The stone pelters of Palestine & Kashmir: hooligans or freedom fighters?

I’m honored to have an article coming out in Kashmir Mirage on the stone pelter–hooligan or freedom fighter? It was hard to write because Kashmiris could run me around the block with what they know so I directed it to those who don’t really understand the phenomenon of stone pelters in Palestine & Kashmir.

I of course consider them tough-minded freedom fighters &, more than a David & Goliath thing writ large, a citizen’s defense guard. People can get all high & mighty about the violence involved but what would we have them do against a high-tech brutal army? Stop protesting human rights crimes? Submit to oppression? Let unarmed protesters stand defenseless against pellet guns? The oppressed have the right to defend themselves “by any means necessary.”

Those blessed with extra dough might consider donating to Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), a private rescue group operating in the Mediterranean, or to MSF/ Doctors Without Borders who are also involved in rescue operations in the Mediterranean. Consider that like an investment tip from a broker who gets no commission.

The Mediterranean Sea has become world’s largest graveyard because refugee rights are flouted

Refugees pulles from sea after drowning May 24 2017

Normally, it’s advisable to avoid gruesome images, not to shelter us from the cruel realities millions of others live with nor out of feigned squeamishness about facing reality, but because people more often feel overwhelmed & discouraged by the magnitude of human suffering rather than inspired to fight injustice.

But we do need to bear witness to the refugee crises so we have no excuse not to act. There were 34, mostly small children victims of the incident yesterday. This is a MOAS rescue vessel bringing in the bodies of some who drowned. There have been several hundred who’ve drowned so far this year in the Mediterranean & no agency that has a clue just how many.

Two UN refugee agencies keep tallies but in fact no one is monitoring how many people are stuffed into boats nor how many boats are leaving Libyan shores. Tens of thousands have set sail. Fifty thousand have been rescued at sea. Three years ago, it was estimated that already 25,000 had drowned in the Mediterranean, turning it into one of the world’s largest graveyards. This has gone on for years without political action except for the massive protest a few months back in Barcelona & smaller protests in Italy. This is the same scenario on the US-Mexico border; in Bangladesh, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Australia, Turkey, Greece & eastern Europe. Thousands of Rohingya refugees were left stranded in boats to drown in the Andaman Sea in May 2015 & not a single agency or human rights group has uttered a peep of concern at this monstrous human rights crime.

The hallmark of neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism is wars & refugees. How we respond to those issues determines the future of humanity, the world our children will grow up in, & the values they will hold.

Our response must be to demand governments open the borders & grant asylum. No human being is alien to us.

(Photo tweeted by MOAS founder Regina Catrambone)

Grieving African mother after the drowning of her baby in the Mediterranean: a human rights crime

Grieving African mother refugee May 24 2017

An African mother grieves after the drowning of her baby in the Mediterranean when an overpacked refugee boat suddenly listed sending 200 occupants into the sea. At least 34 people drowned, most of them toddlers according to rescuers.

It’s not certain from reports where the drownings happened but it appears to be in Italian waters because the Italian coast guard commented to media about it although it does not participate in rescue operations. The survivors were rescued by the group Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), a private rescue group.

This bereft mother is in a rescue boat off the coast of Lampedusa, Italy, an island refugees are trying to reach & which has always welcomed refugees as fellow humans, even at times denouncing the Italian government for its criminal misconduct toward refugees.

Our deepest condolences to the families of those who drowned. There are no words sufficient but only action to defend the right of refugees & immigrants to asylum with full rights.

(Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Duterte’s imposition of martial law in a region of the Philippines & his threat to impose it on all of the country is quite alarming–especially coming days after threatening to “decapitate” human rights activists who oppose his death squad war on the poor.

Our fullest solidarity with our brothers & sisters in the Philippines.

A couple caveats I picked up along the way:

My little Daisy’s new caretaker (where she is very loved & happy) told me she is recovering from her 17th surgery after complications from gastric bypass surgery & that she has learned that destruction of health is common for all such operations other than the sleeve. No one warned her about this.

My car had a serious chugging thing on acceleration. The auto repair told me I needed a transmission overhaul for $1,500. I took it to another less upscale repair (run by a Mexican immigrant) who said it needed maintenance, not an overhaul, & fixed it for $100. It now runs smooth as a top. So the advice is, do maintenance on your transmission. And support immigrant rights.

About Kashmiri Pandits from “Kashmir and the Intifada of the Mind: An interview with Sanjay Kak” by David Barsamian

This is about Kashmiri Pandits from “Kashmir and the Intifada of the Mind: An interview with Sanjay Kak” by David Barsamian, in January 2014:

David Barsamian: “One of the themes reiterated by those who support continued “occupation” of Kashmir by Indian security forces is the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits, the Kashmiri Hindu Brahmins. These people say they were forced out, brutalized, and they lost everything. You are a Kashmiri Pandit and your family is from Kashmir originally. What credence do you give to those kinds of reports?”

Sanjay Kak: “That’s a fact. The years 1989, 1990, and 1991 were very chaotic in Kashmir. There was a sudden and almost unplanned armed insurrection. There was an immediate and brutal crackdown and conditions were terrible. There was chaos in the air. In that situation, the Kashmiri Pandits, who were only 2 percent of the population, found themselves extremely vulnerable, despite the fact that there was a long history, if not of great cordiality, but certainly of mutual respect between the Muslim majority and the Hindu Brahmin minority.

But I think what we don’t recognize is that in that chaos there were all kinds of forces who would use that community in order to achieve other ends. We’re talking about, say, a population of probably not more than 150,000 people. And it is true that in 1990 and 1991, about 200 people from this small community were killed. Of course, it’s also true that in that same period probably 8,000 Kashmiri Muslims were killed. But we’re not doing math here, we’re not doing an equation of how many more people died because it’s true that even in a minority of 150,000, if 200 get killed, it is going to panic those people.

But the question is, who did those killings? It’s not Kashmiri Muslims who killed them. It’s important to identify and bring to book people responsible for the killings, whether they were Hindus or Muslims is not relevant. But in a time like that, in this completely chaotic, turbulent early 1990s, it’s very difficult to say who wanted to precipitate a crisis. Because if I were an extremist fringe militant organization, I might want to attack Kashmiri Pandits in order to precipitate a certain polarization between the communities. It could be argued that from the Indian state’s point of view also, the targeting of the Kashmiri Pandits served a useful purpose because it allowed the Indian state to paint the movement there, which saw itself as a movement for the liberation of Kashmir, as a fundamentalist Islamic movement. And as we discussed, there is also criminality. So if there were three families in a remote village and somebody had an eye on their land, in those prevailing chaotic circumstances, it would be possible to target those people and benefit from it.

Where I stand, apart from the general discourse on the position of the Kashmiri Pandits, is that I do not believe that this makes Kashmiri Muslims as a community or as a people culpable for those few crimes. That’s something in my work I’ve always tried to avoid. The troubles in Kashmir have not been communal in nature. That’s the word that we in India use for the tension between Hindus and Muslims. We use a polite term for it. “Communal tensions” they are called. There is no denying the fact that Kashmiri Pandits were in severe danger in Kashmir in the early 1990s. There is no doubt they were targeted and killed. And in the resultant chaos there was an exodus of this minority over the space of a few years left Kashmir.
It must also be at the same time that however tragic this was, the state made no attempt to stop that exodus. In the early 1990s, India was being riven with this new right-wing Hindu mobilization. And so the Kashmiri Pandit minority who left Kashmir at a time like that fell straight into the hands of the Hindutva right wing. That was the real tragedy, that what was a chaotic situation, which was local to Kashmir and could perhaps have been resolved in other ways. Suddenly, it became an issue around which Hindu mobilization in India was being constructed and Kashmir became an integral part of that.

Were Kashmiri Pandits forced to leave Kashmir? Yes, circumstances did force them. Were they victims? Of course they were. But they were victims in the same way that Kashmiri Muslims were victims. If we were to take a count of the migration during the 1990s from the Kashmir Valley, I can tell you more Kashmiri Muslims left for various reasons. But because they are Muslims, it’s not seen in the same way. One of the great tragedies of what has happened in Kashmir in the 1990s is that the distinctions between Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Hindus suddenly were cast in concrete. As I said before, it’s not exactly as if the two communities were absorbed in each other. They were separate and distinct, but they had found a way of surviving for centuries. It could have retained that quality, but it didn’t.”