NORTH KOREA CLAIMS US’ FATE IS IN ITS HANDS, TRUMP ON DEATHBED STRUGGLE

The article originally appeared on India Today on 15 December.

An increasingly belligerent North Korean propaganda has gone a step ahead.

The country’s state-run newspaper Minju Choson – published by the North Korean cabinet – has written in a commentary that fearful of the North Korean might, the fate of America is in hands of its supreme leader Kim Jong-un.

Blaming the US President Donald Trump’s ignorance about North Korea, the commentary says the US tactics of nuclear blackmail and threat will no longer work “whether the US likes or not and wants or not”, adding that “the status of the standoff between the DPRK and US has come under the control of the faith and will of the North Korea which is holding the initiative.”

Claiming that North Korea has always emerged victorious, Minju Choson further writes that Trump is still in deep sleep not realizing the imminent danger he has put America in.

“The Trump group is attempting to seek a way out by pursuing a policy of military confrontation. This is nothing but a deathbed struggle by those alarmed by the might of North Korea.”

Warning the US to become prudent and think twice, the newspaper says the recent annual defence conference of the country under the guidance of their supreme leader Kim Jong-un has filled the North Korean people and its Army with iron faith and if the Americans try to annoy this valorous spirit, they will be forced to go for military confrontation which will ultimately result in victory and glory for North Korea and humiliating defeat for Trump and the US.

Though North Korean propaganda may say the US is blackmailing it, but the recent advances made by the country in acquiring lethal weapons and strategic capabilities, the nuclear capable inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can reach to the parts of America, a series of successful missile launches in recent months and a claimed detonation of hydrogen bomb, has emboldened its war rhetoric to unprecedented levels.

And unlike in past, the world has taken these military claims seriously, increasing manifold the threat perception about the isolated nation.

The most recent development has only added to it.

According to American and Asian intelligence officials, North Korea may have acquired capacity to produce biological weapons on military scale and in fact, the world has no way to find if the rogue nation has already begun it, as such facilities are concealed in its civilian factories.

Some experts also say the North may have been even trying to create super-germs in its labs using advanced genetic engineering.

That is why the world is giving dialogue a chance with no one in favour of direct military confrontation in spite of tough warnings and harsh war rhetoric from Trump and his administration.

World leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the United Nations have preferred diplomacy, dialogues and sanctions over a possibility of war or military confrontation to deal with North Korea, a stand that has forced even Trump and his team to take a soft approach hinting at dialogue.

The call for dialogue and diplomatic efforts was best summed up by United Nations chief Antonio Guterres yesterday when he warned that “the worst possible thing that could happen would be for us all to sleepwalk into a war that might have very dramatic circumstances.”

©SantoshChaubey

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MEET THE INDIAN-AMERICAN AT CENTRE OF US MOVE TO REPEAL NET NEUTRALITY RULES

The article originally appeared on India Today on 15 December.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the telecom regulator of the United States of America, has repealed a landmark law the country passed in 2015 to ensure net neutrality in the US and Ajit Pai, a son of immigrant Indians, is at the centre of the debate. He heads the US FCC.

Pai is a Republican, the same party as American President Donald J Trump, and was made the FCC chief in January 2017, the same month the Trump administration took over the White House.

The FCC, the US equivalent of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), has voted in favour of repealing a 2015 law enacted by itself under the Barack Obama government. The FCC is overseen by the US Congressional chairs and currently, like the US Congress (the American equivalent of Parliament), the Republicans are in majority in the FCC, a fact that helped the proposal moved by Pai score a 3-2 victory. Incidentally, Ajit Pai was appointed a commissioner in the FCC in 2012 by then president Barack Obama.

The move by Pai, whose FCC bio states that “consumers benefit most from competition, not pre-emptive regulation and regulators should be skeptical (sic) of pleas to regulate rivals”, has sharply divided America with critics saying repealing the net neutrality law will kill the spirit of free internet.

Critics argue that the repeal plan will benefit only few big telecom players who wield immense power over the flow of internet and telecommunication channels. Opponents of the repeal bill, named Restoring Internet Freedom Order, say it will effectively shut down or marginalise small players and will start a rush of predatory discriminating practices where one telecom company will try all to disadvantage a rival company’s data flowing through its cables.

And above all, internet users will be the ultimate losers with their freedom to get unrestrained access to all content and data gone, the critics add. Net neutrality, they say, ensures that no service provider will speed up or throttle a particular service because of its business interests.

IN INDIA

India has also been through this important debate. The country saw a major controversy over services such as Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel Zero plans. These differential pricing plans were alleged to be discriminatory in nature as they would have given preferential treatment to content and data of a particiular telecom company or internet service provider (ISP).

Citizens here were up in arms over this and a public outcry forced the government and the TRAI to initiate consultations on building a framework to ensure net neutrality in the Indian market. And, its outcome has been positive so far with TRAI vouching to uphold the principles of net neutrality in recommendations it released last month.

Ajit Pai’s move is threatening to undo that in America, the world’s largest free market for the internet. Pai’s move has also unnerved the internet’s founding fathers Tim Berners-Lee and Vinton Cerf and many other internet pioneers including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Mozilla’s Mitchell Baker.

They wrote an open letter to US Congress calling on it to cancel the proposed vote yesterday. They called the repeal plan flawed and an imminent threat to the internet.

But Pai was unnerved. He tweeted this morning to let the world know that there would be no change in his plans, “U.S. @SenateMajLdr supports @FCC plan to restore Internet freedom, saying our Internet economy is the “direct result of a bipartisan desire to create an environment of advancement-one that utilized a light regulatory touch.”

Ajit Pai’s parents were doctors. His mother was from Karnataka and father from Andhra Pradesh. They migrated to America where Pai was born in 1973 in Buffalo, New York.

A graduate from Harvard and University of Chicago Law School, Pai’s law career includes assignments mostly with the US judicial services and the US Congress in difference capacities as well as stints with private corporations like Verizon Jenner & Block.

©SantoshChaubey

‘SEVERE HEALTH IMPACTS AND ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE’: UN STUDY ON E-WASTE CRISIS IN INDIA

A new United Nations study has painted a grim picture for India on e-waste management. The study, Global E-Waste Monitor 2017, by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN University (UNU) and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), says as India’s e-waste recycling operations are mostly in the informal sector, it is beset with severe health impacts and causes widespread environmental damage.

India’s formal e-waste recycling industry is still non-existent and the country is dotted with manual recycling operations in the informal sector. Over a million employed here are basically poor people with either no or very low literacy levels. They are either unaware of the hazardous consequences of the work they do or are forced to do their job because they have no other option, the study says.

India’s electronics industry is among the fastest growing in the world and is expected to become a $400 Billion industry by 2020 with a CAGR of 41 per cent during 2017-2020 says a study by ASSOCHAM and NEC Technologies.

That makes India one of the largest producers of e-waste. A 2016 study by ASSOCHAM-KPMG says India’s is the world’s fifth largest e-waste producer generating 18.5 lakh tonnes of discarded electronic waste annually. In Asia, India is third behind China and Japan. According to the UN study, China is Asia’s and the world’s top e-waste generating country producing 7.2 million metric tonnes (MMT) in 2016. Japan was second in Asia producing 2.1 MMT of e-waste while India came a close third with 2 MMT e-waste generated in 2016, an assessment that is in sync with the ASSOCHAM-KPMG study.

And it is mostly driven by advances made in telecommunication as around 54 per cent households globally have internet access now. Couple this with the 7.7 billion mobile wireless subscriptions as tallied by Statista, an online research and business intelligence firm and the problem looks critical. The figure tells there are more mobile phones today than the overall global population of 7.44 Billion at the moment. Another assessment by eMarketer says the smartphone penetration globally is to reach to 2.39 Billion this year. All this is going to produce heaps of e-waste as we move to a more digitally connected world.

Due toeEver declining technology and hardware prices, mainly in the telecommunication sector like the mobile phones, computers, computer peripherals and other IT equipment, coupled with decrease in price of services, in voice and internet, the e-waste is expected to increase manifold in India and the world in years ahead. This is in addition to other e-waste from discarded products like televisions, refrigerators, air-conditioners and electronic toys. Such electronic waste, with a battery or plug, is a major health hazard and environment threat the UN warns. They have high levels of poisonous elements like lead, cadmium and mercury.

Reflecting India’s position as the world second largest telecom market which is also the fastest growing one, almost 70 per cent of the country’s electronic waste comes from discarded computer equipment whereas the telecom equipment constitutes 12 per cent of our annual electronic waste. But mobile phones and smartphones are a fast growing category here as almost 25 crore of mobile handsets, or 25 per cent of over 100 crore user base, end up in e-waste each year. Overall, India’s electronic waste is growing 30 per cent annually.

Though India had enacted law to regulate e-waste management in the country in 2011 and made further amendments in it in 2015 to cover producers, it is still a long way to go before a well-laid out mechanism can be put in place given the fact that almost 95 per cent of e-waste collection and handling in the country is done by the informal sector. For the record, the amended e-waste management rule requires producers to collect 30 per cent e-waste generated initially and it will subsequently go up to the level of 70 per cent by the seventh year.

In addition to this, India also imports e-waste from other countries and it makes the crisis even more serious. According to another ASSOCHAM report, India has become a dumping ground for e-waste from developed countries and what should be eye-opening is the fact that 85 per cent of this hazardous waste ends up in the country’s capital and its adjoining areas, Delhi-NCR. The study projected Delhi’s annual e-waste to increase by a whopping 40,000 MT in a year, from 68,000 MT in 2016 to 1,07,000 MT in 2017.

Globally, e-waste generated increased by 8 per cent or 3.3 MMT to 44.7 MMT from its 2014 level and with a more digitally connected and ICT dependent world, the UN study projects it to increase by 17 per cent to reach to the level of 52.2 MMT by 2021.

And only 20 per cent of it or 8.9 MMT of it could be recycled in 2016. But the situation is horrible in India where, according to an ASSOCHAM-cKinetics study released on the World Environment Day last year, just 1.5 per cent of e-waste generated could be recycled. The study cited poor infrastructure and inefficient regulatory framework as the main reasons behind this poor state of affairs that is fast emerging as an health and environmental crisis in the country.

©SantoshChaubey

AJIT PAI, SON OF IMMIGRANT INDIANS, IS AT THE CENTRE OF US NET NEUTRALITY DEBATE

Ajit Pai, son of immigrant Indians, is at the centre of the raging net neutrality debate in the United States. He heads the US body which regulates the internet in America, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). He is a Republican and was made the FCC chief in January 2017, the same month the Trump Government was inaugurated in the White House.

The FCC, the US equivalent of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), is bringing a proposal to repeal a 2015 law enacted by it under the Barack Obama Government. The FCC is overseen by US Congressional chairs. The repeal plan is slated for voting today and analysts have projected that it would be approved. Incidentally, Ajit Pai was appointed a commissioner in the FCC in 2012 by Barack Obama only.

The move by Pai, whose FCC bio* states that “consumers benefit most from competition, not pre-emptive regulation and regulators should be skeptical of pleas to regulate rivals”, has sharply divided America with critics saying it will kill the spirit of free internet. Critics argue that the repeal plan will benefit only few big telecom players who wield immense power over the flow of internet and telecommunication channels. The repeal bill, Restoring Internet Freedom Order, will effectively shut down or marginalize small players and will start a rush of predatory discriminating practices where one telecom company will try all to discredit its rival company’s data flowing through its cables.

And above all, the people will be the ultimate losers with their freedom to get unrestrained access to every content and data gone, something that is at the heart of net neutrality which aims to ensure level playing field for every content, every data flowing through communication channels, be it by the world’s largest service provide or a start-up.

India has also been through this important debate. We should not forget the controversy generated by moves like Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel Zero plans. These differential pricing plans were discriminatory in nature as they would have given preferential treatment to content and data of one telecom company or internet service provider (ISP) over the other. People were naturally outraged at this and their mobilization forced the government and the TRAI to initiate consultations to build a framework to ensure net neutrality in the Indian market. And its outcome has been positive so far with TRAI vouching to uphold the principal of net neutrality in India in its final recommendations on the issue that came out last month.

But Ajit Pai’s may undo all that in America, the world’s largest free market for the internet, and a sort of role-model for the world. And Pai’s move is supported by a lobby of few powerful companies including Verizon, one of America’s biggest telecom services providers and Pai’s former employer, as many media reports* suggest. A Guardian report* writes that Pai is adamant to move ahead with his repeal plan in spite of “members of the public across the political spectrum, be it Democrats or Republicans, supporting the net neutrality rules as revealed in the many polls*.”

Pai’s move has also unnerved the Internet’s founding fathers* Tim Berners-Lee and Vinton Cerf and many other internet pioneers including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Mozilla’s Mitchell Baker. They have written an open letter to the US Congress calling on it to cancel the proposed vote today calling Pai’s repeal plan flawed and an imminent threat to the Internet. But Pai, too, is unnerved. He tweeted this morning to let the world know that there would be no change in his plans, “U.S. @SenateMajLdr supports @FCC plan to restore Internet freedom, saying our Internet economy is the “direct result of a bipartisan desire to create an environment of advancement–one that utilized a light regulatory touch.”

Ajit Pai’s parents were doctors. His mother was from Karnataka and father from Andhra Pradesh. They migrated to America where Pai was born in 1973 in Buffalo, New York. A graduate from Harvard and University of Chicago Law School, Pai’s law career includes assignments mostly with the US judicial services and the US Congress in difference capacities as well as stints with private corporations like Verizon Jenner & Block.

©SantoshChaubey

TONS OF BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS NEXT LEVEL OF NORTH KOREAN THREAT?

The article originally appeared on India Today on 12 December.

“Microbes by ton”, that is how a Washington Post story describes the bioweapons threat from North Korea, the rogue regime that has recently acquired Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) and has declared itself a nuclear power after claimed detonation of a hydrogen bomb.

But if the assessments of US and Asian intelligence officials are true, as the Washington Post and other stories on the subject in the global media quote, then a whole new chapter in North Korean threat to the world is about to begin, in extension of its regular warnings of launching nuclear attacks.

“North Korea is moving steadily to acquire the essential machinery that could potentially be used for an advanced bioweapons program, from factories that can produce microbes by the ton, to laboratories specializing in genetic modification,” the Post story writes.

There have long been speculation about North Korea developing weapons of biological warfare, after the country established in 1980s a biological weapons programme under Kim Il-Sung, current dictator Kim Jong-un’s father, but it never went beyond pathogens like smallpox and anthrax and even now there is no hard evidence to prove it.

But the way North Korea is moving these days, sending its scientists abroad to study advanced microbiology and acquiring machinery that can be used to produce biological weapons at large scale, analysts says “North Korea could quickly surge into industrial-scale production of biological pathogens if it chooses to do so.”

And the most horrible part of it, the intelligence agencies spying on North Korea may not find if North Korea actually has started producing biological weapons at military scale as they suspect North Korea is using civilian factories to conceal its programme. “If it started tomorrow we might not know it, unless we’re lucky enough to have an informant who happens to be in just the right place,” the Post story writes quoting an official.

Experts say genetic engineering to produce even more virulent strains of microbes or germs is another scientific breakthrough that North Korea might have been trying. According to a study, North Korea’s Biological Weapons Program, released in October by Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, North Korean and Chinese scientists jointly published a research paper in 2016 on producing new species of bacteria through genetic engineering.

Though the research paper writes that it is “it is highly unlikely that the typing of these genomes will provide know-how for biological weapons development effort,” the Post story says it is evidence of North Korea’s ambition to acquire cutting edge genetic and microbiological sciences. The ambition raises a valid doubt that it may be used to create even more potent germs, especially when North Korea’s proven ability and credentials to carry out such advanced scientific research have been limited so far. Attempts to produce such super-germs is not new and met with mixed success during the cold war era.

An analysis by Amplyfi, an artificial intelligence company, on North Korean efforts to acquire advanced genetic and biotech capabilities, in fact, has shown that search on topics like “gene expression” and “nucleic acid sequence” from North Korea has gone up voluminously in the last two years.

The Post report writes quoting Amplyfi co-founder Chris Ganje “There are worrying indicators of unintended support and it is obvious that the international community and larger institutions need to be cautious in providing seemingly benign academic scientific education and training to North Korea,” as to circumvent international monitoring, North Korea is trying to gain technological insights from academic institutions, NGOs and private organizations.

South Korea has warned in past that it may launch biological attack thorough its special operations forces (SOF), a Rand Corporation paper, The Challenge of North Korean Biological Weapons, says.

The paper that details submission before the Subcommittee on Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities of the United States House of Representatives in October 2013 writes, “Indeed, North Korea special forces are a likely means for delivering North Korean biological weapons. North Korea has some 200,000 special forces, a small fraction of which could deliver devastating biological attacks against South Korea, Japan, and even the United States.”

©SantoshChaubey

INTERNET’S FOUNDING FATHERS CALL ON US CONGRESS TO SAVE INTERNET FROM TRUMP’S MAN

The article originally appeared on India Today.

Tim Berners-Lee and Vinton Cerf, the founding fathers of the Internet, have written to the US Congress to save the Internet from the disastrous consequences of a proposed repeal of a Barack Obama era law on net neutrality that ensured level playing field for all content and every sort of data by ensuring stiff regulations for the Internet service providers (ISPs).

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), under the Barack Obama presidency, had adopted the net neutrality rules in February 2015 and enacted it in a law in June that year. The law gave the US government sweeping power over the network providers to check the discriminatory practices with the content flowing through their channels.

Here, in India, we are going through the grinding of that process and thankfully, after over a year of consultation papers, public comments and meetings, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) last month decided to uphold the supremacy of net neutrality in India.

Now Ajit Pai, son of Indian immigrants and a Republican, who was made the FCC chief by US President Donald Trump in January 2017, is bringing a repeal proposal to that landmark law which is scheduled for voting on December 14.

But the reports that the proposed repeal plan is expected to be approved have worried the proponents of a free internet accessible for all, and the letter by the founding fathers of the Internet reflects that sentiment.

The letter addressed to the Democratic and Republican chairs that control the FCC says that “the FCC’s proposed order is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology” terming the proposed Restoring Internet Freedom Order an imminent threat to the Internet, “The FCC’s rushed and technically incorrect proposed order to repeal net neutrality protections without any replacement is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create. It should be stopped.”

The letter has urged to US lawmakers to cancel the proposed vote. The open letter that is signed by 19 other internet pioneers including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Mozilla’s Mitchell Baker and Internet Achieves founder Brewster Kahle, alleges the FCC headed by Pai is acting in haste ignoring exerts’ comments, over 23 million pro net neutrality comments by public and against the established practice, has not held even a single public meeting to discuss its proposed repeal order.

The open letter also alleges that the FCC didn’t bother to investigate and explain to people the flaws of its online comment system “including bot-generated comments that impersonated Americans, including dead people, and an unexplained outage of the FCC’s on-line comment system that occurred at the very moment TV host John Oliver was encouraging Americans to submit comments to the system.”

BELOW IS THE TEXT OF THE OPEN LETTER SIGNED BY THE INTERNET’S FOUNDING FATHERS AND PIONEERS:

We are the pioneers and technologists who created and now operate the Internet, and some of the innovators and business people who, like many others, depend on it for our livelihood. We are writing to respectfully urge you to call on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to cancel the December 14 vote on the FCC’s proposed Restoring Internet Freedom Order (WC Docket No. 17-108 ).

This proposed Order would repeal key network neutrality protections that prevent Internet access providers from blocking content, websites and applications, slowing or speeding up services or classes of service, and charging online services for access or fast lanes to Internet access providers’ customers. The proposed Order would also repeal oversight over other unreasonable discrimination and unreasonable practices, and over interconnection with last-mile Internet access providers. The proposed Order removes long-standing FCC oversight over Internet access providers without an adequate replacement to protect consumers, free markets and online innovation.

It is important to understand that the FCC’s proposed Order is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology. These flaws and inaccuracies were documented in detail in a 43-page-long joint comment signed by over 200 of the most prominent Internet pioneers and engineers and submitted to the FCC on July 17, 2017. Despite this comment, the FCC did not correct its misunderstandings, but instead premised the proposed Order on the very technical flaws the comment explained. The technically-incorrect proposed Order dismantles 15 years of targeted oversight from both Republican and Democratic FCC chairs, who understood the threats that Internet access providers could pose to open markets on the Internet.

The experts’ comment was not the only one the FCC ignored. Over 23 million comments have been submitted by a public that is clearly passionate about protecting the Internet. The FCC could not possibly have considered these adequately.

Indeed, breaking with established practice, the FCC has not held a single open public meeting to hear from citizens and experts about the proposed Order.

Furthermore, the FCC’s online comment system has been plagued by major problems that the FCC has not had time to investigate. These include bot-generated comments that impersonated Americans, including dead people, and an unexplained outage of the FCC’s on-line comment system that occurred at the very moment TV host John Oliver was encouraging Americans to submit comments to the system.

Compounding our concern, the FCC has failed to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests about these incidents and failed to provide information to a New York State Attorney General’s investigation of them. We therefore call on you to urge FCC Chairman Pai to cancel the FCC’s vote. The FCC’s rushed and technically incorrect proposed Order to abolish net neutrality protections without any replacement is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create. It should be stopped.

Signed,

Frederick J. Baker, IETF Chair 1996-2001, ISOC Board Chair 2002-2006
Mitchell Baker, Executive Chairwoman, Mozilla Foundation
Steven M. Bellovin, Internet pioneer, FTC Chief Technologist, 2012-2013
Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web & professor, MIT
John Borthwick, CEO, Betaworks
Scott O. Bradner, Internet pioneer
Vinton G. Cerf, Internet pioneer
Stephen D. Crocker, Internet pioneer
Whitfield Diffie, inventor of public-key cryptography
David J. Farber, Internet pioneer, FCC Chief Technologist 1999-2000
Dewayne Hendricks, CEO Tetherless Access
Martin E. Hellman, Internet security pioneer
Brewster Kahle, Internet pioneer, founder, Internet Archive
Susan Landau, cybersecurity expert & professor, Tufts University
Theodor Holm Nelson, hypertext pioneer
David P. Reed, Internet pioneer
Jennifer Rexford, Chair of Computer Science, Princeton University
Ronald L. Rivest, co-inventor of RSA public-key encryption algorithm
Paul Vixie, Internet pioneer
Stephen Wolff, Internet pioneer
Steve Wozniak, co-founder, Apple Computer

©SantoshChaubey

SIGNS THAT SHOW BJP IS WORRIED IN GUJARAT

First phase of Gujarat state election is over. The second phase is on 14 December and the results will be out on 18 December. But the chances for the BJP, which has ruled Gujarat since 1995, are not looking so bright this time. There are, in fact, signs that say the BJP may lose the polls this time. Signs, that reflect in pre-poll surveys and trends in election campaign.

PRE-POLL SURVEYS

An opinion poll just days before the first phase of Gujarat assembly election on 9 December projected it to be neck and neck contest between Congress and the BJP. The ABP-Lokniti-CSDS survey projected equal vote share for both parties at 43 per cent. According to the survey, BJP is expected to win 91-99 seats and Congress 78-86.

Though the survey still gives the BJP more seats, when we see it in continuation of its previous pre-election surveys, we can easily see the rising graph of Congress as the campaign is progressing. The same agency in its November survey had predicted 113-121 seats for the BJP and 58-64 for Congress while its August opinion poll had given the BJP even a wider margin projecting 144-152 seats for it against Congress’ 26-32 seats.

Another set of surveys by Times Now also shows a declining graph for the BJP. Its October survey gave the BJP 118-134 seats which came down to 106-116 seats in its December tally. On the other hand, though not much rosy, the Congress pie went up from 49-61 in October to 63-73 in December.

The BJP is facing 22 years of anti-incumbency and to make matters worse this time, there are factors that can derail its juggernaut there, Narendra Modi, demonetisation, GST, atrocities against Dalits and demands of Patel reservation. Narendra Modi is not the chief minister of the state and the CSDS opinion poll showed that the trading class is not happy with demonetisation and GST. And the biggest faces of Patel reservation protests and the movement against Dalit atrocities, Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mewani, are with Congress.

DEPLOYMENT OF A LARGE TEAM TO COUNTER ONE PERSON

The BJP has unleashed its full force in the Gujarat campaign. Apart from dozens of union ministers, many chief ministers and senior BJP leaders, Narendra Modi himself has devoted fulltime to the party’s prospects in Gujarat. He is addressing multiple rallies in a day with at least a big rally scheduled in every district of the state. Though Vijay Rupani is Gujarat’s chief minister, the BJP face in the Gujarat polls is no doubt Narendra Modi. And all this is to counter a single face from Congress, Rahul Gandhi, who has been pivot of Congress’ campaign.

RELEASE OF MANIFESTO IN THE 11TH HOUR

The BJP released its manifesto just a day before the first phase of Gujarat state election. Though the party quoted busy campaign schedule and technicalities behind this delay, the truth is, the BJP move came after Congress made it an electoral issue with Rahul Gandhi calling it a disrespect to the people of Gujarat. Congress had released its manifesto on 4 December.

RAHUL GANDHI’S UNORTHODOX MOVES

Two stands taken by Rahul Gandhi stand out here, saying he is a mature politician now and can take his journey as Congress’ president further. First, he had issued a written instruction to his party leaders last month not to launch personal attacks against Narendra Modi, seeing how a long list of below the belt comments by Congress leaders targeting Narendra Modi had hit the party’s electoral prospects, be it Sonia Gandhi’s ‘maut ka saudagar’ (merchant of death) or Mani Shankar Aiyar’s ‘chaiwala’ or his very own ‘khoon ki dalali’ in last year.

Second, he immediately got Mani Shankar Aiyar suspended from the Congress party for his ‘neech aadmi’ (vile man) comment on Modi saying, “The Congress has a different culture and heritage and I do not appreciate the tone and language used by Mr Mani Shankar Aiyer to address the PM and both, the Congress and I expect him to apologise for what he said.”

While asserting that “the BJP and PM routinely use filthy language to attack the Congress party”, Rahul, at the same time, denied the BJP the plausibility of using Congress’ personal attacks on Narendra Modi in its favour. And it is evident from the fact that Aiyar’s ‘neech aadmi’ jibe could not get much echo beyond few rallies.

RELIGION CARD

Rahul Gandhi started his Gujarat election campaign from Dwarka and has visited several temples across the state so far while on the campaign trail. He has declared his family and himself ‘Shiv bhakts’ (devotees of Lord Shiva) and is trying consciously to adopt the Soft Hindutva image to counter the BJP’s Hindutva politics. And it seems he has been successful so far in his attempts.

Otherwise the BJP would not have made Rahul Gandhi’s religion such a big issue, and that too based on a fake news. The BJP went big time saying Rahul was not a Hindu as he signed a non-Hindu visitor’s register during his Somnath Temple visit, a claim which was later refuted by the Somnath Temple trust.

‘DEVELOPMENT IN GUJARAT’ NARRATIVE MISSING

The BJP initially said its poll plank was all about development in Gujarat, something that would speak for itself. To counter it, Congress mounted a well-lubricated social media campaign focusing on ‘how development in the state had gone crazy’. But one look at BJP campaign speeches and one can easily see the development plank missing from there, something even its ally Shiv Sena pointed out today in its editorial Saamna.

DRAGGING PAKISTAN AND CHINA IN GUJARAT POLLS

The final days of campaigning in Gujarat has seen Narendra Modi and the BJP dragging in the issue of China and Pakistan meddling in Gujarat polls with Narendra Modi going as far as to allege that many including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had a secret meeting involving the High Commissioner of Pakistan and an ex-Pakistani minister to discuss the Gujarat election.

There have also been allegations that Mani Shankar Aiyar colluded with Pakistan and even put out a contract to eliminate Narendra Modi. But the issue is not finding much traction as evident from the media coverage of elections. Apart from few news outlets, most of them are desisting from taking any stand on these allegations and counter-allegations.

©SantoshChaubey

BEING A GOOD CITIZEN: THIS IS WHAT I WROTE TO OBAMA FOUNDATION

This is what I wrote in response to the Obama Foundation mailer on what “I think about being a good citizen.” And on what the Obama Foundation should be? Well, anything that can bring smile to the majority of this planet, something that other honest organizations working in the social sector are trying to do, irrespective of societies, boundaries and countries.

MY RESPONSE

What I am going to write here is based on my experiences in the Indian context and I believe it will stand true for any other society that needs large scale social intervention. India is slated to become the world’s most populous country but its majority is still poor and forced to live a life of misery, something that the government alone cannot address.

The basic needs of life, food, i.e., shelter, health, education, are still not on their radar. And how can it be when they have to go through the grinding of feeding themselves first, day after day, month after month, year after year. Everything else comes later.

We need to accept the ground reality if we have to bring the change here. The process to change a society and undoing its wrongs and malaise can only begin once we have this realization.

And the most important thing is – the government cannot do it alone. The society must contribute. And we must contribute. We all must feel duty-bound with the sense of ‘giving it back to the society’ for our very existence here – in whatever capacity we are. For me, that is all about being a good citizen.

On a larger and more organized scale, someone once had told me that in order to bring empowerment to the needy, one needs to be an activist and not a fighter. A fighting spirit is good but many a times, the trade-off between ‘fighting the system’ and ‘fighting over your way out of the system’ becomes too costly for the people you are fighting for.

An example will be apt here. Natural calamities, if displace many, are also opportunities for the corrupt souls in a system. You know there is corruption but your priority must be rehabilitating those displaced – and you have to work in tandem with the system – even if the system is corrupt. Your integrity and tenacity lie in how you can take work from the system. There is always the time to fight the menace of corruption later.

As always, committed social work needs a committed soul more than anything else, otherwise there is always the chance to drift away, especially when in India, where everything is so political that in order to get things done, one needs to be inside the system, knowing how to take work from it, keeping in mind the fine line between manipulating a system and taking work from it.

I believe this should be the story of every not-for-profit or every individual working in the social sector – no compromise with ethics – and no compromise with patience – because I think we just do not deal with the mindset or the behavioural change here only – but more importantly, we also deal with the exterior of a person – the society he lives in – with all sorts of good and bad people and institutions.

THE OBAMA.ORG MAILER

We’re so glad you’re a part of this startup for citizenship. Working together, we’re going to build a working, living center for developing the next generation of active leaders all over the world. We have a lot of work to do, and we’re going to count on your ideas to inform our efforts.

That’s why we’re asking you to add your voice today, and that’s why we’ll continue asking you to share your ideas in the months and years ahead. Let us know what’s on your mind, what good citizenship means to you, and what you want this Foundation to be.

©SantoshChaubey

OMAR BIN KHETAB, NO 2 OF AL-QAEDA IN THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT, KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN

The article originally appeared on India Today on 7 December. 

Omar bin Khetab, the second-in-command of the Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), has been killed in a joint operation by Afghan intelligence and the US military.

Not much information is available about the terrorist – apart from some sketchy details – but the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) called him the seniormost Al Qaeda leader killed in Afghanistan since 2001, when Taliban was driven out of the country.

A NATO release on Khetab’s elimination described him as an expert in heavy weapons and explosives, who trained the Taliban for night attacks.

Also known as Omar Mansoor, Khetab was killed in the Gilan district in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province, the Washington Post reported. He was in his early 40s, and came from the restive tribal regions of Pakistan, the report said.

A 2016 UN report put the AQIS operatives’ count in Afghanistan at 300, and said they mainly came from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives and India. The same report said Khetab handled AQIS operations in the east of Waziristan.

Courtesy: Tolo News

80 more Al Qaeda terrorists were killed along with him, including the top three al-Qaeda leaders in the country. Those who were killed included “Qasim, Hassan Hamza, Jonaid and Mustafa, military head of al-Qaeda, three Punjabi Taliban and two local Taliban fighters”, Tolo News reported quoting the NDS.

Air and military operations were conducted in the past few weeks in Ghazni, Paktia and Zabul provinces of Afghanistan. Details of the operations have not been released yet.

Courtesy: Tolo News

AQIS TRYING TO MAKE PRESENCE FELT IN INDIA

The AQIS has virtually been non-existent so far in India and is trying to make its presence felt in the country. It recently named former Hizbul terrorist Zikar Rashid Bhat – alias Zakir Musa – the chief of its India unit Ansar Ghawzat-Ul-Hind. Before that, in June, AQIS had released a new code of conduct for its members and other terrorists who wanted to show allegiance to Al Qaeda.

In a tape released in August, Al Qaeda chief Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri confirmed that slain Al Qaeda commander Abu Dujana al Pasha was the main driving force behind the formation of AQIS as he “united several jihadi groups belonging to the Indian Subcontinent”.

Abu Dujana al Pasha, who was also known as Abu Dujana al Basha, was the son-in-law of Zawahiri and played a key role in Al Qaeda’s terror operations. Reports say he was known as the “hidden commander” in Al Qaeda, because though he was relatively unknown to the outside world, he worked hard to establish AQIS. The US had declared him a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in 2009.

Zawahiri had announced the formation of the AQIS in a video message in September 2014. Though it was widely reported that al Pasha was killed in a US drone strike, Al Qaeda never accepted it.

©SantoshChaubey

SUBRAMANIAN SWAMY MAY WANT INDIA TO MOVE ITS EMBASSY TO JERUSALEM BUT MAHATMA GANDHI WAS EVEN AGAINST FORCED SETTLEMENT OF ISRAELIS IN PALESTINE

Subramamian Swamy may demand India to follow the United States and move its embassy to Jerusalem but it is against India’s principled stand of solidarity with the Palestinian cause that was against the forced settlement of Israelis in the Palestinian territory. Like the whole issue of Israeli settlement in Palestine, the issue of sovereign claims over Jerusalem, too, has been a contentious issue as the city is the ancient seat of Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

The origin behind this principled stand can be traced back to Mahatma Gandhi, our Father of the Nation, who believed that Israelis could settle in Palestine only with the permission from Arabs and it was wrong for them to enter with the might of the British gun.

Writing in Harijan on November 26, 1938, Mahatma Gandhi says that his sympathies are with the Jews some of whom have been his friends since his days in South Africa. Thus, he knows about the age-long persecution of the Jews. He refers to the Jews as the untouchables of Christianity, like the untouchables of Hinduism and that religion is used in their persecution, as was happening then with the Jews in Germany.

But, he draws a line here saying his sympathy for the Jews cannot blind him to the requirements of justice.

He says in his write-up, The Jews, in Harijan, “The cry for the national home for the Jews does not make much appeal to me.” He says that “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French and it is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs.”

Mahatma Gandhi says the settlement of the Jews in the Palestinian territory is akin to a religious act that rules out use of force, “The Palestine of the Biblical conception is not a geographical tract. It is in their hearts. But if they must look to the Palestine of geography as their national home, it is wrong to enter it under the shadow of the British gun. A religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or the bomb. They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs.”

In this article written in 1938, before the organized massacre of the Jews in the German concentration camps began, Mahatma Gandhi argues that the Jewish people are the citizens of the world and they should be treated as such, a Jew born in France as French, a Jew born in Germany as German. He advises the German Jews to use the civil movement through non-violence to take on the German persecution.

Though, we can see a change in approach in the later writings of Mahatma Gandhi on German persecution of the Jews after the German concentration camps massacred millions of Jews, his stand on Israeli occupation of the Palestinian land remains the same.

In another Harijan article titled “Jews and Palestine”, written on July 21, 1946, after the Second World War and the German massacre of the Jews were over, he says, “I do believe that the Jews have been cruelly wronged by the world. “Ghetto” is, so far as I am aware, the name given to Jewish locations in many parts of Europe. But for their heartless persecution, probably no question of return to Palestine would ever have arisen. The world should have been their home, if only for the sake of their distinguished contribution to it.”

But in the next paragraph, he reiterates his long held stand on the forced Jewish occupation of the Palestinian land, “But, in my opinion, they have erred grievously in seeking to impose themselves on Palestine with the aid of America and Britain and now with the aid of naked terrorism.”

And he held this view on the Palestine-Israel problem till his death, blaming Christianity for singling out and wronging the Jews, “Their citizenship of the world should have and would have made them honoured guests of any country. Their thrift, their varied talent, their great industry should have made them welcome anywhere. It is a blot on the Christian world that they have been singled out, owing to a wrong reading of the New Testament, for prejudice against them. If an individual Jew does a wrong, the whole Jewish world is to blame for it. If an individual Jew like Einstein makes a great discovery or another composes unsurpassable music, the merit goes to the authors and not to the community to which they belong.”

JERUSALEM CLAIMS

Swamy, the senior BJP leader, tweeted last night, hours after US President Donald Trump made his formal announcement to move US embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, “Israel has international recognition of a part of Jerusalem as its territory; hence India should shift its Embassy to this part of the city.”

But the contention is about East Jerusalem that houses Islam’s third holiest shrine Al Aqsa mosque and Palestine and the whole Muslim world see Jerusalem as Palestine capital. While West Jerusalem has been Israel’s seat of government, it occupied East Jerusalem in 1967’s Six Day War.

Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has created outrage in the Muslim world amid the global concern that it will disturb status-quo in one of the most dangerous conflict theatres of the world where escalating tension may easily give way to a larger war involving many countries.

The issue has been so sensitive that almost no country so far had recognized Israel’s sovereign claim over Jerusalem and the global consensus has been that the issue must be resolved through negotiation between Israel and Palestine. Even the previous US presidents recognized it and that is why none of them thought to cross the line even if the US Congress had enacted a law in 1995, Jerusalem Embassy Act, to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and had decided to move its Embassy there. The UN has also condemned the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem through the UN Security Council Resolution 478.

INDIA’S STAND

India’s has reacted cautiously on the development, “India’s position on Palestine is independent and consistent. It is shaped by our views and interests, and not determined by any third country.”

In fact, if it took 45 years after the independence for India to allow Israeli Embassy in New Delhi, as it always tried to maintain balance between its principled stand on Palestine and its geopolitical concerns that Israel could have addressed. India and Israel established full diplomatic ties on January 29, 1992 but it took another 25 years for India’s first ever prime ministerial visit to the nation in July this year. In these 25 years, Israel has emerged as India’s most reliable defence partner and India as Israel’s largest defence market, accounting for 41 per cent of its arms export.

©SantoshChaubey