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Death of democracy: Bidhannagar municipal elections turn into battle ground

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By Arnab Mitra

Saturday’s municipal elections at three municipalities in West Bengal– Asansol, Bidhannagar-Rajarhat and Bally — reported booth capturing along with brick batting and false voters at various booths.

As many as 40% false voters were reported at the election booth at the Karunamoyee crossing, Salt Lake.

At the election booth at Labony Estate Saltlake, the TMCP goons threw bricks and bombs at the police and media personnel.

When a NewsGram reporter chased the goons at the Baishakhi high school, one of them passed him life threatening comments:

“Kahan se aya hai tu? Jaan se maar dunga!”

The Trinamool goons also physically abused the CPI (M) and BJP candidates at many places. One of the CPI(M) polling agent Amit Goswami, was also badly beaten up at a polling booth in Karunamoyee.

Police were mostly absent from these areas and even if present, chose not to intervene.

CPI (M) candidate of Baisakhi, Ofelia Sinha told the press that her repeated complaints were ignored as the State Election Commission and the police are supporting the Trinamool goons.

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Photos by: Arnab Mitra

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Catalonia Independence : Spanish PM plans to remove Catalonia’s leaders to take control

Many Catalans who want to remain in Spain will approve of this strident action. But those who want independence for their region are likely to see this as a provocation rather than a solution

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The Spanish Prime Minister said one of his aims is to restore peaceful co-existence to Catalonia by removing its leaders. VOA

Madrid, October 22, 2017 : Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has outlined plans to remove Catalonia’s leaders and take control of the separatist region.

Speaking after an emergency cabinet meeting on Saturday, Rajoy stopped short of dissolving the region’s parliament but put forward plans for elections, BBC reported.

The measures must now be approved by Spain’s Senate in the next few days.

Large crowds have gathered in Barcelona to protest against direct rule from Madrid. It comes almost three weeks after Catalonia held a disputed independence referendum.

Spain’s Supreme Court had declared the vote illegal and said it violated the constitution, which describes the country as indivisible.

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has ignored pleas from the national government to abandon moves towards independence.

Rajoy said the the Catalan government’s actions were “contrary to the law and seeking confrontation”. He said it was “not our wish, it was not our intention” to impose direct rule.

This will be via Article 155 of Spain’s constitution, which allows it to impose direct rule in a crisis on any of the country’s semi-autonomous regions.

Spanish law dictates that elections must be held within six months of Article 155 being triggered, but Rajoy said it was imperative that the vote be held much sooner.

Reports say that Spain’s interior ministry is preparing take control of Catalonia’s Mossos police force and remove its commander Josep Lluís Trapero, who is already facing sedition charges.

The government is also considering taking control of Catalonia’s public broadcaster TV3, El País newspaper reported.

Catalan Vice-President Oriol Junqueras said Rajoy and his allies had “not just suspended autonomy. They have suspended democracy”.

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau said it was a “serious attack on the rights and freedoms of all, both here and elsewhere” and called for demonstrations.

The president of Barcelona football club, Josep Maria Bartomeu, said the club gave its “absolute support for the democratic institutions of Catalonia chosen by its people”.

But he called for any reaction to be “civil and peaceful” and said dialogue was the only way to a solution.

Eduard Rivas Mateo, spokesman for the Catalan Socialist party — which supports the Spanish government’s stance but also wants constitutional reform — said he could not accept a “harsh application” of Article 155.

ALSO READ Catalonia Protesters Demand Release of Separatist Leaders

But Ines Arrimadas, head of the centrist Ciudadanos party in Catalonia, which is against independence, said holding fresh elections would “restore goodwill and democracy” in the region.

Rajoy’s use of Article 155 had been widely anticipated, but his announcement when it came still had a huge impact. The article has never been invoked before, so there was a certain amount of mystery surrounding its potential reach and meaning.

Although Rajoy insisted that Catalonia’s self-government is not being suspended, many will disagree. The removal from office of Carles Puigdemont and all the members of his cabinet, to allow ministers in Madrid to take on their duties, amounts to a major reining in of Catalonia’s devolved powers.

The Spanish Prime Minister said one of his aims is to restore peaceful co-existence to Catalonia with these measures.

Many Catalans who want to remain in Spain will approve of this strident action. But those who want independence for their region are likely to see this as a provocation rather than a solution. (IANS)

 

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In Remote Iranian Province Sistan-Baluchistan, Women Make Gains at Ballot Box

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Iranian women cast their ballots for the presidential election at a polling station in Tehran on May 19. VOA

IRAN, May 26, 2017: Iran’s sprawling southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan Province is notorious for insecurity, poverty, drug trafficking, and deadly clashes between security forces and militants.

More recently, however, it made headlines this month for sweeping a record number of women onto city and village councils.

Officials say the number of women elected to local councils in the Sunni-majority province, which shares borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan, more than doubled.

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“Four hundred and fifteen women have been elected to the city councils in the province,” Governor Ali Osat Hashemi was quoted by Iranian media as saying on May 23, up from just 185.

In one village, Afzalabad, in the district of Khash, all 10 candidates on the council ballot on May 19 were women.

The numbers remain low nationally. Of the more than 287,000 candidates registered for last week’s elections, just 6 percent were women, according to official figures.

But moderates and reformists, bolstered by the rise to power of President Hassan Rohani and their success in the 2016 parliamentary elections, have aimed at ending the tight grip of conservatives on local politics.

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Rohani, a veteran politician who has risked crossing Iran’s powerful unelected establishment with calls for modest reform inside the country and on the international scene, was reelected on May 19 with 57 percent of the vote. The victory was widely seen as a blow to political and cultural hard-liners and an expression of Iranians’ desire for interaction with the world.

“Despite having university educations, [women] don’t have freedom of speech. I want to defend them,” Esmat Irandagani told the Iranian daily Shahrvand. She said she did very little campaigning and owed her victory to the women in her village who encouraged her to run “to help them” get their handicrafts more recognition.

“I was a volunteer for the Red Crescent. I also worked one year as a reporter. Now I want to do work for the women in my village,” Irandagani said, adding that men had not successfully developed the village.

Women Taking Charge

Gains on city councils follow the appointment in recent years of more women to senior posts in the region, including as governors, mayors, and prefects.

Khash Governor Mohammad Chakerzehi credited Rohani’s administration with advancing the political role of women, saying the government in Tehran’s effort to increase the number of women in decision-making positions across the province contributed to women’s success in the city-council elections.

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“One-third of women who had registered to run were elected to city councils,” Chakerzehi said. “Many of these educated women registered to run in order to strengthen the position of women in society.”

Abdol Sattar Doshoki, a Baluchi political analyst who heads the U.K.-based Center for Baluchistan Studies, says the high-level appointments have inspired women to seek a greater role in the society. “The [city-council election] has provided Baluch women, many of whom have obtained university degrees in past years, with an opportunity to show themselves and play a role in political and social life,” Doshoki explains.

Baluch make up a majority in the province, which is said to be one of Iran’s poorest.

Doshoki says he believes that the high participation of women also helps combat discrimination in the province, which is among Iran’s poorest. “Baluchi people suffer from different types of discrimination, including ethnic discrimination, religious discrimination, and also gender discrimination, which is common for [other regions] in the country,” he says.

“In places where women stood, men and women had the power to say no to gender discrimination,” Doshoki says.

Setting An Example

Afzalabad Mayor Maryam Ahmadzehi, a woman, has been held up in local media coverage as a successful example of a woman in a senior post and, presumably, a key factor encouraging men to vote for women when they step into the voting booth. Roads have been paved, new parks have been created, and the village has been connected to the electricity grid.

“The day Ahmadzehi became mayor, the village was in ruins, but things have changed significantly since then,” a local school principal told the daily Etemad in April. “We’re satisfied with our mayor, so we reached the conclusion that women can also do good work in the council.”

The principal added that since many local men are out in the field farming or on duty guarding Iran’s border, they are happy to cede “care of the village issues” to women.

One of the female candidates for the village council in Afzalabad told Etemad that Ahmadzehi was indeed a role model. “Her efforts motivated all of us to study and work,” she said.

Across the country, initial election results suggest that reformists and moderates ousted conservatives and took control of councils in at least six major cities.

In the capital, Tehran, where all 21 seats went to reformists in this month’s vote, women doubled their presence on the city council from three to six.

The hard-line election supervisor, the Guardians Council, imposes an effective ban on women running for the Iranian presidency, but parliament vets those running for city-council seats.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently accused Iran of systemic discrimination and other obstacles in the workplace, saying Iran lags in gender equality.

Local media report that there are around 150 women in managerial positions in Sistan-Baluchistan, a province of around 2.5 million people. (RFE/RL)

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West Bengal celebrates Bangla Nababarsho (Bengali New year) by reopening Iconic single screens

"When we talk about Minar, Bijoli and Chhabighar there is a lump in our throat. We had been associated with Bengali cinema for ages, from Uttam-Suchitra blockbusters in the '60S and '70s to Tarun Majumder movies starring Rituparna Sengupta in early 2000 to Jeet-Koel starrers in the recent past,"

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Bengali Cinema,Wikimedia Commons

Kolkata, Apr 15, 2017: Bengal celebrates ‘Bangla Nababarsho’ (Bengali New year) on Saturday by re-opening three iconic single screens which had been part of its film heritage for a long time.

“Bijoli and Chhabighar, a part of the psyche of the Bengali film audience and the industry, started their shows on Chaitra Sankranti day (the last day of the last Bengali month) yesterday as Friday is the release date of new film, after renovating the interiors, projection and sound system in sync with modern trends.

“Minar, the third one of the chain, will screen films from early next week as some patch work after renovation remains incomplete,” Suranjan Pal, owner of the chain told, mentioned PTI.

The action is receiving a huge support as a long line of audiences could be seen to for a new Bengali film released on ‘Nabobarsho’.

“Many single screens have been shut down or changed to plexes over the past few years. But when we talk about Minar, Bijoli and Chhabighar there is a lump in our throat. We had been associated with Bengali cinema for ages, from Uttam-Suchitra blockbusters in the ’60S and ’70s to Tarun Majumder movies starring Rituparna Sengupta in early 2000 to Jeet-Koel starrer in the recent past,” Pal said.

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“We had never felt that the audience of Bengali cinema had stopped coming to the theaters but over time we had realized the need to adapt to changes. Hence the three theaters were closed on July 1 last year. We had initially thought of introducing two screens in each theater but later on we took the challenge to stick to the one screen format,” the owner said.

“The ornate exteriors of the three theaters have been retained,” he added. In sync with the times, the show timings have been altered and different films will be screened during different shows, Pal said.

Expressing joy over the development, Bengali superstar Prosenjit Chatterjee told “Minar, Bijoli and Chhabighar had been screening films of noted directors and noted production houses. Their reopening is a very good news especially after the good show by Bengal at the National Awards this year. It (reopening) will have a feel good factor.”

Chatterjee said, with a large number of Bengali films being released these days, many of them are forced to have short runs at theaters despite doing well at the box office. The opening of three halls will give a little more space to the makers and producers of such films” he said.

Bengali hero and Trinamool Congress leader Soham Chakraborty recalled that his first film had run for weeks in Bijoli. “These three theaters are linked to the culture and heritage of Bengali cinema. But I also wish that more such prominent closed theaters lift their shutters for the audience,” he said.

-prepared by Nikita Tayal of NewsGram Twitter @NikitaTayal6