12.25.08

Terror: The Aftermath / Anand Patwardhan

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:38 am by Pirate Praveen

Anand patwardhan
Article Rejected by Times of India

The attack on Mumbai is over. After the numbing sorrow comes the blame game and the solutions. Loud voices amplified by saturation TV: Why don’t we amend our Constitution to create new anti-terror laws? Why don’t we arm our police with AK 47s? Why don’t we do what Israel did after Munich or the USA did after 9/11 and hot pursue the enemy? Solutions that will lead us further into the abyss. For terror is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It thrives on reaction, polarization, militarization and the thirst for revenge.

The External Terror
Those who invoke America need only to analyze if its actions after 9/11 increased or decreased global terror. It invaded oil-rich Iraq fully knowing that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, killing over 200,000 Iraqis citizens but allowing a cornered Bin Laden to escape from Afghanistan. It recruited global support for Islamic militancy, which began to be seen as a just resistance against American mass murder. Which begs the question of who created Bin Laden in the first place, armed the madarsas of Pakistan and rejuvenated the concept of Islamic jehad? Israel played its own role in stoking the fires of jehad. The very creation of Israel in 1948 robbed Palestinians of their land, an act that Mahatma Gandhi to his credit deplored at the time as an unjust way to redress the wrongs done to Jews during the Holocaust. What followed has been a slow and continuing attack on the Palestinian nation. At first Palestinian resistance was led by secular forces represented by Yasser Arafat but as these were successfully undermined, Islamic forces took over the mantle. The first, largely non-violent Intifada was crushed, a second more violent one replaced it and when all else failed, human bombs appeared.

Thirty years ago when I first went abroad there were two countries my Indian passport forbade me to visit. One was racist South Africa. The other was Israel. We were non-aligned and stood for disarmament and world peace. Today Israel and America are our biggest military allies. Is it surprising that we are on the jehadi hit list? Israel, America and other prosperous countries can to an extent protect themselves against the determined jehadi, but can India put an impenetrable shield over itself? Remember that when attackers are on a suicide mission, the strongest shields have crumbled. New York was laid low not with nuclear weapons but with a pair of box cutters. India is for many reasons a quintessentially soft target. Our huge population, vast landmass and coastline are impossible to protect. The rich may build new barricades. The Taj and the Oberoi can be made safer. So can our airports and planes. Can our railway stations and trains, bus stops, busses, markets and lanes do the same?

The Terror Within
The threat of terror in India does not come exclusively from the outside. Apart from being hugely populated by the poor India is also a country divided, not just between rich and poor, but by religion, caste and language. This internal divide is as potent a breeding ground for terror as jehadi camps abroad. Nor is jehad the copyright of one religion alone. It can be argued that international causes apart, India has jehadis that are fully home grown. Perhaps the earliest famous one was Nathuram Godse who acting at the behest of his mentor Vinayak Savarkar (still referred to as “Veer” or “brave” although he refused to own up to his role in the conspiracy), murdered Mahatma Gandhi for the crime of championing Muslims.

Jump forward to 6th December, 1992, the day Hindu fanatics demolished the Babri Mosque setting into motion a chain of events that still wreaks havoc today. From the Bombay riots of 1992 to the bomb blasts of 1993, the Gujarat pogroms of 2002 and hundreds of smaller deadly events, the last 16 years have been the bloodiest since Partition. Action has been followed by reaction in an endless cycle of escalating retribution. At the core on the Hindu side of terror are organizations that openly admire Adolph Hitler, nursing the hate of historic wrongs inflicted by Muslims. Ironically these votaries of Hitler remain friends and admirers of Israel.

On the Muslim side of terror are scores of disaffected youth, many of whom have seen their families tortured and killed in more recent pogroms. Christians too have fallen victim to recent Hindutva terror but as yet not formed the mechanisms for revenge. Dalits despite centuries of caste oppression, have not yet retaliated in violence although a small fraction is being drawn into an armed struggle waged by Naxalites.

It is clear that no amount of spending on defense, no amount of patrolling the high seas, no amount of increasing the military and police and equipping them with the latest weaponry can end the cycle of violence or place India under a bubble of safety. Just as nuclear India did not lead to more safety, but only to a nuclear Pakistan, no amount of homeland security can save us. And inviting Israel’s Mossad and America’s CIA/FBI to the security table is like giving the anti-virus contract to those who spread the virus in the first place. It can only make us more of a target for the next determined jehadi attack.

Policing, Justice and the Media
As for draconian anti-terror laws, they too only breed terror as for the most part they are implemented by a State machinery that has imbibed majoritarian values. So in Modi’s Gujarat after the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in 2002, despite scores of confessions to rape and murder captured on hidden camera, virtually no Hindu extremists were punished while thousands of Muslims rotted in jail under draconian laws. The same happened in Bombay despite the Shiv Sena being found guilty by the Justice Shrikrishna Commission. Under pressure a few cases were finally brought to trial but all escaped with the lightest of knuckle raps. In stark contrast many Muslims accused in the 1993 bomb blasts were given death sentences.

The bulk of our media, policing and judicial systems swallows the canard that Muslims are by nature violent. Removing democratic safeguards guaranteed by the Constitution can only make this worse. Every act of wrongful imprisonment and torture that then follows is likely to turn innocents into material for future terrorists to draw upon. Already the double standards are visible. While the Students Islamic Movement of India is banned, Hindutva outfits like the RSS, the VHP, the Bajrang Dal, and the Shiv Sena remain legal entities. The leader of the MNS, Raj Thackeray recently openly spread such hatred that several north Indians were killed by lynch mobs. Amongst these were the Dube brothers, doctors from Kalyan who treated the poor for a grand fee of Rs.10 per patient. Raj Thackeray like his uncle Bal before him, remains free after issuing public threats that Bombay would burn if anyone had the guts to arrest him. Modi remains free despite the pogroms of Gujarat. Congress party murderers of Sikhs in 1984 remain free. Justice in India is clearly not there for all. Increasing the powers of the police cannot solve this problem. Only honest and unbiased implementation of laws that exist, can.

It is a tragedy of the highest proportions that one such honest policeman, Anti-Terrorist Squad chief Hemant Karkare, who had begun to unravel the thread of Hindutva terror was himself gunned down, perhaps by Muslim terror. It is reported that Col. Purohit and fellow Hindutva conspirators now in judicial custody, celebrated the news of Karkare’s death. Until Karkare took charge, the Malegaon bomb blasts in which Muslims were killed and the Samjhauta Express blasts in which Pakistani visitors to India were killed were being blamed on Muslims. Karkare exposed a hitherto unknown Hindutva outfit as masterminding a series of killer blasts across the country. For his pains Karkare came under vicious attack not just from militant Hindutva but from the mainstream BJP. He was under tremendous pressure to prove his patriotism. Was it this that led this senior officer to don helmet and ill-fitting bullet proof vest and rush into battle with a pistol? Or was it just his natural instinct, the same courage that had led him against all odds, to expose Hindutva terror?

Whatever it was, it only underlines the fact that jehadis of all kinds are actually allies of each other. So Bin Laden served George Bush and vice-versa. So Islamic and Hindutva jehadis have served each other for years. Do they care who dies? Of the 200 people killed in the last few days by Islamic jehadis, a high number were Muslims. Many were waiting to board trains to celebrate Eid in their hometowns in UP and Bihar, when their co-religionists gunned them down. Shockingly the media has not commented on this, nor focused on the tragedy at the railway station, choosing to concentrate on tragedies that befell the well-to-do. And it is the media that is leading the charge to turn us into a war-mongering police state where we may lead lives with an illusion of safety, but with the certainty of joylessness.

I am not arguing that we do not need efficient security at public places and at vulnerable sites. But real security will only come when it is accompanied by real justice, when the principles of democracy are implemented in every part of the country, when the legitimate grievances of people are not crushed, when the arms race is replaced by a race for decency and humanity, when our children grow up in an atmosphere where religious faith is put to the test of reason. Until such time we will remain at the mercy of “patriots” and zealots.

Anand Patwardhan

12.20.08

Copyright explained

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:36 pm by Pirate Praveen

You might have come across some of your friends saying Windows is copyrighted and Linux is not (with Linux they mean GNU/Linux). Or another version is Windows is licensed and Linux is not.

Both Windows and and GNU/Linux is copyrighted and licensed software? Then what is the difference?

Before copyright came everything was in public domain. Anyone could copy and distribute any expression – be it writing, drawing, music … So why copyright was introduced?

When printing press was invented information in the printed form cost money to produce and move. So to get this money back copyright was introduced.

With Berne convention most world countries including India agreed to give copyright to expression of any ideas including software. These rights restricts anyone to use, copy or share the work. If anyone wants to do any of the things restricted by copyright law (s)he needs permission from the copyright owner.

Windows and GNU/Linux are copyrighted software. So how are we able to use them if everyone is restricted by copyright law?

The copyright holder gives a permission for others in the form of copyright licenses. If both Windows and GNU/Linux are licensed softwares, what is the difference?

The difference is in what exactly the license permits anyone to do. While Windows tries to restrict even more than what copyright law already permits with its End User License Agreement (EULA), GNU/Linux (the softwares components that comes in a typical distribution like Debian or Fedora has different licenses) components have a Free Software license that ensures the user has the right to use, study, modify and distribute the software.

12.13.08

Love your neighbour!

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:37 pm by Pirate Praveen

John Samuel shared his Pakistan experience with Fourth Estate Critique group (needs membership to view archives).

Dear Friends,

Here are my Pakistan notes- for those who are interested.( others please press the delete button- as it is long!)

I just got back from Pakistan. In fact, visiting our neighbor is something I always cherish. After each visit I come back with a sense of nostalgia- still feeling the flavor of excellent food at Food street in Lahore or having a pani-puri at the Karachi beach. Those wide streets and bungalows in Islamabad or the brick-kiln workers at Toba-tak Sing. Pakistan never looked like an alien country to me. People there make you feel at home.

1) It is almost like a visiting the house of a cousin or a close relative in a distant land. Or it could be visiting your neighbor once in a year.Though I travel to so many places, visiting Pakistan is different. It is a peculiar feeling. People are so happy to welcome the “mehman’ from India- always animated discussions about democracy, militarization, communalism and the problems of India and Pakistan. And of course, everyone wants to call you for lunch or dinner. There is a genuine affection in their hug. People do not send their driver to receive you. They would find time to receive you at the airport and see off you.

2) At the airport, the moment they see the blue Indian passport, one could see the new alertness- checking every page and visas in the passport. So the only place, one feels like the “other” and alien is the immigration( I am sure that Pakistani citizen may feel the same in India as well). This time it was easier, as there was a protocol officer to receive and help me to get through a rather difficult immigration procedure. But once you get out, the situation is different. Driver talks about the latest bollywood, or cricket or about “our mulk”. Obviously, this time the topic was Mumbai terror attack. Whomever I met( from all walks of life) conveyed a deep sense of sorrow, anguish and a sense of frustration. The only one preoccupation in the media and social talk last week was “Mumbai and the aftermath”

3) But once you get in to TV and media, it is a different story. There is a whole range of discussion- about India’s “aggressive stand” , how India “won’ in the UN, and whole range of discussion ranging from “jingoism” to grudge, “don’t trust them” to “why’ they” keep blaming us. I noticed that while academics, poets and activists are more balanced-stressing the responsibility of the government of Pakistan to address the “terror” in the backyard, some of the former generals, ambassadors, bureaucrats and the usual media commentators- seemed like various versions of Arnab Gosami and the jingoist types in India. In spite of all the “anti” India sentiments by those in the shadows of the power-cartel, there are so many sensible voices among the media commentators, intellectuals and activists.

3) So in one channel you find all the “sound and fury’ about India- and the in the next channel one can watch an item number from the Bollywood. During the adbreak, Amirkhan fills the screen- announcing “Titan watch is now in Pakistan”!. If you are bored with all the news and talk shows- then one can watch the a whole range of bollywood films or the latest Ekta kapoor serial. So it is a strange feeling. India is all over the TV and the news channels and talk show give a different story of the “other” India.

4) I always wondered about this neighbor-syndrome- very interesting sense of social and psychological obsession with India- at various levels. It is a peculiar kind of preoccupation with the neighbor- a mix of love, grudging admiration, simple grudges, a bit of irritation, a sense of cynicism and sometime bordering hate( of mixed with “love”).At one level, people do admire- democracy and freedom, space etc. At another it is a deep rooted cultivated sense of comparison( after all ‘they’ are not that great as they look!)- a grudging feeling( hum kisi se kum nahi! or who cares about the ‘big” brother!). This strange mix is partly due to the whole range of ‘manufactured” history, school curriculum and the media mediation. The K word- Kashmir- is driven in to the social and political perspective from the school days. So while most of the ordinary people love to travel to India, watch bollywood, or to enjoy Cricket, the Establishment “construct” the “other” India- arrogant, insincere, Hindu, ‘occupied” Kashmir , “marginalized” Muslims etc etc. These two contradictory images and constructs compete each other to find space in the public perception and social psychology. These contradictory trends are so evident at various levels of media, civil society and the ordinary middle class.

5) This constant sense of comparison and competition make the place in many ways a mirror image.

Last night I had dinner at the elite Islamabad Club- which in many ways is a mirror image of IIC- of course with a little more feudal and elite touch. President of the country is the patron( that is the tradition from 1957). And the entry is strictly regulated!( and like IIC – no phone inside the dining hall etc). The key difference between India and Pakistan in this regard is that India has now an entrenched pan-Indian middle class. Such middle class are actually the defining character of India- in many ways the cohesive force- spread across all cities and towns- so intermingled. In Pakistan, it is still the feudal class that define the socio-political and economic character of power. So , in spite of being elite, India International Centre is middle-class. But Islamabad club is feudal and aristocratic to the core. There is an unmistakable Punjabi touch to it. Though in Karachi- the Gymkhana- the only place where the drinks are served- there is a Sindhi touch.

6) The fact of the matter is that 75% of the land is under the control of 15 percent of the feudal-ruling elite. The rest of the people 85% got 25% of land. But even among them majority do not have any land- most of the people are tenants. The problem is that even the liberal voices are often informed or supported by a deeper feudal character and attitude. Even among the ruling elites, there is another level of identity- based on the language and regions- such kinship and networks are much stronger than that of India.In such a sense of a deeply divided class character, poor and marginalized become easy targets for the fundamentalists and those terror organizations who spend money to recruit and brainwash the poor uneducated men in the heartland of Pakistan. This is actually at the core of the issue- the entrenched inequality and a large number of poor people who do not have any stake in the governance or the resources of the country.

7) Though I was reluctant, I had to give a public lecture on Sustainable Development and Peace and South Asia. The SDPI auditorium was packed and as expected it was followed by an intense discussion on the aftermath of Mumbai, India’s “attitude” etc etc. But the interesting thing was I could here so many sane and sensible voices. That still makes me optimistic enough to imagine a New South Asia- in the years to come.

8) I also had to appear on a Prime TV talk show( I think the first Indian to be on the show- after Mumabi) – as my journalist friends insisted that it would help to give different perspective. Prof. Nayyer( a well know Physicist and a peace activist) who was on the show was fantastic , spot on and I was amazed to find so many people like Prof. Nayyer- now a fellow at the SDPI- who are honest, forthright and balanced in their analysis. He is a fan of Kerala, friend of KN Pannicker, and he told me that he missed an opportunity to visit Kerala for the International Education Seminar last week- due to clash of dates.

9) During the discussions, I focused on failure of governance and its impact on security of people in Pakistan ,India and elsewhere in South Asia. The need for the citizens of Pakistan to ask hard questions to the government and leaders- instead of falling in the trap “externalizing the problem” or “blaming the “other”. A sense of “perpetual self-denials’ do not help anyone. And this is also true for the citizens of India- we need to ask why there was security lapse and ask accountability from those who are supposed to serve us- living on our tax-money. As so long as citizens of Pakistan are mislead by the powerful establishment and power-cartel by “externalizing” the problem- denying the demons growing right in the midst of the society, the same forces will eat up the society, institutions and even the state like termites. So it is time to look at the future and act now.

10) It is important to make a difference between people and governments. Governments are often controlled by power-cartels- of bureaucrats, various institutional interests- and they construct public perceptions using a whole range of methods- from curriculum, to media, to academic discourse. But ordinary people- a vast majority- of them want to live a happy life, want job, want peace and want a sense of security. So there is hardly any difference between the people of Pakistan and India.

They are like twins who got separated at birth. They look the same, speak the more or less the same language, exhibit similar social attitude- share a historical and civilizational space. If it all anyone can transform the situation, it is those hundreds of millions of ordinary people who can transform the entrenched and constructed “mistrust” and “animosity” between “India” and “Pakistan”. The question is whose India and whose Pakistan? That of the elite power-cartel or that of more than a billion ordinary people?.

I am more optimist about “aam admi” in both countries. The problem is the self-serving and corrupt political class- and a whole range of parasites of the power-cartel- particularly the entrenched class of status-quoist and self-preserving bureaucrats( and in Pakistan’s case the all powerful military). Ultimately, the only force that can transform the relationship between India and Pakistan are millions of people who would like a better future in South Asia- who would like to see more children in schools, and less money spent on bombs and arms- supplied by the rich countries. They would like to travel and discover the shared sense of heritage. They can eventually make change happen.

As I was returning, I told my friends how it is not easy to live up to the ideal “Love your neighbor as thyself”. But it is indeed worth an ideal that can transform boarders in to bridges, and battles in to bonding! It is a dream that is still worth dreaming!

Warmly
JS

12.12.08

Google Chrome on GNU/Linux

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:30 am by Pirate Praveen

I have been waiting to test Google Chrome on GNU/Linux from the moment I heard about its release. But the initial release only had a version for Windows. They promised to release versions for Mac OS X and GNU/Linux as soon as they port the code. I tried to compile the code following the instructions on the wiki, but all I got was a binary that would run all the unit tests.

Google Chrome on GNU/Linux

But there was a hint that ‘test_shell’ would give something recognisable. But my earlier tries did not go far as the build failed on the way (I did not use gclient script for building, instead I tried to do svn update). Today finally I got something recognisable.

Google Chrome on GNU/Linux

I was happy to see I could browse the web with Chrome finally. I had earlier tried it with Code Weavers version called cross over chromium, which uses wine to run the Windows version.

Google Chrome on GNU/Linux

I was happy to see even gmail was working with it, though it did not render any Malayalam characters. It did not even show boxes or incorrectly rendered characters. I had to install ttf-lucida (included in sun-java6-fonts) as it insisted on this particular font to start. So I think it is not currently using fontconfig, but expect the presence of ttf-lucida in its hard coded path.

gmail in Google Chrome

The title bar and right click menu made an effort to show the Malayalam characters (ml_IN is my locale). Tittle bar came fine as it was handled out of chrome but right click menu showed boxes, better than blank as shown inside the browser.

Google Chrome on GNU/Linux

BTW, did you notice it was recognised as Chrome 0.2 on Windows ! Even though there is still long way to go for a working browser, I feel very excited about getting this far.

12.09.08

Free Software, Free Society conference is live @ giss.tv

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:22 am by Pirate Praveen

Watch the Free Software, Free Society conference live @ giss.tv. Click here to watch live.

See more details if you have difficulty watching it.

12.08.08

RMS in Bangalore, Mysore and Tumkur (updated)

Posted in Bangalore, Free Software at 8:20 am by Pirate Praveen


Richard M Stallman (RMS) will be in Karnataka from 13th December to 17th December.

See Events in Bangalore for more details. RMS will be in Mysore on 14th and Tumkur on 17th. Stay tuned to FSUG Bangalore mailing list for any updates.

Update 1:

Sujith has blogged about it (Also see his flickr photos)

Update 2:

Sreejith has written about RMS visit to AC3 (Ambedkar Community Computing Center).

12.02.08

A Window to Freedom (updated with a link to Pramod sir’s report)

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:37 am by Pirate Praveen

A WINDOW TO
FREEDOM
FSUGTSR
DEC 4
Sahitya Academy Hall, Thrissur



As usual, credit to Hiran, for the poster.

More details…

This is first public program organised by FSUG, Thrissur. It is good to see more and more Free Software user groups across India becoming active.

Also see Alex’s blog. A request for someone to mark the exact location on Open Street Map.

Update: Pramod sir has written a beautiful report of the event.