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CAST OUT CASTE: OUTLAWING CASTE DISCRIMINATION IN UK

31 Mar

By Shraddha Kakade

Source:www.Lawyersdefencegroup.org.uk

Source:www.Lawyersdefencegroup.org.uk

Earlier this month on 4th of March 2013, Dalit groups in Britain and their supporters were rejoicing their victory. The House of Lords had voted in favor for including the concept of caste as an aspect of race in the Equality Act 2010. Further, if the bill gets approval of the House of Commons, it will soon become unlawful in Britain to discriminate on the basis of caste in areas of employment, education and the provision of services.
As I read the developments on this issue in UK, what surprised me most was that some section of Indian diaspora had unfortunately maintained their caste-based identity and more regrettably continued discrimination and harassment of lower caste on the basis of the same. Before we get to the broader debate on this issue let us understand some concepts:

• What is caste?
In Dr Ambedkar’s formulation, “Caste is a system of graded inequality in which castes are arranged according to an ascending order of reverence and a descending scale of contempt”. That is, as you go up the caste system the power and status of the caste group increases; as you go down the scale the of contempt for the caste increases as these caste have no power, are of low status and are regarded as dirty and polluting.
The complex caste system is rooted in traditional Hindu system, it is an identity ascribed since birth, pre-ordained much like other identities of race or gender in which individual has no control in determining which caste H/She will be born into.

• Caste in UK
The first case of alleged caste-discrimination was reported in Britain in 2010. Vijay Begraj and his wife Amardeep are contesting this case from the Birmingham Employment Tribunal since Britain has no legal framework on caste based discrimination.

Vijay Begraj had worked his way up as a business and financial manager in a law firm, where Amardeep (now his wife) worked as solicitor. Over a period of time both decided to get married and as Vijay recalls their parents had no problem with their alliance. The trouble began when Vijay’s bosses in the law firm learnt that Vijay was a Hindu Dalit (Lower caste) and his wife a Sikh Jat (Upper caste).
Vijay recalls, “My three bosses found out that a girl from their community was planning to marry someone from a ‘lower’ caste.” He says that from warning her that “these people are different creatures” to sending him emails with excerpts from the scriptures reminding him of his ascribed subordinate status, his superiors at work did everything to dissuade them from marrying. Their detailed account— harassment, snide remarks, denial of pay hike and promotion, culminating in his dismissal after seven years in service and her resignation— has been placed before the tribunal.” (The Indian Express)

In UK, caste or caste-based discrimination is a foreign concept, the Government’s reluctance on caste legislation, as pointed by a news report was also due in part because of uncertainty over its prevalence in UK. In order to ascertain whether there is caste based discrimination and harassment in Britain in the areas covered by discrimination legislature, i.e. Education, Provision of goods and services and work, the Government Equalities Office commissioned a report, the findings of the report suggested that such discrimination was found in Britain.

KEY FINDINGS OF THE REPORT:

*The term ‘caste’ is used to identify a number of different concepts, notably, varna (a Hindu religious caste system), jati (an occupational caste system) and biraderi (often referred to as a clan system). The examples of caste discrimination identified related to jati.

• Caste awareness in Britain is concentrated amongst people with roots in the Indian subcontinent (who comprise
five per cent of the population). It is not religion specific and is subscribed to by (and affects) members
of any or no religion.
• The study identified evidence suggesting caste discrimination and harassment of the type covered by the
Equality Act 2010 in relation to:
-Work (bullying, recruitment, promotion, task allocation;
– Provision of services; and
– Education (pupil on pupil bullying).
• The study also identified evidence suggesting caste discrimination and harassment which may fall outside the
Equality Act 2010 in relation to voluntary work, harassment, demeaning behavior and violence.
• The caste discrimination and harassment identified in this study was by higher castes against the lowest
castes.
• There is no clear evidence on whether the extent of caste discrimination and harassment is changing. There
are both positive and negative influences at work.
• To reduce caste discrimination and harassment the Government might take educative or legislative approaches.
Either would be useful in the public sector. However, non-legislative approaches are less likely to be
effective in the private sector and do not assist those where the authorities themselves are discriminating.
Relying on the Indian community to take action to reduce caste discrimination and harassment is problematic.
• Equality Act 2010 provisions on religious discrimination cannot cover caste discrimination and harassment as
effectively as caste-specific provisions would.

source: Dalit solidarity Network (DSN) dsnuk.org

source: Dalit solidarity Network (DSN) dsnuk.org

Moreover other reports publishe before this Government Study, like the Dalit Solidarity Network UK report in 2006, the Anti-Caste Discrimination Alliance in 2009 have too, well documented the existence of caste-based discrimination and harassment prevalent in UK.
Hence, a number of Dalit rights activist and Anti caste discrimination alliances, groups have been long demanding for the UK Government to outlaw caste-discrimination and make necessary legislation to this effect.

One can say 4th of March 2013, was a decisive victory for these groups as The House of Lords voted in favor of including caste in the Equality Act 2010, but the battle is just half won, as The House of Commons is yet to vote on the Amendment.
Let us now, look at some of the Arguments and counter-Arguments that took place in the UK Parliament over the amendment.

• Debates over this Amendment
The UK Government two main arguments against the amendment were:
a. There is not enough evidence to suggest that there is caste-based discrimination in UK
b. It will not enforce legislative measures but recourse to educational Programme to end discrimination

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Dalits, along with other members counter-argued…

Source:www.bbc.co.uk

Source:www.bbc.co.uk

The Bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries of Pentregarth — who introduced the amendment — said the British Dalit community had reached 4,80,000 and evidence showed they suffered discrimination in education, employment and the provision of public goods and service.
“Nothing could be more significant and effective in reducing discrimination on the grounds of caste than to have a clear-cut law that discrimination in the public law would not be tolerated,” he said during the debate in Parliament.

Further other member argued, “We are still wondering how much more evidence there needs to be. Plenty has now been amassed over the past 10 years and documented from the Dalit Solidarity Network UK report in 2006, to Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance in 2009 and the National Institute’s ‘robust’ report in 2010.”

Lord Avebury asked ‘why should caste be treated differently…to any other protected characteristic’? (i.e.: Equality legislation includes characteristics of race, religion, sex). He added that the government’s inadequate proposals so far, only advocate education as a means of eradicating caste, without providing for legal safeguards.”

• My opinion over the issue

I agree with the decision of The House of Lords to include the term Caste in the Equality Act, it is true that the bill is yet to be passed in The House of Commons. I am of the opinion both education and Legislation is required to fight this social menace.

I disagree with the UK Government stand that caste-discrimination and prejudice can be dealt effectively with education Programme alone. Education can definitely help sensitize public, create awareness among the police and other public officials about the connotation of the term but without any legal framework, people who have faced or potentially are at risk to face discrimination shall not have legal recourse to address caste-based discrimination.

As far as the argument of the whether caste based discrimination exists in UK goes…
Several reports both by the Government of UK and other private Groups( which have been mentioned above) have suggested that caste-based discrimination does exists, waiting to amass more evidence, would mean only delaying the Legislation of outlawing caste.

One can also argue that despite India having Abolished Untouchability (Art 17, Indian Constitution) and discrimination based on caste through several other legislations and constitutional safeguards caste-based harassment, discrimination has not been completely eradicated from our society though there has been evident progress.

I locate this problem in attitude of people. If you recall the first case of caste discrimination reported from UK mentioned about, Vijay Begraj, born in Britain believed that it was his only identity but his bosses through their discriminatory treatment to him redefined his identity, reminded him that he is ‘Hindu-Dalit.’ Thus through this instance it is clear that identity is not just how individuals define themselves but also the way it is defined by others.

Hence, if we are as a society to eradicate caste based discrimination having constitutional and institutional framework, educational programmes is necessary but until and unless there is change in the attitude of the both the oppressor and oppressed we will not be able to cast out caste.

Reference:
1. (n.d.). Retrieved from • http://kractivist.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/no-escape-from-caste-prejudice-even-in-uk-discrimination-humanrights/

2.(n.d.). Retrieved from http://m.indianexpress.com/news/house-of-lords-votes-to-outlaw-caste-discrimination-in-uk/1083499

3 .(Dalit Solidarity Network U.K. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://dsnuk.org/2013/03/05/dalit-groups-win-the-day-4th-march-2013/

4 .Governmnet Equalities Office . (2010). Caste discrimination and Harrasment in Great Britain.

5 .Nair, S. (2013, March 26). Retrieved from – http://www.indianexpress.com/news/uk-wakes-up-to-caste-bias/1093262/

6. Rath, Kayte; BBC News Political reporter. (2013, March 5th). Retrieved March 2013, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-21659744

7. The Economist, Erasmus- Blogs on Religion and Public Policy. (2013, March 7th). Retrieved from The Economist: http://www.economist.com/blogs/erasmus/2013/03/stamping-out-caste-system-0#comments

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Child Soldiers: When children lose their childhood

22 Mar

Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul” – Dave Pelzer

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source: sites

A child soldier may be defined as ‘any person less than 18 years of age who is a member of or attached to the armed forces or an armed group, whether or not there is an armed conflict.’

The age limitation of this definition is based upon the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child which is the most widely ratified convention in existence, which defines a child as any person under the age of 18.

In a recent incident in January 2013 the police in the southwestern Baluchistan province have arrested children from the age group of 8 to 17 years, during a raid near the provincial capital, Quetta. The United Baloch Army (UBA) a separatist group fighting the Pakistani government for years, has deployed a new weapon in its arsenal; child bombers to carry out attacks.

UBA had lured the children, who came from poor families, to leave packages containing homemade bombs in markets, dustbins and on routes used by police and security forces. The militants choose the youngsters knowing that police would not suspect small children.

Image

source: esenatorehumanrights

Some of the children did not know what the packets contained and what they were doing. While some of the boys aged between 10 and 17 years have confessed to being involved in a dozen blasts in the city. The militant group paid them 25 to 50 dollars to drop of packages carrying bombs with timers.

For years, militants in Baluchistan a province rich in natural gas have been fighting for self rule. They complain that the government has paid little attention to them and their economic needs. While it’s the largest province in Pakistan it’s the poorest in per capita income. The terrorists exploit the innocence of the children to commit the crime.

Estimates suggest that as many as 300,000 or more child soldiers are active in conflicts around the world. 40% of armed forces (including national armies, militias, gangs, terrorist organizations and resistance forces) in the world use children. Child soldiers have been used by armed groups in recent and ongoing conflicts in Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and South America.

Image

source: behance

With the spread of communication, technology and increasing interdependence among countries we assume that every child has equal rights to education, employment, safety and security but this is not true. Till today many children suffer terrible hardships and are used to fight in conflicts they know little about. Research has shown that children need not necessarily be combatants. They may perform a variety of other tasks both military and non military including; scouting, spying, sabotage, training, acting as decoys, couriers, guards, porters, sexual slaves  and forced labour.

Image

source: images.nonexiste

Child soldiering is often portrayed as something new, a product of the post Cold War flow of cheap guns and money to the world’s most failed states. This is not true. The fact is that child soldiers have been around for a very long time. The Spartans of ancient Greece, for example relied heavily on boys as young as seven. Later the British Navy recruited young lads to serve as cabin boys and cannon prepping powder monkeys throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Large numbers of children fought on both sides in the U.S. Civil War.

According to an Amnesty International report in 2000, “Both governments and armed groups use children because they are easier to condition into fearless killing and unthinking obedience. Children are a cheap and plentiful resource for military commanders in need of a steady troop supply to war zones. Their underdeveloped ability to assess danger means they are often willing to take risks and difficult assignments that adults or older teenagers will refuse.”

Numerous factors influence the recruitment of young children into conflicts they include; poverty, starvation, separation from their families, physical or sexual abuse, lack of livelihood and education. Children are most vulnerable in areas where conflicts have raged over a long period of time. If children are born into and raised in a conflict zone, they are more likely to be de-sensitized to violence.  Many children volunteer to fight as they have few other options for a livelihood outside of an armed organization. The military or militia is seen as a meal ticket and a place for safety and security.

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source: tumblr

 While some children volunteer for recruitment many others are conscripted or forcibly recruited and may be serving against their will. The most distressing method of recruitment is without a doubt kidnapping. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda has the worst record of abduction, stealing tens of thousands of children over the past decade alone.  UNICEF reports that the LRA has abducted children as young as 5 but mostly between the ages of 8 and 16 years, often after killing their parents in front of them. Ugandans may be at highest risk of abduction, but children in other nations have plenty to fear as well. The Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a rebel group operating in Sierra Leone from 1991 to 2002, was notorious for raping and mutilating the civilian population. It was often coerced children who perpetrated the acts. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, fighting for independence from Sri Lanka, relied on children for their suicide bombing missions during their decade long campaign.

In countries like Bhutan, Burundi, Myanmar, El Salvador, Ethiopia and Mozambique children have even been kidnapped while at school. The “Child Soldiers Report 2008” notes that the same is true in Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Warlords in Afghanistan and Angola’s National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) have employed a quota system in which they demand that villages each hand over a certain number of youths. Those villages that don’t oblige are attacked.

In fact, both Britain and the United States also recruit 17 year olds, technically still children, on the grounds that they are not allowed into combat (though both have admitted to putting under 18 year old soldiers on the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq in the recent war against terror ). Australia, Austria, Canada, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and New Zealand all have similar policies.

Additionally the lines between compulsory, voluntary and forced recruitment are often blurred. Children may be subjected to various political and economic pressures that provide them with little alternative than to voluntarily join armed forces or armed groups.

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source: mideastparalleluniverse

Military commanders use proven tactics to produce unquestioning obedience in these homesick children while transforming them into killers. New recruits are often forced to kill or perpetrate various acts of violence against others, including strangers, escapees or even members of their own village or family. Coercing the children to harm or kill people they know has the added benefit of discouraging them from attempting escape, as they know they will no longer be welcome back home.

Some groups also practice cannibalism, making young recruits drink the blood or eat the flesh of their victims. While recruits are often told “It will make you stronger.” The real motivation is to force children to quiet their emotional reactions to seeing people killed and demolish their sense of the sanctity of life and their tendency to show respect for the dead.

In addition, drugs are administered to deaden the effects of conscience: amphetamines, crack cocaine, marijuana and tranquilizers help disengage the child’s actions from any sense of reality. Children who refuse to take the drugs are beaten or killed.Revenge is also used as a motivator. The children are told to visualize the enemy, the rebels who killed their parents and their families. While these tactics are very successful, the violence deeply affects the young consciences.

The international community primarily deals with child soldiers through deterrence (prosecuting the adult recruiters) and demobilization (taking away the children’s guns and sending them home). Neither approach goes far enough. In the first case, prosecutors hope to set an example for future would be offenders. But most recruiters think they will not get caught. Others knowing that only those who lose the fight get hauled before international courts desperately employ child soldiers to avoid defeat.

latuff2.deviantartSending children home via disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) program is another favorite method of post conflict planners. These programs are meant to get children and adolescents out of armies and back where they belong in schools or in jobs. But here again, results are mixed. They often fail to understand the local economy and therefore train children for the wrong professions.

The biggest challenge of all in ending child soldiering lies in the types of conflicts that employ the young. Children tend to be recruited in brutal, long running civil wars, the kind that simmers for years or even decades. Unfortunately, these wars constitute the main form of armed conflict today. Until they stop, the recruitment of children will never stop.

We must act ahead of the problem through regulation, fighting organized crime and trafficking, nation building assistance and development. Thus making the world safer and a more responsible place for children to live in.

by Steffi Ebnett

References

 Child Soldiers Global Report: “Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers” 2008 http://www.childsoldiersglobalreport.org/

Global March Against Child Labour Report on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, 2005 http://www.globalmarch.org/resourcecentre/world/bolivia

Jo Becker: “Child soldiers: A worldwide scourge” March 22nd  2012 http://articles.latimes.com/2012/mar/22/opinion/la-oe-becker-icc-child-soldiers-20120322

 Lewis D. Eigen: “child soldiers are unfortunately nothing newNovember 2nd  2009, http://scriptamus.wordpress.com/2009/11/02/child-soldiers-are unfortunately-nothing-new/

http://www.amnesty.org/en/children

Mark Drumbl: “Review – Reimagining Child Soldiers in International Law” http://thinkafricapress.com/legal/reimagining-child-soldiers-international-law-mark-drumbl

Paris Principles and Guidelines on children associated with armed forces or armed groups, http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/pdfid/465198442

Volker Druba: “The Problem of Child Soldiers”; International Review of Education, Vol. 48, No. 3/4, Education and Human Rights July 2002. pp. 271-277

 

When in Rome err… India, do as the Indians do

22 Mar

By Vincy Abraham

blackboard-backgrounds-wallpapers (1)

Every Indian (and possibly Italian) newspaper and news channel is abuzz with the sticky diplomatic mess that India and Italy find themselves in. So what went wrong?

It started in February 2012, when two Indian fishermen were gunned down off the coast of southwestern Indian state of Kerala. Two Italian marines on board of an oil tanker, MV Enrica Lexie were accused of killing the Indian fishermen. In their defense, the marines stated that they had mistaken the fishermen for pirates. For the past year, the two marines have been in-and-out of courtrooms and remanded to the custody of the government. They were granted permission in February 2013 by the Indian Supreme Court to return to their country to participate in the country’s general elections for a period of four weeks.

However, the Italian government on 11th March 2013 announced that the marines would not be returning to India for their trial. To complicate matters, the Supreme Court (SC) then ordered the Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini not to leave the country.

And bam! What we have is a full-blown diplomatic row (of course, it had started much before the latest intervention of the SC). I have closely followed the development of this case for months (partly because it involves my home state of Kerala). I must confess here, I had gotten used to the pacifist stand of the Indian government on most issues but this case proved to be different. Now, I don’t know whether to credit this sudden assertion to the electoral advantage it could provide for the UPA in 2014 or the fact that it deflects the attention from the Finmeccanica VIP helicopter bribery scandal or that this could be a chance for Mrs. Sonia Gandhi to prove her allegiance as some critics have challenged. Whatever the case, India has taken a stand. I have outlined, in the following paragraphs, a general sketch of my understanding and opinion on the 2012 shooting and ongoing diplomatic strain and why I believe the Indian government’s stand is correct to a large extent.

Enrica Lexie Source: The Hindu

Italy believes there are three major accounts of discrepancies, that is, in terms of the location of the incident, the legal jurisdiction over the case and diplomatic responsibilities of India.

Firstly, in terms of location of the shooting, undisclosed Italian government sources revealed to the Italian daily Corriere della Sera that the ship was positioned thirty-three miles off the southwest coast of India when the incident occurred and therefore, it lies outside the Indian contiguous zone. Coming to the issue of legal jurisdiction, Italy has cited the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Suppression of Unlawful Acts (SUA). Arts. 6(1)(1) and 6(1)(3) of the SUA are used to justify their claim jurisdiction over the case.

And the last bone of contention between the two countries is the diplomatic responsibilities of host State, India. At the heart of this contention lies the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961. Under the Vienna Convention, the Italian Ambassador enjoys diplomatic immunity particularly under Articles 29-31. Article 29 states that the “person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable [and] he shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention”. The diplomatic agent also enjoys “immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving State” under Article 31.

Though there are a number of valid arguments presented by the Italians, there are also a number of reasons why I feel Italy’s stand is incorrect.

Firstly, the Indian government reports that the incident happened within India’s Contiguous Zone which accords India the right to “prevent infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary regulations within its territory or territorial sea” and to “punish infringement” of the same under the UNCLOS. As stated earlier, Italy claims that the incident occurred outside the contiguous zone (but within India’s Exclusive Economic Zone) and Part V of the UNCLOS extends economic jurisdiction of the coastal State. True, the UNCLOS does not mention legal jurisdiction over the area, still one cannot deny that the incident occurred within a zone that only the Indian State has exclusive economic right over.

Source: middlebury.edu

Secondly, Italy has argued that since its marines were onboard of the Enrica Lexie and when invoking the principle of exclusive jurisdiction of the flag State, Italy has claim jurisdiction. This concept of exclusive jurisdiction of the flag State comes from Art 92 (1) of the UNCLOS which declares the nationality and jurisdiction of the ship with the State’s flag. Thus, the UNCLOS confers jurisdiction to Italy alone. However, both India and Italy have signed and ratified the SUA Convention in 1988 that criminalizes certain acts as enumerated in Art 3 of the convention. This gives India claim jurisdiction under Art 6(1)(1) and Art 6(1)(3).

Source: biendong.net

If the incident had occurred outside the Indian contiguous zone, as Italy claims, it would be governed by the Lotus Case. Without going into too much detail, the Permanent Court of International Justice ruled that the state most affected by the incident had jurisdiction over the investigation (back then, it was Turkey). However, the Geneva Convention on the High Seas overwrote this principle and stated that it is subjected to the exclusive jurisdiction of the flag State except in exceptional cases; this was reflected in the UNCLOS couple of years later. But the SUA provides that exception as anticipated by the Geneva Convention.

However, the way I see it (on account of the conflicting international laws) and purposely applying the Lotus principle here, the victims were Indian nationals on an Indian ship and thus, this affects the Indian state and therefore, the marines should be tried in an Indian court but under international laws. But essentially whichever State reaches the perpetrators first have practical jurisdiction and the principle that operates here is that of aut dedere aut judicare (that is, to “extradite or prosecute”). And in this case, it was India who claimed this practical jurisdiction.

Thirdly, experts have claimed that since these marines are elements of the Italian State, they enjoy sovereign immunity. They are Vessel Protection Detachment and not Private Armed Security Guards—that is, agents of the State. Another issue closely related is the fact that the marines had mistakenly fired at the fishermen, therefore they can lay claim to sovereign immunity. Had they fired at the fishermen intentionally with malicious or personal gain, this case of sovereign immunity would not be upheld. I agree with the Indian argument with regard to this. The claim of sovereign immunity is faulty in the sense that the ship in question was a commercial oil tanker (not a naval ship) and that it had employed these marines on a contract basis as Vessel Protection Detachments. This meant that the VPDs were not discharging sovereign duties at that moment in time and therefore cannot be considered as sovereign subjects.

The two Italian marines Source: corriereobjects.it

Fourthly, India and the Indian SC have, to their credit, played nice and by the book. When Italy had asked for parole for the marines to go home for Christmas, the Kerala High Court (HC) obliged. When Italy asked for parole the second time, so that the marines could return to vote in their country’s general elections, the SC obliged. This time the Italian Ambassador himself vouched for the return of the marines for trial. Italy has, however, taken a three-sixty degree turn and stated that India acted in a breach of international law. Reports suggest that the marines are believed to have gone back to active service without as much a trial under the Italian law or the Italian Military law.

With regard to the Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations, the Italian government is certainly right. The Vienna Convention accords the diplomatic agent in Arts 29 and 3—diplomatic immunity.  But one should not forget that that the Italian Ambassador to India had filed a written affidavit before the SC taking responsibility for the return of the two marines to stand trial in India. The Italian government in essence retracted its promise and then stated that the marines would not return.

Daniele Mancini Source: ibnlive.in.com

The Italian Ambassador could be tried for the contempt of court, but he has been quick to claim diplomatic immunity. However, the most obvious choice before the Indian government would be to declare the envoy as persona non grata. This could also invite a retaliatory action on the Indian envoy in Italy. Regardless of what may happen, I strongly believe that this is a breach of trust and a contempt of court by the Italian government and the Italian Ambassador.

Fifthly, one scholar’s reading of the incident also reveals that this could have also been a case of ethnic profiling. The timeline of events presented by the two States describe conflicting reports. However, it is true that the Italians had believed that the fishermen were pirates and therefore may have fired in self defense. But the fishermen were unarmed during the shooting. It is indeed strange that the marines did not register this fact while firing (about fifteen bullets were found in the fishermen’s boat)—so can this be interpreted as ethnic profiling? Possibly so.

Another aspect that startles me is that the Italian ship did not report the incident of death or the supposedly pirate attack to local Indian authorities. It was only when the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre picked up radio blips and narrowed down to four ships. It then sent out a call for pirate incidents, only then did the Enrica Lexie respond.

Who suffers? Source: cloudfront.net

And lastly, in all this talk of international law, let’s not forget the two innocent fishermen who lost their lives. They were possibly the only breadwinners of their families and one can only imagine the trauma they have been through the past year. I refuse to see this issue merely as a legal or jurisdictional issue but a humanitarian one as well. It clearly involves a violation of the basic human rights of the victims. Their right to “life, liberty and security” as the UDHR itself embodies was without doubt violated and this fact should not be ignored in the diplomatic-jurisdictional tussle between the two governments.

To conclude, the issue of justice is central to this case—both for the victims and for the marines. And only time will tell the extent and degree to which the present stance of the Italian government would sour the relationship between the two countries. But personally, I feel that Indian government will need to take a firmer stand in this issue while ensuring that it does not violate international laws, norms and upholds justice for all parties involved.

References:

Bellish, J. (2012, February 22). Denver Journal of International Law and Policy. Retrieved March 18, 2013, from Denver Journal of International Law and Policy Web site: Armed Maritime Security and the Enrica Lexie. http://djilp.org/1798/armed-maritime-security-and-the-enrica-lexie/

Guilfoyle, D. (2012, March 2). European Journal of International Law. Retrieved March 19, 2013, from European Journal of International Law Web site: Shooting fishermen mistaken for pirates: Jurisdiction, Immunity and State Responsibility. http://www.ejiltalk.org/shooting-fishermen-mistaken-for-pirates-jurisdiction-immunity-and-state-responsibility/

Roy, S. (2013, March 18). Denver Journal of International Law and Policy. Retrieved March 18, 2013, from Denver Journal of International Law and Policy Web site: Homicide at Sea: Which Vessel is the Pirate in the Italy -India Conflict. http://djilp.org/3711/homicide-at-sea-which-vessel-is-the-pirate-in-the-italy-india-conflict/#fn-3711-1

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Retrieved March 19, 2013, from Wikipedia Web site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Italian_shooting_in_the_Arabian_Sea

 

Civil War in Syria: Perspectives from Turkey

22 Mar

Two years has been completed for Syria’s rebel against Basher al-Assad regime. When a peaceful protest was cracked down violently by Assad’s regime forces, the rebellion spread to rest of the country, became a nationwide protest and subsequently a civil war. Recent UN data on the region states that, so far, the conflict caused death of around 70,000 people; including civilians, protesters and pro-government soldiers. The conflict displaced some one million people who moved to the neighbouring countries as refugees; 2.5 million people were internally displaced and thousands were imprisoned and most of the villages and cities were damaged [1]. These numbers are increasing day by day, and more importantly no one has a clue what will happen next. This human tragedy in Syria has revealed interests and ideologies of major powers, and existing international order. It also showed how UN and Arab League failed to stop the civil war. This has happened though in the UN World Summit in 2005 member states made an international commitment to protect, when the state concerned is itself unable to do so, population from experiencing “crimes against humanity” [2]. A resolution by UN Security Council to end the bloodshed in Syria was vetoed by China and Russia, as they were unwilling to lose their economic and political dominance to Western powers. For most of the neighbouring countries, the Syrian issue became not just international policy but also internal policy.

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(Syria before and after war)

This paper will analyze Turkish response to the Syrian issue. Being neighboring country and supporting the rebellions, Turkey is hosting around 230,000 refugees from Syria. The numbers of refugees are increasing every day. Moreover, any new formation in Syria after civil will definitely affect Turkey and other neighbouring countries. In order to have better understanding about Turkish reaction against Syrian protest I will briefly touch upon political and demographic composition of Syria.

When protests resulted in the removal of authoritarian regimes in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt everyone hoped the same will happen to Assad’s regime. But, the present situation in the region destroyed the hopes of many people to establish a just and democratic governmental system. Assad, it seems will stay as a head of government until his last breath. Let me clarify certain points about Assad, his regime, and demographic composition of country. This will help us to identify Turkish response to the unrest in Syria.

Current president Basher al-Assad was nominated and confirmed as president, following the death of his father Hafez al-Assad in 2000. He has continued his father’s authoritarian, military-dominated regime [4]. Syria is dominated by Baath (Arab Socialist Resurrection) Party. As for the demographic composition of the population is concerned, there are different ethnic and religious groups. Who are the supporters of the regime and who are the protesters?

1. The Alawites (12 per cent of the population) are Shiite Muslims, but it is mixed with other religions [5]. The Assad family, the army and internal security apparatus, the units most responsible and loyal for enforcing regime are from the Alawites [4]. 2. The Sunni Muslims (60 per cent) are the main opposition group in Syria. The Muslim Brotherhood is the major group among Sunni Muslims that are active in other Arab countries [5]. 3. The Kurds (9 per cent), who are Sunni Muslims, are the other major group that poses threat to the regime. Being non-Arabs, the Kurds have been systematically suppressed by the regime and deprived of citizenship [4]. 4. Greek Orthodox Christians and Armenian Christians (13 per cent of population) were groups that initially supported Assad’s regime. The regime has fully protected the ethnic rights of these groups. The reason why they support Assad is that they fear the government that might come. Recent news says that some of these groups have started shifting to the protesters’ side. These are the major groups that are playing major role in Syria.

How did Turkey respond to the unrest in Syria? And historically, how was the relationship between Turkey and Syria? These are the questions to which I am going to search for the answers in the following paragraphs. While doing so, I have to consider responses of other actors (like Iran, Russia and western powers) as these affect Turkish motives towards Syria. Currently, Turkey has opened its borders to refugees coming from Syria, and is providing them shelter and food. Although the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan was a good friend of Basher, he openly protested against Assad’s brutal response to its own nation from the beginning.

Before Erdogan and Assad’s government, two countries had quarrelsome relations: suspected and confronted each other because of various issues. For example, during the Cold War period two countries sided opposite ideological groups: Turkey was member of NATO and Syria was close ally of the Soviet Union. During 1990s, Turkey blamed Syria for supporting the PKK (separatist terrorist group that is fighting for liberation of Kurds from Turkish rule) [6]. Due to these issues the countries were close to war. But things had changed during the first decade of 2000.Turkish new government ruled by Erdogan and his party Justice and Development Party (AKP) started foreign policy called as “zero problems with neighbors”. This policy allowed Turkey to establish good relations with all its neighbors. Turkey had played a major role in establishing a dialogue between Syria and Israel, and Syria other western countries. Military cooperation and trade between two countries has increased [6]. Erdogan and Assad became family friends.

Erdogan-Assad family

[Erdogan-Assad family]

However, the “honeymoon” ended when Assad resisted stopping protesters with military power. Initially, the Turkish government tried to convince and stop Assad through dialogues. When Turkey realized that Assad will continue using power against its citizens, Ankara declared that they are with opposition groups and opened their borders to Syrian refugees. Turkey established close alliance with the US, NATO and other Arab countries for the solution of conflict. There are several reasons for why Ankara is against Assad’s regime; humanitarian issue being one of them. Firstly, Turkey wanted to continue its “model image”, that is, of a stable, democratic and fast developing modern state ruled by moderate Islamist government, in the region. For that matter, Ankara had to follow other Arab countries that have condemned Assad’s brutality [6].Secondly, Turkey wants to see Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (SMB) in power, because if Syria is governed by Sunni Muslims which has the same philosophy, it may allow Turkey to be influential in the Middle East and North Africa [7]. Third reason could be the Shiite and Sunni conflict between Sunni Arab countries and Iran and its allies like Lebanon based Hezbollah. Turkey, like other Sunni Arabs, does not want expansion of Iran. Being a Shiite Iran is one of major supporter of Assad regime.

n_18250_4

[Refugee camp in Turkey]

 In addition to that, Syria’s civil war became an internal issue of Turkey. Besides the increasing number of refugees, there are two other factors: one is future of the Kurds living in both the countries and the other is Syria’s cross border operation. One major group in Syria who are against the regime is the Kurds. If these Kurds want to form any kind of separate state, it will threaten all countries where Kurds are a minority group (like Turkey, Iraq and Iran). Therefore, Turkey will probably participate actively in the formation of new government after Assad. Turkey has already such neighbor: autonomous Kurds formed after Saddam and ruled by Massoud Barzani, in northern Iraq. If the same entity will be created in northeast part of Syria, dealing with PKK for Turkey will be extremely difficult. Hence, Turkey will try its best to establish a “Republic of Syria” (a state with recognized minority rights) instead of division of Syria [8].

Secondly, Syria acted several times in a manner that tested Turkey’s power and patience in the region. For instance, Turkish warplane with two crew members was shot down by Syrian forces on the Mediterranean.  Additionally, continues cross border shelling of Syria caused death of many Turkish civilians [9] [10]. As a response to these incidents, Turkey was about to start war against Syria. But, pressure from other powers (especially Iran) did not allow Turkey to enter into war with Syria. It was clear that if the war happens, then it will not be war just between Turkey and Syria. It will include (directly or indirectly) Iran, Russia and the US etc.

To sum up, civil war in Syria has been going for the last two years. All peace talks, economic boycotts/sanctions and external threats seem to be not enough to stop Assad’s brutality. Furthermore, military intervention of the NATO or any other countries is blocked by opposite powers that are supporting the Assad regime. Turkey is one of the countries that has suffered because the conflict. Yet, Turkey cannot intervene in issue because of power relations in the international arena. As a result, the UN member states commitment (2005) to protect population from experiencing “crimes against humanity” is being violated and millions of people are being suffering in Syria.

By Otgonbayar Ajykyei

References:

  1. “Protests in Syria”, http://www.crowdvoice.org/protests-in-syria/?gclid=CI7cp9nogbYCFct56wod2moAug, Accessed on 16.03.2013
  2. Joseph Lester, 2011, “With UN’s Failure to Curb Syria Crack-Down, Has the Security Council Become a Relic of the Past?”, http://www.policymic.com/articles/3955/with-un-s-failure-to-curb-syria-crack-down-has-the-security-council-become-a-relic-of-the-past, Accessed on 16.03.2013
  3. “Syria Regional Refugee Response”, http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/country.php?id=224, Accessed on 16.03.2013
  4. “Syria Government and Politics”, http://www.mongabay.com/reference/country_profiles/2004-2005/2-Syria.html, Accessed on 16.03.2013
  5. Olga Khazan, “Who’s fighting whom in Syria?”, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2012/10/18/whos-fighting-who-in-syria/, Accessed on 16.03.2013
  6. Primoz Manfreda, “Turkish-Syrian Relations: Overview”, http://middleeast.about.com/od/syria/a/Turkish-Syrian-Relations-Overview.htm, Accessed on 16.03.2013
  7. Damla Aras , “Turkish-Syrian Relations Go Downhill: The Syrian Uprising”, http://www.meforum.org/3206/turkish-syrian-relations, Accessed on 16.03.2013
  8. Pelin Turgut, “How the Kurds Have Changed Turkey’s Calculations on Syria”, http://world.time.com/2012/08/06/how-the-kurds-have-changed-turkeys-calculations-on-syria/, Accessed on 18.03.2013
  9.  Whitney Eulich, “Turkey vows tougher response if Syrian shelling continues”, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/terrorism-security/2012/1010/Turkey-vows-tougher-response-if-Syrian-shelling-continues, Accessed on 18.03.2013
  10. Dalal Mawad and Rick Gladstone, “Syria Shoots Down Turkish Warplane, Fraying Ties Further”, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/23/world/middleeast/mass-killing-reported-in-syria-apparently-a-rebel-ambush.html?_r=0, Accessed on 18.03.2013

“Hitting the Road, Jack?”: The City on Wheels Phenomenon

10 Mar

By Vincy Abraham

Source: imageshack.us

Source: imageshack.us

One of the most complex social and economic entities is the City, with this complexity comes the difficulty in defining it. There is no universal definition for the City; however, scholars have attempted to define the City using a number of criterions. One of the most prominent descriptions is given by Lewis Mumford. Alarmed by the unmanageable growth of cities, the urban planner and historian described the city as “a geographic plexus, an economic organization, an institutional process, a theater of social action and an aesthetic symbol of collective unity”.

Demographically, a City has a dense population which is more or less permanently settled in a limited area. The city limits however, have become blurred due to suburbanization and the urban sprawl. Morphologically, it is characterized by ‘the permanence and continuous nature of its constructions and by the presence of the urban planning rules’. Geography too affects the nature of the City—for example, European cities are mostly older and historic while Asian cities have developed from ports of trade (however, this is not true for all modern cities).

Technological globalization has been one of the dominant forces changing and shaping the locality. The effect of globalization is most obvious in the urban setting, even more than its rural counterpart. The automobile (or the car) has been one such dominant technological force. Statistics show that over sixty million cars were made in 2012, which means that there were about 165,000 new cars manufactured each day. It is believed to be on par with other dominant forces namely popular culture, television and the internet. Still, rarely do we discuss the influence of cars on cities. Cities are defined, determined and continuously influenced by automobility (among other factors).

Source: iconwallstickers.co.uk

Source: iconwallstickers.co.uk

The motor car emerged out of a hunger for speed in England and other places. In fact there were continuous efforts being made to break the speed barrier. Motor touring (in England) and motor camping (in the New World) became popular past times for who could afford it. Cars soon became a necessity for households in the developed world. The mobility that cars provide have led to what scholars call, car based suburbanization of American cities. The auto sprawl syndrome was not just restricted to the US but was also seen in Australia. The car came to represent progress of a society, and it is quite difficult to imagine the American culture without its car culture.

What are automobiles?

Cars have been, for long, thought to be a neutral technology. By accepting this, we have ignored that the car has reconfigured the city by presenting an entirely different pattern of dwelling, travelling and socializing in and through an automobolized time-space. Before going into the ways in which cars have redefined cities, let us look at what an automobile is. Urban sociology has significantly theorized and studied the car culture and its implication.

Shove believed that automobiles exhibited six component factors—it is a manufactured object (by the industrial sector), it is a major item of individual consumption (it is advertised as an object of desire through erotic imagery, power and speed), it is a powerful machinic complex (its unique nature creates links to other industries), it is also a ‘quasi private mobility’ (it substitutes other forms of mobility like trains), it is a dominant culture (that hold notions about what constitutes a good life), and it is the single most important cause of environmental resource use.

Source: ibnlive.in.com

Source: ibnlive.in.com

One can see the real time influence of automobiles through the infrastructure changes that take place in a city. For example, the design of highways is based on the anatomy and physiology of the car. The highway network system also was developed keeping in mind cars and trucks, not as much, the human driving it. Other examples include the development of the motel/hotel culture, the drive through counters of restaurants, diners and petrol pump-cum-supermarkets in cities. What they mean to say in all this is that cars act as a catalyst that changes landscapes and transforms cities.

Do Automobiles shape the City?

Although the available literature and empirical studies on urban growth and structure have been mostly restricted to the United States’ cities, we can conclude that there are three basic models of urban structure—the Concentric Zone Theory (by Ernest Burgess in 1924), the Sector Model (by Homer Hoyt in 1939) and the Multiple Nuclei Model (by Harris and Ullman in 1945).

Hoyt’s Sector Model is particularly interesting in understanding the growth of how urban structures expand along transportation arteries. Although Hoyt’s model has been criticized on a number of grounds, he was right in his assessment on the role of transportation in expansion of cities. Commutation is a priority for urban residents and has influenced their choices. It is interesting to study the transformation of the City—from the early “walking city” to the present “automobile city”.

Source: urbanfabric.fi

Source: urbanfabric.fi

The walking city appeared sometime around the nineteenth century and was characterized by high density, mixed land use and narrow streets. Cities were very compact and residents here were required to make a short journey (usually walking) to reach their place of employment. The scenario of cities began to change in the 1860s in Europe and the New World (the Americas) due to the increasing density of population and industrial development. The new city form could accommodate more people due to the mass transit technology. The trains created sub-centers while the trams created an almost linear development along the “main street”. The city centre retained its intensive activity characteristic in the transit city.

The most recent transformation of the City came about during the Second World War period, and intensified much more after that. The automobile became a substitute to other forms of transportation, and movement among and between train lines became possible. And thus, the auto city was here to stay. Affordable housing became a reality while the City itself began to scatter and spread out. The influence of automobiles, however, grew to an extent that it became dependence for the residents and have led to a decline in social interaction.

Do Cars still influence the City?

Cars continue to affect the City in a number of ways. The infrastructures of cities are usually made around the car needs. The traditional street was replaced by roads meant for cars. Within the city itself, the roadways are made out of concrete and asphalt as these are most suitable for cars. Organized road networks not only connected people and places but businesses began to pick up along the roadways.

The automobile industry was initially situated within the city limits and before its mechanization, it did employed laborers. The city also saw the establishment of shops, bars and restaurants that catered to these workers. The car began to support other industries. Car manufacturers, car maintenance and oil, that is, petrol and gasoline producers came to the forefront. The government’s role began increasing in this context. The car and other motorized vehicles needed public financing in the form of road construction and road maintenance. For example, potholes are still a major cause of concern for Mumbai’s residents. Thus, the car redefined public and private responsibility within the city.

Source: toptravellists.net

Source: toptravellists.net

The automobile made accessibility to distant places possible, thus was also instrumental in changing the land use patterns and the real estate possibilities. Urban suburbanization has been made possible by the automobile. Today, almost one half of the city is dedicated to car usage in some form. Even in the resting mode, cars demand attention and space. Car parking is an urban issue. The land areas in cities cater to car needs like services stations, signals and traffic signs and other automobile oriented industries. Space for other forms of transportation began to decline in a number of cities.

All’s well then?

Cities are plagued with traffic jams. Cars have certainly intensified these traffic jams but cannot be blamed for inventing them. This is mainly because the available spaces did not match (and could not absorb) the increasingly number of cars produced. Broadening roads has encouraged more traffic and the newer constructions have fragmented the urban community socially.

Source: torinodiary.wordpress.com

Source: torinodiary.wordpress.com

Cars have divided workplaces and homes in cities and produced lengthy commutes. It is often said that cars have become the problem that it had promised to overcome. The premise of the auto city was to shorten the time-space factor for commuting but in reality, cars have dispersed the city so much so that it takes more time for traveling. Cars also began to replace other forms of transport—trains and walking; this is particularly true for the developed countries.

Cars are health threatening and possibly life threatening too. City residents lead a stressful and even unhealthy lifestyle (possibly due to the lack of exercise and easy availability of fast food). Cars add these woes as they are a source of carbon dioxide emission, leaving a large carbon footprint behind. This has long term effects for the environment. Cars are potentially life threatening in the sense that road accidents are common due to negligence, over-speeding or drunk driving or other car related crimes. The urban setting has been often called a concrete jungle, cars contribute to this notion. The city has become a car-only environment. Images of New York, Mumbai, Tokyo and Shanghai are testaments to this.

Source: telegraph.co.uk

Source: telegraph.co.uk

Have Cars redefined the City’s urban community and the urban individual?

We have seen the effects of the automobile on the city’s infrastructure and its environment. Another interesting area worth considering is the effect of cars on the urban community. Road and other similar construction have fragmented city life and the urban community. Social interaction between members of the community began to decline with the increasing car usage. Even family life was disrupted as cities began to disperse. On the one hand, cities now allot lesser leisure and recreational spaces while simultaneously expanding car spaces.

However, the individual is perhaps most redefined by the Car. The car encapsulates individuals in a privatized, cocooned and moving environment. Cars have reinforced individuality and consumerism especially as seen in the city. It came to represent an extension of the individual and it reconfigured modes of sociality. Scholars even suggest that the urban civil society should be reconceptualized as a ‘civil society of automobility’ with car drivers and car passengers.

Reference:

Automobiles in American Life and Culture. (2010). (University of Michigan and The Henry Ford) Retrieved March 7, 2013, from Automobiles in American Life and Culture: http://www.autolife.umd.umich.edu/

Newman, P., & Kenworthy, J. (1999). Sustainability and Cities: Overcoming Automobile Dependence. Washington DC: Island Press.

Sheller, M., & Urry, J. (2000). The City and the Car. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research , 24 (4), 737-757.

Shove, E. (1998, December 10). Trinity College Dublin. Retrieved March 7, 2013, from http://www.tcd.ie/ERC/pastprojects/carsdownloads/Consuming%20Automobility.pdf

Urry, J. (1999, January 6). University of Lancaster. Retrieved February 7, 2013, from http://www.lancs.ac.uk/fass/sociology/papers/urry-automobility.pdf

Can Islam and democracy coexist?

2 Mar

Islamic parties gaining power in Muslim dominated countries like Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon and Palestine and the social and political struggles (“Arab spring”) in Arab worlds has raised the question: Can Islam and democracy coexist? The question becomes genuine when one considers the political system in Islamic nations such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and the regime in Afghanistan during Taliban [1]. The authoritarian governments of these countries force their citizens to follow certain so called Islamic diktats, limits the rights of women and abrogate other types of freedom that exist in liberal democratic countries. There are many accepting and denying arguments on the question. This article is intended to argue that Islam is not against democracy. In fact, there are incidents and facts that support democratic values in Islam. To show that, I will start with defining basic things that should be understood when I say democracy and Islam. After that, I will focus on basic sources of Islam in order show values that are compatible with democracy. Last, I will mention some democratic and Islamic countries like Turkey which are practicing democracy.
When we discuss Islam and democracy, there are certain things that we have to keep in mind. Religion (for this paper Islam) has established immutable principles related to faith, worship and morality. While, democracy is a system that is being continually developed, revised and changes from place to place. Islam does not defines any kind of political system, rather it establishes fundamental principles that orient a ruler’s general character, leaving it to people to choose type and form of government [2].
Since there is no consensus definition of democracy, I have to mention what I mean by “democracy”. The main characteristics of democracy that I refer are:a governmentthat is accountable to its people, justice and the rule of law, equality before law, and freedom of political dissent. Some other important tenetsas defined by Robert Dahlarethe right to vote, free and fair election and freedom expression [3]. Keeping these basic principles of democracy in mind, in the following paragraphs, I will write some Islamic principles that meant for rulers of any Muslim society.
The two main sources of Islam are Quran and Sunnah (the practices of Prophet Mohammed). Although Islam is not a political ideology these sources provide some core guidelines. In a hadith (words of Prophet Mohammed), it is narrated that the best of all martyrs is a person who stands up to an oppressive unjust ruler, demanding fairness and who, as a result, may lose his or her life [4].
The first socio-political treaty called Sahifat al-Muwada‘a(Peace or Reconciliation Paper) in Islam was drafted when Muslims of Makka migrated to Medina in 622 (Islamic calendar starts from this day), and where Mohammed became the new political leader of the city state. What is important is that this treaty acknowledged every tribe in Medina, recognized other religions, and described how relations should be conducted among tribal and religious groups [4].
For equality, the Prophet says that all people are as equal as the teeth of comb, and Islam does not discriminate based on race, color, age, nationality, or physical traits. Other fundamental principles in Islam are:
1. Power lies in truth, a repudiation of the common idea that truth relies upon power.
2. Justice and the rule of law are essential.
3. Freedom of belief and rights to life, personal property, reproduction, and health (both mental and physical) cannot be violated.
4. The privacy and immunity of individual life must be maintained.
5. No one can be convicted of a crime without evidence, or accused and punished for someone else’s crime.
6. An advisory system of administration is essential [2].
Two other major practices in Islam are shura (consultation) and bay’a (compensatory contract). In Islamic political thought, the shura refers to deliberations conducted with the aim of collecting and discussing different opinions on a particular subject in order to reach a decision [4]. It is one of the practices for participating in decision making process which was recommended in Quran and decision making process of the Prophet. Bay’a is other type of political system, which can be described as contract between people and ruler. What makes the system important is people legitimizes the ruler as long as the ruler abides certain conditions such as social justice, distribution of wealth, military defense etc. [4]. The bay’a system was practiced during the early age of Islam. For example, after death of the Prophet, the second successor of the Prophet and ruler Muslim of community Umar called on people to help him if he was not fair and just. A freed slave and revered Muslim, Salman of Persia, answered that if Umar became unfair, then the swords of people would reform him [4].
Some Muslims believe that “democracy” is a foreign concept that has been imposed by Western countries. For them, the concept democracy (like supremacy of constitution) denies the fundamental Islamic affirmation of the sovereignty of God and is, therefore, a form of idolatry. People supporting these views are less likely to participate in elections, public debates and stay away from media [5]. But the important thing that we have to consider is the Islamic sources do not provide all details about government rules. Instead,the sources give wide space for human to decide issues without the violation of “God’s sovereignty”. For instance, the Prophet said that “[…] if you [army commanders] met the enemy and then they asked for [peace] talks [based] on God’s judgment [terms or conditions], then do not agree. Ask them for [peace] talks on you and your companion’s judgment [terms or conditions], because you never know if you will be able to meet God’s judgment regarding them or not.”[4]. From this hadith it can be understood that, people cannot estimate what is “God’s judgment” on a particular issue, but they should apply what is just and fair based on their knowledge.
The question that arises is: If Islam says all above, then why are these values missing in some Muslim countries? My answer would be, not all Muslim countries are undemocratic. In the last few decades, most of the non-Arabic Muslim countriessuch as Turkey, Indonesia and countries in central Asia have started shifting to democratic system. Moreover, even in Arab countries, they have started some of the processes of democracy. So called “Arab spring” in these regions, forced some governments to do certain reforms in their government system and some are still struggling to overthrow authoritarian regime. Turkey is the best example with its Muslim democratic system since 2002. Secular government system, ruled by Justice and Development Party (AKP) which has roots in Islam, is achieving economic development combing Islam and democracy [6].
To sum up, although the idea of democracy emerged from non Islamic western countries, it can be applied for Muslim societies. The basic sources of Islam and early practices actually recommended values that are democratic. Only thing that should be done is, those basic sources of Islam should be interpreted as per the contemporary needs. I hope that, these fundamental principles of Islam, and recent changes and demands in Muslim world towards democracy will give birth to many Muslim democratic countries soon.

 

by: Otgonbayar Ajykyei

 

References:
1. Mustafa Akyol, (in July 2011), “The Introduction chapter to Islam without Extremes A Muslim Case for Liberty”, thewhitepath.com/Islam-Without-Extremes-Introduction.pdf, Accessed on 10.02.2013
2. FethullahGülen, “A Comparative Approach to Islam and Democracy”, http://www.gulenmovement.us/a-comparative-approach-to-islam-and-democracy.html, Accessed on 10.02.2013
3. James Gould, (2006), “Islam and Democracy”, ITAC Presents, Volume 2006-1, http://www3.carleton.ca/cciss/res_docs/itac/gould_e.pdf, Accessed on 13.02.2013
4. Omar Ashour, “Democratic Islam? Assessing the Bases ofDemocracy in Islamic Political Thought”, http://www.mcgill.ca/files/mes/MJMES9Ashour.pdf, Accessed on 13.02.2013
5. John L. Esposito and John O. Voll, “Islam and Democracy”, http://www.neh.gov/news/humanities/2001-11/islam.html, Accessed on 13.02.2013
6. Vali Nasr, (2001), “The Rise of‘Muslim Democracy’”, http://www.journalofdemocracy.org › … › April 2005, Accessed on 13.02.2013

SPORTS AND POLITICS IN INDIA

23 Feb
Image

source: total sports

Apart from the rich culture and diverse arts presence, India has tremendous experience in different sporting activities such as athletics, cricket, shooting, hockey, chess, badminton, boxing, golf, kabaddi, wrestling, swimming etc. Besides this the country has respectable traditional sports such as boat racing, kushti, gilli-danda and others. But the most popular sport in the country is cricket. This sport is played at all age groups starting from the grassroots right up to the international level. The game has given rise to popular personalities such as Sachin Tendulkar, Kapil Dev, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar ,Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli  etc.

Apart from the players the sport has given rise to the popularity of coaches and even commentators. Cricket players are given a lot of attention by the media and advertising companies. India wins one match against Pakistan or Australia and there goes the line of cash prices and cheque’s being showered on them by ministers and state governments. Even in terms of incentives, the other sportsmen and women lag far behind the cricketers.

Image

source: manjul

Hockey is our National sport, but has lost importance in the past few years; it even failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics. In the London Olympics 2012 the Indian hockey team came out last losing all its matches. Not only hockey, but tennis, football, golf, badminton all shares the same pathetic condition. Neither are the sponsors interested in financing them, nor does the government raise enough funds. The Hockey team receives a meagre sum for every goal that they score, whereas those given to the cricketers do not require a mention. Even football has lost its importance to a great extent except for Goa and West Bengal; no other states are interested in football. In short, no sport in India except cricket is well managed. Indian sports are trapped in politics. New controversies arise almost every week.

Image

source: manjul

The most recent embarrassment to Indian sport is the suspension due to the fact that officials tainted by corruption charges win influential positions. For example Lalit Bhanot, who spent 11 months in prison after allegations of corruption following the 2010 games, was elected as Secretary General of the Indian Olympic Association. If the ban is not overturned, India will be banned from competing in any Olympic events, including the 2014 Winter Olympics and, more worrisome from India’s perspective, the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio. It is really shocking to see politicians and ex-bureaucrats holding positions as Chairman and Committee members for several decades most of them having no clue about the sport in general With the government of India pumping several crore rupees into the various sports bodies for promoting sports and encouraging the sportsmen, these sports bodies have become fertile ground for the politicians and ex-bureaucrats to make money. What is even more disturbing is that even after the stinging observations made by the international Olympic association,  the office bearers are still holding on to the positions and have not thought it necessary to quit the job.

Dynasties seem to rule Indian sport.  There are many examples that show how politicians and their families run committees as if it’s a family get together. Parminder Singh Dhindsa of the Akali Dal is president of the Cycling Federation of India and the son of Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa is currently president of the Punjab Olympic Association. The Chautala brothers Abhay Singh and Ajay Singh have heralded an era of total politicization of the sports federations. Between them, the two brothers control the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation and the table tennis federation of India.

In 2008, Kamakhya Prasad Singh Deo stepped down as president of the Rowing Federation of India. He was replaced as president by his cousin, CP Singh Deo. When CP Singh Deo ended his term, he was succeeded by his wife Rajlaxmi Singh Deo.

Image

source: cartoonistsandeep

Similarly is the case of N Ramachandran, vice-president of the Indian Triathlon Federation (his wife is the president). He is also president of the Tamil Nadu Cycling Association, World Squash Federation, the Tamil Nadu Squash Rackets Association and the vice-president of the Tamil Nadu Olympic Association. Jadgish Tytler, a Congress leader, has been at the helm of the Judo Federation of India for nearly 20 years on a trot. “There is hardly anyone in the judo body who dares to say anything against Tytler.

Sport’s is one area where India lags behind even some of the poorest nations in the world despite a huge pool of talented sportsperson. At the junior levels, our boys and girls can compete with the best in the world in almost every sport. However when it comes to the senior levels, where the actual capabilities of our sportsperson are tested, we fail miserably.

Even though, huge amount is spent on training and grooming of the players we still have not been able to achieve the desired results. The prime reason for poor performances is corruption & political interference. Due to this many time a good player is left out. The government and the Respective athletic boards are the main culprit for letting down India. Most of them are corrupt, lack professionalism and very biased. However the fundamental problem lies in the absence of a sporting culture in India. Sports in India  are considered a secondary and supplementary activity. This explains to a large extent, the apathy on the part of the government machinery towards sports. The corporate indifference too stems from the fact that they are not sure that the sponsorship money will be efficiently used in promoting the game and the welfare of the players.

Those who suffer due to such sordid conditions are the athletes, who have the talent and desire to compete and excel themselves in the international arena but they need to be given proper grooming and training which they have been denied. The ugly conditions in the sports bodies have been repeatedly revealed by several stories such as the coaches misbehaving with women athletes, selecting people in the team based on favoritism and bribes etc. People in India have been watching helplessly and with sadness, while the sports authorities have been behaving as if they are not accountable to anybody and neither the government nor anyone else can touch them.

 -Steffi Ebnett