Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Nuns and Priests to belly-hit lawyers

Five nuns, two priests enrol as advocates
TIMES OF INDIA 21 May 2006

KOCHI: After winning the legal battle to practise law, ">five nuns and two priests in Kerala on Sunday enroled as advocates.

The Kerala High Court had in November permitted priests and nuns to enrol as advocates and practise law while a division bench on March 21 upheld the single judge's order, saying that a complete ban on their entry into the profession would be "illegal".

For Sister Tina Jose, one of the petitioners, and the other nuns and priests, the donning of robes of the legal profession was a dream come true.

The Bar Council of India had objected to their enrolment, claiming that priesthood and nunhood were professions.

However, rejecting this contention, the division bench held that nunhood and priesthood were not professions and that being part of the "clergy -- be it a priest or nun -- would not bar their entry into the profession as created under the Bar Council rules".

The bench had observed that several nuns and priests were engaged in different professions like teaching and nursing. "A complete ban of entry into the legal profession to a class of clergymen will be wholly illegal". Being a priest or nun was not a disqualification for appointment to a government or a private job, the court had pointed out.

At least 300 other new entrants to the profession, including newly elected MLA from Kanjirapally and former IAS officer Alphonse Kannamthanam, were among those who enroled as lawyers at the function.

Recruitment of women cadre for jihad?

Girl's 'disappearance' from Mangalore raises terror fears
TIMES OF INDIA 20 Jan 2009, 0409 hrs IST, Ananthakrishnan G, TNN

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Intelligence agencies have begun a probe into the mysterious disappearance of a student of a Mangalore nursing college and her arrival at an Islamic seminary in Kerala's Kozhikode.

The incident assumes significance following reports that Pakistan's ISI has been giving training to women for jihad. Intelligence sleuths say four people, including two from Kerala, have been involved in the recruitment of women cadre for jihad, especially after 26/11.

With Mangalore's links with terror modules coming out in the open, intelligence agencies suspect there may be a racket operating in the region to woo women. SIMI is believed to have established a women's wing in Kerala.

The nursing student, in her early 20s, went missing from the college about 45 days ago. Later, she informed her parents in Kerala she was going to study Islam in a Kozhikode seminary, family sources said. The parents, with the help of police, contacted the seminary in Kozhikode. They met their daughter in the seminary and asked her to return home, but she said she would come home on January 14 after finishing studies. But when the parents again went there on January 12 to bring her back, they were told that she had left the place about a week back.

The same seminary was in the news as it was here that Varghese Joseph alias Mohd Yasin one of the four terrorists from Kerala killed in an encounter with security forces in Jammu and Kashmir in October 2008 was converted from Christianity into Islam. At least 40 people 32 Hindus and eight Christians were converted here in December 2008 alone, intelligence sources said.

Family sources said the student contacted her mother over the phone on Sunday, but there was no information about her whereabouts. Police, however, said the student was in love with a Muslim man and wanted to marry him.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Undies for the Siva Ling

Case for the designer deity
Times of India - 9 Jan 2009, 0010 hrs IST, Bachi Karkaria

'Art for aarti's sake' has become an unhappy mantra. Earlier this week, yet another gallery came under attack because someone's religious sensibilities were offended; the 'offendee' predictably launched a counter-offensive with the help of yet another 'rent-an-indignation' group. The ire brigade directed its fire at an untitled oil-and-acrylic-painting by Delhi-based artist Nitai Das, who had waited six years for his maiden exhibition at Mumbai's premier Jehangir Art Gallery. An art collector, Varsha Thakkar, had taken serious objection to what she perceived as a 'nude Shiva', and which Das insisted was not any specific deity, but an ''anthropomorphic image of God''.

The lady was in no mood to swallow this 'poison', and by the next afternoon had managed to awaken a little-known group called Hindu Janajagruti Samiti. In an enraged tandava, eight of its 'activists' stormed the gallery, and tore down not only the 'blasphemous' painting, but four other secular nude works as well. Mumbai's police force, already stretched to guard vital installations against another terrorist attack in addition to its routine pressure of defending VIP egos, had to muster forces to protect one more 'sensitive' site, the art gallery.

So now, rather than regurgitate the oft-repeated arguments on art versus public morality/ religious sentiments/ any other allergen discovered or dormant, here's an entirely new proposal. Let us institute a national Committee for Legally Attired Deities (CLAD). Its task would be to formulate guidelines on the correct garments with which to dress artistic representations of not just the Hindu pantheon, but prophets of other faiths as well. A couple of years ago, an Australian sculptor was forced to de-name his four-metre high nude male titled 'Zarathustra' after a worldwide Net offensive from shocked believers.

The need for a body such as CLAD is imperative. The naked aggression has got so out of hand that artists are likely to stop dabbling altogether in the highly fraught form of depicting gods in the altogether. Far from being the solution, this development will raise a worse problem. Swarms of hitherto-unheard-of activists will descend on every art launch, like freeloaders on the tofu tartlets, and force the closure of the exhibition should any deity be painted in clothes which offend the pride of that particular state. Remember, religious chauvinism pales in comparison with its regional cousin.

Galleries could turn into a colour of riot if, say, the Shiv Sena objects to all portrayals of Parvati not in the Maharashtrian nav-vari sari. Hopefully, even the most zealous Sainik will not insist that Lord Shiva appear only in the Thackeray patriarch's sartorially challenged uniform. Our CLAD must uphold the principles of national integration, though artistic integrity can be safely ignored.

If God created man in his own image, isn't it also time to return the favour, and depict divinities in the designer infinity now at our command? If it takes its brief seriously, CLAD could become an acceptable arbiter of Mount Kailash couture. You realise, of course, that, even with global warming, the temperatures up there are inimical to the nudity these airy-fairy artists keep thrusting on its sacred inhabitants.

Why, even the profane gallerati might welcome the CLAD initiative. In these meltdown times, 'liquidity crunch' is not a new technique devised by some new enfant terrible hot off the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Now that the disposable income, which bankrolls patronage has begun drying up, artists too have become risk averse. They can no longer afford to have years of work being tarred in emboldened brush-strokes, or periodically end up with egg tempura on their own face.

It is an entirely different matter that the real target should not be artistic gods, nude or fully clothed, but real-life idols with clay feet doing their Guccipudi over our politics, our economy and the new keeper of our consciousness, the electronic media.,prtpage-1.cms

The lady's perceiving 'nudity' in the painting was unfortunate, if the artist did not mean it.
The entire Hindu community worships Lord Siva in temples in the form of a huge penis resting in a vagina, purportedly Parvati's. As such, his depiction as anything other than as a penis is itself blasphemous.
That gods can never be nude is very stupid. Surely, they too have to take baths and have sex, in the nude.
Whoever objected to Siva in the nude has acted extremely blasphemously. No real devotee of Siva and worshiper of the Ling can pardon such blasphemy.

Our Peaceful North East

India's restive northeastern region saw the maximum number of fatalities in terror strikes in 2008, surpassing Jammu and Kashmir in the latest figures released by an independent security think tank.
The northeast, particularly Assam and Manipur, has turned into a veritable killing field with the region accounting for 1,057 deaths compared to 539 casualties in Kashmir in the past year.
According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), a New Delhi-based security analysis agency, Assam reported 372 fatalities while the death toll in Manipur was 500, second only to Kashmir, which recorded 539 deaths.
The SATP figures show that the total number of deaths in the northeast has increased from 640 in 2006 to 1,057 in 2008.
And most of the casualties in the northeastern states like Assam, Manipur, and Tripura were in towns and cities with urban terrorism rearing its ugly head in a new trend.
"This is a really dangerous trend with Assam and other northeastern states now witnessing a new form of terrorism where militants or terrorists are striking innocuous civilian targets to get maximum mileage without really confronting the mighty Indian security forces," said Nani Gopal Mahanta, coordinator of the Peace and Conflict Studies department at Gauhati University.
The Oct 30 serial bombings in Assam killed about 95 people and wounded 400 more, some of them maimed for life.
In 2008, Assam, Manipur and Tripura witnessed close to 70 explosions, most of them at crowded marketplaces, besides a systematic pogrom against non-Assamese people, particularly targeting Hindi-speaking migrant workers.
"Militants in Manipur were not known to target civilians in the past, but now we see rebels attacking civilians in markets," said A. Singh, a rights campaigner in Manipur.
While 2008 saw the northeast surpassing Kashmir in terms of terror casualties, the New Year too began on a chilling note with serial explosions rocking Assam's main city of Guwahati Jan 1, killing six people and injuring 50.
The terror attacks on New Year's day shook New Delhi and exposed holes in the security and intelligence gathering mechanism in Assam.
"We are committed to tackling terror firmly and hence trying to introduce tough anti-terror laws in the state," Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told IANS.
On Monday, the Assam government tabled an amendment bill in the state assembly seeking extension of judicial custody for a terror suspect from six months to two years.
"We want to have more stringent steps to tackle terror and hence tabled the amendment bill called the Assam Preventive Detention (Amendment) Act, 2009," Gogoi said.
The impact of terror on the region's already beleaguered economy has doubled with investors shying away from setting up businesses in the state coupled with flight of capital.
Assam is seeking compensation from the central government for the whopping loss of about Rs.250 billion that the state has incurred due to 30 years of insurgency.
"In the last 30 years, Assam's economy has been badly affected due to insurgency, leading to fall in investments and damage of infrastructure," the chief minister said in a memorandum submitted to the 13th Finance Commission last month.
"We want Assam to be treated like other insurgency-affected states like Jammu and Kashmir and want financial dispensation from the central government to the tune of Rs.250 billion for the economic losses incurred due to insurgency," Gogoi said.
"It is impossible to fight militants and terrorists with obsolete weapons and hence we need to modernize our police force, for which we require funds in the next five years from the commission," said Ajit Singh, Assam's parliamentary secretary for finance.
Report on 6th January 2009

Israel's Gaza war crimes

Demands grow for Gaza war crimes investigation

Chris McGreal in Jerusalem
The Guardian, Tuesday 13 January 2009

Israel is facing growing demands from senior UN officials and human rights groups for an international war crimes investigation in Gaza over allegations such as the "reckless and indiscriminate" shelling of residential areas and use of Palestinian families as human shields by soldiers.

With the death toll from the 17-day Israeli assault on Gaza climbing above 900, pressure is increasing for an independent inquiry into specific incidents, such as the shelling of a UN school turned refugee centre where about 40 people died, as well as the question of whether the military tactics used by Israel systematically breached humanitarian law.

The UN's senior human rights body approved a resolution yesterday condemning the Israeli offensive for "massive violations of human rights". A senior UN source said the body's humanitarian agencies were compiling evidence of war crimes and passing it on to the "highest levels" to be used as seen fit.

Some human rights activists allege that the Israeli leadership gave an order to keep military casualties low no matter what cost to civilians. That strategy has directly contributed to one of the bloodiest Israeli assaults on the Palestinian territories, they say.

John Ging, head of the UN Palestinian refugee agency in Gaza, said: "It's about accountability [over] the issue of the appropriateness of the force used, the proportionality of the force used and the whole issue of duty of care of civilians.

"We don't want to join any chorus of passing judgment but there should be an investigation of any and every incident where there are concerns there might have been violations in international law."

The Israeli military are accused of:

• Using powerful shells in civilian areas which the army knew would cause large numbers of innocent casualties;

• Using banned weapons such as phosphorus bombs;

• Holding Palestinian families as human shields;

• Attacking medical facilities, including the killing of 12 ambulance men in marked vehicles;

• Killing large numbers of police who had no military role.

Israeli military actions prompted an unusual public rebuke from the International Red Cross after the army moved a Palestinian family into a building and shelled it, killing 30. The surviving children clung to the bodies of their dead mothers for four days while the army blocked rescuers from reaching the wounded.

Human Rights Watch has called on the UN security council to set up a commission of inquiry into alleged war crimes.

Two leading Israeli human rights organisations have separately written to the country's attorney general demanding he investigate the allegations.

But critics remain sceptical that any such inquiry will take place, given that Israel has previously blocked similar attempts with the backing of the US.

Amnesty International says hitting residential streets with shells that send blast and shrapnel over a wide area constitutes "prima facie evidence of war crimes".

"There has been reckless and disproportionate and in some cases indiscriminate use of force," said Donatella Rovera, an Amnesty investigator in Israel. "There has been the use of weaponry that shouldn't be used in densely populated areas because it's known that it will cause civilian fatalities and casualties.

"They have extremely sophisticated missiles that can be guided to a moving car and they choose to use other weapons or decide to drop a bomb on a house knowing that there were women and children inside. These are very, very clear breaches of international law."

Israel's most prominent human rights organisation, B'Tselem, has written to the attorney general in Jerusalem, Meni Mazuz, asking him to investigate suspected crimes including how the military selects its targets and the killing of scores of policemen at a passing out parade.

"Many of the targets seem not to have been legitimate military targets as specified by international humanitarian law," said Sarit Michaeli of B'Tselem.

Rovera has also collected evidence that the Israeli army holds Palestinian families prisoner in their own homes as human shields. "It's standard practice for Israeli soldiers to go into a house, lock up the family in a room on the ground floor and use the rest of the house as a military base, as a sniper's position. That is the absolute textbook case of human shields.

"It has been practised by the Israeli army for many years and they are doing it again in Gaza now," she said.

While there are growing calls for an international investigation, the form it would take is less clear. The UN's human rights council has the authority to investigate allegations of war crimes but Israel has blocked its previous attempts to do so. The UN security council could order an investigation, and even set up a war crimes tribunal, but that is likely to be vetoed by the US and probably Britain.

The international criminal court has no jurisdiction because Israel is not a signatory. The UN security council could refer the matter to the court but is unlikely to.

Benjamin Rutland, a spokesman for the Israeli military, said an international investigation of the army's actions was not justified. "We have international lawyers at every level of the command whose job it is to authorise targeting decisions, rules of engagement ... We don't think we have breached international law in any of these instances," he said.

PAKISTAN: Young women held in military torture cells and forced into sexual slavery

January 12, 2009

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

Ms. Zarina Marri, a 23-year-old schoolteacher from Balochistan province, was arrested in late 2005, and has been held incommunicado in an army torture cell at Karachi, the capital of Sindh province. She has been repeatedly raped by the military officers and is being used as a sex slave, to induce arrested nationalist activists to sign state-concocted confessions.

One man, who was arrested by a state agency and kept in military torture cell almost for nine months, narrated the story of this young woman to Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières, RSF);; the International Red Cross; and at Woolwich Court in London. The current whereabouts of the young woman are not known. It has been asserted that women who are fighting for the greater autonomy of Balochistan are being arrested by the state agencies and being forced into sex slavery in their custody.

Mr. Munir Mengal, the managing director of a Balochi-language television channel, was arrested on April 4, 2006 from Karachi International airport by the state intelligence agencies and transferred to a military torture cell in Karachi for nine months ( He narrated the story of the forced sex slavery of the young teacher Zarina Marri whom he encountered in a military cell. According to the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Mr. Munir Mengal witnessed many human rights violations in this military prison. Mengal says that, "a young Balochi woman, Ms. Zarina Marri, was used as a sexual slave by the officers. They even once threw her naked into my cell. I did not know what had happened to this mother of a family who was arrested by the army in our province."

Another Balochi nationalist (name omitted by request), who was arrested by the military intelligence agency twice and kept in military cells in different cities, has confirmed to the AHRC that there were young Balochi females seen at those two torture cells, naked and in distress. The prominent Balochi nationalist leaders say that they know fact that young Balochi women are being arrested, either during or after protest demonstrations on the disappearances and are missing. They also know about the women are sexually abused in the military custody but they cannot say so publically because of their sanctity and harassment of their families.

Mr. Munir Mengal was also tortured and his penis was severely injured when he refused to have sex with Zarina Marri. He told RSF, "on 27th January, 2007 at 6 pm Major Iqrar Gul Niazi (Military Intelligence) called me in his office and showed me some nude pictures, and laughingly told me that you have been a director of a TV channel so certainly you have good relations with actresses."

When he returned to his cell he found porn pictures strewn all over it. Around 12 pm a low-ranking military officer called Subedar brought a female there. She was trembling and weeping. "He threw her on my body and told me, 'You know what to do with her. You are not a child we have to tell what to do with her.'" Mr. Mengal says after half an hour the officer returned, and seeing them sitting apart, abused them and forcibly took off their clothes. Mengal said he was stunned when the woman began praying in the Balochi language. She told Mengal her name was Zarina Marri and that she belongs to the Kohlu area, headquarters of the rebel Marri tribe, a scene of a bloody insurgency that begun in 2005. She said she was a schoolteacher and that the army personnel had abducted her along with her one-year-old.

"They accuse us for spying for the Baluchistan Liberation Army," Zarina Marri said. She begged Mengal to kill her. “I have been undressed several times for them."

Mengal said on the refusal to have sex, the intelligence officials inflicted cuts on his private parts. "I thought I would lose my manhood," he said. Ms. Zarina told to Mengal that she has seen some females in the torture cell but was not allowed to talk with them.

At the time of this incident Colonel Raza of the Pakistani Army was in charge of that cell. After a few days he was transferred to Rawalpindi, Punjab province and Colonel Abdul Malik Kashmiri came as head of the military torture cell.

Mr. Munir Mengal was released from the military torture cell on 4th August 2007 and was held in a civilian jail on August 5th. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) representatives met him in Khuzadar jail, where he provided them with a detailed briefing which they wrote down. The next day their doctor also checked the injured portion of his penis. Mr. Andrew Barterlays, the officer of ICRC who visited Mr. Mengal several times in jail, told Mr. Mengal that until he was out of custody the ICRC could not take up the issue of Zarina Marri, because both their lives would be threatened.

The Asian Human Rights Commission has already reported that 52 torture cells are run by the Pakistan army, please see following link (, Karachi was stated to have three military torture cells. The testimony by Mr. Munir Mengal has revealed the most heinous methods of army torture, using young women as sex slaves to induce political opponents to sign the government-concocted confessions of terrorist and anti-state activity.

The AHRC severely condemns the use of women as sex slaves by the Pakistan army and for keeping these women incommunicado. Pakistan is the signatory to Convention on the Elimination of All Forms Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) but women are being used as sex slaves in a gross violation of the Convention by army officers.

The AHRC urges the government of Pakistan to immediately hold a judicial investigation into the women detainees being used as sex slaves by the army officers in their detention centers, and to arrest all the army officers posted in the torture cells; both in Karachi and in the rest of Pakistan. The perpetrators of these heinous crimes must be brought before the law. The government should ascertain the whereabouts of the women arrested from Balochistan province who have disappeared after their arrest, including Zarina Marri. It is the duty of the government to search for the missing persons taken by State intelligence agencies, who have held them in torture cells for many years.

Pakistan proudly calls itself the Islamic Democratic State but its rulers appear to lack the courage to bring its own military into check. It is a military that engages in torture and some of the most heinous methods of breaking the spirit of those that it considers the enemy, it is a military that pays no heed to the norms of civilised behaviour and is one that, if not brought to book will convert Pakistan into a barbaric state.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.