Are the volunteers of BJP, working both online and offline paid?

Anonymous’s answer to:
Looking at the comments posted on various articles of popular news websites such as Firstpost, Times of India etc., these BJP supporters go too far just to make a point. They are willing to fight with you for as long as you want them to without even making sense most of the time. I will request somebody having some knowledge about this to explain the nitty-gritty of this matter.  Can somebody shed some light over this business?
3.2k

 

 
Anonymous
Votes by Gaurav Raj AnandKarthik Pattabiraman, Anonymous, Anonymous, and3214 more.
 
Indeed, some of them are paid. 

Mr Narendra Modi, using taxpayer money, employs a company named APCO overtly for managing the Vibrant Gujarat campaign. See: 
  1. Mechanics of Narendra Modi’s PR agency : APCO Worldwide – Orchestrating our Future
  2. The Modi Machine: Makeover gurus (Edit: fixed broken link).


APCO has been employed by dictators and lobbyists previously. As discussed in the article 2., it is unclear whether APCO officials double up as Modi’s spokespersons, or perform other functions as well, but it is plausible that APCO has been a key contributor to Modi’s propaganda. To be fair, APCO has denied working for Vibrant Gujarat campaign now, and for Modi at any time: Apco Worldwide denies working for Narendra Modi

One must be quite naive to believe that all or most of Modi’s Twitter followers are genuine. No they’re not (see Narendra Modi eyes Obama in battle for cyber world). Modi’s Social Media management team uses sophisticated technologies (see BJP’s online warriors listen to critics carefully – Hindustan Times) and has done an elaborate work to unethically bias the Social Media in Modi’s favor in the same spirit as Congress biased the Mainstream Media (see Modi’s Operandi | Rana Ayyub | Tehelka.com). 

As the previous article explains, Modi’s is no soft power—all those who wish to work with Gujarat government must surrender to Modi’s propaganda. This might be one reason of alienation of allies within NDA (another example: in Maharashtra). From about 20 allies at the time of Vajpayee, BJP is left with just 3 now. Modi’s camp has not spared even the rest of BJP (see The Social Media Massacre By Team Modi) with even some core values of BJP having been suppressed. Journalists too better be careful or risk losing their job (see: Clogging The Ink). 




Personally, my experience with commenting on various news sites in India has been interesting in one aspect: while on Firstpost (FP) almost all comments are pro-Modi, in general views are much more diverse on other news sites. Why is this so? There is no rational explanation, other than the possibility that FP’s comment section is rigged either with or without co-operation of moderators there. This issue has been researched in depth by fellow commentators; see: Trollfest. I have personally experienced the official FPEditors handle make one-line, slanderous, anti-anti-Modi comments on more than one occasions. Does FP also employ APCO (or some other pro-Modi PR firm) for “moderation”?




Use of PR firms would have been acceptable to an extent if there were transparency in BJP’s funding. However, since about 80% of BJP’s funds come from “unknown sources”, what corporate deals are baked behind the scenes is totally unclear. The problem of “paid news” is connected; under our laws, “paid news” is a minor offence and our toothless election commission cannot take strong action against paid news. Read more about paid news here: The Shocking Reality About Paid News And How The Media Is Silently Letting It Run [Part 2] | Youth Ki Awaaz.  

In short, paid news and Crony capitalism are made for each other. The following steps are involved:
  1. Corporates fund politicians.
  2. Politicians fund media with corporate money.
  3. Paid media help client politicians get elected.
  4. Elected politicians favor corporates that funded them (2G, coalgate, etc.).
  5. Go to 1.


Some people have the view that all parties have PR firms that act similarly. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Most parties have an IT Cell. However, a few parties support RTI for political parties and transparency of funding; BJP is not one of them. Some parties do not take funds from corporates but only from individuals, thus they are less vulnerable to fall prey to crony capitalism; they do not spend more than the expense limits defined by EC; is BJP one of them? No, even their own MPs say so (refer: the Youth ki Awaz article above). 

Living under decades of mis-rule, such people do not find anything wrong with paid campaigners. How about paid audience? Or, even if they find paid campaigners or paid audience wrong, they have the false belief that every party is doing it! 

“Paid news” is the biggest problem facing humanity and such statements claiming “everyone is doing it” is a thorough travesty to those who have taken the courageous, right path.




Some people are confused about “official” team of Modi and the “unofficial” one, as if only the later is responsible for the use of all the unethical means. Even though a lot can be said about the unethical means used officially by Modi, like criminals in his cabinet, I will refrain from that since the focus of this article is on media. First, isn’t it Modi’s responsibility to highlight and oppose the use of unethical means being used by his supporters? Second, how do we draw the line between the official team and the unofficial? Third, since Modi is not very good in transparency and accountability (even not having a strong Lokayukta, snooping allegations, etc.), how do we know that Modi is not covertly assisting the unofficial team? 




Here are a few FAKE pics prepared by BJP fans or workers. Whether these are paid workers or not is anyone’s guess, but BJP would do best to take steps to reign in on them, including the FB/Twitter accounts that post them. 

(Click to Zoom)




Related Link: How Pakistan wish India on its Independence Day?
























Even Wikileaks had to clarify that Assange’s alleged endorsement of Modi is a fraud. 


Big B had to clarify too. 


Here are some “sponsored links”:




When one feels no shame in telling a deliberate lie, there is no evil he will not do. –Buddha


Still more coming …

PS: Should you want to spread the word about this article, you can “promote the answer” from the top-right of the page. All the upvotes on this answer will be used by me to promote the answer.

Demand grows for halal food as industry evolves

 

This Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 photo shows a visitor talking with a representative of a halal food producer from Saudi Arabia during a halal food exhibition in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The global halal food and lifestyle industry is estimated to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars and is multiplying in size as Muslim populations around the world grow. Producers outside the Muslim world _ from Brazil to the U.S. and Australia _ are eager to tap into that market. (AP Photo/Aya Batrawy)
This Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 photo shows a visitor talking with a representative of a halal food producer from Saudi Arabia during a halal food exhibition in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The global halal food and lifestyle industry is estimated to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars and is multiplying in size as Muslim populations around the world grow. Producers outside the Muslim world _ from Brazil to the U.S. and Australia _ are eager to tap into that market. (AP Photo/Aya Batrawy) The Associated Press
photo
This Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 photo shows visitors passing by the stand of the Brasil Food Company, which is among the world’s largest food companies, during a halal food exhibition in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The global halal food and lifestyle industry is estimated to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars and is multiplying in size as Muslim populations around the world grow. Producers outside the Muslim world _ from Brazil to the U.S. and Australia _ are eager to tap into that market.(AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)The Associated Press
photo
This Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 photo shows visitors and exhibitors stand in front of a halal food company stand during a halal food exhibition in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The global halal food and lifestyle industry is estimated to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars and is multiplying in size as Muslim populations around the world grow. Producers outside the Muslim world _ from Brazil to the U.S. and Australia _ are eager to tap into that market. (AP Photo/Aya Batrawy) The Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The global industry for halal food and lifestyle products — ones that meet Islamic law standards of manufacture — is estimated to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars and is multiplying as Muslim populations grow. Producers outside the Muslim world, from Brazil to the U.S. and Australia, are eager to tap into the market.

The United Arab Emirates is positioning itself to be their gateway, part of its push to become a global center of Islamic business and finance.

UAE officials announced last month that the city of Dubai has dedicated around 6.7 million square feet of land in Dubai Industrial City for a “Halal Cluster” for manufacturing and logistic companies that deal in halal food, cosmetics and personal care items.

Dubai Industrial City CEO Abdullah Belhoul said the idea to create a zone just for halal manufacturers was driven by the increased demand locally and internationally for such products.

“This industry itself, we know it is growing,” Belhoul told The Associated Press. He said the industry is expected to double in terms of value within five years. “So we think there is a lot of opportunity… and we need to capitalize on this.”

The world’s Muslim population is estimated at around 1.6 billiion, and the majority is believed to adhere to or prefer to adhere to halal products when possible. The general understanding is that halal products should not be contaminated with pork or alcohol and that livestock is slaughtered in accordance with Islamic Shariah law. Similar to kosher practices, Islam requires the animal is killed with single slash to the throat while alive. It is intended as a way for animals to die swiftly and minimize their pain.

However, as with most issues in religion, opinions vary greatly over what is permissible and what is not. Despite attempts by international Islamic bodies, such as the World Halal Food Council, to achieve worldwide guidelines, there are no global standards for halal certifications.

Stricter interpreters of Shariah say chicken must be slaughtered by hand to be considered halal. Others say it is acceptable if the chicken is slaughtered by machine, as is the case in much of the fast-paced food industry around the world. To accommodate various Muslim consumers, several companies even specify on their packaging how the chicken was slaughtered.

Belhoul said that if halal products are manufactured in the UAE, they will need to be certified halal by the government body that oversees this. But, as with most countries, if the halal products, such as livestock or raw material, are being imported from abroad for processing in the UAE, then the stamp of approval comes from Islamic organizations in the exporting country.

This is where organizations such as Halal Control in Germany have an important role to play, said General Manager Mahmoud Tatari. He said that when the company started 14 years ago in Europe, there was little awareness or demand for halal products. Today, Halal Control has 12 Islamic scholars who offer guidance on certifications to international companies such as Nestle and Unilever who want to do business in the Muslim world.

Halal Control, which concentrates on products made in Europe, does not certify meat and poultry, but almost everything else from dairy products to food ingredients. Tatari said Muslims around the world may think they are eating halal-certified food, but that often raw materials may include alcohol or pork gelatin in candies and soups, or may have been cross-contaminated during production.

“It is a process and this will take maybe now five to 10 years (until) we can more safely eat halal,” he said.

Malaysia is the global leader in developing the halal industry and putting forth the highest standards, said Tatari and others in the industry.

Malaysia exported $9.8 billion worth of halal products in 2013, the Oxford Business Group said. That makes it one of the largest suppliers in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, an international group with 57 members.

U.S. manufacturers, such as Kelloggs and Hershey, plan to build halal-compliant plants in Malaysia. The Oxford Business Group says Indonesia, with the world’s largest Muslim population, plans to establish a center for the halal industry in 2015. In Thailand, more than a quarter of food factories are already making halal products.

But it is in the Gulf, where countries almost entirely rely on food imports, where the halal industry seems to have the biggest potential for growth in the coming years.

Brazil is the world’s second top exporter of meat and poultry to Muslim-majority countries after the U.S. The Brasil Food Company, which is among the world’s largest food companies, plans to open its first manufacturing site in the Middle East in UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi, in June. The factory will process poultry from Brazil for repackaging and shipping to other countries.

“Having the factory will allow us to be closer to the market and will allow us go to different markets that today we cannot export to from Brazil,” BRF Quality Assurance Supervisor Tiago Brilhante said. The company already exports 70,000 tons of chicken to the Middle East each month, making the region its biggest export market.

Datamonitor, a company that provides market and data analysis, says halal food already accounts for about a fifth of world food trade, and the Muslim market is growing substantially. According to a Global Futures and Foresights Study, 70 percent of the world’s population increase from 7 billion today to 9 billion people by 2050 will be born in Muslim countries.

Already in Muslim-majority countries, outlets like McDonald’s, Subway and Papa John’s pizza serve halal to their customers.

In the U.S., the family-run Midamar Corporation, based out of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has been tapping into the halal market since 1974. Midamar exports American beef and chicken to around 35 countries.

Jalel Aossey said the company’s halal certification comes from an organization his father started called the Islamic Services of America, which he says was the first of its kind in the U.S.

Today there are around 30 halal certification bodies in the U.S. and several mainstream supermarkets that carry halal food items.

Even in markets where Muslims are not the majority, there are billions of dollars to be made in the halal industry. The Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America, a not-for-profit halal certification organization, said the domestic U.S. halal market is estimated at $20 billion.

Mark Napier, director of the Gulfood trade show that brings together more than 4,500 food and beverage vendors from around the world to the Dubai World Trade Center annually, said producers of halal products want to serve markets where their supply is not keeping up with demand. Many Muslims in the West buy Jewish kosher products when their halal counterparts are not available.

“Food business is big business,” Napier said. “Producers are increasingly aware of the need for halal standards and certification and bringing that to the fore of their export promotions.”

 

The 13 Best Android Widgets for 2014

 

New additions and old favorites to make your Android home screen more useful

Widgets are a classic example of where Android can go right and wrong. Pick some great widgets, and your phone transforms into a more powerful tool. Pick bad ones, and your home screen becomes an abomination.

We’re here to help. After doing these Android widget roundups for a couple years, our list for this year includes both new additions and old favorites, so your home screen can be as useful–and as attractive–as possible. Here are 13 of the best Android widgets to have on your phone in 2014:

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    1Weather


    OneLouder Apps

    1Weather includes your choice of six home screen widgets, the best of which is the “1Weather Tabbed” option pictured here. With this widget, you can get all the essential info of your local forecast, and switch between extended, detailed and hourly views. The appearance is also customizable, letting you choose from light, dark or “live weather” backgrounds. The app is free, but you can upgrade to an ad-free version for $1.99.

    [Get 1Weather from Google Play]

  • 2

     

     

     

    BaconReader for Reddit


    OneLouder Apps

    That funny cat picture your aunt will share on Facebook next week? You can probably find it right now by scrolling through BaconReader’s slick Reddit client. The “BaconReader Scroll” widget includes light and dark themes, and lets you create separate widgets for subsections if you like. And it’s resizeable, so you can dedicate as little or as much of your home screen as you want to the so-called “front page of the Internet.” The app is free, with a $1.99 upgrade to remove the ads.

    [Get BaconReader from Google Play]

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    Directions


    Google

    Using the Directions widget for Google Maps, one tap can get you instant directions to your usual haunts. Just drag the “Directions” widget onto your home screen, enter the address and a nickname for the location, and specify whether you want driving, walking, biking or public transit directions. This widget is part of Google Maps, which is probably pre-loaded on your phone, but here’s the Google Play Store listing just in case.

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    Google Keep


    Google

    We’ve sung the praises of Google Keep before. It’s not a comprehensive note-taking app, but rather a fast way to jot down thoughts, lists, images and audio. Google Keep is even faster when you install the widget on your home screen, as it includes shortcuts to your latest notes and buttons for creating new ones. The app is free, and you can also access your notes from any web browser.

    [Get Google Keep from Google Play]

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    Holo Bulb


    GekkoSteam

    This 1-by-1 widget serves just one purpose: Tap it, and it’ll turn on your phone’s camera flash. A handy prompt then appears at center-screen so you can turn it off again. It’s the only Android flashlight functionality you need, and it’s free.

    [Get Holo Bulb from Google Play]

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    Contact


    Google

    This little widget is great for keeping a close friend or loved one within easy reach. When you drop the widget onto your home screen, you then choose the contact you want it to represent. This widget is available in some form on most Android devices, but its name and appearance may vary depending on the phone maker. (HTC, for instance, calls it the “Person” widget, and gives you several options for what happens when you press the button.)

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    CBS

     

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    Slider Widget – Volumes


    hinterhofapps

    You may think that pressing your phone’s volume button down makes everything quieter, but then you start playing a video and for some reason it’s blaring. That’s because different functions on Android phones each have their own individual volumes, and you can’t normally control them all at once without going into the settings menu. Slider Widget gives you greater control over all your volumes straight from the home screen, and it throws in brightness adjustment for good measure.

    [Get Slider Widget - Volumes from Google Play]

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    Flipboard


    Flipboard

    Flipboard is still the king of news reading apps, and its widget has gotten better lately. It no longer has the annoying bug where tapping on a story doesn’t take you directly to that story, so you can just mash that little reload button until you find something worth reading and dive right in. As always, the app is free, and there are two widget sizes to choose from.

    [Get Flipboard from Google Play]

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    LinkedIn Pulse


    LinkedIn

    LinkedIn Pulse’s widget isn’t as pretty as some other news widgets, but it’s packed with information so you can catch up with the latest headlines. After adding your favorite news sources to Pulse, you can pick one of them to include in the widget, which always shows a few headlines at once. Pulse’s larger widget also gives you a snippet of the story you’re looking at, so you can decide whether to dive in further.

    [Get LinkedIn Pulse from Google Play]

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    Shazam


    Shazam

    Shazam is an app that identifies songs and TV shows as they play, and having the widget on your home screen can be the difference between successfully tagging a song and just barely missing it. There’s really no good reason to have the standard app on your home screen instead.

    [Get Shazam from Google Play]

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    App Dialer


    Aleksey Masny

    If you’re overwhelmed by all the apps you’ve downloaded over the years, App Dialer can help you get to them just a little faster. Instead of a typical keyboard search, App Dialer displays a numeric keypad, with each number representing a trio of letters. As you type, the dialer suggests a few apps that match, so you can find them without digging through folders or running a full-blown search. The app is free, and there’s a $3 Pro version with extra features.

    [Get App Dialer from Google Play]

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    Cal


    Any.do

    It was sort of agonizing to choose a calendar widget for this list. The Play Store is filled with them, many of which are crammed with features, such as multiple views, sizes and color themes. Ultimately, Cal stuck out because it doesn’t try to do all of those things. Instead, it recognizes that what you need to glance at the most is your agenda for the next few days, and that if you need to see more, you can just open the app. The app also supports Exchange as well as Google Calendar.

    [Get Cal from Google Play]

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    DashClock


    Roman Nurik

    DashClock can technically serve as a home screen widget, but where it really shines is on your phone’s lock screen (provided you’re running Android 4.2 or higher). At a glance, DashClock can show a count of unread e-mails and messages, battery status, weather and a lot more using a variety of DashClock extensions. Essentially, it’ll let you know when your phone needs to come out, and when it can safely go back in your pocket.

    [Get DashClock from Google Play]

രാജ്യത്തെ ആദ്യ ഇലക്ട്രിക് ബസ് ബംഗലൂരുവില്‍

രാജ്യത്തെ ആദ്യ ഇലക്ട്രിക് ബസ് ബംഗലൂരുവില്‍

രാജ്യത്തെ ആദ്യ ഇലക്ട്രിക് ബസ് ബംഗലൂരുവില്‍

ബംഗലൂരു: പൊതുഗതാഗത രംഗത്ത് രാജ്യത്തിന് തന്നെ മാതൃകയായ കര്‍ണാടക റോഡ് ട്രാന്‍സ്‌പോര്‍ട്ട് കോര്‍പ്പറേഷന്‍ മറ്റൊരു ചരിത്രനേട്ടം. ഇന്ത്യയിലെ ആദ്യത്തെ ഇലക്ട്രിക് എയകര്‍ണ്ടീഷന്‍ബസ് ബംഗലൂരുവില്‍ പരീക്ഷണ അടിസ്ഥാനത്തില്‍ ഓടിത്തുടങ്ങി. കര്‍ണാടക ഗതാഗത മന്ത്രി രാമലിംഗ റെഡ്ഡിയാണ് ആദ്യബസ് യാത്ര ഉദ്ഘാടനം ചെയ്തത്.

അന്തരീക്ഷ, ശബ്ദമലിനീകരണങ്ങളില്ലാതെ തികച്ചും പരിസ്ഥിതി സൗഹാര്‍ദ്ദമായ ബസാണ് ബി.വൈ.ഡി കെ.9 സീരീസ് ഇലക്ട്രിക് ബസ്. ബാംഗ്ലൂര്‍മെട്രോപൊളിറ്റന്‍ ട്രാന്‍സ്‌പോര്‍ട്ട് കോര്‍പ്പറേഷനും ചൈനീസ് കമ്പനിയായ ഉട്യോപ്യാ ഓട്ടോമേഷന്‍ കണ്‍ട്രോളും സംയുക്തമായി 3 മാസത്തെ പരീക്ഷണ ഓട്ടമാണ് രാജ്യത്തെ ഐ.ടി തലസ്ഥാനത്ത് തുടങ്ങിയിരിക്കുന്നത്. മജസ്റ്റികില്‍ നിന്നും കാഡുഗൊഡി വരെയാണ് ബസ് സര്‍വീസ് നടത്തുന്നത്. രാവിലെ 7 മുതല്‍ വൈകീട്ട് 7 വരെ 6 സര്‍വീസുകളാണുള്ളത്. 

കര്‍ണാടക ഗതാഗത മന്ത്രി രാമലിംഗ റെഡ്ഡിക്ക് പുറമെ ഉട്യോപ്യാ ഓട്ടോമേഷന്‍ കമ്പനിയുടെ ഇന്ത്യയിലെ മാനേജിംഗ് ഡയറക്ടര്‍ പ്രസന്ന ദേശ്മുഖും ഉദ്ഘാടന ചടങ്ങില്‍ പങ്കെടുത്തു. ആറുമണിക്കൂര്‍ വരെ ചാര്‍ജ് നില്‍ക്കുന്ന നാലുബാറ്ററികളാണ് ബസിലുള്ളത്. 250 കിലോമീറ്റര്‍ വരെ ഇതുവഴി ഓടാം.18,000 കിലോഗ്രാം ഭാരമുള്ള ഈ ബസിന് മണിക്കൂറില്‍ 96 കിലോമീറ്റര്‍വരെയാണ് പരമാവധി വേഗത. 

െ്രെഡവര്‍ക്കുള്‍പ്പെടെ 31 സീറ്റാണ് ബസിലുള്ളത്. ഓട്ടോമൊബൈല്‍ റിസര്‍ച്ച് ഇന്‍സ്റ്റിറ്റിയൂട്ട് ഓഫ് ഇന്ത്യ നേരത്തെ തന്നെ ബസ് സര്‍വീസിന് ബിഎംടിസിക്ക് അനുമതി നല്‍കിയിരുന്നു. വോള്‍വോ ബസില്‍ ഈടാക്കുന്ന നിരക്കാണ് ഇലക്ട്രിക് ബസ് യാത്രക്കും ഈടാക്കുക. സ്‌റ്റോപ്പുകളുടെ വിവരങ്ങള്‍ നല്‍കാന്‍ എല്‍ഇഡി ഡിസ്‌പ്ലേയും ഇംഗ്ലീഷ്, കന്നഡ ഭാഷകളില്‍ അനൗണ്‍സ്‌മെന്റും ഉണ്ട്. 

സി.സി ടി.വി ക്യാമറകള്‍ ഉള്‍പ്പെടെ അത്യാന്താധുനിക സാങ്കേതിക വിദ്യകളാണ് ബി.വൈ.ഡി കെ9 സീരീസ് ഇലക്ട്രിക് ബസിലുള്ളത്. ചൈനയില്‍ ഇത്തരം 300ഓളം ബസുകള്‍ സര്‍വീസ് നടത്തുന്നുണ്ട്. സിംഗപൂരിലും മലേഷ്യയിലും വിജയകരമായ ശേഷമാണ് ഇന്ത്യയിലേക്കും ഇലക്ട്രിക് ബസുകള്‍ എത്തുന്നത്. സൗരോര്‍ജ്ജം വഴിയും ബാറ്ററികള്‍ ചാര്‍ജ് ചെയ്യാനാവും എന്നതാണ് മറ്റൊരു പ്രത്യേകത. 2 കോടി രൂപയാണ് ബസിന്റെ വില.

- See more at: http://www.asianetnews.tv/technology/article.php?article=7504_first-electric-bus-in-bangalore#sthash.iBV8sItZ.dpuf

Bhagat Singh Writes to Narendra Modi

Bhagat Singh Writes to Narendra Modi

By ASAD ASHRAF

Sun Mar 2, 2014 

280225

Recently, I heard that you told my countrymen at one of your public meetings that I was in the Andaman Jail. I don’t know if I should be annoyed at you or be laughing at you for your poor knowledge of ‘Modi-fied’ historical facts. Let me just correct you that I was never in the Andaman Jail, I spent my final days in the Lahore jail which is in Pakistan now (Pakistan, eww. Now don’t respond hysterically in a bid for votes. Read me patiently! Calculate your votes later). It was your Maha-Veer Savarkar who was in the Andaman Cellular Jail from where he wrote an apology to the British Government.

In last few years I have been noting that you and your people have been trying to cash in on my name. Essays are being written in my name claiming that I was on your side of the ideology during my struggle against the imperialist powers. Let me just narrate some facts: When we were struggling against the colonizers in India, your ideological forefathers were busy being collaborators; when our men were being killed, your icon Veer Savarkar was pleading to be released from jail by writing apologies to the British Government. Not just him many others from your side of the ideology were doing the same. Though I am sure had you been there you would have shown courage to join the struggle against the Britishers and would have happily embraced the gallows like us or maybe I am wrong, if you had that courage you would not butcher innocents on the streets of Gujarat in 2002 or ask people to take out their revenge on innocent people. You would not propel neo liberal policies on the pretext of ‘development’ while so many poor kids in your state die of malnourishment and hunger. You must have heard this quote of my guru Karl Marx , “The production of too many useful things results in too many useless people.” That’s what you have done in Gujarat.

250 x 580
 

You too would have been a typical collaborator with the imperial powers as you are today with the Neo Imperialist Lobbies from America and Europe, selling them all that belongs to the people of this mighty and vast country. In this light let me clarify that all your attempts to hijack my struggle by you and your men to en cash some votes will be ruptured as we both have always stood against each other in the history of many societies while you have always advocated subjugation of the masses and domestication of women, we have always fought for their liberation. In these dire situations it must need a fool like you to even attempt any measure to use me as a symbol for your vote bank politics, this ridicules your commitment to your own ideology. I have written a detailed essay on ‘Why I am an Atheist’ while you have been calling yourself a Hindu nationalist. I would recommend you to read that essay although I have a strong reservation on your capacity to understand what I have written. You should probably take the help of Advani Jee in understanding that but who knows if he really will be willing to help you in anything at this moment ? I suggest you get some help from the self proclaimed RSS ideologue Mohan Bhagwat but for that you might have to wear your old Khaki Kaccha (Shorts) for another day.

No matter how hard you strive to flaunt my posters and use my symbols for your political mileages, we will always stand poles apart from each other. You will be always on the right and I firmly stand on the left. Had I been alive today? In your eyes I would be a terrorist. A dreaded terrorist! That’s how you term those fighting for their democratic rights.

Before I delve into details, I guard you with a red salute!

I have carefully chosen to guard you a Red salute after much political analysis rather than to greet you in your Hindu nationalist style. For Red salute stands to fight against the tyranny of the ruling class, I am sure you are fighting against the ruling class within your own bourgeoise party dominated by the upper caste lobbies of the likes of Advani, Sushma and Arun Jaitley . I congratulate you so far being able to do that with much effectiveness. I am overwhelmed to see how you have punctured the swelling balloon of Lal Krishna Advani who is with many others responsible for shattering the dreams of the India I saw with my fellow comrades such as Ashafqullah Khan, Batukeshwar Dutt, Chandrashekhar Azad and many other. I am overwhelmed to see that the party which represented a whole set of fascists once is reduced to a blabber represented by you and your small Stuarts like Amit Shah, you punctured the theoretically equipped fascists flat while projecting yourself as one without much theoretical understanding of the fascist political ideology. I am sure you have raised the alarms for destruction of many ideological traces of fascism by your emergence being perceived as fascism. Red Salute again before I proceed further.

You might not know but your emergence will prove to be the beginning to the end of a long era of darkness enveloping us, it takes night to set in properly for a new sunny day to start. You have become the symbol of that dark night. This might bring some cyclones before you are reduced to dust. Here by your getting reduced to dust does not mean that you will personally be reduced to dust or who knows? (Turn back to look at Hitler and Mussolini) but rather your ideas will have to meet death. Don’t target me for making such a statement in your next public meeting where you pretend to roar, I am only contextualizing what Karl Marx had analyzed( I hope you have at least heard about him),” Before socialism reaches its final stage it passes through cycles of feudalism and capitalism.”You are just making things simpler for the Indian revolutionaries.

You must be wondering that if I am writing to you from heaven or hell? As you perceive it to be but let me clarify it to you once again that I still exist very much within every particle of my motherland and my own people, as some would sing, “O! Bhagat singh tum zinda ho kheto mein khaliyon mein inqualab ke naro mein”. (O! Bhagat singh, you are alive in the fields of farmers and in the war cry of revolutions).

I rest assured that the people of this great country who have idealized me for over sixty years will never let a person like you kill the idea of the nation of what me my comrades had dreamt of while you keep on destroying the many fascists in your own party.

Lal Salam !….

Comrade Bhagat singh

Eighth-grader wins Nevada state spelling bee second year in a row

Clark County eighth-grader wins state spelling bee second year in a row

Under heavy spotlights, 29 edgy but smiling middle school students sat ready to compete for Nevada’s State Spelling Bee title and a chance to compete on a national stage.

The group became smaller as those eliminated scampered off into seats set aside for them, some shocked, others visibly upset.

At the end of Saturday’s three-hour-long bee at the Summerlin Library Theater in Las Vegas, only Amna Raza walked away with a huge grin on her face.

Just like she did last year, her first year as winner of the state spelling bee.

“I felt more nervous this year than I did last year,” Raza said. “I felt slightly more prepared, but I still had the pressure of winning. It was all through hard work and prayer that I won.”

The eighth-grade student from Omar Haikal Islamic Academy in Las Vegas fought through 32 exhausting rounds, including six champion rounds, to defeat 28 other competitors to win the State Spelling Bee. The competition was sponsored by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

New this year was the addition of two vocabulary rounds, where students had to choose the correct meaning of a word.

Raza won the bee with the word “paraphrasia,” which means a speech defect characterized by incoherence in arrangement of words. She will represent Nevada at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., on May 25-31.

Second runner-up was 12-year-old Eshaan Vakil, a sixth-grade student from Hyde Park Middle School, which also is in Las Vegas.

“I was really nervous. I really wanted to win,” Vakil said. “I searched the Internet to find different resources to help me study and I studied for five months. I had my eye on the prize.”

Vakil misspelled “literatim,” which means of the copying of a text letter by letter. He said the word is now carved in his mind and he plans to be back next year, this time more prepared.

Many students and their families stayed until the end to support their competitors until the end. Some students listened intently, hoping to brace themselves for next year’s competition.

Melinda Brown, Nevada State Spelling Bee coordinator, said the spelling bee was the longest it’s been since she could remember. The spelling bee pronouncer, Kendall Tenney, ran out of words and had to switch to using additional words that were not in the guide.

“I get more nervous doing this event than any other speaking engagements,” Tenney said. “I have to pronounce the words right and some words I’ve never even seen before. These kids are really talented.”

The students had to finish first in bees at their schools and again in county or regional bees to make Saturday’s finals.

Some students used strategies such as using their hand to write the word down before spelling it and pronouncing it to make sure they heard it right. Most fidgeted with their fingers in anticipation.

Raza, on the other hand, had a calm and cool demeanor. She admitted she did not come in with a plan and said she’s always been good at spelling.

Among the words the two finalists got right: “balalaika” (a Russian folk stringed musical instrument); “edelweiss” (a European mountain plant); “mukhtar” (the head of local government of a town or village); and Anschluss (political or economic union of one government or territory with another).

Raza’s mother and father, Nureen and Ali Raza, attributed their daughter’s success to her hard work, her teachers and Allah.

“We’re very proud of her,” Nureen said. “We’ve always believed in prayers. First we tell Amna to work hard and then leave the rest up to prayer.”

Raza said she looks forward to going to the nation’s capital where she hopes to win the national title.

“I’ve received a lot of strong support from my religious community,” Raza said. “Everyone has been really encouraging of me, which has made me confident. Now I can go prepare myself for Washington, D.C.”

Contact View reporter Sandy Lopez at slopez@viewnews.com or 702-383-4686
.

RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, knew about the conspiracy to bomb civilian targets, says Aseemanand

By The Caravan | 5 February 2014
 

Swami Aseemanand Says the RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat Sanctioned Terrorist Attacks

Swami Aseemanand, incarcerated in Ambala Central Jail for abetting terrorist attacks on various targets between 2006 and 2008—Samjhauta Express (February 2007), Hyderabad Mecca Masjid (May 2007), Ajmer Dargah (October 2007) and two attacks in Malegaon (September 2006 and September 2008)—which together took the lives of 119 people, has made a revelation to The Caravan which has been published in the latest issue of the magazine. In the course of over two years, Aseemanand granted four exclusive interviews to The Caravan journalist Leena Gita Reghunath inside Ambala jail, the total duration of which ran into 09 hours and 26 minutes. In the last two interviews, Aseemanand repeated that his terrorist acts were sanctioned by the highest levels of the RSS—all the way up to Mohan Bhagwat, the current RSS chief, who was the organisation’s general secretary at the time.

Aseemanand told The Caravan that Bhagwat said of the violence, “It is very important that it be done. But you should not link it to the Sangh.” (A list of questions was sent to Bhagwat, but he has not responded.)

Extract from the 11,200-word-long The Caravan article:

Over the course of our conversations, Aseemanand’s description of the plot in which he was involved became increasingly detailed. In our third and fourth interviews, he told me that his terrorist acts were sanctioned by the highest levels of the RSS—all the way up to Mohan Bhagwat, the current RSS chief, who was the organisation’s general secretary at the time. Aseemanand told me that Bhagwat said of the violence, “It’s very important that it be done. But you should not link it to the Sangh.”

Aseemanand told me about a meeting that allegedly took place, in July 2005. After an RSS conclave in Surat, senior Sangh leaders including Bhagwat and Indresh Kumar, who is now on the organisation’s powerful seven-member national executive council, travelled to a temple in the Dangs, Gujarat, where Aseemanand was living—a two-hour drive. In a tent pitched by a river several kilometres away from the temple, Bhagwat and Kumar met with Aseemanand and his accomplice Sunil Joshi. Joshi informed Bhagwat of a plan to bomb several Muslim targets around India. According to Aseemanand, both RSS leaders approved, and Bhagwat told him, “You can work on this.” Indresh added, “You can work on this with Sunil. We will not be involved, but if you are doing this, you can consider us to be with you.”

Aseemanand continued, “Then they told me, ‘Swamiji, if you do this we will be at ease with it. Nothing wrong will happen then. Criminalisation nahin hoga (It will not be criminalised). If you do it, then people won’t say that we did a crime for the sake of committing a crime. It will be connected to the ideology. This is very important for Hindus. Please do this. You have our blessings.’”

Chargesheets filed by the investigative agencies allege that Kumar provided moral and material support to the conspirators, but they don’t implicate anyone as senior as Bhagwat. Although Kumar was interrogated once by the CBI, the case was later taken over by the NIA, which has not pursued the conspiracy past the level of Aseemanand and Pragya Singh. (Joshi, who was allegedly the connecting thread between several different parts of the conspiracy—including those who assembled and those who planted the bombs—was killed under mysterious circumstances in December 2007.)

Sixty-three-year-old Aseemanand dedicated almost his entire adult life to the tribal arm of the RSS, the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (VKA). At the time he planned the terrorist attacks, he had been the national head of the VKA’s religious wing, the Shraddha Jagran Vibhag—a position created especially for him—for a decade. In honour of Aseemanand’s service to the Sangh, in December 2005, he was awarded a special Guruji Samman on the occasion of the birth centenary of MS Golwalkar. The award came with a one-lakh-rupee cash prize and the veteran BJP leader and former party president Murli Manohar Joshi gave the ceremony’s keynote address. Not only have the RSS and the BJP never disowned Aseemanand for his roles in the terrorist attacks, or taken back the awards, Aseemanand confessed to The Caravan that RSS-affiliated lawyers are providing his legal aid.

Knowing the national relevance of the sensitive information that Aseemanand revealed to The Caravan journalist, in an interview which was conducted with the full consent of Aseemanand, we place these facts in front of the public, along with a tape recording and transcript of parts of the conversation that mention Mohan Bhagwat. The full story is at caravanmagazine.in/reportage/believer

                                                         Date: 5 February, 2014

Truly yours,

Mr. Anant Nath Dr. Vinod K Jose
Editor, The Caravan and Director, Delhi Press Executive Editor, The Caravan

Total number of interviews: 4

Dates taken: 10 January 2012, 22 June 2013, 9 January 2014, 17 January 2014

Place taken: Ambala Central Jail, Haryana

Total duration of all interviews together: 9 hours, 26 minutes, 51 seconds

Relevant audio related to Mohan Bhagwat:

Interview 3:  1:40 – 1:42

THE CARAVAN TRANSCRIPTS
File: ASEEMANAND
Writer: Leena Gita Reghunath
Editors: Vinod K Jose (reporting and content) and Alex Blasdel (structure and story)
Copy Editor: Ajay Krishnan
Fact Checker: Manas Roshan
Transcribed on: third interview—10 January 2014; fourth interview—17 January 2014
Transcription extracts / highlights on Mohan Bhagwat:

From third interview with Aseemanand, 10 Jan 2014, Ambala Central Jail, Haryana:

@ 1 hr: 40 min:

Aseemanand: Mohan Bhagwat, Indresh and Sunil, they all came to meet me in Shabari Dham.

Sunil said to Bhagwatji: Thoda hindu ka akraman hona hai. Sangh se jude hue log hai jo yeh vichar rakhte hai. Jo bhi hoga hum tak hi rakhenge. Sangh se inko jho denge bhi nahin. Aap se koi madat nahi lenge. Aap adhikari hai is liye aap ko bata rahe hai. Is liye aap ko bata raha hai, ki hum log soch rahe hai. [We should do some violence in the name of Hindus. There are many in the Sangh who feel so. Whatever happens it will be limited to us. We will not link the Sangh with this. We won't take any help from you for this. We are letting you know because you are the top officials of the Sangh that we are planning to do this.]

Then Mohanji and Indresh, both said: Yeh bahut achcha hai. Zaroori hai. Sangh se nahi jodna. Sangh nahi karenge. [unclear] Hindutva ke liye bhi aisa koi hai. Sangh ka yeh vichar nahi hai.  [This is great. It's very important that it be done. But the Sangh will not do this ... (unclear) ... That now Hindus will also have someone to do this. But don’t link this to the Sangh. Because this not the ideology of the Sangh.]

Then told me: Swamiji aap yeh karenge toh hum nishchint hoga. Koyi galat nahi hoga. Criminalization nahi hoga. Aap karenge toh crime karne keliye kar rahe hai aisa nahin lagega. Ideology ke saath juda rahega. [unclear] Bahut zaruri hai yeh hindu ke liye. Aap log karo. Aashirwad hai. Is se aage kuch bhi nahi. [If you will do this, we will be at ease with this. Nothing wrong will happen then. This will not be criminalized then. If you do it then people won't say that we did a crime for the sake of doing a crime. It will be connected to the ideology. This is very important for Hindus. Please do this. You have our blessings. Nothing more than that from us.]

1:42:38
Interview 4: 2:29  – 2:30

Extract from fourth interview January 17, 2014:

2:29:02

Aseemanand: Phir kya hua ki Mohanji bola ke [So then Mohanji told me that] “aap kaam kar sakte hai.” Indreshji bola ki “haan aap kaam kar sakte hai. Sunil ko leke aap kaam kar sakte hai. Par ham log nahi rahenge. Aap hai to ham log aapke saath hai yeh aap maan lena. Aap jo karenge galat nahi hoga. Disha teekh rahega.” [You can work on this. You can work on this with Sunil. We will not be involved. But if you are doing this, you can consider us to be with you on this. If you do this we are ensured that nothing wrong will happen. This will be on the right course (with your presence).]

2:29:15
This I had told Bharat and Bharat had told this to the CBI. I was surprised how CBI got to know all these things. That only me, Sunil, Bhagwatji and Indresh had met in a camp at the Shabri Dham. Yeh yeh baat hua tha [we had talked about these particular topics] – it was very surprising to me that how CBI knew about this. [In] 2005, after the Surat meeting this happened, close to Diwali.

Corrections: 1) |5 February, 2014| This press release previously stated that the reporter’s first interview with Aseemanand was in December 2011. The reporter met Aseemanand at a hearing that month. The first interview took place on 10 January 2012. 2) |9 February, 2014| An earlier line from the story, also excerpted in the press release, contained a transcription error. The line originally read:  ‘According to Aseemanand, both RSS leaders approved, and Bhagwat told him, “You can work on this with Sunil. We will not be involved, but if you are doing this, you can consider us to be with you.”’ This line has been modified to: ‘According to Aseemanand, both RSS leaders approved, and Bhagwat told him, “You can work on this.” Indresh added, “You can work on this with Sunil. We will not be involved, but if you are doing this, you can consider us to be with you.”’ The Caravan regrets the errors.

- See more at: http://caravanmagazine.in/press-release#sthash.ZBb5QmnU.dpuf

‘Documentary “An American Mosque” needs to be seen by people across the globe’

‘Documentary “An American Mosque” needs to be seen by people across the globe’

By Ras H. Siddiqui,

California: Many people in this country are not aware that South Asians came to the United States over a century ago. They gravitated to California and more specifically in the Yuba City and Live Oak areas near the state capital of Sacramento long before British India was partitioned in 1947 into what became India and Pakistan. The vast majority of these immigrants were Sikhs but they also contained a significant Muslim population and the Hindus amongst them ranked third in terms of numbers. The Muslim Mosque in Sacramento has catered to community needs since 1947 but distance and the need for catering to an aging population of worshippers, growth in numbers due to family reunification, other forms of immigration, plus marriages outside the community necessitated the building of more localized Mosques, like a project started in the early 1990’s in Yuba City.

This Yuba City, California Mosque was fast approaching completion when it was burned down in 1994 by one or more arsonists. The people responsible were never caught and punished but the pain that the community went through to rebuild again was very real and needed to be conveyed somehow. That happened when this tragedy became the topic of a documentary named “An American Mosque” by filmmaker David Washburn (DW), who is trying to get this film aired all across America via Public Broadcasting (PBS) television stations. Ras Siddiqui (RS) attended a screening of this film at the Salam Mosque in Sacramento recently. A short but candid interview with David is presented below:

 



Burnt mosque

RS: What inspired you, a person from a Christian- Jewish religious background to make the documentary “An American Mosque”?

DW: I was deeply affected by anti-Muslim rhetoric following 9/11. I thought, “Here we go again,” just the next minority in a long line to be cast as the “the enemy.” It happened to Japanese Americans after WWII, I know because I have written about it and researched this history here in California. Of course, my own background as a Jew, tells me that this bigoted language, Islamophobia, is dangerous and is the first step towards dehumanizing a group of people and ultimately results in violence. We have witnessed this. To counter this trend, we need to tell stories that show our common humanity to reduce the distance between members of different faiths. That’s where I can play a role as documentary filmmaker.

RS: How long did it take to complete this project from inception to completion and what hurdles did you face?

DW: This project started in 2007. One of the biggest hurdles was a lack of reporting on this story. I went into the archives of all regional and state newspapers. There was very little to help inform my storytelling prior to meeting community members and to learn who I could interview. So the research took a good deal of time.

 



The new Yuba City Mosque rebuilt and thriving since the year 2000.

RS: How were you received by the Muslim community in Yuba City when you contacted them?

DW: I was never turned away by a single person. Everyone understood this was a story worth telling. I did, though, take some time to covey who I was and how I was going to tell this story — meaning from what perspective and using what materials and interviews. For all of the community members who participated, this was really the first time they recounted their story in-depth and most certainly the first time on camera. This is an uneasy process because there is still some sadness around the event. For these reasons I had to proceed delicately, which means over a good deal of time. You can’t just force people to participate, if you know what I mean.

RS: You are in the process of obtaining community funding to take this film to all PBS stations in the United States. Can you explain that process for us here?

DW: I have launched a nationwide campaign to help bring this film to audiences around the country. I have been approved for distribution by the National Educational Telecommunications Association to offer this film to over 300 PBS stations. But this process is not automatic. Now, I have to do a tremendous amount of work to contact each PBS station and convince them to broadcast An American Mosque. This takes resources. I have hired a veteran PBS consultant to run my communications campaign. We are aiming for broadcasts next Ramadan when everyone should learn about the American Muslim experience. This is a grassroots campaign. I need donations from around the county to help pay for expenses going forward into the summer. People can go to my website www.anamericanmosque.com to learn more and donate online. This is a great opportunity for people who are fed up with ignorant stereotypes of Muslims to make a difference and support positive and inspiring portrayals of Muslims on television. It’s really that simple.

 



David Washburn presents An American Mosque.

RS: The documentary has a message of global interfaith understanding. After airing it in the U.S. will you be promoting it for viewing overseas?

DW: I would like to distribute this film internationally, especially in Pakistan and India. The community in the film is Pakistani American. Audiences in South Asia need to see what is happening in the United States. And although the arson was tragic, the response by many non-Muslims was extremely supportive and people should see this to deepen their understanding of interfaith relations here. Also, to learn that a non-Muslim filmmaker cares to tell this story is important — it is an interfaith project at its core. As religious institutions are attacked around the globe, we need to show an alternative, that faiths need to find common ground and mutual respect going forward.

RS: Why did you name the film “An American Mosque”?

DW: I wanted to juxtapose two institutions that are considered incompatible by some ignorant people. It is a bit provocative. But this is the point, mosques are being constructed everywhere in the United States. If they are not American, what are they? The idea is to state boldly that we are a pluralistic society with every kind of house of worship, each one as “American” as the next.

 



David Washburn with Kids at SALAM February 7, 2014.

RS: To conclude here, one starts thinking positively about the relationship between faiths (even on the global level) after viewing this short documentary. This article purposely focused more on the filmmaker than this well-made film itself which would have revealed its content. It deserves a much larger audience and its online “Crowd Funding” effort ( www.anamericanmosque.com ) can make that happen with everyone’s support. Once you are on the website please click on “indiegogo” logo to donate before April 7, 2014.

News: 

Discrimination Olympics: Meddling with Muslims in Sochi

 

Discrimination Olympics: Meddling with Muslims in Sochi

 
 
 

Why Putin’s Islamophobic policies pervade the Winter Olympics at Sochi.

 
Last updated: 17 Feb 2014 09:19
Khaled A Beydoun
Khaled A Beydoun is the Critical Race Studies Teaching Fellow at the UCLA School of Law.
 
 
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Rampant Islamophobia has cast a shadow of danger during these Olympic Games, writes Beydoun [Getty Images]

Sochi’s more than 20,000 Muslims helped build the infrastructure and stages for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia, where Muslim athletes from a range of participating nations will compete within these multi-million-dollar stadia, slopes, and structures, vying for gold and the glory that comes with Olympic victory.

However, for Muslims in Sochi, the rampant Islamophobia has cast a shadow of concern and danger during these Olympic Games. Coverage of the Sochi games mentions Islam and Muslims exclusively in the form ofterrorist threat, head-scarved “black widows“, and, the familiar conflation of religious observance with national security concerns.

Coverage of the Sochi games mentions Islam and Muslims exclusively in the form of terrorist threat, head-scarved “black widows”, and, the familiar conflation of religious observance with national security concerns.

 

While the Opening Ceremony showcased the well-crafted face of a “New Russia“, age-old Russian hate toward the LGBTQ community, and indeed, both indigenous and visiting Muslims, are also prominently displayed in Sochi.  

During its buildup, NBC’s Bob Costas stated that the Sochi Games will, “take place against a backdrop of questions about policy differences, security, cost overruns and human rights issues, including Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law”. 

The firestorm against Sochi’s brazen homophobia leading up and during the Olympics was fierce, capped by President Barack Obama sending a US delegation led by openly gay athletes. The message, from news desks and the Oval Office, was clear – the US opposed the structural homophobia built into the Sochi Olympics. 

No similar statements were made of the pervasive Islamophobia encircling the Games. Rather, the media and political rhetoric in the US toward Muslims and Islam are aligned with those of Russia, and linked inextricably to terrorism. American misalignment with Russia’s per se homophobia, and its converging interests with Moscow’s framing of Muslim threat, highlights the ever more relevant observation of Derrick Bell, who held that: “Domestic civil rights policies are only promoted when they advance majoritarian (white) interests abroad.”

The policing of Muslims stateside, and its nexus to the “global war on terrorism”, has – in large part – erased word of Sochi’s brazen Islamophobia from news headlines, and, hushed the US government from calling into question the religious freedoms of Muslims in Russia.    

20,000 Muslims, zero mosques

Like its rigid stance against homosexuality, Islamophobia is built deeply within the brick and mortar of Russian law. New – like Old – Russia, violently persecutes its religious minorities. The Olympic City sits on the edges of the Caucasus Mountains – the site of the 19th century decimation and displacement of Circassian Muslims. In an effort to pacify resistance, the Czar followed by Soviet strategy focused on shuttering mosques, and eliminating religious centres and meeting spaces as a strategy to ethnically cleanse the indigenous Muslims. This Russian tactic of blanket suppression has outlived czars, the Soviet Union, and still lords over the Muslim population surrounding and within the Caucasus region.    

In the Mother Jones article “Why Sochi has no mosques“, Tim Murphy writes that Sochi does not have a single mosque within its bounds for its 20,000 Muslim residents. The vast majority of these Muslims “migrated to the city over the last decade to take jobs building the Olympic facilities”. The nearest mosque is in the village of Tkhagapsh, roughly 50 miles from Sochi. Likely in an effort to preempt disruptive protests, Anatoli Rykov, the interim mayor of Sochi, told reporters that talks to build Sochi’s first mosque would begin after the Olympics. 

Prayers rooms have been availed to Muslim Olympians. The accommodation of Muslim athletes, however, is hardly a symbol of tolerance. But rather, a blatant effort to quell dissidence within the Olympic Village, while simultaneously, denying the rights of Sochi’s Muslim residents to practice their faith.

 

 

Sochi’s mosque-less limits is emblematic of a deeper animus toward Muslims. Conspicuous markers of Muslim identity, including beards or headscarves, legal status and Chechen or Circassian nationality, will instantly mobilise the 50,000 police forces patrolling the city.

In short, Sochi is no place for Muslims, and the Steering Committee’s welcome for the Games’ Muslim athletes will surely expire as soon as Olympic flame is put out. 

Sochi: A modern Potemkin Village?

The Sochi Games have been called a “moment of personal glory” for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. A $51 bn grand circus for the Russian strongman, showcasing his financial mettle and might for the entire world to see. However, Putin’s arrogance is only one dimension of how these Games will be remembered after its end on February 23. 

Without question, Putin backs the modern Islamophobic policies in Russia today. However, the phobia that mixes with religious animus with empire, xenophobia and a racially narrow conception of authentic Russian identity, precedes the modern czar by centuries. Beyond the billion-dollar Olympic Structures that symbolise “New Russia” are deeply entrenched phobias and systems of hate that no sublime opening ceremony or state-of-the-art stadium can hide.

When the crowds are gone and the world’s cameras are far away, Sochi will be remembered as a modern “Potemkin Village”, built atop the hollowed pillars of hate that survived the fall of walls and the crumbling of iron curtains. After the final medal is awarded in Sochi, these will stand as the lasting symbols of the Winter Olympics 2014. 

Khaled A Beydoun is the Critical Race Studies Teaching Fellow at the UCLA School of Law.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

 
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Thailand dumps Myanmar’s Muslim refugees into trafficking rings

Special Report – Thailand secretly dumps Myanmar refugees into trafficking rings

RANONG, Thailand Thu Dec 5, 2013 12:34am GMT

 
Bozor Mohammed from the Rakhine state in Myanmar stands near a wall after an interview at his house in Kuala Lumpur November 8, 2013. Picture taken November 8. REUTERS-Samsul Said

1 OF 21. Bozor Mohammed from the Rakhine state in Myanmar stands near a wall after an interview at his house in Kuala Lumpur November 8, 2013. Picture taken November 8.

CREDIT: REUTERS/SAMSUL SAID

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(Reuters) – One afternoon in October, in the watery no-man’s land between Thailand and Myanmar, Muhammad Ismail vanished.

Thai immigration officials said he was being deported to Myanmar. In fact, they sold Ismail, 23, and hundreds of other Rohingya Muslims to human traffickers, who then spirited them into brutal jungle camps.

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As thousands of Rohingya flee Myanmar to escape religious persecution, a Reuters investigation in three countries has uncovered a clandestine policy to remove Rohingya refugees from Thailand’s immigration detention centers and deliver them to human traffickers waiting at sea.

The Rohingya are then transported across southern Thailand and held hostage in a series of camps hidden near the border with Malaysia until relatives pay thousands of dollars to release them. Reporters located three such camps – two based on the testimony of Rohingya held there, and a third by trekking to the site, heavily guarded, near a village called Baan Klong Tor.

Thousands of Rohingya have passed through this tropical gulag. An untold number have died there. Some have been murdered by camp guards or have perished from dehydration or disease, survivors said in interviews.

The Thai authorities say the movement of Rohingya through their country doesn’t amount to human trafficking. But in interviews for this story, the Thai Royal Police acknowledged, for the first time, a covert policy called “option two” that relies upon established human-smuggling networks to rid Thailand of Rohingya detainees.

Ismail was one of five Rohingya who said that Thai immigration officials had sold him outright or aided in their sale to human traffickers. “It seemed so official at first,” said Ismail, a wiry farmer with a long narrow face and tight curly hair. “They took our photographs. They took our fingerprints. And then once in the boats, about 20 minutes out at sea, we were told we had been sold.”

Ismail said he ended up in a camp in southern Thailand. So did Bozor Mohamed, a Rohingya whose frail body makes him seem younger than his 21 years. The camp was guarded by men with guns and clubs, said Mohamed, and at least one person died every day due to dehydration or disease.

“I used to be a strong man,” the former rice farmer said in an interview, as he massaged his withered legs.

Mohamed and others say they endured hunger, filth and multiple beatings. Mohamed’s elbow and back are scarred from what he said were beatings administered by his captors in Thailand while he telephoned his brother-in-law in Malaysia, begging him to pay the $2,000 (1,220.93 pounds) ransom they demanded. Some men failed to find a benefactor in Malaysia to pay their ransom. The camp became their home. “They had long beards and their hair was so long, down to the middle of their backs, that they looked liked women,” said Mohamed.

“HOLDING BAYS”

What ultimately happens to Rohingya who can’t buy their freedom remains unclear. A Thai-based smuggler said some are sold to shipping companies and farms as manual laborers for 5,000 to 50,000 baht each, or $155 to $1,550.

“Prices vary according to their skills,” said the smuggler, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Arakan Project, a Rohingya advocacy group based in Thailand, says it has interviewed scores of Rohingya who have passed through the Thai camps and into Malaysia. Many Rohingya who can’t pay end up as cooks or guards at the camps, said Chris Lewa, Arakan Project’s director.

Presented with the findings of this report, Thailand’s second-highest-ranking policeman made some startling admissions. Thai officials might have profited from Rohingya smuggling in the past, said Police Maj-Gen Chatchawal Suksomjit, Deputy Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police. He also confirmed the existence of illegal camps in southern Thailand, which he called “holding bays”.

Tarit Pengdith, chief of the Department of Special Investigation, Thailand’s equivalent of the U.S. FBI, was also asked about the camps Reuters discovered. “We have heard about these camps in southern Thailand,” he said, “but we are not investigating this issue.”

Besieged by a political crisis and violent street protests this week, Thailand faces difficult questions about its future and global status. Among those is whether it will join North Korea, the Central African Republic and Iran among the world’s worst offenders in fighting human trafficking.

The signs are not good.

The U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking In Persons (TIP) report ranks countries on their record for combating the crime. For the past four years, Thailand has sat on the TIP Report’s so-called Tier 2 Watch List, the second-lowest rank. It will be automatically downgraded to Tier 3 next year unless it makes what the State Department calls “significant efforts” to eliminate human trafficking.

Dropping to Tier 3 status theoretically carries the threat of U.S. sanctions. In practice, the United States is unlikely to sanction Thailand, one of its oldest treaty allies in Asia. But to be downgraded would be a major embarrassment to Thailand, which is now lobbying hard for a non-permanent position on the United Nations Security Council.

THE ROHINGYA EXODUS

Rohingya are Muslims from Myanmar and Bangladesh, where they are usually stateless and despised as illegal immigrants. In 2012, two eruptions of violence between Rohingyas and majority Buddhists in Rakhine State in western Myanmar killed at least 192 people and made 140,000 homeless. Most were Rohingya, who live in wretched camps or under apartheid-like segregation with little access to healthcare, schools or jobs.

And so they have fled Myanmar by sea in unprecedented numbers over the past year. Ismail and Mohamed joined tens of thousands of Rohingya in one of the biggest movements of boat people since the end of the Vietnam War.

Widespread bias against the Rohingya in the region, however, makes it difficult for them to find safe haven – and easy to fall into the hands of traffickers. “No one is there to speak for them,” says Phil Robertson, deputy director for Asia at Human Rights Watch. “They are a lost people.”

Rohingya men, women and children squeeze aboard overloaded fishing boats and cargo ships to cross the Bay of Bengal. Their desired destination is Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country where at least 31,000 Rohingya already live. As Reuters reported in July, many of these refugees were waylaid in Thailand, where the Thai navy and marine police worked with smugglers to extract money for their onward trip to Malaysia.

Hundreds of Rohingyas were arrested in two headline-grabbing raids by the Thai authorities on January 9 in the towns of Padang Besar and Sadao, both near the Malaysia border. At the time, Colonel Krissakorn Paleetunyawong, deputy commander of police in the area, declared the Rohingya would be deported back to Myanmar. That never happened.

Ismail and Mohamed were among the 393 Rohingya that Thai police say were arrested that day in Padang Besar. So was Ismail’s friend Ediris, 22. The three young men all hailed from Buthedaung, a poor township in northern Rakhine State.

Their story reveals how Thailand, a rapidly developing country in the heart of Southeast Asia, shifted from cracking down on human trafficking camps to facilitating them.

A SECRET POLICY

After their arrest, Ediris and Ismail were brought to an immigration detention center (IDC) in Sadao, where they joined another 300 Rohingya rounded up from a nearby smuggler’s house. The two-story IDC, designed for a few dozen inmates, was overflowing. Women and children were moved to sheltered housing, while some men were sent to other IDCs across Thailand.

With about 1,700 Rohingya locked up nationwide, the Thai government set a July deadline to deport them all and opened talks with Myanmar on how to do it. The talks went nowhere, because the Myanmar government refused to take responsibility for what it regards as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Men and teenage boys languished for months in cramped, cage-like cells, often with barely enough room to sit or stand, much less walk. In June, Reuters journalists visited an IDC in Phang Nga, near the tourist Mecca of Phuket. There were 269 men and boys crammed into a space built for no more than 100. It reeked of urine and sweat. Some detainees used crutches because their muscles had atrophied.

A doctor who inspected Sadao’s IDC in July said he found five emaciated Rohingya clinging to life. Two died on their way to hospital, said the doctor, Anatachai Thaipratan, an advisor of the Thai Islamic Medical Association.

As the plight of Rohingya detainees made world headlines, pressure mounted on Thailand. But Myanmar wouldn’t take them, nor would Malaysia. With thousands more arriving, the U.N.’s refugee agency issued an urgent appeal for alternative housing. The government proposed building a “mega camp” in Nakhon Sri Thammarat, another province in southern Thailand. It was rejected after an outcry from local people.

In early August, 270 Rohingya rioted at the IDC in Phang Nga. Men tore off doors separating cells, demanding to be let outside to pray at the close of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Over the last three weeks of August, more than 300 Rohingya fled from five detention centers.

By this time, Mohamed, the 21-year-old refugee, could no longer walk, let alone escape. His leg muscles had wasted away from months in detention in a cell shared by 95 Rohingya men. Ismail and Ediris were shuttled between various IDCs, ending up in Nong Khai, a city on Thailand’s northern border with Laos.

Thailand saw its options rapidly dwindling, a senior government official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. It couldn’t protest to Myanmar’s government to improve the lives of Rohingya and stem the exodus, the official said. That could ruffle diplomatic feathers and even jeopardize the access of Thai companies hoping to invest in Myanmar, one of the world’s hottest frontier markets.

Nor could Thailand arrest, prosecute and jail the Rohingya for breaking Thai immigration law – there were simply too many of them. “There would be no room in our prison cells,” Police Maj-Gen Chatchawal said.

That growing problem gave birth to “option two” in October, a secret policy to deport the refugees back to Myanmar that led to Rohingyas being sold to human trafficking networks.

A hint of the policy shift came weeks earlier, on September 13, when Police Lt. Gen. Panu Kerdlarppol, chief of the Immigration Bureau, met with officials from other agencies on the resort island of Koh Samui to decide what to do with the Rohingya. Afterwards, Kerdlarppol announced that immigration authorities would take statements from the Rohingya “to arrange their deportation” and see if any want to go home. Arrangements would be made for those who did.

By early October, 2,058 Rohingya were held in 14 IDCs across Thailand, according to the Internal Security Operations Command, a national security agency run by the Thai military. A month later, that number stood at about 600, according to non-governmental organizations and Muslim aid workers. By the first week of December, it was 154, Thailand’s immigration department said.

Rohingya were fast disappearing from Thailand’s IDCs, and nobody knew where they were going.

“WE NOW BELONGED TO THEM”

Central to the policy was Ranong, a sparsely populated Thai province whose geography has always made it a smugglers’ paradise. Ranong shares a long, ill-policed land and sea border with Myanmar. Its coastline is blanketed in dense mangrove forest and dotted with small, often uninhabited islands.

The provincial capital, also called Ranong, was built on tin mining but now lives off fishingand tourism. Rust-streaked trawlers from Thailand and Burma ply the same waters as dive boats and yachts. So do wooden “long-tail” boats, named after their extended drive-shafts, which ferry Burmese migrant workers to the Myanmar port of Kawthaung, only a 30-minute voyage away.

By late October, hundreds of Rohingya were being packed onto immigration trucks and driven to Ranong for processing and deportation. Among them were Ismail and Ediris, who arrived in the port city after a grueling, standing room-only journey of 1,200 km (746 miles) from Nong Khai.

At Ranong’s IDC, they were photographed and told by Thai immigration officers they were being sent back to Myanmar. “They said no other countries were accepting Rohingya, and Myanmar had become peaceful,” said Ismail.

Then they were driven to a Ranong pier and herded onto four long-tail boats, each with a three-man crew of Thais and Burmese. Once at sea, the Rohingya asked the boat driver to help them. The Burmese-speaking driver shook his head and told the Rohingya they had been sold by Thai immigration officials for 11,000 baht ($350) each.

“They told us we now belonged to them,” said Ismail.

After about 30 minutes at sea, the boats stopped. It was early afternoon on October 23. The vessels waited until about 6 p.m., when a large fishing boat arrived. They were loaded aboard and sailed through the night until they reached a jungle island, separated from the mainland by a narrow river. It was about 4 a.m.

Ismail said he saw about 200 other Rohingya in that camp, mostly sleeping and guarded by men with guns. The guards shoved Ismail and the others into a muddy clearing. There was no water or food. He was told he must pay 60,000 Thai baht ($1,850). Did he have family who could send the money? If he did, he could go wherever he wanted, Ismail said he was told. “If you don’t, we’ll use this,” one guard said, showing an iron rod.

Ismail had some cash but not enough. “We need to escape,” he whispered to Ediris. After an hour at the camp, just before dawn, the two men made their move. A guard fired shots in the air as they ran through the jungle and waded through a river to reach the mainland. For the next 24 hours, they survived by drinking stream-water and eating the bark of banana trees. They emerged onto a rubber plantation, their feet lacerated from the bare-foot jungle trek, and met a Burmese man who promised to spirit them into Malaysia for 8,000 baht, or $250, each.

They agreed and were driven to a house in southern Thailand, where Reuters interviewed them hours before they were smuggled by pick-up across the Malaysian border.

THE JUNGLE CAMPS

Bozor Mohamed, the third young Rohingya from Buthedaung, said he was held for 10 days at a jungle camp in Padang Besar.

He, too, said he had been delivered by Thai officials to trafficking boats along the maritime border with Myanmar. Afterwards, in torrential rain and under cover of darkness, along with perhaps 200 other Rohingya, Mohamed said he was ferried back across the strait to Thailand, where a new ordeal began.

The men were taken on a two-day journey by van, motor-bike, and foot to a smuggler’s camp on the border with Malaysia. On the final hike, men with canes beat the young Rohingya and the others, many of them hobbled by months of detention. They stumbled and dragged themselves up steep forested hills.

Making the same trek was Mohamed Hassan, a fourth Rohingya to escape Thailand’s trafficking network. Hassan is a baby-faced 19-year-old from the Rakhine capital of Sittwe.

He said he arrived at the camp in September after an overnight journey in a pick-up truck, followed by a two-hour walk into the hills with dozens of other Rohingya. Their captors ordered them to carry supplies, he said. Already giddy with fatigue and hunger after eight days at sea, the 19-year-old shouldered a sack of rice. “If we stopped, the men beat us with sticks,” he said.

The camp was partially skirted by a barbed-wire fence, he said, and guarded by about 25 men with guns, knives and clubs. Hassan reckoned it held about 300 Rohingya. They slept on plastic sheets, unprotected from the sun and rain, and were allowed only one meal a day, of rice and dried fish. He said he was constantly hungry.

One night, two Rohingya men tried to escape. The guards tracked them down, bound their hands and dragged them back to camp. Then, the guards beat the two men with clubs, rods and lengths of rubber. “Everybody watched,” said Hassan. “We said nothing. Some people were crying.”

The beating lasted some 30 minutes, he said. Then a guard drew a small knife and slit the throat of one of the fugitives.

The prisoners were ordered to dispose of his corpse in the forest. The other victim was dumped in a stream. Afterwards, Hassan vomited with fear and exhaustion, but tried not to cry. “When I cried they beat me. I had already decided that I would die there.”

His only hope of release was his older brother, 42, a long-time resident of Thailand. Hassan said he had his brother’s telephone number with him, but at first his captors wouldn’t let him call it. (Traffickers are reluctant to deal with relatives in Thailand, in case they have contacts with the Thai authorities that could jeopardize operations.)

Eventually, Hassan reached his brother, who said he sold his motorbike to help raise the equivalent of about $3,000 to secure Hassan’s freedom, after 20 days in the camp.

Reporters were able to trace the location of three trafficking camps, based on the testimony of Rohingya who previously were held in them.

Three journalists traveled on motor-bikes and then hiked through rubber plantations and dense jungle to directly confirm the existence of a major camp near Baan Klong Tor.

Concealed by a blue tarpaulin tent, the Rohingya were split into groups of men and women. Some prayed. The encampment was patrolled by armed guards and protected by villagers and police. The reporters didn’t attempt to enter. Villagers who have visited the camp said the number of people held inside ranged from an estimated 500 to a thousand or more, depending on the number of people arriving, departing or escaping.

Interviews with about a dozen villagers also confirmed two other large camps: one less than a mile away, and another in Padang Besar, near the Malaysia border.

“THAT RED LINE IN THE SEA”

Major General Chatchawal of the Royal Thai Police in Bangkok admitted there was an unofficial policy to deport the Rohingya to Myanmar. He called this “a natural way or option two.” But he said the Rohingya went voluntarily.

“Some Rohingya in our IDCs can’t stand being in limbo, so they ask to return to where they came from,” said Chatchawal. “This means going back to Myanmar.” Rohingya at the IDCs, for instance, sign statements in the presence of a local Islamic leader, in which they agree they want to return to Myanmar.

These statements, however, were at times produced in the absence of a Rohingya language translator. When reporters visited the Sadao IDC for this story, the translator was a Muslim from Myanmar who spoke only Thai and Burmese, and thus unable to explain what the detainees were signing.

Chatchawal was also presented with recent testimony from Rohingya who said they weren’t taken to back to Myanmar. Instead, they were put in boats by Thai immigration officials, told they had been sold and taken under duress to Thailand’s camps. Reporters interviewed four Rohingya for this story who said they fell prey to trafficking with official complicity.

At the house where Ediris and Ismail were interviewed were two other survivors of the trafficking camps: Abdul Basser, 24, and Fir Mohamed, 28. They told similar stories. Both were arrested after arriving in Thailand on January 25, and held at the overcrowded Phang Nga IDC for about eight months. On October 17, the two men, along with dozens of other Rohingya, were driven overnight to Ranong.

“We were told we could go back to Myanmar,” said Mohamed.

That day, 48 Rohingya and five Buddhist Burmese were loaded into trucks and driven to a pier. The five Burmese were put on one boat; the Rohingya were put on another. After about a half hour at sea, the captain cut the engine. “We thought the engine had stalled or broke down,” said Basser. “The captain told us we could not go back to Myanmar, that we had been sold by the immigration and police,” he added.

Mohamed and Basser, too, escaped after being brought to an island near mainland Thailand.

Until now, the Thai government has denied official complicity in the smuggling or trafficking of Rohingya. But in a break with that position, Chatchawal said Thai officials might have received money previously in exchange for Rohingya, but not anymore. “In the past, and I stress in the past, there may have been cases of officials taking payments for handing over migrants to boats,” he said. “I am not ruling it out, but I don’t know of any specific cases recently.”

He said it was possible the Rohingya were intercepted by brokers and never made it to Myanmar. “Once they’ve crossed that border, that red line in the sea, they are Myanmar’s responsibility,” he said.

He also admitted the camps uncovered by Reuters exist in breach of Thai laws. He referred to them as “temporary shelters” for a people who ultimately want to reach Malaysia. The smugglers who run the camps “extort money from Rohingya” but police don’t accept bribes from them, he said.

As for the trafficking way stations in Padang Besar and Sadao, Chatchawal said: “I do believe there could be more camps like these. They could be hidden deep in the jungle.”

(Additional reporting by Jutaret Skulpichetrat and Amy Sawitta Lefevre in Bangkok, andStuart Grudgings in Kuala Lumpur.)