Search NEWS you want to know

Monday, December 24, 2012

Italian naval guards: Flown out, never to return?

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In the wee hours of Saturday, the two Italian naval guards charged with shooting dead two Indian fishermen flew out of Kochi airport in a chartered flight from Italy. The question most often asked here now is: Will they return, as promised, by Jan 10, 2013?

The two Italians were charged with killing fishermen Ajesh Binki and Gelastine on February 15, allegedly taking them for pirates.

The naval guards were out on bail, staying in a Kochi hotel.

On Thursday, the Kerala high court ruled that subject to some conditions, the two naval guards could be allowed to return home for Christmas.

The families of the slain fishermen doubt the Italians will now return to stand trial in India. The Left opposition in the state too has expressed doubt the two will return.

The Italian consul general, however, has asserted that the men will return. An assurance to this effect was sought by the court from the Italian government before allowing the men the trip home for Christmas.

Chief minister Oommen Chandy told reporters that his government had opposed relaxation in the bail conditions of the two accused; he told reporters on Saturday that it was now up to the central government to see that the two return.

"There need be no doubt on the state government's stance. When the request for a Christmas holiday for the two first came, we strongly opposed it. Now it's the responsibility of the central government to see that the two return. The Italian government has offered such an assurance," the chief minister said.

Meanwhile, reports from Italy indicate that the two could expect the welcome of heroes, later Saturday.

To circumvent the law, the two could be fielded as candidates in upcoming general elections in Italy.

Italian officials in Delhi expect that the case in the Supreme Court of India, in which the Italian government has demanded trial under international law, could be ruled in their favour.

Meanwhile, the CPM is all set to close in on an opportunity to go hammer and tongs at the state government, in case the two accused fail to return. There are already murmurings that none other than Congress president Sonia Gandhi had intervened, in favour of the two marines from the country of her origin.

Trivandrum Latin Church Archbishop M Susaipakiam told reporters here on Saturday that allowing the two Italian naval guards to return was a good gesture.

"This gesture is certain to increase warmth in the relations between the two countries," the archbishop said.

“This is Palestine. I Drew Her Bleeding.”

For Mohammed Ziad Awad Salayma, age 17, killed on his birthday (12-12-12) because, being hard of hearing, he did not understand Israeli soldier Nofar Mizrahi, who shot him at point blank range.
There is something hapless about Guy Delisle’s character in his comics. He is the husband of an Médecins Sans Frontières worker, Nadege, whose postings to Myanmar and Israel-Palestine provided the opportunity for their family (including children Louis and Alice) to see the world. Delisle had itchy feet before these spousal appointments. He had been to both China and North Korea as part of his work as a supervisor of animation work. These resulted in his quirky, but informative comic books, Shenzhen (2000) and Pyongyang (2003). When I first read these, I was put to mind of the work of Joe Sacco, whose Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia, 1992-1995 (2000) and Palestine (2001) is the gold standard in political comic journalism. Delisle’s work is no less serious than Sacco’s, but there is a major difference. Both put themselves into the frame, but Sacco is there to break the idea of objectivity and to offer his critical voice as antidote to the saccharine way in which conflict is too often recorded (this is consciously laid-out in his new book Journalism, Metropolitan Books, 2012). Delisle is also in his books, but he is the clueless observer who bumps into things, is silly with those whom he encounters and through the fabric of everyday interactions is able to reveal something about places that are so rarely understood by those who do not make the studied attempt.
The “Delisle” in the books finds his voice when he becomes a father, as he goes with Nadege to her posting in Myanmar with young Louis and then to Israel-Palestine with Louis and Alice. In both books that resulted from these tours (Burma Chronicles, 2008; Jerusalem, 2012), Delisle is seen pushing a stroller, wondering about daycare and parks, trying to find a way to entertain himself between the delightful tedium of parenting full time and the exciting cultural worlds that surround him. His Myanmar book is filled with small details of the privileges of the paranoid kleptocracy that rules the country and the privations of ordinary people, interspersed with the stories of the simple joy of living. But then, out of nowhere, the politics breaks through. Delisle is taken to the northern town of Hpakant, in Kachin State, where he finds that workers in the Chinese-owned jade mines receive their wages, he is told, in heroin. For a small price, the workers visit the “shooting galleries,” which the government allows since drugs are a good pacifier for a region that is otherwise home to a major insurgency. The naïve dad becomes the documentarian of callous suffering.
If I were the Israeli government, I’d have done some research on Delisle before letting him into the country. With his family, Delisle moves to Jerusalem for 2008-09. While Nadege is at work at MSF in the Palestinian territories, Delisle uncovers the everyday inequities of Israel. The family live in East Jerusalem, part of the occupied territories,
which are held in developmental stasis – they find a population devastated by the “separation wall” and by the constant presence of the Israeli forces. Meanwhile, across the various green lines, Israel is, as the Israelis like to say, a little bit like Europe. The stark divides are revealed through the light touch of the inconveniences of life for a parent trying to raise his two children. And of course Delisle is well aware that his is only a temporary condition, and that he has the advantages of the NGO foreigner. Parts of this book reminded me of Nicolas Wild’s Kabul Disco (HarperCollins, 2009), a vision of a war-torn city from the standpoint of an NGO worker who is trying to navigate everyday life.
But then Israel begins Operation Cast Lead. Nadege is called to Gaza, but her MSF colleagues cannot get in. Israel has closed the Strip. It is through their experiences and the Al-Jazeera journalist Ayman Mohyeldin’s reports that we hear of Gaza. It is the outpost – the no-man’s land. But the war on Gaza punctuates the book. It is the ellipse. The rest of the book goes back to documenting the suffocation of the
Palestinians by the Israeli state, the emergence of a dogmatic nationalism in Israeli society and the conundrums of the expatriate who feels deeply for the victims but can do little for them. At a party of expats toward the book’s end, Delisle is asked about art projects in the Palestinian territories. “Getting into North Korea was easier,” he says. He would know.
Inside Gaza, during Cast Lead, there was no room for ambiguity. Fida Qishta, born and raised in Rafah, took to the video camera and held fast to it to document her world. Snippets of her professional work as a marriage videographer show us how people living under such a long occupation remember to find joy. But near them in this painful meditation of a film, Where Should the Birds Fly, the humiliation of survival creeps in. Scenes of ordinary farmers and fisherfolk trying to do their trade while Israeli snipers and gunboats shoot at them get straight to the point. All those who talk of Hamas rockets being fired into Israel should take a look at this section of Qishta’s film, where there is a banal, even tendentious use of the gun to degrade and frighten unarmed Palestinians as they try to make a living. Bulldozers and border crossings make it impossible to lead lives.
Then comes Cast Lead. It is a good thing that Qishta has her camera and that she is so brave. The scenes are disturbing and honest – there is nothing manufactured about her film. We are there on the day (January 18) an Israeli attack killed forty-eight members of the family of Helmi and Maha Samouni – whose house in Zeituon, in the suburbs of Gaza City, was bombed and then occupied. The departing Israeli soldiers left behind love notes to Palestine, graffiti in Hebrew and English: Arabs need 2 die, Make War Not Peace, 1 is down, 999,999 to go, Arabs 1948-2009. Qishta went to see fifteen-year old Ayman el-Najar in Naser Hospital in Khan Younis, victim of an Israeli bomb (which killed his sister). He shows Qishta his wounds, his body wracked by white phosphorus burns (the graphic image seers). Qishta takes refuge at a UN compound, shelter to fleeing Palestinian families. Israeli F-16s release their bombs, some land on the UN buildings, the night resplendent with the white phosphorus traces, beautiful in the sky, barbaric on the skin.
Then we meet Mona. She is the highlight of this disturbingly accurate film. At age ten, she is Qishta’s guide into the suffering and resilience of Gaza. Her farming family were herded into a neighbors’ home by Israeli troops who accuse her brother of being with Hamas; the home is then bombed from the sky. Qishta asks Mona how many people in her family died that day. “In my immediate family?” ask Mona, innocent to the gravity of the answer. So much death, but she appears resigned and wise. “If we die,” she says gravely, “we die. If we survive, we survive.” She shows Qishta a drawing she did of the massacre. “It was a sea of blood and body parts,” she says. “They took the most precious beloved of my heart,” meaning her parents. She points to a person in her drawing, “This is Palestine. I drew her bleeding.”
There is a scene by the beach. Mona is telling Qishta about her feelings. It sounds to my ear like a child’s version of the kind of grand horizon of Mahmoud Darwish:
I really love the birds because they have freedom,
They fly, they sing, and they travel.
In the morning, they chirp.
Here in Gaza we are like caged birds.
We can’t fly, breathe or sing.
We are locked in a cage of sadness and sorrows.
I wonder if Delisle would have been able to maintain his detachment if he had met Mona. I wondered this as I thought about how I had watched Qishta’s film. Did I watch it, and then turn away, feeling the overwhelming futility, escaping into something mundane? Can I bear the weight of what young Mona carries, the devastation of her loss?
Vijay Prashad’s most recent book is Arab Spring, Libyan Winter (AK Press).

Castration is not the right legal response

The view that it will deter rape is misplaced and based on a narrow, sexual intercourse-definition of the crime
There is a fascinating urban legend that Apple’s logo is dedicated to Alan Turing, who committed suicide by biting into a cyanide injected apple. A few years after he was instrumental in breaking the German Enigma code in World War II, Alan Turing was convicted in 1952 for homosexual acts in England. He agreed to the administration of female hormones when faced with incarceration. Apart from the abhorrent aim of such a measure, the scientific claim that hormone injections could alter sexuality proved to be dubious. The intuitive appeal chemical castration has as a method of drastically reducing the incidence of rape, I argue, is largely misplaced because it misunderstands the nature of rape as a crime. Rape is not about sex. Rape is about power, violence, intimidation and humiliation. Attempts to reduce the incidence of rape by controlling the sexual urge of men are bound to be ineffective because they invoke a very shallow and inadequate understanding of rape.
‘More effective’ punishment
Much before the current demand for chemical castration as a legal response to rape, Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau, while sentencing Dinesh Yadav in May 2011 for raping his 15-year old step-daughter for four years, called for a debate on castration as an alternative to incarceration in rape cases. Sentencing Dinesh Yadav to the minimum possible punishment of 10 years for such a crime under Section 375(2) of the Indian Penal Code, Judge Lau indicated that castration, surgical or chemical, would perhaps be a far more effective method to prevent rape. While contemplating the legal and ethical aspects of such a measure, it is important that we understand the precise terms of the suggestion, its potential to reduce the incidence of rape and its potential for abuse.
Clarity on the meaning of some of the terms might be useful at this juncture. Surgical castration does not mean removal of the penis, but is instead the irreversible surgical removal of the testosterone producing testes. Chemical castration involves injecting anti-androgen drugs that suppress the production of testosterone as long as the drugs are administered.
Modern legal systems have flirted with biological control of sexual functions for a long time for a variety of reasons. Forced sterilisation of criminals and intellectually disabled people through legislation to protect the purity of the gene pool was seen as an acceptable response to the eugenics movement in Europe and the United States in the early 1900s. The United States Supreme Court in Buck v. Bell (1927), upheld the constitutionality of the 1924 Virginia statute that authorised the forced sterilisation of intellectually disabled people (‘mentally retarded’ was the term in the statute). Vehemently endorsing the eugenic aims of the statute, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. permitted the forcible sterilisation of an 18-year old woman, with an alleged mental age of nine years and a family history of intellectual disability, with the infamous words that ‘three generations of imbeciles were enough’. Though Buck v. Bell has never been explicitly over-ruled, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Skinner v. Oklahoma (1942) and the events in Nazi Germany considerably dented the popularity of forced sterilisations as part of the eugenics agenda. Forced sterilisations in the best interest of the intellectually disabled continued in the United States till the early 1980s and it was in the mid-1990s that the debates around chemical castration as a response to rape surfaced as a result of legislation in certain American States.
Once we get past the historical baggage of the term ‘castration,’ the strongest argument in favour of chemical castration is that it is a non-invasive, reversible method of nullifying the production of testosterone and thereby controlling extreme sexual urge. The use of Depo-Provera in many American States subsequent to chemical castration legislation does indicate that it reduces the risk of recidivism. However, such an approach limits the understanding of rape to the framework of sex. Irrespective of the differences in their positions on rape, influential feminists like Susan Brownmiller, Catharine MacKinnon, Andrea Dworkin, Ann Cahill, etc., agree that rape is not about the manifestation of extreme sexual urge. Violence, power, aggression and humiliation are central to understanding rape, and sex is only a mechanism used to achieve those aims.
Addressing the sexual element of rape does not address the violence and humiliation that rape is intended to inflict. Responding to a question on whether chemical castration for child molesters works, Catharine MacKinnon in an interview with Diane Rosenfeld (March 2000) captured the issue at hand by saying that “they just use bottles”. Castration as a response to rape furthers the myth that rape is about the uncontrollable sexual urge of men.
The limited role that sex has to play in understanding rape is further borne out by the fact that not all sex offenders are the same. In essence, an understanding that requires us to look at rapists merely as individuals engaging in deviant sexual behaviour is inaccurate. Rapists fall into different categories including those who deny the commission of the crime or the criminal nature of the act; blame the crime on factors like stress, alcohol, drugs or other non-sexual factors; rape for reasons related to anger, shaming, violence, etc; rape for reasons connected to sexual arousal and specific sexual fantasies, etc. Administering anti-androgens to rapists outside the last category will not be an effective response to check the incidence of rape. Mapping the long standing demand in India to reform the definition of rape (beyond penile-vaginal penetration) to include object/finger-vaginal/anal penetration on to the different categories of sexual offenders shows that a sexual intercourse-based understanding of rape is extremely narrow.
Gender violence
Even the most ardent supporters of chemical castration recognise that administration of anti-androgens without relevant therapies defeats the point of the entire exercise. Given the significant side-effects of chemical castration, a law that would require indefinite administration of anti-androgens for sex offenders is likely to be unconstitutional. Even if the argument is that governments must invest in chemical castration even if it means a minuscule effect on the incidence of rape, it would require State governments to put in place a rigorous system of providing therapy for it to be a constitutional option. Given the condition of state health care services in India, there are very good reasons to be sceptical about the feasibility of providing such therapy.
It is difficult not to succumb to the intuitive appeal of chemical castration as a response to rape. But it is an intuitive appeal that fades away on intense scrutiny. Intuition can be a great asset in politics of all sorts, but it is best avoided while contemplating a law requiring huge public investment, whose potential for abuse is immense and the benefits of which are, at best, uncertain.
Any meaningful attempt to protect women against rape must engage with gendered notions of power entrenched in our families, our marriages, our workplaces, our educational institutions, our religions, our laws, our political parties and, perhaps, worst of all, in our minds. There are many violent manifestations of these entrenched patterns of power in our society and while rape is certainly one of them, it would be a great disservice to empowerment of women in this country to not attach the same kind of urgency and significance to gender violence beyond rape.
(Anup Surendranath is an Assistant Professor of Law, National Law University, Delhi, and doctoral candidate at the Faculty of Law, University of Oxford.)

One-third of Gujarat MLAs face criminal cases, including rape

Some 57 Members of Legislative Assembly elected by Gujarat in the December polls face criminal charges, including that of rape and murder, while nearly three-fourth of them are crorepatis, up from 31 per cent in the 2007 elections, according to data analysed by the Gujarat Election Watch.
The data shows that one-third of MLAs belonging to the Congress as well as the BJP have declared criminal cases.
The top three richest MLAs are from the Congress with Balvantsinh Rajput from Sidhpur constituency having assets worth Rs. 268 crore, followed by Rajguru Indranil from Rajkot East with Rs. 122 crore and Pethalji Chavda from Manavadar constituency with assets worth Rs. 82.90 crore.
Of the 57 MLAs facing cases, charges have been framed against 35 MLAs for various crimes and 24 face serious offences. In 2007, 47 MLAs had criminal charges against them.
BJP MLA from Shehra constituency in Panchmahals district Jetha Bharwad, who had allegedly opened fire and injured four people at Tarsang village during polling on December 17 and was detained by the police, has a charge of kidnapping and inducing a woman to compel her for marriage, and two others of rape and extortion. Bharward, a former suspended police constable, faces a case of forgery. The MLA has not been convicted so far.
Janata Dal (United) strongman from tribal constituency of Jhagadia in South Gujarat’s Bharuch district Chhotu Vasava has 28 cases against him, including nine of dacoity, seven theft and three murder. Charges have been framed in 28 cases.
BJP veteran from North Gujarat Shankar Chaudhary has three murder cases. He won from Vav constituency.
A Modi confidant and former MoS (Home) Amit Shah faces two charges of kidnapping and wrongful confinement, two of murder, and one of kidnapping to murder, among others.
Darshan Desai- The Hindu