Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Blasts in Jaipur Results in Increased Patrolling at the Borders

Debdatta Chowdhury

The string of blasts that took place in Jaipur on 13 May 2008 is yet another manifestation of the extreme intolerance that India has witnessed in terms of communal, caste, class and gender violence in the last few years. While the Gujarat riots was a watershed in the history of India’s acts of intolerance, the Jaipur blasts were a brutal reminder that intolerance resulting in violence is but a regular menu in India’s plate of ‘diversity’. The Jaipur blasts, eight of them in a span of 12 minutes, claimed about 60 lives and injured many more. A Bangladeshi terrorist outfit has been accused for the blasts. This blast goes to show that small towns, and not just metros, are also being targeted for terrorist activities. Post-blast, issues like increased patrolling at the borders have started coming up, once again. While the Samjhota Express and such acts of co-operation are attempts to bridge the gap between the two lands, these acts of brutality are a worst kind of blows to these attempts at improving the relation. Stories of recovery of the survivors of the blast do not, in any way, sound like assurances that all is well. Rather they sound like the bells of death, awaiting yet another busy market, yet another city. It is just a matter of a few days.

For more detailed news click on the links on the news section

Gujjar Agitation is Likely to End?

Ishita Dey

Eighteen people were killed in police firing at Sikandra in Dausa district in Rajasthan on May 24, 2008 as Gujjars continued their agitation demanding Scheduled Tribe status. Gujjars have been given the status of STs in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. In Rajasthan the Gujjar community has been declared as other backward castes and enjoys the benefit of reservation in state run institutions. One of the main reasons of Gujjar agitation as many would like to argue is the discriminatory position BJP led government in Rajasthan adopted way back in 1991 when they declared Jats who comprised 15% of the state population as STs

For detailed analysis on the ongoing Gujjar agitation and their demands read the links given on the news section
Why the Gujjars are so aggrieved ? by Jyotsna Singh
Gujjar agitation continues, toll climbs to 18

Are Agri Export Zones (AEZs) Better Than Special Economic Zones (SEZs)?

Ishita Dey

In an article by Ashok B Sharma in Financial Express (link provided) , he argues that Agri Export zones have the potential to boost exports which has been the sole objective of the SEZs and EPZs in India. While on hand, this kind of growth-oriented development activity has become the point of criticism, are AEZs the viable option? Ashok Sharma points out that in a recent study conducted by Agriculture and Processed Foods Export Development Authority (APEDA) states that AEZs are approaching the cumulative export target. While there might be alternative ways where more opportunities can be created by using the already existing infrastructure without disrupting the ecology in the already existing agrarian land one need to understand how the land and the existing infrastructure is being used. We invite your insights on AEZs

To read the full article please click on the link on the news section

Situation of Xenophobic Violence in South Africa

Debdatta Chowdhury

Xenophobia or the ‘fear of foreigner’ has been a pressing issue globally and is manifest in the mass scale violence amounting to genocide. A number of communities, all over the world have been victims to such violence, South African blacks being one of the worst examples. The neo-liberal economic policies, in South Africa, are much to be blamed for this. Neo-liberal policies, in South Africa, both the ‘roll-back’ and ‘roll-out’ varieties, have greatly diminished the rights of ordinary citizens, particularly low-income people and other disadvantaged groups, such as immigrants, racial minorities, and single mothers. Privatization has undermined worker’s economic rights. South African black workers have to struggle hard for collective bargaining rights, civil and political rights. Despite the end of Apartheid rule, South Africa’s neo-liberal model of economic development frustrates black worker’s long-standing dream of substantive equality and social rights. The border policies in South Africa are a culmination of, or rather the failure of this neo-liberal policy. The border policies are based on certain myths, obviously regarding the migrants from the surrounding areas of South Africa, who ‘pour into’ South Africa. The myths that form the base of the border policy are:

·Every poor and desperate person on the African continent wants to get into South Africa
·People are jumping the borders in their millions using whatever means necessary to get into South Africa
·People from the region "flood" to South Africa to find work or to use health and other social services
·Cross-border migration has largely negative implications for the source country
·Governments and people in the region expect South Africa to throw opens its doors to whoever wants to enter
·Conditions in the region are only going to get worse and unless South Africa takes a tougher stand on immigration policy the country will continue to be inundated with "illegal aliens".

Border policies founded on myths are bound to be disadvantageous to one or the other communities, in South Africa’s case the victimized community being the ‘blacks’. The attempt at compensating for the failure of the much-hyped neo-liberal economic policies in South Africa manifested itself in the shift of focus from the failed economy to a ‘structured’ border-crisis. And who else, but the ‘blacks’ were the tailor-made victims. It is not to say that border crisis is a non-existent problem. But border-control is not the solution, least the sole one, for curbing the racial violence that is a regular affair in South Africa. Equality—social, political, economic and cultural, is the biggest absence as well the need of the hour. At a time when international laws on human rights and anti-racist movements are being hailed as the scepters of the rule of humanity, it is a matter of utter shame that incidents of xenophobic violence, resulting from failing policies, still manage to occupy newspaper columns almost everyday. As an institute working on issues as xenophobia, racism, forced migration and international laws on refugees and human rights, we at CRG thought it necessary to post this review followed by the press release of the situation of xenophobic violence in South Africa, albeit with its biases. Your comments are welcome.

Press Release


Thursday, 22 May 2008 – South Africa is currently experiencing xenophobic violence on an unprecedented scale. Today’s Presidential decision to call on the armed forces shows that these events will lead to dramatic changes in South Africa’s social and political landscape. In this context, it is vital that we base policy discussion on fact, and sound research, not speculation and myth.

‘Totally Unexpected Attacks’

Various commentators have reacted to the recent high intensity attacks on non-nationals as if they were a new and surprising phenomenon. This view is epitomized by Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad’s statement that ‘I believe it is a matter of record that the police, and reservists, in very difficult circumstances have attempted to do their best in dealing with what has been a totally unexpected phenomenon in our country.’

These remarks should be questioned in light of the well documented national trend towards organized, mass violence against foreigners in townships and informal settlements. The media has consistently drawn our attention to this ongoing problem. Organizations such as the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa have long called on government to adopt a more pro-active response. It is not the time for ‘I told you so’ accusations. Nevertheless, it is misleading and unhelpful to represent the current violence in Gauteng as isolated and unexpected. These statements divert our attention from the failure of government to respond to long-standing and clear indications of a serious problem.

‘The Third Force’

The shocking nature and scale of recent violence have given rise to widespread speculation about the involvement of a so-called ‘Third Force’. This reference to clandestine and counter-revolutionary militias of the Apartheid era has been used to suggest significant levels of coordination and orchestration behind the attacks. Such claims have been attributed to members of the NEC, Cabinet and local government.

These discussions cloud and sensationalize the true nature of recent violence. Violence against foreigners has usually been orchestrated locally by groups and individuals seeking to capitalize on residents’ fears and suspicions. SAHRC’s contention is that there is a ‘copy-cat‘ dynamic at play, where groups and individuals mimic counterparts in other areas of the province or country. Subsequent investigations may reveal instances of co-operation and co-ordination between the various sites where violence has occurred. However, if there is evidence to date that these events were planned and orchestrated by a single organization or individual, they need to be substantiated and made public. If not, the ‘Third Force’ reference simply detracts our attention from the serious inter-ethnic and inter-communal animosities and grievances that have caused violence across the country.

‘Border Control is the Solution’

Many of the perpetrators of the violence have explained their actions as attempts to compensate for the lack of border control. Some commentators have picked up on this concern to suggest that incompetent border management has encouraged recent violence. For example, the Institute of Race Relations argues: ‘Poor policy decisions and simple incompetence in border policing…contributed directly to the presence of a large illegal population in South Africa. Without adequate legal standing in the community, these people became easy or soft targets for mob violence.’

This claim, which is supported by a call for additional border controls, papers over the fact that South Africa has been pouring huge amounts of additional resources into border control over the past few years, particularly on the Limpopo River. In 2006 [the latest figures] South Africa deported over a quarter of a million people, a hike of more than 56,000 on the previous year. This costs taxpayers a lot of money. And yet, there are large numbers of people classified as illegal living in South Africa. The problem is not that South Africa has not been patrolling borders and arresting ‘illegals’; it is that these sorts of policy responses just don’t work. Instead, what should be attempted is to integrate non-nationals into South Africa, beginning with the idea of providing some form of temporary protection to Zimbabwean nationals fleeing the crisis in their country.

‘Helping the South Africans’

Many people have argued that the reason why we have to end xenophobic violence has to do with the repayment for debts incurred to frontline states during the Apartheid era.

While it is true that South Africa owes much to its neighbours, the logic of this argument tacitly endorses xenophobia against those who do not come from Southern Africa. Although many of the recent attacks have targeted Zimbabweans and Mozambicans, previous violence have claimed victims from Somalia, Pakistan, China, and elsewhere in the world. The why they should be attacked is not because they once helped South Africa. Rather, it is because they are part of the same society and that constitutional and moral commitments have been made to protect the rights of all who live in South Africa regardless of race, religion, or nationality.

New Economic Spaces, Displacement and Right to Life

Ishita Dey

Studies on SEZ have focused on the social conflict, discourses of development paradigm but rarely have tried to understand the recent resistance movements against SEZ in Nandigram in Midnapur District of West Bengal in the context of de- peasantisation and re- industrialisation. The age-old conflict of modernization through industrialisation has been debated widely across social science. While studies have managed to capture the dilemma of development discourse; there has been little emphasis on the how under the various schemes of urbanization fails to address the social tensions that have emerged and continues to emerge in case of land acquisition in West Bengal. These “modernization” processes have contributed to the shifting patterns of global labour but failed to address how female labour fails to capture the attention of policy makers in the innumerable rehabilitation policies that the Indian state has framed.

The fact sheet on SEZs in states that of the total land in India which is about 2973190 sq km; 54.5% (1620388 sq km) land mass could be used for agricultural purpose. The quantification of landmass available for agricultural activities leaves no room for the people who will be displaced. The new “technology of governmentality through its policy exercise has created an avenue of Resettlement and rehabilitation policy 2007 where it has been suggested that it is important to “manufacture consent” for development. The ways and tools of manufacturing consent have taken violent forms in the recent times.

The notion of SEZ needs to be contextualised within the broader understanding of the global economic restructuring of the world in general and post liberalization of the Indian economy in particular. While governance and policy exercises since independence is inclined towards industrialization; recent policy exercises is an attempt to re- industrialise to facilitate “transnational production networks” through cooption and manufacturing of consent among the agrarian workforce to create new segregated economic spaces which will be autonomous self sufficient not only in its “economic sense” but also in its civic and political sense. The legal provisions of the SEZs as some argue is a way to create “sovereign city states” ruled by corporates. It is against this background that we need to understand that the process of selective “governance” mechanisms has created and produced “social conflict” and often a never-ending one between the people and state has been the case in Nandigram.In the case of Nandigram, though the government has constantly assured the local population that it will not acquire land, the place has been transformed into a violent site of contestation between the CPI (M) supporters and the Bhumi Uchched Pratirodh Committee. The task of reclaiming territorial authority on certain areas has produced social tensions that are never ending. The horrific images of neo- colonial ways of land grabbing the country witnessed on March 14 2008 reflect the contradictory ways of “modern governance”.

While on one side, the new governance mechanisms are bound to create quasi-sovereign city-states with its own governance strategies, these zones will also be responsible for changing landscapes which will affect the livelihood of people and eco diversity of the area. As some argue the SEZ will pave the way of privation of governance with the Development Commissioner, three officers of the Central government and two representatives of the private development. The rationale of such a governing body within an “electoral democratic space” needs special attention. Any economic activity within the jurisdiction of the SEZ will be exempted from tax; under the garb of “public utility services”; while a similar infrastructure will be regulated through the laws of the electoral democracy in a different topographical context. These divisive measures will re-produce satellite towns which will be in constant conflict with the already existing juridical spaces of satellite – periphery of the city.

While SEZs on one hand is paving way for building alternative forms of governance the very selective methods it is deploying is reminiscent of a welfare politics of the state that is bound to create a divisive “politics of citizenship”. The state through its discriminatory measures is creating “citizens of exception” and the lives of the people are being promised to be safeguarded through a single dictum of National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy 2007. India has a long drawn history of policy exercises as one of the modes of governance to combat the claim making processes that the displaced have long demanded. As we all know “policies” suffer from the limitation of going unchallenged in any court of law. Thus the efficacy of such policy exercises is farcical to some extent.

Secondly, with the number of SEZ on the rise we need to give legal recognition to the Internally displaced person. Our experiences with Indian modernity, be it the Bhakra Nangal Project, Narmada or even the SEZ resistance movements have been responsible and continues to be responsible for creating rising figures internally displaced persons. When one tries to delineate “justification of displacement” as Peter Penz in his essay “Development, Displacement and international Ethics” points out, displacement is seen as inevitable and it is there the dialectical nature of displacement and development regarding its ethical character gets far more explicit. The three perspectives are public- interest perspective, self -determination perspective which treats freedom and choice as central and equal-sharing perspective which sees development as reducing inequalities. Self -determination perspective and equal-sharing perspective treats the rights of individual and community as central and it is this prioritization that creates a unique approach to development which will minimize displacement and provide adequate resettlement and rehabilitation to those displaced.

Those displaced due to construction of Bhakra Nangal dam have been forced to resettle in areas where they do not enjoy basic drinking water facility. Bhakra is one of the many cases in a country which has been witness to many a policy exercises of resettlement and rehabilitation. The recent NRP 2007 which primarily addresses the issue of development induced displacement speaks of people’s involvement in the R&R process post land acquisition and not when the land is been acquired which reflects the accountability of the state. It is only when the state will be accountable towards its citizens can we talk of the “moral responsibility” of the foreign business houses as Penz proposes. In case of resistance movements against the recent move to acquire land for SEZ in Bengal, Maharashtra and Orissa one of the primary concerns of the protesters was the question of alternative livelihood, home and land. In case of mining projects it is the tribals who are the worst affected. Kudremukh Mining project made it to the news when the Government decided to extend the lease to KIOCL despite the repeated protests by the environmental groups and locals. The tribals are reportedly being killed under the garb of the Naxalites. These instances are some food for thought to reflect on whether or not it is ethical to displace people for reasons of development. Most of the cases of recently proposed land acquisitions in Orissa be it by POSCO or Vedanta the nation- state to attract FDI has chosen to take sides of the foreign actors. Under such conditions one is quite skeptical regarding the “cosmopolitan approach” as it is finally through the “language of rights” that one can “empower the local/ host communities” to redefine their nature of “hospitality and shelter” which opens up another dimension as far as the “ethics” of moral responsibility is concerned. The “ethics” of “moral responsibility” is best put into practice when the concerns of those displaced are seen within the purview of the “language of rights” or “right to life” rather than as a notion of “moral responsibility” without any legal binding.

What we legally owe to those affected should be decided by the “language of rights” as our experience with the past and the resistance movements against proposed land acquisitions for development in West Bengal, Maharashtra, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have shown.