So, I begin a new year of my critical-thinking labor workshop. “Where Do the People Go” is my class title.
This year, my union leaders gave me a special responsibility to design and teach a special, politically-charged subject: immigration and immigrants. I shall do my best to do justice to their expectations.
But in spite of being as neutral and objective as possible — as the facilitator of this eight-month-long, weekly class, packed with videos, fact sheets and intense brainstorming by 1,500+ workers, apprentices and industry leaders — I must say that branding a class of people “illegal” and treating them as “criminal” only because of their immigration status is quite strange, if not stupid, or opportunistic.
Especially in this so-called Land of Immigrants, a country that takes pride in its immigrant history and diversity.
Today’s America has become xenophobic, and we do not think or read anymore.
We say we are against illegal immigrants. Yet, we have no problems using their cheap, slave-like labor — in cities and villages. We do not mind shopping at Wal-Mart, taking our cars to garages, dining at exotic restaurants, hosting conferences in hotels, or buying chicken, apples and grapes at supermarkets, where practically all these places use the labor of paperless people living in extreme poverty.
Nobody knows, or worse, cares to know, why poor men, women and children migrate, leaving their countries and familiar surroundings behind, and risking their lives.
I doubt anybody has ever heard of the morgue we once visited in Arizona where they bring in unidentified dead bodies of people trying to cross the Sonoran desert. Nobody connects the dots between global warfare, economic aggression, foreign policy and immigration. Few understand the long history of the U.S. and rich European nations, when it comes to war, slavery, racism and the ongoing saga of economic exploitation.
Nobody knows how IMF and World Bank drive more people out of their countries to find food for their families. There is no serious discussion on mainstream media.
I do not want to take a side as the teacher in the classroom, but I do not mind showing my restrained passion for truth, equality and justice for the underprivileged, exploited immigrants.
After all, I have been one myself.
Sincerely, as always,
Brooklyn, New York
P.S. — By the way, watch this documentary. I just did. Powerful!
READ THIS BLOG, ONLY IF YOU ARE A BELIEVER OF PEACE, RIGHTS, DIGNITY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL — ACROSS THE WORLD.
Otherwise, don’t bother.
I hope this is not an imposition. I do not ever write with such a request, and that too, on my blog.
But I am doing it now, for the first time in my life. Because, I think I am eligible for it, and with your support, it can happen.
Some friends pointed out that I should be taking advantage of this honor to promote my life’s work on human rights, justice and peace, and three of them (two Americans and one Bengali-Indian) have nominated me online. See the link here to read the text of the nomination. Because Global Exchange does not have an option for multiple nomination, the one they received first went online.
If you experience problem using the link, you can also write Global Exchange’s Membership and Outreach Officer Corey Hill, at Corey@globalexchange.org.
I can send you more information, if you need any. But for now, below is a summary of my lifelong work on human rights. I hope I’m not bragging too much about myself.
VOTE ONLY IF YOU BELIEVE I AM AN ELIGIBLE CANDIDATE FOR IT. Otherwise, don’t bother.
Honestly, I feel a little strange, if not embarrassed, to make such a request. But I have two hidden agenda here: (1) if I ever get this recognition, it might create some opportunity for me to get a publishing agent for my memoir that deals with my life’s work on rights and justice both in the U.S. and India (as you perhaps know, I spent half of my here and half back there); and (2) I want to use the prize money to start an organization here in Brooklyn, New York (with an affiliate in India), an organization that will have a small publication on grassroots coalition-building on global human rights and peace issues. There is a huge vacuum in this area that needs to be filled. I’ve been thinking for a long time about using my writing experience and skills to promote these issues.
I need your help and support to realize this little dream. Let me know if you have any questions.
Thank you for your support,
Brooklyn, New York
Post Script. — I do want to thank a few people without I could not ever do what I have done. This is only a short list of individuals.
1. Donna Lieberman and Udi Ofer, New York Civil Liberties Union
2. Bryan Pu-Folkes, Shirley Lin and Cheryl Wertz, New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE)
3. Analilia Mejia and Guy Antoine, New Jersey Immigration Policy Network (NJIPN)
4. Dr. Charlotte Phillips, Brooklyn For Peace
5. Adele Welty, 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
6. Father Jack Martin and Amy Gottlieb, board members at NJIPN
7. Amy Goodman and Nina Bernstein, reputed journalists
Human rights — we all know. But what is Hans Dhun?
It is a beautiful Indian music based on a classical raga. Some people call it Hans Dhwani. Hans means swan. The swan is often associated with Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of learning. Hence, Hans Dhwani or Hans Dhun has a divine, sacred connotation.
For the non-religious, it’s simply beautiful.
Just a few days ago, I went to buy some small groceries at a neighborhood Pakistani store in our Brooklyn. The lonely storekeeper was half-asleep, watching Pakistani music video on his small TV hung from the wall. I got glued to it. Somebody was singing Hans Dhun.
The music video talks about the plight of Afghanistan refugees who took shelter in Pakistan for three decades, before their makeshift huts were demolished, and they were sent back. Very touching — seen through the eyes of three Afghan men.
The video does not talk about how American powers created Frankensteins in post-Soviet Afghanistan, but truly, that’s a different story. At least, we see the devastation of war and terrorism.
Watching the video and listening to the heart-wrenching Hans Dhun, following the original Amir Khan rendition, I thought about another Hans Dhun I heard on our watershed Bengali movie Meghe Dhaka Tara (the Cloud-capped Star).
That story also, amazingly, talked about the plight of refugees and their never-ending struggle. A young man, a genius musician who lived in a refugee colony after being evicted by rulers in a partitioned Bengal, went away and found his fame in Bombay. He is now coming back to see his sister who was his only supporter and admirer throughout this struggle. Now, the dear brother is rich and famous, but the sister is dying. She has worked too hard to keep the family survive. And then, her boyfriend has broken his pledge to her. She is dying broken-hearted.
It was fortuitous on my part to have learned about the Pakistani-Afghani band. It gave me an opportunity to bring up the subjects of human rights and plight of the poor, neglected people (predictable subject for me, as one of my esteemed Columbia University professors would declare), as well as the horror or war, violence and partition.
Times have passed. But did the pain?
Post Script. — On this International Women’s Day, 8th March of 2014, I dedicate this blog to the woman cricket players of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. They are not just playing cricket. They are fighting back against terrorizing-oppressing dark, medieval forces in their countries. You wouldn’t believe how brave these young women are. Sisters, my hats off to you.
We woke up at 5.30 in the morning today. Just five days before Christmas.
It was cold. It was dark. Our street was filled with fire trucks and ambulances. Their sirens and search lights tore through the quiet.
We smelled smoke in our house.
A house in our neighborhood was on fire.
We went out on the street. Dozens of scared, sad and traumatized people came out and stood up on the street corner.
Firefighters found a number of poor people — most of them young women — inside the house. Three of them were in critical condition. We saw ambulance workers wheeling them away in stretchers.
We saw firefighters putting the fire away, with their very long, snake-like water pipes crawling on the street. We saw firefighters going into the house, and pulling out burnt beds, furniture and other household items, and throwing them out from the ill-fated third floor of the house.
We later heard at least one young woman had died, and two other were in a life-threatening condition.
I suggested that they put pressure on the new city administration, with friendly, activist-minded people such as Bill de Blasio, Letitia James and Eric Adams being in their new, important offices — to prevent these tragedies pro-actively, with mass education and PR.
I told the reporters to ask the city government and elected officials to find a message of hope and reassurance for the vast underclass of the city. But they didn’t comply with my request. Not for this story, at least.
But I hope you share this message with your friends, wherever you are. Because, this is a global phenomenon. The poor are suffering — across the world. New York City is no exception.
THE MASTER AS I SAW HIM. — “He believed that the one thing to be renounced was any idea of birth as the charter of leadership. He believed that the whole of India was about to be thrown into the melting pot, and that no man could say what new forms of power and greatness would be the result.” — Written by Vivekananda’s disciple Sister Nivedita (aka Margaret Noble).
For us who grew up knowing him, reading him, idolizing him — it’s a very special day.
For those of us who grew up in Calcutta, India, and that too, within half a mile of his residence, within quarter of a mile of the college he studied — it gives us goosebumps to imagine how this young monk who passed away at the age of thirty nine, turned Bengal and India upside down, by his rousing call to young India — to get rid of superstitions, castes, and all forms of social and religious dogmas.
Swami Vivekananda, a Ramakrishna-ordained Hindu saint who relinquished mortal pleasures to work to uplift the Hindu religion, used the religion to uplift the morality and soul of Indians. He dared to say: It’s better to play football than to study the Vedas. Indian revolutionaries who fought back against the British colonial tyranny idolized him, emulated him.
No wonder he was often fondly called the Socialist Saint.
Vivekananda’s disciple Sister Nivedita (aka Margaret Noble, an Irish woman) followed his footsteps, and worked among the poorest in Calcutta until her death at the age of forty four. She was also responsible for co-founding a major socialist movement in India — a “crime” for which Ramakrishna Mission (a nationwide, now international, organization her guru created) ostracized her.
India, unfortunately, did not follow the religion-based morality-upliftment lessons Vivekananda and Nivedita preached. Social patriarchs — including missions and monasteries — took their religion part and forgot about the upliftment part. Media selectively glorified some of their “innocuous” teaching and conveniently excluded the “controversial” ones. As a result, Vivekananda’s India is now one of the most corrupt, violent and immoral places on earth. The recent developments in the land of Tagore, Gandhi, Vivekananda and Ramakrishna are truly catastrophic, calamitous, ominous.
I want to say more about this great man whose life and teaching we can perhaps compare with those of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Both used spirituality to teach the downtrodden how to rise up and walk straight and tall. Both died at the age of thirty nine.
I’m including a famous poem Swami Vivekananda wrote and Sister Nivedita used in her writings on the guru. It may bring some special reflection on this dark and depressing time. At least, I hope it does.
Let us invoke the Holy Mother. Come, Mother, come!
To stop such an enormous, extreme and all-pervasive epidemic, we must address it in both proactive and reactive ways.
Treat rape and violence on women in India as a horrific epidemic: just like cholera, plague or small pox. Address the long-term, all-pervasive sociopolitical and economic evil relegating women to zero respect and zero honor and zero equality as apartheid: just the same way they had it in South Africa or America.
As we all know, proactive means measures taken before the fact — to prevent and to protect; reactive on the other hand means steps taken after the crime — to arrest and punish the criminals and provide medical treatment, health and psychological counseling for the victim and family, and at the same time create an economic safety net for the people who suffered.
We need to understand how to react when an act of terror happens on a woman. Indian middle class has shown that they are angry at how the criminals and their underworld connections have taken away any sense of safety and security from the women, they are furious how the people in power — including politicians and police — have miserably failed to protect the society and bring justice to the victims and their families and at the same time, protected some of the well-connected, powerful perpetrators, and they are tired of the crocodile tears the rich and the powerful and the celebrities are shedding now, when in reality for decades, the same people have supported, promoted and glamorized the status quo where violence on women, police brutality on men, and pathetic corruption and black money and mafia connection have all become a part of the Indian society.
The Intel Education picture below charts the reasons behind a health epidemic and their interconnections. Let’s see if they make any sense to compare with the epidemic or rape and violence on women.
We are going to talk about just a few reasons and leave the rest up to you to draw your conclusions on. Further, there might more reasons that one can think of and include in this diagram to make it more meaningful and conclusive. In this limited space of my blog, I’m only trying to highlight some of the most important areas. Now, the criminals — especially in the Indian context — are often used and sheltered by the powerful people — business magnets, corporations, smugglers, hoarders, politicians, black money brokers, building promoters, police and such individuals and institutions. The criminals know about their protection and thus they unleash their violent acts freely, with little or no consequence to get caught or punished. If and when, by a stroke of bad luck on their part, they are caught and forced by the society to get punishment (as in the case of the Delhi gang rape), the same people who are in power and have protected the criminals — directly or indirectly — cry for the most severe punishment (death penalty in the Indian context) and quickest possible trials, because (1) they want to show (i.e., both the ruling party politicians and the opposition, in a melee of competition — touted by media) to the ordinary people on the street that they are able to provide the strongest delivery of “justice,” and (2) a quick trial and killing off the criminals eliminate any long-term investigation into the reasons behind the crime, connections between the criminals and people in power including police and military, and any scientific exploring of psychology and modus operandi of the criminals with planned use of the criminals to understand the process of criminality — to prevent similar crimes in the future.
Most advanced countries that abolished the death penalty routinely do the above type of research, but in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan or places like them, this discussion especially after such a media-acclaimed act of barbarism would be considered impossible and futile.
Plus, criminals under more fear of a death penalty or other life-threatening, brutal consequences meted out by the angry mob get the news: next time, they will make sure the victims do not survive to identify them. The sinister, powerful connections they have will also make sure the victims do not survive for the fear of getting exposed of their connections with the underworld. They will kill the victims first, and then, the criminals. Violence will recycle on and off the street.
The above are some reasons death penalty is so counterproductive and does not deter crimes. As we’ve documented in part two of this blog (click here to see numbers and frequency), even after the December 16 gang rape followed by media explosion, there has been no respite in gang rape incidents across India. It is unlikely that hanging these rapists would put fear in the minds of other rapists and violent criminals. If anything, the future criminals will be even more violent as I indicated above.
Both the political power and their cronies are now crying blood for blood. Yet, at the same time, so many thousands of such barbarity — gang rape and other grotesque violence such as bride burning, dowry deaths, police brutality, military brutality, brutal beating of maid servants or child workers, mob lynching of a real or perceived street thief — violence absolutely commonplace in the Indian society — are practically unreported especially outside of the activist circles.
In a country like India, the poorest of the poor victim would be lucky if the people in power, politicians, business tycoons or police even listen to their complaints, let alone do anything about it. Every single day, out of the numerous unreported stories of violence and injustice on the poor and unknown, a few feature the newspaper, radio and TV — these “lucky” stories report how the poor victim banged their heads against the wall of justice, and then, how the big business magnet, political or movie celebrity or police commissioner graciously spoke and took “action.” Common experience in India is that out of a hundred cases of unspeakable injustice, maybe one or two ever get reported in the media or to the police — with a fraction of the one or two percent finding any iota of justice.
(Please read Parts 4 and 5. Click on the numbers.)
To understand the enormity of the problem and why we must address it as a plague, small pox or cholera-like epidemic, let us revisit the shameful, horrific situation of rape and violence on women in India.
I am quoting the following numbers from Outlook India magazine, their date of publication January 14, 2013. Their web link is here. The information below shows how all-pervasive the epidemic has become over the years — encompassing all races, castes, religions, geographical areas, economic classes or ages. Just like any other epidemic, rape and violence on women in India have now impacted them ALL.
20 Horrific, Landmark Cases Up To December 2012
•1973: Aruna Shaunbag: A junior nurse at King Edward Memorial hospital in Mumbai, tied with a dog chain, assaulted and raped by a ward boy. She lost her eyesight and has been in a vegetative state since. Supreme Court turns down mercy killing.
•1978: Geeta and Sanjay Chopra were kidnapped for ransom in Delhi in the infamous “Ranga-Billa” kidnapping case. The culprits raped Geeta before killing them both.
•1982: Tulasa Thapa, a 12-year-old Nepali girl, was repeatedly raped before being sold into prostitution. Ten months later, she was brought to JJ Hospital in Mumbai where she died of brain tuberculosis and three sexually transmitted diseases.
•1990: A 14-year-old school girl was raped at her residence in Calcutta and killed by a security guard. Dhananjoy Chatterjee was executed in August 2004, the country’s first hanging since 1995. [Note: India uses capital punishment sporadically. Now, facing public anger over the Delhi rape case, both the ruling Congress Party and main opposition BJP are trying to amend the constitution so that rapists are also subjected to the death penalty. There is hardly any discussion now about the various aspects of the punishment.]
•1996: A 16-year-old girl was sexually harassed and assaulted continuously for 40 days by 42 men in Kerala. In 2000, a special court sentenced 35 persons to rigorous imprisonment but the Kerala High Court acquitted them in 2005. [Note: Kerala is a southern Indian province where education rate is very high, many people are Christian, and the society is by and large matriarchal — extremely rare in India.]
•1996: 25-year-old law student Priyadarshini Mattoo was found raped and murdered at her house in Delhi. Ten years later, the Delhi High Court found Santosh Kumar Singh guilty. [Note: it shows even in the very few cases where there is an ultimate criminal conviction, the law and justice system drags on forever. On the other hand, in case of foreign nationals’ rape cases — now more frequently than ever before — justice is served promptly.]
•1999: The estranged wife of an Indian Forest Service officer, Anjana Mishra’s car was stopped at a desolate place on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar. She was gangraped in front of the friend she was traveling with.
•2002: A fourth-year medical student was gangraped at knifepoint on the terrace of the Khooni Darwaza monument situated on the busy Bahadurshah Zafar Marg in Delhi.
•2003: Shari S. Nair, a teenaged girl hailing from Kottayam, Kerala, was sexually abused after being promised roles in TV serials. Shari later died after giving birth to a daughter.
•2004: 32-year-old Thangjam Manorama was tortured and allegedly executed by personnel of the paramilitary force of 17 Assam Rifles stationed in Manipur, after being picked up from her house. (Below is a picture of the historic “Manorama” protest by Indian women in the nude — just to put it in perspective.)
•2005: 28-year-old Imrana was raped by her father-in-law in Uttar Pradesh. The village elders and Sharia courts nullified her marriage saying her husband was now her son.
•2005: A Delhi University student was gangraped by four men inside a car for several hours and dumped in south Delhi, unconscious and without clothes.
•2009: Two young women were raped and murdered in Jammu under mysterious circumstances, allegedly by CRPF (military) personnel. One of them was two months pregnant at the time.
•2010: A 30-year-old tech employee was raped by five men near her home in south Delhi. The woman was pulled into a mini truck, raped repeatedly and thrown out two hours later.
•2011: A nine-year-old mentally disabled girl was raped on a Mumbai train in front of five other passengers. The child could not scream or shout or speak because she was disabled.
•Feb 2012: A 37-year-old woman was gangraped in a car on Calcutta’s Park Street after coming out of a bar. Mamata Banerjee (Bengal’s current chief minister) had said the case was cooked up to embarrass her government.
•Dec 2012: An eighteen-month-old baby, the daughter of pavement dwellers, was found by her mother one morning covered in blood. Doctors said she had been raped and tortured.
•Dec 2012: A two-year-old was raped, allegedly by her maternal uncle, and thrown into a thorny bush in Baroda, Gujarat. She died after being taken to the hospital.
•Dec 26, 2012: A 20-year-old woman was allegedly gangraped by 10 people on the banks of Manimuktha river in Tamil Nadu, according to police.
EVEN AFTER the December 16 Delhi gang rape tragedy that has rocked India, the country has not seen any respite in the number and frequency of rape and violence on women. The following news from India’s NDTV tells the story. Link to news here.
Amid nationwide furor over the gang-rape and murder of a paramedic student in Delhi, five fresh cases of crime against women were reported on Wednesday in neighboring Punjab, prompting the state police to constitute specialized investigation teams. [Note: this is how the news was reported — focusing on the state of Punjab.]
A six-year-old girl from Singhpura Munnan village in Moga district was raped, Senior SP (Moga) S S Grewal said. The accused Soni Singh took the victim to his place about 20 days back and raped her, Grewal said, adding that Singh had confessed to the crime about which police came to know only on Monday. The accused has been arrested, the SSP said. Medical examination of the girl confirmed rape.
In a separate case, an eight-year-old girl of a migrant labourer was allegedly raped and killed by a 25-year-old youth at Simbli village in Hoshiarpur district. Mehtiana police booked a youth, Sanjay Kumar, of district Purnia (Bihar). The accused is at large.
Both, Kumar and the victim’s family, were living at a farmhouse in Simbli village. On Wednesday, the girl’s body was found in nearby fields.
In the third incident, a 14-year-old girl was allegedly gang-raped by three persons at Talwandi Kalan village on the outskirts of Ludhiana city. Police Commissioner Ishwar Singh said that all the accused, aged between 28 to 30 have been arrested.
In another crime against women, three villagers were on Wednesday booked on the charge of teasing and beating up a woman of the same village. The accused Ladoo, Sonu and Kaka, all residents of Bassi Mustafa village were booked. The girl alleged in her complaint that while she along with her sister was returning home from work, the accused first teased her and then later thrashed her up.
In another case, police on Tuesday booked ten persons in connection with the alleged abduction of two sisters at Jalala village of Hoshiarpur district. The accused went to the victim’s home on the night of December 29 and allegedly kidnapped them, police said.
I dedicate this multi-part article to the memory of Jyoti Singh Pandey, the brave 23-year-old Indian woman who gave her life to wake us up from our slumber and inaction. Jyoti means light. Jyoti means radiance. Let her ultimate sacrifice be our light and radiance to find the path of human rights, dignity, justice and equality.
(Note: I am disclosing the name of the victim woman ONLY after I heard in British and Australian media that her father wanted the world to know her identity. I believe the father is brave and right in his judgment.)
This barbarism is India’s new epidemic: just like cholera, plague or small pox. Make no mistake about it. This new low of violence on women is India’s new apartheid where an extremely patriarchal and feudal society with its corrupt and sick leaders treats Indian women just the same way South Africa treated its black people, or America treated its slaves. There is NO difference at all.
How does the Indian society treat its women — right from childhood? In case you want to know, I wrote about it using my long, real-life experience in India. Please read And Then…God Created…Indian Men!
I invite all my sisters and brothers — both in India and abroad — to come together and rescue India from this horrific epidemic and calamitous apartheid.
I shall continue to write and talk about this issue in the coming days. I made a pledge to my sisters on January 1, 2013 that I shall work to stop this violence. I need your help, support and solidarity to make it possible.
This is my first post in 2013. I want to write about a pledge.
I wish I could write about something happy and cheerful. But I can’t. Given what is going on in India, where sisters and mothers and daughters are going through a calamitous horror every single day, and given that the horror is going to hurt or kill my own family some day soon, I could not write about anything else.
I am writing about a dark and tragic episode of human civilization.
In India and countries like India, rape and violence on women have now reached an epidemic proportion. Both the number and frequency of rape, beating, torture, acid throwing, female infanticide, bride burning and many other “ordinary” and unspeakable forms of violence have shattered the society and particularly its women. Young women, even little girls, have been raped and abused all across the country, and unless we accept it as a massive epidemic and address it exactly the same way we’ve addressed any other epidemic such as plague, small pox or cholera, it will wipe out countless women and families — thousands of them physically and millions more psychologically.
Unless we cure India of this epidemic now, it will permanently traumatize an entire nation of one billion people, and cripple many more generations to come.
My 2013 pledge is this. I wrote about it on my Facebook page on January 1.
TO MY FIGHTING SISTERS. — I SHALL stop violence on you and I stake my life on it.
I salute you: as I wrote in my post And Then…God Created…Indian Men, “for the first time in modern Indian history, the entire country exploded against rampant, all-pervasive violence on women.” Do not let this precious moment slip by. You are making history.
I have asked sisters and brothers who showed their support on the pledge to send us ideas and suggestions. I shall keep putting them together and come up with more, articulated thoughts in the coming days. I want to spend as much time as possible on this one, more urgent issue this year. I need your help and support to stop this epidemic of rape and violence on Indian women.
I have also done some research on this subject and used my years of experience as a science teacher and researcher to think through this subject.
Over the past ten or fifteen years, I have dedicated a lot of my time to work on the subjects of violence and politics of violence — both in the American and Indian contexts. I have worked against post-9/11 hate crimes on immigrants here in the U.S. and spoke and wrote extensively about them. I have written about gun violence and terror in America. I have continued working on the politics of social and religious violence in India and Bangladesh.
I have published numerous articles on the above subjects in various types of media and gave interviews to newspapers, radio, TV and online news outlets.
I did not say it only to support my credentials and expertise on these issues. I wanted to show you how passionate and dedicated I am — to analyze the various aspects of violence on one hand and create mass awareness on the other.
I hope in the coming days, I get your urgent help and support and share to eradicate violence and bloodshed and hurt.
I hope in the coming days, I get your urgent help and support and share to eradicate this new epidemic of rape and violence on women that is destroying the Indian society.
Death penalty is NOT an answer. In fact, it is counter productive to stop and eradicate this crime.
Just think about it: other than India, only a handful of socially backward countries practice capital punishments. These countries include USA, China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Even here in the U.S., states such as Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin have amended their own laws and abolished it.
The entire Western Europe and its most advanced countries, most of Latin America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and much of Africa have abolished death penalty, after serious and careful research and political and social movements on the ground. Here is a link to find out the countries with or without the death penalty. The countries that do not have capital punishment have mass murderers and rapists too. In fact, just a year ago, an extremist terrorist gunned down more than one hundred young boys and girls at a recreation camp in Norway. The convicted killer was not hanged on put in an electric chair: Norway abolished the death penalty long time ago.
I’ll give you more reasons why hanging a few criminals would not do anything to bring justice — either to the family of the young woman whose gang rape exploded India, or to address the horrible epidemic that is engulfing India.
There is incredible outrage in Delhi and all across India — places where such brutality has now become commonplace. Street protests and candle light vigils have exploded. Now the people in power are using tear gas, water cannon, baton beating, closing down of public transportation and other such familiar acts to control the enormous public uprising — because according to them, the protests are “getting violent.” There is demand for death penalty, mob lynching and other such punishments for the criminals.
Here in the U.S., in a small suburb called Newtown in the state of Connecticut, a killer crashed through the windows of an elementary school one Friday morning, and using his guns and other assault weapons, mass murdered twenty children and six adults before committing suicide.
There is incredible outrage in Connecticut, nearby New York and all across USA — places where such gun terror has now become commonplace. Street protests and candle light vigils have exploded — although compared to India, they are much more subdued — we never see India-like crowds swarming the American streets. Or, if we remember Egypt and the Arab Spring, Times Square never becomes Tahrir Square.
Therefore, here in the U.S., the people in power are not using tear gas, water cannon, baton beating, closing down of public transportation and other such familiar acts to control the enormous public uprising — because there is no visible enormous public uprising.
Of course, there is always demand for death penalty for the criminals. In this tragic event, however, there is no demand for capital punishment for the gun terrorist, because the criminal did not survive.
Even though it may seem like the two events — however violent and tragic — are different in nature or degree, if we look carefully, we can find a lot of similarities across them. I’d like to think about how we can connect the dots. It would help us understand the underlying reasons behind such acts.
Both are terror acts, if you take my simple, working definition of terror as an act that intends to kill or hurt innocent civilians in a public place.
Both terror acts were committed by people who thought that (1) in India, gang raping an innocent girl is a way to show power over the powerless — and because you are powerful with your ability to torture, beat and rape an innocent, powerless girl, you are entitled to do it, and many others do it all the time and because most of them always remain above the law, you are above the law too; or (2) in the U.S., killing dozens of innocent people including small children inside their school is a way to show your power over the powerless — and because you are powerful with your ability to shoot and kill the vulnerable children and powerless adults, you are entitled to do it, and many others do it all the time, and you can go above the law by killing yourself.
Both acts are pre-planned acts of terror — unleashed on innocent people — however short-term or suicidal the plan is. Terrorists, as we know, often use such suicidal plans.
In Delhi, a group of violent men raped a young woman and almost killed her and her male friend — on a moving public transportation vehicle circling a city street at 9.30 P.M. The criminals could have killed them, but for some reason, didn’t. They threw their naked bodies off the bus, thinking that the victims would be dead, and that nobody could catch the crime. Very luckily, the surviving young man identified both the bus and the criminals.
In Newtown, Connecticut, the small first grade children and their teachers did not have such luck. The gunman, who got deadly, horrible weapons of assault and training on how to use them from his mother — a so-called “gun enthusiast” — took advantage of America’s pathetically primitive social permissiveness about guns and political leaders who are sold out to gun lobbies and National Rifle Association-type far right-wing, violent groups — and killed the helpless children and adults inside the school building, ten days before Christmas Eve.
Even though the exploding street protests in India and massive but silent protests in America against these two acts of extreme, barbaric violence seem to be about punishing the criminals in India and controlling the gun menace in the U.S., they are not just about that. The protests are actually ordinary peoples’ anger about and rejection of the elite people in power who failed to protect innocent lives and dignity and did not care about how the ordinary men, women and children lived their daily lives — always under anxiety, stress, fear and uncertainties. The protests are truly about venting ordinary peoples’ lifelong frustration with the power and the iron-walled status quo.
The enormous protests — expressed or silent in these two so-called big democracies — are actually about demanding to bring back safety, rights and dignity — pillars of democracy the elite, corrupt and arrogant people in power stole from them.
In both cases, most media is trying to take on the violence, punishment and control aspects of it — without ever discussing WHY the violence is happening. They are not interested to talk about the power and abuse of political, social and economic power aspects underlying the violence — both in the U.S. and India. In both countries, some elite people in the seat of power are shedding tears for the victims, without really having shown any plans of action to prevent such tragedies — before or after. These terrors have now become all too common. The ordinary, innocent people like you and me live under such threats of terror on a daily basis. There is no recourse. There is no respite.
There is no accountability in India: its elite one percent doesn’t care how the ordinary people live, how women are brutalized on a daily basis by street thugs and underworld mafia — often connected with the elite and powerful, how children are always under severe pressure and trauma, and how average Indians live in a constant state of anxiety, stress and fear. This is on top of the extreme economic uncertainties and horrible corruption. I also hold the pro-U.S. Indian media accountable for supporting and sustaining this brand of politics and economy. They have all failed India.
Similarly, there is no accountability in USA: I could repeat the same thing I said above — that its elite one percent doesn’t care how the ordinary people live, how women are taken advantage of, how especially poor children are always under-educated and with little opportunity for social mobility (numerous are in U.S. prison), and how average Americans live in a constant state of anxiety, stress and fear — gun violence or drug-related violence. This is on top of the extreme economic uncertainties and horrible corruption at the top. Big banks and financial institutions have ship-wrecked the U.S. economy. The U.S. media is a part of this devastating trickle-down system for supporting and sustaining this brand of politics and economy. They have all failed the common American people.
Of course, there must be protests against these particular episodes of violence.
In India, the gang rapists must be brought to justice and more such tragedies must be prevented. Women must be able to walk free of fear.
In the U.S., future gun terrors must be prevented, and gun laws must be changed. Innocent lives must be saved.
True. Yet, it is not just that. In fact, as I said before, the mass protests are well beyond that.
Gang rape or gun rampage, we the ordinary people who are victims of all forms of violence and hurt are not demanding stop-gap punishment (in India) or stop-gap control (in USA) only. We are asking for a system change. We have caught you the elite rulers cheating us. You can’t do it any more. Media must report that true story.
That is where the dots connect. That is where the discussion should be.
Anything else falls short. Anything else is Manufacturing Consent.
Note: This is my last blog post before the November 6 elections.
Hurricane Sandy just left us.
The superstorm left behind a huge trail of devastation. Here in New York, millions of people are without power. Many homes and neighborhoods are flooded. Many people are spending nights in local shelters. Some forty people have perished in the storm.
I want to say a word of prayer for all those who suffered.
New York’s mayor Bloomberg graciously toured the devastated areas in his God’ly helicopter. On the other hand, New Jersey’s governor and some other city mayors and elected council members worked with affected people and brave rescue workers, standing in knee-deep water, shoulder to shoulder. Thousands of construction workers, electrical workers, plumbers, pipe fitters, sanitation workers, subway workers, glass workers, carpenters, health care workers, doctors, nurses, paramedics, police officers, firefighters, National Guard volunteers, and numerous other professionals are working 24/7 to pull America out of this incredible mess.
I want to say a word of prayer for these brave souls too. These workers are our unsung heroes.
I wish Barack Obama left all his campaign stops over the next few days, and did just the same, round the clock. But who am I to say it? He has his privileged, elite professional aides to direct him. (I was happy to see he spent some time on the ground to help the victims; I wish he did much more. That is the real campaign: campaign to work for the poor and vulnerable.)
Some of my friends — a large majority of them Democrats — got upset at my prediction and sent me messages expressing their disapproval and anger. Some of them un-friended me from their Facebook. I am deeply sorry that I made them so unhappy. As someone who worked very hard and with high energy and hopes for Obama’s victory in 2008, a looming Obama defeat in 2012, and that too, at the hands of Mitt Romney — someone most Americans never heard of and a super-rich, elitist politician even his Republican Party was not excited about just three months ago — was not something I had envisioned. But it is now a real possibility.
In this post, I’m only quoting a few messages myself and some of my friends have wrote on my Facebook page over the past couple of days — since Hurricane Sandy hit the Eastern Seaboard. I hope some people notice and think about it. I have no money, no media power, and no pedigree. Even though some of my friends blame me (at least partially) for my so-called “anti-Obama” blogs for an Obama defeat next week, I really I have no such power to make or break anything — especially something of this grand magnitude.
I still want Obama to win over Romney. I shall never vote for Romney and Ryan.
You can be upset with me, but honestly, your blame is misplaced. You should have been upset with Obama, his administration and the Democratic Party that simply failed to deliver. Plus, you have the right-wing media such as Fox TV or Rush Limbaugh radio show who slandered Obama and punched him below the belt; on the other hand, the so-called liberal media neither exposed the real criminals behind the economic crisis on one hand (because of their own ties with some of them) nor did they chastise the Obama government on their terribly wrong moves and horrible choices of top executives who failed the ordinary, working Americans the second time over.
The American voters who were raped by the Bush administration for eight years were raped all over again by these sinister people and their policies over the past four years. And knowingly or not, Obama did not do much to stop them. Republicans took advantage of it.
Then came Obama’s disastrous first debate that tipped the election — so far on Obama’s side — to Romney’s favor. Obama squandered a golden opportunity the Mother Jones “47-percent” undercover exposé landed on his lap.
So, here’ the final few passages from my Facebook page — in the backdrop of Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath. Hope you read them once and perhaps, if you please, read them twice.
I wrote as my status update during and post-Hurricane Sandy:
1. WE ARE OKAY here in mid-Brooklyn. Thank God. New Jersey, Manhattan and Long Island were not so lucky. Many of my labor union colleagues and immigrant friends are having a hard time right now. This unprecedented late-October mega-storm off the Atlantic Ocean is big-time proof of drastic climate change and global warming. ALSO, I keep wondering how Americans still can’t see the important role of the government especially at such difficult times. Just think if there were no FEMA, OSHA or EPA (and private companies ran their jobs!). Government, in restraint, is a friend and not a foe. Ronald Reagan was wrong.
2. IF I WERE OBAMA. – I would just show the enormous, massive work American workers are doing right now to pull the country out of this huge environmental calamity. I would show the important role the [restrained] government is playing with help from FEMA, EPA or OSHA. I would just show the president providing leadership to the rescue operation. Not like Bloomberg flying on a helicopter, but standing in knee-deep water, shoulder to shoulder with the ordinary, suffering men and women. There would be no need for any more campaign blitz. (But who am I? They have all the power, and I don’t. They have their media and machinery and money, and they must be more intelligent than I am.)
3. MY FIVE POINTS FOR REAL CHANGE. — (1) A pro-working people coalition of moderate left and right that believes in true equal opportunity (class, race and gender-wise) for upward social mobility, (2) A Keynesian economic system that rewards labor, helps the poor, and regulates-restricts corporations (including war and prison corporations), (3) Refrain from too much power for the government ensuring rights, justice, liberty and freedom, (4) Find alternative environment, energy and peace policies, and (5) Do not promote or sustain a global, violent hegemonic power and economic aggression. For whatever its worth, this must be the future education for our children. It’s a start.
4. HURRICANE IN NEW YORK. — It was a new experience for us here in Brooklyn to go through this big storm. We survived, except for some power cuts, broken trees and small house damage. Yet, can’t help thinking how people all over the world — in Bangladesh, Orissa, Cuba, Haiti, Indonesia, etc. deal with it ALL THE TIME, and we take their lifelong suffering for granted. Maybe, we need to wake up. Or, will we, ever? I doubt it.
5. THIS ELECTION AND MY PREDICTION. — Who cares if predictions I made over two months ago turned out to be correct? Nobody is going to give me any money, fame or award (and some people are pretty upset at me, as if I am partially responsible for the outcome). Plus, I’d be terrified, petrified myself that fascists, racists and bigots came back to power, that Obama squandered an historic opportunity, and that the world is back on the doom and destruction track again. Don’t blame me. Blame them!
Think about it.
Sorry about the somewhat incoherent way to put it all together. But I hope you can find the underlying messages I tried to send across. I hope we can engage in an honest and sincere, urgently necessary conversation — NOW and also after the November 6 elections.
I still hope Obama wins and Romney loses. Just because I would NEVER want racists, sexists, war mongers, supremacists and bigots come back to power.
But our conversation and grassroots bridge-building will go on, regardless of the election outcome.
Brooklyn, New York
Obama didn’t deliver. But Republicans didn’t want him to deliver, either!