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UK: Reach All Women in WAR also honors Pakistan's Gulalai Ismail with 2017 Politkovskaya Award Print E-mail
  Thursday 5th of October 2017
To mark the anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder on 7th October 2006, and to honour Anna and other women like her in the world, RAW in WAR (Reach All Women in WAR) annually presents the Anna Politkovskaya Award to a woman human rights defender from a conflict zone who, like Anna, stands up for the victims of conflict, often at great personal risk. Anna lived a life of courage and truth-telling in the face of grave danger, just like her friend and the first recipient of the Anna Politkovskaya Award, Natalia Estemirova, who was murdered on 15 July 2009.

Gulalai Ismail (Pakistan) 2017: Co-Recipient of the Anna Politkovskaya Award

On Thursday 5th of October 2017 RAW in WAR honours Gulalai Ismail, a courageous Pashtun human rights activist from Swabi, Pakistan. At the age of 16 in 2002, Gulalai founded Aware Girls with her sister Saba Ismail, aiming to challenge the culture of violence and the oppression of women in the rural Khyber Pakhtunkhwa area in the north west of Pakistan. Driven by a passion to challenge the inequality, intolerance and extremism, they began running workshops to provide girls and young women with leadership skills to challenge oppression and fight for their rights to an education and equal opportunities. Malala Yousafzai was an attendee of Aware Girls programmes in 2011.

On Gulalai Ismail receiving the 2017 Anna Politkovskaya Award, Malala Yousafzai, student, activist, Malala Fund co-founder and 2013 Award winner, said:
“I am proud to support my sister Gulalai Ismail, a fearless advocate for girls’ education and equality in Pakistan.
Through Aware Girls, Gulalai is training young women to advocate for their rights. Her work is fostering the next generation of female leaders in our country.
Despite discrimination and danger, Gulalai is continuing her fight to see every girl to go to school. She has been my friend for many years and I wish her congratulations on this distinguished honour.”
Gulalai has been repeatedly threatened for her activism. Aware Girls was listed as one of five “agents of the CIA” in Pakistan. On May 16, 2014, four armed gunmen attempted to force their way into the family home, shouting and looking for Gulalai Ismail who had been delayed by lost baggage at the airport, which saved her life. Social media campaigns called Gulalai a foreign agent, “Western puppet,” and atheist after her international recognition as a youth leader, which ignited threats of violence and hatred against her. Despite the threats and danger faced by her and her family as a result of her activities, Gulalai continues her work in Pakistan.

In 2010, Gulalai set up the Youth Peace Network, which works to strengthen the capacity of young people as peace activists in their communities. The Youth Peace Network was a response to what Gulalai saw as the increased ‘Talibanisation’ of young men and women and the vulnerability of young people to militants in the North-West of Pakistan. In 2013 she set up the Marastyal Helpline to give advice and assistance to women at risk from, and victims of, gender based violence. The service gives advice on legal and medical aid as well as emergency ambulance information and emotional counselling and operates from Peshawar.

Also in 2013 Gulalai joined the Youth Advocacy Team of the United Network of Young Peacebuilders, to advocate for a global policy framework which recognises the role of young people as peacebuilders. This led to the adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 “Youth, Peace and Security.” Gulalai is now working in Pakistan on the implementation of the UNSC Resolution so that young people’s voices become part of all decisions and policies regarding peacebuilding and countering extremism.

Despite the dangers she is facing, in 2016, along with partners, Gulalai set up “Pak-Afghan Women Peace Network” which is a network of women peacebuilders from Afghanistan and Pakistan working towards countering radicalisation. The network is bringing together women peacebuilders from both countries working towards lasting peace in the region. Gulalai Ismail continues her work in Pakistan through “Aware Girls” and the Youth Peace network bringing peace activists together to promote peaceful resistance to the Taliban and encouraging more women into politics, as well as investigating the psychological impact of terrorism on children and families.

On accepting the award, Gulalai Ismail said:
“I am honoured to receive the Anna Politkovskaya Award, an award dedicated to Anna; a woman of great courage and bravery. A woman who refused to be silenced. I am accepting this award because just like Anna, I am also refusing to be silenced by adversity, violence and extremism. Speaking out for our rights and speaking out against religious extremism is our fundamental right, no one should have to choose between the right to Speak and the right to life.
While I receive this award wars, gun violence, and genocides continue in many parts of the world. Refugee camps are becoming homes to millions of people. People are getting denied their right to self-determination. New brands of religious extremist organisations keep on emerging, with every new brand beholding much more severity of violence. The world seems to be in its darkest period, but I want to tell you that no matter how dark the world is, there is HOPE as well. Hope in the form of Jamalida Begum from Myanmar, who is a brave survivor of rape by the Myanmar security forces, and despite threats to her life she Spoke up and refused to be silenced. If there are conflicts, there are brave women too and this award is not only my recognition as a person, but a recognition of all those brave women who have spoken out, even if the cost was intimidation, threats and murder.
Thank you to RAW in WAR for letting me share this award with another incredible woman from India, Gauri Lankesh who just like Anna, was killed for speaking truth to power. While I receive this award, India and Pakistan complete 70 years of their separation, and you are reminding to the world again that even today we have similar hopes, aspirations and struggles. That love is greater than divides.“
On Gulalai Ismail and Gauri Lankesh receiving the 2017 Anna Politkovskaya Award, as well as the special tribute to Jamalida Begum, Baron Judd of Portsea, a member of the 2017 Award Nominations Committee, said:
“Amidst all the disturbing violence and repression, not least of journalists, which is increasingly prevalent, Anna Politkovskaya remains a heroic example of courage and integrity. I am glad to salute Gulalai Ismail and the late Gauri Lankesh together with Jamilida Begum as brave champions of Anna’s cause. In doing this I also salute the countless individuals who are victims of oppression, tyranny, torture, sexual abuse and disappearances, wherever this occurs.”
The awards will be presented to the winners in March 2018 in London at RAW in WAR’s ‘Refusing to be Silenced’ event, part of the 2018 Women of the World (WOW) Festival at the London’s Southbank Centre

 Pakistan ~ October 05, 2017

KP rights activist wins Anna Politkovskaya Award

Gulalai Ismail, a Pashtun women's rights activist from Swabi, was awarded thed Reach all Women in War (RAW) Anna Politkovskaya Awar on Thursday alongside senior Indian journalist, Gauri Lankesh, according to a report by RAW.

Gulalai co-founded a non-governmental organisation, Aware Girls, with her sister Saba Ismail in 2002. The organisation aims to strengthen the leadership skills of young people, especially women and girls, enabling them to act as agents of change for women empowerment and peace building and to fight for their rights.

"Speaking out for our rights and speaking out against religious extremism is our fundamental right," Gulalai said as she accepted the award.

"While I receive this award, wars, gun violence, and genocides continue in many parts of the world. Refugee camps are becoming homes to millions of people. People are getting denied their right to self-determination. New brands of religious extremist organisations keep on emerging, with every new brand beholding much more severity of violence," Gulalai added.

"No matter how dark the world is, there is hope as well," she said.

"Gauri Lankesh... was killed for speaking truth to power," Gulalai said about an Indian journalist who was posthumously given the Anna Politkovskaya Award along with Gulalai.

Lankesh a known critic of right-wing groups in India was fatally shot by unidentified attackers in the Indian city of Bengaluru in September.

Before her death, the senior journalist had been found responsible in a defamation case by a lawmaker of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party for her writing about Hindu nationalists.

"While I receive this award, India and Pakistan complete 70 years of their separation, and you are reminding the world again that even today we have similar hopes, aspirations and struggles," Gulalai said as she completed her acceptance speech.

Pakistan's teenage Nobel laureate, Malala Yuousafzai, who won the award in 2013, said about Gulalai's work: "Through Aware Girls, Gulalai is training young women to advocate for their rights. Her work is fostering the next generation of female leaders in our country."

 London ~ Tuesday 13 October 2015

The Peshawar women fighting the Taliban: 'We cannot trust anyone'

The work of the remarkable women known as Aware Girls to counter the extremism of the Taliban would be dangerous even if they weren’t based in Peshawar, a city that feels as if it’s under siege
Saba Ismail, co-founder of Aware Girls with sister Gulalai, addresses women at a community event in Mardan. (Angela Catlin)

By Billy Briggs in Peshawar, Pakistan

In a hotel room in Peshawar, in secret, Gulalai Ismail is giving a lecture to a group of men and women on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The 29-year-old wears a black leather jacket, rather than the customary burqa, and uses a flipchart as she explains the Declaration’s clauses on freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial. The 30 delegates in the room have travelled here from as far afield as Chitral, South Waziristan and Afghanistan. When Ismail has finished, they take turns to talk about the human rights abuses that they’ve witnessed: acts of mob justice and lynchings, or summary executions by Islamist extremists. Four people act out the killing of a journalist by the Taliban.

They also share ideas for promoting peace. One man explains how he persuaded shopkeepers to stop selling toy guns to children in a bazaar. A young woman describes her successful campaign at the University of Malakand for female students to be allowed to wear colourful headscarves, instead of just black.

These brave young people belong to a network of about 300 activists from across northern Pakistan who peacefully oppose the Taliban. Peshawar is their headquarters, the safest place for them to meet and attend workshops on human rights. Gulalai leads many of the sessions. A determined and fearless Pashtun woman, she heads the organisation that makes all this happen: Aware Girls.

Aware Girls
attendee Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban at just 15 years old

Peshawar, Pakistan, a city of 3.3 million people that has been deeply affected by terrorism. (Angela Catlin)

Aware Girls was founded in 2002 and operates in the face of severe violence, not just in Peshawar but also in Pakistan’s tribal areas and other troubled parts of the country. It trains young women on their rights – and, through its Youth Peace Network, makes efforts to encourage more women into politics – who then try to stop their peers being radicalised, leaving Peshawar for villages and towns where they try to dissuade others from joining extremist groups.

In Peshawar, this is highly dangerous work – not least because Aware Girls is run mainly by women. One of its attendees in 2011 was Malala Yousafzai, whose own efforts on behalf of women’s education earned her a bullet to the head from the Taliban at the age of 15. She survived and went on to win the Nobel peace prize. Gulalai says her friend is now a symbol of honour for the organisation. “Violent attacks are happening to many women in Pakistan, so I was happy Malala was able to highlight the issue.”

Peshawar is a dangerous place at the best of times. A sprawling, dusty metropolis of around 3.3 million people, it is the capital of the north-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, bordering Afghanistan near the Khyber Pass. Everyone here has been affected by terrorism. The city feels as if it’s under siege. Armed soldiers nervously man checkpoints on main roads, while government buildings resemble fortresses, protected by guns and razor wire.

The city is regularly rocked by suicide bomb attacks and the security situation remains desperate. Last December, one atrocity particularly appalled the world, when the group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan murdered 132 children and 18 adults in a school. It was the worst terrorist act in Pakistan’s history, but there have been several other mass killings. Aware Girls estimates that around 4,000 people in the province have been murdered or maimed by terrorists since 2010.

The group believes the best way to combat terrorism is with education. Gulalai and her sister, Saba, founded it in 2002 when they were still teenagers, their initial goal to advance women’s rights in a city where many females suffer appalling discrimination. The sisters began campaigning against domestic violence, acid attacks, honour killings and exploitative labour.

Aware Girls estimates that around 4,000 people in the province have been murdered or maimed by terrorists since 2010
  Taheer and Irum Aneez Malik, pictured here with their 12-year-old daughter Kashuf and 10-year-old nephew Hashir, mourn the loss of their 14-year-old son Hammad who was shot dead at school. (Angela Catlin)

Since 2010, Aware Girls has also focused on its growing peace network, which stretches out from its Peshawar base to rural Taliban strongholds. Last year, 223 activists reached almost 4,000 “at risk” young people. At the last national elections, in 2013, Aware Girls led all-female teams of polling station monitors, to ensure women were allowed to vote freely and without intimidation.

One of Saba’s projects has been to investigate the psychological impact of terrorism on the city of Peshawar. According to her study, 84% of survivors of bombings said they were too frightened to leave their homes, while 66% of families reported suffering psychological problems. Children were too scared to attend school due to constant suicide attacks. Domestic violence was rising because men who’d lost their homes or jobs were assaulting their wives and daughters. Peshawar’s economy has suffered greatly over the years, and many women – who often suffer disproportionately due to their second-class status in Pakistani society – said they were living hand to mouth.

“Terrorism has destroyed houses, properties, businesses and livelihoods. Children are frightened and weep. Women have lost hope,” says Saba.

But while terrorism casts a dark shadow over Peshawar, there remains hope that education and dialogue can, over time, change entrenched attitudes. Jawad Ullahkhan, 21, has been involved with Aware Girls for two years. He is from Mingora, the largest city in Swat district, and the place where he saw his first decapitated corpse.

Aware Girls led all-female teams of polling station monitors to ensure women were allowed to vote without intimidation

Jamia Gasmia, a militant religious school in Dhodhdr, has pledged allegiance to political party Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam, which has links to the Taliban. (Angela Catlin)

“The Taliban would bring their victims to a place we called Blood Choke [Green Square] and behead them. They would leave them there for days. The first time I saw a body strung up, I could not believe it. I remember I was walking towards Blood Choke listening to music. I had my hood up so nobody would see my earphones, as the Taliban had banned music. I was in shock for days as I had never seen such things. It was so cruel. I can still smell the blood.”

As he relates the story, Ullahkhan’s eyes widen as if he’s back in the moment. But since attending meetings in Peshawar, he has recruited 15 people to promote peace in Mingora: they try to prevent radicalisation through theatre, and engage with students from extremist madrasas in order to challenge stereotypes and bigotry.

It’s difficult to get anything done in a city as risky as Peshawar. Aware Girls work in schools and mosques, and offer one-to-one counselling that can last for weeks in the hope that a young person changes their views – but they are forced to hold their community meetings by invitation only, in hotel rooms protected by armed guards, where they know the owners and staff. Delegates suspect they are being monitored by ISI, Pakistan’s secret police. Last spring, Gulalai had a lucky escape when lost luggage after a flight meant she wasn’t at home in Peshawar when four armed men turned up at her door.

“They claimed to be security officers who had come to search our home,” Gulalai says. “They tried to enter forcefully but my father refused to open the door. They were shouting and making threats. They started shooting guns into the air. I thought that sooner or later I’d be attacked, but I never thought it would happen to my family.”

We want women to have equal rights to justice, legal support, financial resources and access to education - Saba Ismail


She doesn’t know who the gunmen were: Taliban, Pakistan’s security services, or even a criminal gang trying to kidnap her for ransom. “We cannot trust anyone,” she says.

Nevertheless, as a city that offers at least a modicum of anonymity, Peshawar remains their best bet to fight the Taliban by sowing the seeds of education – work that has won Gulalai the 2014 International Humanist of the Year award and the Commonwealth Youth Award for Asia, and Saba the 2013 Democracy award of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED); both women were named that year in Foreign Policy’s list of “leading global thinkers”.

“There were so many human rights violations, such as rape and murder, happening to women in our community, but no platforms for women to raise their voices,” Saba says. “We want women to have equal rights to justice, legal support, financial resources and access to education and other social services.”

Listen to a BBC Radio 4 appeal about the work of Aware Girls and their funder Peace Direct HERE

UK: Reach All Women in WAR honors India's Gauri Lankesh with 2017 Anna Politkovskaya Award Print E-mail

 Friday October 6 2017

Gauri Lankesh named for Anna Politkovskaya Award


BENGALARU: Journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead by unknown assailants on September 5, has been posthumously given the prestigious Anna Politkovskaya Award instituted by Reach All Women (RAW) in War.

RAW is a platform that brings together international women of courage who stand for human rights and justice in war and conflict zones around the world. Gauri’s family will receive the award on March 2018 at the Women of the World Festival to be held in London.

In its statement, RAW said Gauri Lankesh shares the award with Pakistani activist Gulalai Ismail, who is fighting against Islamic extremism in her country.

The Nominations Committee members observed that they were deeply moved by Gauri and Gulalai’s “bravery and dedication to peace and human rights”.

They noted that Gauri was a critic of right-wing Hindu extremism, campaigner for women’s rights, opposed to the caste system, and a campaigner for rights of Dalits.

Kavita Lankesh, sister of Gauri, told presspersons that the award is a “morale booster for people who want to write and continue to fight against injustice”. It was an honour to “the huge family that loved and adored Gauri for her commitment to the cause of secular ideals, justice, equality and women rights,” she said.

“Freedom and equality were question of life and death for Gauri. She fought for human dignity throughout,” said critic Asha Devi, a friend of Gauri.

Gauri was awarded the Periyar Award, posthumously, by the Thinkers Forum on September 17 in Bengaluru.

The Anna Politkovskaya Award is instituted in the name of the well-known Russian journalist who was killed in 2006 in Moscow for her courage to speak out on behalf of the suffering of the civilians in the war in Chechnya. To mark the anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder on October 7, 2006, and to honour Anna and other women like in the world, RAW in War annually presents the award to women human rights’ defenders.

The award is instituted by Reach All Women, which is a platform that brings together international women of courage who stand for human rights and justice in war and conflict zones around the world.

Norway: Nobel Peace Prize 2017 to NGO, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons Print E-mail

 Friday October 6 2017

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons awarded 2017 Nobel Prize in Peace

The Hindu Net Desk

Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, holds a banner in Geneva on October 6, 2017 after the group won the Nobel Peace Prize. (AFP)

ICAN has been the leading civil society actor in the effort to achieve a prohibition of nuclear weapons under international law, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in Oslo on October 6.

The committee emphasised that “the next steps towards attaining a world free of nuclear weapons must involve the nuclear-armed states”. It said the 2017 Peace Prize called upon nuclear-armed states to initiate negotiations to gradual elimination of the world’s 15,000 nuclear weapons .

ICAN had in the past year given the efforts to achieve a world without nuclear weapons a new direction and new vigour, it added.

ICAN describes itself as a coalition of grass roots non-government groups in more than 100 nations. It began in Australia and was officially launched in Vienna in 2007. “We live in a world where the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time,” said Berit Reiss-Andersen, leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

ICAN leader delighted
ICAN leader Beatrice Fihn was delighted with the news that the organisation is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, awards committee head Reiss-Andersen said.

Ms. Fihn told reporters, “We can’t threaten to indiscriminately slaughter hundreds of thousands of civilians in the name of security. That’s not how you build security.”

Ms. Fihn said the group had received a phone call minutes before the official announcement was made. But she thought it was “a prank” and she didn’t believe it until she heard the name of the group during the Peace Prize announcement in Oslo.

A spokeswoman for ICAN said the organisation was overjoyed at winning the Peace Prize. “As you can imagine, we are elated. This is great news," Daniela Varano told Reuters. “It's great recognition for the work that the campaigners did throughout the years and especially the Hibakusha,” she said, referring to survivors of atom bombs in Japan. “Their testimony was critical, was crucial and for such an amazing success.”

ICAN said in a statement on its Facebook page, “This award shines a needed light on the path the ban treaty provides towards a world free of nuclear weapons. Before it is too late, we must take that path. This is a time of great global tension, when fiery rhetoric could all too easily lead us, inexorably, to unspeakable horror. The spectre of nuclear conflict looms large once more. If ever there were a moment for nations to declare their unequivocal opposition to nuclear weapons, that moment is now.”

In July, 122 nations adopted a U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons but nuclear-armed states, including the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France stayed out of the talks.

The Nobel Prize seeks to bolster the case of disarmament amid nuclear tensions between the United States and North Korea and uncertainty over the fate of a 2015 deal between Iran and major powers to limit Tehran's nuclear programme.

U.S. President Donald Trump has called the Iran agreement the “worst deal ever negotiated” and a senior administration official said on Thursday that Mr. Trump is expected to announce soon that he would decertify the landmark pact.

Ms. Reiss-Andersen denied that the prize was “a kick in the leg” for Mr. Trump. She said the prize was a call to states that have nuclear weapons to fulfil earlier pledges to work towards disarmament. “The message is to remind them to the commitment they have already made that they have to work for a nuclear free world," she told Reuters.

The United Nations said the award would help bolster efforts to get the 55 ratifications by countries for the U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to come into force. “I hope this prize will be conducive for the entry into force of this treaty,” U.N. Chief Spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci told a news briefing.

More than 300 nominations
The Norwegian committee sorted through more than 300 nominations for the award, which recognises both accomplishments and intentions.

The prize announcement culminates a week in which Nobel laureates have been named in Medicine, Physics, Chemistry and Literature.

The Norwegian committee does not release names of those it considers for the prize, but said 215 individuals and 103 organisations were nominated.

Observers saw the Syrian volunteer humanitarian organisation White Helmets as a top contender, along with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini for shepherding the deal to curb Iran’s nuclear programme.

(With inputs from AP, Reuters)
 Friday October 6 2017 - 10:30PM

Nobel peace prize awarded to Melbourne-born International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

By Melissa Cunningham

During a time when the risk of nuclear conflict is imminent, the prestigious Nobel peace prize has been awarded to a Melbourne-born advocacy group that pushed to establish the first treaty to ban nuclear weapons.

The Nobel Committee honoured the now Geneva-based group, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, "for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons."

 The launch of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons in Melbourne in 2007.

The group worked to advance the negotiations that led to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was passed earlier this year at the United Nations.

In July, 122 nations voted to pass the treaty, but nuclear-armed states including the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France stayed out of the talks.

Australia is also yet to sign the treaty.

In order to come into effect, the treaty must be signed and ratified by at least 50 countries. Fifty-three countries have signed and three countries, Guyana, Thailand and the Vatican City, have ratified the treaty.

ICAN describes itself as a coalition of grassroots non-government groups in more than 100 nations.

ICAN Asia-Pacific director Tim Wright said the group was elated by the honour and hoped it would mount pressure on countries to join the movement to end the human destruction caused by nuclear weapons.

"We hope this will only boost our campaign and put pressure on countries who haven't signed the treaty yet, including Australia," he said.

"The Australian government, not only failed to participate in negotiations, but it actually tried very hard to stop the talks from taking place. We're calling on Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to change Australia's opposition to the treaty and sign just as our neighbours in south-east Asia and the Pacific have done."

"If there is any time to prohibit the use of nuclear weapons, the time is surely now. This is a very dangerous moment in time and there is a very real risk that the situation could spiral out of control. We need to act now before these weapons are ever used again."

He said the group had worked closely alongside survivors of atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the most damaging chapter in the history of British nuclear weapons testing in Australia.

  aty," he said.

"They spoke about the terrible ongoing consequences and without those survivors this wouldn't have been possible."

The group originated in Melbourne a decade ago and was then launched internationally in Vienna in 2007.

"We live in a world where the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time," Berit Reiss-Andersen, the leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said on Friday.

"It is a great honour to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 in recognition of our role in achieving the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons," ICAN said in a statement.

"This historic agreement offers a powerful, much-needed alternative to a world in which threats of mass destruction are allowed to prevail and, indeed, are escalating. By harnessing the power of people, we have worked to bring an end to the most destructive weapon ever created – the only weapon that poses an existential threat to all of us."

Once effective, the treaty will categorically outlaw the worst weapons of mass destruction and established pathway for their total elimination.

"It is a response to the ever-deepening concern of the international community that any use of nuclear weapons would inflict catastrophic, widespread and long-lasting harm on people and our living planet," ICAN said.

Citing the increased threat of North Korea, Ms Reiss-Andersen called on nuclear-armed states to initiate negotiations to gradually eliminate the weapons.

Ms Reiss-Andersen said while similar prohibitions have been reached on chemical and biological weapons, land mines and cluster munitions nuclear weapons have avoided a similar international ban.

"The organisation is receiving the award for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its groundbreaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons," the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in a statement.

The committee that chose the winner sorted through more than 300 nominations for this year's award.

The prize, worth $1.42 million, will be presented in Oslo on December 10.

India: After decades of Trafficking, Telangana bans Child Marriages to Aging Shieks Print E-mail
 Monday September 11, 2017

Telangana to issue ordinance to ban unlawful marriages

Foreigners who simply come to the country as tourists on visitors’ visas will not be granted permission to marry.

READ ALSO from August 2005 HERE

Those found violating the ordinance could face seven years’ imprisonment.

Hyderabad: The state government plans to enact an ordinance banning the unlawful marriage of foreign nationals with local girls. Those found violating the ordinance could face seven years’ imprisonment.

According to Syed Omer Jaleel, special secretary of the minority welfare department, the ordinance will eventually be converted into legislation. He says that as per the new rules, it will be mandatory for foreign nationals wishing to marry in India to obtain no objection certificates from their respective countries.

They will also have to provide proof of their economic status and give undertakings to the immigration authorities, promising to take care of their wives.

Foreigners who simply come to the country as tourists on visitors’ visas will not be granted permission to marry. Qazis will not be allowed to perform nikaah ceremonies without letters of permission from either the police commissioner of the district superintendent of police.

A clause which states that the age difference between the bride and the groom cannot be over ten years has also been included. The ordinance is being drafted in consultation with the law offcials, home and police departments. Suggestions have been invited from Muslim scholars as well.
 Thursday September 21, 2017

20 held for child marriages involving Arab Sheikhs

Special Correspondent

Police presenting to the media Oman and Qatar nationals involved in child marriages in Hyderabad on Wednesday. (K.V.S. Giri)

Hyderabad police crack the whip on ‘sale’ of minors

Cracking the whip on the ‘sale’ of minor girls from old city of Hyderabad to Arab Shaikhs in the guise of marriages, the police arrested 20 persons – including five Omanis and three Qataris – here on Wednesday.

While the eight foreigners arrested were presented before the court and remanded in judicial custody, the antecedents of eight more Omanis, who allegedly had come to Hyderabad to marry minors, were being verified. “They are suspected to have landed here to marry the girls on a contract basis by paying off Qazis and brokers,” Hyderabad Police Commissioner M. Mahender Reddy said.

The arrested persons included three qazis, including a chief qazi from Mumbai, four lodge owners, who used to provide accommodation to foreigners, and five brokers. The Hyderabad police kept tabs on the brokers, qazis and foreigners coming to old city after the instances of marriage of minor girls to Arab Shaikhs were reported a month ago.

“We found that many brokers from the Gulf countries, especially Oman and Qatar, are maintaining links with Arab Shaikhs to arrange minors from poor families for marriages,” Mr. Reddy said. Some such agents even married Hyderabadi women and use their connections in the city to identify girls who can be sold to Arab Shaikhs in the name of marriage.

“These Arab Shaikhs take the married girls to the Gulf countries where they are sexually exploited by others,” the Commissioner said. Investigation revealed that Farid Ahmed Khan, the chief qazi of Mumbai, was the kingpin in the child marriage racket.

Khan allegedly used to charge from Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 3 lakh for each marriage depending on the foreigner’s capacity to pay. He would arrange forged documents for safe passage of the married minor girls (mentioning that they were adults) from India to the Arab Shaikhs’ respective countries.

On learning about Khan, a special team of the Hyderabad police went to Mumbai and brought him here. “Khan emerged as the key player in this illegal activity as he was arranging fabricated documents,” South Zone DCP V. Satyanarayana said.

The Hyderabad police identified that 38 brokers, including some women, were involved in the child marriages involving Arab Shaikhs. Suspect sheets were opened against them to keep track of their movements.
 Thursday September 21, 2017

Hyderabad: Local politicians rush to save qazis, foreigners

Leaders say highlighting women trafficking will bring bad name to city.


Eight Omani and Qatari nationals, three qazis including chief qazi of Mumbai, lodge owners and brokers detained by the police in connection with the human trafficking of women case in the Old City.

Hyderabad: Even as the police is cracking down on human trafficking of women in the Old City and conducting raids at several places, politicians have appeared at the Falaknuma police complex, the epicentre of police action, and some have rang up police officials to ask them to go ‘carefully’ with the investigation.

At least two GHMC corporators rushed to the Falaknuma police complex to secure the release of the Qatari nationals who have been arrested. One corporator went so far as to say he would not leave until the arrested person was released. “We had to request him to allow us to do our work,” said a police officer.

Another corporator came to the police station in the middle of the night to get the release of a qazi wanted in connection with a marriage case registered with the Chandrayangutta police. When the police asked if he knew on what charges the qazi was picked up, he feigned ignorance.

In last two days, the Falaknuma police complex has been frequented by small leaders of various political parties. “Huge money is involved. The brokers, who lured the foreigners, were ready to shell out lakhs of rupees. Right from leading advocates to leaders, they sought help from almost all the people,” said a police officer.

The politicians said that the Old City would get a bad name if such issues were highlighted. Some even said that the image of the government would be affected. Social activist say cases relating to trafficking in women and drugs should be assigned to special agencies like the crime investigation department.

“The local police have to maintain a good rapport with local politicians as they require their help to maintain peace during political meets and religious processions. Such high profile cases should be handled by specialised agencies where the officers are seldom in contact with local politicians,” said S.Q. Masood.

He says the next job for the police is to track down the brokers who are absconding and break the network. "Only if there is no political interference can the menace be full curbed. How can any government or geographical area get a bad name if vices are curbed?" asks Lubna Sarwath, an activist.

Hyderabad police to up vigil
The city police has begun to crack down on repeated cases of ‘contract’ marriages in the city, where women are sold to foreign nationals, usually from the Middle East. The women are usually very young and often they are just used by the so-called husbands for a few months and then abandoned. Sometimes they are taken back to the husband’s country where they are exploited by others.

A new team will keep tabs on the activities of ‘brokers’ known to be facilitating these marriages. In the last few months, there has been a drastic increase in such cases of trafficking in the Old City. Hyderabad commissioner M. Mahender Reddy said that an informer’s network will be put in place.

The police have identified 38 brokers, including 24 women, and will be monitoring their activities. They will ‘geo-tag’ the locations where these suspects stay. Following, raids on lodges, some people have converted their homes into guesthouses and renting them to brokers to accommodate foreigners from the Middle East. The police have identified 20 such guest houses.
 Saturday September 09, 2017

Marriage most foul

K. Venkateshwarlu reports from the old city of Hyderabad on child brides
They are married to Arab men old enough to be their fathers.

Noorjahan (name changed) was like any other 15-year-old Muslim girl from the old city of Hyderabad ­ bound by tradition, and coy, but as impetuous as the average teenager. She wore a burqa to the government school where she studied and the garment helped hide her torn school bag, a mark of poverty. Noorjahan and her friends were pranksters and the one kilometre walk to school was never short on adventure.

Both Noorjahan’s house and school are located in the Muslim-dominated Nawab Saheb Kunta, a ghetto of labyrinthine lanes. This squatter settlement that came up on the bed of a pond is only a stone’s throw away from the Nizam-era’s opulent hilltop palace named Falaknuma, now a five-star hotel belonging to the Taj group. Wealth and poverty sit side by side in this area of the old city.

Noorjahan was different from her classmates. While everyone dreamt of lucrative careers post studies in professional courses, the young girl, perhaps acutely conscious of her modest family background, harboured dreams of becoming a schoolteacher. Though rated average by her class teachers, Noorjahan tried hard to score better marks, recalls her primary schoolteacher, Amtul Habeeb.

Little Noorjahan was shocked to hear the groom’s age. He was 65, twenty years older than her father. But as her aunt and uncle hammered away, she gave in. After all, her father was not getting any younger and his meagre daily wage of 300 troubled her. Noorjahan became quiet and withdrawn. All that was required now was for her to say ‘Nikah qubool hai’ (I agree to the marriage) in the presence of a qazi (who performs a marriage), after which a bundle of notes would be pressed into her father’s hand and she would be required to sign on blank papers which would be used later in the event of a divorce. A file of fake documents, including a voter identity card and an Aadhaar card, would be furnished to show her age as 18, and a video of a grand lifestyle she could lead in West Asia would be passed around for her relatives to see.

The modus operandi

Noorjahan is not an isolated case of ‘Arab nikah’, as this type of Muslim marriage is known in Hyderabad. The modus operandi is the same. Detailed conversations with multiple sources in the police and the community reveal the sad picture of how a group of dalals (touts) persuade vulnerable, impoverished families with three or four minor daughters with a story of how sheikhs hold the promise of altering their lives for the better. In some cases, they say this is a ‘short-term marriage of convenience’ in exchange for money.

Once convinced, the family pressures their young daughters. Touts produce documents to show the girl as an adult and her signature is taken on blank bond papers, to come in useful later in the case of a divorce. Meanwhile, the touts enter into a deal with the sheikhs, who fly into the country and camp in local hotels and guest houses once the deal is sealed. A pliable qazi is located, and the marriage solemnised within minutes. In most cases, the sheikh spends some time with the little girl and leaves for home after divorcing her. In the last seven years, over a dozen such child marriages to wealthy Arabs have been performed, at least two to three a year, most of these marriages lasting from a few days to a few months.

Such marriages have become public largely on account of cases registered in five police station limits in Hyderabad. Many more may have escaped the radar, such as the case of a 17-year-old girl who had approached the Santoshnagar Police Station stating that her parents and touts were trying to perform her marriage for the sixth time in January 2014. Her five marriages in the previous two years had ended in divorce, she had said in her statement.

The girl’s ordeal began soon after she completed tenth grade. She was first married to Basheer of Nagpur, an NRI, and then to Jamal of Pune, both for 30,000 each. Next in line were two Saudi sheikhs after payments ranging from 50,000 to 1 lakh were made. Her fifth marriage was to a Bahrain national, and the sixth to a Sudanese, both weddings together bringing home her parents 2 lakh. But it was before the sixth marriage that she fled, and with the help of a local NGO, filed a complaint against her parents. In the complaint, she narrated how her parents spent all the money they received in leading a luxurious lifestyle. Her father, who had four wives, got her two sisters married in the same way in return for money.

But unlike her, not many Hyderabadi Muslims want to speak about this child bride bazaar, let alone acknowledge it as commonplace. With a close vigil on such practices, however, the Arab nikahs appear to have come down, even if they show no signs of ending.

The heyday of such marriages was in the late 1970s and ’80s, and the chosen months were July, August and September when wealthy Arab sheikhs would dash to Hyderabad, indulge in multiple marriages with the help of touts, and then scoot home.

When the marriages did not work back home, the sheikh would simply say ‘talaq, talaq, talaq’ and dispatch the young girl to Hyderabad with the promise of sending maintenance, which would never come. The police estimate hundreds of such contract marriages. A few years ago, Hyderabad saw the unusual spectacle of these hapless women left behind by sheikhs hitting the road seeking support for their livelihood. Many of them have ended up as domestic helps.

In the 1990s, ten-year-old child bride Ameena’s case shot into the limelight when flight attendant Amrita Ahluwalia rescued her from Yahya al-Sagih, a 60-year-old Saudi who married her and was taking her to his country. Asked why she was married off like that, her father, Badruddin, an autorickshaw driver, had this to say: “I earn 20 to 40 a day, which is hardly enough to feed my wife, six daughters, and two sons.”

Duped by relatives and touts
Noorjahan’s case is somewhat different. While a majority of those who got married to sheikhs were left behind after short-term contract marriages, her husband, Ahmed, took her to Oman. But even before the wedding mehndi on her palms dried, she ran into problems.

Noorjahan frantically made calls to her parents to rescue her, often crying that she was treated worse than a slave. When her father called Ahmed, the sheikh made it clear that he would not send the girl back till the family returned the mehr of 5 lakh. By now it was evident to the family that they had been duped not only by the sheikh, but also by their own relatives and a ring of touts.

With no trace of Sikander, Ghousia, or their friends, Noorjahan’s mother knocked on the doors of the Falaknuma Police Station. Police investigations have so far revealed that Sikander has arranged the marriages of several women with Arabs. “I made a mistake by marrying her off like that and relying on Sikander,” laments Noorjahan’s father. “A poor but young rickshaw-puller would have been better. All he has given us so far is 7,000, a used Honda Activa, and an air cooler.”

Falaknuma Inspector of Police P. Yadagiri says they have booked cases under provisions of the Child Marriage Act, POCSO (Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act), and Sections of the Indian Penal Code relating to rape, trafficking, and cheating by the people named by Noorjahan’s parents. Though the parents are equally culpable, the police is taking a sympathetic view in this case.

But the case got bigger and bigger. Given the gravity of the situation, the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Tajuddin Ahmed, was appointed as the investigating officer. As the news spread via national TV channels and social media, Union Welfare Minister Maneka Gandhi tweeted seeking the help of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. Even as the Indian Embassy, the Government of India, and the Government of Telangana try their best to get her back, Noorjahan’s plight has once again brought into focus the poor economic and living conditions of Muslims in the old city of Hyderabad.

Why are there child brides?
The narratives here have common elements: illiteracy, religious beliefs, and a desperation to earn money, with the dubious role of qazis thrown in. Families who marry off their minor girls often disappear to escape detection. “Among a section of Muslims, there is this belief that attaining puberty is enough to marry off the girls, not when the girls turn 18. There are families in Hafeez Baba Nagar who find nothing wrong in minor girls being married off to elderly Arab sheikhs. Then there are qazis who advocate marriage at the age of 16, their contention being that sexual desires start around that age,” says Jameela Nishat, a social activist who runs an NGO called Shaheen that works for gender justice and rehabilitation of child brides deserted by sheikhs.

But not many are as outspoken as Jameela and no Muslim politician has come forward to offer his or her views on this regressive practice, let alone condemn the marriages. Neither has the practice of child marriage to sheikhs found political traction, nor has it entered popular discourse. Mazher Hussain, executive director of the Confederation of Voluntary Associations, a national network of voluntary organisations working for communal harmony and empowerment, says the trend is “nothing but trafficking in the garb of nikah.” He says it is a “gross misuse of nikah”. Though poverty is a factor, the bigger danger is the acceptance of this practice as a norm, Mazher says.

A ritual left behind
Hyderabad had a long history of Nizams hiring Chaush Arabs, mostly from Yemen, as military guards who were lodged in barracks (now known by the corrupted colloquial name of Barkas). These Arabs brought along with them the ritual of paying dowry and offering gifts to families who gave their girls in marriage. When oil was struck in Saudi Arabia and other parts of West Asia, and the situation turned tumultuous in Hyderabad in the late 1940s, a number of Chaush Arabs preferred to return to their country, taking with them their local wives and relatives. But the ritual stayed behind. Payment for brides became the vogue, although at that time the intention for this was supposedly good. It was meant to help the families of the brides and prevent the decline of economic status of Muslims after the rule of the seventh Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, ended in 1948, resulting in the merger of the erstwhile Hyderabad State with the Indian Union. “This has now degenerated into this practice of buying child brides,” Mazher says. “We need to attack this norm by discrediting it much like how the practice of Sati was discredited.” Also a section of qazis, who follow a system of appointing naib qazis (assistant qazis) who perform these child marriages, have to be blamed, he says.

The qazis don’t agree. “Qazis are being blamed unnecessarily. We go by the documents submitted to us and not by the people who request us to perform the marriage. Will it be proper to lift the veil and see how old the bride is?” asks Syed Shakir Ali, a qazi from Nampally. “Yes, there are some unscrupulous qazis, but to say everyone is like that is wrong. The onus is on the parents of the bride. They ought to be careful. Before performing the nikah, I insist on seeing the passport, or the Aadhaar card, or the voter identity card and (conduct the marriage) in the presence of the father or the guardian and two witnesses. If somebody forges one of these documents, how can the qazi be held responsible? What is the Telangana government doing to end the social menace?” he asks.

In response, the Secretary of the Minorities Welfare Department of the Telangana government, Syed Omar Jaleel, says, “The government plans to bring out an ordinance and later a legislation banning all foreigners from marrying girls here unless they come with proper documents or a declaration before immigration authorities stating that their purpose of visit is to marry a woman of statutorily mandated marriageable age and that they would take care of them,” he says. “The man will be liable to undergo imprisonment of seven years under Section 196 of the IPC (if found guilty).”

To address poverty, which is at the root of this problem, the government is proposing to launch a women empowerment programme. This will involve extending loans for women and offering financial assistance of 50,000 to each family to perform the marriage of their daughter. Mr. Jaleel also spoke of revamping the outdated Qazis Act of 1880 and changing rules to make the qazis more accountable.

Economic support to the poor and compulsory education of girls could address this issue, says a young girl who was married off at the age of 12 to a 70-year-old man from Oman. She described to this correspondent her marriage that lasted all of three months, the whole time during which the old man stayed with her in a hotel room before leaving her.

“I was helpless,” she said. “My father was an alcoholic and my mother worked as a domestic help. Under the influence of dalals, they married me off to an elderly Arab. He promised to take me with him soon after the marriage. But he failed to keep his promise. One day he uttered talaq thrice over the phone and slammed the phone down. That was the last time I heard from him.”

She now has a baby to look after and works as a domestic help. She also attends tailoring classes in the hope of securing a future for her child. At least her daughter must get an education that she had to sadly forgo. Dreams of the next generation must not die young.

Gauri Lankesh: Journalist & courageous voice for the marginalised January 29 1962 - September 5 2017 Print E-mail
  Wednesday September 6 2017

Obituary: The fearless journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh

Soutik Biswas India correspondent

 Gauri Lankesh inherited a newspaper from her father

"What are we going to fight over today?" a journalist friend of Gauri Lankesh would usually ask her whenever she made an early morning call to him. "What's your grudge?"

In her breathless, high-pitched voice, Lankesh would usually ask her editor friend why his newspaper hadn't taken a stronger stand on an issue close to her heart. "If you big guys can't take a more robust stand, how are we going to do it?"

In the southern Indian city of Bangalore where she lived, Lankesh edited an eponymous weekly tabloid she inherited from her father in the local Kannada language. Financed entirely by subscriptions - part of an activist tabloid culture in the state of Karnataka, which shunned adverts - Gauri Lankesh Patrike was known for its feisty leftist views. It also reflected the editor's view and ideology.

Lankesh was a trenchant critic of the Hindu right-wing. She believed religious and majoritarian politics would tear India apart. When Malleshappa Kalburgi, a leading Indian scholar and a well-known rationalist thinker, was shot dead at his home in Dharwad following death threats from right-wing Hindu groups two years ago, she told a friend: "I don't care what happens to me, they even called me a slut. But I really worry for the country. These guys will break it up."

She had other causes too. Lankesh was openly sympathetic to Maoist rebels who have long waged war against the Indian government and she fought hard to bring them into the mainstream. She also campaigned for the rights of Dalits, formerly known as untouchables.

She made no bones about her dislike for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Hindu nationalist BJP either. Her Facebook posts often contained unflattering memes of the prime minister. In a recent post she lauded India's stand-up comics for "successfully doing more than most to destroy the Modi myth". Typically, she lent her support to them, saying "We are all with you together and we shall reclaim our secular India."
  Lankesh was a feisty social activist (Kashif Masood)

Discarding impartiality, Lankesh's newspaper was often shrill and bristling with rhetoric. Sometimes the stories would give short shrift to facts, discomforting many of her friends. To be fair, Lankesh never concealed her choices: she introduced herself as "journalist-activist" in her Twitter profile.

Not surprisingly, her paper attracted a raft of defamation cases. Last year she was convicted of defamation for a report she published on local BJP leaders. The chief of the BJP's information technology cell then sent out an ominous-sounding tweet hoping "other journalists take note" of her conviction, prompting accusations of dog-whistle politics. This had not daunted Lankesh. Despite falling circulation and revenues, her tabloid continued to take on formidable adversaries.


Along with the tabloid, Lankesh possibly inherited her grit from her father P Lankesh, a versatile cultural icon from Karnataka. He ran a lively, high-circulation tabloid, wrote award-winning novels and made films, all infused with a vibrant cosmopolitan favour. He was also a fearless activist.

Gauri Lankesh, the oldest of three siblings, had decided on a career in journalism early on. She went to a journalism school in Delhi, where a classmate found her "tough, uncompromising and radical". She worked with a leading newspaper, a now-defunct magazine and a fledgling English news channel.

When her father died in 2000, she was initially reluctant to take over his 20-year-old newspaper. Kannada, her friends said, was not her strongest point. But when she finally decided to take it over, she turned completely political and began taking radical political positions.

 Lankesh 'adopted' student leader Kanaiya Kumar last year

Friends found Lankesh at once a belligerent and loving personality. She fought and made up easily. She "adopted" two student leaders - one who belonged to the Dalit community, the other charged with sedition - and invited them home. When she wanted to gift them T-shirts, she called a male friend and asked: "What colours would they like, you think?"

In recent months, Lankesh wrote on rising attacks on the freedom of press, local politics and how her city and India's info-tech capital had become unsafe for women. She wrote she was appalled by rising domestic violence, dowry murders and acid attacks on women in what was once a genteel pensioners paradise.

"What can women of Bangalore do to reclaim their rights to live the way they used to?" she wrote in January.

In a way, it was a chillingly prescient thought. The motorcycle-borne gunmen who shot Lankesh outside her home on Monday night probably killed her for her work.

Thursday September 7 2017

Murder of dissent

Gauri Lankesh died for free speech

Until the identity and motive of the killers of journalist Gauri Lankesh is established, it would be premature to hold any party or grouping responsible. Social media warriors are entitled to draw conclusions that suit them but the unfortunate death of the fiercely independent and outspoken journalist is certainly a calculated attack on the constitutional freedom of speech and expression. And it is but natural for all those who value the right to dissent to recall in this context the assassination of rationalist MM Kalburgi two years ago. Gauri was known to hold far left views and build peace bridges between the Maoists and the State. She treated the likes of Kanhaiya Kumar, Shehla Rashid and Jignesh Mewani as her “children”.

Gauri Lankesh had the option to play the conformist. She, however, chose to work for the cause she felt was right. Individuals like her, maybe small in number, cannot keep silent when faced with any wrong or injustice. The countrywide outrage that her killing has evoked shows how fiercely so many from so diverse cultures and regions have stood up for her right to express her opinion. That is a sign of a vibrant democracy. By sticking to her views in the face of death threats and paying the ultimate price, Gauri Lankesh has set an inspirational example for other upholders of just causes. Her message is clear: stand up for what you believe in, regardless of the consequences. Her death has brought to the national centre stage issues she had lived to fight ­ religious fundamentalism, caste discrimination and communal politics.

There is a choice everyone is called upon to make at some point of time: to honestly speak out what one really feels agitated about or play safe and keep one’s opinion to oneself. We as a society have to decide whether we have to allow a free run to exchange of ideas or to extremists and gun-wielding thugs. There is a growing culture of intolerance and hate. Politics of division on the basis of identity, ideology, religion and caste should not be allowed to come in the way of liberal values and individual rights and freedoms.

 Monday September 11, 2017

Lankesh, Gauri and their world of alternative journalism

BY Nataraj Huliyar
Perhaps Gauri believed Karnataka still had a democratic space where the criticism would be met with criticism, and not violence.

January 26, 2000. Prof K. Ramdas, the well-known rationalist, was among the many who attended Lankesh’s funeral. He described Lankesh Patrike as a unique social movement in the history of Karnataka, and lamented the time had come to give it a burial with its mentor.

I was part of Lankesh’s team then. If Lankesh Patrike was a movement, I argued, it had to be kept alive through collective effort. Gauri was nowhere in the picture. I expected Ravindra Reshme or T K Tyagaraj, fearless reporters who had taken on corrupt politicians and bureaucrats, to step into Lankesh’s shoes. Gauri had not written anything in her father’s paper till then, and was a novice to Kannada journalism. Yet, within a few minutes of the staff meeting that week, Gauri had become editor.

Not a good choice, I thought like many others. Yet, as a Lohiaite, I supported her for ideological reasons. Lankesh had instilled in me a pro-Dalit, pro-Muslim, pro-women attitude. I still remember the Sunday Gauri wrote and rewrote her first editorial note. It was an issue to pay tribute to Lankesh. Articles, poems, letters were pouring in. When the issue came out, it sold well. The movement was alive and the paper’s well-wishers were relieved.

I had been a staunch ‘Lankeshite’ since my college days. Lankesh Patrike had introduced a new idiom to Kannada journalism. For those tired of the impersonal, dull style of the dailies, here was an eight-page tabloid for 60 paise. No ads. No space-filling stories. From politics to cinema, everything was covered in a lively style. The headlines were fresh and unpredictable. We read it again and again till the next issue came out!

For my friends in theatre, journalism and literature, Lankesh Patrike was an addiction. We learnt about political analysis, book reviewing, column writing, and reporting through the paper. When some of us started writing, the influence was apparent. The tabloid shaped the sensibility of at least two generations and taught them to think and be anti-establishment. For two decades, Lankesh Patrike was a true university for me as a reader and later contributor and a columnist.

Three months after Gauri took over, I got a call from the paper. I was told my column would be stopped. I said, ‘Fine!’ I stopped following the paper, but was aware Gauri continued the anti-establishment positions of her father. Gauri did not have her father’s finesse or creative genius. She had to discover her own strengths. She became an activist. She became a product of the times, when the progressive forces of Karnataka were trying to come together. After launching her own weekly, she was in search of a distinct identity and hence became a willing voice of several activist forums. She made brief, matter-of-fact and hard-hitting speeches. She was clearly anti-RSS, anti-BJP and pro-minorities.

By then tabloid journalism in Karnataka was in a crisis, with 24x7 news channels becoming more tabloid than tabloids. Gauri had inherited a paper without ads, and had to continue to run it that way. After some years, she started a magazine for those taking competitive exams to cross-subsidise Gauri Lankesh Patrike. The new magazine, coupled with the sale of her father’s books, helped her keep Gauri Lankesh Patrike going.

Lankesh had also seen many ups and downs. But he had a network of faithful news agents who were his admirers. Though leading Kannada writers were hurt by his acid comments, younger writers would avidly follow him. When he criticised the leaders of the Dalit and the farmers’ movements, they would stop reading Lankesh Patrike, but would still be curious about Lankesh’s take on some crisis. This was true of politicians too. Even the BJP leaders stung by him felt they were educated by his criticism. Lankesh would say, ‘As long as I am around, the BJP can’t come to power in Karnataka.’ And he was proved right.

Gauri shared most of her father’s concerns except Lankesh’s rediscovery of Gandhi which made his writing introspective and meditative. He was truly progressive but would never spout the movement’s jargon. It is unfair to expect all of this from his daughter, who grew up in a different atmosphere. But she fought. and bravely. Gauri had to jump into the fray, and fought with conviction.

But the Karnataka of her father’s time had changed. The obscene letters he used to get had turned into vicious social media posts. Perhaps Gauri believed Karnataka still had a democratic space where the criticism would be met with criticism, and not violence. But she was too visible and became the target of a larger conspiracy. The ploy is to shoot one and silence thousands. But history tells us not everyone can be silenced for ever.

The author is a well-known Kannada writer and culture critic.
 Friday September 08, 2017

All that Gauri Lankesh stood for

Her murder is an attempt to kill an idea

By Yogendra Yadav

What killed Gauri Lankesh? This is not the same question as “who killed Gauri Lankesh?” This is deeper and a more rewarding question. In any case, this is the only question we can meaningfully answer in the public domain.

A murder involves four categories of culpability: those who carry out assassination, those who conspire, those who encourage or benefit from it, and those who are involved in its acquiescence. We must leave the first two for the police to determine. Instead of rushing to conclusions about the assassins and conspirators, let us focus on the larger context that encouraged and acquiesced to, indeed celebrated, her murder.

This is particularly relevant in the case of Gauri. She was not just a person. She represented an idea. It is reasonable to assume that her assassination is an attempt to shut down that idea. It is also meant to convey a signal to everyone else to shut up, or else. Since these signals are in the public domain, we can and must decode these in order to understand the context that led to her assassination.

A word about the ‘whodunnit’. So far, we know only a few relevant facts. Gauri Lankesh was a journalist, a fearless editor of an extraordinary paper called Gauri Lankesh Patrike. She had been carrying out a crusade against the Hindutva politics of the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies through the paper she edited, and organisations like Komu Souharda Vedike. Last year she lost a defamation suit by a BJP leader; her appeal against it was pending. She had received several threats from Sangh Parivar affiliates. As far as we know, there was no personal enmity angle to this murder.

The killing of ideas

This information is good to draw a reasonable inference: she was killed because of her ideas and her determination to speak her mind. But this information is not adequate to reach a definite conclusion about the identity of the killers and the conspirators. It is only fair that the criminal investigation must not be carried out in TV studios. This is not to say that we must trust the police. Indeed, police investigations in similar cases, whether under the Congress or the BJP regime, have been perfunctory. Still we cannot pre-empt the investigation, even if we scrutinise it later.

While we do not have evidence of who planned her murder, we have lots of evidence concerning those who celebrated and justified her murder. Social media was abuzz with comments that mocked, abused and blamed a woman who had been killed a few hours ago. Most of them were well-established BJP trolls. Some of them were followed by none other than the Prime Minister. In this context, it was vital for the ruling party to dissociate itself from this campaign. But except Ravi Shankar Prasad, no senior BJP leader spoke unequivocally against such comments. The PM is yet to ‘unfollow’ any of these trolls.

We also know the eerie pattern that was replicated in three murders prior to hers. The murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in 2013, that of Govind Pansare, another campaigner against superstition, in 2015, and academic M.M. Kalburgi in 2015 followed identical patterns. In each of these cases, unidentified killers shot down intellectual crusaders inimical to the ideology of the Sangh Parivar. These were not murders to avenge any other act of violence. Nor were these attempts to eliminate a political rival. These were aimed at silencing an idea. Let us not forget that these three ‘rationalists’ were not promoting some idiosyncratic idea: cultivation of ‘scientific temper’ is very much our constitutional ideal. They were killed by an ideology inimical to our Constitution. Prima facie, Gauri’s killing fits into this pattern.

From a rooted tradition
Her ideas were, of course, not the same as the other three. Everyone, supporter as well as detractor, has assumed that she was a ‘leftist’. There has been some loose talk of her being Naxalite. This is not true. Gauri represented an illustrious intellectual tradition of Karnataka that does not fit into any of these categories. As the editor of Gauri Lankesh Patrike, she carried forward the legacy of her father P. Lankesh, the founder o fLankesh Patrikeand one of the three iconic writers of the ‘Navya’ school of Kannada literature. Inspired by Ram Manohar Lohia, these writers from Shimoga ­ P. Lankesh, Poornachandra Tejaswi and U.R. Ananthamurthy ­ combined a strident anti-caste stance with the socialist brand of egalitarian politics and culturally rooted secularism. They mentored the next generation of Kannada intellectuals like Devanur Mahadeva, Siddalingaiah and D.R. Nagaraj whose writings have inspired ‘progressive’ activists in Karnataka.

This socialist tradition is ‘left’ in the sense of being pro-people and egalitarian, but very different from the communist ‘left’ in terms of its cultural orientation. This tradition is rooted in Kannada egalitarian thought that goes back to Basavanna. Although on some issues Gauri was closer to the orthodox left than her father, her secularism was a continuity of this tradition. Like her father, she chose to write in Kannada and in a popular idiom. This form of culturally rooted secularism is in line with the secularism of our freedom struggle. The Sangh Parivar fears this most, as this form of secularism cannot be brushed aside as deracinated, westernised intellectualism.

Her very name carried a challenge to what is now being presented as Hindutva. This is the time of the year to welcome the arrival of ‘Gauri’ ­ also known as Durga, Parvathi, Bhavani or Shakti ­ in many regions of the country. ‘Lankesh’ is, of course, Ravana, the ultimate devotee of Lord Shiva. Her name invokes the tradition of Ravana worship among Shaivites, a practice that upsets the project of homogenous Hindutva.

Gauri lived a life of ideas. It is unsurprising that she was killed by an ideology ­ one that stands in opposition to our Constitution, denies the values of our freedom struggle, fears our intellectual traditions and is threatened by the multiple strands of Hinduism. She was killed by the ruling ideology of our times.

Yogendra Yadav is President of Swaraj India

 Wednesday  September 13 2017

Thousands protest Lankesh murder

  Writers, students and Left wing supporters take out a rally against journalist Gauri Lankesh's killing in Bengaluru on Tuesday. PTI

Bengaluru: Thousands of social activists, journalists, people's forums and political party workers from across the country today organised a protest rally here, condemning the murder of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh a week ago. The protesters gathered at the city's railway station before taking to the streets.

Members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), Karnataka Janashakthi, Aam Aadmi Party and several student groups were also part of the rally. The 55-year-old editor of Kannada weekly "Gauri Lankesh Patrike" was gunned down outside her home in a city suburb on September 5.

Those marching were seen singing protest songs, raising slogans such as "Gauri Lankesh Amar Rahe" and demanding that Lankesh's assailants be brought to book. Wearing black head bands that read "I am Gauri", the protesters took out the march from the city railway station to the Central College Grounds. Among the participants were CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury, social activist Medha Patkar, journalists P Sainath and Sagarika Ghose, Swaraj India leaders Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav, documentary producers Anand Patwardhan and Rakesh Sharma and civil rights activists Teesta Setalvad, Kavitha Krishnan and Jignesh Mevani, besides film producer Prakash Rai.

"The forum of progressive thinkers, writers, social activists, artistes and intellectuals was formed on Friday to fight against Lankesh killing and decided to hold the national-level 'resistance convention'," the forum convenor K Leela had said. ­ IANS

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