Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Demography Survey on India's Eastern Border

Wednesday , February 13 , 2008

New Delhi, Feb. 12: The Indian intelligence agencies are conducting a discreet survey to verify the extent of change in the demographic profile of areas bordering Nepal and the Northeast.

According to highly placed sources, the survey is going hand-in-hand with a fresh study to find out if the number of madarsas and mosques along the borders has gone up.

“There have been reports that more madarsas and mosques are sprouting along the borders, which in itself is an indication of increased Muslim population in the area,” disclosed an intelligence official.

The study is using the 2001 census as its benchmark and has a clear political edge to it.
With the BJP making a big issue of national security — a political euphemism to beat the minorities with — the government wants to equip itself with the latest data and analysis on demographic changes in border areas, especially in relation to illegal migration from Bangladesh.

It has accordingly ordered the survey completed in advance of the 2009 polls.

“The government wants to be armed with the fresh data, and also its analysis, to counter any attack or propaganda on the issue. The BJP is all set to make national security an issue, and this is bound to come up,” the official said.

The last such study was done by the Intelligence Bureau and the home ministry in 1992, and their report kept a secret in view of the sensitive findings. It was ultimately leaked and the estimated number of illegal migrants from Bangladesh was anywhere between 1.5 crore and 2 crore. It’s time for a fresh survey, according to sources.

There have been renewed intelligence reports that militants are using madarsas and mosques as safe havens, and also for storing arms and ammunition.

“In themselves, the madarsas are not a threat to security. There is hardly any militant who is the product of a madarsa. It’s just that the madarsas and mosques have the potential to be used by extremists to hide and store weapons. There are innumerable instances of places of worship being misused by militants, both in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir,” the official said.

Sources added that most of the madarsas and mosques in border areas were on the radar of intelligence outfits. The reports of new ones having come up were worrying the intelligence agencies since they were not being monitored.

“The new survey will help us keep an eye on the new ones, too,” he said.

According to reports, the largest number of madarsas and mosques has come up in bordering areas with Nepal, lower Assam and Bengal. This complements another secret survey that has revealed that nearly 40 per cent villages in the border districts of Bengal are predominantly Muslim.

There are reports that concentration of the minority community, including the Bangladeshi immigrants in the villages, has resulted in the majority community moving to urban areas.
Along with madarsas and mosques, a large number of Muslim NGOs have sprung up in the area bordering Nepal.

According to the last survey, there are nearly 70 madarsas along the Indo-Nepal border, the largest number being in Saptari and Sunsari. There are several madarsas in Morang, Siraha, Dhanusha and Kapilbastu.

“Most of these madarsas are used for anti-India activities by Pakistan-backed terrorists. The NGOs ostensibly work for the social and educational uplift of the Muslim community and receive substantial and completely unregulated funding from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya and other Islamic countries,” an intelligence report said.

“The NGOs have also been promoting ill-will against India among the Nepalese Muslim community by circulating propaganda material received from Pakistan and elsewhere, criticising India’s treatment of its minorities.”


Friday, February 8, 2008

Taslima Nasreen – "My Situation"

National Secular Society

Taslima Nasreen – "My Situation"

NSS Honorary Associate TASLIMA NASREEN has been under incredible pressure from Islamic activists for many years now. They don’t like what she writes and they are determined to punish her. Exiled from her native Bangladesh by death threats, she thought she had found a safe haven in India. But even there, the fanatics are pursuing her, and for her own safety she has been removed to a safe house, where she is a virtual prisoner. She has recently been hospitalised, but is now back in her enforced isolation. Here she explains her situation.

Where am I? I am certain no one will believe me if I say I have no answer to this apparently straightforward question, but the truth is I just do not know. And if I were to be asked how I am, I would again answer: I don’t know. I am like the living dead: benumbed; robbed of the pleasure of existence and experience; unable to move beyond the claustrophobic confines of my room. Day and night, night and day. Yes, this is how I have been surviving.

This nightmare did not begin when I was suddenly bundled out of Calcutta – it has been going on for a while. It is like a slow and lingering death, like sipping delicately from a cupful of slow-acting poison that is gradually killing all my faculties. This is a conspiracy to murder my essence, my being, once so courageous, so brave, so dynamic, so playful. I realise what is going on around me but am utterly helpless, despite my best efforts, to wage a battle on my own behalf. I am merely a disembodied voice. Those who once stood by me have disappeared into the darkness.

I ask myself: what heinous crime have I committed? What sort of life is this where I can neither cross my own threshold nor know the joys of human company? What crime have I committed that I have to spend my life hidden away, relegated to the shadows? For what crimes am I being punished by this society, this land? I wrote of my beliefs and my convictions. I used words, not violence, to express my ideas. I did not take recourse to pelting stones or bloodshed to make my point. Yet, I am considered a criminal. I am being persecuted because it was felt that the right of others to express their opinions was more legitimate than mine.

Does India not realise how immense the suffering must be for an individual to renounce her most deeply-held beliefs? How humiliated, frightened, and insecure I must have been to allow my words to be censored. If I had not agreed to the grotesque bowdlerisation of my writings by those who insisted on it, I would have been hounded and pursued till I dropped dead. Their politics, their faith, their barbarism, and their diabolical purposes are all intent on sucking the lifeblood out of me, because the truths I write are so difficult for them to stomach. How can I—a powerless and unprotected individual—battle brute force? But come what may, I cannot take recourse to untruth.

What have I to offer but love and compassion? In the way that they used hatred to rip out my words, I would like to use compassion and love to rip the hatred out of them. Certainly, I am enough of a realist to acknowledge that strife, hatred, cruelty and barbarism are integral elements of the human condition. This will not change; and how can an insignificant creature like me change all this? If I were to be eradicated or exterminated, it would not matter one whit to the world at large. I know all this. Yet, I had imagined Bengal would be different. I had thought the madness of her people was temporary. I had thought that the Bengal I loved so passionately would never forsake me. She did.

Exiled from Bangladesh, I wandered around the world for many years like a lost orphan. The moment I was given shelter in West Bengal, it felt as though all those years of numbing tiredness just melted away. I was able to resume a normal life in a beloved and familiar land. So long as I survive, I will carry within me the vistas of Bengal, her sunshine, her wet earth, her very essence. The same Bengal whose sanctuary I once walked many blood-soaked miles to reach has now turned its back upon me. I am a Bengali within and without; I live, breathe, and dream in Bengali. I find it hard to believe that I am no longer wanted in Bengal.

I am a guest in this land, I must be careful of what I say. I must do nothing that violates the code of hospitality. I did not come here to hurt anyone’s sentiments or feelings. Wounded and hurt in my own country, I suffered slights and injuries in many lands before I reached India, where I knew I would be hurt yet again. For this is, after all, a democratic and secular land where the politics of the votebank imply that being secular is equated with being pro-Muslim fundamentalist. I do not wish to believe all this. I do not wish to hear all this. Yet, all around me I read, hear, and see evidence of this. I sometimes wish I could be like those mythical monkeys, oblivious to all the evil that is going on around me. Death who visits me in many forms now feels like a friend. I feel like talking to him, unburdening myself to him. I have no one else to speak to, no one else to whom I can unburden myself.

I have lost my beloved Bengal. No child torn from its mother’s breast could have suffered as much as I did during that painful parting. Once again, I have lost the mother from whose womb I was born. The pain is no less than the day I lost my biological mother. My mother had always wanted me to return home. That was something I could not do. After settling down in Calcutta, I was able to tell my mother, who by then was a memory within me, that I had indeed returned home. How did it matter which side of an artificial divide I was on? Now, I do not have the courage to tell my mother that I have been unceremoniously expelled by those who had once given me shelter, that my life now is that of a nomad. My sensitive mother would be shattered if I were to tell her all this. Instead, I have now taken to convincing myself that I must have transgressed somewhere, committed some grievous error. Why else would I be in such a situation? Is daring to utter the truth a terrible sin in this era of falsehood and deceit? Is it because I am a woman?

I know I have not been condemned by the masses. If their opinion had been sought, I am certain the majority would have wanted me to stay on in Bengal. But when has a democracy reflected the voice of the masses? A democracy is run by those who hold the reins of power, who do exactly what they think fit. An insignificant individual, I must now live life on my own terms and write about what I believe in and hold dear. It is not my desire to harm, malign, or deceive. I do not lie. I try not to be offensive. I am but a simple writer who neither knows nor understands the dynamics of politics. The way in which I was turned into a political pawn, however, and treated at the hands of base politicians, beggars belief. For what end, you may well ask. A few measly votes. The force of fundamentalism, which I have opposed and fought for many years, has only been strengthened by my defeat.

This is my beloved India, where I have been living and writing on secular humanism, human rights and emancipation of women. This is also the land where I have had to suffer and pay the price for my most deeply held and fundamental convictions, where not a single political party of any persuasion has spoken out in my favour, where no non-governmental organisation, women’s rights or human rights group has stood by me or condemned the vicious attacks launched upon me. This is an India I have never before known. Yes, it is true that individuals in a scattered, unorganised manner are fighting for my cause, and journalists, writers, and intellectuals have spoken out in my favour, even if they have never read a word I have written. Yet, I am grateful for their opinions and support.

Wherever individuals gather in groups, they seem to lose their power to speak out. Frankly, this facet of the new India terrifies me. Then again, is this a new India, or is it the true face of the nation? I do not know. Since my earliest childhood I have regarded India as a great land and a fearless nation. The land of my dreams: enlightened, strong, progressive, and tolerant. I want to be proud of that India. I will die a happy person the day I know India has forsaken darkness for light, bigotry for tolerance. I await that day. I do not know whether I will survive, but India and what she stands for has to survive.

See also:
Taslima -live chat
News: Taslima admitted to hospital Advani advocates for Taslima

08 February 2008


Monday, February 4, 2008

Northeast defies militants’ diktat to observe Republic Day

Nava Thakuria

02 February 2008, Saturday

AS MAINLAND India observed the 59th Republic Day (R Day) with fanfare, the trouble torn northeastern region of the country celebrated the day with utmost conviction. Comprising eight states, the land locked region had been witnessing a regular ban on the celebration of both the Independence Day (I Day) and Republic Day of India by the outlawed militant outfits as a mark of their protest against New Delhi for many decades. But amazingly, the public support and participation increased in the last few years, where the citizens have made it a habit to defy the diktat of the insurgents and celebrate the days with great fervour.

The Republic Day, this year, too witnessed the participation of citizens, students and journalists, who had joined both the government and public celebrations on January 26. The local people, in considerable numbers, thronged the official R Day functions in the capital cities of the region. The celebration was peaceful at large in the region, where the banned outfits called for boycotting the day. The underground groups also called for 17 hours’ general strike to prevent the celebration, but it had little impact in the region except in Manipur, where the R Day was observed under tight security.

While the President of India, Pratibha Devi Singh Patil unfurled the national flag and took salute of the armed forces at the Rajpath in New Delhi, thousands arrived at the venue with fanfare. The television channels beamed visuals of the celebration, where the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy was present as the chief guest of this year’s Republic Day. The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Vice President Hamid Ansari, along with many other dignitaries attended the programme, where the defence forces showcased their striking arsenal during the R Day parade.

Incredible spirit and strength were shown by the residents of the Northeast, the land that nurtures nearly 30 militant outfits, who are fighting New Delhi for demands ranging from self-rule to sovereignty. Defying the diktat of militants, the people had come forward to participate in the Republic Day programmes. From Itanagar to Aizwal and Gangtok to Shillong and Kohima, the indigenous population added tremendous enthusiasm to the R Day celebration. For Imphal, Agartalla and Guwahati, the observations were held under the shadow of militants’ threat.

The citizens of Guwahati, the prime city in the Northeast, not only joined the government programme but a group of senior citizens and journalists also assembled in Guwahati Press Club to observe the Republic Day. After hoisting the national flag at the press club premises, the participants in the programme took out a procession that paraded the main streets of the city chanting patriotic slogans like Vande Mataram (the national song), Bharat Mata Ki Jai (Long live Mother India) and Jai Ai Asom.

Hoisting the Tricolour, veteran journalist DN Chakrabarty called upon the people to remember the 5,000 martyrs and their sacrifices in the 1757 battle of Plassey, the 10,000 martyrs of 1857 Sepoy mutiny and the martyrs of the 1942-46 movement against British colonialism. “We should also remember the 150 martyrs, who had to go to the gallows for the sake of India’s Independence. Of them, seven including Piyali Phukan, Piyali Barua, Maniram Dewan and Kushal Konwar belonged to Assam,” added Chakrabarty. He also criticised the militants for taking the path of violence. Chakrabarty claimed that independent Assam was an absurd idea.

This year, the insurgent groups of Northeast namely the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), Manipur People’s Liberation Front (MPLF) and Tripura People’s Democratic Front (TPDF) issued a joint call to boycott Republic Day. In a statement signed by the ULFA chief, Arabinda Rajkhowa, the banned armed groups also called for a general strike beginning from the midnight of January 25 till 6 pm next day and made plea to the revolutionary people of the region to prevent celebration of the day.

“The imposed Indian Constitution has undermined the basic unity of the region by fragmenting it on ethnic lines as part of India’s colonial policy of divide and rule,” the statement claimed. “We have reiterated time and again that the destiny of the region lies only in interdependent unity and coexistence with sovereign independence among the fraternal people of the region,” it added.

But the boycott call was hit back by a group of writers and working journalists, who had appealed to the people of the region to defy the diktat and hoist the national flag atop their houses and in their localities on the occasion of the 59th Republic Day. “The Republic Day of the country should be celebrated by the citizens in recognition to the sacrifices made by the martyrs, who accepted martyrdom to wrest liberty for their compatriots. Many of their colleagues also underwent tremendous hardships to free the country from the colonial yoke,” quoted a press statement issued by the groups of writer-journalists.

The statement, which was signed by Nirupama Bargohain, DN Chakrabarty, Rupam Baruah, Hiten Mahanta, Ajit Patowary, Ranen Kumar Goswmai, Bhupen Bargohain, Nava Thakuria, Pramod Kalita, Sabita Lahkar, Mukul Kalita, Manish Goswami, Kumud Das and Girin Karji, also added, “The people of the region should remember those martyrs and freedom fighters on occasions like Independence Day and the Republic Day by hoisting the Tricolour in a befitting manner.”

Kumarpara and Athgaon, localities of Guwahati also witnessed the hoisting of national flag, distinguished personalities like the former Guwahati High Court judge Jitendranath Sharma, eminent educationist KM Pathak attended the programme. Similarly, in Dhemaji of eastern Assam, where the ULFA engineered explosions during the 2004 Independence Day celebration that had killed 13 people including ten children, the Republic Day observation was a major show. Leaving aside all fears, the general people including the school students had joined the celebration, where they paid floral tributes to those killed in the 2004 I Day blast and later the children performed various cultural programmes.


Sunday, February 3, 2008

Bangladeshi Muslims hold Kolkata Film Industry to Ransom

Bengal film industry falls prey to extortionists

Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri

The racket is dominated by gangsters from the Bangladesh underworld and Huji linkmen in the state

KOLKATA: The film industry in Kolkata — better known as Tollywood as all its studios are located in a place called Tollygunj — is gradually falling prey to the menace of extortion, which has become a common problem for Bollywood personalities.

But there is a difference. In the case of the Hindi film industry, the extortion demands come from local underworld dons. But in Tollywood, dons from Bangladesh, who have illegally set base in West Bengal, are demanding extortion money.

The state police strongly believes that as in Mumbai, the underworld in Bengal is closely associated with film financing.

While some of these extortionists are gangsters from the Bangladesh underworld, several members of banned terrorist groups such as Harkat-ul-Jihadi-Islami (Huji) and Jagrat Muslim Bangladesh (JMB) are also dabbling in this dubious field.

The intelligence branch (IB) of the state police has got information about Bangladeshi extortionists after interrogating three criminals from that country, who were living in West Bengal for quite some time.

While, two of them —Tanvir Joy and H Ahmed—were in the most most-wanted category of criminals from Bangladesh, the third, Fateh Ali, was Huji’s local linkman in Nadia district.
The IB sources said while Joy and Ahmed operated from Kolkata, Ali was stationed in Nadia. In the course of interrogation, all the three confessed to extorting money from businessmen and occasionally dabbling in film financing against hefty interests.

They further revealed that the extortion racket in West Bengal is mainly operated by two former civic councilors of the Dhaka municipal corporation.

A senior IB officials told DNA that a number of producers, film distributors and even a couple of popular actors have been victims of their extortion.

“However, none of them have registered any complaint with the police. They preferred to buy peace by paying the extortion amount,” the IB official said. He said the trio were owners of multiple houses in different parts of West Bengal.

“We are keeping a close watch on the producers and distributors who often resort to securing finance from the underworld for film-making. We will nab them as and when necessary,” the IB official said.

However, he added, that nothing can be done regarding those who have become victims of extortion since they have not lodged any complaint with the police.

Influx of Illegal Migrants Alarms Indian Security Agencies

by Vijay Thakur

NEW DELHI, Feb. 2, 2008: The Intelligence agencies have raised an alarm over the
increasing influx of illegal migrants in the country from Bangladesh and the
disturbing trend of killings of Hindi-speaking people in the Northeast region.
While killings of Hindi-speaking people in the Northeast, particularly in Assam, has
been taking place for a long time, the crisis has aggravated recently on the lines of
what had happened with the Pundits in Kashmir in the early 1990’s, when the
killings had led to their mass exodus.

The Northeast’s Hindi-speaking people are said to be facing similar problems,
although the gravity of the situation is not as bad as faced by the Kashmiri Pundits
earlier, said a senior Intelligence agency official.

He added that a similar trend has, however, started in the Northeast which might
deteriorate further.

“It seems that the Intelligence agencies of our neighbouring countries is adopting
the same strategy vis-a-vis the Northeast, what it had done in Kashmir. Secondly,
Northeast insurgency is becoming a cocktail of the activities by the region’s
insurgent groups and Islamist militant outfits from Bangladesh,” the official said.
There are reports that Northeast militants, mainly Ulfa leaders, have close links with
Islamist terror groups and that they are sharing logistics, the official said. Since the
top leadership of Ulfa as well as Huji (Harkat-ul-Jehadi Islami) and even the
Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad to some extent are operating from Bangladesh,
it is easy for them to help each other. “Inputs from Bangladesh, have suggested
that both are getting arms and ammunition from the same source and also indirect
help from certain forces from Bangladesh,” he added.

Of late, incidents of terrorist violence have also increased in the Northeast region.
In Assam especially, the law-and-order situation remains grim with a steep upswing
in violence.

From January 1 to 15 August, 2007, 234 people were killed in 336 incidents of
violence in the state, whereas 98 people were killed in 234 incidents in the same
period the previous year.

In Northeast, Assam accounted for 58 per cent of the total killings and 34 per cent
of total terror incidents in the region last year, the official said, pointing out that the
state has emerged as a key base for the region’s insurgents and Islamist terrorists.

http://www.thestatesman.org/page.print.php?usrsess=1&id=188612&clid=2 (1 of 3) [03/02/2008 22:54:03]