India: When the State is indifferent to rape, the people take the streets

[Increasingly, acts of protest and resistance are denounced or dismissed as “Maoist” by the the state.  —  Frontlines ed.]

When the ‘Maoists’ Took Over the Streets of Kolkata

Why did the Kamduni incident – the rape and murder of a young college student and the utterly insensitive handling of the issue by the West Bengal government and the ruling Trinamool Congress – spark off such a huge reaction to bring together a wide spectrum of civil society under one umbrella in Kolkata on 21 June?

Vol – XLVIII No. 29, July 20, 2013 Rajashri Dasgupta, EPW

Rajashri Dasgupta (rajashridasgupta@gmail.com) is an independent Kolkata-based journalist specialising on issues related to gender, health, democratic rights and social movements.Civil society members take out a procession in Kolkata to protest the rise in crime against women and recent incidents of rape in West Bengal. Photo: Sushanta Patronobish

It was a hot and muggy afternoon on 21 June, when in an incredible display of public solidarity and defiance, thousands of people marched through the streets of Kolkata in silent protest. There were no political parties to manage the swelling numbers, no brandishing of political flags to claim victory for any organisation. Led by respected intellectuals, people poured in from all corners of the city as well as its outskirts to show their support and solidarity – elderly people, some with sticks and crutches; homemakers, for many of whom it was their first rally; working people who spontaneously got off buses or skipped work. There were students in large numbers with banners and placards, teachers, villagers holding hands for safety in an unfamiliar place, rights activists distributing leaflets, feminists with colourful posters, non-governmental organisation workers, actors, academics and journalists – all came together to protest the spurt in crimes against women in the state.

The protest was triggered by the gang-rape and murder of a young college girl Sheila (not her real name) in Kamduni village, Barasat district on 7 June and the insensitive handling of the incident by the state government. It was for the first time that the city, famous for its processions, witnessed an outpouring from such a wide cross-section of society, about an issue generally left to women’s groups and feminists to battle: the safety and security of women.

The rally of more than 10,000 strong was also a political expression of indignation against the constant bogey of “the other” raised by the ruling party to gag dissent. Suddenly, from one section of the rally, young men and women raised slogans demanding azaadi (freedom), startling this reporter since the word is usually associated with the Kashmir issue. For the people of Bengal that afternoon, however, the rallying cry of azaadi snowballed to take on a larger significance. It not only meant freedom of women from violence, but also implied the freedom of citizens to live without fear, the freedom to speak up, to question, and the freedom to protest. Since 2011, with the promise of paribartan (change) that had swept Mamata Banerjee to power in West Bengal, defeating an almost invincible Left Front (LF) rule of 34 years, the chief minister has silenced every question, protest or any whiff of dissent, real or imaginary, by dismissing it as a conspiracy against her from her opponents, whom she dubbed the “Maoists”. Continue reading

Memorial Day: While the system glorifies imperialist war, the people remember the victims of their war crimes — Hiroshima/Nagasaki

USA Terrorism: HIROSHIMA / NAGASAKI Atomic Bomb

This video is a clip from a BBC Documentary called “BBC History of World War II: Hiroshima (2005)”. It is available on DVD
The US atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the largest international terrorist attack in history.  This attack was the only time that atomic or nuclear weapons have been used.

“Terrorism is the use of violence and intimidation against civilians in the pursuit of political aims.
In the Geneva and Hague Conventions, which in turn are based upon the basic principle that the deliberate harming of
soldiers during wartime is a necessary evil, and thus permissible, whereas the deliberate targeting of civilians is absolutely forbidden.

These Conventions thus differentiate between soldiers who attack a military adversary, and war criminals who deliberately
attack civilians.”

Justice for Afghan victims “… as if it were our own citizens”

by Paul Woodward, writing in War in Context, on March 13, 2012

“The United States takes this as seriously as if it was our own citizens, and our children, who were murdered,” President Obama said today, referring to the 16 Afghan citizens who were apparently killed by a single American soldier before dawn on Sunday morning. “We’re heartbroken over the loss of innocent life.”

Yet more than two days after the shooting, the Pentagon has still not named the suspect.

Contrast this with the 2011 Tuscon shooting in which six people died and Jared Lee Loughner’s name and photo were being published by every mainstream media outlet within hours.

The unnamed soldier responsible for Sunday’s massacre will likely become the only American soldier whose name the people of Afghanistan never forget.

As much as the White House and the Pentagon work to present this turn of events as an aberration, it will for most Afghans and much of the world come to symbolize America’s involvement in a country few Americans knew anything about before 9/11 and just as few care much about now.

Once this soldier’s name is eventually made public it seems likely that whatever motivated him to go on a brutal yet systematic rampage, his actions will be portrayed as the product of the singular workings of his own mind or damaged brain. The Pentagon will present this as the story of soldier X — not the closing chapter in an ill-conceived war. Continue reading

The Guardian (UK): US soldiers ‘killed Afghan civilians for sport and collected fingers as trophies’

 

Andrew Holmes, Michael Wagnon, Jeremy Morlock and Adam Winfield are four of the five Stryker soldiers who face murder charges

The Guardian, 9 September 2010

Twelve American soldiers face charges over a secret “kill team” that allegedly blew up and shot Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies.

Five of the soldiers are charged with murdering three Afghan men who were allegedly killed for sport in separate attacks this year. Seven others are accused of covering up the killings and assaulting a recruit who exposed the murders when he reported other abuses, including members of the unit smoking hashish stolen from civilians.

In one of the most serious accusations of war crimes to emerge from the Afghan conflict, the killings are alleged to have been carried out by members of a Stryker infantry brigade based in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan.

According to investigators and legal documents, discussion of killing Afghan civilians began after the arrival of Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs at forward operating base Ramrod last November. Other soldiers told the army’s criminal investigation command that Gibbs boasted of the things he got away with while serving in Iraq and said how easy it would be to “toss a grenade at someone and kill them”. Continue reading