23 August, 2006

Coffee in Times of War...

Just the other day a friend asked
Have you ever tried war poetry?
War, I said, I haven’t seen one.
I was only born in seventy-one.
I’ve often seen pictures –
Oh why pictures! Even a painting
in a restaurant once –
of a Sikh General
making the Pakistanis
sign the surrender.
And then I grew up
reading lessons, history
about World War One and World War Two,
Plassey, Panipat, Waterloo,
War & Peace, The Day of Armistice,
the ancient tales of the Mahabharata,
the Muharram majlises, Karbala.

But then who needs textbooks these days?
Television brings Beirut live, like irrelevant foreplay.
And if this isn’t enough there are movies –
A Bridge too Far, Platoon, Killing Fields.

But no, I have never seen a war.
I don’t know what it means
to sit through blackouts, power outages,
to hold my breath and wait
for a bomb to detonate.
I don't know what it means
to have splinters of plastic and tin
pierce through my clothes, skin.
I don't know what it means
to lose an eye, to lose a limb.
I haven’t seen my child without her head.
I don’t know what it means
when a mother grieves for her dead.
The closest I have seen a man’s guts
split wide open was from a scene
in a movie called Saving Private Ryan.

I don’t know what it means
to run from desk to desk
in a dank office corridor
asking for compensation
for a son dead in a war.

I don’t know…

My words trailed in the wispy heat
of Delhi’s August afternoon street.

I am afraid I am not qualified enough
to write a poem on war. I am
only a struggling actor running
from one audition to another
wondering when will I
get my big break.

My friend cursed himself
for bringing this topic up,
dunked his biscuit in his coffee,
as I waved to the waiter,
May we have more of these, please!

© Dan Husain
August 23, 2006

Think about it.

Got this mail few days ago. And thought of sharing it with you all.

ISRAEL -POPULATION: 7 million (less than half of Mumbai)
SIZE: Less than that of Kerala
ACT OF VIOLENCE AGAINST IT: 2 soldiers kidnapped by Hezbolla, 1 by Hamas
RETALIATORY ACTION: war on Lebanon and Gaza, 200 rockets fired the next day.

SIZE: 6th largest in the world
ACT OF VIOLENCE AGAINST IT: 200+ dead in Mumbai blast, 8 in Kashmir
RETALIATORY ACTION: a soft speech by PM, Salute to mumbai people, clean chitfor SIMI by UP CM MULAYAM SINGH YADAV

A train blast in Mumbai kills approximately 200 Indians and injureshundreds others. The reaction from the apparent Superpower (The greatUSA) is that India must show restraint in its actions and urges for a political solution to the Kashmir problem. On the other hand of theglobe in the same evening 6 Israeli soldiers are killed and 2captured by Islamic terrorists. Israel prepares for a full frontattack on Lebanese settlements and the same superpower says that the terrorists should be dealt with a firm and iron hand.

Is it true that just because the population of India is more than 1billion, the value of a human life in India is that much less ascompared to an American, British, Israeli or any other European life? North Korea test fires a missile and the US moves a BattleCarrier group to the Pacific Ocean !!!!!!!!!!!. The right to selfdefend should lie with every individual and country. It is high timethat all of us as patriotic Indians do not take this thing lying down and ensure that each of us in their individual capacity spread thismessage of injustice across the world.For the death of 45 British citizens in a similar bomb blast lastyear, it was a world wide tragedy on CNN, while for yesterdays event the quote on CNN was "in their fight over disputed Kashmir" the twocountries ( Pakistan & India ) should look for a political solution.

May we all ask where was the political solution when the IRA wanted a separate homeland, and closer to the date where is the politicalsolution in Iraq. Kashmir was, Kashmir is and Kashmir will continueto be an integral part of our motherland. Let us all Indians pledgenot to be governed by vested intrests in US Foreign Policy and take our own destiny in our hands.

What I also read from the above mail was a line of thought that appreciated what Israel had done to protect it's 'honour' and people's sentiments. This thought also wanted to know why is the Indian Government not wanting bodies for a tooth (a tooth for another does not work anymore!) And this mail is being passed with great motivation under the guise of patriotism and injustice. What is a little frightening is that it is considered as right, because I know the person who sent me this truly believes in what is being written here.

Because I have heard sentiments that range from 'bombing Pakistan' and 'good for Israel!' to 'why the hell is out government sitting still and doing nothing, inspite of all the evidence?' While I do believe that as writers, we should motivate our countrymen to feel for the country; and to also condemn the acts that make them inhuman, I seriously wonder how can one draw a concrete line between self-protection and counter-attack?

14 August, 2006

Media Bias: Israel vs Lebanon

"Oh, please. Have a slightly longer memory than four weeks." - George Galloway, a British MP

The video.

What do you believe? A brilliant, brilliant discussion. A must, must watch. A media bias exposed.

[Credit for the link: Husain from Dubai]

Update: The YouTube version...

[Credit for directing me to the YouTube version to Ankit]

Crossposted at Mixed Bag

11 August, 2006


The past is a city I've built up in the mind.
It is neither in the city out of whose grimy summer
I slipped out into the confused clamour of the world,
The city that I abandoned along with my childhood,
Nor in the city that grudgingly lets me walk its streets,
Looks askance at my outlandish shadow and mutters
Sullenly. Neither of these, but a shadow city of faces,
Of smells and private sorrows, of images disintegrating
Like old collonial bungalows in my head. And so
A rain-pungent afternoon in Bangalore becomes
the passage fare to paper boats plying on puddles
Collected in a street I no longer remember.
But I remember the puddles. And then,
The morning's newspaper launches images at me
Of yahweh's missiles imprinting their wrath
On uncomprehending children, and suddenly
I remember, through the dreams of vanished men,
The ships of the purple city, cedar scented swans
of the sea, that no longer glide up,
Phoinix like, from the living flame,
The unutterable terror of the four-pronged name.

cross-posted on Logos Incarnatus

10 August, 2006

WORD AGAINST WAR: Writers, Artists and Citizens speak against the war by Israel on Lebanon

Dear Friends,

Resentment is growing all over the world against the brazen attempt by Israel to force the people of Lebanon into submission by waging a war on them. There is an urgent need for all of us to add our voice to the international opposition to the evil designs of Israel and express solidarity with the savaged people of Lebanon.

A protest meeting is being organised on 11 august,2006 at the Triveni Kala Sangam at 5pm . We request you to add your name to it and participate by reading a short anti war piece of prose or poetry.

Kindly forward it to your friends,

In solidarity,





Ceasefire Campaign

Peter Griffin aka zigzackly has tipped me about this campaign. Let us join hands with them and strengthen such voices across the globe.

Thanks & best regards


About this Campaign

Right now a tragedy is unfolding in the Middle East. Hundreds of civilians have died in the bombings in Lebanon, Israel and Palestine and the death toll is rising every day. The situation is volatile and could escalate into a catastrophic regional conflict.

Despite the bloodshed, our leaders have been slow to act. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for an immediate ceasefire and the deployment of international troops to the Israel-Lebanon border. This is the best proposal yet to stop the violence, but the US, UK and Israeli governments are opposed, and -- for it to succeed -- global leaders need to get behind it immediately.

Now is the time to act. People around the world must tell their leaders to speak out and support Kofi Annan's proposal. If we can persuade our governments to unite in demanding a ceasefire, all sides in this conflict will be pressured to stand down. Please sign this petition and ask your friends, family and colleagues to do the same.

The petition will be sent to key regional and global leaders and publicized in major newspapers in the Middle East, US and Europe. With enough signatures we can help pressure our leaders to stop the violence.

About Ceasefirecampaign.org

This campaign has been put together by a group of friends from around the world who are horrified at what is happening in the Middle East and our leaders' inaction. We come from several different countries, including Brazil, Germany, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, the UK, Canada, the US, Australia, and Indonesia. Please write to us at info@ceasefirecampaign.org! We believe that on this issue we need public pressure to get our leaders to do the right thing. The campaign is a project of Res Publica, a global civic advocacy group and a registered tax-exempt charitable organization based in New York City.

Censorship of Arab viewpoint on Indian TVs

Sridala has tipped this piece to me. She was tipped by Anand of Vikalp group. I am really wondering where are we heading in terms of our foreign policy. At present I think it is neither principle based nor issue based. It is perhaps kowtowing to the US and its cronies only.

India Bans Arab TV Channels Under Pressure From Israel

Shahid Raza Burney, Arab News

BOMBAY, 6 August 2006 - In a country widely referred to as the world's largest democracy, the Indian government has succumbed to mounting Israeli pressure and ordered a nationwide ban on the broadcast of Arab television channels.

The Indian government's ban on Arab television stations is in complete contrast to the friendship that Arab countries imagine exists with their neighbor across the Arabian Sea. It seems the ban is a move to ensure that Indians do not get to see the atrocities that are presently being committed by Israel in Lebanon and the occupied territories.

Nabila Al-Bassam, a Saudi businesswoman on a trip to Bombay, told Arab News how she became exasperated at not being able to watch Arab channels at Bombay's leading five-star Oberoi Hotel. When she took up the issue with the hotel manager, she was told that Arab television channels had been banned across India.

A perplexed Al-Bassam then sent an SMS to Arab News Editor in Chief Khaled Almaeena to verify whether this was indeed the case. "Oberoi Hotel tells me that the government of India has banned all Arab TV channels. Why? I hate watching CNN and BBC," she wrote to Almaeena.

Talking to Arab News, Oberoi Hotel Manager Mohit Nirula did allude to the fact that a ban was in place. "The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has laid down certain rules. It is our duty to abide by and follow the rules of the country," he told this correspondent.

Minister of Information and Broadcasting Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi was busy in Parliament and was unavailable for comment on the issue. However, a ministry official explained why the Indian government decided to enforce the ban. The official highlighted that India enjoys close and cordial relations with Israel and the US more than any of the Arab governments.

According to another source within the government, the ban is a clear sign to all governments in the Middle East that the Israeli, American and British governments carry far more influence in India than any of the Arab governments.

Several senior Indian journalists explained that the ban was an indication that India had succumbed to Israeli pressure rather than American.

"The whole exercise is to browbeat Arabs and show them as terrorists. The government is subscribing to the absurd argument that channels like Al- Jazeera and Al-Arabiya promote hatred and encourage terrorism," they said.

Political analysts in India described the move as a game of double standard that India is playing. On the one hand India establishes friendship with the Arab world while simultaneously it joins with Israel and the US in defaming them. It seems that the pro-Israeli lobby wishes to drive a wedge between India and its time-tested Arab allies. The Indian government's present stance is in stark contrast to the late Mrs. Indira Gandhi's staunch support of the Palestinian cause.

The banning of Arabic channels is a federal government decision, done under what senior Indian journalists claim to be intense pressure from the Israeli, American and British governments.

The Indian government has been vocal in its condemnation of Israeli barbarity and has offered millions of rupees in aid to refugees in Lebanon. Arabs sympathetic to India have therefore met the news with surprise.

Many Arabs draw inspiration from India's heroic struggle against British imperialism and the Indian independence struggle is seen by Palestinians as a brilliant example of throwing out the yoke of imperialism. It is sad that 50 years after independence the world's largest democracy unfairly suppresses alternative opinion and allows itself to be dictated to by foreign powers.

The analysts believe the Indian government may have used a clause within the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, that certain channels or programs that can potentially cause damage to India's friendly relations with foreign countries can be banned, a clear violation of democratic ideals such as freedom of _expression and freedom of speech.

The response to the ban by hotel administrations across Bombay has been dismal. Chad Alberico, JW Marriott's customer care official in Washington, said: "We have reviewed your recent inquiries regarding the television offerings at our JW Marriott Bombay. We have phoned our colleagues at the hotel to discuss the matter at hand, but as it is the weekend, we will need additional time to form a complete response."

"I'm on my way home, it's the weekend and I will respond on Monday," said Shehnaz Ankelsaria from the Taj President Hotel. Annan Udeshi from The Hilton was unavailable and asked for a message to be left on her recorder. Khushnooma Kapadia of Marriott Hotel said she would get back later. Rafat Kazi from the Grand Central Sheraton said that she would answer after consulting her general manager. Puja Guleria of Sheraton Maratta said she needed time to deal with the questions. Firuza Mistry of Grand Hyatt said that she was not aware of the facts and would check and respond, and Priya Mathias of Hyatt Regency said that she would also need to check with her senior officials to comment.

Right To Information Act: The UPA Government At Its Worst

When Dr. Manmohan Singh became the Prime minister of this country, I was thrilled. Well of course, there were emotional links. I had studied at the same institution where he once taught. But more than that we had a man at helm who had been closely associated with policy-making for long (so wouldn't speak from his hat; has been there, seen it and done it all), was responsible for economic liberation in this country and for once was a clean gentleman and not a politician.

However, the events of past few weeks have left me disillusioned. I am wondering what sense prevails over these gentlemen. The proposed amendments to RTI act are clearly and attempt to snuff the life out of this act. To debilitate it. A retrograde action that reminds so much of the bureaucracy's raj days. It is clearly an attempt by the Babus to save their own arses. And I fail to understand why the polity is eating out of their hands and without even a whimper accepted the proposed amendments. Well, of course the Neta ji also has his own arse to save and this cuts across party lines.

Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey are campaigning against these proposed amendments. You may click on the link below and go and register your own protest on the online petition. I am also publishing the pieces that these two wrote against these amendments in The Hindu and The Indian Express. For God's sake let's fight this stupidity cause often terror is nothing but a stupid man's knee jerk response.

Thanks & best regards

Murtaza Danish Husain

To note the noting-

People chasing the paper trail

The passage of the Indian Right to Information Act 2005 has been almost universally hailed as a landmark piece of legislation that can change the relationship of the citizen with the State. It was considered one of the most progressive RTI laws in the world, with several provisions worthy of emulation. With widespread use, it had begun to be seen by citizens groups as a ray of hope to fight corruption, inefficiency, and the arbitrary use of power, in an otherwise dark scenario.

However, just six months after the act has come into effect, the Union Cabinet has approved a set of amendments, some of which would crucially damage the scope and power of the Act. The most critical of these relate to barring the disclosure of “file notings.” Also, Cabinet papers available currently after the decision is complete, will now be barred from disclosure even after the decision is taken. As a result, the process of decision making will be kept out of the public domain, and make it far more difficult for the citizen to participate in the decision making process. But first, we need to know why the file notings are important, and understand how intrinsic it is to all information.

What is a government file, why this furor about not wanting to share file notings? To most lay persons the government file is a musty compilation of important papers. Almost all of India, even the illiterate know it .Anyone who has had anything to do with “babus”, knows the diabolical significance and power the file holds to control many peoples destiny. The government file has two parts to it. The right side, has the papers under consideration, (PUCs) and the left side has the "notings", the process through which opinions are written down, added to, and approved or disapproved.

These “notings” reflect the deliberations on the PUCs and through a series of comments arrives at decisions. As the Chief Information Commission has explained in a ruling on file notings - “Most of the discussions on the subject/matter are recorded in the note sheets and decisions are mostly based on the recording in the note sheets and even the decisions are recorded on the note sheets. These recordings are generally known as ‘file notings’.”

This trail of responsibility and accountability, is what the "babus" do not disclosed. The government now wants to amend the RTI Act , so that file notings related to most matters are under wrap. As ordinary citizens we will not have access to the reasons for decisions that affect our lives, many of which will be irreversible. The paper trail, vital to establish a chain of accountability will now be invisible. It will protect the dishonest manipulators but also give no support to honest officers whose forthright views are overruled, who have to suffer the ignonimity of being party to a bad decision they disagreed with.

Although the Cabinet decision came without warning, it has been part of a design, which is revealed by a closer examination of the consistent , extra legal efforts of the bureaucracy to keep file notings opaque.

Right through, from the period of the formulation of the Right To Information Acts, at the Centre, and in the States, the bureaucracy steadfastly fought against allowing access to file notings. This long running battle seemed to have come to an end in favour of fairly comprehensive transparency of the decision making process with the passage of the Right to Information Act 2005.

The Act defines information under Section 2(f) as, “Any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinion, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force”.

This is conclusive , and the law should have dictated official action. However, the Department of Personnel (DoPT) decided to use the frequently asked questions (FAQ) on its web site to override the law. In response to the question “What does information mean?” the web site quotes the whole of section 2(f) and then arbitrarily adds the words …but does not include "file notings" [S.2(f)].

This could have been considered a misdemeanor of some junior official while drafting an FAQ, had it not been repeated in the manuals and FAQs issued by most State Governments. These FAQs and manuals have become the bibles (at least in the matter of file notings) for officials responsible for providing information. Citizens across the country found their access to file notings allowed by law but overruled because of a departmental FAQ. Objections and reminders from citizens groups to the DoPT fell on deaf ears, and the matter was brought before the Central Information Commission in the form of an appeal. In its decision of 31st of January 2006 in the matter of Satyapal Vs. TCIL (ICPB/A1/2006) The Commission looked at: “Whether file notings fall within the exempted class…”

The Commission held … “no file would be complete without note sheets having “file notings”. In other words, note sheets containing “file notings” are an integral part of a file. Some times, notings are made on the main file also, which obviously would be a part of the file itself. In terms of Section 2(i), a record includes a file and in terms of Section 2(j) right to information extends to accessibility to a record. Thus, a combined reading of Sections 2(f), (i)&(j) would indicate that a citizen has the right of access to a file of which the file notings are an integral part.”

The commission went on to state: “Therefore, we are of the firm view, that, in terms of the existing provisions of the RTI Act, a citizen has the right to seek information contained in “file notings” unless the same relates to matters covered under Section 8 of the Act. Thus, the reliance of the CPIO, TCILO on the web site clarification of the Department of Personnel to deny the information on the basis that ‘file notings’ are exempted, is misplaced.”

Once again this should have concluded the matter, as the Information Commission is by law the final arbiter on matters of information. However, the Department of Personnel continued to consistently ignore the orders of the Central Information Commission. This startling sequence of events becomes clear from the very recent order of the commission dated July 13th 2006 in Pyare Lal vs the Ministry of Railway. The information commission held :

“The Commission noted with serious concern that some public authorities were denying request for inspection of file notings and supply copies thereof to the applicants despite the fact that the RTI Act, 2005 does not exempt file notings from disclosure. The reason they were citing for non-disclosure of ‘file notings’ was the information posted on the DOPT website [www.righttoinformation.gov.in] to the effect that ‘information’ did not include file notings. Thus the DOPT website was creating a lot of unnecessary and avoidable confusion in the minds of the public authorities. The Commission had written to the Department of Personnel on 26th February, 27th March, 8th May and 26th May, 2006 for removing the restriction on ‘file notings’ from their website. The DOPT regrettably had not acted on the issue so far. The Commission hereby directs the Secretary, Ministry of Personnel & Public Grievances, in exercise of powers conferred

on it under Section 19(8) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 to remove the instruction relating to non disclosure of file notings from the website within 5 days of the issue of this order failing which the Commission shall be constrained to proceed against the Ministry of Personnel.”

This order passed by the Central Information Commission over a week ago to remove the file notings from the website has still not been complied with by the DoPT. Could this order of 13th July have been the trigger of this sudden Cabinet decision?

Section 8 caters to the often exaggerated concern about security, secrecy and misuse of information for blackmail that have plagued and threatened the demand for transparency. It is often used as an excuse for not being transparent and accountable. As the former Union Home Secretary Dr Madhav Godbole has said in a letter of appeal written to the President of India after the Cabinet decision on the 21st of July 06:

"The decision of GOI to amend the RTI Act is highly retrograde and would totally defeat the very purpose of the Act. In fact, making the notings on the file open to people can be the single most effective check on the rampant corruption both at the administrative and political levels. It can also strengthen the hands of officers of honesty and integrity. It is only by ensuring transparency and accountability that governance can be improved. Demystification of the working of the government is the best way to empower a common person."

Even what is permissible under the law after the amendments, will be under constant threat of denial. The recent nationwide campaign carried out by media and citizens groups in the “Drive against Bribe through the use of RTI” gave many insights into the working of the Act. One of the most revealing things was how the slightest ambiguity is used by the system to deny information.

The Government has reportedly said that it will allow access to file notings on development and social issues. This will give the bureaucracy enormous powers to selectively rule on what is or is not a development or social issue, and thereby keep even permissible information hidden. Files and records are maintained everywhere, from the Patwari and the Panchayat Sarpanch onwards. We have had Gram Sevaks refuse Panchayat information under the Rajasthan RTI Act using the exemption of national security. PIOs will now find it very convenient to turn inconvenient information into a ‘file noting’.

We know that when people asked for work from the Panchayats, even that simple demand got linked to decisions taken at the State, Central Or Cabinet level. Policy at the highest level (often the cabinet) determines what would happen in the village. This is one illustration of how cabinet notes and papers affect the lives of millions of ordinary people. Therefore, people have a right to see these papers, at least after the decision is taken.

Finally however, it is not what remains, but what has been taken away by these amendments that we must understand. The statement of Central Information Commissioner O P Khejriwal after the amendments were passed by the Cabinet sums it up succinctly : "Information minus the file notings amounts to taking the life out of the RTI Act". For the energetic and rapidly growing Right To Information movement in India, this is a major challenge to see whether we can protect this nascent fundamental democratic right from being undermined.

Aruna Roy with Nikhil Dey

Members MKSS and NCPRI,



Disabling the RTI Act

If the people of this country wanted to know what it would mean to have a right to information law amended as per the reported cabinet decision, questions about how this decision came about, would provide enough of an answer. How did this come about? “Secret” Who suggested it? “Secret” When was it suggested? “Secret” Who opposed it? Who supported it? What were the reasons? Was any one consulted? What was their opinion? Secret! Secret! Secret! Secret! The term used might not be ‘secret’, but that “ the information you have sought is barred from disclosure” or some other better camouflaged euphemism. The people of this country will continue to be served with policies conceived secretly, implemented without warning, and with potentially far reaching consequences on their lives. And because no one will ever know “who did it” – the guilty will get away.

All through the debate about the contents of the right to information act, the greatest weapon the babus had and used to fight it was to make secret moves, while hiding behind the garb of bureaucratic privilege. The supporters of secrecy cannot argue in an open public domain. That is why we have now been presented with a decision that will protect them in perpetuity.

At least two of the proposed amendments will permanently shield the bureaucracy from accountability, the disinfectant power of transparency and allow them to wield power in an arbitrary manner. It will also shield the corrupt, and deal a body blow to the efforts of people to fight corruption and the arbitrary exercise of power.

Both these amendments relate essentially to the process of decision making. The first one is to make file notings a category of information that can be concealed. In one stroke the bureaucracy will have managed to disable the right to information act as far as its own functioning is concerned. The second relates to barring access to cabinet notes even after the decision making process is complete- putting the decision making process of cabinet decisions into a permanent black hole.

For the Indian citizen, it is the process of decision making that is of crucial importance.

The right to information act has been widely welcomed by almost everyone except the hidden beneficiaries of secrecy. It is being used, and has begun breathe freash air into our democratic participation. There have already been unique citizens campaigns for implementation. Those who are threatened by this, have waged a relentless behind the scenes battle to reverse the flow of power to the ordinary citizen. This is a battle of democratic power to the people and ethics, in governance.

The amendments will change the act so that the decision can be revealed, the process of decision making cannot. From the slum dweller who automatically knows of the decision to demolish his home and livelihood when the bulldozer arrives at his doorstep, to the contractor who will seal his contract and approvals with the payment of his bribe the final decision is only the consequence of the fairness of the decision making process. It is not just the records of a ration shop, or the muster rolls on a work site that people across the country are asking for. It is also the policies that lead to food grain stocks being made available, or the manner in which tax payer money is being spent that matters. There are decisions being made related to health and medicines, water and power, agricultural policy and genetic engineering and governance itself, that have the potential to impact not just the lives of millions of people , but even generations of Indians. We may be on opposite sides of the fence, but do we not all have the right to know what the possible consequences of a particular decision could be, before being faced with a ‘fait accompli’.

How many Indians for instance, are aware of the details of field trials being conducted on Genetically Modified foods in India. This is no longer for food that will be consumed by cattle, but on brinjals and other foods that will be directly consumed by humans. The change in the genetic pool has the potential to change plant, animal, and human life for ever. In fact, it is time that some of the holy cows were also analysed. Transparency in the armed forces and many Defence Ministry matters including arms contracts will lead to stronger, better equipped, and more accountable armed forces. Whatever the ideological positions or arguments about privatization might be, a full presentation of facts and vigorous public debate can only lead to better decisions. Even the issue of access to answer sheets of examinations, and interview boards reportedly raised by the UPSC needs to be revisited. Marks themselves are a transparency measure. There is no reason that we cannot try and use transparency to improve the fairness of the selection and grading system. As this is being written the information commission is hearing an appeal related to the disclosure of what the President of India wrote to the Prime Minister during the Gujarat carnage. Would it not make for a better democracy if we knew of the concerns of the President of India during one of our darkest moments?

Finally, even if there were any areas that were found to have caused undue concern and put fundamental principles at stake, they could easily have been dealt with by the existing exemptions under section 8 of the act, or by adding a particular kind of information to section 8. Barring file notings is not barring a kind of information- it is barring information itself. And this move is nothing short of subterfuge against the act .

It is generally accepted that the best protection against the excesses of freedom are more and better quality freedoms. We must learn from that postulate and realize that the only solution to the problems of transparency is more and better quality information. The right to information in its current form is a result of popular struggle. It seemed as if the primary battle was to now concentrate on implementation. It now seems as if we will have to return to the battle for a decent right to information law. The powers that can be sure that they will face a relentless battle, and this time the people will be stronger than before.

Nikhil Dey and Aruna Roy

Dear Friends,

As you may know the central Cabinet has approved an amendment to prevent the right to access file notings, and are proposing to place it in the monsoon session of Parliament .

We from the NCPRI and other RTI Campaigns are forwarding you the postal address and the online sign in campaign id. Please extend your support and pass this on to friends and sympathizers.

Please collect signatures protesting against the amendment of the Right to Information Act, and send them to

The post bag addres :

Post Bag No.: 9201
Delhi 110092

You can access the petition on line at:


Forward these addresses to anyone who wants to join the signature campaign. We are also enclosing. We attach an article written for the Indian Express & the Hindu.

We will keep you abreast of other ways in which you can help.


Aruna Roy

Aruna Roy
Village Devdungri, Post Barar
District Rajsamand 313341

Telephone :02909 243254

06 August, 2006

Peace, Propaganda & The Promised Land

When we started forwarding mailers for our demonstration outside Israeli Embassy we were met with reactions laden with smugness ranging from utter ignorance to cocky arrogance and even ridiculing our efforts to protest against the killing of 55 civilians in Qana. Some of the reactions even expressed shock and goaded us for our naivety.

The most bogus argument that I keep hearing is that Israel has the right to self-defense. Well, I do not understand how could you be defending yourself on somebody else's land, which you have illegally and forcibly occupied, in contravention of all International laws and conventions, and where you have brutally repressed the local population. This documentary will perhaps make all these erudite, all-knowing, right to self-defense advocates understand as to why West Asia is the singular most issue affecting the world peace today.

What you read next is a description of this documentary. The words are not mine and are provided by Google Video.

Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land provides a striking comparison of U.S. and international media coverage of the crisis in the Middle East, zeroing in on how structural distortions in U.S. coverage have reinforced false perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This pivotal documentary exposes how the foreign policy interests of American political elites--oil, and a need to have a secure military base in the region, among others--work in combination with Israeli public relations strategies to exercise a powerful influence over how news from the region is reported.

Through the voices of scholars, media critics, peace activists, religious figures, and Middle East experts, Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land carefully analyzes and explains how--through the use of language, framing and context--the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza remains hidden in the news media, and Israeli colonization of the occupied terrorities appears to be a defensive move rather than an offensive one. The documentary also explores the ways that U.S. journalists, for reasons ranging from intimidation to a lack of thorough investigation, have become complicit in carrying out Israel's PR campaign. At its core, the documentary raises questions about the ethics and role of journalism, and the relationship between media and politics.

05 August, 2006

Press release: Citizens protest Israel's brutal war against Lebanon and Gaza

Citizens in New Delhi protest against Israel's war

More than 120 writers, poets, activists, journalists, lawyers, queer rights activists, communal rights activists, womens issues activists, child rights activists and other citizens held a 2-hour peaceful protest near the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi today, Saturday August 5, to demand a immediate and unconditional cease-fire in the ongoing Middle East war. The protestors condemned Israel's disproportionate war against Lebanon and Palestine, the sanction given to Israel by US and UK governments, and also the silence of the Indian government on the issue. Some present said the Indian Parliament must pass a resolution condemning the war just as th previous NDA government had passed a similar resolution with regard to Iraq war. Others criticised the Manmohan Singh government for permitting the US to influence Indian foreign policy, which they held was responsbile for India's failure to speak up in international fora on behalf of the hapless Lebanese and Palestinian people.

As the Delhi Police did not permit the protestors to stage their dharna outside the Israeli Embassy itself, the protestors occupied the traffic island at the intersection of Shahjahan Road and India Gate Outer Circle. Slogans were raised against Israel, the US, the UK and the UPA government, and in support of Lebanon and Palestine. The protestors sang songs, performed jhankis and read poems of peace. The protest was followed by a march towards the Israeli Embassy. The police did not permit the dharna to proceed beyond the UPSC building on Shahjehan Road, but after pressure from the protestors, traffic was stopped on Shahjehan Road and the road was closed so that the protestors could conduct a meeting. The Nishant Natya Manch perfomed a jhanki caricaturing Israel, Tony Blair and Manmohan Singh as stooges of George Bush. A group of queer activists sang a song of peace. Shri Khursheed Anwar of the Aman Ekta Manch addressed the crowd. And the protest ended with all protestors lying on Shahjahan Road in silence to commemorate and grieve the war dead. Shouts of 'Salim, Salam, Shalom' brought the protest to a close.

The following petition signed by more than 250 concerned citizens was handed over to the US, UK and Israeli embassies by the protestors.



Even as we condemn all acts and forms of violence in the current crisis in the Middle East, irrespective of who commits them, we have watched with horror as Israel's disproportionate use of force against the citizens of Lebanon and Palestine has increased daily and with impunity in light of sanction for Israel from the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Israel's aggression continues in open defiance of calls from the rest of the international community for an immediate cease-fire, and continues to take a heavy toll of innocent life.

Until today, the 5th of August, 900 Lebanese including 290 children had been killed and 9,00,000 Lebanese – one-third of the population – displaced in response to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah 24 days earlier. The number of Israeli dead in the conflict is 67, including 24 civilians, as Hezbollah continues to target Israel with rockets.

Despite this, on August 1, the European Union too provided implicit sanction to Israel's disproportionate actions by failing to call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. Almost immediately, Israel launched a ground invasion in southern Lebanon, involving tens of thousands of troops.

We, the undersigned, condemn this brutal targeting of unarmed civilian populations and the systematic destruction of the infrastructure of Lebanon and Gaza. We demand an immediate and unconditional cease-fire in Lebanon and in Gaza from all parties, and that the leaders of Israel, the US and the UK be tried for war crimes against the Lebanese and Palestinian people. We mourn the loss of innocent Lebanese, Palestinian and Israeli lives.

We urge groups and individuals to join in a citizen's protest against Israel's targeting of civilians which goes against all laws of war and ethics of combat.

In solidarity,

1. Aanchal Kapur, KRITI Research and Praxis
2. Aarti Sethi, editor
3. Aditya Nigam, political scientist & writer
4. Ahtushi Deshpande, travel writer
5. Ajay Bhardwaj, filmmaker
6. Aman Sethi, journalist
7. Amar Kanwar, filmmaker
8. Anand Vivek Taneja, researcher-writer
9. Aniruddha Shankar, concerned citizen
10. Anita Roy, editor
11. Anita Vasudev, writer
12. Annie Zaidi, journalist
13. Anubhav Gupta, writer
14. Anuradha Vijayakrishnan, writer
15. Aparna Sanyal
16. Apoorvanand, teacher and writer
17. Archana Dwivedi, Nirantar
18. Arka Mukhopadhyay, poet and theatre practitioner
19. Arti Sawhney
20. Ashok Vajpeyi, poet
21. Ashwin Aishwaria, artist
22. Ashwini Ailawadi, trainer
23. Bindu Menon, educator
24. Charu Soni, journalist
25. Colin Fernandes, journalist
26. Danish Husain, actor and writer
27. Devaki Khanna, student
28. Devika Prasad, human rights activist
29. Dipta Bhog, Nirantar
30. Farah Aziz, journalist
31. Farah Naqvi
32. Farida Khan, educationist
33. Gargi Sen, filmmaker
34. Gautam Bhan, activist
35. Gayatri Reddy, educator
36. George Kurian, filmmaker
37. Gita Hariharan, writer
38. Harjinder Singh Laltu, writer & scientist
39. Harpreet Anand
40. I.K. Shukla
41. I. Priya Thangarajah, student
42. Indira Pathak, activist
43. Jamaat e Islami Hind
44. Jaya Sharma, activist
45. Jeet Thayil, writer
46. Julia Dutta, journalist
47. Jyotsna Kumar,concerned citizen
48. Kanchana Natarajan, educator
49. Kaushiki Rao, concerned citizen
50. Kaveetaa Kaul writer/journalist
51. Keerti Jayaram, educationist, activist
52. Khadeeja Arif, researcher-writer
53. Khursheed Anwar, social activist
54. Kishore Kumar Singh, freelance consultant
55. Kunwar Narain, poet
56. Lesley A. Esteves, journalist
57. Madan Gopal Singh, film scholar & music composer
58. Madhu Mehra, human rights lawyer
59. Mario D'Penha, historian-activist
60. Maya Sharma, Parma
61. Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, writer & journalist
62. Meera Samson, researcher
63. Mini Krishnan, publisher and writer (Chennai)
64. Monica Mody, writer
65. Mujtaba Farooq
66. Mushirul Hassan, Prof, Historian
67. N.K. Afandi, Dr
68. Nalini Nayak, teacher
69. Nandini Sundar
70. Nandita Das
71. Narayani Gupta, consultant INTACH
72. Naveen. T.K., law researcher
73. Nazim Khan
74. Neelima Sharma, theatre activist
75. Niharika Gupta, editor Womens Collective
76. Nini, Nirantar
77. Nishant Natya Manch, New Delhi
78. Nivedita Menon, academic & activist
79. Om Gupta, playwright
80. Ponni Arasu, activist
81. Prabhash Joshi, journalist
82. Pranav Kumar Singh, lawyer
83. Preeti Bose, poet
84. Prism, New Delhi
85. Priyanka Mukherjee, social worker
86. Pulin Nayak, economist
87. Radhika Kolluru, lawyer
88. Rajneesh Saran, freelance writer
89. Rahul Roy
90. Rama Kant Agnihotri, Prof, linguist
91. Ranjan De, filmmaker
92. S. Vinita
93. Saba Dewan
94. Samit Basu, writer
95. Saba Naqvi Bhaumik, journalist
96. Sanjay Kak, filmmaker
97. Shabnam Hashmi, social activist
98. Shakti Bhatt, editor & writer
99. Shalini Joshi, Nirantar
100. Shamsul Islam, Dr, theatre activist
101. Shivam Vij, blogger-journalist
102. Shohini Ghosh, film scholar & filmmaker
103. Shuddhabrata Sengupta, media practitioner
104. Siddharth Narrain, journalist
105. Smarth Bali, Communications Specialist
106. Sridala Swamy, writer
107. Subasri Krishnan, filmmaker
108. Sudeep Sen, writer & editor
109. Sujit Ghosh, social activist
110. Sumit Baudh, lawyer
111. Sumit Roy, filmmaker
112. Sunil Gupta, photographer
113. Susan Bertolino, writer
114. Susan M Koshy, writer
115. Tabish Khair, writer
116. Teena Gill
117. Uma Iyer
118. Vaibhav Vats, student
119. Vineeta Bal, peace activist

Lesley A. Esteves
Associate Editor

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apni aag mein khud jal jaye,
tu aisa parwana ban ja...

02 August, 2006



Dear friends,

We have watched with horror as Israel's disproportionate use of force
against the citizens of Lebanon and Palestine has increased daily and
with impunity in light of sanction for Israel from the United States
of America and the United Kingdom. Israel's aggression continues in
open defiance of calls from the rest of the international community
for an immediate cease-fire, and continues to take a heavy toll of
innocent life.

Until today, the 2nd of August, 850 Lebanese including 290 children
have been killed and 9,00,000 Lebanese refugees have been displaced in
response to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah 22
days ago. The number of Israeli dead in the conflict thus far is 55,
including 19 civilians, as Hezbollah continues to target Israel with

Despite this, yesterday, the European Union too provided implicit
sanction to Israel's disproportionate actions by failing to call for
an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. Almost immediately, Israel
has launched a ground invasion in southern Lebanon, involving tens of
thousands of troops.

We, the undersigned, condemn this brutal targeting of unarmed civilian
populations and the systematic destruction of the infrastructure of
Lebanon and Gaza. We demand an immediate and unconditional cease-fire
in Lebanon and in Gaza and that the leaders of Israel, the US and the
UK be tried for war crimes against the Lebanese and Palestinian
people. We mourn the loss of innocent Lebanese, Palestinian and
Israeli lives.

We urge groups and individuals to join in a citizen's protest against
Israel's targeting of civilians which goes against all laws of war and
ethics of combat.

Do come with banners, slogans and solidarity. Please do forward widely
information about the protest on all activist lists, and to the media.

Saturday 5th, 11 am
Israeli Embassy, 3, Aurangzeb Road

(As police do not permit protests outside the embassy, the rendezvous
point is the UPSC building)

In solidarity,

Aanchal Kapur, KRITI Research and Praxis
Aarti Sethi, editor
Aditya Nigam, political scientist & writer
Ahtushi Deshpande, travel writer
Ajay Bhardwaj, filmmaker
Aman Sethi, journalist
Amar Kanwar, filmmaker
Anand Vivek Taneja, researcher-writer
Aniruddha Shankar, concerned citizen
Anita Roy, editor
Anita Vasudev, writer
Annie Zaidi, journalist
Anubhav Gupta, writer
Anuradha Vijayakrishnan, writer
Aparna Sanyal
Apoorvanand, teacher and writer
Archana Dwivedi, Nirantar
Arka Mukhopadhyay, poet-theatre practitioner
Arti Sawhney
Ashwin Aishwaria, artist
Ashwini Ailawadi, trainer
Bindu Menon, educator
Charu Soni, journalist
Colin Fernandes, journalist
Devika Prasad, human rights activist
Dipta Bhog, Nirantar
Farah Aziz, journalist
Farah Naqvi
Farida Khan, educationist
Gargi Sen, filmmaker
Gautam Bhan, activist
Gayatri Reddy, educator
George Kurian, filmmaker
Gita Hariharan, writer
Harpreet Anand
I.K. Shukla
I. Priya Thangarajah, student
Indira Pathak, activist
Jamaat e Islami Hind
Jaya Sharma, activist
Jeet Thayil, writer
Julia Dutta, journalist
Jyotsna Kumar, concerned citizen
Kanchana Natarajan, educator
Kaushiki Rao, concerned citizen
Kaveetaa Kaul, writer/journalist
Keerti Jayaram, educationist, activist
Khadeeja Arif, researcher-writer
Khursheed Anwar, social activist
Kishore Kumar Singh, freelance consultant
Lesley A. Esteves, journalist
Madan Gopal Singh, film scholar & music composer
Madhu Mehra, human rights lawyer
Mario D'Penha, historian-activist
Maya Sharma, Parma
Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, writer & journalist
Mini Krishnan, publisher and writer (Chennai)
Monica Mody, writer
Mujtaba Farooq
Murtaza Danish Husain, actor & writer
N.K. Afandi, Dr
Nalini Nayak, teacher
Nandini Sundar
Nandita Das
Narayani Gupta, consultant INTACH
Neelima Sharma, theatre activist
Niharika Gupta, editor Womens Collective
Nini, Nirantar
Nishant Natya Manch, New Delhi
Nivedita Menon, academic & activist
Om Gupta, playwright
Ponni Arasu, activist
Pranav Kumar Singh, lawyer
Preeti Bose, poet
Prism, New Delhi
Priyanka Mukherjee, social worker
Pulin Nayak, economist
Radhika Kolluru, lawyer
Rajneesh Saran, freelance writer
Rama Kant Agnihotri, Prof, linguist
Ranjan De, filmmaker
S. Vinita
Samit Basu, writer
Saba Naqvi Bhaumik, journalist
Sanjay Kak, filmmaker
Shabnam Hashmi, social activist
Shakti Bhatt, editor & writer
Shalini Joshi, Nirantar
Shamsul Islam, Dr, theatre activist
Shivam Vij, blogger-journalist
Shohini Ghosh, film scholar & filmmaker
Shuddhabrata Sengupta, media practitioner
Siddharth Narrain, journalist
Smarth Bali, Communications Specialist
Sridala Swamy, writer
Subasri Krishnan, filmmaker
Sudeep Sen, writer & editor
Sujit Ghosh, social activist
Sumit Baudh, lawyer
Sumit Roy, filmmaker
Sunil Gupta, photographer
Susan Bertolino, writer
Susan M Koshy, writer
Tabish Khair, writer
Teena Gill
Vaibhav Vats, student
Vineeta Bal, peace activist