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American hitchhiker gang raped in India
Writer, politics, Greg, research, social activist
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Area 14/8

NEW DELHI:An American woman was gang-raped in the northern Indian resort town of Manali,police said.

Three men in a truck picked up the 30-year-old woman as she was hitchhiking to her guest house after visiting a friend,police officer Sher Singh said.

The men drove to a secluded spot and raped her,he said. She went to police and they filed a rape case.

Authorities issued an alert for the three men and set up roadblocks to check any trucks leaving the town,he said. No arrests had been made as of Tuesday afternoon,Singh said.

The rape came after a Swiss tourist was gang-raped in March while on a cycling trip through rural India. Six men were arrested in that attack.

The same month,a British woman traveling elsewhere in northern India jumped from a third-floor window fearing a sexual attack after the hotel's owner tried to force his way into her room.

Concern about sexual assaults in India has heightened since the fatal gang-rape of a woman in New Delhi in December sparked public protests demanding better protection for women.

In response,the government passed a law increasing prison terms for rape and providing for the death penalty in cases of rape that result in death or leave the victim in a coma.

It also made voyeurism,stalking,acid attacks and the trafficking of women punishable under criminal law.


Sino-Japan: shelving the dispute?
Writer, politics, Greg, research, social activist
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TACSTRAT ANALYSIS

While China and Japan have shared a heavy history of hostility and slow progression towards mutually beneficial ventures, both the countries seem to have focused more on token gestures than concrete measures to secure healthy bilateral economic relations. By virtue of being flourishing economies, and having regional interests coinciding, it was only rational for the China and Japan to address their problems, to fix their attitudes towards each other. The zenith of Sino-Japan departure lies around the East China Sea controversy. Both states claim right to ownership of the islands on this sea. The Diaoyu/ Senkaku Islands have brought China and Japan into a bitter dispute over decades.

The Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese are a tiny group islands 6.3 km² in total, consisting of eight insular formations, of which the largest is 4.3 km². None of these are inhabited without any trace of human or economic activity, and five are completely barren. Yet, despite the insignificant area, and economic worth, these islands have brought Sino-Japan ties to turbulent points, owing to strategic geographical location. Midway Taiwan and Japan, these islands are key to both China's and Japan's national defense. If either one secures sovereignty, the owner will enjoy military security advantage with prolonged and enlarged frontier.

Hence, given the crucial nature of the land, would either one wish to resolve this issue? We know the steps towards reconciliation. A basic understanding of international law, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which came into effect in 1994, and some historical knowledge can allow resolve the conflict. Key questions need to be addressed. In 1895 when Japan claimed sovereignty were the Senkaku islands terra nullius? After Japan's epic defeat in WWII were they returned to China? How should China's and Japan's boundaries of the East China Sea be demarcated under international law? But will either state want to cooperate with an external entity if losing out becomes a possibility?

Economically speaking, a continental shelf, or exclusive economic zone (EEZ), of 40,000 km² is attached to these islets. The claimant will have rights over all natural resources in this vicinity, and what is more tempting than the possibility of oil and gas reserves in the region? United Nations Economic Commission for Asia in a report released in 1968 suggested the possibility of large oil reserves in the Diaoyu/Senkaku waters. Given China's and Japan's insatiable thirst for energy and resources, the islands have become the source of possible military conflict. The potential defense and economic gains from their ownership have surfaced the ugly reality behind staged diplomacy.

Moreover, domestic and international politics for both will be impacted by the outcome, as both governments are involved in other island disputes. A loss here will damage credibility and may act as a negative domino effect on all other fronts.

Annexed in 1895 by Japan, till the 1960s and early '70s when the promising prediction of hydrocarbon deposits was released, Japan and the US signed the Ryuku Reversion Agreement in 1971 to officially bestow ownership to Japan. This backdoor diplomacy was not welcome by China and Taiwan. While the US warned against any exploitation of resources, both countries decided to visit the island prop up their flags shortly after. Despite China labeling the territory sacred, Nixon in 1972 decided to 'return' South-Western Islands to Japan. US' pro-Japan stance over the years has seen a neutral shift with their need to improve relations with China as a growing economy. A 'hand-off' policy introduced by America has kept the conflict from escalating, but has also promoted no resolution, but a mutual decision to shelve it for the future, unsuccessfully so.

A Japanese lighthouse, Chinese activists landing, renovating the lighthouse, Taiwanese boats to block renovation attempts; the islands seem to have attracted an entertaining saga of events from all three stakeholders. Japan's decision to arrest the Chinese protestors from the no-man's land generated criticism and concern from Beijing. Japan's right wing group, responsible for the lighthouse (1978) rammed a bus into the Chinese consulate to protest their China's claims.

Japan continues to protect the lighthouse in 2004 that has caused much unnecessary stir, as a remnant of their right to the islands. Tokyo's move, according to Chinese Foreign Minister was "a serious provocation and violation of Chinese territorial sovereignty. To make matters worse Japan started exploring for natural gas in its self alleged EEZ, an area east of the median line between the two countries that China disputes Japan's right to. But in 2005 Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. and Teikoku Oil Co began talks with the Japanese government to drill areas falling under disputed territories.

Japan and China with the island dispute have justified their respective claims to justify their own standpoints. For Japan, the sovereignty claim is premised on international law's clause that terra nullis becomes a specific state's territory. This is an established principal in international law, but the question is whether or not the islands were terra nullius in 1895. This claim has been contested by China, and no evidence so far has overridden Beijing's concern. According to China certain surveys were carried out by them in the territory in 1885, proving that they were not unclaimed, but were discovered and incorporated in 1895.

While Japan argues that the dispute came to the front burner just because of the discovery of potential energy resources in the seabed around the islands, China emphasizes that the issue came to the front burner because of the U.S.-Japan Joint Statement and the Ryukyu Reversion Agreement, which illegally include China's Diaoyu Islands in the territory to be returned to Japanese sovereignty. And Japan continuously refers to its reversion agreement with the United States to validate its sovereignty. So far the islands have been placed under the supervision of the United States, in accordance with the San Francisco Peace Treaty, giving some administrative rights to Japan under the 1971 agreement. China challenges the legitimacy of the San Francisco Treaty because neither China nor Taiwan were not signatories.

The multifaceted nature of the Diaoyu/Senkaku island dispute has complicated relations between all three states. The problems are not only defense or economy related, but the fragile mesh both states are entangled in with respect to domestic political landscape, and other island disputes. For Japan's aggressive right giving the Senkaku up is not an option. And Chinese feel strongly about the territory in question, as it is 'sacred'. Perhaps the initial motive by the governments to politicize the matter was to have a stronger case. But this can also backfire, as failure to secure the EEZ now will result in a negative domino effect, as the government who failed its people. The matter is politicized to the point that it has become personal.

Both governments have been at pains to downplay the issue, as neither can afford confrontation, but domestic and international political factors are beyond their immediate control. Extremists in both Japan and China are hurting the delicate diplomatic tango both countries had orchestrated successfully over the decades. While military conflict seems unlikely, despite the recent escalation of news suggesting a showdown, it is also equally unlikely for any form of resolution to be reached. For both states shelving the problem keeps their boat afloat and hence both are delaying the possibility of facing this issue. While political deadlock is difficult to break, two disputants could jointly exploit the economic resources following a model of cooperation that already exists in East Asia in the Republic of Korea-Japan Joint Development Area, for example.

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FP Analysis: The Population Bomb
Writer, politics, Greg, research, social activist
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By Enum Naseer
FOR PAKISTAN

It is simple economics: resources are scarce and wants are unlimited. The problem of allocation gets more serious when population growth is unchecked- as is the case in Pakistan. It is confusing hence, that no one has taken the pains to voice the issue in the mainstream media; no political party mentioned it in its rallies; no slogans or chants went further than the usual clichés. While the future leaders and the public busy themselves with the task of wooing and being wooed, the population bomb ticks away. The promises and plans, albeit optimistic and hopeful, evade the population issue almost strategically. It is as if the fact that the unrestrained population growth will have an undesirable impact on the distribution of resources like food has gone unnoticed. Or more so perhaps, the problem has been brushed under the carpet for fear that it may give rise to an uncomfortable debate?

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Kashmir and the Afghan withdrawal
Writer, politics, Greg, research, social activist
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By Abdul Majid Zargar
TACSTRAT

In-spite of a massive force build-up and despite adoption of " Shock & awe" theory and thousands of Drone attacks backed up by latest technology, a defeat stares in the face of America in Afghanistan. Its troop withdrawal plan by the end of 2014 is an organized retreat, if not a total surrender.

And this defeat has not made appearance out of thin air. Washington has known for years that it had no hope of destroying the Taliban, and that it would have to settle for compromise and a political solution with an indigenous insurgency that remains sufficiently popular to have survived the longest U.S. military occupation in history. It was also predicted by think tanks & defense experts alike long ago. A 2010 Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), report on Afghanistan predicted:"We have not yet achieved any meaningful form of positive strategic result from over nine years of war in Afghanistan and the conflict may end in a major grand strategic defeat." Before dying, Richard Holbrooke admitted it, saying "You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan." His signal was clear & unambiguous .It is another thing that Washington Post reinterpreted it, saying:"Holbrooke's death is the latest complication in an effort plagued by unreliable partners, reluctant allies and an increasingly skeptical American public."In 2012, a New York Times editorial wrote that the U.S. military has had to give up on hopes of inflicting enough pain on the Taliban to set favorable terms for a political settlement. Instead, it will be left up to the Afghan combatants to find their own political solution once the U.S. and its allies take themselves out of the fight.

War has its own vocabulary & dictionary. While its start heralds a destruction, its ends sprouts a hope. Hope not only for people who have been direct victims of war but also for region as a whole. It also emits signals which are taken as precedents for adoption by parties- to- conflict in a near or distant land. And America's imminent defeat in Afghanistan is already emitting powerful signals that only a Gun can be answer to enforce a decision or solution, how-so-ever powerful the other party might be. It has rekindled a new hope among those propagating armed struggle in Kashmir as the only viable way to solve the long festering problem of Kashmir.

Kashmir is a geopolitical Gordian knot, interwoven by Indian and Pakistani intransigence .The real reason for the Indian State's obsession with Kashmir is that 'losing Kashmir' (whatever that means) will make the Indian state look 'weak'. For Pakistan the misconception is that Kashmir is its jugular vein ( again whatever that means). Both these narratives are devoid of genuine aspirations of people of J&K. Even after acquiring huge stockpile of nuclear arms both countries are distrustful & fearful of each other.

Kashmir is the longest standing dispute recognized by United Nations & International community. It is the highest militarized zone on earth and according to a fresh entry in the Guinness book of world records, nearly a million of soldiers are continuously staring at each other in a territory which is flanked by three nuclear armed countries. And supposedly the professional armies of both the countries have ceded space to communal & extremist elements within their ranks.

It is a drain on the hopes for prosperity, peace and freedom for people throughout the subcontinent, and the world. There is no moving toward peaceful coexistence between the two countries, no stabilization of the region, no possibility for global nuclear disarmament. This conflict has made a vast majority of population hostages in their own land and a tiny minority refugees in their own State. This conflict of last sixty years has brought so much of death & destruction to countless families that another sixty six years will be insufficient to heal their wounds. One fails to understand What exactly is their fault? Is it that they were born on the wrong side of the globe?

Let India & Pakistan start negotiations not out of fear but let they also not fear to negotiate. And before the signals emanating out of Afghanistan are translated into action by extreme elements, which only means further death & destruction, let those be pre-empted by both Countries finding a lasting solution to the problem by taking genuine representatives of Jammu &Kashmir on board and sooner this happens, the better it is.

Author is a practicing chartered Accountant. Email: abdulmajidzargar@gmail.com


Lip Service to Goodwill
Writer, politics, Greg, research, social activist
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FOR PAKISTAN

Over the past few months an ongoing debate about opening the borders to our next door neighbor has engulfed drawing room discussions, economics and politics lectures, the industrialist, the Mazdoor (wage laborer), and of course the talk shows. Those in favor of this upgrade in India's status have brought to notice a need for better ties. It is now more obvious than ever that on all fronts, economic, social, political and security; India has left Pakistan far behind. While India has been labeled the World's largest and most multicultural democracy, proud liberals quote Mother India as the torch bearer, pride of the democratic legacy, a success story; Pakistan is equally known for the opposite reasons: Terrorism, conflict, unstable governance, and sectarian and religious strife.

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Spearhead Analysis: Elections held hostage
Writer, politics, Greg, research, social activist
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By Nida Afaque
SPEARHEAD RESEARCH

As elections draw near, the political climate within Pakistan has turned sober. Contesting parties are working industriously to widen their voter base, the Election Commission is overworked with verifying candidates' credibility and the interim government is struggling to contain the country's affairs until the next government is ready to take charge. But there is another kind of force, one that is becoming more elusive than ever, which is busy opposing efforts to a peaceful democratic transition.

These anti-state forces have been involved in harmful activities for quite long. Pakistan has had to pay the price of these terrorist elements through money, blood and an overall loss of security. Since the beginning of this year, the weekly death toll averages 175, with most violence concentrated in Karachi, Baluchistan, KPK and FATA. Various religious extremists like Jundullah, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and most commonly, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have been found responsible for the attacks on senior politicians and government and security buildings across the country. Other civil separatist movements like the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) have targeted government officials and security personnel.

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Extreme Human Rights Abuses by Indian Army
Writer, politics, Greg, research, social activist
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By S.O.S Kashmir

The rape in Delhi has shocked India. Has it really? Or was it the sight of thousands of young students, male and female, demonstrating on the streets and being assaulted by the police for daring to demonstrate that made some Indian citizens think seriously about the problem? As for the Congress government that has, like most of the opposition parties, tolerated this for decades, it was the bad publicity abroad that finally did the trick, but only as far as this case is concerned.

Rape takes place in police stations, in military barracks, in the streets and occasionally in some provincial parliaments. The feminist Communist parliamentarian Brinda Karat, who has long campaigned on the issue, pointed to the assault of a member of the Trinamool assembly by a male oppositionist on 11 December last year. 'Women were not safe even inside the assembly,' she said.

Legal activists in Kashmir and Manipur, occupied by the Indian Army, have produced report after report highlighting cases of women raped by soldiers. Response from the top brass: nil. In a country where the culture of rape is so embedded, only a determined effort on every level can change things. This will not happen if this case and others are forgotten.

In 2004, a group of middle-aged mothers were so enraged by the military raping their daughters and sisters that they organised a protest unique in the annals of the women's movement. They gathered outside the Indian Army barracks, stripped, and held up a banner that read 'Indian Army Rape Us.' That image, too, shocked India, but nothing changed. Only a few weeks later another rape scandal erupted in Manipur. If the Indian state is incapable of defending its women, perhaps the world's largest democracy should seriously consider a change of name. Rapeistan comes to mind.

Manipur District Map

I. Summary

It takes us a long time to raise our children. Then, when they grow up, they are shot. This cannot go on. We no longer want to look for our children in the morgue.

-Yumlembam Mema, women's rights activist in Manipur

A woman is arrested at her home at night. The authorities provide her family a signed document acknowledging her arrest. The next morning, villagers find her bullet-ridden corpse some four kilometers away from her home. There are widespread protests following the woman's death. Promises are made by the highest authorities of the country, and yet, after four years, justice remains undone. No one is punished for this crime.

This is the story of Thangjam Manorama Devi, a 32-year-old resident of India's Manipur state. The paramilitary Assam Rifles suspected her of links to an underground separatist group and detained her on July 11, 2004. The soldiers raided her home in Bamon Kampu village a little after midnight, asking the family to wait outside while they questioned her. They then signed an "arrest memo," an official acknowledgement of detention put in place to prevent "disappearances" and took her away. Her body was found outside a nearby village. She had been shot through the lower half of her body, raising suspicion that bullets had been used to hide evidence of rape.

Human rights violations by security forces engaged in counter-insurgency operations in Manipur state have occurred with depressing regularity over the last five decades. Separatist militants have also committed widespread human rights abuses. According to the police, nearly 3,000 civilians have died in the conflict since 1990. At least 1,300 militants and nearly 1,000 members of the security forces have also been killed. According to unofficial sources, at least 20,000 people may have died due to violence since the conflict began in the 1950s. But Manipur, a small state of two million people, is tucked away in the country's remote northeastern region. Not much that happens there makes the national news-unless it is a particularly brutal attack by militants.

However, the security forces' clear role in Manaroma's killing captured widespread media attention. Protests erupted in Manipur, while domestic and international human rights groups demanded an immediate investigation and the prosecution of those responsible. Concerned that the government would fail to hold soldiers accountable for the killing, as had repeatedly been the case in the past, for several weeks Manipuris took to the streets. Students, lawyers, traders, mothers, journalists, and human rights activists marched every day, demanding justice. One man committed self-immolation in protest, several others attempted suicide.

The paramilitary Assam Rifles claimed that Manorama was shot dead while trying to escape. In later affidavits, the soldiers implicated said that she was helping the army locate another militant when she instead tried to escape. It is a difficult account to accept: an unarmed, handcuffed woman, wearing the tightly-bound Manipuri sarong that does not lend itself to big strides, supposedly managed to escape the custody of an armed escort. And if she did, it does not explain why the soldiers were unable to catch her and had to shoot to kill. There has also been no explanation why Manorama had not been handed over to police custody by the arresting officials of the Assam Rifles, as the law requires. Or why no female official had been brought in at the time of this night arrest, as is the rule.

Soldiers were able to arrest Manorama because they are empowered to do so under India's Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), the 1958 emergency law under which the armed forces are deployed in internal conflicts and enjoy broad powers to arrest, search, and shoot to kill. This 50-year-old law also provides security forces immunity from prosecution and has thus protected members of the Assam Rifles-as well as soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir, and other states in India's northeast-responsible for killings such as Manorama's from being brought before a civilian judge to be prosecuted for murder and other offenses.

Manipuris have long campaigned for the repeal of the AFSPA. Demanding that the act be scrapped, human rights activist Irom Chanu Sharmila has been on hunger strike for nearly eight years. Her protest began after Assam Rifles gunned down ten civilians on November 2, 2000. She remains in judicially ordered custody, force-fed through a nasal tube.


Sharmila has been on hunger strike to demand a repeal of the AFSPA since November 2000. © 2007 AFP/Getty Images

After Manorama's killing, 32 organizations formed a network called Apunba Lup in a campaign to repeal the AFSPA. The most heart-wrenching protest was by a group of Manipuri women, members of the Meira Paibi ("torch bearers"), who on July 15, 2004 stripped naked in front of the Assam Rifles camp in the state capital, Imphal, wrapped in a banner that said, "Indian Army Rape Us."

Forced to respond, the state government of Manipur ordered a judicial enquiry by retired district judge C. Upendra Singh. Judge Upendra Singh submitted his report in November 2004. Almost four years later, the report is yet to be made public. As court proceedings continue, no action has been taken.


Women protest the killing and alleged rape of Thangjam Manorama Devi with a banner reading "Indian Army Rape Us" at the army headquarters in Imphal in July 2004. © 2004 AFP/Getty Images

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meanwhile promised justice in the Manorama case and a review of the AFSPA. In November 2004, he set up a committee headed by B.P. Jeevan Reddy, a retired judge of the Supreme Court. The report was submitted in June 2005. While the Jeevan Reddy committee report has also not been made public, the contents were leaked, and it is now known that the committee recommended repeal of the AFSPA. The report however remains with the cabinet in New Delhi for consideration, and no action has been taken.

In the Manorama case, Assam Rifles said that it ordered an internal inquiry. The army and paramilitaries never reveal the findings of internal inquiries, and thus it remains unknown if any member of the Assam Rifles was found responsible for Manorama's killing and whether they were appropriately punished. Making a concession to public outrage, the defense ministry did release a statement on July 28, 2004 saying only that the court of inquiry had found some "lapses" by Assam Rifles personnel. In an interview with Human Rights Watch, a spokesman for the Assam Rifles said he could not say what action was taken by the court of inquiry "because the concerned officials from that time are no longer in Manipur and the records are not available."

Meanwhile, Manorama's family is still waiting for justice to be done. It may be a long wait. Political leaders and government officials may privately agree that Manorama's killing was unlawful, but the Indian state has failed, yet again, to hold soldiers responsible for a serious human rights violation accountable.


Shrine in memory of Thangjam Manorama Devi outside her house. © 2008 Human Rights Watch

Continuing Security Force Abuses

After Manorama's death, the security forces appeared to curtail their human rights violations. This did not last long. Since 2006, extrajudicial killings, torture, and other abuses have once again become common practice. According to Human Rights Alert, an Imphal-based voluntary group, in 2006 there were 17 cases in which security forces allegedly extrajudicially executed civilians; in 2007, 12 cases were documented by the group; and as of July 2008, at least 23 such cases had been listed.

For this report, Human Rights Watch investigated several cases of alleged extrajudicial killings committed by the security forces since 2006. In one case, Mohammad Ayub Khan and six others, traveling in a van, were stopped during a routine check by the 19th Assam Rifles on August 26, 2007 at Gwaltabi in Ukhrul district. The soldiers found that Ayub Khan, a mason, was carrying a large sum of money. He explained that this was cash to pay his workers. The soldiers insisted that the van, with all its passengers, be driven to the Assam Rifles camp at Litan. At the camp, Ayub Khan was separated from his co-passengers, who were released. When Ayub Khan's family heard of the detention, they went to the camp but were not allowed to enter. His brother filed a missing person complaint at the Litan police station, saying that Ayub Khan was last seen in the custody of the 19th Assam Rifles.

On August 30, 2007, the Litan police contacted the family. They said that the Assam Rifles had informed the police that a person had been killed in an armed encounter. They suggested that the family check to see if the unidentified person was their missing relative. The family identified the person as Ayub Khan. The Assam Rifles issued a statement claiming that a suspected militant had been shot in an armed exchange and weapons had been recovered from him. Ayub Khan's father, Mohammad Karimuddin, told Human Rights Watch that the Assam Rifles are lying:

How can there be an armed encounter with someone who is already in custody? There are witnesses who saw my son being detained. If they [Assam Rifles] thought my son was a militant, they could have arrested him. But they only wanted his money and did not want the truth to come out. So they killed him. They know that no one questions the army in Manipur.

Police Abuses

The behavior of the army appears to have encouraged the Manipur state police to act similarly. The culture of violence has become so deep-rooted that the police have in recent years committed the same abuses as the army and paramilitary forces. In several of the recent cases documented by Human Rights Watch, the alleged perpetrators belonged to the Manipur police. The Manipur state police chief, Yumnam Joykumar Singh, told Human Rights Watch: "My people have been told not to commit human rights abuses and none has occurred." However, in the same conversation claiming that many of the militants were not political fighters but petty extortionists, he also said, "I have told my people. These fellows must be eliminated. Nothing else can cure us of this disease."

The message to eliminate militants seems to have resonated with the police. Human Rights Watch was repeatedly told that police commandos were among the worst human rights violators in Manipur. Leitanthem Premananda was picked up on January 30, 2006 and, according to relatives, executed later that same day. Together with their neighbors and friends, the relatives formed an action committee to protest the killing; the police threatened retribution. On February 10, 2006, two leaders of the protest committee, Pechimayum Yaima Singh and Leikapokpam Bisashini, were arrested by the Manipur police. Pechimayum Yaima Singh remained in custody for two months. "My family was very worried," he said. "Finally, we were released. But we had to promise that we stop the protests, and were threatened that we would be arrested again if we followed up on this case."

Abujam Shidam, a well-known member of the opposition Manipur People's Party, was arrested on January 7, 2008. While in custody, he says he was tortured by police commandos claiming to be members of a joint interrogation cell.

I was blindfolded. They started beating and kicking me, saying that I must admit I was a member of the PLA [militant group called People's Liberation Army]. They filled buckets of water and poured it on my face. They pressed on my joints with their boots. I kept shouting that I was not a militant, but they would not stop.

While the legal impunity under the AFSPA does not formally extend to the state police, police commandos now routinely get away with serious crimes including torture, and fake "encounter killings." As one activist described it to Human Rights Watch, "The long-term pernicious influence of the AFSPA on Manipur society is its trickle-down effect. One can argue that the rampant corruption in civil administration is a fallout of the climate of impunity generated for many decades by AFSPA in Manipur."

Armed Groups

Indian officials and many Manipuris point out that the armed groups, commonly called "UGs" (short for "underground"), also commit serious human rights abuses. Some of these groups have a tremendous hold over Manipuri society, with ordinary citizens forced to build alliances with one group to ensure protection from the rest. Many impose a variety of diktats, including a ban on some television channels, on women wearing western clothes, the use of drugs, tobacco, or alcohol and implement such orders with force. Some groups have been responsible for attacks on ethnic minorities. For example, in March 2008, militants killed 14 migrant laborers from other Indian states and left behind a note warning others to leave Manipur. In January 2006, armed cadres belonging to United National Liberation Front (UNLF) and Kangleipak Community Party (KCP) allegedly raped 21 Hmar tribal girls in Manipur's Churachandpur district. Militants have also been responsible for the indiscriminate use of landmines, bombs, political killings, and attacks upon those they consider to be informers or traitors.

Manipuris complain most about militant groups' culture of extortion. The state is unable to provide protection from these extortion demands-in fact, many government officials pay themselves. Recently, there has been a spate of abductions by militant groups to recruit children into armed groups involved in fighting. At least 24 school children were reported missing in June and July 2008, leading to widespread protests. One faction of the militant group People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) admitted that that they had recruited some of the missing children.


Protest against attack by militants in Imphal, the capital of Manipur. © 2008 Human Rights Watch

Impunity

Manipuri activists do not dispute the need for strong law enforcement to end the violence perpetrated by militants. Some want the army to remain deployed to combat the UGs, while others want the army withdrawn. But all want the AFSPA to be repealed because of the open license it provides for abuses.

More fundamentally, Manipuris want the culture of impunity to end. Not only has the failure to punish Manorama's killers shattered any existing faith in the justice system, many Manipuris feel it has also emboldened security officials to take the law into their own hands and to believe they can get away with murder. As one government official admitted to Human Rights Watch, "Known criminals are sometimes killed, but it never happens to innocents." In this way the security forces have become judge, jury, and executioner-and have become comfortable in adopting this role.

The more or less free rein given to government forces for decades in Manipur and other parts of the northeast has had a significant impact on the country generally. Similar polcies have since been adopted to stamp out armed separatist movements in various other parts of India. Some argue that this is the only way to ensure that separatists who they "know" are guilty do not evade justice. But in the world's largest democracy, many in the security forces appear to believe it is easier to kill suspects than to gather evidence to secure convictions, while others kill for money or promotions, as they are often rewarded for their actions.

The Indian government, while claiming a firm commitment to the protection of human rights, has consistently ignored violations by its security forces, at best attributing such acts to a few "bad apples." As this report demonstrates, however, the problems are systemic and require systemic changes in law, policy, and practice. And even assuming the problem is "bad apples," they are rarely investigated, let alone tried and convicted. This culture of impunity, fostered both by a lack of political will and by laws shielding the perpetrators, has led to an atmosphere where security forces believe they can get away with the most serious crimes without the threat of punishment.

Not only has the Indian government disregarded the demands of Manipuris and the findings of its own government-appointed committees, it has ignored concerns and recommendations by United Nations human rights bodies. For example, in 1997 the UN Human Rights Committee said that the continued use of the AFSPA in Manipur was tantamount to using emergency powers and recommended that the application of these powers be monitored to ensure compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Philip Alston, reported to the UN Human Rights Council in 2007 that despite the government of Manipur ordering "numerous inquiries into the alleged extrajudicial executions, none of them ultimately reached any meaningful conclusions." In 2007 the Committee on the International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination called for India to repeal the AFSPA and to replace it "by a more humane Act" in accordance with the recommendation contained in the leaked Jeevan Reddy committee report. The Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in February 2007 urged India to provide information on the steps being taken to abolish or reform the AFSPA and to ensure serious investigations and prosecutions of acts of violence against women by the military in so-called disturbed areas.

Key Recommendations

  • The government of India, the state government of Manipur, and all militant groups should place human rights protection mechanisms at the center of any attempt to resolve the conflict and ensure compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law.
  • The government of India should repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 as recommended by the government-appointed Jeevan Reddy committee.
  • The government of India and the state government of Manipur should investigate and prosecute government officials, including members of the armed forces, police, and paramilitary, responsible for human rights violations.
  • The government of India should arrest and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law all those found responsible for the 2004 murder of Thangjam Manorama Devi.
  • Armed groups should publicly denounce abuses committed by any militant group and ensure that there is appropriate accountability for such abuses.
  • Armed groups should immediately stop the abduction and recruitment of children into their forces.

Methodology

In early 2008, Human Rights Watch travelled to Manipur to investigate the human rights situation. With the assistance of human rights activists and lawyers, we investigated 18 cases of torture and extrajudicial killing since 2006. We interviewed government officials, army officers, police officials, politicians, lawyers, journalists, and human rights defenders. We conducted over 60 interviews in Manipur and supplemented with follow-up research through August 2008.

For Manorama's case, we met with Manorama's family, the lawyers who are pursuing her case, and Judge Upendra Singh, who conducted an investigation into the incident.

Most interviews with victims or their families were conducted privately. In some cases we used local NGO partners as translators. We also held group discussions with some activists, such as the members of the Meira Paibi.

Since there is an ongoing dialogue between the government and some of the groups operating in the hill districts of Manipur, counter-insurgency operations have reduced in scale. Most of the operations are in the Manipur valley to contain the Meitei and Muslim groups. Our investigations were thus limited to the valley areas.

In order to protect victims and others who might face reprisals by either side for speaking about them, names and any information that might identify them, such as places where interviews were held or specific dates of those meetings, have in certain cases been withheld.


Aboard the Opportunists’ Bandwagon
Writer, politics, Greg, research, social activist
gregmathews

By Zara Zulfiqar
ZoneAsia-Pk

The Syrian opposition bloc has had its eyes on a seat in the Arab League for weeks now, and is likely to push the demand further to the UN and OIC (Organization of Islamic Countries) as the self proclaimed representative of the Syrian people. Since the Arab League distanced itself from Assad, and after failed attempts to reach some mutual political solution, the League asked Assad's opposition to join the bandwagon. On 27 March 2013, Qatar went another notch ahead by allowing the Syrian opposition to open their embassy.

This weekend events caught pace dramatically. Barack Obama has decided to hold meetings with all the Sunni leaders in the region backing the opposition. These include Turkey, Jordan, Qatar and the UAE. These meetings, to be held over the next few months, starting April 16th, will allow Obama to gauge the varying demands within the opposition and region, and channelize them to gain momentum against Assad's regime. Disparate political, geographical and religious standpoints have landed these saviors in a critical deadlock. The infighting between the opposition groups has been a major factor for their failure so far. For Obama these meetings will cover more than just dilemma if the Syrian opposition. It will be an opportunity to bring Arab nations on board for the Palestine/Israel issue which is critical to relations between West and Muslim World.

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Fast Food: making you fat even faster
Writer, politics, Greg, research, social activist
gregmathews

Area 14/8

It's time to chose quality over convenience.

The not so recent rage over fast food hit Pakistan more than a decade ago when finally McDonalds decided to open in Lahore in 1998. What a milestone for Pakistan that was,when hopeful businessmen competed in a rat race to own the franchise. McDonalds has more than 30,000 outlets worldwide in 121 countries. Of these there are 27 in Pakistan,where families go with their children to stuff French fries and burgers,sugar drenched milkshakes and coffees. For all the right reasons McDonalds has become the face of the modern fast food fixation that has hit billions worldwide. Started in 1955 in Illinois,today McDonald's restaurants serve 69million customers per day.

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PAKISTAN SHAMED!!
Writer, politics, Greg, research, social activist
gregmathews

By Ghalib Sultan
Area 14/8

The picture on top says it all. A mob in the background and an exultant youth in the foreground with smoke, fire and burning homes all around. This was the scene in the heart of Lahore when Christian homes were set on fire because of alleged blasphemy by a Christian who had already been booked under the Blasphemy Law by the police on the complaint of a Muslim. The mob that went on the rampage looting and burning homes was apparently venting their rage. No one died and no injuries were reported but Pakistan's image was destroyed beyond repair-collateral damage from the point of view of the bigoted and the intolerant but a mortal blow to Pakistan for those whose heads hung in shame.

Now that the smoke has blown away, compensatory payments made to those who lost everything, the rebuilding process begun and some arrests made a clearer picture is slowly emerging. The Police advised the people to run for their lives hours before the mob arrived and they ran-the men, the women, the aged and the children all ran for their lives in all directions away from their homes leaving everything behind. Why did the police do this-to facilitate looting and burning, to save lives or because they did not want or could not face down the mob to protect lives and property? If the Police had advance information did this information flow upwards and if it did was it ignored? And if it did not then why not?

There are credible reports that the mob came prepared for their grisly task---with sticks, stones, gasoline cans etc. If so then this was no spontaneous venting of rage. This was a well planned event for which a large number of people had been mustered and prepared. If this was planned then who was behind it?- those who wanted the land on which the colony was built?- or those who had political motives and wanted to undermine the political administration in Punjab or was it a combination of both?. The land mafia would have known the consequences of such an atrocity and it is unlikely that they actually believed that the land would fall in their lap after the pillage. The political motive is more plausible and is also borne out by the fact that after the attack on the Christians some apparently counter attacks were organized on the pride and joy of the Punjab government-the new Metrobus system.

The Punjab government moved quickly to limit the damage and to begin rehabilitation work. An inquiry has also been ordered and arrests made. No doubt that there has been political fall-out but on the positive side people have rallied in support of the Christian community and against the forces of bigotry and intolerance that exist in society. There have been many previous incidents of this kind but never has exemplary punishment been awarded to deter such behavior. In the final analysis the blame must also go to people who are ready to undertake such criminal and reprehensible behavior.


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