Thursday, October 11, 2012

Some news articles

Here are a couple of articles I found in the papers. The first is from “The Independent” & the other two are from the telegraph:

Peasants' revolt: Rural India marches on Delhi for rights to live off the land

Andrew Buncombe joins tens of thousands of country's 'landless poor' during protest march to the capital

Thursday 11 October 2012
Andrew Buncombe

They marched in lines – noisy yet disciplined, footsore but determined. At one point, the marchers and their green and white banners stretched for more than two miles.
Tens of thousands of India's poorest citizens are on a march to Delhi to demand the government to give them land on which to live and from which to earn a livelihood. They insist it is a fundamental right and that they will besiege the capital unless their demands are met.

"We don't have any land. I'm here today because we are landless," said Ram Pyari Bai, a 60-year-old woman, her grey hair tied back beneath a red-and-white scarf. "I voted for the government and now the government should give me land and water to drink."

Across the developing world, clashes between the landless and the authorities are increasingly common. From Indonesia to Brazil, to Burma and Thailand, land-rights activists have been harassed, jailed and murdered. Almost every week, a new confrontation takes place as more people are displaced from their land for industrial projects, mining or else slum "rehabilitation".

There are fewer places where the plight of the landless is more pressing than in India, where more than 70 per cent of the population still relies on agriculture.

After India gained independence in 1947, the authorities did enact some reforms, unlike in Pakistan where feudal landowners remain commonplace. But activists estimate that today more than 20 per cent of the population is without land. It is a situation that is resulting in conflicts as well as vast mass migration to overburdened cities. The situation is further complicated because land reform is an issue for both the federal and state governments.

Earlier this year, a group of security experts and former bureaucrats told a conference in Delhi that land reform could halt the spread of Maoist-inspired rebels, who have increasingly taken a grip in the most remote parts of the country. The march to Delhi has been organised by an activist group, Ekta Parishad ("Unity Forum"), and its founder Rajagopal P V. The aim of the non-violent movement is to force the government to enact comprehensive reform and help the most marginalised within society. It insists there is plenty of land available to meet its demand.

"When people say there is no land for the poor, why is it that when Tata or Vedanta or any other big company says they want land, they can find 5,000 or 10,000 acres in 15 minutes," said Rajagopal, sitting beneath a yellow awning as marchers took a break for lunch. "Why is there no land for the poor, but land for the rich?"

Without land of her own, said Ram Pyari Bai, who had come from a village in Madhya Pradesh, she was obliged to work on other people's acres. She laboured for eight hours a day and in exchange received a 5kg bag of wheat or 100 rupees (£1.18). If her family – two sons and a husband who could no longer see – were particularly hungry she took the wheat, but if there were things she needed to buy she opted for the cash. She and her family lived in a shack made of twigs and plastic sheeting.

Her situation was not unusual. Also among the estimated 45,000 marchers was Sanju Devi, a 40-year-old woman who had travelled from Bodh Gaya in Bihar for the march. Mrs Devi, who has three children, said she and her husband worked land belonging to other people. In exchange she received 2.5kg of wheat while her husband earned 3kg.

They were never given the option of being paid in cash.

The Indian authorities have suggested they intend to respond to the marchers' demands, perhaps as early as today. Whether they are prepared to meet all the demands – including around one-10th of a hectare to build a house for all those without land – is unclear, but reports in India's media said the government will agree to land reforms within six months and a new land census. The Rural Affairs Minister, Jairam Ramesh, indicated to reporters earlier this week that some sort of deal could be announced in Agra, saying: "The nation will get happy news from the city of the Taj Mahal."

Khet Singh, a gap-toothed farmer from Madhya Pradesh, was also among the marchers who set off from the town of Gwalior at the beginning of October. He was unsure of his age and when asked, he stroked a white beard and replied: "You tell me."

Mr Singh said he had neither land nor a house and that his sons had moved to the city of Nagpur in search of work. He said as he had got older, the occasions on which he was hired to work in other people's fields had become increasingly rare.

He was lucky if he received two meals a day. "My true prayer is that today we are going to get our demands and that they will listen to us," he said, adding: "If the government does not give us land then I might as well hang myself."



British diplomats in India to learn 'Hinglish'


British diplomats posted to India will first need to learn Hindi as 'Hinglish' – a blend of Hindi and English – becomes the country's most important language.

Bollywood film titles increasingly use Hinglish while television commercials routinely blend the two languages Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP
2:46PM BST 10 Oct 2012

The move marks both a return to colonial practice when young East India Company officers first learned to speak Hindustani, Urdu and Persian ahead of their postings, as well as recognition that English is no longer the favoured language of India's political and business elites.

Recent years have seen the rise of powerful politicians and new billionaires in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and other states who either do not speak English or pepper it with Hindi phrases they feel better capture their meaning.

British officials believe diplomats fluent in Hindi will develop a better understanding of India and be quicker to spot business opportunities for British firms.

The rise of Hinglish has frustrated British diplomats as it has become more widely used on India's English language television news channels and in the country's English press.

The move comes as the unique nature of Indian English is celebrated in the hit Bollywood film English Vinglish, starring veteran actress Sri Devi, about an Indian middle-class housewife who decides to learn English because she is ridiculed by her husband and child who is ashamed to introduce her to her friends. While English is no longer the exclusive language of choice for India's business elites, it is still a badge of status and a passport to better jobs.

Bollywood film titles increasingly use Hinglish – in the hit film Jab We Met (When we Met) for example – while television commercials routinely blend the two languages. A shampoo ad featuring Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra urged female viewers: "Come on girls, waqt hai shine karne ka!" – it's time to shine.

Hindi and English words have moved freely into the other's language over the past 200 years and have been celebrated in dedicated dictionaries like the 'Hobson Jobson'. Words like cummerbund, pyjama, shampoo, bungalow and doolally are all of Indian origin.

But the increasing mash of the two languages in India has forced a policy move away from English alone being regarded as sufficient for diplomats to communicate with those who matter.

"The Foreign Office under William Hague is placing increasing importance on the ability to transact business in foreign languages. In India we're looking to build a stronger, deeper relationship and having diplomats able to speak Hindi and other local languages has become increasingly important," said a British High Commission spokesman.

"English news channels often have a portion where people choose to express themselves in Hindi because it captures what they're trying to say better than the English equivalent, so it's increasingly important for British diplomats to be able to appreciate the nuances," he added.

The move was welcomed by Gillian Wright, the Delhi-based author and Hindi and Urdu scholar, who said she believed it was impossible for anyone to understand India without grasping its languages.

"It adds another degree of understanding when you can converse with people in a language closer to them," she said.


Indian general assassination attempt 'a message from Sikh separatists'


The assassination attempt on an Indian general in London was a message from Sikh terrorists announcing a revived campaign to establish an independent Sikh state in Punjab, according to Indian intelligence officials.

Lt. Gen Kuldeep Singh Brar was held by two of the men while a third tried to cut his throat. Photo: AP
3:15PM BST 03 Oct 2012

Lt. Gen Kuldeep Singh Brar, who commanded Operation Blue Star to clear Sikh militants from the Golden Temple in 1984, was attacked by four bearded men at Oxford Circus on Sunday night in what he and other Sikh groups said was a revenge attack. He was held by two of the men while a third tried to cut his throat.

Several Sikh organisations, including the Siromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee which manages the Golden Temple, declined to condemn the attempt on his life and said it reflected the hatred and desire for revenge many Sikhs still feel for his role in the assault which left just under 500 people dead.

But in a series of briefings to Indian newspapers, intelligence sources said the attack was also a statement by a number of Sikh militant groups active overseas, including Babbar Khalsa International and the International Sikh Youth Federation, both strong and active in Britain and Canada, that they still have the power to strike and that their commitment to an independent Sikh state has not faded. They said these groups had particularly strong bases in Birmingham and Wolverhampton.

India has raised these concerns with Britain, Canada, Germany and Belgium and has worked closely with their intelligence agencies to protect senior Indian politicians, officials and military figures during visits to London. Threat assessments were made in the run up to the London Olympics in August which indicated a number of Indian public figures were at risk of attack from Sikh militants based in Britain. Officials believe attacks are planned from exiled militants in Canada and Germany but funded from groups in Britain.

The Times of India claimed one intelligence officer had criticised Britain for not doing enough to stop groups like Babbar Khalsa International from reviving their terrorist operations.

"We have been receiving reports of BKI activity for three months and have been in touch with our Western counterparts. It is possible the attack on General Brar was sponsored by radicals based across the English channels," the Hindustan Times quoted an Indian intelligence official saying.

A British source said while there had been discussions about threats of attacks on senior Indian figures in London during the Olympics from Sikh separatist groups, there was no suggestions of a significant revival in Sikh terrorist operations in Britain.

Former senior Indian intelligence official B. Raman said he was not convinced the attack on Lt-Gen Brar indicated a revived militant Sikh terror campaign.

"The Sikhs and the Khalistanis have very long memories. For decades they will not forget. Sikh terrorism is not necessarily making a resurgence in the UK. People are still angry with those involved in Operation Blue Star. They came to know he was in London and attacked him in retaliation for Blue Star. It could be individuals or terrorists in resurgence. We don't know," he said.

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