Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year 2008!!

I wish a very happy and prosperous new year -2008 to all of you who read my blog. I hope we will be able to see and feel peace all around us. May God bless you a lot.

Bhutan: Where is real democracy?

New Delhi, 31 December 2007

Today Bhutan is holding its first real voting to elect members to a new upper house of parliament, the National Council. This is indeed a historic day for the Bhutanese people and for the world as well, as democracy will be established in yet another corner of this restive world.

In December 2006, the Bhutanese King Jigme Singye Wangchuk handed over rein to his 26-year-old Oxford educated son Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. The world hailed this act as the sunrise of democracy in this tiny secluded Himalayan country. But to some quarters this was sham. The New Delhi- based Asian Centre for Human Rights dismissed the socalled transition as “a royal family affair” as this by itself does not promise any democratic reform in the country unless the new King is committed to protecting and promoting human rights of all the citizens without any discrimination.

But the new King, like his father, refused to accept its over 100,000 Bhutanese citizens of Nepali origin who have been languishing as refugees in Nepal in miserable conditions after they fled or were expelled from the country in 1991 for protesting against discrimination and demanding democracy. Any true democracy must be inclusive. But the elections have not included those people who have risen against their king demanding democracy.

Although political parties were allowed registration, there is no political freedom in Bhutan. The government of Bhutan continues to consider all its political dissidents/ protestors as “Ngolop”, anti-nationals.

In a booklet released on 4 October 2007, the Druk National Congress, the opposition in exile, alleged that “Bhutan today is governed as per the King’s wishes, and the day to day official activities of the administration varies according to his personal interests. It is not only the general public, but also government servants who are affected by the King’s nepotism and favoritism.”

The Draft Constitution of Bhutan provides for a two-party system. But any number of political parties can contest the elections in the preliminary rounds and only the two largest vote winning parties can vie for the seats in the final rounds of elections. Between the two parties, the one winning the highest seats will form the government while the other will sit in the opposition.

But the Election Commission of Bhutan effectively ensured that only two parties were registered to contest the general elections to be held in early 2008 by disqualifying the Bhutan People’s United Party on 27 November 2007. Only two political parties - People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) headed by former Prime Minister Sangay Ngedup; and Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) headed by former Home Minister Jigmi Y Thinley – have been recognized by the Election Commission to contest the first Parliamentary elections. Both PDP and DPT are king’s supporters. It has been alleged that the Bhutan People’s United Party was denied registration because its leaders do not enjoy support from the king.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Benazir Bhutto's assassination......

The assassination of Mrs Benazir Bhutto by a suicide bomber (Al Queda has reportedly owned up responsibility) during an election rally in Rawalpindi once again proves that the Islamic terrorists continue to rule the roost in Pakistan, although the Pakistani President Pervaz Musharraf would reiterate that Pakistan would not be bowed down by terrorism. Suggestions and suspicions over the “real” possible mastermind of the attack on Bhutto are running fast and furious. But it will be never likely that the real culprit is identified and punished.

Although Musharraf himself is under threats from the terrorists, he is largely to blame for the current state of affairs. Mush has been one of the most important allies of the US in the global war against terrorism, but it has been now exposed as to how he “diverted” US $ 5 bn of the US military aid to engage in war with arch rival India instead of fighting the terrorists. The fruits of his appeasement and resilience on the terrorists are well before him and the world. But does President Musharraf still think that India still is a bigger enemy than the terrorism?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The agonies of the Chakmas of Mizoram

By- Paritosh Chakma

(This article was first published in the Newslink, Aizawl, Mizoram in August 2007)


Presently, Mizoram is the second most literate state in India, next only to Kerala. In a way this is something to be taken proud of considering many other states’ dismal records such as Bihar (47.53), Uttar Pradesh (57.36), Arunachal Pradesh (54.74), Jammu and Kashmir (54.46), Jharkahand (54.13), and even West Bengal (69.22).

Yet, something is rotten in the government of Mizoram’s education policy. It seems that the minorities do not figure anywhere in the Education Ministry’s priority list. The State Education Ministry in particular and the government of Mizoram in general have blatantly failed to take note of the 2001 Census of India’s findings that the Chakmas are the most illiterate tribal community in the state with only 45.3 per cent literacy rate against the 95.6 per cent literacy rate of the Mizos.

If this huge gap is any indication of outright discrimination and deprivation, such discrimination and deprivation are more glaring when considered the fact that only 56.2 per cent male and 33.6 per cent female among the Chakmas are literate against 96.8 per cent male and 94.4 per cent female literacy among the Mizos.

Literacy is not the only area where the Chakmas are lagging behind. Over 99 percent of the Chakma population lives in the villages. They are traditionally cultivators of Jhum , which is also renown as shifting cultivation. Their economic condition is deteriorating day by day with the lack of job opportunities for the educated youths and diminishing returns from the Jhum cultivation which is done after cutting off forests. The Jhum cultivators do not find green, fertile forests anymore and their futures are empty. Outside the Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC), which is the homeland for only half of the total Chakmas of the state, the only government job available for the educated Chakma youths is the teaching post in schools in Chakma dominated villages. In a situation where even the schools are limited or absent in villages there is practically no employment opportunity. It is another notable fact that there is no State cadre gazette officer from the Chakma community. Aren’t these symbols of discrimination?

The ongoing Mizoram-Bangladesh border fencing will displace thousands of border villagers who are mostly Chakmas. These people have already been embattled by poverty and the fencing is sure to break their backbones. The pangs of displacement from one’s land can be felt only by the victims themselves while others can only sympathize with them. Although the government has provided some monetary relief to the displaced families, it is not yet clear whether the government will do enough to provide proper rehabilitation to them. It is important that the people who have sacrificed their lands for the interest of he nation should be respectfully resettled and given all kinds of facilities which they had enjoyed in their original villages. The government in fact is duty bound to do much more than that. But having known the bitter experiences of other IDPs elsewhere in India, the prospects of the Chakmas do not evoke much hope.

It is the hope of every person of Mizoram to take the state towards peace and progress in every sector. But this will never be possible so long as the State government treats the Chakmas, who are the second largest tribal community, as step children and do enough to bring them at par with other citizens. In other words, for the advancement of Mizoram it is equally important that agonies of the Chakmas be transformed into hopes and smiles.

Machang Lalung, heard of him?

New Delhi, 27 December 2007

When Sachin Tendulkar scores a half-century, he becomes a headline in almost all important newspapers and other news media. But what about some one who has spent over half-a-century in jail without trial in court? Yes, that was Assam’s Machang Lalung who spent 54 precious years of his life in jail without being produced in court. But hardly many people had heard of him!! Not many newspapers gave a space to cover his pitiful story! Serious journalism, hee??

When this morning I read in the Telegraph , Kolkata about the death of Lalung at his native village in Assam on the Christmas day (25 December 2007), I felt bad for some time. He was just beginning to start his life afresh after being released from jail (mental prison) in July 2005 on a token personal bond of Re 1 after the intervention of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). The NHRC discovered him in the Tezpur mental hospital while taking stock of the state of the undertrials in the state.

He was imprisoned for allegedly killing a person in a fit of rage. But that is not the story is really about. His story is about the injustice done to him in jail. He stands as a symbol of this great country's blatant failures to deliver speedy justice to the under trials. Speedy justice is a different thing in the case of Lalung. He was not even accorded a trial to prove his innocence or guilt. Certainly, fair trial is the basis for any true democratic society.

It is not Lalung alone, for sure. There are hundreds in this country a precious part of those lives are snatched ..... without trials.

After release, Lalung almost became a hero for his villagers and government babus continued to visit him. The government had promised Lalung many things, including a house to be built for him but did not fulfill. He was merely paid Rs 3 lakhs as compensation for being illegally detained for over a half century and in a mental hospital, although the doctors long back declared him fit for trial (In India trial of mentally ill prisoners is not allowed by law). He was reduced to such a state that he failed to recognize even his close relatives.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

welcome

Welcome to my blog.

This is the first thing I thought of doing on the eve of New Year -2008. Hopefully, I will be sharing with you all the details of my thoughts in this forum.