they do, there is no attempt to be objective. Instead, this section of the media presents the religious minorities themselves as the culprits. The ‘hate Muslims’ sentiment has strengthened ever since the Taliban came to power.

The language in the media portrays the Taliban as representatives of all Muslims anywhere, as though it embodies some universally accepted Islamic values. The aim is to cast a deep shadow on Indian Muslims, increasing their alienation and marginalisation. The 2016 report, What Muslims Want, the most extensive research of British Muslims ever conducted, found that nine of ten British Muslims reject terrorism outright.” However, this powerful section of the media is unconcerned with the politics behind the Taliban’s coming to power. It does not bother to introspect why countries with large Muslim populations, such as Indonesia, do not have similar politics.

If the mainstream media correlates fundamentalist Islam represented by the Taliban or Al-Qaeda, and the politics of the last five decades in the oil-rich parts of the world, it would give away the truth. However, that would not suit the sectarian politics in India, and it would challenge the economic and political interests of corporates who control this media.

Fact is, western imperialism is out to control and plunder the resources of the world. In the last few decades after the colonial era ended, the United States and its cohort sought to control oil resources and markets worldwide. In a way, the people of West and Central Asia, rich in oil and other natural resources, suffer due to their wealth. America funded youth training in the retrograde version of Islam in Af-Pak, leading to the mujahideen and the Taliban. During the Cold War, it perpetrated imperialist designs in the name of a ‘free world’, which meant opposing communism. The Soviet Union supported several national liberation struggles, which the United States did not want. The war in Vietnam is the best example of how America pursued its anti-communist agenda through waging wars far from its borders.

After the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the United States intensified its support to local fundamentalist groups. The Saudi regime helped train the youth, though mostly America supported the Mujaheddin, the Taliban, and even Al-Qaeda. The syllabus was prepared in Washington, America funded it, and youngsters got lured into fundamentalist schools where it was taught. It was a close collaboration between the CIA and the ISI of Pakistan, which indoctrinated the youth and gave them sophisticated weapons.

Their goal was to ally with the Afghan forces to defeat the USSR. Recall the 1985 visit of hardcore Islamists to the White House, where Ronald Regan hosted them. He brought them to the Oval Office and said, “These gentlemen are the moral equivalent of America’s founding fathers.” Let us be blunt: The CIA’s machinations created the world’s deadliest terrorists. To cut a long story short, Hillary Clinton, when she was US Secretary of State, accepted in an interview that America “funded Taliban and Al Qaida”.

West Asia is a victim of the oil and wealth lust of American imperialism. The majority of the victims of Islamist terrorists were Muslims. Pakistan lost close to 70,000 people due to terror strikes, including a former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, to such an attack. Still, the American media coined the phrase ‘Islamic terrorism’ after the 9/11 attack, as if events unfolding in Afghanistan or Iraq or Egypt were unconnected with recent American history. The global media picked up the phrase uncritically. In India, the Muslim community saw a further dip in its social and economic capital. An outcome of American policies was that they added to the discrimination of this community around the world.

It is the responsibility of the media to unravel the truth, no matter how complex. Of course, there are excellent books on the topic, only if members of the godi media care to read them! Their task is to help a weak state rise above its crisis, not to play into the hands of divisive forces.

The author is a social activist and commentator. The views are personal.

Source- newsclick.in, 24 September 2021

Amnesty International slams UNHRC for failing the people of Afghanistan

E9kHn_DX0AAfVVX

By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 25 August 2021: The UN Human Rights Council today failed the people of Afghanistan after neglecting to establish an independent mechanism to monitor ongoing crimes under international law and human rights violations and abuses, Amnesty International said today.

At the opening of today’s UNHRC special session, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Procedures, and a host of other civil society speakers – including Amnesty International – unequivocally called for the creation of a robust investigative mechanism. Such a mechanism would allow for monitoring and reporting on human rights violations and abuses, including grave crimes under international law, and to assist in holding those suspected of criminal responsibility to justice in fair trials.

However, the calls were ignored by UNHRC member states, who adopted by consensus a weak resolution that merely requests further reports and an update by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in March 2022, which adds little to the oversight process already in place.

“The UN Human Rights Council special session has failed to deliver a credible response to the escalating human rights crisis in Afghanistan. Member states have ignored clear and consistent calls by civil society and UN actors for a robust monitoring mechanism,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary-General.

“Many people in Afghanistan are already at grave risk of reprisal attacks. The international community must not betray them, and must urgently increase efforts to ensure the safe evacuation of those wishing to leave. States must now move beyond handwringing and take meaningful action to protect them.

“Amnesty International’s recent on-the-ground investigation into the massacre of Hazara men in Ghazni province is proof that the Taliban’s capacity for murder and torture has not diminished.

“UN member states must correct today’s failure when the Human Rights Council meets again in a few weeks. A robust investigative mechanism – with a mandate to document, collect and preserve evidence of ongoing crimes and human rights violations across Afghanistan – is urgently needed.”

Last week Amnesty International revealed how the Taliban were responsible for a massacre of nine ethnic Hazara men after taking control of Ghazni province in July 2021. The brutal killings likely represent a tiny fraction of the total death toll inflicted by the Taliban following recent territorial gains to date, as the group has cut mobile phone service in many of the areas they have captured, preventing information from emerging.

From 13 unis to 1: why Australia needs to reverse the loss of South Asian studies

ezgif-2-f9c843fb0e1d

By Craig Jeffery* & Matthew Nelson**

South Asia is crucial to the future of Australia. But Australia has just one (small) program focused on South Asian studies across its many universities.

This has not always been the case. In the mid-1970s, 13 of Australia’s universities offered undergraduate subjects on South Asia (India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives). Students could learn about South Asian coins at ANU and Sanskrit at the University of Wollongong.

Australia boasted some of the leading scholars on South Asia. ANU nurtured subaltern studies – the study of social groups excluded from dominant power structures – which became a global movement in the field of post-colonial analysis. Leading post-colonial scholar Dipesh Chakrabarty was based at the University of Melbourne. Other luminaries active in that period include A.L. Basham, Anthony Low, and Robin Jeffrey.

But, even as the Australian university sector has expanded since the 1970s, it has withdrawn support for Asian studies, and South Asian studies in particular. There is currently only one South Asia or India program – at ANU.

Only five of the 40 Australian universities offer semester-length subjects on India or South Asia. Six universities offered an Indian language in 1996. Now only two do so.

Several universities, often supported by government grants, have launched country or regional research initiatives since 1990. The National Centre for South Asian Studies, based at Monash, is one of these. But Australian universities have not built any strong or sustainable South Asia programs for students.

A trend at odds with national priorities

This point sits oddly alongside a high-level commitment to South Asia in Australia. The Australian government is exploring new forms of engagement with India, including the Quad security dialogue involving India, Australia, Japan, and the US.

At a social level, Australia is increasingly Indian. In 2019 more than 700,000 people in Australia claimed Indian descent. Hindi is among the fastest-growing languages in Australia, and India is the country’s leading source of skilled migrants.

Historically, there are fascinating connections between Australia and South Asia. The lives and work of Australia’s “Ghans” (cameleers) is one famous example.

Moving forward, Australia needs a knowledge base to match this longstanding and increasingly important commitment to India and South Asia more generally.

Out of step with global academic practice

Australian universities could learn from their counterparts in other parts of the world how to integrate area studies into their teaching. Outside of Australia, most of the top universities in the world make great play of their area studies expertise. Area studies enables people to apprehend their own distinctive humanity, anchors innovative cross-disciplinary teaching across the university, and provides a basis for re-evaluating assumptions about a person’s disciplinary field.

Students arriving at Oxford, Yale or Columbia know that if they are studying law, business, art, politics, education, design, technology, anthropology, economics, agriculture, military affairs or modern media, they will need to think about how to apply their disciplinary knowledge to specific places. A “whole of university” commitment to area studies teaching, including South Asian studies, has long been a key mechanism for drawing on multiple disciplines.

Even with small numbers of area studies majors, the world’s best universities do not see area studies as a niche endeavour. On the contrary, they see it as a central feature of their global mission. Strong universities without robust, independent, and widely accessible area studies programs open themselves up to accusations of antiquated parochialism and a poor understanding of the interdisciplinary trends that powerfully shape our world.

What should South Asian studies offer?

Today, South Asian studies programs in Australia should include internships, opportunities to study abroad and virtual classrooms connecting Australian students to their counterparts elsewhere.

Asian studies programs should also include language options, because effective communication with rising regions like South Asia is essential. Keep in mind that only 10% of India’s population speak English.

At its most fundamental, good area studies and good South Asian studies allow people to understand that they are, as French philosopher Michel de Montaigne put it in an essay on global education written 450 years ago “like a dot made by a very fine pencil” on the world map. It teaches them how they fit within a global whole.

Beyond this, area studies helps people understand and confidently engage with forms of difference and diversity. It fosters key skills for interacting with peers overseas as well as global diasporas. This includes connecting with foreign organisations, managing communications and cultivating an active sense of global citizenship.

Area studies allows us to develop an understanding of our common humanity across national boundaries – something Indian scholar Veena Das has written about in her book Critical Events.

Now is the time for Australian universities to place area studies teaching at the core of an internationally engaged education. We must provide a much larger number of Australians with a deeper understanding of South Asia.

* Professor of Geography, The University of Melbourne.

** Associate Professor, Asia Institute, The University of Melbourne.

Source – The Conversation, June 14, 2021, Published under Creative Commons Licence.

ICC launches UNICEF’s COVID-19 relief efforts in South Asia

ezgif-6-29605c321476
Photo- ICC

By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 17 June 2021: The International Cricket Council (ICC) through its Cricket for Good initiative today launched a fundraising campaign to support UNICEF’s emergency COVID-19 response in South Asia. The campaign was launched at the inaugural World Test Championship Final being played in Southampton between India and New Zealand from June 18th and 22, 2021.

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on South Asia, which is home to nearly 2 billion people, and more than a quarter of the world’s children. The sheer scale and speed of the latest surge of COVID-19 across the region has outstripped countries’ abilities to provide life-saving treatment and essential services.

The region has to date recorded more than 30 million COVID-19 cases and over 400,000 deaths. The virus has had a direct impact on children, with many more falling ill than before. Children are losing parents and caregivers to the virus, leaving many of them vulnerable and without parental care. Learning and protection issues continue to be a cause of concern, with lockdowns and closure of schools. The essential health services that women and children rely on are also at risk of being compromised: during the first wave of the pandemic, an estimated 228,000 children across South Asia died due to disruptions in health services.

As part of its COVID-19 response, UNICEF works closely with governments and partners in the region reaching families with information and technical support on health, child protection and education, water, sanitation, and hygiene as well as support in vaccine rollout.

ICC’s support to UNICEF at this critical time will harness the power and reach of cricket, one of the world’s most popular sports, to safeguard the lives and futures of children. As part of the campaign, ICC will leverage its audience base on its digital channels to contribute to UNICEF. ICC with UNICEF shall display joint appeals on its digital platforms, LED perimeter boards, and replay screens at the venue, for its broadcast audiences to donate directly to UNICEF’s donation platform: https://help.unicef.org/icc.

In-game commentary will also reach out to audiences for their support.

George Laryea-Adjei, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia said: “The sheer speed and scale of infection across South Asia has been alarming, and fragile health systems have been pushed to the brink. UNICEF is on the ground with partners to deliver lifesaving support and ensure essential health services for children and women continue operating. ICC’s Cricket for Good initiative will allow us to raise vital funds to continue delivering lifesaving supplies and services to children and families in South Asia.”

Geoff Allardice, Acting CEO International Cricket Council said: “The devastation that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused in South Asia has been heartbreaking with vulnerable children among the most affected. By partnering with UNICEF to support their COVID 19 relief work, we can use the global platform provided by the inaugural World Test Championship Final to raise urgent funds that can make a real difference. We appeal to cricket fans around the world to come together to show their support for the work of UNICEF at such a difficult time and donate to such a worthwhile cause.”

All funds raised through the fundraising campaign and received by UNICEF will be used for the UNICEF COVID-19 emergency response in South Asia. By partnering together, UNICEF and International Cricket Council will support communities and marginalized people to weather this storm and prevent further disruptions to essential health services for women and children.

In addition, ICC along with Tech Mahindra, the merchandise partner for the World Test Championship Final have launched a special COVID-19 relief range for the inaugural ICC WTC Final and 10% of the proceeds will go to UNICEF’s relief work in South Asia. Fans can purchase this merchandise on https://icccricketshop.com/

Insufficient rape laws across South Asia increase risk of sexual violence: Report

202010asia_bangladesh_student_protest
Photo- Human Rights Watch

By SAT News Desk

NEW DELHI/MELBOURNE, April 21, 2021: It is not uncommon in South Asia when a sexual violence victim woman does not report the case and it vanishes in thin air. In fact, women and families desist from going to a police station for fear of victim-blaming or massive delays in the criminal justice system.

A recent Jirgha (community panel) deal in Pakistan pushed a family to forgive culprits for parading a girl naked, reports voicepk.net. The case had garnered media attention when Sharifan Bibi had filed a petition in the Peshawar High Court in 2017, where she narrated her ordeal and accused the local police of collusion with the suspects. A rape victim in a recent case in India was asked to marry her alleged rapist.

A new report reveals how laws on rape in South Asian countries are insufficient, inconsistent, and not systematically enforced, putting women and girls at heightened risk of sexual violence. Survivors and victims’ families frequently face further victimization, resulting in extremely low reporting rates for rape, long delays within the criminal justice system, and withdrawal of cases.

Released jointly by international women’s rights organization Equality Now and Dignity Alliance International, ‘Sexual Violence in South Asia: Legal and Other Barriers to Justice for Survivors’, focuses on six countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, India, and Sri Lanka – and calls on their governments to take urgent action to address sexual violence, improve access to justice for survivors, and end impunity for perpetrators.

Analysis of country-specific laws and policies relating to sexual violence found that in the six South Asian countries examined there are gaps in laws, failures in implementation, and governments are not fulfilling their commitments and obligations in international law regarding the protection and promotion of women and girls’ human rights.
In-depth discussions carried out by researchers with focus groups, survivors, activists, and lawyers identified numerous obstacles faced by sexual violence survivors. For the small minority who do manage to file police complaints, it is only the start of a long and arduous quest to access justice.

Impediments include:
● Conviction rates for rape are extremely low across throughout South Asia – in Bangladesh, it is only around 3%;

● Long delays in police investigations, medical examinations, prosecutions, and trials are common; 

● Reports of police officers refusing to file complaints or failing to investigate allegations are widespread; in four countries – Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka – survivors and other stakeholders spoke about the challenge of justice system officials being susceptible to bribery and corruption;

● In rape cases, overly burdensome or discriminatory evidence is required; for example, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, and Sri Lanka all permit evidence about the sexual history of rape victims; this is based on patriarchal assumptions that only “chaste” and “moral” women and girls can be raped;

● In India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, the “two-finger test” – an unscientific, intrusive, and retraumatizing vaginal examination performed on the wrongful premise that it can determine a victim’s sexual experience and which is often used to imply that she is lying – is conducted in medical examinations of women and girls who have been raped;

● Rape survivors and their families frequently face extreme pressure to withdraw criminal complaints and stay silent; this includes being forced into informal community mediation and subjected to social stigma, victim-blaming, threats, bribery, and retaliation including loss of employment, eviction, and further violence;

● Survivors are coerced into dropping legal cases and accepting extra-legal settlements or compromises with perpetrators – in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal over 60% of survivors interviewed reported facing pressure to settle or compromise their case; in various instances, survivors did not receive the compensation promised under these extra-legal agreements;  

● Marital rape is not criminalized in Bangladesh, Maldives, India, and Sri Lanka; legally permitting impunity for rape within marriage treats women as the property of their husbands and takes away their rights over their own body;

● Quality support services for survivors are lacking, with minimal access to safe houses, counseling or other types of psychosocial care; poor provision of victim and witness protection schemes puts survivors and their families at risk of coercion and further harm;

● Survivors of sexual violence from socially excluded communities face even greater barriers to accessing justice as a consequence of caste, tribal, ethnic, or religious prejudice and persecution; while India and Nepal have passed specific laws aimed at preventing and redressing discrimination against certain socially excluded communities, more work is needed by all governments in the region to address this intersectional discrimination.

Report co-author Divya Srinivasan, a human rights lawyer and Legal Advisor for Equality Now, says: “Our research reveals how governments across South Asia need to take urgent action to provide women and girls with better protection against sexual violence and end widespread impunity for perpetrators. This requires closing gaps in-laws, addressing flaws in criminal justice systems, and investing in holistic responses to ensure access to justice and support for survivors.”

The report calls on South Asian countries to implement comprehensive and inclusive measures that effectively address sexual and gender-based violence. This includes:

● Addressing protection gaps in the law
● Improving police responses to cases of sexual violence
● Ensuring survivor-friendly medical examinations in rape cases
● Improving prosecution procedures and trials of sexual offenses
● Designing and funding holistic interventions to improve access to justice for survivors
● Reviewing laws and policies to ensure the specific needs of all marginalized communities are met

Evlyn Samuel, the report co-author from Dignity Alliance International, says: “The report reveals a multitude of barriers that survivors of sexual violence experience at different levels while accessing the criminal justice system across these countries. This calls for a dire need on the part of governments to adopt a more comprehensive, gender-sensitive approach in addressing issues of sexual violence against women and girls to bring systemic and transformative changes.”