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Appeal Issued by Little Magazines to Governor concerning Kanishka Chowdhury and others


The following appeal has been launched by a group of little magazines, who saw the arrest of Kanishka Chowdhury, rightly, as a serious attack on the freedom of expresson, especially of the non-corporate sections of the media. Though on 28 July the Court granted bail to Chowdhury and his two co-accused, the rest of the appeal still stands. We publish this in the interest of democracy, and urge other little magazines to join this drive. Every sector of civil society should stand up for democratic rights, instead of assuming that the struggle for democratic rights is the prerogative of organisations particularly identified as democratic rights/human rights groups.


Radical Socialist


Appeal Issued by Little Magazines to Governor

Mr A K Narayanan,
Governor of West Bengal.


Respected Sir,

We, on behalf of the little magazines of West Bengal would like to appeal to you as follows:
Recently, one of the little magazine activists from Kolkata, Kanishka Chowdhury has been arrested on charges of being at Lalgarh along with two other intellectuals on 15/06/2010. The journalists held with them
were later released but the trio was produced to court on framed-up charges. No FIR was done even two hours after their arrest thus violating the law. They were initially informed that they would be released after interrogations. No copy of the FIR was given to them or their advocate even while being produced at the court for the second time. Neither were they handed over a list of articles seized from their bag. Even Kanishka Chowdhury’s wife was not allowed in the court room under the pretext of “no space” while the hearing was on.

These socially conscious intellectuals accompanied some New Delhi based journalists to Lalgarh in order to be aware of and witness the condition after a year of operation of the joint forces against the
Maoists in the Jungle Mahal area. It is pertinent to note that Kanishka Chowdhury has done similar field studies in the past for his research. He had been to Singur, Nandigram and other places on similar
trips.

The police informed the court that they have confiscated a digital camera, a small voice recorder, two ball-point pens, some writing papers and more than Rs. 4,000 worth of cash. In spite of not being
able to prove anything more, they have been arrested under charges of Collecting arms, etc, Waging, or attempting to wage war, Sedition, Distribution of Banned Literature, etc. We are aware that IPC section
144 has been clamped for the last one year at the place where they were arrested which prohibits assembly of five or more persons, holding of public meetings, and carrying of firearms. Even if we
consider that the arrested trio had violated this act, the rest of the charges are false, unsubstantiated and sans preuve.

Kanishka Chowdhury is a school-teacher by profession. He is quite renowned in the little-magazine circles and his writings and poetries have been published in various little-magazines like Anushtup and others. He has contributed several articles and translations in various publications. Some of them are as follows:
1. Notun Shatak Patrika, October 2007 issue - ‘Sankrityayan O Bangali Guru’ (Sankrityayan and Bengali God-men).
2. Notun Shatak Patrika, August, 2008 issue – ‘Ekti Somporker Sondhane : Bongiyo Guru o Rajniti’ (In search of a relationship : Bengali god-men and politics).
3. Notun Shatak Patrika, November, 2009 – Translation of a lecture on Henry Louis Derozio delivered by Walter Madge in 1904.
4. Sharodiya Sunrito Patrika, 2009, - ‘Henry Louis Derozio –Samayer Agei Janma Neoa Manush’ (Henry Louis Derozio – A man born before the time)
5. Ajker Yubachetana, February 2009 issue, Civil Society : Prathamik Ruprekha (Civil Society : Primary Outlines)
6. Sociologia Indica, June-July issue, a research note ‘Syncretism in the cult of Loknath
Brahmachari.’

Apart from these, his anthology of poems was published in 2007 and at the Kolkata Book Fair his book ‘Civil Society Europe Bharate’(Civil Society in Europe India). He was currently working on the translation of a long article on Tripura by James Long and was also translating the Arundhati Ray’s recent speech at a seminar in the city. He was also working on a collection on Derozio by Anchalik Darpan.

He was invited as speaker to numerous seminars and symposiums. He spoke at Uttarpara Ganabhaban on April 25, 2009 at seminar on “200 years of Derozio” organized by Shahartali magazine.

We are pained by the state terror and the politics of individual assassination at Lalgarh and we would like to see its end.

We, on behalf of the little magazines, would like to appeal that Kanishka Chowdhury, Manik Mondal, Nisha Biswas and all others who are being held without sufficient proof be released after due defense at the court. We would request your intervention for the withdrawal of unsubstantiated charges against them and their early release.

Thanking you,
Yours truly,
cc: Buddhadev Bhattacharya, Minister-in-charge, Department of
Information and Culture,
Government of West Bengal.
cc: The Secretary, Department of Home, Government of West Bengal.

Poisoned beach


TEXT & PHOTOGRAPHS: LYLA BAVADAM


Effluents from an industrial estate destroy the coastal ecology and deprive local people of their livelihood at Tadgam in Gujarat.


Chemical waste from the nearby industrial estate being emptied onto the beach at Tadgam 
Chemical waste from the nearby industrial estate being emptied onto the beach at Tadgam.

FAR from urban influences and pollutants, the beach at Tadgam in Valsad district in south Gujarat should be bustling with life. Gulls, sandpipers, stints and egrets should be foraging for shrimps, crabs, mudskippers, cuttlefish and other creatures that live under the shingle or in the small rock pools that teem with life when the tide is out. And the nearby fishing village of Tadgam should be a living example of coastal prosperity. But one look into the baskets of the fisherwomen and it is clear that this idyll is history. A single small crab and three tiny shrimps crawl about forlornly inside. “This is what we get after being on the beach for more than an hour,” says Parvatibai, a fisherwoman. It has been a long time since Tadgam had signs of normal sea life.

The beach is thick with a stinking, toxic sludge. The steaming effluent pours out of a pipe with a diameter of two feet (0.6 metre). “It flows day and night throughout the year,” says Parvatibai. The 13.34-kilometre-long pipeline originates at the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation's (GIDC) industrial estate in Sarigam town and has been discharging the toxic brew onto the beach at Tadgam since 1999 when it was laid. The pipeline traverses four villages – Tadgam, Saronda, Nargol and Maroli – with a population of about 30,000 people. Leaks and the consequent seepage into the ground and the dumping of chemicals into small streams would have affected an estimated 25,000 more people.

The untreated chemical effluence has resulted in a huge loss of earnings to the local people, and in some cases resulted in skin and respiratory ailments. “We believe it has affected our health. The polluted water and air has given us rashes, fevers and digestive disorders. When we complain we are asked for proof. What more proof do they need than the fact that we have seen the difference in our lives before and after this pipeline,” says Yatin Bhandari, sarpanch of Nargol village.


sarigam_pipeline

The pipeline, 13.34 km long, originates at the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation's Sarigam industrial estate in Sarigam town and has been discharging the toxic waste since 1999.

An informal observation made by Dharmesh Patel, a local health worker from the primary health centre in Maroli, is that “60 per cent of the population in the three villages has skin and respiratory problems, of which most cases are from Tadgam”. Dashratbhai Rathod, a former sarpanch of Saronda village, said: “The pipeline leaks and poisons our crops. Even the water we draw using the hand-pump is reddish. Dal and rice do not cook easily in it. About 15 wells are spoilt. The water stinks of chemicals.”

Prakash Arekar, who has campaigned against industrial pollution in Sarigam for two decades, says he has seen mango trees go barren because of the pollution. The “sickness is permanent” in some neighbourhoods, he adds. The claims do not seem exaggerated. A few minutes near the outlet at Tadgam cause nausea and shortness of breath, which the residents of Tadgam village and Lord's Seaside Cooperative Housing Society too experience when the breeze blows inland.


Drop in fish catch


According to the Directorate of Fisheries, the fishing industry of Daman and Diu (close to Tadgam) has seen a drop of 64.3 per cent in the catch over the past decade. This has been attributed to the effluents from the industrial estates in Vapi, a more established and larger industrial town than Tadgam. Though no direct study has been done for the smaller fishing industry at Tadgam, its proximity to Daman and Diu could mean that the same findings can apply.


Prakash Arekar

Prakash Arekar, who has campaigned for a clean environment for the past 20 years, says neither the GPCB nor the GIDC is following the rules.

Dashratbhai Rathod recalled how until recently Tadgam, Saronda and Nargol together had a fleet of about 400 fishing boats. He said: “The catch was enormous even in shallow waters…. ravas, pomfret, prawns, lobsters, crabs, Bombay duck…. Lobsters were so plentiful that we caught them with our hands. Now it is a dead sea. For eight months of the year the men go all the way to Porbundar, Veraval, Dwarka and Okha to fish and the women work in the local GIDC estate.”

Says Kusumbai, a fisherwoman: “In two hours of fishing we could catch huge amounts of fish with our hand nets. When the men went off the coast they came back with so much fish that we sent them all the way to Mumbai.”


Pipeline

The Gujarat Pollution Control Board's rules specify that the pipeline must be anchored firmly in cement saddles and buried at a depth of six feet.

Today it is a different story. Says Raju Katu, who lives in Tadgam: “People who were earning around Rs.200 a day now do subsistence-level fishing and on some days eat only one meal.”

The Mitna community has been particularly affected. Its earnings came mainly from catching, selling and eating mudskippers. With the beach in a toxic condition, there are no more mudskippers and those that do exist have mutated dangerously with extra fins, and have skin diseases and external tumours. Earlier, mudskippers were “like a carpet” on the beach and people used to “wade through them, picking them up by the handful”. “Now,” says Yatin Bhandari, “the sight of one mudskipper air hole gets us all excited.”

The residents of the villages say they were not informed when the pipeline was laid. “It crossed our fields with no authorisation,” recalls Dashratbhai Rathod, “and so we protested.” But the protest, according to Bhandari, died out “when the leaders of the movement were bought over by the big companies”. After that the poor fishermen and farmers could not put up a fight. “So, for 10 years we had no protest and all this while the sea continued to be fed these heavy chemicals,” says Bhandari.


Public Interest Petition



Broken saddles of pipeline

At Tadgam, the pipeline has broken loose from its saddles at many places and moves in a wide sweep with the tide, fanning the effluents wider. The unanchored pipeline can be a danger to fishermen during high tide.

Finally, in 2009, the residents of Lord's Housing Society filed a public interest litigation (PIL) petition in the Gujarat High Court. They were later joined by the sarpanchs of the hamlets of Tadgam, Saronda, Nargol and Maroli. The petition was simple – it asked that the pumping of effluence be halted until GIDC Sarigam and the Sarigam Waste and Effluent Management Company could ensure that the effluents met Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) standards.

One of the requirements for Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance was that there should be a responsible authority to look after pollution control. And so the Sarigam Waste and Effluent Management Company came into existence. Prakash Arekar says its members are “company people and it does not have a single ordinary citizen representative…”. “Neither the GPCB nor the GIDC is following the rules,” he adds.

The petitioners say their plea is supported with photographs, video footage, scientific reports and documentation. Furthermore, said a member of the Lord's Society, the legal representative of the Sarigam Waste and Effluent Management Company even admitted in court that his client had defaulted in monitoring the effluence. The onus of proving that the pipeline is legal also lies with the respondents. If procedure has been followed, then the pipeline must have received CRZ clearance. For this to have happened, an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) must have been conducted since this is a basic requirement for CRZ clearance. Though the petitioners have applied under the Right to Information (RTI) Act to the GPCB for copies of the EIA and other documents, they have received nothing so far. A request to the GPCB from Frontline for the same was met with no answer.


Empty fish nets of fishermen in tidal pools
Empty nets in the pools formed by the tide tell their own tale of the deadly impact of the poisons.

Adding to the evidence against the pipeline is the fact that the discharge from it is illegal (and not just that it is untreated waste). Time-bound permission is granted by the GPCB to industrial estates for allowing discharge. This is called Consolidated Consent and Authorisation, or CC&A. The CC&A given to GIDC Sarigam has not been renewed since 2004, according to the petitioners.

After the court heard the petition, it directed the GPCB to take action, and in response the GPCB sent a legal notice to 50 units in Sarigam. It is not clear on what basis these 50 units were chosen and why only 50 since the petition was about the discharge and not against individual units. The notice, dated December 4, 2009, was sent to the Sarigam Waste and Effluent Management Company under Section 33-A of The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.

It said: “[T]he consent granted to you vide order No. 1623 dated 12-2-2004 has lapsed on dated 31-3-2004 hence, at present you are operating industrial effluent disposal system without CC&A of the Gujarat Pollution Control Board under the provision of Water Act.”

COURTESY LORD'S SEASIDE COOPERATIVE HOUSING SOCIETY
Dead fish - victim of pollution
Dead fish on the beach.

It further said: “[D]uring the inspection of your plant on 18-11-2009… the analysis reports indicates that the concentration like SS, BOD, COD, Chloride, Ammonical Nitrogen, Phenolic Compound, Zinc, & Sulphides, are most of the time higher than the permissible limit specified by the Board.”

Rohit Prajapati of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) fighting for clean environment, said: “This clearly indicates that the treatment facility dumps the effluent at Tadgam village without proper permission and the effluent does not meet the GPCB's norms.” Despite the notices issued by the GPCB there has been no result, which has led the petitioners to conclude that the “the whole thing is a game with the Sarigam GIDC and the Sarigam Waste and Effluent Management Company hand in glove with each other”.

Despite the overwhelming evidence, why has the discharge not been ordered to be stopped until the effluence is monitored and cleaned? the petitioners ask. To make matters worse, a new pipeline is being laid alongside the old one. While the old pipeline spewed 12 mld (million litres a day), the new one has a capacity of 25 mld and a diameter of four feet. Considering that the existing pipeline is under litigation, it is surprising that permission has been granted to lay a second one. The GPCB did not respond when asked to corroborate this.


Effluence treatment


There are over 300 units in the Sarigam industrial estate. Most of them manufacture chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and pharmaceutical drugs. Production happens 24x7 throughout the year. Each industrial unit signs an undertaking to ‘clean' its waste in its effluent treatment plant (ETP) before sending it to the common collection well. At the common collection well, the effluents are supposed to be checked for quality twice a day and if found within limits, pumped into the pipeline that ought to lead out into the sea.


Yatin Bhandari, Sarpanch of Nargol village
Yatin Bhandari, Sarpanch of Nargol village: "The protests died out when the leaders of the movement were bought over by the big companies."

One big flaw in the system seems to be that there is no way of identifying the defaulting units and this is made worse because the prescribed process is not followed. At the primary stage, neutralisation takes place and the chemical oxygen demand (COD) and the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) are stabilised (both are measures of the relative oxygen-depletion effect of contaminants). The secondary stage involves bioreactive treatment and is especially necessary for chemical effluence. At the end of the cleaning process, the waste matter is supposed to be completely free of all toxic matter. Some amount of variation is permissible in the BOD and COD indicators.

Even with this leeway, the effluence from the Sarigam pipeline is higher than the permissible levels. Under the GPCB's norms, fish have to survive for 90 days in the sample used in the bioassay test. In an effort to further their case, the petitioners sent a sample of the waste from the beach in March last year to the Central Institute of Fisheries Education (CIFE) in Mumbai for testing. The report of the CIFE said the toxicity in the sample was so high that fish died within 35 minutes in a sample with only 25 per cent effluence. In 100 per cent effluence (collected by the petitioners from the beach), the fish died in five minutes. The Gujarat Ecological Society had, in November 2008, sent a sample of the waste from the beach to the CIFE. The results indicated a “high level of toxicity”.


Common collection well for effluents, Sarigam
The common collection well for effluents at the Sarigam industrial estate.

Though the GPCB says that each unit has its own ETP, an informed source at GIDC Sarigam said that most of the units considered “straining” the effluence as adequate cleaning and that “no other treatment is done”. Apart from the ETP, there is also supposed to be a common effluent treatment plant, or CETP, where further cleaning is carried out before discharge. The GPCB is supposed to monitor the CETP on a monthly basis. Judging by the highly polluted quality of the discharge on Tadgam beach over the years (as proved by the reports of the CIFE, the GPCB itself and the Gujarat Ecology Society), either the ETPs or the CETP is not working properly and the GPCB certainly does not seem to be monitoring the process.

According to the GPCB, there are 13 members in the CETP run by the GIDC. A privately run CETP at Sarigam, called Perfect Enviro Control Systems Pvt. Ltd, has seven members, of whom three send effluents for treatment. S.V. Rao, director of the plant, which was built 10 years ago at a cost of Rs.1.6 crore, said the others had zero discharge. Only 0.4 mld of the total of 12 mld that is spewed out onto the Tadgam beach goes through Perfect Enviro's CETP. Thus, of the 257 functional units in Sarigam, only 20 are linked to a CETP.

Responding to a query on how often it monitored the units for pollution control, the GPCB said it checked the performance of the environment management systems of each unit as per its own guidelines. These ranged from sampling the effluence once in three months to once in three years, depending on the size of the industry. The GPCB admits that the GIDC's “CETP Sarigam is not meeting the norms. On date 23/2/2010 GPCB issued closure to CETP in Sarigam for not meeting the norms. At present CETP is under upgradation and the closure order is revoked on 17/5/2010 for upgradation.” But this still does not answer the question why the units have been allowed to continue production for so many years.


Polluted Tidal Polls on the beach
Polluted Tidal Polls on the beach.

Asked why it had not stopped the discharge of effluents onto the beach for so long, the GPCB claimed that over the years it had taken “actions on every complaint” and that it had issued closure notices regularly to various units. The GPCB said, “GIDC Sarigam pumping station L-2 was in damaged condition hence waste water from this pumping station was discharged in Tadgam Beach. GPCB issued directives for stoppage of discharge into pumping station to 32 units in this regard.” The answer still does not explain why the discharge of effluents continues.

The discharge of untreated effluents is just one of a series of equally serious violations. GPCB rules say the pipeline should discharge 2 km into the sea, that is, 2 km after the low tide line. Thus, at no point should the mouth of the pipeline be visible or out of water.


Broken pipeline


At present, the pipeline discharges right onto the beach. Initially it did go into the sea (though not up to the prescribed distance), but the pipe broke in 2006. Apparently, the diffuser at the mouth of the pipeline was blocked and the chemicals started flowing back down the pipeline. Local people say that it had to be cleaned, but someone broke it instead. Though it has not been possible to verify this story (the GPCB did not respond to the query), there is no doubt that the pipe at Tadgam is broken. The severed section lies somewhere under water while effluents flow continuously from the broken mouth. The GPCB's rules also specify that the pipeline must be anchored firmly in cement saddles and that it should be buried at a depth of six feet. The Sarigam pipeline has broken loose from its cement saddles at a number of places and moves in a wide sweep with the tide. Dragged about by the tidal action, the unanchored pipeline traverses the beach, fanning the effluents wider.

LORD'S SEASIDE COOPERATIVE HOUSING SOCIETY
Pipeline leak near saddles
The pipeline has sprung a leak near the saddle and spews effluents onto the beach.

Said Yatin Bhandari: “When we complain, we are told that this is development. On the one hand they say this is a green belt and that the tourism industry will flourish here, and on the other they poison us. Is this Modi's vibrant Gujarat?”

The GPCB's official stand does not subscribe to the fait accompli that pollution is a necessary evil of development.

Its website says, “The laws stipulate that all development should be carried out with minimal occurrence of pollution. Technologies are available for controlling pollution as per the norms prescribed for different processes. Therefore, the perception that pollution is the price for securing fast development is erroneous.”


Polluted stream at Sarigam
A polluted stream at Sarigam. Leaks and the consequent seepage into the ground and the dumping of chemicals into small streams have affected a large number of people.

Apart from the blatant disregard of pollution control laws, there is another aspect to the problem. Parvatibai sums it up well: “For the chemical companies we are nothing. They have the law in their hands and we are nothing. I won't say their aim was to destroy us – we are too small for them to target us…. Their aim was just to get rid of their dirty chemicals from their factories and for them the sea is a kacchro no dabbo (rubbish bin)… so they dump it here. That we are affected is of no concern to them. They know they can get away with this because we are poor.”

There is no doubt that the GPCB is fully empowered to deal with the situation. The FAQ (frequently asked questions) section on its official website states: “The important enforcement powers vesting in GPCB are laying down standards and securing their compliance, inspection and monitoring of all sources of pollution, issuance of notices with time limit to comply with the legal requirements, closure of the defaulter unit in grave cases and prosecution in cases of serious violation.”

The norms for pollution control are also very clear as is the fact that a series of “no objection certificates” and clearances, including those for environmental reasons, have to be obtained. The website also emphasises that the polluter has to pay for cleaning up.

Despite such stringent rules, the ground reality is glaringly different.

Nuclear Energy Loses Cost Advantage




Nuclear Energy Loses Cost Advantage

DIANA S. POWERS

PARIS — Solar photovoltaic systems have long been painted as a clean way to
generate electricity, but expensive compared with other alternatives to oil,
like nuclear power. No longer. In a “historic crossover,” the costs of solar
photovoltaic systems have declined to the point where they are lower than
the rising projected costs of new nuclear plants, according to a paper
published this month.

“Solar photovoltaics have joined the ranks of lower-cost alternatives to new
nuclear plants,” John O. Blackburn, a professor of economics at Duke
University<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/d/duke_university/index.html?inline=nyt-org>,
in North Carolina, and Sam Cunningham, a graduate student, wrote in the
paper, “Solar and Nuclear Costs — The Historic Crossover.”

This crossover occurred at 16 cents per kilowatt hour, they said.

While solar power<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/science/topics/solar_energy/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier>
costs
have been declining, the costs of nuclear power have been rising inexorably
over the past eight years, said Mark Cooper, senior fellow for economic
analysis at the University of Vermont Law School’s Institute for Energy and
Environment.

Estimates of construction costs — about $3 billion per reactor in 2002 —
have been regularly revised upward to an average of about $10 billion per
reactor, and the estimates are likely to keep rising, said Mr. Cooper, an
analyst specializing in tracking nuclear power costs.

Identifying the real costs of competing energy technologies is complicated
by the wide range of subsidies and tax breaks involved. As a result, U.S.
taxpayers and utility users could end up spending hundreds of billions, even
trillions of dollars more than necessary to achieve an ample low-carbon
energy supply, if legislative proposals before the U.S. Congress lead to
adoption of an ambitious nuclear development program, Mr. Cooper said in a
report last November.

The report, “All Risk, No Reward for Taxpayers and Ratepayers,” was a
response to a legislative wish list developed by the Nuclear Energy
Institute, an industry group. The institute has called for a mix of U.S.
subsidies, tax credits, loan guarantees, procedural simplifications and
institutional support on a large scale.

At the state level, the industry has also pressed the case for “construction
work in progress,” a financing system that requires electricity users to pay
for the cost of new reactors during their construction and sometimes before
construction starts. With long construction periods and frequent delays,
this can mean that electricity users start to pay higher prices as much as
12 years before the plants produce electricity.

The institute’s Web site says the financing system “reduces the cost
ratepayers will pay for power from the plant when it goes into commercial
operation,” by lowering interest payments on capital costs and spreading the
costs over time.

“The utilities insist that the construction work in progress charged to
ratepayers also include the return on equity that the utilities normally
earn by taking the risk of building the plant — even though they have
shifted the risk to the ratepayers,” Mr. Cooper said. “If the plant is not
built or suffers cost overruns, the ratepayers will bear the burden.”

History suggests that the risk of this is not negligible. In 1985, Forbes
magazine dubbed the construction of the first generation of U.S. nuclear
plants “the largest managerial disaster in business history.”

The first round of plants resulted in write-offs through bankruptcies and
“stranded costs” — investments in existing power plants made uncompetitive
by deregulation — which essentially transferred nearly $100 billion in
liabilities to electricity users, said Doug Koplow, an economist and founder
of Earth Track, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which campaigns against
subsidies it considers environmentally harmful. “Although the industry
frequently points to its low operating costs as evidence of its market
competitiveness, this economic structure is an artifact of large subsidies
to capital, historical write-offs of capital, and ongoing subsidies to
operating costs,” Mr. Koplow said.

From 1943 to 1999 the U.S. government paid nearly $151 billion, in 1999
dollars, in subsidies for wind, solar and nuclear power, Marshall Goldberg
of the Renewable Energy Policy Project, a research organization in
Washington, wrote in a July 2000 report. Of this total, 96.3 percent went to
nuclear power, the report said.

Still, these costs pale in comparison with the financial risks and subsidies
that are likely to accompany the next wave of nuclear plant construction,
Mr. Cooper said.

A November 2009 research report by
Citigroup<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/citigroup_inc/index.html?inline=nyt-org>
Global
Markets termed the construction risks, power price risks, and operational
risks “so large and variable that individually they could each bring even
the largest utility to its knees.”

Those risks were mentioned in a 2009 report by the credit rating
agency<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/c/credit_rating_agencies/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier>
Moody’s<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/moodys_corporation/index.html?inline=nyt-org>.
“Moody’s is considering taking a more negative view for those issuers
seeking to build new nuclear power plants,” the report said. “Historically,
most nuclear-building utilities suffered ratings downgrades — and sometimes
several — while building these facilities. Political and policy conditions
are spurring applications for new nuclear power generation for the first
time in years. Nevertheless, most utilities now seeking to build nuclear
generation do not appear to be adjusting their financial policies, a credit
negative.”

Adding to the risks facing any reactor construction program, only one of
five proposed designs under consideration by U.S. utilities has ever been
built, the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/n/nuclear_regulatory_commission/index.html?inline=nyt-org>
said.

“No one has ever built a contemporary reactor to contemporary standards, so
no one has the experience to state with confidence what it will cost,” said
Stephen Maloney, a utilities management consultant. “We see cost escalations
as companies come up the learning curve.”

Market risk has been heightened by the recent
recession<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/r/recession_and_depression/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier>.
“The current crisis has decreased energy demand even more than the 1970s oil
price shocks,” Mr. Cooper said. The recession “appears to have caused a
fundamental shift in consumption patterns that will lower the long-term
growth rate of electricity demand.”

Meanwhile, most of the projects that have created the increase of license
applications to the regulatory commission have already experienced
difficulties. “About half of the projects that have been put forward at the
start of the next generation of reactors have been delayed or canceled,” Mr.
Cooper said. “Those that have moved forward have suffered substantial cost
escalation and several have received negative financial reviews.

“Of the 19 applications at the N.R.C., 90 percent have had some type of
delay or cancellation, run into a design problem, suffered cost increases
and/or had the utility bond rating downgraded by Wall Street.”

Despite the economic challenges, the nuclear power industry remains unfazed.

“This is not a hospitable environment in which to commission any large
base-load power plant,” said Marvin Fertel, president and chief executive of
the Nuclear Energy Institute, in a briefing to the financial community.
Still, he said: “Fortunately new nuclear plants won’t be in service until
2016 or later, so today’s market conditions are not entirely relevant.”

Mr. Cooper said the industry’s equanimity was based, at least partially, on
the supportive cushion provided by loan guarantees and work-in-progress
financing. “With such financing the utility is making a one-way bet,
allowing it to make a profit even when the project fails,” he said. “The
people bear the risks and costs; the nuclear utilities take the profits.
Without loan guarantees and guaranteed construction work in progress, these
reactors will simply not be built, because the capital markets will not
finance them.”

Without public guarantees, nuclear projects often cannot get financing.
AmerenUE, the Missouri utility, suspended in April 2009 plans to build a $6
billion, 1,600-megawatt reactor at its Callaway County nuclear site, after
trying unsuccessfully to get the State Legislature to repeal a longstanding
ban on work-in-progress financing. The continued existence of the ban “makes
financing a new plant in the current economic environment impossible,” the
utility said.

Similarly, Florida Power and
Light<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/fpl_group_inc/index.html?inline=nyt-org>
said
in January that it would not proceed beyond licensing with plans to build
two new reactors at its Turkey Point site, after the FloridaPublic Service
Commission<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/p/public_service_commission/index.html?inline=nyt-org>
rejected
its request to pass on a $1.27 billion cost increase to its users.

Yet, despite episodic resistance at the local level, financial support for
the industry at the U.S. government level has been increasingly evident in
successive versions of climate and energy bills before the U.S. Congress,
including the most recent, the American Power Act, which is delayed in the
Senate until after the summer recess.

Nuclear subsidies in the Senate proposal include five-year accelerated
depreciation; tax credits for investments and production and eligibility for
the advanced energy tax credit; an increase in government insurance against
regulatory delays; access to private activity bonds; and a $36 billion
increase in loan guarantees, bringing the total to $56 billion.

That remains less than the Nuclear Energy Institute’s goal of $100 billion,
an amount it describes as “a minimal acceptable loan volume.” Still, Mr.
Fertel said in his financial briefing that “‘strong political support’
understates our position.”

Federal loan guarantees cut nuclear construction financing costs by allowing
the utilities to sell bonds at a lower interest rate. But at the same time
the guarantee means that “the U.S.
Treasury<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/t/treasury_department/index.html?inline=nyt-org>,
and therefore the taxpayers, are on the hook for the value of the loans
should they go bad,” Mr. Cooper said.

According to the U.S. Government Accountability
Office<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/g/government_accountability_office/index.html?inline=nyt-org>,
the average risk of default for such Department of Energy loan guarantees is
about 50 percent, which is the historic rate for the nuclear industry.

Mr. Koplow of Earth Track said two of the other subsidies in the Senate
bill, the investment tax credit and five-year accelerated depreciation,
would together “be worth between $1.3 billion and nearly $3 billion on a net
present value basis per new reactor.

“This is equivalent to between 15 and 20 percent of the total all-in cost of
the reactors, as projected by industry.”

Over all, Mr. Koplow said, the proposed subsidy package would undermine the
equity requirements of the nuclear loan guarantee program, designed to
ensure that investors have a strong interest in the long-term success of the
venture. “Although investors will get all the profit if the reactor project
is successful, they will bear virtually none of the financial risk if the
project fails,” he said. “This is a disastrous incentive structure.”

By distorting energy markets, these subsidies would “effectively make the
government the chooser of which energy technologies will be winners and
which will lose,” he said. The American Power Act “does not build a neutral
policy platform on which all energy technologies must compete.”

The tax breaks for nuclear would “greatly impede market access for competing
energy sources,” Mr. Koplow said.

He said handing out huge subsidies would also cloud the transparency of
decision-making. “This approach,” he said, “which replaces price signals
with decisions by a handful of often unnamed individuals within the U.S.
Department of Energy<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/e/energy_department/index.html?inline=nyt-org>,
plays to none of the inherent strengths of the U.S. market system to spur
innovation and effectively allocate risks and rewards. Further, the basis,
and sometimes scale, of these subsidy decisions is largely hidden from the
public view.”

For Mr. Cooper, the core issue at stake is one of opportunity cost. “While
the cost estimates of nuclear power continue to rise, the potential for
energy efficiency measures to reduce the need for energy are far cheaper,”
he said.

Lower-cost, low-carbon technologies are already available, and cost trends
for several others indicate that a combination of efficiency and renewable
technologies could meet projected power needs while also achieving
aggressive carbon-reduction targets, Mr. Cooper said.

In a June 2009 report drawing on several earlier studies, Mr. Cooper said
that energy efficiency, cogeneration and renewable sources could meet power
needs at an average cost of 6 cents per kilowatt hour, compared with a cost
of 12 cents to 20 cents per kilowatt hour for nuclear power.

Choosing the nuclear route, and constructing 100 new reactors, would
translate into an extra cost to taxpayers and electricity users of $1.9
trillion to $4.4 trillion over the 40-year life of the reactors, compared
with the costs of developing energy efficiency and renewable sources, the
report said.

Mr. Cooper said it would make sense for policy makers, standing in the place
of the market, to choose the least costly alternatives first.

“In an attempt to circumvent the sound judgment of the capital markets,
nuclear advocates erroneously claim that subsidies lower the financing costs
for nuclear reactors and so are good for consumers,” he said. “But shifting
risk does not eliminate it. Furthermore, subsidies induce utilities and
regulators to take greater risks that will cost the taxpayers and the
ratepayers dearly.

“The risks that have dismayed Wall Street should be taken seriously by
policy makers because they would cost not just hundreds of billions of
dollars in losses on reactors that are canceled, but also trillions in
excess costs for ratepayers when reactors are brought to completion by
utilities that fail to pursue the lower-cost, less risky options that are
available.

“The frantic effort of the nuclear industry to increase federal loan
guarantees and secure ratepayer funding of construction work in progress
from state legislatures is an admission that the technology is so totally
uneconomic that the industry will forever be a ward of state, resulting in a
uniquely American form of nuclear socialism.”


http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/27/business/global/27iht-renuke.html?_r=1

Statement by Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti on Murder of Amit Jethva


Press Release

Date: 22nd July 2010
We the activists of PARYAVARAN SURAKSHA SAMITI are horrified at the gruesome murder of Mr. Amit Jethva, President  of Gir Nature Youth Club, Khambha, District Amreli who had been raising the issue of illegal mining and other environmental issues in Junagadh area.

More shocking is the fact that the murder took place not only in a big, busy city but very close to Gujarat High Court and not very far from the seat of power in 'peaceful Gujarat. Perhaps the location of the crime spot explains who might be behind it as suspected by his immediate family.

The possible reasons and motive of the crime may never be properly investigated given the influence and reach of those alleged to be behind it but it is absolutely essential that civil society condemns this unequivocally and exerts sufficient pressure on the Police and higher authorities to carry out a fair and impartial inquiry, and trial of those guilty.

It has to be realised by one and all that settling disputes in this manner should not go unpunished. Even the powerful pay a heavy price for such acts in the medium and long run.


Anand Mazgaonkar        Michael Mazgaonkar               Swati Desai
Rajnibhai Dave               Rohit Prajapati                         Krishnakant
Trupti Shah                      Ambrish Brahmbhatt               Kantibhai Mistry
Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti

Fourth International Debates Party-Building Strategy


Jeff Mackler  /  July 2010

 

More than 200 delegates, observers, and invited guests from some 45 countries attended the 16th World Congress of the Fourth International (FI), Feb. 23-28 in Belgium. The FI is the world socialist organization founded in 1938 by Leon Trotsky with the help of cothinkers worldwide, including James P. Cannon, the pioneer of American Trotskyism.

The draft reports prepared by the FI leadership to initiate the pre-World Congress on-line discussion appear in the International Viewpoint website under “Documents of the FI.” A critical assessment of these texts, entitled, “Socialist Action USA: A contribution to the pre-World Congress discussion,” appears in the same place.

Three main resolutions were presented for discussion and debate. The first two, on “The World Political Situation” and on “Capitalist Climate Change and Our Tasks” were accepted with little dissent and accompanied by a generally rich and productive discussion.

But there were sharp disagreements with regard to the third report on “The Role and Tasks of the FI.” Socialist Action cast its fraternal vote in favor of the first two resolutions and against the “Role and Tasks” text. Reactionary U.S. legislation bars Socialist Action’s formal membership in the FI. Its delegates therefore participate in a fraternal capacity only.

“The World Political Report” contained a description of the terrible effects on the world’s working classes due to the international capitalist economic crisis, a crisis that was properly judged as flowing from fundamental structural flaws in the capitalist system itself.

The second resolution and reports on the world climate crisis represented an important theoretical advance, as well as an important contribution to the world workers’ movement more generally. The text on climate change combined a thoroughgoing Marxist analysis with the science of ecology, a wealth of factual material, a rejection of a “productivist” (capitalist or Stalinist) way out, a series of transitional and immediate demands, proposals for united mass actions, and a broad appreciation of the magnitude and importance of the climate crisis issue.

The resolution began with a clear and unequivocal statement of the magnitude and importance of the issue: “The climate change that is underway is not the product of human activity in general but of the productivist paradigm developed by capitalism and imitated by other systems that claim to be alternatives to the former. Faced with the danger of a social and ecological catastrophe which is without precedent and is irreversible on a human timescale, the system, incapable of calling into question its fundamental logic of accumulation, is engaged in a dangerous technological forward flight from which there is no way out.”

Debate on “Tasks” resolution

The third resolution debated at the World Congress, “The Role and Tasks of the Fourth International,” drew serious criticism from a number of delegates. The text expressed the view that the priority of the FI today must be the construction of “broad anti-capitalist parties” everywhere—as well as a “new international based on such parties.”

The FI’s primary objective since its founding has been to build mass revolutionary Leninist parties worldwide aimed at the organization of the working class and its allies among the oppressed to take political power and construct socialist societies. Unclear in the resolution was whether its call for “broad anti-capitalist parties” was meant to supplant the FI’s historic party-building strategy.

The debate also concerned the role of FI parties that would participate in these “broad anti-capitalist parties.” Were they to organize as a tendency, caucus, or some such formation designed to win new FI members to a clear revolutionary program and party—or were they to become absorbed into such parties without a clear revolutionary program and Trotskyist identity?

This issue was particularly relevant in light of last year’s dissolution of the French section of the Fourth International, the Revolutionary Communist League, into the New Anti-Capitalist Party, and the absence of any organized FI current within the organization. Was the NPA to be the new model for revolutionaries as opposed to building a Leninist party?

The text had been prepared by the FI’s International Committee after deliberations over the course of more than a year. Some 72 comrades took the floor to express a wide range of views on the resolution.

As the discussion proceeded, it became obvious that there was little agreement among the delegates as to the meaning and purpose of “broad anti-capitalist parties.” Neither the ambiguous language of the text nor the reporter explained whether these parties were envisioned as an alternative to building revolutionary parties based on the historic program of the FI or even whether these parties were to be socialist at all.

In Socialist Action’s view, a tactical decision as to what kind of formations revolutionary socialists participate in must be subordinate to our strategic objective—the construction of revolutionary parties aimed at the organization of the working class and its allies in the struggle for socialism. Of course, party-building can take many forms, from participation in reformist or social-democratic parties, to principled fusions, or unifications with currents with whom we find major programmatic agreement and with whom we find ourselves working together toward the same goals in the mass movement.

Indeed, the struggle to unify the working class in united-front mass actions that challenge specific polices of the capitalist class (such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or attacks on immigrant rights) is a central tool of revolutionaries throughout the world to advance our common cause and simultaneously win the best fighters to socialist politics.

Build the Fourth International!

While the “Role and Tasks” text was approved by the great majority of the delegates, the vote was not without major reservations and also reflected a view that the discussion would be continued.

It was clear from the concluding remarks of the reporter for “The Role and Tasks of the FI” text that the sharp World Congress debates had an important impact on the FI leadership. The reporter essentially accepted an amendment to the text indicating that the disparate views were far from resolved and that the debate would continue at future FI meetings.

A significant number of World Congress participants were enthusiastic, serious, and well-informed youth, an indication that FI sections have been able to assemble a layer of young fighters to replace the older cadre in the years ahead.

The World Congress took place at a difficult time for revolutionaries throughout the world—a time when the attacks on the world’s working classes have taken a great toll while resistance has been generally limited. These defeats undoubtedly weighed heavily on the Congress deliberations, leading some to look for shortcut solutions that ignore the rich lessons of the past.

It became increasingly evident during the World Congress that the critical need to build the Fourth International, based on the construction of revolutionary socialist parties of the Leninist type, will remain central to the FI’s future discussions and debates.

Lynne Stewart sentenced to ten years in prison

JEFF MACKLER

(Jeff Mackler is the West Coast Director of the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee.)

The full force of the U.S. criminal “justice” system came down on innocent political prisoner, 30-year veteran human rights attorney and radical political activist Lynne Stewart today, July 15, 2010.

In an obviously pre-prepared one hour and twenty minute technical tour de force designed to give
legitimacy to a reactionary ruling Federal District Court John Koeltl, who in 2005 sentenced Stewart to 28 months in prison following her frame-up trial and jury conviction on four counts of “conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism,” re-sentenced Stewart to 120 months or ten years. Koeltl recommended that Stewart serve her sentence in Danbury, Connecticut's minimum security prison. A final decision will be made by the Bureau of Prisons.

Stewart will remain in Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center for 60 days to prepare an appeal.

The jam-packed New York Federal District Court chamber observers where Koeltl held forth let our a gasp of pain and anguish as Lynne's family and friends were stunned – tears flowing down the stricken and somber faces of many. A magnificent Stewart, ever the political fighter and organizer was able to say to her supporters that she felt badly because she had “let them down,” a reference to the massive outpouring of solidarity and defiance that was the prime characteristic of Lynne’s long fight for freedom.

Judge Koeltl was ordered to revisit his relatively short sentence when it was overturned by a two-judge majority of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Judges Robert D. Sack and Guido Calabresi ruled that Koeltl’s sentence was flawed because he had declined to determine whether Stewart committed perjury when she testified at her trial that she believed that she was effectively operating under a “bubble”
protecting her from prosecution when she issued a press release on behalf of her also framed-up
client, the blind Sheik Omar Abdel Rachman. Rachman was falsely charged with conspiracy to
damage New York state buildings.

Dissenting Judge John M. Walker, who called Stewart’s sentence, "breathtakingly low" in view
of Stewart's "extraordinarily severe criminal conduct" deemed the Second Circuit’s majority opinion “substantively unreasonable.” Walker essentially sought to impose or demand a 30-year sentence.

The three-judge panel on Dec. 20, 2009 followed its initial ruling with even tougher language
demanding that Koeltl revisit his treatment of the “terrorism enhancement” aspects of the law. A
cowardly Koeltl, who didn't need this argument to dramatically increase Stewart's sentence, asserted that he had already taken it under consideration in his original deliberations.

Government prosecutors, who in 2005 sought a 30-year sentence, had submitted a 155-page
memorandum arguing in support of a 15-30 year sentence. Their arguments demonstrated how
twisted logic coupled with vindictive and lying government officials routinely turn the victim into the criminal.

Stewart’s attorneys countered with a detailed brief recounting the facts of the case and demonstrating that Stewart’s actions in defense of her client were well within the realm of past practice and accepted procedures. They argued that Koeltl properly exercised his discretion in determining that, while the terrorism enhancement provisions of the “law” had to be taken into consideration, the 30-year-prison term associated with it was "dramatically unreasonable,” “overstated the seriousness" of Stewart’s conduct” and had already been factored into Koeltl’s decision.

Stewart's attorneys also argued convincingly in their brief that the Special Administrative Measure (SAM) that Stewart was convicted of violating by releasing a statement from her client to the media was well within the
established practice of Stewart’s experienced and mentoring co-counsels– former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and past American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee president Abdeen Jabarra. Both had issued similar statements to the media with no government reprisal. Clark was an observer in Koeltl’s courtroom. When he testified in support of Lynne during her trial one overzealous prosecutor suggested that he too be subject to the conspiracy charges. The more discreet team of government lawyers quietly dropped the matter.

As worst in such matters, government officials refuse defense attorneys client visiting rights until an agreement on a contested interpretation of a SAM is reached. This was the case with Stewart and her visiting rights were eventually restored with no punishment or further action. Indeed, when the matter was brought to then Attorney General Janet Reno, the government declined to prosecute or otherwise take any action against Stewart.

But Koeltl, who had essentially accepted this view in his original sentence, reversed himself entirely and proceeded in his erudite-sounding new rendition of the law to repeatedly charge Stewart with multiple acts of perjury regarding her statements on the SAM during her trial.

Koeltl took the occasion to lecture Stewart regarding the first words she uttered in front of a bevy of media outlets when she joyfully alighted from the courthouse following the judge’s original 28-month sentence. Said Stewart at that time, “I can do 28 months standing on my head.” A few moments earlier Stewart, with
nothing but a plastic bag containing a toothbrush, toothpaste and her various medications, had stood before Koeltl, who had been asked by the government to sentence her to a 30-year term, effectively a death sentence for Lynne, aged 70, a diabetic and recovering breast cancer victim in less than excellent health.

Koeltl dutifully followed the lead of the Second Circuit judges, who feigned outrage that Stewart could possibly appear joyful that her life was spared despite 28 months in prison. Koeltl insisted that Stewart’s remark was essentially contemptuous of his sentence and insufficient to convince Stewart of the seriousness of her “crime.” Lynne’s defense was that while she fully understood that 28 months behind bars, separating from her “family, friends and comrades,” as she proudly stated, was a harsh penalty, she was nevertheless “relieved” that she would not die in prison. Koeltl needed a legal brick to throw at
Lynne’s head and ignored her humanity, honesty and deep feeling of relief when she expressed it
to a crowd of two thousand friends, supporters and a good portion of the nation’s media.

The same Judge Koeltl who stated in 2005, when he rendered the 28-month jail term, that Lynne was
“a credit to her profession and to the nation,” clearly heard the voice of institutionalized hate and cruelty and responded in according with its unstated code. “Show no mercy! Thou shall not dissent without grave punishment” in capitalist America.

Lynne was convicted in the post-911 generated climate of political hysteria. Bush appointee, Attorney General John Ashcroft, decided to make an example of her aimed at warning future attorneys that the mere act of defending anyone whom the government charged with “conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism,” could trigger terrible consequences.

On July 15 Judge Koeltl made the decision of his career. Known for his meticulous preparation in such matters, and already having enraged the powers that be with his “light” sentence of Stewart, he bent full tilt to the reactionary political pressures exerted on him by the court hierarchy. He had the option to stand tall and reaffirm his original decision. The “law” allowed him to do so. He could have permitted Lynne to
leave prison in less than two years, recover her health, and lead a productive life. His massively extended sentence, unless overturned, will likely lead to Lynne’s demise behind bars – a brilliant and dedicated fighter sacrificed on the alter of an intolerant class-biased system of repression and war.

Courage is a rare quality in the capitalist judiciary. For every defiant decision made, usually driven by a change in the political climate and pressed forward by the rise of mass social protest movements, there are thousands and more of political appointees that affirm the status quo, including its punishment of all who struggle to challenge capitalist prerogatives and power.

Lynne Stewart stands tall among the latter. We can only hope that the winds of change that are stirring the consciousness of millions today in the context of an American capitalism in economic and moral crisis keeps the movement for her freedom alive and well. The fight is not over! What we do now remains critical. Lynne’s expected appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court cannot be written off as absurd and hopeless. What we do collectively to free her and all political prisoners and to fight for freedom and justice on every front counts for everything!

Write to Lynne at:

Lynne Stewart 53504-054

MCC-NY 2-S

150 Park Row
New York, NY 10007

For further information call Lynne’s husband, Ralph Poynter, leader of the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee 718-789-0558 or 917-853-9759

Send contributions payable to:

Lynne Stewart Organization
1070 Dean Street
Brooklyn, New York, 11216

The Struggle in Kashmir: Not Crushed, Merely Ignored

The Government of India, including all the shades of parliamentary oppositionists, would like to pretend that the world must say nothing about Kashmir, except to parrot the Indian line that whatever happens is an internal matter of India. Progressive voices all over the world need to fight to break this Indian effort at silencing the protests by Kashmiris. We are pleased to reproduce, from the London Review of Books, Vol 32, No. 14, 22 July 2010, an article by the noted Pakistan born marxist activist Tariq Ali. We thank the LRB and Tariq Ali for permitting us to reproduce the essay. It was originally carried in http://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n14/tariq-ali/not-crushed-merely-ignored as an online article, with the title that is given below.
For the LRB as a whole, readers can check out its website http://www.lrb.co.uk/

--Administrator, R.S.

Not Crushed, Merely Ignored


Tariq Ali on the recent killings in Kashmir


A Kashmiri lawyer rang me last week in an agitated state. Had I heard about the latest tragedies in Kashmir? I had not. He was stunned. So was I when he told me in detail what had been taking place there over the last three weeks. As far as I could see, none of the British daily papers or TV news bulletins had covered the story; after I met him I rescued two emails from Kashmir informing me of the horrors from my spam box. I was truly shamed. The next day I scoured the press again. Nothing. The only story in the Guardian from the paper’s Delhi correspondent – a full half-page – was headlined: ‘Model’s death brings new claims of dark side to India’s fashion industry’. Accompanying the story was a fetching photograph of the ill-fated woman. The deaths of (at that point) 11 young men between the ages of 15 and 27, shot by Indian security forces in Kashmir, weren’t mentioned. Later I discovered that a short report had appeared in the New York Times on 28 June and one the day after in the Guardian; there has been no substantial follow-up. When it comes to reporting crimes committed by states considered friendly to the West, atrocity fatigue rapidly kicks in. A few facts have begun to percolate through, but they are likely to be read in Europe and the US as just another example of Muslims causing trouble, with the Indian security forces merely doing their duty, if in a high-handed fashion. The failure to report on the deaths in Kashmir contrasts strangely with the overheated coverage of even the most minor unrest in Tibet, leave alone Tehran.

On 11 June this year, the Indian paramilitaries known as the Central Reserve Police Force fired tear-gas canisters at demonstrators, who were themselves protesting about earlier killings. One of the canisters hit 17-year-old Tufail Ahmad Mattoo on the head. It blew out his brains. After a photograph was published in the Kashmiri press, thousands defied the police and joined his funeral procession the next day, chanting angry slogans and pledging revenge. The photograph was ignored by the mainstream Indian press and the country’s celebrity-trivia-obsessed TV channels. As I write, the Kashmiri capital, Srinagar, and several other towns are under strict military curfew. Whenever it is lifted, however briefly, young men pour out onto the streets to protest and are greeted with tear gas. In most of the province there has been an effective general strike for more than three weeks. All shops are closed.

An ugly anti-Muslim chauvinism accompanies India’s violence. It has been open season on Muslims since 9/11, when the liberation struggle in Kashmir was conveniently subsumed under the war on terror and Israeli military officers were invited to visit Akhnur military base in the province and advise on counter-terrorism measures. The website India Defence noted in September 2008 that ‘Maj-Gen Avi Mizrahi paid an unscheduled visit to the disputed state of Kashmir last week to get an up-close look at the challenges the Indian military faces in its fight against Islamic insurgents. Mizrahi was in India for three days of meetings with the country’s military brass and to discuss a plan the IDF is drafting for Israeli commandos to train Indian counterterror forces.’ Their advice was straightforward: do as we do in Palestine and buy our weapons. In the six years since 2002 New Delhi had purchased $5 billion-worth of weaponry from the Israelis, to good effect.

Demonstrations against Indian security forces escalated in early June this year when it was revealed in the extra-alert Kashmiri press that three young men – Mohammed Shafi, Shahzad Ahmad Khan and Riyaz Ahmad – had been executed in April by Indian army officers. A colonel and a major were suspended from duty, a rare enough event, suggesting that their superiors knew exactly what had taken place. The colonel claimed that the young men were separatist militants who had been killed in an ‘encounter’ near the Line of Control (the border between Indian-controlled and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir). This account is regarded by local police as pure fiction.

An Amnesty International letter to the Indian prime minister in 2008 listed his country’s human rights abuses in Kashmir and called for an independent inquiry, claiming that ‘grave sites are believed to contain the remains of victims of unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other abuses which occurred in the context of armed conflict persisting in the state since 1989. The graves of at least 940 persons have reportedly been found in 18 villages in Uri district alone.’ A local NGO, the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-Administered Kashmir (IPTK), states that extrajudicial killings and torture are a commonplace in the valley and that Western institutions don’t even try to do anything about this for fear of damaging relations with New Delhi. The figures provided by the IPTK are startling. It claims that the Indian military occupation of Kashmir ‘between 1989-2009 has resulted in 70,000+ deaths’. The report disputes claims that these killings are aberrations. On the contrary, they are part of the occupation process, considered as ‘acts of service’, and leading to promotion and financial reward (bounty is paid after claims made by officers are verified). In this dirty and enduring conflict, more than half a million ‘military and paramilitary personnel [more than the number of US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan combined] continue to act with impunity to regulate movement, law and order across Kashmir. The Indian state itself, through its legal, political and military actions, has demonstrated the existence of a state of continuing conflict within Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.’

Public opinion in India is mute. The parties of the left prefer to avoid the subject for fear that political rivals will question their patriotism. Kashmir is never spoken of, and has never been allowed to speak. With its Muslim majority it wasn’t permitted a referendum in 1947 to determine which of the two countries it wished to be part of. In 1984, when Indira Gandhi was the Indian prime minister, I asked her why she had not taken advantage of the birth of Bangladesh in 1971 (when Kashmiris had watched with horror how the Pakistan army treated their coreligionists) and allowed a referendum. She remained silent. I pointed out that even Farooq Abdullah, the chief minister of Kashmir, was convinced that India would win if a democratic election were held. Her face had clouded. ‘He’s completely untrustworthy.’ I had to agree, but her refusal to contemplate the Kashmiri self-determination promised by her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, was troubling. These days the very suggestion seems utopian.

The Abdullah dynasty continues to hold power in Kashmir and is keen to collaborate with New Delhi and enrich itself. I rang a journalist in Srinagar and asked him about the current chief minister, Omar Abdullah, a callow and callous youth whose only claim to office is dynastic. ‘Farooq Abdullah,’ he told me, ‘is our Asif Ali Zardari when it comes to corruption. Now he’s made his son chief minister so that he can concentrate on managing his various businesses.’ The opposition isn’t much better. Some Kashmiris, the journalist said, call Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the effective leader of the opposition, and his cronies ‘double agents. That is, they are taking money from Pakistan and India.’ He is the 12th ‘mirwaiz’, the self-appointed spiritual leaders of the Muslims in the Kashmir Valley, and is adept at playing both sides. ‘Mirwaiz’s security outside his house is provided by the Indian state,’ a friend in Srinagar told me, ‘his wife is Kashmiri American, he lives very comfortably (without any source of income) and he is engaged in secret talks with India, news of which is constantly leaked. Furthermore, he also makes an annual pilgrimage to Pakistan to keep that channel open as well. He hangs out with “separatists” in Kashmir who are open to being used by both India and Pakistan, for a good price of course. The Indian authorities do not have to do much to crush Kashmiris while there are people like Mirwaiz. So, all in all, our leadership is working against us. India has always used this to its advantage.’

The Zardari government is silent on the issue of Kashmir and there has been little media reaction in Pakistan to the recent killings. For the ruling elite Kashmir is just a bargaining counter. ‘Give us Afghanistan and you can have Kashmir’ is the message currently emanating from the bunker in Islamabad. Zardari, it’s worth recalling, is the only Pakistani leader whose effigy has been burned in public in Indian Kashmir (soon after becoming president he had seriously downplayed Kashmiri aspirations). The Pakistani president and his ministers are more interested in business deals than in Kashmir. At the moment this suits Washington perfectly, since India is regarded as a major ally in the region and the US doesn’t want to have to justify its actions in Kashmir. Pakistan’s indifference also suggests that Indian allegations that recent events in Kashmir were triggered by Pakistan are baseless. Pakistan virtually dismantled the jihadi networks it had set up in Kashmir after the 1989 withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan not long after 9/11. Islamabad, high on the victory in Kabul, had stupidly assumed that they could repeat the trick in Kashmir. Those sent to infiltrate Indian Kashmir were brutal and mindless fanatics who harmed the Kashmiri case for self-determination, though some young people, tired of the patience exhibited by their elders, embraced the jihad, hoping it would bring them freedom. They were wrong.

As Indian politicians stood on the battlements of the Red Fort in Delhi to celebrate Independence Day in August 2008, Kashmiris began a mass campaign of civil disobedience. More than a hundred thousand people marched peacefully to the UN office in Srinagar. They burned effigies, chanted ‘Azadi, azadi’ (‘freedom’) and appealed to India to leave Kashmir. The movement was not crushed. It was merely ignored. Nothing changed. Now a new generation of Kashmiri youth is on the march. They fight, like the young Palestinians, with stones. Many have lost their fear of death and will not surrender. Ignored by politicians at home, abandoned by Pakistan, they are developing the independence of spirit that comes with isolation and it will not be easily quelled. It’s unlikely, however, that the prime minister of India and his colleagues will pay any attention to them. And just to show who’s master, the Indian army flag-marched through the streets of Srinagar on 7 July in an awesome show of strength.

8 July

The dead are:

11 June: Tufail Ahmad Mattoo, 17, killed in teargas fire in Srinagar.

19 June: Rafiq Ahmad Bangroo, 27, beaten by members of the Central Reserve Police Force near his home in old Srinagar on 12 June, died of his injuries.

20 June: Javed Ahmad Malla, 26, died when mourners, returning from Bangroo’s burial, attacked a CRPF bunker, causing its occupants to open fire.

25 June: Shakeel Ganai, 17, and Firdous Khan, 18, killed when the CRPF fired at protesters in Sopore.

27 June: Bilal Ahmad Wani, 22, died following CRPF fire in Sopore.

28 June: Tajamul Bashir, 20, killed in Delina; Tauqeer Rather, 15, killed in Sopore.

29 June: Ishtiyaq Ahmed, 15, Imtiyaz Ahmed Itoo, 17, and Shujaat-ul-Islam, 17, died after being shot by police in southern Anantnag.

5 July: Muzaffar Ahmad Bhat, 17, died in CRPF custody in Srinagar.

6 July: Fayaz Ahmad Wani, 18, shot by the CRPF during Bhat’s funeral procession in Srinagar; Fancy Jan, 25, the first woman to die, killed when a bullet hit her as she watched events from a window in her house; Abrah Ahmad Khan, 16, killed during protests over Wani’s death.


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