AAP tu, Kejriwal?

Arvind Kejriwal is the new star in Indian politics. A very recent phenomenon.

I do want to write more, but this is only a brief observation, considering I’m leaving for India very soon, and don’t have a whole lot of time.

(Now, that’s a real complex sentence, but simple enough. Right? :-) )

Background:

In the important state election in India’s capital area Delhi, AAP or Aam Admi Party (in English, ordinary people’s party) just had a landslide victory. With their election symbol the broom, they completely swept the ruling BJP off the streets, even though the mighty, national, grassroots cadre-based BJP came to national powers in the country just nine months ago, and people had thought they were invincible.

Election factors that went favorably for AAP:

(1) The Gandhi Dynasty (now led by Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi) had a massive debacle. It was apparent from the election results that even though BJP lost only one percent of their total votes compared to the hung-result elections one year ago (33 to 32 percent), Congress went down from 25% to a dismal 9% of the votes, and all of it went to AAP, giving them a total of 54% in the mostly triangular competitions — between Congress, BJP and AAP.

(2) BJP had a lot of infights, and the way they had to select an outsider candidate for the chief minister position did not go well either with the people or the party workers. Kiran Bedi, a strong-armed woman police officer until recently was a loud critic of BJP and was an ally of AAP’s anti-corruption platform. People did not like the sudden switch over. Party cadres did not like the imposition.

(3) BJP made a lot of promises before the last state elections and also the national elections, but did not keep any of them, including stemming the horrible violence on women, price rise, corruption, or black money. And their primitive, communal jargon: young India does not have much faith for it.

(4) Local issues that AAP fought for — such as free water and electricity for the residents of Delhi worked for AAP. Even though AAP never disclosed their economic policy as to how they’re going to fight back against the out-of-control price rise in India, or how they’re going to stop the neoliberal onslaught from IMF and World Bank.

Rupee, yes. Onion, yes. IMF, what??

Rupee, yes. Onion, yes. IMF, what??

(5) Most ordinary people, just like here in the U.S., do not understand how today’s economics are all global, and that you cannot address any of the national economic or political issues, without taking on their global interconnections. This massive ignorance, courtesy corporate media’s purposeful bypassing of these issues, worked for AAP too. Many otherwise smart voters voted for AAP out of ignorance and lack of political insight.

IMPLICATIONS of AAP’s VICTORY:

(1) The era of big-party politics is over in India. Old generation has lost faith in establishment parties (Congress, old left and now also in BJP — only the old-timers are hanging on), and the new Indian generation does not get history, ideology or grassroots movements. Sadly.

(2) If AAP is the new trend in Delhi, we’ll see varieties of AAP in other states, especially more affluent places. We might see something like it in prosperous Haryana, Gujarat and Maharashtra soon, unless BJP in Gujarat and Shiv Sena (an extreme right party) is Maharashtra resort to violence.

(3) In backward states, it’s going to be more caste politics, such as in hilly Uttarakhand, forested M.P., and economically backward Bihar and Assam and Orissa, and tribal Chhattisgarh. And the more prosperous areas in Uttar Pradesh (the California of India — the most populous state) might see AAP’s rise.

(4) In Southern States like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, more regional politics (AIADMK) will flourish.

(5) In Karnataka (and possibly also in Andhra Pradesh especially the richer, tech-savvy areas), we might see a version of AAP.

(6) In a now-falling-behind state like West Bengal (with a large Muslim population and shared borders with Bangladesh), social unrest and communal tension will rapidly rise. BJP, up and coming, will use Hindu politics and WB chief minister Mamata Banerjee will use Muslim politics. It is possible we’ll see a coalition between the communists (who have miserably lost power after being at the helm of affairs for thirty years) and Congress (a party that is now desperate to salvage some honor).

It is also possible West Bengal will see a rise in an independent, progressive politics-based youth and student coalition (I hope it happens).

India. IMF loves her.

India. IMF loves her.

(7) Basically, what is happening is that global, neoliberal economic and political forces have now deeply colonized India, and used the massive public frustration against price hikes, corruption and cronyism and communalism, and exploited ordinary people’s political ignorance on one hand and AAP-type platforms’ service-oriented, high-tech promises on the other.

(8) At the end of the day, IMF and World Bank thrive and their multinational corporations — courtesy the U.S. powers –flourish in India, and the institution known as the government and state falls.

(9) Immediate result: renewed privatization in the name of “economic reform,” complying with IMF’s Structural Adjustment Program, massive inflation and a total destruction of welfare and price subsidies for the poor. Labor unions perish. More income inequality USA style rises.

(10) Time-tested, public-sector services such as the Indian Railways may be going to be one of the first victims of a recharged privatization. And Indian national banks will fall. Water will sell out to Coke; farm lands will sell more to Monsanto.

(11) IMF, World Bank and global economic powers can now pressure the national BJP government to yield to the so-called “reform” more effectively, using the AAP landslide as a stick and a trump card. The national BJP government has already shown strong desire to abide by the neoliberal masters and their dictates.

The 99% miserably suffer, again. The 1% prosper even more than ever before.

People who have a global, bird’s eye view will be, and must be, deeply troubled by these developments.

Thank you for listening.

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

(And now, I leave for India. Delhi first.)

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New voter. New India. Colonized mind.

New voter. New India. Colonized mind. (Apologies, but do they get global politics?)

My mother's kitchen in North Calcutta.

My mother’s kitchen in North Calcutta. I go back to it.

Truly, sincerely, and honest to God, India and Bengal are pilgrimage to me.

I’ve been in USA for thirty years. More than half my life. I live here. I work here. This country has given me a lot. A lot.

Yet, every time I go back to that place, it gives me goosebumps.

I know that place is full of violence, corruption and devilish rulers who have destroyed the country beyond recognition, and gotten rich. But I also know that place is full of love, honesty, and gods and goddesses and angels who you have seen all your life, and discover every single day while you are there.

People — including friends and relatives — often tell me that I am harsh on these two countries I’ve known all my life (India and USA). Some (including closest friends and relatives) have grown this feeling in their hearts that we have left India for selfish gains, which to them was an act of treachery and betrayal. And then they believe in honesty that my crying for my motherland is therefore all phony and elitist, without knowing, touching or living through the reality.

Some others, here in the U.S., often wonder why do I talk about India so much even after being here for so long? Some question my love and passion to live and work here in the U.S. They say, “Make up your mind. You can’t be in both places at the same time. This is your country now. Make the best of it.”

Of course, some of it is true. But some of it is not.

Scottish Church School. My elementary education began here.

Scottish Church School. My elementary education began here.

Considering how much I have learned about India and Bengal, being away from India and Bengal, and how deep and divine that knowledge and insight is, it is purely God’s blessing.

Considering how much I have learned about America and the West, one lesson at a time — over thirty years — is simply mind boggling. Never thought in one life, I could do so much. That is God’s blessing too.

No question about it.

And then, of course, very few want to know what kind of extreme sadness, emotional void and economic suffering my family and I had to go through all these years as immigrants in a distant land with no money, language or relatives — to come to this point that we’re at now.

Nobody cares to know how much my family and I have learned together, in and out of universities, and how deep and enormous that knowledge is.

I am not blaming anybody for their ignorance. I am not pleading to the naysayers and negative thinkers.

My hope and beliefs and optimism are all out there — for those who have an open mind, who want to see us eye to eye, and want to know what we have to say. Anybody: students, teachers, factory workers, human rights activists, home makers…any and all of you. You come to me, and I am here for you. I love you, and I love the place that made me what I am today.

The Joy of a City. Rikshaw-wallas rest and read.

The Joy of a City. Rikshaw-wallas rest and read.

I am not being sentimental. We can love each other, as parents love their children, and sisters love their brothers, and in case of India and Bengal, as teachers love their students — to share knowledge and experience. In case of USA, the detached but very strong common feelings of solidarity across the working-class and rights and justice spectrum. These feelings across the world are so real, and so reassuring!

This brain-mind combination of human emotions and educated reasoning can do miracles. This collective passion for the country and society can save us from doom.

Thank you for being my friend, and thank you for being kind.

I leave for India and Bengal now.

But I shall come back to USA.

###

Plato and Aristotle, two of the greatest analytical thinkers.

Plato and Aristotle, two of the greatest analytical thinkers.

I have decided to write less these days. Because not too many people care to read too much. They do not have the time. Long pieces make people tired. Complex subjects make people switch over to something more interesting. Hollywood, Bollywood, MTV, ZTV, dance stars, football stars, cricket. You know the rest.

But I am just writing about this subject because this question is coming up more and more, even from people whom I had thought were my friends and well wishers.

I write about the Indian government and the people in power, and expose their wrongdoings and clandestine connections. People from India get angry and say that I am anti-India. They say, “Why do you hate India so much? Don’t you have any love for your motherland — the land you were born and brought up in?”

Some others say, “Why criticize India so much, while having a ‘Mercedes Lifestyle’ in America?” They say, “You fled India to have a good life, and now you blast India every time you have an opportunity.”

When I write something about USA and its people in power, and try to show their wrongdoings — whether their economic policies, foreign policies or war games — my American readers blast me. They say, “Why hate America so much, when this country has given you so much?”

And some angrier people say, “If you hate USA so much, go back to your India.”

Sometimes these are mild admonitions. Sometimes these are very harsh words. And once in a while, people are outright nasty and vulgar. Sometimes, being a real man with a real heart and mind, it’s not easy to deal with them.

So, my question to myself is, do I hate India? Do I hate America?

And in short, my answer is: No.

I never hate either of these two countries — the two countries I’ve lived in all my life. I have nothing but love and respect for these two lands that have kept me alive, nurtured me, and gave me opportunities to live, grow and prosper.

I have nothing but love and care and best wishes for India and USA.

Ram Mohan Ray, one of the greatest voices of dissent in India. He challenged religious orthodoxy.

Ram Mohan Ray, one of the greatest voices of dissent in India. He challenged religious orthodoxy.

All my issues are with the people who are in power in these two countries: the one percent. I have talked about their politics, and I have talked about their covert and overt actions. And I shall keep doing it, as long as I live.

That is dissent to the powerful. This is all I have: a voice of dissent. Educated, informed, critically-analyzed dissent.

And believe it or not, unlike what the one percent and their corporations and media and politicians tell you, dissent is a big part of democracy.

In fact, believe it or not, dissent is democracy.

As noted historian late Howard Zinn had said: “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.

Contrary to these critics who believe I hate India and I hate America, I am actually practicing that highest form of patriotism. And I am doing it nonviolently too. I am making my small circle of people think.

Just think about it.

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One of my favorite voices of dissent. Some people think he hates America.

One of my favorite voices of dissent. Some people think he hates America.

Once a rioter, now a bedfellow!!

Once a rioter, now a bedfellow!!

RSS, and Modi, and Obama? What the heck is this all about?

Wait. Don’t be so impatient. Let me explain.

RSS — (see below).

Modi — Current prime minister of India, who is RSS (see below). He was indicted a few years ago of inciting a bloody communal riot in the state of Gujarat, and the U.S. government had refused to give him a visa.

(Well…that was then. Now he is a “best friend” the U.S. government has.)

And Obama — we all know Obama. He is now about to visit India, and meet with Modi.

(He is leaving immediately, as a matter of fact.)

Happy? No? Well, let me explain more.

Q. (1) Do you know of RSS?

You do? What is it?

Really Simple Syndication? The computer stuff?

Naahh…wrong!!

I’m talking about RSS, or Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Raash…Whaaat??

Wait. Let me explain.

Rashtriya means national, Swayamsevak means volunteer, Sangh means organization. These are all Sanskrit or Hindi or Bengali words.

So, this RSS I’m talking about is basically the National Volunteer Organization. It’s a powerful, grassroots organization in India. They have their branches in all big and many small cities, and numerous villages too. They have millions of volunteers across India and in many other countries too.

Q. (2) What do they do?

They organize Hindus.

Hum. So, what do they believe in?

They believe in India as a Hindu Rashtra, or Hindu nation. (Well, they also once believed in the assassination of Gandhi, and one of their ex-members actually killed Gandhi, but we’ll reserve that story for later. Does Obama know? He should.)

BTW, just to make sure everybody understands, I am a Hindu myself, and actually unlike many of my lefty friends, I am neither a communist nor a Hindu-basher. I identify quite well with my Hinduism.

Q. (3) How can we compare RSS with a similar organization in other countries?

In USA, you can perhaps compare them with the Christian Coalition or Tea Party. In Bangladesh, they are perhaps comparable to Jamat-e-Islami. In France, perhaps, Le Pen’s National Front.

Modi, a lifelong member of the militant RSS. This is a fact. And they are proud of it too.

Modi, a lifelong member of the militant RSS. This is a fact. And they are proud of it. (Modi, however, does not dawn those khaki half pants no mo.)

No? National Front is a political organization, and RSS is not? Okay. So, RSS has its political organization too. It’s called BJP, or Bharatiya Janata Party, or Indian People’s Party. They are now in power in India. And Modi is their elected leader.

Q. (4) What are the similarities for these various groups?

Basically, the similarities across these groups globally are: (1) Religious and racial supremacy; (2) Anti-immigrant politics; (3) Strong anti-socialism views; (4) Exclusionist nationalistic economy; (5) Anti-labor union; (6) Anti-gender-equality; and (7) Emphasis on military might. There are more, but we’ll stop for now.

Well, Narendra Modi is now very willing to be a close partner of the mighty U.S. economy, and U.S. of course is delighted that the Indian government is now even more willing than ever before to sell off its economy to U.S. corporations. India’s new finance minister Arun Jaitley, also a hardcore RSS member, has already slashed India’s already-dismal health care subsidies for the poor, and proposed sell-off of massive amounts of Indian land to foreign corporations. This is all, supposedly, to comply with IMF and World Bank dictates.

So, Modi, who was indicted of a bloody, communal riot in the state of Gujarat in 2002 (that saw a massive slaughter of poor Muslims), and thus denied a U.S. visa then, is now a very lovable, huggable, dear bedfellow.

I once wrote a book on RSS, BJP and their philosophies and politics and grassroots organizing. I wrote it from an insider point of view.

Hope you look it up.

Signing off for now (with a deep, frustrated sigh),

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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Beware, and read that history book!

Beware, and read that history book!

humilityMy shortest blog post ever.

I’m sharing a piece of news. A happy news.

Wikipedia just published a page on my life and work — whatever they’re worth.

A group of young people worked hard, for months, to get the page published.

Here is the page. Hope you visit.

Thank you, all my family, friends, students, teachers, supporters and sympathizers.

Gratified, humbled.
Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York.

Ego-KnowledgeMany people will pledge many things around this time.

Some will keep them. Some will not.

Like, losing weight, and stuff.

I do not want to start the New Year with any promises that I won’t be able to keep.

This is a hard choice. This is not easy for me. My ego has always been a baggage for me. Recently, I’ve noticed that it’s become a major burden.

I want to shed it. I want to get rid of it.

Ego is not pride. Pride is something different. Pride gives you a reason to live. Pride gives you an identity. Pride keeps you with your history and heritage. Pride attaches you with your genes, your traditions, your religion, your belief system, your ideology. Pride helps you to love the people you want to love.

But really, ego does not give you anything. If you think of it, it is almost unreal. It is fake. Ego is not synonymous with pride. The more ego you have, the more unproductive you become. Because you’re running after the shadows of ego all the time, when it is just that: shadows. The shadows do not have a real face. They do not own a substance.

I love my prides. Pride is my birthplace Calcutta. Pride is my root in Bengaliness, and in my Indianness. Pride is my accomplishments from an impoverished childhood to a somewhat economically stable fifties. Pride is my Hinduism. Pride is my school years, my college years, my university years — both in India and in the U.S. Pride is my ability to wade through all the muck and morose, to live a more or less honest, upright, and greed-free life.

ego baggageEgo, on the other hand, is truly meaningless. It’s baggage you can get rid of anytime, anywhere, free of charge. I’ll give you a simple, real-life example. Like, as if I’m driving on the correct lane at the correct speed, following all the rules and regulations, and then suddenly a rash driver flouts all the laws and ethics, and cuts in and almost hits me and speeds away, leaving me with this enormous urge to challenge him, and follow him at high speed and cut into his lane and throw verbal fist fights. It’s that element of my life that I do not need, and can easily part with. It does not give me any peace. In fact, all the egotistic acts I have done in my life — one after the other — have only made me more troubled and irked and irate inside.

Or, suppose, I desperately want to know how many readers hit my blog, or how many Facebook friends liked my updates. Meaningless…truly, absolutely meaningless. Ego…and nothing else.

I do not want Mr. Ego in my life. I am what I am, without him. I am no less than what I am, sans that vice. In fact, I am a much better and happier person, without him.

I know that my writing on this subject is not going to make the world ego-free. Those who have the maximum arrogance and show-off, like those rash drivers and corporate profiteers commuting on their helicopters across Wall Street will keep flaunting them one way or the other, and keep making the world more difficult to live.

But this promise is not to make the world a better place. This promise is to make my mind a better place. My peace is at stake because of those people. I do not want them to destroy my peace.

I want to pledge in 2015 that only I, and nobody else, can destroy my peace.

And an ego-less me will not let that happen.

Peace and Prosperity to All. It has been a wonderful, productive and blessed year.

Hope to keep in touch with all of you, and talk heart to heart, free of that ego.

“Om Tat Sat.” All that is the Truth.Om-Tat-Sat

Sincerely and Honestly,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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meditation candle

Peshawar 3

I have a simple question. If Muslims kill Muslims, how can all Muslims be terrorists?

Or, maybe, I should stop asking easy, logical questions. I should rather join the bandwagon, and support more war and more torture. After all, I am an Indian-American, and most Indians and most Americans are doing just that right now: calling for “exemplary punishment of the criminals.” Borrowing Cheney, use more torture. In fact, I presume, most Pakistanis are calling for it too.

On one hand, we have the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and ISIS in Syria and Iraq. They keep slaughtering innocent civilians and school children. They keep killing journalists. We have the Jamat-e-Islami in Bangladesh, and Laskar-e-Taiba and their many splinter groups in India. They have joined hands with their counterparts across the world, and created barbaric, gruesome acts of violence. If you don’t follow their trail, just know that India has seen numerous acts by “Islamic” terrorists in recent years, a flash point being the November 2008 carnage at Taj Hotel, Mumbai.

Taj Mumbai attack

As I write this article, Taliban terrorists invaded a military school in Peshwar, and killed more than one hundred Pakistani teenagers, most of whom came from civilian families. Violence and death have reached a new low.

Let me be clear: there is no doubt in my mind that Talibans are fanatic terrorists, and ISIS is beyond description. I have no soft corners in my heart for them. They are menace to human civilization. Their violence must be checked at any cost.

Yet, at the same time, I can’t resist asking these simple questions: (1) Who are these terrorists? (2) Why are they doing it? (3) Who is supporting them with weapons and money? And (4) Who’s benefiting at the end of the day?

New York Times reports on October 14, 2014: “The Central Intelligence Agency has run guns to insurgencies across the world during its 67-year history — from Angola to Nicaragua to Cuba. The continuing C.I.A. effort to train Syrian rebels is just the latest example of an American president becoming enticed by the prospect of using the spy agency to covertly arm and train rebel groups.”

We can add the Taliban to this list of groups U.S. government and intelligence have actively aided. Other than U.S. regimes’ longstanding support for the Mujahideens during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, support that many believe created terrorists like Osama Bin Laden, our American governments have also perpetually supported military regimes in Pakistan, regimes that choked any revival of democracy to death.

And these military regimes in Pakistan led by dictators such a Zia-ul Haq and Yahiya Khan (and most recently, America’s much-liked Pervez Musharraf) have not only created an elite, one percent for themselves and their cronies, creating more poverty, hunger and misery for the ordinary Pakistanis, they have also been responsible for brutality and horror elsewhere. The 1971 genocide and mass rapes in Bangladesh by Yahiya Khan’s army and their extremist Muslim operatives are too gruesome not to remember.

Peshwar 1 Peshawar 2

On the eastern side of Pakistani borders, Indian governments for their part, have always kept the animosity alive, and Kashmir has been their trump card, especially at election times. After the days of pacifist Gandhi and India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru who was socialist-minded, most other elected Indian leaders have found one reason or the other to “teach a hard lesson” to the “arch enemy” Pakistan. The two countries, since their British colonizers left in 1947 after two centuries of occupation, brutality and economic plunder, have fought three wars causing massive bloodshed. Historically, U.S. and China have always stood behind Pakistan, and the erstwhile Soviet Union has supported India.

The tide has turned 180 degrees. A post-Soviet India has decided become a close U.S. ally, and Clinton, Bush and Obama governments have used India’s neoliberal governments to push in U.S. corporations. Monsanto, GE, MacDonald’s, Coke, IBM and Disney, along with Rupert Murdoch’s media empire have reaped maximum profit, grabbed lands, and displaced people. Hundreds of thousands of Monsanto farmers have killed themselves, out of economic destitution. Union Carbide caused havoc. They have also spread their deregulated businesses across India, and helped an IMF-dictated destruction of India’s semi-socialistic economy.

Pakistan’s economy, on the other hand, has faltered even more. Amir Jahangir, chief executive officer at Mishal Pakistan, country partner for the Center of Global Competitiveness and Performance at the World Economic Forum, said in 2012: “Pakistan has lost its competitive advantage on almost all the pillars of the competitiveness index…” Pakistan’s currency now values at 100 Rupees per one U.S. dollar, compared to 64 Indian Rupees, and 77 Bangladeshi Taka. The country, with its ever-widening income inequality on one hand and medieval violence on the other, is falling apart.

What is happening in Pakistan as reaction is that anti-U.S., Islamic extremists are gaining ground, and forging political alliance. Democratically-elected Prime Minister Nawaj Sharif’s corruption- and inefficiency-tainted Muslim League government has failed to live up to its expectations, and  found its newest rivals in cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan, Canada-originated Sufi cleric Tahir ul Qadri, and other pro-Islamic groups. This is on top of Sharif’s main opposition Pakistan People’s Party once led by former prime ministers Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and his daughter Benazir Bhutto (the father hanged by Haq courts and daughter killed by a road bomb blast).

Pakistan as a nation is at a crossroad. Administrative failures, corruption, illiteracy and poverty have only helped a rapid resurgence of ultra-religious, far right-wing groups and their Mullahs who openly preach toppling of any democratic governments, through any means. The extremist and violent Talibans have taken advantage of an unstable political situation and a very porous Afghan border, and sent in their mercenaries, just like those that killed innocent children at the Peshwar school.

India also has a rapid rise of reactionary, fundamentalist forces, and is now governed by BJP. The party and its prime minister Narendra Modi have close ties with Hindu right wing, militant group RSS. Modi was implicated in the 2002 Muslim massacre in Gujarat, and U.S. government at that time blacklisted him, and rejected his visa to travel to USA. Gandhi was assassinated in 1948 by Nathuram Godse, an RSS associate. Now, Modi is one of the global leaders sought-after by the West, and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have both extended olive branches to him, to seize on the vast, wide-open Indian market that has fallen prey to IMF and World Bank. India’s new and upcoming young generation, with few exceptions, is rabidly capitalistic and pro-American, as well as full of scorn, if not hate, for Muslims and Pakistan. Communal violence could flare up anywhere, anytime.

Pakistan’s new Taliban barbarism could prove ominous for the entire Indian subcontinent, and it is possible that U.S. government, its war corporations and CIA could use such horrific tragedies and bloodshed to wage a new, global warfare, this time using India as its loyal ally.

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Bangladesh, 1971.

Bangladesh, 1971.

NYT pic 1I wrote this on my Facebook today.

I share it with you. This is what I am, and I am what I am.

I often look in the eyes of my next-door black neighbors in Brooklyn, and I see mistrust. I see sadness. Their eyes tell me, “How could you Indians hate us so much, when we did so much for you?” They say, “Did you ever realize had we blacks not fought for passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, you could not take advantage of the 1965 immigration law that opened the gates for you to come to America, and be equal, at least on paper?”

Their eyes silently admonish me.

Amadou DialloThey don’t know what I do, or what I write or talk about. They probably think I’m also one of those Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi immigrants, living our bodies here to make as much money as possible, while living our souls back in our home country.

Had there been a way to tell them how I feel, I’d say sincerely, “I’m sorry, man, I’m so sorry. Forgive me. Take me in. I am one of you.”

I’d say, “Give me a chance to share my life’s stories with you. You’ll know how similar they are, with yours.”

I feel your pain. I feel your suffering.

Do you feel mine?

Sincerely Yours,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

December 11, 2014

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Emmett Till

Emmett Till

Photos from New York Times article on police brutality and killing, December 3, 2014.

Ferguson 1I originally wrote this article for Ananda Bazar Patrika, Calcutta’s leading daily newspaper. You can read the published Bengali oped here.

In 1964, America passed the historic Civil Rights Act. Fifty years later, in 2014, the Ferguson incident proved that this country did not move much.

Bronx, New York, black immigrant student Amadou Diallo was taking his wallet out of his pocket at his doorstep. Police officers thought he was taking out a gun. Forty-one bullets riddled his body. Judgement: all the policemen were acquitted.

Sean Bell, Queens, New York, a black man on the night before his wedding was coming out of a wild bachelor party. His car hit a police vehicle. What an audacity! More police cars came in no time. Pumped fifty bullets in him. Judgement: all policemen acquitted.

A report from the last seven years shows that on an average two black Americans are killed every week in the hands of white policemen. Huffington Post reports that 99 per cent of the country’s police brutality is not investigated in the state of New Jersey. (And New Jersey is one of the “liberal” Democratic state.)

The Ferguson incident, therefore, is not isolated. White police officer Darren Wilson is not brought under charges for the murder of Michael Brown. Wilson is acquitted. With the acquittal came an outbreak of violence, cars were burned, petrol bombs hurled, ammunitions were fired: all well-known images. Known story. Recognized injustice. There is not too much of a difference between the riots on the streets of America and the riots in India.

On August 9 at noon on the outskirts of St. Louis in the predominantly black-inhabited Ferguson, an eighteen-year-old Michael Brown was running away after stealing a box of cigars. Officer Darren Wilson was dispatched by wireless to catch Brown. Later it came out, that none of the store employees called police. Nobody watched the surveillance video in the shop before Brown was killed. As a result, there are pertinent doubts about the authenticity of the official statement.

The official statement says, Wilson, on a different case, was on patrol in the area in his car. Following the message from his department and GPS he saw Michael Brown and his companions on the street and asked them to stop. No one knows what happened thereafter. According to Wilson’s statement, Brown disobeyed the police, and not only that, rushed in and punched Wilson in the face. As a result, Wilson was forced to fire his gun from within his car, and Brown died was killed. Other witnesses said, however, that Brown was quite far away when Wilson shot and killed him.

No comments.

No comments. I do not support racism or violence of any kind. But facts are facts.

At the end of November came the judgment. Twelve members of the grand jury based on evidence, statements, assorted physical examination, autopsy, post-mortem etc. declared Wilson innocent.

The country erupted with turbulent protests and violence. On one hand, the police and the military came down with machine guns, tear gas; on the other, Amnesty International taking note of the gross human rights violation sent their team down to Ferguson. Obama and his Attorney General Eric Holder asked the nation to restore peace. Obama and Holder are both black.

Question is, why this happens again and again? The reason is not unknown: extreme poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, sky-high economic inequality, and consequent frustration. But on U.S. media, any such discussions are absent. No discussion on the fact that out of the developed nations, USA now is the worst place. The much talked-about “American Dream” has ended long ago.

Noam Chomsky mentioned in a recent conversation with me that what started as a tarnished chapter by exterminating native Indians continued in the next chapter by brutalizing the black folks. Half a century before the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, and the immigration reform act came soon after. But where is equality? One million black people in America are spending their time in jail, many without trial. Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson said that more blacks in America are in prison than blacks in college. Noam Chomsky has spoken about this internal violence in USA as well as America’s global violence. Big media have ostracized him.

No social mobility in USA. What American Dream?

No social mobility in USA. What American Dream?

Ferguson. New York. Trayvon Martin was killed in Florida. Los Angeles police tortured Rodney King. Here in New York, police pushed a broom handle in the anus of Haitian immigrant Abnar Louima. American Civil Liberties Union, or the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and such groups have kept track of these brutalities. But there are more events that are hardly reflected anywhere. They remain invisible to the eye. Yes, school, college, stores, markets, bus, train or plane have whites and blacks together. No one is thrown out of a white-only bathroom anymore. On Wall Street and the stock market, black people are at high places, and black faces are visible in the world of art, music, and theater. But a large number of Americans still carry on with this discrimination, especially in the so-called Bible Belt: Texas, Mississippi, the Carolinas, Indiana, Wyoming, the Dakotas. Blacks and new immigrants live here with constant fear.

According to Noam Chomsky, a large number of White Americans are perpetually frightened. They believe that blacks and immigrants from Mexico and other countries are destroying this what some conservatives call “God’s Nation.” This justifies the storing of guns and ammunitions in their homes, which are easily available in Wal-Mart and many local gun shops.  And we all know their consequences.

If Barrack Obama can happen in this country, it also has Tea Party gaining support.  Even the notorious Ku Klux Clan is much active, supported by Tea Party demagogues and far right-wing Republicans.

It is perhaps normal to think that the Indian immigrant Diaspora will be supportive of the equality and justice cause. But oddly surprising is the thoughts of equality preserved by the Indian Immigrants. There is an anomalous attitude of being nonchalant on issues of discrimination and hatred for blacks; same mindset regarding immigrants from other countries. I have never heard non-discriminating or sympathetic views about them. Almost everyone tends to settle out of black neighborhoods. When they come to visit us in Brooklyn, many are alarmed at the presence of blacks.

The American saga of racism, discrimination and violence on the poor goes on.

Two Men are Lynched in Marion, Indiana

###

English Translation: J. Bagchi.

With the Living Legend.

With the Living Legend.

On Saturday, 15th of November, 2014, I had a chance to speak with Noam Chomsky — one on one.

It was an opportunity of a lifetime. For me, it was a memorable day.

And two friends helped me to record the half-hour conversation on camera. And they also put it on YouTube.

I hope you have time to watch it. I would greatly appreciate if you do.

The link is here.

One person has so much education and insight that informed people compare him with Plato, Aristotle, Russell, Marx or Einstein. I compare his ocean-deep knowledge with poet Tagore, and his global peace activism with Gandhi. But U.S. media including CNN and New York Times censor his views, and exclude him from their list of experts.

If this is not bizarre and depraved, then what is?

Noam Chomsky asked me to call him Noam, and not Prof. Chomsky. So, Noam and I had a one on one video interview, then walked over to Plymouth church for his talk at Brooklyn For Peace on its 30th anniversary. I sat with him at the front table, and spoke on various subjects including war and peace, immigration and labor, media and Manufacturing Consent, and India and Bengal. And about his legacy. Got his signature. He pronounced my name the proper Bengali way, and referred to my introduction in his speech. I always lamented that I did not meet Tagore, Gandhi or Einstein. He filled up that emotional void. And his wife asked for a copy of my introduction to his speech.

Truly, and I repeat, it was a memorable day in my life.

Thank you, Noam. And thank you, Brooklyn For Peace.

Manufacturing Consent