GORBACHEV IN BEIJING (1989)

Memories of reporting a momentous event in late 20th century world history

Throughout the mid-1980s onwards, if there was one event that was being most eagerly awaited worldwide – as a welcome one or as an inevitability – it was the end of the Sino-Soviet schism that had begun with the very founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

However, Mikhail Gorbachev’s visit turned out to be a sideshow to what unfolded in the spring of 1989 in Beijing, i.e. the spectacular student-led pro-democracy uprising that was eventually crushed by the Chinese military.

But I’m running ahead of my story.

There had long been a perception that the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) tended to act like a big brother towards parties sharing its ideology in other parts of the world. Beijing having been particularly averse to anything less than respectful treatment.

Soviet leaders in the post-Stalin era, i.e. from early 1950s onwards were preoccupied with the state of the economy at home and standing up to the hostile Western alliance, i.e. the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), and had little time for China.

All that changed with the ascent in 1985 of Mikhail Gorbachev as CPSU General Secretary. He set about declaring “Glasnost” (openness) and “Perestroika” (reconstruction or restructuring). He opened out to the West, whose then reigning and virulently right-wing leaders, Ronald Reagan in the United States and Margaret Thatcher in Britain, mostly cold-shouldered Gorbachev, although sections of Western media had been warming up to him. He had turned his back on the decades-long “Cold War”.

China, in an understated way, began preparing for the historic Sino-Soviet rapprochement, but its own advance ran into domestic hiccoughs such as having to deal with some pro-democracy student protests in 1986-87, which led to the sacking of Hu Yaobang as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

By a concatenation of circumstances, China and the then Soviet Union managed to schedule Gorbachev’s Beijing trip in mid-May 1989, exactly a month after the death on April 15 that year of the very same Hu Yaobang, whose reputation as an honest leader inclined towards democratisation led to outpourings of grief on the part of not only ordinary Chinese citizens but well-organised university students who began to stage daily protests on the streets and especially on the sprawling Tiananmen Square in central Beijing.

As correspondent of the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency posted in Beijing in August the previous year, I’d been obliged to hit the ground running, especially as the historic visit of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi followed weeks after my being posted there.

In May 1989, I had to cover two major events simultaneously: the ongoing student-led pro-democracy protests and the Gorbachev visit.

No choice: I decided to do both, time permitting, skipping between venues.

What the pro-democracy students were staging on Beijing’s streets and on Tiananmen square had the world riveted. And most Western news organisations – many having called in reinforcements – concentrated almost exclusively on the protests.

But a Beijing-Moscow detente was, I figured, equally significant.

I was mindful of the tremendous amount of help the former Soviet Union had rendered India in crucial times, even though India was a leading non-aligned nation, shunning both the NATO and the Warsaw Pact alliance the then Soviet Union headed.

And China was this powerful Asian behemoth India was seeking to normalise ties with ever since the 1962 war, the Rajiv Gandhi trip of 1988 having been a major gesture on the part of both sides.

I decided not to miss a single one of Gorbachev’s public appearances open to the media, starting from his airport arrival. Nor any press conference to do with his historic meetings with China’s most important leaders.

Among the most under-reported ones was Gorbachev’s meeting with the then Communist Party of China (CPC) General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, who told the visiting leader that all major decisions in Beijing were being taken in consultation with the then paramount leader Deng Xiaoping: This fact was conveyed to us, reporters, in a stern voice by an otherwise affable Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, who used to take questions at the end of whatever statements he had to make. In this instance, i.e., after his briefing over what Zhao had told Gorbachev, he walked off abruptly.

The reasons for the spokesman’s action became clear a few weeks later: By letting Gorbachev know about the top Chinese leadership’s decision-making processes, Zhao had shared a state secret with a foreign leader. Although the whole world knew that Deng was China’s supreme leader, the fact that despite his not holding a top post in the CPC nor in the state structure, he had a say in the country’s most crucial issues, was deemed a vital matter not for public consumption. It was one of the CPC’s inner-party indictments against Zhao which led to his being stripped of all posts save his primary party membership a few days later in May 1989.

Given the chaotic traffic in central Beijing those days, I was unsure whether I could make it to Gorbachev’s press conference which was held at the Diaoyutai State Guest House in western Beijing. Knowing that Soviet television stations were going to relay Gorbachev’s press conference live, I messaged my editors in New Delhi to say that just in case I could not make it to the press conference, could my Moscow colleague, V.S. Karnic then, watch out for it. In the event, I miraculously chanced upon a mini-van engaged by reporters to go from Tiananmen Square towards the guest house and was well in time to cover Gorbachev’s press conference, during which, needless to say, the pro-democracy protests figured and which he handled deftly, saying nothing that might have offended his hosts.

What lessons China’s then leaders drew from the collapse of the Soviet Union has mostly been a matter of conjecture, as the deliberations among the topmost Chinese leaders have never officially been shared in public. By most accounts, the Chinese leadership held Gorbachev’s political opening without first securing economic strength to have been ill-advised.

P.S.: To return to the experience of covering Gorbachev’s trip, I remember that I was among perhaps two or three Beijing-based foreign correspondents – one of the others being my Associated Press of Pakistan counterpart – who used the now long extinct teleprinters to file our reports. Teleprinters were electronic machines that helped “cut” a less-than-an-inch-wide “ticker tape” which allowed for one tiny hole to be punched in the middle to ensure it “ran” on the other side – the other side being a teleprinter in another part of the city, the country or the world – with the provision for two slightly bigger holes one side and three on the other, each combination of the five holes standing for an alphabet, number, punctuation mark, space or paragraph indication.

After Gorbachev’s press conference, I managed to hitch a ride to a hotel in northwest Beijing where the press centre for the visit was located, to cut my tape.
It was almost deserted: As I said above, most Western correspondents were preoccupied with the students’ movement. I and a Brazilian correspondent were cutting our tapes when in walked the legendary Harrison Salisbury, veteran New York Times correspondent and noted Kremlinologist, then briefly in Beijing covering the Gorbachev trip.

“Where are you guys from?” he asked.
We answered.

“We gave up this technology ages ago,” he said, sounding not in the least bit patronising: merely factual.

Neither the Brazilian, who seemed to be in his late-20s nor I in my mid-30s had time then to engage the 1908-born Salisbury in conversation. A pity. We might have learned a lot.

Gorbachev was on our mind then. Salisbury passed on four years later.

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ANTI-CONVERSION BILL: OPEN LETTER TO KARNATAKA C.M.

Dear Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai,

You had once been a member of a secular party but seem to have converted to Hindutva, abandoning the anti-Brahminical Lingaayath faith founded by the great Basavanna in whose followers’ family you were born. Your father having been a staunch secularist, a celebrated Supreme Court judgement of 1994 upholding secularism, SR Bommai vs Union, standing in his name.[1]

Sir, could you kindly backdate the operation of the anti-conversion measure you are now needlessly planning to legislate, to at least the Eighth Century CE? (Oops, CE = Common Era, but also meaning Christian Era. Which calendar do you use, Sir, if you don’t mind my asking?)

The 8th century was when Shankaraachaarya mounted his assault against the then prevailing Buddhism in vast parts of this subcontinent. Raamaanujaachaarya (11th-12th century) and Madhvaachaarya (13th-14th century) followed suit.

Both Christianity and Islam arrived on our shores with traders within a short while after their respective births. Thus many Christian and Islamic communities especially in southern and western India are perhaps older than many communities of converts to Hinduism. Will you backdate the operation of the law to two millennia ago?


Sir, my ancestors were most likely converts from Jainism or Buddhism which once prevailed in large parts of southern India: witness the large numbers of archaeological sites of those faiths extant all over the land. 

Kindly arrange for DNA testing etc so that those like me could do ‘ghar waapsi’ (a term in Hindi, a North Indian imposed language, meaning, loosely, ‘home return’) should it turn out that our lot had been Hindu-jihaad’d.

Although I’d be loath to break the news to my mother, 92, who every morning and evening almost all her life has been chanting in praise of one of the above-mentioned, Raamaanuja, as had my father been until his demise earlier this year.

Yours Sincerely

N. Jayaram



[1] https://cjp.org.in/sr-bommai-vs-union-of-india/

https://indiankanoon.org/doc/60799/

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WHY I WISH THERE WERE TENS OF MILLIONS MORE OF ‘RICEBAG’ CONVERTS

Many of my talented friends who happen to be indefatigable activists seeking nothing but the fulfilment of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India and in the international declarations and treaties India is party to[1], are often derided by Hindu fanatics as ‘ricebags’.

Meaning that their ancestors had — so the Hindu fanatics’ narrative goes — converted out of horrendous Brahminical Hinduism in which they were facing daily, hourly humiliation and torture, in exchange for quantities of food.

Hey, you semi-literate cheddis: That so many adherents of your dear, great, sacred religion were starving and that some from another were stealing your flock — with, N.B. a bag of rice or two or even many multiples thereof — and that you did nothing, NOTHING, to stop it?

What does that say about the conduct of the adherents of your religion when faced with the plight of your coreligionists?

Has it ever occurred to you that those who converted out might’ve done so because:

1. They sought dignity, yes, the DIGNITY you lot denied them because of your horrendous caste oppression?

2. They were genuinely persuaded by the preaching they heard?

3. Just to come back to your ‘ricebag’ allegation, the peoples of their caste found the support your heartless lot failed to offer but that someone else did?

By the way, there are Hindus and Hindu temples strewn all over east Asia.

I’ve seen them with my own eyes: in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia…

How did you lot achieve that?

‘Ricebag’?

Incidentally, vast areas of the southern Asian subcontinent – including my state, Karnataka — had once been peaceful homes to Buddhists and Jains, as plenty of architectural structures testify. How did you ‘Aryan’ Brahminical Hindu lot get to convert most of them, or should I say, us? With something as life-nourishing as rice or other food products, perhaps?

Sword, too?

A few years ago, I got invited — thanks to having interacted with diplomats while having been a foreign correspondent — to tea at one of the most prestigious clubs in Bangalore where a few retired diplomats graced the occasion.

Including a former Foreign Secretary, the topmost civil servant in charge of Indian foreign policy.

Had met the worthy for a briefing before embarking as reporter in Beijing for the Press Trust of India news agency decades earlier.

At the Club event, within earshot of two distinguished former colleagues of his, both Christians (and a talented son of one of theirs), said worthy began telling me that he thought the Christian population in India accounted not for two point something percent but for 16% and that converts were being told to keep quiet because they were benefiting from ‘reservations’ (=.affirmative action) or whatever tattered reservations for a tiny number of government jobs remain, now that so many have been contracted out or dispensed with.

My immediate — albeit unexpressed — reaction was that he was being uncouth.

.

Much, much later it occurred to me that I wished he were right.

We need many, many more Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and sensible Hindus to resist the looming Hindutva fascist menace.

One of my brilliant friends who I know from the late 1970s, a strategic analyst — once left-inclined but now mostly nationalist and pro-US — was telling me a couple of years ago after his scintillating lecture at an institution of higher learning in north Bangalore that he’d heard a lot of conversions were taking place in a certain state.

The better to resist Hindu supremacist fascism, I responded

He said these evangelical types were reputed to be as bad.

Hell, yeah, let ’em take each other on.

P.S.: This post is dedicated to Dr Sylvia Karpagam, Bangalore-based public health doctor, who gets massively trolled and whose energy, patience and perseverance are astounding, to say the least.

And John Dayal, veteran journalist and human rights activist.


[1] https://www.india.gov.in/my-government/constitution-india
https://www.un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights
https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx

https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/cescr.aspx

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SAINT STAN

Some people in India have called for campaigning for the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Father Stan Swamy (Stanislaus Lourduswamy) who’d been working on behalf of the oppressed indigenous peoples of India, and who was framed in a false case by cowardly, cynical agents of the Indian state and institutionally murdered.

Not going to happen as the Nobel Foundation resolved in 1974 not to award any posthumously. (https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/facts/nobel-prize-facts/)

However — and here I speak with some trepidation as a non Catholic and, in fact, as an atheist but as someone who celebrates the presence of peoples of different faiths in our midst as well as their constitutionally guaranteed right to profess their faiths — perhaps the Vatican could be appealed to, to beatify Father Stan, leading to his canonisation, i.e. proclamation as a saint, as he was an absolutely saintly figure.

Who among those of us who adore our non-human fellow-beings hasn’t heard of Saint Francis of Assisi, after whom the current Pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, named himself on being elected the pontiff. Incidentally, Father Stan belonged to the same Society of Jesus (SJ) order within the Catholic Church that Pope Francis did.

Father Stan, who dedicated so much of his life to the welfare of the indigenous peoples of India and for the respect for environmental laws and the Constitution of India.

Father Stan deserves a Bharath Rathna, the highest civilian honour bestowed by the Indian state (including posthumously) but as that’s not going to happen under the current ruling hate-filled Hindu terrorist dispensation, could we at least aim for what is possible?

Such as the Catholic Church’s canonisation of the true saint whose presence we’d been blessed with in our midst, that Father Stan Swamy was?

That would also send a strong message to the cowardly cynics in New Delhi.

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POLITICAL PRISONERS/PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE IN INDIA

In a country that used to preen itself as the ‘world’s largest democracy’

Does it still?

A list, most likely incomplete:

Professor Hany Babu

Sudha Bharadwaj (Do google her illustrious name and the “five books” rule with added conditions. Precisely what was the ‘learned’ judge smoking?)

Sudhir Dhawale

Gulshifa Fatima

Arun Ferreira (He’d previously been jailed for four years and had written a brilliant book, Colours of the Cage: A Prison Memoir, 2014, Aleph Book Company, about how those cynical amounts of criminality on the part of the state apparatuses happened and how he emerged.)

Surendra Gadling

Ramesh Gaichor

Akhil Gogoi

Vernon Gonsalves

Sagar Gorkhe

Meeran Haider

Sharjeel Imam

Jyoti Jagtap

Ishrat Jahan

Devangana Kalita

Siddique Kappan

Nodeep Kaur

Dr Umar Khalid

Athar Khan

Hem Mishra

Natasha Narwal

Gautam Navlakha

Shifa ur Rahman

Varavara Rao, 81, hospitalised with various ailments

Mahesh Raut

Professor G.N. Saibaba, 90% disabled

Khalid Saifi

Shoma Sen

Father Stan Swamy, SJ, 83-year-old suffering Parkinson’s. Please google his name and ‘sipper’ and read about the breath-taking cruelty of the Brahminical Sanghi fascists.

Asif Iqbal Tanha

Professor Anand Teltumbde

Rona Wilson

This list is likely incomplete.

All of them having been most bizarrely and cynically framed by the Sanghi terrorists in power.

These are some of our best academics, human rights activists, journalists, lawyers and social workers, who have stood steadfastly by the peoples of India, including the Adivasis (indigenous peoples), Dalit-Bahujan (peoples of oppressed castes) and the minorities.

If their crime is that they were adhering to, defending and upholding the articles of the Constitution of India authored by Dr B.R. Ambedkar and other visionaries, then innumerable others of us can be accused of harbouring criminal intent.

I plead guilty.

Shame on India!

(This list benefited from inputs from Aiman J. Khan and Mahtab Alam. However, the responsibility for its drawing up and any consequences thereof are entirely mine.)

P.S.: Added Mandeep Punia on Feb 1 but happily deleted on Feb 2 after he got bail. Also, as of Feb 5-6, deleting Munawar Faruqi but adding Nodeep Kaur.

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GOOD BYE, 2020! AND GOOD RIDDANCE!

A year ago this day, Dec 26, I got invited to meet Father Cedric Prakash, SJ, one of our most prominent of human rights activists, who was briefly in Bangalore and who said then that 2019 had been among the WORST years in the life of the Republic of India, given many negative developments such as the repeal of Article 370 of the Constitution re the special status of Kashmir, the dastardly CAA-NRC-NPR[1] project and several other horrific occurrences such as numerous lynching incidents targeting Muslims and Dalits — reported as well as those unreported by the now mostly supine media.

The following words are mine, not his: the current Hindu-fanatic, proto-fascist regime in India is inspired, perhaps over-inspired by both Nazi Germany’s Genocide ‘laws’ and Israeli Apartheid-cum-genocide project against the people of occupied Palestine.

Fr Prakash was right as regards 2019 having been among the worst years yet.

Alas, 2020 has been worse still, I submit (and parts of the following are a repeat of what I’d said in a post yesterday: ‘Celebrating Jesus Christ, Politician and Revolutionary walkerjay.wordpress.com/2020/12/25/celebrating-jesus-christ-politician-and-revolutionary/):


We’ve witnessed the violent crackdowns on the anti-CAA-NRC-NPR protests, more jailings of some of our best activists on trumped-up charges, the sudden lockdown announced with next to zero notice by PM Modi in late March citing Covid 19 and the inept handling of the consequences thereof, such as the exodus of migrant workers by the PM and his minions, the stupendous cynicism of the judiciary in handling Habeas Corpus cases – Habeas Corpus, mind you, which any judiciary worth its name would hear post-haste — such as those from Kashmiri politicians as well as the appeals from the unjustly jailed frail old Father Stan Swamy, SJ, and Varavara Rao, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj, Shoma Sen, Hem Mishra, Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira, Mahesh Raut, Dr Anand Teltumbde, and numerous other Prisoners of Conscience/Political Prisoners including those who simply ought not to be in jail but are merely because the cynical top member of the topmost Bench perhaps wondering whether he’ll get an ambassadorship or a governorship and if so where and with how much TA/DA…

For crying out loud, an 83-year-old and a 74-year-old being put through torture and near-blind Navlakha denied glasses (spectacles)… Mind you, these are all some of India’s most brilliant human rights activists who have zero connection with anything unlawful and in fact among those striving for the respecting, protecting and fulfilling of the rights enshrined in the Constitution of India. 

Add to this Modi’s cynical farm laws — incidentally opposed by farmers of all over the land, although sections of the media beholden to the said PM pretend that only a small section of farmers oppose it and are trying every trick to besmirch the brave farmers! And his sidekick, Home Minister Modi’s equally cynical attempts at buying time.

Away from the subcontinent, the July 1 Murder of Hong Kong as we knew it by the Robber Baron Capitalist Party of China, the ongoing quiet — largely unnoticed by most of the world — cultural genocide (almost akin to actual genocide given the accounts of brainwashing in concentration camps that have been emerging) of the peoples of East Turkestan (Xinjiang in the Han majoritarian regime’s parlance) and Tibet and the spectacle of the Drumpf, i.e. POTUS = President of the US behaving as shamelessly in public as the above-mentioned Indian Mass Murderer), the continued rule of proto-fascists such as Putin, Netanyahu and his Egyptian and Turkish counterparts, Hungary’s Orban, Britain’s Johnson (so much for the “mother of parliaments”, ha!), the Brazilian genocidal maniac Bolsenaro… a long list, alas.    

Enough!

However, as this year ends, though, in India we’ve been witnessing some major instances of resistance against the cynical Mo-Sha-Ad-Am project: the huge farmers’ protests and other expressions of solidarity from many more members of the working classes all across the land.

You might not get to read/see references to this resistance in India’s mostly bought ‘mainstream media’, though.

Hope Springs Eternal!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!


[1] CAA = Citizenship Amendment Act
NPR = National Population Register
NRC = National Register of Citizens
(Please feel free to google the above terms.)
And in this context, please see this excellent work by Israeli academic, Dr Ornit Shani of the University of Haifa: How India Became Democratic: Citizenship and the Making of the Universal Franchise
https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/how-india-became-democratic/D8646E10606BD7A5662F45B0F29759FB

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CELEBRATING JESUS CHRIST, POLITICIAN AND REVOLUTIONARY

For many people, all through two millennia, the story of Jesus Christ has been that of the son of god.

Those rebelling against oppression and injustice, struggling for human rights and democracy, have drawn inspiration from the same story of one who challenged the prevalent exploitative order, i.e. a politician and a revolutionary. Who invited those without ‘sin’ to cast the first stone. 


Today my thoughts are with Father Stan Swamy, an 83-year-old human rights activist who has given his life to defend the rights of the Adivasis, i.e. the indigenous peoples of India, and who has been most cynically and unjustly jailed by a Hindu fanatic proto-fascist regime although he’s suffering from Parkinson’s and subject to other cruelties such as being denied a sipper so he can drink water (now restored after online uproar).

With the poet Varavara Rao (80), Professor G.N. Saibaba (90% disabled, for crying out loud), Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Hem Mishra, Gautam Navlakha, Arun Ferreira, Dr Anand Teltumbde, Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal, Siddique Kappan and numerous other Prisoners of Conscience/Political Prisoners in India and elsewhere, who are among our most brilliant activists and simply ought not to have been prevented from doing the wonderful work of researching and writing about human rights issues and defending or agitating on behalf of the most vulnerable that they had been doing.

And with Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kuin of Hong Kong, who has lived and breathed human rights, civil liberties and democracy most moments of his long life. Over the past few years, he has sought unsuccessfully thus far to persuade the high officials around Pope Francis – who, to his credit, has introduced some momentous reforms including a firm stand against the death penalty — not to compromise with the Robber-Baron Capitalist Party regime in Beijing. On July 1 this year, Cardinal Zen saw his beloved Hong Kong’s soul almost entirely snuffed out by Beijing with its ‘National Security Law’. 

Also with one of Hong Kong’s most prominent pro-democracy activists, Professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting, most unjustly removed from the Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong, under diktat from the cynics in Beijing. And the numerous brilliant activists jailed in Hong Kong as well as illegally up north.

They and their comrades in Hong Kong are down. 

For now. 


Remembering the late Father Principal Ambrose Pinto of St Aloysius Degree College, Bangalore, who not only used to be seen regularly at pro-human rights protests on the steps of Town Hall shortly until his demise on 3 Jan 2018, but had the audacity to invite the likes of Umar Khalid (now jailed on trumped up charges), Teesta Setalvad, Shehla Rashid, Kanhaiya Kumar, Jignesh Mevani – incidentally, five of the aforementioned having been deemed the assassinated Gauri Lankesh’s children — and other activists for talks at his college and at the Indian Social Institute but when cops phoned and ordered him to desist, demanded the order in writing, knowing that none would be forthcoming, so steadfast having been his faith in the Constitution crafted by Dr B.R. Ambedkar and other visionaries.

A constitution under attack from Hindu fanatic proto-fascists.

Also remembering the Liberation Theologists of Latin America who have fought with varying degrees of albeit mostly failure — including at the cost of the lives of many of themselves — but some heart-warming patches of success, to resist horrendous US-backed right-wing regimes.

Today we celebrate the story of a birth. Of hope. Of the undying quest for justice.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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GLORIOUS MUSIC: A POLITICAL POST

Mozart* - János Ferencsik, Hungarian State Orchestra, Hungarian Radio And  Television Chorus* - Requiem (1987, CD) | Discogs

As 2020 has been The Worst Year in my living memory [update: 2021 was even worse and 2022 …] — and I speak as a south Indian and not as a Kashmiri Muslim, Palestinian, Rohingya, Sri Lankan Tamil, Syrian, Tibetan, Uyghur, Yemeni or other ethnic/language/religious minorities (incl peoples who’d have been majorities if only their current colonisers vacated…) and in whose lifetimes others might have witnessed worse — I thought it needed to be seen off with a requiem (a solemn chant or dirge), my fave being Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s (those by Johannes Brahms, Guiseppe Verdi and Zbigniew Preisner also come to mind). 


While living briefly on a scholarship in Paris in 1984-85, I saw the film ‘Amadeus’ (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086879/) and fell head over h in love with no, not the film nor its weird American accented Mozart character and hatchet job on the composer Antonio Salieri, but with MOZART’s REQUIEM.
Oh, what a glorious work of music! 
Among THE most glorious ever!
In early ’85, I happened to travel to Budapest and stay briefly in a flat of friends of a fellow-participant in the journalists programme I was in. 
I still remember the wonderful couple’s names with gratitude but think it perhaps best to unmensh given that a proto-fascist named Orban now rules their land (and as proto-fascists and full-blown ones seem to be rather abundant around the globe) and found that they had a vinyl record of Mozart’s Requiem, featuring János Ferencsik conducting a Hungarian ensemble. 
Almost never left their flat except to interview some officials, soak in a bit of the official and non-official atmosphere and grab some food. Incidentally, I remember that my hosts had to register my presence at their flat in a police station, that being the rule in the then Stalinist set up. Also strictly enforced in China and Vietnam, as I was to learn later. 
Once, while travelling in a bus in Budapest, I got talking to an English speaking fellow commuter — who revealed that he was in the planning ministry — and when I put it to him rather sarcastically that the whole country seemed to be working up for a congress of the then ruling Hungarian Socialist Workers Party, HSWP (Stalinist and anything but socialist or pro-worker), protested: “Not the whole country”. Touché.  


It so happened that I was able to find a cassette featuring the same conductor and ensemble, which I got addicted to  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-lMaypNwJk

While living in Beijing, (Aug 1988-Nov 1994) I once met a downstairs neighbour-couple and learned that — thanks to some huge water pipes next to which my radio-cassete-recorder contraption used to be parked, and programmed such that it shut up after playing whatever I’d fed it to play and woke me up 6ish with BBC news — they heard it all. 
A couple from one of the German-speaking countries.
Can only hope they did not resent my obsession with Mozart’s Requiem which used to play rather regularly on that contraption then.
In the late 1990s, living in Hong Kong, I acquired perhaps 20 or so CDs of different versions of Mozart’s R. 
If you’ve read thus far and wish to watch a recording of it being performed,among the best is this, IMO: Karl Böhm conducting the Vienna Philharmonic and chorus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1DsJ5YQr5s

Another compelling version: Vienna Staatsoper under the baton of Hermann Scherchen:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HxusyeQJvw

A kind of bare-bones version featuring the conductor Josef Krips and the Vienna Phil:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9il-dnFPio&t=1718s
One of the more recent with better video-recording techniques:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dp2SJN4UiE4


THE most liveliest of performances is this featuring a MULTI-RACIAL orchestra and chorus as well as perhaps one of the most passionate conductors of the work, Gregory Carreño with the Simon Bolívar Orchestra of Venezuela. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDHw70dZvpo

Ah, Venezuela, that Bête Noire of the US of A and much of the West, besides!
HALLELLUJAH! 

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NO TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT/DEATH PENALTY!

A large number of people, albeit not constituting majorities in many climes — blood lust, alas, being default response in rather too quick-fire opinion surveys — are implacably opposed to the death penalty in all, repeat, ALL cases.

Especially most feminist jurists and lawyers.

Staying in India and with lawyers and jurists alone — those who’ve spent years or decades struggling for women’s rights: Veteran lawyers and jurists such as Flavia Agnes, Pratiksha Baxi, Maja Daruwala, Vrinda Grover, Menaka Guruswamy, Indira Jaising, Kamini Jaiswal, Rebecca Mammen John, Arundhati Katju, Jayna Kothari, Karuna Nundy,  Nitya Ramakrishnan, Usha Ramanathan, Justice Prabha Sridevan, Saumya Uma, Judge Jyotsna Yagnik… (long, very very long list…).
And a number of younger and brilliant lawyers and law researchers too: Ragini Ahuja, Parijata Bharadwaj, Chandni Chawla, Avani Chokshi, Bindu Doddahatti, Ramya Jawahar, Lara Jesani, Guneet Kaur, Darshana Mitra, Malavika Prasad, Deeptha Rao, Vasudha Reddy, Neenu Suresh, Pyoli Swatija et al.

(These lists are open to additions. Please forgive me if in my advancing years I’ve forgotten some, including of those who self-declare to be feminists. Shall certainly add as advised. Needless to say, deletions sought, for various reasons that need not be stated, shall also be respected,)

Ms Swatija’s late grandfather Narayan Desai — father of Aflatoon and Nachiketa Desai — son of M.K. Gandhi’s legendary secretary Mahadev Desai, had appealed AGAINST the death penalty for Nathuram Godse, as had two of Gandhi’s sons! Whatever our current opinions of M.K. Gandhi, I believe that for the purposes of this discussion, we’re agreed that his assassination at the hands of Brahminical Hindu fanatics was condemnable.

Godse, who’d NEVER left the RSS, whose progeny — ABVP and BJP — have unleashed a reign of terror in Uttar Pradesh (Pop 200 m) and major universities such as AMU, BHU, JNU, Jamia and many others. (If anyone has doubts about Godse’s membership of the RSS in 1948 please look up the Jan 2020 issue of The Caravan magazine. There have previously been articles in Frontline fortnightly too stating Godse never left the RSS.)

The principal author of our constitution, Dr. B.R. AMBEDKAR, had called for ABOLITION of the death penalty.

While sentencing Babu Bajrangi and Maya Kodnani and others for their roles in the Naroda Pitiya massacres and rapes — repeat RAPES, or is it only an issue if a Hindu woman is raped and not if too many to count Muslim women are? — vandalism etc. as part of the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat (under the then state chief minister’s, now prime minister’s watch) the good judge JYOTSNA YAGNIK ruled out capital punishment

Ms Yagnik rightly said it went against “human dignity”.

(It’s another matter that the two convicts who directed the massacres, rapes and vandalism — namely Babu Bajrangi and Maya Kodnani — are permanently out on bail as they’re the current Indian PM’s darlings.)

The late Justice LEILA SETH was a member of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee that was formed following the December 2012 horrific rape-and-murder case — whose perpetrators were hanged today, March 20 — and which recommended NON-recourse to DP.

A US-based organisation, Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights (MVFHR), counts among its members those whose dear ones were raped and murdered.

It is NOT the SEVERITY of justice that feminists and other human rights activists seek but the CERTAINTY, which is so lacking, given that too many police stations in India fail to/refuse to even register complaints by women, what to speak of prosecution, conviction and sentencing.

Of the four people hanged in India since 2004 — Dhananjoy Chatterjee, Ajmal Kasab, Afzal Guru and Yakub Memon —  three of them were, many experts who’ve studied each of the cases threadbare, believe were innocent of the crimes they were convicted of and were murdered by the state merely to satiate the “collective conscience” of a mis/disinformed society.

(As for even the fourth, was he really afforded due process? Please google Kasab and V. Venkatesan. Please also note that the then public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam later admitted that he’d concocted the yarn that Kasab was being fed chicken biryani in order to influence public opinion and thus the court.)

Entire books and erudite articles by the likes of Arundhati Roy, Prof Nirmalangshu Mukherji, Vinod K. Jose and others have been written and documentary films made on the issue, especially on Mr Guru’s case, such as Vani Subramanian’s 76-minute ‘The Death of Us’.

Mr Chatterjee — an indigent security guard despite his Brahmin-sounding name — was put to death following a shrill campaign led by the wife of the then CPI(M) chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, party politburo member Brinda Karat having been part of that episode.

The then president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who’d signed off on that murder by the Indian state, expressed regret rather too late after the event for having done so.

Just as late former Chief Justice of India, Y.V. Chandrachud came around too late to abolitionism after having presided over Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab (1980), which set the ‘Rarest of Rare’ doctrine — observed more in the breach with too many trial court judges summarily pronouncing the death sentence.

Incidentally the majority verdict in Bachan Singh was written not by Justice Chandrachud but by Justice R.S. Sarkaria.

The dissent by Justice P.N. Bhagwati in Bachan Singh Vs State of Punjab (dissent dated 1982 as he took time to write it: This was in the pre-Internet era and he needed to get a vast amount of research done and which shines through) is a tour de force that ought to be a must read for every judge and lawyer.

“What might’ve been” is a question historians avoid. And yet it is tempting to speculate as to whether had Chandrachud J indicated doubts even then, might his and Bhagwati J’s opinions have persuaded the other three to swing towards abolition.

Mr Memon placed too much faith in what he bizarrely thought was the Indian executive’s and judiciary’s fairness and paid for it with his life.

Nearly 150 countries have discarded the death penalty in law or in practice (the latter term meaning that they’ve not passed a death sentence or carried out one for so long that they’re deemed abolitionist).

But we live in antediluvian, Modified times in India now.

In at least the lifetime of the young lawyers named above and their contemporaries and succeeding generations, dearly hope this land emerges from the current blood-thirsty nightmare.

 

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ANOTHER BRIEF HOSPITAL CHAT AND RANDOM THOUGHTS

Last Saturday evening a receptionist at a private hospital showered praises out of the blue while I was admitting my father for Intensive Care.

“I compliment you, sir…” she repeatedly said expressing amazement that a 92-year-old’s son was actually present to check him in. Meaning that in her experience, elderly patients were being admitted on behalf of non-resident sons and daughters and that it was rare for her to see someone being wheeled in with resident kin shuffling in alongside.

I did NOT feel flattered or gratified at all. Embarrassed and feeling regretful that she should say so.

Especially as, in between filling forms, I caught a few words of an exchange in Tamil with a colleague of hers in which she said in a disapproving tone about some other patient who’d passed through, “… was shifted to KC General Hospital…” after which she turned to me and my brother and repeated, “I compl…”

Translation: taking your kin to a government-run/public/taxpayer-funded hospital is bad as you (are bound to) get lousy service there and so filial piety is exhibited in taking recourse to private ones which inflate bills and rip patients off, and how!

(We’d merely acted as recommended by private docs near our home who’d examined my father and following a scan that showed — lemme spare you the details — suggested, nay, ordered that we immediately head to the private hospital he’s now lodged in.

(Now, K.C. General is taxpayer-funded. I’d once been there long years ago for a very minor ear thing. Cost: Rs 5. Was I satisfied? Yes.

(One of my dear friends, Jagadish G. Chandra of the New Socialist Alternative — and who I’ve had the privilege to listen to delivering pithy but fiery speeches over the past several years since returning to Bangalore denouncing capitalism/communalism/fascism/male chauvinism/patriarchy/ — was telling me of his most positive experience at a public/taxpayer-funded facility in the city’s very heart and where he received service of a quality he has extolled.

(Right to health is a fundamental human right.

(Tax money ought to be going to funding public hospitals. Britain’s much acclaimed NHS is being destroyed by the rapacious right-wingers now in power. Long ago, in Hong Kong, I’ve availed of its excellent public hospital service a couple of times at very little expense, although I had to wait long, that being the punishment imposed by Hong Kong’s capitalist regime, which too prefers that citizens take their custom to expensive private ones.)

Late in the night I reported the exchange at the private hospital reception to a sister-in-law of mine and she said, yes, she too has heard that the area we live in is full of elderly people coping by themselves in spacious apartments, devoid of the pitter patter of young uns.

For further context, I reproduce this exchange with an ambulance driver I’d quoted in my 2017 blog post entitled An Ambulance Chat, Gauri Lankesh and Hindutva Abroad:

“This whole neighbourhood is full of aged people whose children live abroad,” he began in an arresting tone.
“They address us via video-conferencing…
“So many elderly people with two or three children all living abroad. When you told me (on the phone) that your father was 90 years old, I assumed he must be yet another one of those…
“They abandon their parents and live abroad. Why do they need to earn so much money and neglect their parents? What is the use of all that money if this is the way you treat your own parents? …
“Hotte uriyatthe, saar (Kannada for ‘the stomach burns, sir’, or ‘the blood boils, sir’.)

“A lot of the buildings here have no lifts.” (It’s an old locality.)

“How long have you been working, sir?” I ventured to ask while he paused.
“Two and a half years. Earlier I was working ward-side. I want to give up this ambulance job.” (If I’d had an itch to give him unsolicited advice to request him to… but we’d neared the hospital.)

In 2018

AMBULANCE AND HOSPITAL CHATS REDUX

walkerjay.wordpress.com/2018/12/31/ambulance-and-hospital-chats-redux/

In 2017

AN AMBULANCE CHAT, GAURI LANKESH AND HINDUTVA ABROAD

walkerjay.wordpress.com/2017/09/16/an-ambulance-chat-gauri-lankesh-and-hindutva-abroad/

https://wordpress.com/view/walkerjay.wordpress.com

Which was graciously picked up by Raiot.in

http://www.raiot.in/an-ambulance-chat-gauri-lankesh-and-hindutva-abroad/

P.S.: A few hours before this latest hospitalisation, I was listening to a tour de force of a lecture by Senior Advocate B.T. Venkatesh entitled “Sedition: A Common Crime of Our Time.”
Needless to say, had to rush back soon thereafter without, alas, attending other pro-democracy meetings around town as I’d been intending to.
P.P.S.: Most of southern Asia ought to be in ICU as far as human rights and democracy are concerned.
Descendants of a 1925-founded Hindutva fascist outfit rule in India now.
Sinhala “Buddhists” — another “majority with a minority complex” — in Sri Lanka.

Pakistan has never gotten out of its army’s grip.

Nepal has painfully emerged from decades of strife only to see Chinese influence grow…

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RESIST THE INDIAN REGIME’S GENOCIDAL PLANS

China has been running concentration camps in occupied East Turkestan — due north of Pakistani-Chinese-Indian-occupied Kashmir and Chinese-occupied Tibet — or what the Beijing regime calls ‘Xinjiang’ for an estimated 1.5 million Muslims.

The Chinese ruling party which continues to call itself “Communist” Party of China, despite being a robber-baron capitalist party since at least the 1980s — is but a bigger version of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Minus cow and temple.

Han-chauvinist CPC and Hindu-chauvinist BJP being both anti-Muslim, anti-Christian and ultra-nationalist.

The Beijing regime will tolerate homegrown Daoism and Chinese Buddhism but is intolerant of Tibetan Buddhism and Christianity and Islam.

Just as the Indian state has at various points of time been intolerant of not only the two Abrahamic religions, namely Christianity and Islam (the number of Indian Jews being too few. Also, the Indian state admires what Israel is doing to the Palestinians — Muslims and Christians.)

India too has built and is building concentration camps for its Muslims. There have already been many deaths at what the Indian regime calls “detention centres” in Assam state in the subcontinent’s northeast.

The Nazis killed six million Jews and 500,000 Roma/Gypsy people, who trace their origins to northwestern parts of South Asia. As a percentage of population, the Roma suffered a greater loss than the Jews as about 50% of them were killed off but there has been little focus on the Roma peoples’ — continuing — plight.

There are 140 million Muslims in India.

The RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh/National Volunteer ‘Society’) founded in 1925 is a fascist, genocidal, terrorist outfit one of whose members, Nathuram Godse, killed M.K. Gandhi (Godse never left the RSS. Please see the January issue of the Caravan magazine and other previous articles in Frontline fortnightly.)

One of the former ‘pracharaks’ (propagandists) of the RSS and former chief minister of Gujarat during whose watch some 2,000 Muslim men women and children were massacred and/or raped is now India’s prime minister.

He and his ilk will not stop at Muslims. Their own slogan: “Pehle Kasai, phir Isai” = First Muslims, then Christians.

Think also of the Aadivaasis, the Indegenous Peoples of India, who’ve lived for millennia in their primeval hills, forests and mountains.

Most with zero papers to show when the CAA/NRC/NPR excercise kicks in.

Hills, forests and mountains containing minerals coveted by the financiers of the  BJP-Congi, Tweedledum-Tweedlee regimes, peoples who’ve already borne the brunt of ‘Operation Greenhunt’ and other such Congi-BJP horrific displays of terrorrism.

And the Dalits and other marginalised peoples.
No, this CAA nonsense has been thought up by the prime minister and his sidekick, the home minister and their party most cynically.

Once their ilk have tasted blood, they’re not going to stop with Muslims, Christians, Dalits, Aadivaasis. Blood lust is not so easily satiated. Already the recent attack on students at the Srishti School of Design by BJP terrorists shows who they’ll target next.

Please take seriously what many young people, including young women in India, have already grasped: This is a struggle for our civilisational values.

They’re leading.

And how!

May they and their generation and others to follow get to live in a de-Modified, post-fascist land.

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RUDIMENTS OF INDIA’S THIRD FREEDOM STRUGGLE?

“India’s Third Freedom Struggle has begun”, someone on facebook or twitter said a few days ago.

Exaggeration? Perhaps. But hope springs eternal.

This time freedom from homegrown, Brahminical Hindutva fascism.

However, it’ll be a long, long night. For these fascists have deep pockets just as those in Germany last century did: DuPont, Krupp, Siemens and several other behemoths were in cahoots with the Nazis.

Now, Adani, Ambani, Tata et al (one of the A’s with 0 experience in making any kind of aircraft having won a subcontract to supply fighter planes) in India have been enjoying untold millions of dollars in tax breaks and winks at massive frauds not only since mid-2014 but since much earlier, Congress and BJP being but Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

My generation may or not live to see this struggle out.

But these fascists, one of them fed on expensive imported mushrooms (as some reports have it) will die some day, just as their bankrupt and corrupt ideology must. As the poet James Shirley (1596-1666) said:

Death lays his icy hand on kings:

Sceptre and Crown

Must tumble down,

And in the dust be equal made

With the poor crooked scythe and spade.

Excerpted from

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/56372/the-glories-of-our-blood-and-state

RESIST!

P.S.: “… they can be identified by their clothes,” the alleged mushroom-eater has said about those protesting.

Many of those resisting in India, in Hong Kong, in Chile and elsewhere can be identified by their jeans and tops.

Young women, so many of them, not to forget the entire gamut of LGBTQIA+.

P.P.S: “C’est une révolte?”
NonSirec’est une révolution.”

¡Venceremos!

We Shall Overcome!!!

Insha Insaaniyath!

Happy New Year!

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