The draft resolution on the right to food (document A/63/430/Add.2) was adopted by a recorded vote of 184 in favour to 1 against, with no abstentions, as follows:
In favour: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Against: United States.
Absent: Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Seychelles, Uganda.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
The display of wads of cash by opposition members of Parliament (MPs) during the trust vote on 22 July was a shameful moment for India’s parliamentary democracy. The findings of an in-house committee, chaired by Congress MP Kishore Chandra Deo, set up to investigate the allegations of payment of bribes are so poorly constructed and the conclusions so perfunctorily drawn that the dishonour of Parliament remains intact.
The allegation of the MPs from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who produced the cash notes in the Lok Sabha, was that they were paid by emissaries of wheeler-dealers from the ruling coalition. Much of the bribe-giving business was caught on tape in a sting operation, televised, albeit belatedly (which is another issue for exploration), by the news channel CNN-IBN. The MPS alleged that the bribes were given by Rajya Sabha member Amar Singh of the Samajwadi Party through intermediaries and that Ahmad Patel of the Congress was also involved. The parliamentary committee gave a clean chit to Amar Singh, and Ahmad Patel was also exonerated for want of evidence. The committee recommended investigation by “appropriate investigating agencies” of three (non-MP) individuals associated with the sting. The Lok Sabha Speaker, in turn, has referred the report to the Ministry of Home Affairs for action.
The prima facie conclusion that one can draw from the “sting video” carried out by a news channel on the allegations is that legislators and associated fellow-travellers belonging to the BJP were trying to set a trap for those willing to pay bribes – one of whom, a Sanjeev Saxena, is caught red-handed in the act. The committee saw it fit to recommend further investigation on the role of operators of the sting while showing little inclination to pursue those who were alleged to have used Saxena as the go-between – on the ground that the allegations on bribe payments could not be established.
That a technicality – a member of the Rajya Sabha cannot be summoned for questioning by a Lok Sabha committee – can excuse one of the prime accused, Amar Singh, from being interrogated by the panel points to the casual arguments used to build a case for eventual exoneration. Due diligence in examining the allegations through a study of phone records, investigation of the cash trail and perusal of other evidence has not been carried out. Surely a case can be made that the allegations of bribe-giving could have been better investigated through the aegis of an independent investigating agency, say, the Central Bureau of Investigation, rather than with the process followed and by the reasoning eventually offered by the parliamentary committee.
Two dissent notes were appended to the findings. Mohammad Salim representing the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Vijay Kumar Malhotra of the BJP pointed out the flaws in the proceedings and the partial nature of the process adopted by the committee. The reasoning that a committee of this nature was not empowered to launch a full investigation into the scandal then calls into question the very purpose of the constitution of this parliamentary committee.
The “cash for votes” scam is one of the many scandals that have shown Parliament in a very poor light. The working of this particular committee will only add to the growing cynicism over the parliamentary system. Graft, corruption, and abuse of public office are serious offences. That the parliamentary committee was so casual in its investigations and showed no serious interest in getting to the nub of the allegations and finding the real culprits brings out the level of nonchalance among those in positions of power towards issues such as corruption.
Only a truly independent investigation that covers all those allegedly involved in the scam/sting will assure a cynical public that Parliament will not brook such dishonour.
Editorial written for the Economic and Political Weekly
There has indeed been a lot of goodwill for the Maoists and for the democratic community to build a fresh, egalitarian constitution. No one expected that process to be smooth as the contradictions between the polity was bound to be laid out to the fore and each of the parties were to undergo a certain transformation in the new political game. If the UML had to adjust to the presence of a larger left party which was slowly but surely hegemonising their constituency, the Nepali Congress had to accommodate sections of the erstwhile monarchist right among its already hotch-potch coalition of liberal, social democrats and feudal sections. The Maoists, on the other hand had some catching up to do in a new liberal polity, where it had to subordinate itself to the rules of the "competitive game". They had "suffered birth pangs", as was seen in the way there was a disconnect between an accommodative leadership which was keen on fostering a broad coalition of democracy, and an assertive and confrontational mass organisation such as the YCL which was intent on building and retaining the hegemonic space, not to mention the more difficult transformation from a guerilla outfit involved in a people's war to a democratic political party.
At times, this disconnect created a rift between the Maoists and other political parties - in particular, the UML. But for the sake of a longer vision of a constitutional republic, these were in a way sorted out. Even then, time and again, the illiberal character of the mass organisations of the Maoists (admittedly in a chaotic socio-political system) has raised heads. One such incident is the simply unacceptable attack of the Himal media premises in Kathmandu where journalists affiliated to the weekly Nepalitimes, the Himal Khabarpatrika and others in Himalmedia were attacked by people who were identified as Maoist members of their restaurant workers union and others related to YCL (again).
As a report by Prashant Jha who writes a weekly column with Nepalitimes and is a consulting editor with Himal Magazine points out, it is not the case that the magazines have covered the Maoists favourably or indeed they have been objective about reporting on issues that are dear to the Maoists. But that is not a "grievance" to be addressed in this manner - violent targetting of the media offices and their journalists. Or is any other greivance enough to justify or legitimise a violent attack. After all, the modus operandi reminds this Indian journalist about the fascist attack by Hindu right wing groups in India - the Shiv Sena attack on Outlook magazine or the NCP goons' attack on Marathi journalists.
Clearly the "birth pangs" for the democratic Maoist party in a liberal polity, have continued. And this is untenable. Hegemonising public space by violence and intimidation will only backfire as the international community will obviously react with disgust and so too would other members of the media fraternity in the fledgling constitutional republic.
This writer, who has been sympathetic and supportive of the Nepali Maoist project in Nepal to achieve an egalitarian, developed and constitutional republic of Nepal, free from exploitation and international meddling, unequivocally condemns the violent attacks on the press, orchestrated by elements affilated to the Maoists.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
A Call for Sanity
A catastrophe awaits if the government takes military action against Pakistan.
For the 56 working poor who were mowed down by two murderers at VT station in Mumbai.
It is clearly time for television news channels to turn the judgmental gaze inward.
Moment of Truth for Pakistan’s Elected Government
To the disadvantage of the elected government in Pakistan, Mumbai has brought forward the moment of truth for the country’s tentative transition to democracy. We may not have long to wait to see which way the matter settles. India too has a role to play. A diplomatic, legal and institutional approach can help pin down the culprits, and may even help the transition in Pakistan.
Terror, Force and Diplomacy
“Limited war” or “surgical strikes” in retaliation for the Mumbai terror will be a senseless course of action, not the least because they will take India on the path of escalation and rather than achieve any of the desired ends, could have disastrous consequences in a nuclear neighbourhood. The struggle against terrorism requires us not only to keep our nerves but also to keep our heads. A far more productive approach would be bilateral, multilateral and United Nations-sanctioned diplomatic pressures on Pakistan to act on domestic terror groups. How the US and UK followed up on the Lockerbie bombing of 1988 and forced Libya to abandon state-sponsored terrorism is a relevant example. The options offered by UN Resolution 1373 constitute a related approach.
Governance Failures and the Anti-Political Fallout
The terror attacks in Mumbai that began on 26 November revealed a failure in governance on many fronts. The city has been victim to a string of disasters and crises in recent years, yet the emergency response was once again abysmal. A multiplicity of agencies was handing out information which was often incorrect. The people of Mumbai are very angry, but unlike in the past this anger shows little sign of being channelled into serious debate that will lead to constructive action. Instead the anti-political rhetoric that is being drummed up by the media will have a negative fallout and threatens to open the door for fascist tendencies.
Mumbai, Militarism and the Media
The media has encouraged talk that the Mumbai terror events of 26 November are India’s equivalent of the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States. There are indeed vital lessons to be learnt by India from the US experience with “9/11”, though not of the kind widely imagined. By stoking the anger of handpicked guests and unsubtly suggesting where the direct responsibility for the Mumbai outrage lies, the electronic news media, in particular, have seemingly predetermined whatever strategic choices may be available to India.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
This is a draft I wrote for EPW on the terror attack at VT (CST), Mumbai.
Attack on "everyday India"
The tragic deaths of victims of the terror attack at Mumbai's busiest railway station gets scarce coverage by an elite-driven media.
The senseless and horrific carnage at the Chattrapati Sivaji Terminus (CST) on November 26th , which killed 56 people (and counting) and injured scores of others, preceded the 62 hour siege of the Taj, Oberoi and Nariman House in the terrorist attack saga in Mumbai. Even as visuals in the mass media were focussed at the dramatic siege and military action in the hotels, many attacked at the iconic CST were dying of bullet wounds in hospitals, joining the ranks of others who died instantly at the location.
CST is an iconic structure that serves as a major landmark and junction for the arterial local (central) railway system in the city. CST is also the station where most people entering or leaving Mumbai disembark/embark. The first blast of bullets from the terrorists' guns - AK-47s, were fired at hapless passengers waiting to embark onto many of the long distance trains leaving Mumbai such as the Mahanagari Express leaving at midnight, the Siddheshwar Express at 2220 and the Husainsagar Express at 2150. Following this was indiscriminate firing at waiting passengers, railway workers, poorly equipped security guards, ticket counters and shops in the station.Grenades were also lobbed at the structures in the station. A bomb was also set up, but which failed to go off and was defused by the police a week after it was kept in the station.
The time of attack, peak travel hours for the citizenry of Mumbai, was chosen to inflict maximum damage. The targets were picked to massacre the people of “everyday India”- office goers, workers, day-labourers, traders, migrants, shopkeepers and all of whom who have made Mumbai the cosmopolitan hub that it is today. Among the many victims were the Walliullah family from Nawada in Bihar, who lost six of their members and computer engineer Upendra Yadav who is survived by injured wife Sunita and infant daughter Sheetal, still being treated for greivous wounds. Shivshankar Gupta, a hawker, four members of taxi driver Zahur Ansari's family, the yet to be identified people who succumbed to wounds in St.George's hospital, Janardhan's (of Jharkhand) two children, Ajaz Dalal's uncle, home guard Mukesh Jadhav, were also victims of the horror. Utensils seller Bharat Naodiya who ensured that his children, Viraj and Anjali were safe, even after he was shot and was bleeding profusely and who lost his wife Poonam, and many others; all of them were gunned down by bullets which were fired at them randomly, but deliberately. They joined the scores of other randomly targetted victims of bomb blasts which blew up trains and buses in Mumbai in the past in 2003 and 2006, for the simple fault that they were going about their daily lives.
The investigators of the terror attacks, the security and ruling establishments have claimed with certainty that the attackers were Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) trained terrorists. The LeT claims itself to be a jihadi organisation that endeavours to establishing Islamic rule over south Asia and for whom therefore the secular Indian state is a professed enemy. That its intended targets included many who professed their beliefs in Islam (atleast 22 of the 56 people confirmed dead in CST were Muslims) points out to the farcical fanaticism of the radical jihadi groups claiming to act in the name of religion. The terrorists who attacked CST went on to inflict more horror and deaths at the Cama hospital and nearby the Metro cinema, killing more defenseless and innocent people in the process.
The world was outraged at the acts of terror, but seemingly the focus was kept on the more spectacular attacks in the luxury hotels and the siege on Nariman House, where a hapless Jewish family was murdered. The victims at the CST were more or less afterthoughts - surely this is because the media (particularly the hysterical television media) were more concerned for the elite than the everyday Indian. The prominent coverage of the attacks and the victims at CST was reduced to flashing the images of terrorists - later "revealed" to be Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab (the lone terrorist in custody) and Abu Dera Ismael Khan, captured by circuit television camera installed at the station. Indeed, the lack of adequate coverage of the travails of those affected by the attacks at CST, points out to the indifference to the ordinary Indian for the mass media today, a stigma that has been much commented upon already.
The incidents slowly coming to light from the CST saga are heart-rending - brave policemen battling with inadequate weaponry, the presence of mind of the railway announcer Vishnu Zende and constable Jullu Yadav who prevented the deaths of even more people by warning them to stay inside the trains and not to alight when the station was being attacked and people acting as shields to save their kin and dying in the process. There could have been even more deaths - precisely what the terrorists wanted, but lives were saved and who would go on to tell more about the tragic incidents at "everyday Mumbai's hub". They may have been ordinary people who never caught the eye of the flash-bulbs or subjected to thrust microphones, but they were witness to probably the worst terrorist attack in India's cultural melting pot - Mumbai.
The terrorist attacks at the CST, the Taj, the Oberoi-Trident, Nariman House were following up a sequence of such attacks and bombings that has maimed the citizenry of Mumbai for the past few years. All of them were aimed at tearing up the communal fabric in the country. That those who died themselves belonged to various communities and identities, points out to the tragedy and farce of identity and communal politics, which are the basis and wellspring of terror committed in the name of identity.
A much modified but more poignant version of this was published as an EPW editorial here .
Friday, December 05, 2008
The above is a video featuring Prof. Tariq Amin Khan in The Real News Network.
And here is an article by Haris Gazdar in The Hindu.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
"There is not a single certified anti-war personality in the Obama's natural security dream team"
"Exit the megalomaniac neocon dream and enter the hawkish pragmatists! Take your pick - Empire Classic or Empire Lite"