Daily Archives: June 8, 2011
Civil and Uncivil Societies – By Ratan Sharda
I have been rather intrigued by the term ‘Civil Society’. I had a long argument with a dear friend of mine, a leading light in this ‘Civil Society’ movement. By calling citizen activists (the right word, perhaps), as civil society, aren’t we keeping out a large part of the society which is not ‘civil’ or rather which is ‘uncivil’ – probably with low education, low income, average life style, unaware of civilized society’s obsession with brands etc. etc. My friend explained to me, it is not so but this is the universally accepted nomenclature for citizen activists. But, contrast between the media coverage and deep sighs of ‘beautiful people’ at a Baba running amok brought out the difference between perceived ‘civil society’ and our majority ‘uncivil’ society of ‘average boring village and town and suburban dwellers.
Contrast the crowds that thronged media elevated Anna Hazare fest. Don’t get me wrong. With all due respect to the veteran crusader, the crowds were not as big as what Baba Ramdev brought in across Bharat. But, media was so taken in by presence of English speaking ‘beautiful people’ in their designer clothes and with it attitude, just right for good news sound bites, that it helped create ‘Brand Anna’ as next only to Gandhi ji. I am not even suggesting that ‘civil society’ (as I read this tag) should not be on road. By all means, they must come out roads, they can provide the requisite leadership and come out with good ideas.
I know of wonderful work done by Anna and I respect him a lot. But, the point I am driving home is not about personalities of Anna or Baba. But, rather the way they are presented to us by news coverage because of the crowds they attract. The followers of Baba who came from all over Bharat were a study in contrast. Rustic villagers, small town residents, or coming from distant suburbs of Delhi or Mumbai etc. They are the worst sufferers from tyranny of bureaucracy at lower level in their daily dealings and have no where with alls to pay their way through their chicanery. They came on faith that Baba will fight the mighty corrupt and they came to support this. So, there is hardly any coverage of the participants of this agitation. They can’t speak English, they dont come pretty on camera, so just keep camera on Baba – he makes colourful copy! Witness the way Baba Ramdev is harangued by media and the kid glove treatment Anna Hazare gets.
Now, you will understand why I am against the word ‘civil society’.
Was this contrast in two societies of India i.e. Bharat that flummoxed media and powers that be? When Congress flexed its police muscles, it calculated that these ordinary folks will not get sympathy and colourful coverage from media and will go home tails between legs. It forgot that this is the common ‘uncivil society’ that votes with its feet and not the beautiful ‘civil society’. Now, that shit has hit the fan, let us see this ‘police state’ mentality haunt them in coming months.
What I have noted above, does not at all take away the credit from media for standing up against corruption, giving live coverage to attack on innocent citizens in the dead of night. I am just pointing out the difference in approach to the two agitations. And making readers aware of this phenomenon of common man fight against corruption and civil society’s fight against corruption. The gap between Bharat and India as cliche goes, and our elite society’s perceptions.
VHPA has been working with the Bhutanese refugees in several parts of USA. As if it was not enough of a hardship to settle in a foreign land with no funds, no proper education, communication constraints, etc. some of these families got hit by the devastating tornado in Springfield, MA last week. Please see the appeal and details below and help generously. Vijay Dalal is a community activist who has been working with the Bhutanese refugees for last two years in that area.
Gaurang G. Vaishnav
The devastating tornadoes that hit the state of Massachusetts last Thursday caused Governor D. Patrick to declare a state of emergency.
But for the Bhutanese families who live in Springfield the tragedy was real!! The live, vivid account from Vijay Dalal Ji, who brought them over for the
HHD 2011 Cultural Program on May 21, explains the scope of this double tragedy with folks who were barely settling from a life disrupting move from Bhutan just a year ago.
We need help with:
1. Household items
2. Food items
3. Funds …
Pease mail checks payable to VHPA (please write MA-Tornado Fund in the bottom) to:
(VHPA is a 501 (c)-3 charitable organization. Donations to VHPA are tax deductible)
15 Bryden Rd,
Southboro, MA, 01772
Any amount no matter how small would be welcome.
VHP of America
From: Vijay Dalal
To: “Asthana, Abhaya (Abhaya)”
Sent: Sat, June 4, 2011 9:56:37 PM
Subject: Re: APPEAL – Please help Bhutanese families in Springfield MA hit by Tornado
All Bhutanese victims of the tornado. are currently living in the Coburn School in West Springfield. Red Cross, Islamic Society of New England and local, state and national level church organizations are providing food and other essentials to them. Local school committee is arranging activities and helping them in their day to day stuff.
Today we went to the sites again. This time younger members of the families came with me. We were able to retrieve considerable amount of their belongings. It was dangerous to go into the debris but all of us took risk and secured many sentimental items and essential documents. Beenu Chhetri (Budhatoki) received his wallet full of social security cards, health cards, driver license etc. Adhikari family received essential documents, pictures, cameras, two computers, their TV. Pandit Khatiwada received his coats, gold chains, and we were able to get to a small closet where they kept cash and Nepali clothing. We secured two vans full of stuff from the collapsed houses. Many of these items have a tremendous sentimental value for them. The police gave us enough time to dig through and stopped us only when their boss came around.
In terms of their needs prioritized, at this time they would appreciate if dry Indian food items such as snacks (packets of Sev, dry samosa, Khari, Chakri etc) are sent to them. As I wrote before, the food provided is not ethnic for them and we don’t have any Indian food store close-by to request a donation. I heard the Islamic society priest inquiring about how many Muslims were living there, so I think (but I hope not) their help might stop soon as there are very few Burmese families living there.
If you are sending these food items, please mail them to Hari Khanal, 108 Commonwealth Ave, 3rd Floor, Springfield, MA 01108. Please write very clearly on the package that it is for the tornado victims. Hariji is one of the very trustworthy community leaders in Springfield. Today he and Indraji went door to door to all Springfield Bhutanese families and collected $20 donation from each family. They have collected $500 thus far.
I apologize for sending long email updates to you. We are isolated here, help from our community is absent here, and the gap is filled by other religious orders. I personally feel that it will be very hard for me to point a finger to them when they were the first and have remained consistent in helping my own people in crisis.
On Fri, Jun 3, 2011 at 9:34 PM, Vijay Dalal wrote:
I spent a good part of my day with the West Springfield families today. I have also been talking with the Westfield and Springfield groups and they have begun visiting the West Springfield families. West Springfield families were initially sheltered in the Middle school and now they are transferred to Coburn school shelter in West Springfield. Pandit Adhikari was badly hurt, a piece of roof came down on his shoulder and his back was cut open and there are internal injuries. Kuber Adhikari also suffered back injuries. Several kids also suffered minor injuries. Red Cross is there and local volunteers are helping. The refugee resettlement agency, Lutheran, is useless, I had strong words with the social worker. They seem to be collecting data but no actual help provided yet.
All of their belongings are in their houses and as you can see, the houses are completely destroyed. The street to their house is closed for traffic. I talked to the West Springfield police and state troopers and took Kuberji and Khativada children to their house. The work crew and police officers were nice and they allowed us to dig through the rubble. I was able to climb up and retrieved some of their items. A desk was visible and we took out i-94, SS cards, medical information for Panditji family. We also retrieved purses, coats and some religious items including their traditional clothing. Kuberji lived on the 2nd floor and his living area was sandwiched so tight that no access was available. More police officers came there and asked us not to enter the property. I talked to the demolition contractor and they will allow us the go through the rubble when they start moving stuff around. For Kuberji and Bhudhatoki families, their identities are lost in those piles of debris.
Tomorrow, I will be taking few elderly family members from Westfield to visit the shelter. It has been tough for the elderly in the shelter to adapt to the living and the food provided to them. Springfield group has taken the responsibility to research and secure medication for the displaced families, as many of them are on prescription medication. Westfield group will try their best to provide food for the group. Lutheran has promised that they will actively search for living options for the families. Thus far, there has not been any state or federal aid. Their focus is on making the area safe and that will take some time.
It is a sad situation for these families. They did not have much to begin with, all they had was full of sentimental values. Panditji kept on asking about his prayer books which I could not find in the rubble. As days pass, we will find out what would be useful for them. One thing is for sure that monies collected will be highly appreciated. When the new housing is found, they will need security deposits and first month rent and they are on a very limited income. Dry Indian food items will also be highly welcomed. They are living on crackers, rice, beans and fruits provided by the Red Cross. More that the situation evolves, I will try my best to keep you updated.
On Fri, Jun 3, 2011 Vijay Dalal wrote:
As you know, our area was struck by tornadoes yesterday. The area of West Springfield and Springfield were hit very hard and blocks of neighborhood are completely devastated. I supervise a foster care agency and my office is in Springfield. Fortunately the tornado passed approximately two blocks from my office and my agency’s foster families and children were spared from this devastation.
But, unfortunately, the same is not true for many of the Bhutanese families in West Springfield. A tornado swept through three blocks area in West Springfield and many of families live there. It tore down a three storied building on George Street and three of our families live there. Pandit Khativada who always comes and conducts our prayers has lost everything and along with his family, they are living in a temporary shelter. Kuber Adhikari and his family lived in the same building, and everything is destroyed. Kuberji’s mother is almost 80 years old, I brought her to the temple and HHD in my car, she was not found for two hours as she was scared and hiding in the rubble. The Budhtoki family and another Kshtriaya family living next door also lost everything and are in shelter at this time. I went to see them today but all roads were blocked. I am going again tomorrow and I will try to take some pictures to send to you. There are five families from West Springfield who are without home and lost all belongings. Is there something that could be done for them? If you help us collecting donation of monies, clothes, household stuff, I will come there to pick up everything and make sure that it is distributed to the affected families equally. Please let me know, any help is greatly appreciated.
Report: Texas charter school network awarded most contracts to Turkish-owned businesses
By Liz Goodwin | The Lookout – 9 minutes ago
A rapidly expanding charter school movement in Texas that educates 16,000 kids awards almost all of its pricey contracting jobs to Turkish-owned businesses, The New York Times reports.
The 33 Harmony schools–which emphasize math and science–receive $100 million in taxpayer funds each year, and are intertwined with followers of the moderate Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen. The Times describes the Gulen movement as “a loose network of several million followers of Mr. Gulen, who preaches the need to embrace modernity in a peace-loving, ecumenical version of Islam.”
The Harmony schools have awarded 35 contracts to outside businesses worth $82 million since 2009, the Times reports, with all but three going to Turkish-owned enterprises. In one instance, Harmony awarded a contract to a Gulen-affiliated business priced hundreds of thousands of dollars higher than the contracts offered by competitors. Several business owners told the Times they weren’t told why their cheaper bids were rejected.
The Times says its findings raise questions about whether “the schools are using taxpayer dollars to benefit the Gulen movement—by giving business to Gulen followers, or through financial arrangements with local foundations that promote Gulen teachings and Turkish culture.” The schools themselves do not teach religion to their diverse student bodies, and school officials told the Times that contracts were awarded by merit as state law demands.
Last year, USA Today wrote that nationally about 35,000 students attend Turkish-affiliated charter schools, and that virtually all of them “have opened or operate with the aid of Gulen-inspired ‘dialogue’ groups, local nonprofits that promote Turkish culture.” Most of the schools are high-performing, with students scoring well on state standardized tests.
The schools have faced controversy in the past for recruiting hundreds of teachers from Turkey to teach on H1-B visas, which are granted when employers can’t find Americans with specific skills for a job. Most of the Texas school’s 33 principals are Turkish men. Charter schools–which are embraced by the bipartisan education reform movement–are publicly financed, but have more leeway than public schools are granted to experiment with different curricula and teaching techniques.
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June 07, 2011
VHP of America condemns the ‘Midnight Murder of Democracy’ in India
and barbaric dismantling of HH Baba Ramdev’s protest
On behalf of the Hindu American community of USA, Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA) strongly condemns the fascist, undemocratic, barbaric and brutal police action – in the middle of the night – against the more than 50,000 peaceful protestors, including old women and young children while they were asleep under tents in an open field (Ramlila Grounds), in New Delhi, the capital of India, on June 5th.
World-renowned Yogi and Saint, His Holiness ‘Baba Ramdev’, a revered figure among millions of his countrymen, has devoted all his energies to bring to light the misdeeds of the high and mighty. His call to the nation to join him in indefinite fast to compel a deaf government to bring to book the corrupt looters has found resonance with millions. There were close to 100,000 people during the day at the Ramlila Ground. There were similar protests and fasts organized in all the 624 districts all over India.
These non-violent and peaceful protestors were supporting the indefinite-fast, undertaken – in the Gandhian tradition – by HH Baba Ramdev to protest against social curse of all-pervading and ever-increasing bureaucratic and political corruption and black-money – to the tune of multi billion dollars – stashed away in tax-havens, globally, by corrupt government officials and politicians.
This black-money stashed away in tax-havens can very well be used in sponsoring terrorist attacks globally.
These protestors, in the middle of the night, were beaten-up by batons and tear-gassed by a police force empowered by the Indian Government – afraid of public reaction, and protestors including HH Baba Ramdev were evicted from the place of peaceful protest, before dawn, in the typical fashion of a fascist regime.
Besides, the offensive language used by the political leadership of the ruling party against a peacefully protesting Yogi and Saint lowered the level of political discourse. One wonders, juxtaposed to the ‘Arabian spring’ if India, which boasts itself as the world’s largest democracy, is now run by the Nazis. This was indeed a shameful chapter in the history of democracy anywhere in the world!!
This reminded many of the ‘Jallianwala Bagh’ atrocities by the British Government in 1919, where peaceful protestors in an open field were barricaded and shot to death. Others reminisced another similar ‘midnight murder of democracy’ on the night of June 25, 1975 when Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minster, clamped down unlawful, dictatorial Emergency and arrested hundreds of opposition leaders, including Jai Prakash Narayan who was leading a movement, akin to that of HH Baba Ramdev to rid the country of corruption and corrupt political leaders.
Not only was this an undemocratic attack on the freedom of speech and expression of its innocent citizens but it was also an attack on the symbols of the ancient Hindu civilization and culture.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi the Chairperson of ruling alliance owe the nation an apology for this grave blunder which has been severely criticized by all as an undemocratic, barbaric and fascist action, unbecoming of a democratic country.
June 7, 2011
Vivek Deshpande Posted online: Tue Jun 07 2011, 02:34 hrs
Nagpur : Addressing cadres at the conclusion of the month-long third year Officers’ Training Camp here today, RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat said that the RSS didn’t start the current anti-corruption agitation “but it also can’t remain a mute spectator”.
Criticising the government for blaming the RSS whenever “it feels the heat”, Bhagwat questioned the constitutional validity of the National Advisory Council and the Bill it had drafted to ostensibly tackle communal violence.
Said Bhagwat: ‘It’s an unwritten mandate for swayamsevaks to join any such cause that is in the national interest. Whenever the powers-that-be feel the heat, they put all their blame on the RSS.” “When so much is happening in the country, can swayamsevaks remain mute spectators? The swayamsevaks need not be told to join such causes. They do it as a matter of habit,” Bhagwat said. On the Centre’s “barbaric” crackdown on Ramdev’s agitation, Bhagwat said: “It’s the duty of the government to reach out to people like Ramdev and Hazare but it’s behaving with brutality with its own subjects. This is reminiscent of the Emergency and the Jallianwala massacre.”
Questioning the NAC, Bhagwat said: “If Ramdev and Hazare are outsiders, under which clause of the Constitution has the NAC been constituted? Does it not comprise outsiders?”
Referring to the Bill against communal violence drafted by the NAC, Bhagwat said: “It is aimed at keeping the country divided along communal lines and keep various communities engaged in mutual fight. It has been designed to suppress the Hindus.”
“What’s wrong in demanding that black money should be brought back and corruption should be stifled?” Bhagwat asked.