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What is the use of public confessions of regret for supporting Modi after he is Prime Minister? The damage is done. The country finds new lows to reach daily.... and what development?

There is a visible epidemic of Sahitya Academy Award winners returning their awards in protest of the government. Less visible is a low key epidemic of public intellectuals and assorted public figures suddenly finding their consciences and regretting promoting Modi because of what they see now. It is the dream of every blind supporter of modi - the much hated intellectuals are voluntarily vanishing from recognition.

From a virtually unknown Arpita Chatterjee to the very famous Ram Jethmalani. Now Aatish Taseer. There are others. Countless journalists have changed their tones from "OMG Modi" to "uh... Modi" without being explicit. Others have taken to trenchant criticism and proclamations of disappointment without mentioning other gushing praise.

There is a problem with all this washing of consciences in the Ganga of public confessions. The problem never was their support for Modi. India is a free country. People have free speech. The problem was their MISUSE of their reach and influence to actively cover up the communal polarization campaign that was running parallel to the development speeches. From dismissing concerns about minorities to claiming that Modi would not tolerate the rise of Hindu fanatics, and the undermining of RIGHTFUL calls for action against criminal methods powering Modi's rise out of the "bold and the beautiful" internet connected India.

This cover up is what THEY did in their greed, not Modi or the RSS. This, they dare not confess to, nor offer to rectify, for the harm to India is beyond measuring.

This was my response on Twitter today after Aatish Taseer's grand eloquence on Modi's inadequate education. It hadn't been adequate when they were all gushing, had it?


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Denis Giles of The Andaman Chronicles had, on the 1st of February broken news of shocking sexual exploitation of the Jarawa in the Andaman Islands by outsiders and fishermen. While the sexual exploitation of the Jarawa is nothing new, this time it was a Jarawa man on tape describing the suffering of the Jarawa girls at the hands of intoxicated local poachers and fishermen who violate them and their homes.

The vulnerability of the Jarawa is stark as he knows and names the villains from Junglighat, Wandoor, Herbertabad and Tirur. He accuses them of introducing alcohol and drugs among the Jarawa, chasing Jarawa girls under the influence of alcohol and ganja (marijuana) and sleeping in their huts. They torture the girls.

In the audio clip, the Jarawa man says that poachers regularly visits the Reserve and in the influence of alcohol and ganja chase and hurt the girls and sleep with them in the Jarawa Chadda (hut). He also complains that the girls are physically tortured.

He names almost 20 poachers. They are Chotu, Lamba ka Ladka, Bablu, Sujoy, Deva s/o Neelu, Raja alias Tapas (man with moustache), Haran, Natia, Kishore from Tirur area. Udu (short statured ‘Nata’), Sameer, Pintu, Nitai from Guptapara area. Robin, Neen ka Ladka Mandal, Lalu, Ada ka Bhai rom Wandoor and Thata Rao, his father and other persons in his group from Junglighat, Port Blair.

Poachers trade with the Jarawa and arrests for entering the reserve mean little as they come out on bail and continue. Sexual exploitation is not proved as Jarawa girls won't testify against poachers in court.

Last month on 16th and 17th two teams of poachers were apprehended by a Joint team of AAJVS, Police and Forest from Jarawa Tribal Reserve in the West Coast and Hiren Tikrey. The poachers had taken about 8 Jarawa girls along with them. One of the team stayed in the Reserve for three days along with the girls. The girls were rescued and brought back and all the poachers were arrested under various sections of ANPATR and SC/ST POA Act.

In another incident, a local poacher Nitai Mondal, resident of Guptapara whose name repeatedly appears in the audio clip, went to Chotagoja Jarawa Camp, a Jarawa Reserve on the West Coast on 3rd November with ration articles - rice, vegetable oil, sugar and tea and camped with a group of Jarawas.

On the next day he took two Jarawas - Dawa and Lekhte to Bambu Nallah, where other Jarawas were camping. He stayed with them for a day and later took 5 Jarawas - Anijamu (43), Illy (25), Anjale (27), Achehane (25), and Tahe (22) to Tarmugli Island. Nitai Mondal, who is a habitual offender, is already booked in two cases of exploitation of Jarawas. But, he too was let off on bail.

From the transcript of the audio clip of the Jarawa man

The girls say...

The outsider (in’en) boys press them... lots.

They press them using hands and nails, when the girls get angry.

They chase them under the influence of alcohol, the girls...

They do (yoha) sex (pelta) with the girls.

All the girls, (and he names around 10 girls)

Sujoy and Chotu come to the girls

and Bablu and Nitai and another one Kaushik...

they drink alcohol in the house of girls.

They also sleep in Jarawa’s house (Chadda).

They chase the girls after smoking Ganja (Marijuana). smoking Ganja...

All the outside boys... the boys I named earlier.

Sujoy and one Chotu and one Kaushik and one old man from Guptapara, Nitai and one Sameer and I missed one outsider, no two outsiders... There are two more ... That Mamu from Guptapara... there is a boy you know... his name is Mamu... He is known as Mamu... he is also there...

*************

There are increasing conflicts between the Jarawa and the surrounding areas due insensitive violations of their reserve and exploitation of their women. Video clips of the naked Jarawa women made to dance for food by tour operators have been exposed before.

The strange thing is that when the UK news covers it, like the Guardian expose, our media latches on to it. When a local Andaman paper breaks the story, there is no hope of backup from Indian media. Or perhaps naked women dancing sell better even if blurred than men reporting serious wrongs, but no eye candy for our "sex sells" media?

This is fairly shocking, but what is more bizarre is that the police have filed six notices against Denis who broke the story.

And this still is not National News.

So now one has to wonder why.

The core theme of theme of Track I of the Symbiosis International University International Deegate Conference was Development Partnership. The panel headed by Amb Ronen Sen(Former Indian Ambassador to Russia, Germany,UK, & USA) included Amb Shyam Saran(Chairman Research and Information Systems for Developing Countries, National Security Advisory Board, HE Mr. Lyonopo Rinzin Dorje(Foreign Minister of Bhutan & Mr.Abhay Thakur (Joint Secretary North in the MEA)

HE Mr.Lyonpo Rinzin Dorje, Foreign Minister of Bhutan
HE Mr.Lyonpo Rinzin Dorje, Foreign Minister of Bhutan at the Symbiosis International University conference

HE Mr Lyonpo Rinzin Dorje opened the discussion by highlighting the strong, mutually beneficial partnership between India and Bhutan which was initiated by Pt Jawaharlal Nehru's visit to the country. The partnership was further strengthened when India provided assistance in building the first national highway which enabled Bhutan open doors to the outside world. Despite India's prevailing economic conditions they financed the first two five year plans and are currently providing support of Rs 45 billion for the 11th five year plan. He added that Bhutan would look forward to deepen the mutual partnership it has with India.

Ambassador Shyam Saran at the <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'><figcaption class=Symbiosis International University" src="http://res.cloudinary.com/aamjanata-com/image/upload/h_599,w_665/v1389011626/shyam-saran_omnwek.jpg" width="620" height="558" /> Ambassador Shyam Saran , Chairman , Research and Information Systems for Developing Countries addressing the audience

Amb Shyam Saran carried the discussion forward by elaborating the philosophy and the transformation of India's Development Partnership Program has undergone over the years . One of the key aspects highlighted by him was the lack of of effective methodology of evaluation that could gauge the impact of the program on the sister developing nations.

This was followed by an overview on the functionality and achievements of the Development Program Administration by Mr. Abhay Thakur- Joint Secretary North Region, MEA.

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Asaram bapu and his fanatical followers are a snapshot of how irrelevant moral behavior is to worship. In the recent past, Asaram Bapu has made headlines for holding the victim of a brutal rape jointly responsible for being raped. He has celebrated a mass holi wasting water in the middle of the worst drought Maharashtra saw in decades. And he was accused of raping a minor daughter of a devotee and threatening her to be silent.

This is hardly a new phenomenon. Asaram Bapu has always has disturbing whispers of illegal dealings from land grabs to tantric rituals. Rising into the religion business after one selling alcohol, he had a formidable reputation of power. Famous politicians and stars have been associated with him. Disturbing reports of threats from his followers (who apparently double up as his henchmen) abound.

So why is it that this person continues to be considered a saint in this country? How is it that in a religious community with an overabundance of Gods, where no two homes have completely similar practices or spiritual leaders, politicians end up so overwhelmingly flocked around the same few messiahs? As I write this post, another God man's dream has sent the Archaeological Survey of India on a wild goose dig for thousands of tons of gold with the blessings of the state.

[Tweet "Why is India so gullible to any conman who claims to know God better than others?"] Why is it that we fail to question God men when their actions are demonish? How is it that we don't question when peddlers of morality break laws and grab land? And how is it that we do not take exception to a "Gurugita" religious book written by a self-acclaimed Godman who speaks of giving your body, senses, life, money, family, kin and even wife to your Guru?

The common man is a blinkered beast of burden, set on a looping track by whoever claims to be superior. Religions in particular are full of endless advice. Eat this, don't eat this, follow these timings for whatever, wear such, don't act such.... and the advice is not only obeyed, it is spread by word of mouth to more unwary blinkered beasts, who will see it as the words of a holy man and act on them.

And yet, there are countless holy men, working tirelessly to better the lives of the people, to nurture our planet and to enrich mankind. They are also Godmen, but they are too humble to advertise their Godmanship in your face and tell you what to do. They die unlamented like the respected Swami Nigamananda, who died fasting to save the Ganga from pollution at the hands of those who were supported by money and power and thought nothing of raping the sacred river.

Unless we value ourselves enough to understand that our respect must be deserved - even by Godmen, we will remain falling prey to fraudsters strutting their fakery and exploiting our brain for their glory (and profit), while those truly reflecting ideals needed more in the world lie discarded for lack of bling.

I am atheist, but I respect a sadhu with the courage to stand up to the sand mafia to protect a river. I am continually perplexed by how far the religion of my birth continues to fall with these pop gurus popping up and teaching values to lead us to ruin.

[Tweet "Unless we value ourselves enough to understand that our respect must be deserved - even by Godmen, we will remain falling prey to fraudsters strutting their fakery"]

Worse, the unquestioning adoration is a direct factor in the escalating influence of such fraudsters. We even have a police officer, in jail for fake encounters suffering silence for years, but the straw that broke his back was apparently a rapist Godman being arrested for rape. The state abandoned him to facing his crimes, but he is outraged that the Godman has to face his crimes too. Apparently the idea that perhaps a Godman should not do crimes did not occur to anyone in the process.

This reminds me of Gandhi's treatment of women around him. The "Mahatma" had a very public sexual life or the lack of it. His vow of celibacy did not consult his wife. Testing that vow with temptation did not consider his wife as "tempting". He slept naked with young girls to test his own celibacy in whatever way, without any consideration for the impact of such actions on the girls, who had not taken vows of celibacy, had they? Yet, he is the Mahatma and God forbid anyone question his character. Whatever else was good or bad about Gandhi (and I agree there was plenty to admire too), it is pathetic that thee wasn't enough objection to what was clearly exploitative behavior. [Tweet "What does it say about India that Gandhi's extremely public perversions were never a deterrent to his stardom?"]

There is hardly a dearth of Godmen engaging in sexual explotation. Nor is it limited to any single religion. It appears that morality flies out of the window when the victim does not have the power to be a threat. The example of Mahatma Gandhi was simply to demonstrate how child sexual abuse can go completely uncriticized if the spiritual guide claims a big enough halo.

Coming back to Asaram, the dirt just keeps piling on Asaram Bapu, with an MMS being recovered from his henchman, hsi son Narayan being a fugitive, changing phones to evade arrest, more complainants coming out of the woodwork now that there is hope for the wrongs to be brought to justice.

The government that prides itself on relegating religious violence to the past, was apparently hesitant to bring him to the state for fear of unrest. On one hand they claim innocence, on the other they unleash the nuisance value of followers.

All I can hope for is that he is hounded down and brought whimpering to the courts and made such a clear example of, that the next time people see a Godman behave in a manner that is not "godly", they do not for a minute hesitate to denounce it. This isn't religion, this isn't holy guidance. Morality cannot be upheld by allowing injustice. Regardless of who the perpetrator is.

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A lunacy drives India's development. Vast untouched treasures of nature are discarded with scant thought on the altar of a mythical development. Lakhs of development hit Indians are reduced to lives of despair.

A tiny hamlet in the state's Raygada district consisting of merely 48 Dongaria Kondh tribals, empowered by Supreme Court's landmark decision of April this year, was the first in a series of twelve village sabhas which will be held across the areas that will be affected by Vedanta's bauxite mining at Niy bbb camgiri. In a dramatic meeting that lasted over four hours and was attended by District Judge Sarat Chandra Mishra serving as observer, tribals emphatically refused consent to the project that various publicity departments were desperately trying to project as their salvation.

But much water has flowed under this bridge, and more will flow. The combined forces of greed and impunity from consequences are a formidable enemy and the state has a record of wearing down any demand for human rights by simply reverting to a stand that has been rejected by those who dissent. Over and over, in varied ways.

Proceedings got tense when on completion of the representation by the tribals, it was declared that their religious and community rights were confined to their villages and did not extend to the entire Niyamgiri hills range. Lingaraj Azad, organizer of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti said, "This amounts to cheating. We are traditional followers of our deity who not only resides in the Hundaljali but also elsewhere and this mining project will ruin their abode and also threaten our existence." Hectic parleys and heated exchange of words between members of the village and other tribal leaders and the district judge ensured that in the end, the resolution passed mentioned that the rights of the natives extended across the entire hill range.

Of course, the villages allowed to have a say are already selected from among those where the Vedanta view has the greatest chance of being echoed. Reminds me of how Maharashtra government had conspired to prevent the realities of farmers in Vidarbha from being observed by the All Party Parliamentary Committee that was to study impact of genetically modified organisms.

People living at the grassroots have existential struggles to prevent the rich and famous from appropriating their very lives.

All over the country are echoes of these same issues. In Gujarat, you have farmers resisting land acquisition for the special economic zone. In Uttarakhand, there were people whose homes were acquired for hydro electric projects that became their destruction. There are people opposing their land being acquired for nuclear plants. Dams dislocate people by the millions. We, who were aghast at peaceful protesters being lathicharged by the police when it came to middle class protests in Delhi, are barely aware that lathi charges are so routine for people the state intends to evict, that newspapers see no news in it. It is, after all everything going as per plan in a boring routine. Thrash the squatters (on their own land) till they get fed up and leave.

Even as vast tracts of forests go to companies for "progress", tribals who have traditionally lived off the land are losing access to it. Suddenly their home is National property and they must move out of the forests. They who nurtured forests, protected trees have lost their rights because those who can afford bulldozers can "process" them for paper (or something else) more efficiently.

And the propaganda is fantastic. I remember someone being angry with me for not knowing "ground realities" - that tribals were propped up by activists to keep demanding money and place hurdles in the way of projects. And why would activists want to place hurdles? It is a western agenda. Seriously? And here I was thinking that it was the "West" profiting from these projects. The World Bank has money stuck in some, multi national corporations are going to profit from others. How is it that the tribal is so stupid that they cannot recognize prosperity and can be "brainwashed" to remain in poverty and be thrashed by the humanitarian developers? Tell me, what incentive would be a good one to get you to deprive yourself and your family and keep protesting? Would you give up your home in return for inadequate money that cannot buy you comparable land and home? Why should you?

In a country that mints money from exporting minerals, the mines themselves are surrounded by crippling poverty. Economic policies are driving people away from traditional livelihoods. We are losing 2000 farmers a day. Every single day. for a decade at least. Do the math. We are losing 135 hectares of forest cover per day. Remember what they taught you in school about trees preventing soil erosion and retaining water in soil? The water table is in peril in large swathes of India, but the government hardly seems to see this in a crisis in a country of our population. Water bodies have been privatized - sold or on lease. Now we have metered drinking water. Soon, you will find water allocations and then when water is not enough, the whole thing will be turned over to private gigs waiting to own your needs in return for guaranteed money every month. What happens to those who will not afford to pay the bills? Who knows? a fifth of our population still lives below a completely absurd poverty line of Rs. 32. Many of them have water bodies at walking distance that cater to factories, while their fields have no water except rain.

All in the name of progress. The great God of GDP showers its blessings on the almighty decision makers. The textbook defense of progress uses words of law. Everyone will be rehabilitated. They will get a truckload of money - amounts they couldn't even dream of. Locals are greedy. Activists have anti-national agendas... the list is endless. Few of these noble defenders will admit, that the World Bank, famous for extending money to third world countries like us for an agenda, was forced to admit that most people displaced by projects they funded were not rehabilitated. This will not be something you will find the Prime Minister announcing when he announces a new project bringing pride to India in a canned speech delivered from paper to camera without going through a human in between. Imagine:

"It is with great pride that I announce a new dam to be build on river XYZ, which will cost [insert-amount]. Around 2 million people will have to leave their homes and we will make sure they do it. We have clobbered the protesters yet again and we will continue to do so till they give up. We will also give a couple of thousand of them homes so that we can show the world we are kind and you can enjoy your electricity without guilt. Jai Hind"

Why would they? After all, they care about you. Why bother your conscience with the cost of development?

The answer to "Whose land/water/country is this anyway?" invariably seems to be "The guy with the pile of bank notes sitting in another place".

And now the second gram sabha on Niyamgiri too has voted solidly against Vedanta's bauxite mining on their land. Expect more underhand nastiness from our beloved government. Too much money at stake to not squash these brave people like bugs.