Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Amritsar Massacre, Memory, misguided religious Nationalism, and recent Homicides in India

Amritsar Massacre, Memory, misguided religious Nationalism, and recent Homicides in India

By Kevin Stoda, just back from a tour of India

This year I finally pilgrimaged to an important place of mourning in India. (Sadly, if one is reading the papers about bombings in Gujarat this week, more mourning is certainly anticipated.)

I had traveled to India in order to stay at a hotel overlooking the grounds where the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, also known as the Amritsar Massacre, had taken place on April 13, 1919.

If anyone has seen Richard Attenborough’s classis film, Gandhi, they know the unforgettable depiction of one scene whereby a British brigidier general, named Reginald Dyer had entered a small enclosed park of sorts, whereby thousands of Punjabis were protesting a recent crackdown on civil rights in India under the British Raj. In the Attenborough movie, the Amritsar massacre is revealed in all its criminality. A multicultural group of Indians of many faiths & with no weapons in hand are gunned down in a relentless barrage. In fact, within minutes there were about 400 deaths and more than a thousand others injured. http://www.thecore.nus.edu.sg/post/india/history/colonial/massacre.html The victims had been ordered to disband.

However, the brigidier general Dyer decided not to wait for a reply. He sent bullets flying.

This point needs to be made very clear--apparently all of those victims in that 1919 Jallianwala Bagh Massacre were unarmed!

In the film, Gandhi is seen crying for these people at a well in the ancient garden called Jallianwala Bagh. Dozens died jumping away from fire into a well in Jallianwala Bagh Massacre This martrys well, where so many died, is still in Jallianwala Bagh where a memorial park and small museum of commemoration are found.


Daily a flame is also lit in the Jallianwala Bagh park. It was at this memorial flame on the first of my three or four visits to Jallianwala Bagh that I experienced the ugly underside of Hindhu nationalism at a fairly personal level.

At the time, two Sikhs were showing me around the Jallianwala Bagh park. Earlier, I had shared with these Sikhs that the main reason for my traveling to Amritsar was to do a pilgrimage to the site of this very memorable event in the history of Indian Independence and the life of my hero, Gandhi.

I told my Sikh friends that I could see the “eternal flame” from my bedroom window. So, for the second time that afternoon, I approached the commemorative flame to point to my bedroom window—beyond a far tree. Suddenly, five turbaned men came up and informed me, “Take off your shoes in this area.”

It isn’t unusual in India at temples and at some other venues to be asked to take off one’s shoes, but almost always there is a sign was posted to that effect. I looked around and observed no sign. I recalled also, “No one had been taking his or her shoes off on the marbled area around that commemorative flame when I had come by earlier.”

The two young Sikhs with me also argued with those 5 turbaned Hindhus who had appointed themselves the local (national) memorial police that particular half-hour.

As my Sikhfriends argued with the Hindhus who were dressed to look particularly pious that afternoon, I walked back to the marbled area around the flame, and shouted to my Sikh friends--as I pointed to my own bedroom window at the hotel—,“That is where I stay!”

Immediately, those very tall Hindhus all turned toward me and pulled me away from that particular part of the memorial and indicated angrily that they didn’t want any foreigners—or anyone of any faith—desecrating the hallowed area near the “eternal flame”.

As my Sikh friends and I no longer felt welcome, we left Jallianwala Bagh. I asked them, “Why did those guys do that? I mean, why are they pretending to set the rules for everyone visiting the site? Do they do this all of the time?”

I was told that this rarely happened, and there certainly were no such rules about taking one’s shoes off in that park. (These Sikhs lived nearby and visited all of the time.)

The Sikhs simply added, “These Hindhu nationalists come here to stir up trouble only sometimes.”


A few days before my visit to Amritsar in June, in the large city of Mumbai there were a series of protests by Sikhs. The first one was an attack on an MTV station due to its showing of a poster of one female Sikh giving a massage. The Sikh community in Mumbai found this degrading.


It should be noted that Mumbai is situated in the state of Maharashtra, which has been governed by Hindhu political parties in recent decades. The second set of protests by Sikhs in Mumbai a few days later were more serious. According to most newspapers in the area, the Sikhs had real reason to be up in arms this time:

“In a show of solidarity, hundreds of Sikh protesters of Andhra Pradesh today took out huge protest rally and burnt the effigies of controversial . . . guru of Dera Saccha Sauda chief Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh whose body guards killed an innocent 42-year-old Sikh, Barkarar Singh Bhatti in Mumbai during a protest against the spiritual guru by a Sikh group in Mulund.” http://www.sikhnet.com/daily-news/dera-row-sikh-protest-cripples-mumbai

The Dera leader referred to fled the scene and state of Maharashtra after the unwarrented shooting of a the Sikh, Barkarar Singh Bhatti, in a public shopping mall. The police in Mumbai made no move to stop the Dera leader’s, Baba Singh’s flight.

By the way, “guru” means teacher, so a Hindu guru, like Singh is equvalent to an imam in Islam. I should also note that one or two of the Mumbaieditorialists did not take the Sikh protest well and complained it was all just another example of sectarianism out of control. http://www.livemint.com/2007/12/05225220/Punish-rioters-not-writers.html

This criticism of all ethnic protests may be because an editorial writer in Gujarat had been arrested earlier this year for making fun of some Hindhu political leadership. (The court freed the man and critized the Gujarati government for its not taking criticism well.) http://churumuri.wordpress.com/2008/06/01/a-disgraceful-assault-on-media-freedom/


Now, in summer 2008, India is facing a new way wave of bombings. Again, the trend seems to be one of religious bullies attacking others of another faith--or of various sorts of nationalists attempting to provoke war or civil war.

This last weekend there were a series of bombings in Ahmadedbad. http://sathyasaibaba.wordpress.com/2008/07/27/indian-bombings-bomb-blasts-in-india-pray-for-peace/ On that day, July 26, there were at least 16 bombs in all and about 50 people were killed and another 150 were injured in apparently sectarian violence in Ahmadedbad City. The same group who has claimed to have undertaken these bombings in Gujarat, this month also claimed that it had undertaken similar bombings in Jaipur in Rajistan several months earlier.

This particular group claims to be Jihadist, i.e. Islamic nationalist, but the Indian police and secruity forces are begin cautious in releasing any findings as it is not unknown for Hindu nationalist groups to stage riots or violence and then blame it on Muslims or other minorities in the country. http://www.newindpress.com/NewsItems.asp?ID=IEH20080726112619&Page=H&Title=Top+Stories&Topic=0 Likewise, occasionally other minorities, hindu organizations, and/or nationalist groups do things to antaganize the rest of society.

For example, there were a series of train strikes in many states of northern India this month caused by a power struggle over property in Jammu state. http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/ndtv/story.aspx?id=NEWEN20080055520 (I was caught in one of those strikes and observed other trains delayed by up to 14 hours coming from the north one weekend.)

Ahmadedbad, Gujarat was likely the chosen site of attacks on July 26 because Gujarat has been on an upswing in recent years following both a devastating earthquake and horrible intra-sectarian riots between Muslims and Hindhus there that had left hundreds of more dead and thousands homeless in the 2000 to 2002 period. http://infochangeindia.org/200605065528/Human-Rights/Features/Commerce-papers-over-the-cracks-between-Hindus-and-Muslims.html

Meanwhile, one of the more devastating bombing attacks on India actually occurred in Kabul this month. Many Indians blame this bombing in Afghanistan in early July on either Pakistan secret security forces or someone they work with. http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/ISI-involved-in-Kabul-bombing-on-Indian-embassy-NSA/334809/


I need to end this piece by stating that in my travels in India this month, I have found little simpathy for anyone who bombs, mames or disturbs other people through strikes (arresting journalists criticizing government).

In short, despite a continued history of violence and tenstion of ethnic, religious and nationalist vain, India is holding together and should for a long time. I’m am certain that, on the one hand, if Mohandes Gandhi were alive today, he would be proud of how far many Indians have come and how committed they are to peace amongst others of other faiths, nationalities and tribes.

On the other hand, Gandhi would cry at the bombings and intolerance perpetuated on Indian peoples today. Especially, the continuing rift between Pakistanis and Indians would very much depress the Mahatma.

We all should.

I advocate that Americans and the US government do more to build ties of people-to-people support with South Asians. Support doesn’t always need to be monetary, it can be through other acts of solidariaty and taking time to get to know one another.

I recall meeting a Sikh out in Los Angeles, just week after the London train bombings in 2005. This particular Sikh shaved his head rather than having long curls. He had done this for decades because of the prejudices he had felt upon moving to the USA in the 1980s.

That same Sikh also shared that he knew personally the poor misguided murder of the 52-year old Sikh in Mesa, Arizona in 2001. That Sikh had been killed by an intolerant American who equated turbans with those who attacked the USA on 9-11. http://www.tribuneindia.com/2001/20010917/main4.htm

Let’s really work on improving our global relationships in 2008-2000, readers!!! We need to link arms with others around the globe fighting intolerance—among whatever faith or nationality. http://www.asianews.it/index.php?art=8856&l=en


“Deadly Blast Strikes Indian City”,http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7527004.stm

“History of Commu nal Violence in Gujarat”, http://www.sabrang.com/tribunal/volI/comvio.html

“Macauly’s Education: part 2”, http://varnam.org/blog/archives/2007/08/macaulays_education_part_2_rel.php

Mishra, Pramod, “People’s Diplomacy for Peace in South Asia: With Special Emphasis on India and Pakistan”, http://www.allacademic.com//meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/1/7/9/6/7/pages179671/p179671-1.php

Mohan, Damini, “Continuing our Fight Against Racism and Xenophobia”, http://www.expressnews.ualberta.ca/article.cfm?id=7417

Religious Intolerance of Sikhs, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXdCDDIiyJU

United Nations: Press Release, 20 March 2008, http://www.unhchr.ch/huricane/huricane.nsf/view01/ECE8B4EEABBCDC2FC12574120050E1E6?opendocument


Saturday, July 12, 2008



By Kevin Anthony Stoda

I am writing from Manali in Himachal Pradesh, India. This is a land where many Bollywood films have had their dance scenes filmed. With the Himalayas, the fruit orchards, 50-meter tall trees, gardens and villages as their singing backdrops, there is little doubt that there is eye candy galore to film or view here.

As a matter of fact, one local TV station runs non-stop musicals set in the hills and villages in the immediate area.

This isn’t all kitsch either. There are some great showcases in some Bollywood films for local traditional clothing and lifestyle to be witnessed in observing over-and-over again such footage.

As a matter of fact, the connection between the rural traditions and modern India can be witnessed all around one here. (This was definitely not quite the case a decade ago before the advent of great internet and telecommunication networks coming to the Himalayan towns of northern India.)

At the same time, one can feel transported to a basic way of life not experienced in Europe for several centuries. Just five to fifteen minutes outside of the tourist centers in the region, you can be on your own in the trees or walking in hillside villages that have no motorized vehicles used on the farms, gardens, and orchards. This is the way life is in this part of India--up into the highland peaks reaching to more than 6000meters all the way to Nepal and Tibet.

In short, ideal alpine life meets tourism (crash commercialism) at the edges of India’s villages. However, India has many different faces, and the distinction between life in the rural areas and life in the cities here in this land (of one-billion-plus citizens) is as astounding in its contrasts and contradictions as can be found anywhere else on the planet earth.


Over a century ago, Gandhi began to tell the British and the Europeanized Indian citizenry of that era that India was really to be encountered in the towns and village of the subcontinent.

Interestingly, this situation remains to be a surprisingly accurate description for India in the third millennia.

Recently, on my short stopover in Mumbai (on my way north this excursion to India0, I met with one of the head managers of the HIV/AIDS project for the Society of Service to Voluntary Agencies (SOSVA) in India. http://www.sosva.org/
According to its own website, “SOSVA works with field NGOs to implement projects, ensure that funds are used effectively, monitor performance; and assure transparency. SOSVA is one of the main implementing partners of Family Health International (FHI) to initiate, guide and monitor interventions with marginalized groups in Mumbai and Thane as part of the HIV/AIDS prevention project of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.”

In other words, SOSVA is an umbrella NGO. It tries to link the needs of rural and urban communities. It tries to trouble shoot and build bridges between caregivers and the needy throughout the state of Maharashetra. It fills in the gaps that the state and NGO networks have been unable to attend to over the past decades. It is also consistently working to get more and more local communities involved in their own empowerment.


HIV/AIDs has long ago made the crossover from being a cosmopolitan problem in India. It is a problem in rural communities, too. However, underdevelopment of the infrastructure (in rural areas of India over the last 60 years of Indian history) has made diseases, like HIV, TB/respiratory & dysentery-related illnesses all-to prevalent.

This is partially due to the Nehru-style centralized development practices implemented for far too many decades, i.e. this soviet-style centralization had left the local communities of India fairly underdeveloped by the end of the 20th Century.
These underdevelopments have occurred in the areas of health, education, and physical infrastructure, like roads & highway improvements and the creation of better train services and regional metro networks in states like Maharashetra, where Mumbai is located. The long-term centralization of India, i.e. after the British left in 1947, has hurt the local autonomy and growth of local political counterweights to demand better rural development.

For example, to this very day (i.e. July 2008), according to residents of local towns throughout Himachal Pradesh, townships receive “only enough funding” from the central governments to provide for “the bare maintenance of roadways—and this is a major tourist destination. They have little-to-no say in making intermediate and long-term plans.

That is, local communities cannot make long term development plans with centralized parties in the statehouse or in Delhi always controlling their purse strings. Local communities in India need to get permission to cut through red tape and create their own sources of income and development—without having to bow to the regional and national elite who control both the parties and the civil services in India.
According to the most recent Indian census, over 70% of the nations 1.1 billion people live in rural areas. There are over 638,000 villages in the land. (This is all in a territory in which makes up only 2.45% of the total world surface area. ) In short, 2.45% of the world’s land surface is holding 16.7 % of the total world population.

These facts are all part of the story of India in the 21st century.

On the other hand, India suffers already with the planet’s third largest number of HIV/AIDS--It will have 3 million or more cases by the end of this decade.

On the other hand, this bodes also some good news, because nearly 99% of the people in India do not have AIDS currently.

The bad news is that India has a large and growing population of under-educated peoples, including those from Kashmir and Jammu that have seen more violence than normal the past two decades. Further, many people are creating rumors about condoms and safe sex that are just not true—I reads such bizarre editorials in Goan newspapers just last month.

Likewise, historically in India most sex practices are not very up-to-date in the fight against aids in many part of the country. There are huge populations of sex workers.

Further, India has a high number of at risk persons, such as homosexuals, prison inmates, long-distance truckers, migrant workers (including refugees from neighboring lands, like Bangladesh), and street children.

NOTE: Many street children, of course, come from families who are migrating from rural areas to the city. However, I have seen children begging in the street in small villages as well.

As noted above, the centralized manner of development in India has often helped the larger cities in recent decades to develop. This growth has also been mirrored by the growth in the number of hospitals and hospital beds to be found in urban centers.

These structures and specialized clinics are lacking in many parts of many states these days.

When I was in Amritsar, Punjab, the city had just opened its own trauma clinic for the first time. Before this year, patients had to be taken to another state for such care.

Similarly, hospitals of all types are not distributed at all fairly in India, e.g. the state of Kerala has 2,053 hospitals while a state with 7 times its population, Utter Pradesh, has only has 735 hospitals.

This phenomena has partially been because the private hospitals (normally NGO or non-profit care giving institutions) have come from urban living dwellers’ inspirations—while rural areas, which are underdeveloped in terms of educational and economic infrastructure, have had to rely fully on the centralized states planning of the health care delivery in India.

To be sure, Indian health care has continued to have successes over each and every decade. For example, just in the last ten years infant mortality rate went down over 20 percent between 1994 and 2004. However, infant mortality rates in rural areas are over 35% higher than in urban centers.

Meanwhile, both malnutrition rates and the rising number of cases of drug-resistant TB are major concerns in India today.


The aforementioned NGO, named SOSVA, is an impressive group that works with health care NGOs and clinics throughout the states of Maharashetra and Haryana. SOSVA has also helped create its own regional pharmaceutical firm to keep the costs down for its 250 cooperating institutions.

Alas, India has nearly 30 other states and territories & horizontal and vertical integration of healthcare and educational programs is needed throughout the subcontinent. (India is by constitution a federal state and needs to act more like one.)

All the holes in health and educational programs need to be filled in during the coming decade. Local groups need to be banded together to work with (a) government agencies-, (b) other NGOs, and (c) even for-profit health care organizations more effectively in the future.

NOTE: This in no way implies that traditional medications, holistic treatment, and aruvedic-like techniques shouldn’t be fully integrated into patient therapies and in community health education settings.

The problem is in India that horizontal and regional health care developments have been hindered by the vertical history of India’s three-tiered medical care system, which simply centralized training and prowess while transporting patients and physicians to urban areas, i.e. when things got a little too complex for the ill-trained local health personnel to handle. There was little incentive for people to grow knowledge, know-how, and improve facilities locally and most effectively.


It might be good for India to decentralize rural development a bit more by creating a Council on Local Authorities and International Relations http://www.clair.or.jp/e/index.html
, as Japan has done, to facilitate rural and international developmental relations in terms of economic, education, and technical exchanges. Such a program works not only in health care but across the economic and educational exchange spectrum to empower countries around Asia. It also empowers local communities to reach out to the world like never before.

If India’s 600,000-plus villages can learn to work with other Asian countries on Asian-solutions to the log-jam of local & regional underdevelopment--which has plagued India-- (rather than depending on the gifts of political party monopolies at center and regional levels), perhaps more substantial development can be achieved more quickly in India.

Such an increase in exchanges of people-to-people (in rural and local community development) and know-how among cultures and concerned volunteers around the globe cannot hurt India today.

This international development exchange suggestions means simply linking local communities across the globe directly to one another and bypassing a lot of the centralized politics and purse strings of misguided bureaucrats and party leadership—who are afraid of allowing local people to shape their own destiny (and afraid of giving local peoples the purse strings and educational tools to grow on their own.)

This CLAIR suggestion is just one of the many ways, like the need to create other regional SOSVA’s in India, which can further empower villages in India and can eventually change the world for the better.

The world wants to see India do better. You are the planet’s largest democracy in this millennium and we want you to succeed. But politically, socially, economically and educationally India needs to do better and think out of the box that 60 years of mediocre governance has brought you!


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I Want to Help Raise More Awareness for People Who Need Help in Burma

Only a few times each year do I give a guest writer a chance to share on my blog, THE TEACHER. The following is an article, which appeared today at http://www.opednews.com/articles/Who-will-give-attention-to-by-Zin-Linn-080706-460.html or OP-ED NEWS.

I have been interested in helping the Burmese since I met the founders of the Japanese Burmese Relief Center, Ken and Visakha Kawasaki, at a JET teaching conference in 1992. I thrice went to Thailand to donate. Now, as a teacher, I encourage you to read and learn.

Please discuss what you and your community can do to help the various peoples of Burma today!!!!

Who will give attention to the issue of Burma's longest serving prisoner of conscience?

By Zin Linn

The UDHR’s article 1 says: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” But, U Win Tin, famous prisoner of conscience of Burma, cannot even enjoy its first item.

The UDHR’s article 7 and 9 say respectively: “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.” (A.7)

“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.” (A.9)

However, the Burmese junta’s arbitrary court sentenced unfair imprisonments toward U Win Tin in the absence of public including his lawyer.

The UDHR’s article 19 says: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

But, several journalists including U Win Tin in the military run country are taken into custody for their dissident opinions.

U Win Tin is the world’s longest serving “prisoner of conscience” and “veteran journalist of Burma”.

Two press freedom associations, Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association issued a statement calling for the release of the veteran journalist, who has spent 19 years in solitary confinement under the inhumane junta’s detention. His health has deteriorated in the past few days.

“It will be exactly 19 years on 4 July since Burma’s military arrested Win Tin,” the groups’ statement highlighted. “The government, which has a responsibility to protect the life of its citizens, should now release him,” it went on.

That famous imprisoned journalist has constantly refused to sign a confession promising to abandon his political career as a condition of his release. The 79-year-old journalist admitted to the hospital for second surgical treatment to a hernia in January 2008. The first surgical treatment to his hernia was in March 1995.

Former editor-in-chief of The Hantharwaddy Daily of Mandalay was awarded the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, the World Association of Newspapers' Golden Pen of Freedom Award and Reporters without Border/Foundation de France Prize for his efforts to defend and promote freedom of expression.

Burma has been called “the world's largest prison for prisoners of conscience” including political prisoners and journalists. Burma’s distinguished prisoner of conscience, U Win Tin is one of Burma's most established journalists and executive member of the National League for Democracy (NLD). He has spent 19 years or one fourth of his life in prison. U Win Tin suffers from a serious heart condition and is being treated at the Rangoon General Hospital where he is confined to a tiny box-cell designed for political prisoners.

U Win Tin has been imprisoned since 4th July 1989 in a special cell of the infamous Insein Prison in Rangoon. U Win Tin is the former editor-in-chief of the Hanthawadi Daily, in Mandalay and vice-president of the Burmese Writers and Journalists Association. He was convicted and sentenced to three consecutive prison-terms to a total of 21 years in prison. One of the charges against him stems from his 1995 human rights abuses report in prison to Mr. Yozo Yokota, the then United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Situation of Human Rights in Burma..

U Win Tin was also imprisoned because of his senior position as key consultant to Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD). He was thrown into jail for additional years because of attempting to inform the United Nations about human rights violations in prisons under the military rule. Military rulers also accused him of writing political commentaries and poems to be circulated among political prisoners in Insein Prison, where possession of writing materials was forbidden.

The journalist told a friend who was allowed to visit him in 2007: "Two prison officers asked me at a special meeting last week whether I would resume political activities if I were released. I told them that I will definitely do so since it is my duty as a citizen to strive for democracy."

In 1996, in the notorious Insein Prison, the military intelligence personnel regularly visited U Win Tin in order to examine his political stand. They took him to their office in the prison and questioned him on various topics. They frequently tried to persuade him to join the junta. But U Win Tin always turns down their offers.

U Win Tin narrated the author, who was in the same cell-block at that time, about an incident with the authorities. “It happened in 1991,” he said. “They took me out of my cell to an exhibition - The Real Story under the Big Waves and Strong Winds - held at Envoy Hall in Rangoon. The aim of the exhibition was to deplore the 1988 uprising as a riot created by destructive elements and terrorists,” said U Win Tin.

He recounted that there was a big character poster at the doorway of the exhibition saying, “Only when the Tatmadaw [military] is strong, will the nation be strong.” There were many galleries in the show. Each gallery highlighted the role of the army and emphasized that it was the sole force that could defend the nation.

The show also described the junta's discrimination against the role of the democratic institutions and societies. “The final conclusion is that no one except the generals cannot control the unity of the nation including the Sovereignty," said U Win Tin.

After witnessing the show, the authorities asked U Win Tin what he thought about the exhibition and inquired his opinion and attitude toward the stratocracy. They gave him some paper and a pen and told him to write down his opinion about the show. "I wrote down my criticism. I used 25 sheets of paper. It was a blunt commentary. I made my explanation in a sense of sincerity and openness. But it irritated them severely," he told me later.

First of all, he criticized the army’s motto, “Only when the army is strong will the country be strong.”

“It's the logic of the generals to consolidate militarism in Burma,” he explained to me later. ‘Their logic tells us that they are more important than the people and they used to say they are the Savior of the country that’s why they grab the sovereign power. That means they neglect the people’s desire.”

Thus he wrote: “The slogan tells us that Burma is going against a policy of peace and prosperity.” He went on to explain his understanding of the role of the army as guardian of the nation but no obligation to involve in the administrative affairs.

He said, “The real thing is that the military comes out of the womb of the people. Thus, the slogan must be like this: ‘The people are the only parents of the military.’ Anyone who does not care about his own parents is a rogue,” he pointed out to the generals.

He also emphasized that if the generals really loved peace and wanted prosperity for the nation, they needed to truthfully reflect on their limitations. The generals might want what’s best for the country, but they did not know how to handle the entire state of affairs. They are accustomed to mismanagement.

“Eventually, I came straight to the point: The army must go back to the barracks. That will make everything better in Burma,” he narrated me plainly.

The junta was very disgruntled with his criticism and accused him of advising Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to launch civil disobedient campaign in 1989. Then, they made another lawsuit against him and increased additional 11 more years jail-term.

They put him alone in his cell. The cell was 8.5 x 11.5 feet. There was only a bamboo mat on the concrete floor. Sleeping, eating, walking and cleaning the bowels were done in the very same place. He could not see the sun, the moon or the stars. He was intentionally barred from breathing fresh air, tasting nourishing food and drinking a drop of fresh water. The worst thing was throwing the old writer into solitary confinement in such a cage for two decades.

In 1994, US Congressman Bill Richardson met U Win Tin in Insein jail. Since that time he has continuously suffered from various health problems such as spondylitis, hernia, heart disease, failing eyesight, urethritis and hemorrhoids. It’s surprised to everyone of how tough this gallant journalist with so many health problems.

For the junta, U Win Tin is really a man of steel. Although they wish to defeat him, they could never do it.

U Win Tin’s case is good example for human rights violations under inhumane regime.

Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) says: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

But, 79-year-old-man has been suffering a variety of inhumane tortures and languishing unjust punishments for 19 years, now entering into two decades.

The United Nations must take responsibility to flex its muscles on issue of breaking the principle of UDHR by such unmanageable regime in Burma.

Authors Website: xxx

Authors Bio: Zin Linn was born on February 9, 1947 in a small town in Mandalay Division. He began writing poems in1960 and received a B.A (Philosophy) in 1976. He became an activist in the High School Union after the students' massacre on 7th July 1962. He then took on a role as an active member in the Rangoon Division Students' Union. He Participated in a poster-and-pamphlet campaign on the 4th anniversary of 7 July movement and went into hiding to keep away from the military police. He was still able to carry out underground pamphlet campaigns against the Burmese Socialist Programme Party ( BSPP). However, in 1982, he fell into the hands of MI and served two years imprisonment in the notorious Insein prison. In 1988 he took part, together with his old students' union members, in the People's Democracy Uprising. In November of that year, he became an NLD Executive Committee Member for the Thingangyun Township and later became superintendent of the NLD Rangoon Division Office. In 1991, he was arrested because of his connections with the exiled government, the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB), and the Democratic Alliance of Burma (DAB) and Sentenced to 7 years imprisonment in the notorious Insein Prison. As a consequence, his wife, who was a curator in a museum in Rangoon, was dismissed from her position immediately. His children were also harassed by the military intelligence from getting good education. In last week of December 1997 he was released. He was given an honorary certificate by Aung San Suu Kyi for his commitment to the struggle for democracy. Zin Linn was an editor and columnist and contributed articles to various publications, especially on international affairs, while in Burma. He fled Burma in 2001 to escape from military intelligence and currently works as information director for the NCGUB while also assisting AAPP. He is also vice president of the Burma Media Association which was founded by exile media related persons from Burma or Myanmar. Zin Linn is still writing articles and commentaries in Burmese and English in various periodicals and online journals on a regular basis.


Monday, July 07, 2008



By Kevin Stoda

What should we do about the Olympics set for Beijing in September 2008? Should we go to Beijing for the opening ceremonies, as many of the leaders at the current Hokkaido G8 summit are planning to do?

After the earthquakes in China this spring, have we stopped listening to the cries for justice eminating from Tibetans in their homeland (or from exile around the globe)?

As the Olympics nears, people all over the world are trying to decide (a) whether to support or (b) how to support the Olympic movement in China. It is not surprising then that students here in India are discussing what to do, too.

This particular 4th of July, I arrived in Manali township in Himachal Pradesh. HP is a land of monasteries and fruit orchards in the midst of many Himalayan mountains of around 20,000 feet. The following morning morning, I went for a walk in the nature reserve across from my hotel and found that Students for Free Tibet http://www.studentsforafreetibet.org/ were just wrappinga 5-day conference on the topic of the 2008 Olympics to be held in neighboring China within two months.

One of the Indian students approached me and encouraged me to get the word out about the campaign which they are currently running. http://www.studentsforafreetibet.org/article.php?list=type&type=9

These Indian youth and others in Students for Free Tibet movement are currently running an "Athlete Wanted Campaign" . http://blog.studentsforafreetibet.org/ This particular campaign from Students for Free Tibet includes the posting of a full-page advertisement in the New York Times and in newspapers around the world stating: "At every Olympics there is one athlete who ends up inspiring the world with their courage and their character. We are hoping that athlete is reading this."

The Students for Free Tibet's message concludes with this thought: "With the Olympics beckoning and the world looking to be inspired by your heroism we remind you that 6 million Tibetans look to you for the very same thing. You can be there for Tibet, they cannot. You can speak up for Tibet, for they have been silenced."

In other words, the Students for Free Tibet are telling tens of thousands of athletes, their trainers and there families from all over the planet to not be silent. Students for Free Tibet say that this responsibility to speak up is "the torch" that each athlete will carry into the stadiums of this 2008 Olympiade in Beijing.


As a whole, since 1962 (when India basically lost a border war with China), India has had a poor self image of itself. It sees itself politically as a weak nation state--even though it can hold its own against nuclear Pakistan and has its own nuclear arsenal.

This self-perception is one reason India tends to speak softly and hardly ever carries a big stick with its notorious neighbors, China and Burma.

Moreover, since its inception, India's historical position has been to act as a non-alligned nation. This has led it to follow a more isolated path of diplomacy, more isolated than either the U.S. or European states would have liked to have seen it do during the Cold War-era (and even in the current war on terrorism). This seperate path to international diplomaccy has led, for example, India to stay out of international treaties on nuclear arsenals,

This is one reason that the Indian Left is ready to walk out of the ruling government in India currently.

In a short article in EXPRESS INDIA entitled "Don't Bow to the U.S.: Left to UPA", it is made clear that not even the possiblity of having the U.S. support India's nomination to receive a permanent seat on the U.N.Security Council is enough to satisfy leftist- and non-alligned interests for the stalled U.S.-Indian nuclear treaty before years end.

Those opposing the new treaty with the U.S.A. state: "“Giving in to the US on such vital issues will be counterproductive and will actually detract from India’s credibility as an independent power which necessitates its representation in the Security Council."

On the other hand THE INDIAN EXPRESS posted another article with a very similar title on the 4th of July: "Don't Bow to China on Tibet".

According to reporter Hemlata Verma, "The issue of Chinese government's claims on Tibet and some bordering portion of the Indian Territory in Arunachal Pradesh dominated the celebrations of 94 years of Indo-Tibet Border Conventin that had resulted in demarcation of McMahan Line in 1914."

At the occasion of the Indian-Tibetan anniversary signing, Lok Sabha Khiran Rijiju stated, "China's claims on Tibet are baseless as history shows that Inida never shared border with China", i.e. prior to the time China completely took control of Tibet in the 1950s.

Rijiju, speaking at the same convention in Shimla in Himanchal Pradesh, emphasized that "India's safety and integrity was connected with peace in Tibet." (NOTE: China is still claiming a large chunk of Indian sovereign territority in the Himalayas.)

Another speaker, Karma Chopal, explained that for centuries "Tibet and China have been at war against each other and many times boundarieswere defined but China continues to violate them."

Finally, Chopal also expressed the view, "Tibet is self-sufficient to survive as an economy and to protect their tradition and culture." In other words, Tibet never was nor ever will be a so-called failed state.


On visiting Himalayan and Tibetan Buddhist monestaries in and around Manali, I have often observed numerous posters concerning the need to boycott the Olympics or posters on the brutality of Chinese occupation of Tibet. At other times, torture and death in the Himalaya were summarized on other walls through pictures and newsclipping--from as recent as last spring's Tibetan uprising.

There was an especially tear jerking summary on a red wall concerning the ongoing search for the Panchen Lama, or the anticipated successor to the Dalai Lama. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/tibet/china/panchen.html The real Panchen Lama and his parents had disappeared in 1995 in the hands of the Chinese regime, and they have not been heard from since.

Likewise, there was a fairly strong argument for the entire world community to join in a fight for Tibetan rights, freedoms, and sovereignty based on the historical injustices the Tibetans have faced over the past 50-plus years.

Here is what was written on that wall to the righ of one entrance to a monestary near downtown Manali, India:


"Tibet, once an independent soverign state was forcefully occupied by China in 1959, in the name of liberation and progress. China has been systematically trying to wipe from the face of this earth the Tibetans as a distinct race and culture. The Chinese rule in Tibet is more brutal and inhumane than any other communist regime in the world. In 1960, the International Commission of Jurists found through intensive investigation that China had committed acts of genocide on Tibet. Over 1.2 Million Tibetans have been killed, more than 6000 monestaries and institutes of learning have been destroyed--and Tibetans are deprived of the basic rights of expression, speech, movement, religion, etc.Tibetan women are sujected to forced abortion and sterilization. Tibetan children are deprived of the basic childhood education, arbitrary arrest, repression, torture, & imprisonment have been the regular feature of this regime for the last 50 years. [Meanwhile] 7.5 million Chinese have been transferred to Tibet--making 6 million Tibetans in Tibet a minority in their own land."

"The question of Tibetan Independence is not only matter of Tibetans alone. It is directly related to Peace in Asia and the world at large. We, therefore, appeal to the world communities to help us in our struggle for complete independence."

This large-print text (or announcement) on that Manali monastery's entranceway was signed by the local TIBETAN FREEDOM MOVEMENT, Manali, Regional Tibetan Youth Congress, and the Regional Tibetan Women Association.

In short, there are voices in India and from around the world in support of Tibet and in support of Tibetans anywhere, but what do we do about the Olympics and what should or could Olympians due to speak out?


First of all, we need to remember that protest requires imagination! (So, my suggestions below are not in any ways totally inclusive!)

Second, here some suggestions for athletes:

(1) Walk around singing bars from Alice's Restaurant--even on the podium when receiving your medals--perhaps fans can home along, too.

(2) Go out and demand that Tibetan food be served on your compound--demand it before your arrrival.

(3) Go out and enjoy Tibetan food while participating in the olympics and let all your friends, especially your blogger buddies and ESPN know about it.

(4) When doing stretching exercises, lay down in the grass and spell out Tibet or Free Tibet or even Dalai Lama--you will need teamwork for this and a camera.

(5) Be sure to visit Tibet or demand a visit to Tibet while in China! (Imagine what it would be like if 11,000 athletes said, "We want to see and meet Tibetans in Tibet before it's gone.)

(6) Write your Congressmen or government and let them no you want your own regime to protest in a loud voice on behalf of the people of Tibet!

Finally, non-Olympic participants, could do the same, i.e. sing along with ALICE'S RESTAURANT, demand Tibetan food be served in Beijing and Shanghai, visit Tibet, take photos of real Tibet, leave behind FREE TIBET grafitti everywhere, blog about it, put something about it on You-Tube, etc.

You can also write your congressman or send money to a Tibetan relief or organization, including one that supports temples ans society inside Tibet or in neighboring lands, like India.

In any case, let not a single day of these 2008 Olympics go by without doing something creative to help Tibet or going out of your way to financially, politically, and spiritually to support the Tibetan peoples.


Guthrie, Arlo, Alice's Restaurant


"Don't Bow to the U.S.: Left to UPA", http://www.expressindia.com/news/fullstory.php?newsid=50586

Guthrie, Arlo, Alice's Restaurant

http://www.arlo.net/resources/lyrics/alices.shtml or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_7C0QGkiVo

"MANALI: Land of Monestaries and Orchards", http://indiapost.com/article/travel/1447/

"Torture in Tibet", http://www.tibet.com/Humanrights/torture/torture.html

USAID "Tibetan Torture Survivors Program", http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/humanitarian_assistance/the_funds/vot/tibet.html

Verma, Hemlata, ""Don't Bow to China on Tibet", THE INDIAN EXPRESS, 4 July 2008, p.6.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008


I was reading D.L Sheth's article in the SUNDAY INDIAN, "Collective Power Defies Law", and was struck by what real democratic India needs is a good dosage of justice and access to justice. This is naturally sad because the movement for Indian Independence 6 decades ago was tied intrinsically to concepts of social justice.

Sheth explains the legal system in India, "Even today people with a lot of wealth, power, political clout and brute collective power of communities and those who can command communal backing, do enjoy large doses of immunity.Wealth, power and prestige do make it difficult for Rule of Law to function and without Rule of Law, democracy cannot be considered to have been attained. People like Rajju Bhaiyya, people who have collective powers like Bal Thakeray, would always be above law. So it is strange that while law can be used against writers like Ashis Nandy who put across their point of view, full-blooded Mafias who are active in many fields, can get away with murder. To be sure, some things have happened, but there is no room for complacency. We still remain a far way away from the Rule of Law. The system of checks and balances, when it works, it does defeat machinations of the powerful criminals. But wealth and power even today trump the law. Poor people who have legitimate legal grounds, do not get the help of law, despite legal aid systems. Law still is for the rich and economically well off. This is made worse by extensive corruption in the judiciary."

As an American traveling in India, I need to ask myself if it is different in the USA where impunity to seems to reign. On the other hand, Ghandian Satyagraha was a movement and political tool base upon truth and non-violence.

According to Gandhi, "Satyagraha is a weapon of the strong; it admits of no violence under any circumstance whatever; and it ever insists upon truth. I think I have now made the distinction perfectly clear."

Sataygrahan practices werd followed by M.L. King who adopted it to fight for civil rights peaceably in the USA.

Sadly, event those such peaceful protests were used around the world in March 2003 to stop the U.S. led war of aggression in Iraq, that war was not stopped.

So, what happens if one protests in India today in the manner of Ghandi?

Well, according to the MUMBAI MIRROR report, "Man Tries Ghanhigiri, Held for Obscenity Instead", it is no longer very useful in India to try to practice Ghandian protest these days either.

In the article with photographs by Nilesh Nikade it is reported, "A bribe-opposing resident of Bhoisar who stripped down to his underwear at the Thane Road Transport Office to press his demand for a long pending commercial vehicle driving license on Monday realized Ghandhigiri doesn't always work. Instead of the sympathetic hearing from officials that he expected, all the man got was punishment--the police picked him up for obscenity charges."

The Gandhi-like practitioner is named Wadilal Anatrao Jadhav. He has been seeking his license for nearly three years, but he claims to have refused to bribe the clerks at RTO.

Dressed only in hand-woven khadi kurta and carrying a walking stick, Mr. Wadilal Anatrao Jadhav does a good Gandhi-like pose in the middle of the RTO offices, but presence of media got him no extra help as the RTO would have none of it. Luckily, Mr. Jadhav was released without actual charges being filed at the police station some hours later.

This is in contrast to what D.L. Sheth says is the experience of the wealthy and powerful in the land, "There is also the tendency for criminals, even when caught red-handed to use the media glare to their advantage. Even murderers come on the TV screen with a sense of pride. Villains become heroes. In fact they can become national celebrities even after being proved unequivocally guilty under law. There is no doubt that the laws need to be tightened for certain violations like corruption where the guilty should be impoverished for generations. Punishment provisions need to be matched with the nature and types of violations and transgressions."

According to Sheth, jails and justice need not just to slightly improve bu major overhauls are needed. " A lot needs to be done particularly in democracies where there is generally a liberal and humane view of transgressions and there is great emphasis on evidence in proving someone guilty. It is indeed a good idea to be proven guilty only after charges have been proved. And this is the real challenge. How to keep this norm and at the same time bring criminals to book. In India the rate of conviction of criminals is the poorest in the world. Conviction rates are not as low anywhere and we have virtually reached a stage when cases go on in courts for years without any light at the end of the tunnel. And that is a very disturbing trend."

Looking at the way courts in the USA, i.e. from local traffic courts run by shifty police-and-government types who give speed trap and fake speedzone tickets to people from out of state to the highest courts in the land where a judge cannot be impeached for promoting torture, America, too, is need of reform.

Luckily, our jails--as a whole in America--are not as bad as the conditions in India, but our jail system is still the biggest in the world outside of China and reform is not an ongoing matter in the USA either.


Lastly, our ability to vent and protest need to be revised in a way that even the poorest can be treated fairly in court and by police.http://www.counterpunch.org/lindorff02182003.html


"Man Tries Ghanhigiri, Held for Obscenity Instead", MUMBAI MIRROR, 24 June 2008, p.2.

Sheth, D.L., "Collective Power Defies Law",THE SUNDAY INDIAN, 6 JULY 2008, P. 42.