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Women, kids being targeted by Pakistan Army to discourage Baloch resistance, say Activists

Army has targeted women and children before but not on this scale. This time women are being especially harrased, abducted and being shot at.

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Baloch people. Wikimedia
  • The death toll and abduction cases have risen to over 43 and 185, respectively, as of September 27
  • The fresh crackdown comes after what the activists described as a “bloody August”, which saw at least 67 dead and over 150 reported missing
  • Activists alleged that women and children were targeted in Jalari, Sangan, Garbuk and Kahan in Kohlu and Sibi districts

New Delhi, Sep 28: Rattled by growing resistance across its restive Balochistan province, the Pakistan Army has intensified its crackdown in recent weeks, especially targeting women and children, and leaving several dead and many missing, say Baloch activists.

According to well-informed local sources, the death toll and abduction cases are over 43 and 185, respectively, as of September 27. About 30 of the dead are women and children, activists in Balochistan told IANS in phone conversations, e-mail exchanges and via video conferencing.

The latest case of abductions, the activists said, was on Tuesday evening, when 30 members of a wedding celebration — including the groom — were picked up the Pakistan Army in the Tajabin area of the province’s Kech district.

https://twitter.com/India4Baloch/status/779215790469816320

The fresh crackdown comes after what the activists described as a “bloody August”, which saw at least 67 dead and over 150 reported missing. August is traditionally a month for crackdowns as the Baloch seek to celebrate their own I-Day on August 11, and protest Pakistan’s on August 14.

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The September crackdown, these activists say, appears to be systematically targeting women and children — many of them related to those suspected to be involved in the armed struggle for Baloch freedom. It is being seen as a bid to demoralise the resistance.
“Thirteen women and 17 children are among the dead. One Sah Bibi, 72 years old from Bolan district, has become the first woman in months to be killed in custody. Her body was dumped at the roadside in Kohlu district,” Omar Jan Baloch, a local activist-journalist working underground told IANS.

The activists said 21 Baloch women belonging to the Marri tribe were abducted on September 9 from villages in Kohlu and Bolan districts. Of those, 20 were released with signs of torture. Three women had gone on record and given testimonies, they added.

One of them, Bibi Gul, who was allegedly abducted from Sanjwal village of Bolan district, said in her testimony, a copy of which is with IANS: “At dawn they took me and other women to Mach jail (Bolan). They beat one women to death, tortured some, pulled the teeth of three women and made us watch this. This continued for several days and then released us, asking us to tell everyone what they did to us.”

Bibi Gul was released along with 19 other women on September 21. She added that the army set ablaze the houses and crops in the area.
“Army had been targeting women and children, but not as a strategy or at this scale before. Now they are specially targeting women by either harassing, shooting or abducting them,” Omar said.

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According to Zamuran Baloch, another underground journalist-activist, this is pushing more youth into the armed struggle. All these activists have adopted “pen names” as over 33 journalists have been killed in Balochistan so far.

“They are doing this to develop pressure and scare the young Baloch, but more youth are now gearing themselves to fight back,” Zamuran told IANS.
Activists alleged that women and children were targeted in Jalari, Sangan, Garbuk and Kahan in Kohlu and Sibi districts and operations using gunship helicopters were conducted in Bolan, Kohlu and Dera Bugti.

“Army had abducted all the male members of our tribe and is now targeting us. We have nothing to eat, our children are sick, but army has stopped food and medical supplies in the area,” said a women from Sumalani tribe from a remote region of Bolan in a video message.

According to the activists, on September 9, bodies of three Baloch children, of whom two had gone missing from Quetta on June 25, and a third, the seven-year-old Shahdab Baloch, the brother of poet Sarwar Faraz, who was abducted from the Tasp area of Punjgor, were recovered by locals.

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“The same day, 12 women — Zenna Bugti, Meher Bibi, Patoli Bugti, Mukhi Fareed, Zemmi Marshalla, Khan Bibi, Sammi Bugti, Sadoori, Bakhti Bugti, Noori Bugti, Guddi and Nasreen — were abducted by Pakistani forces during operations in different areas of Dera Bugti like Sui, Shari Darbar, Asreli and Dilbar Mat,” Omar said.

The activists alleged that five women and five children were killed in operations held between September 11 and 13 at the town of Rajanpur and Gyandari in Punjab near Dera Bugti.

“Pakistani forces camped at Gyandari and continued the operation in Rajanpur using helicopters. After the three-day operation, they abducted many women. Those killed include Shabana Bugti, Laalen Bugti, Razia Bugti, Haani Bugti and Shaani Bugti,” Hafsa Baloch, another activist, said.

Activist Banu Hooran Baloch, who spoke of human rights violations in a video message that went viral, said she is now barred from entering Quetta Press Club.

“I am also facing atrocities of the Pakistan Army now. I was attacked before Eid. Army personnel had rented a house next to mine and they consistently follow me and threaten my family regularly,” Hooran told IANS.

-(IANS)

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Maria Wirth’s take on Hinduism: Are Christian and Muslim nations okay and Hindu nations not?

Wirth finds Hindus to be the exemplary role model for ‘how not to exclude others’. Religious minorities have flourished and grown in India, the relative harmony in this amazing diversity in India is what grabs admiration abroad.

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Hinduism incorporates oneness with the divine
Maria Wirth. Twitter

April 23, 2017: “Are the Indian mainstream journalists influenced by the foreign correspondents or does it happen the other way around?” Maria Wirth, a Hindu activist raised the question on her BLOG further asking if there is any directive from the top media houses about whom to protect and whom to abuse.

“Obviously, Hindus can be abused”, Wirth says. Recently on the appointment of Yogi Adityanath as chief minister in Uttar Pradesh or like in the run-up to the general elections in 2014, when a Modi victory loomed largely, the media went berserk.

The gist was, according to Wirth, “By appointing Yogi Adityanath, Prime Minister Modi has finally shown his true face of a Hindu fundamentalist who wants to make India a ‘Hindu nation’ where minorities have no place. The Swiss NZZ came to the conclusion that it is hardly possible for Prime Minister Modi’s government to call itself the representative of all Indians after the appointment of a figure like Yogi Adityanath.”

Why is it that the wrongly called ‘liberal’ media projects a Hindu nation as the worst possible scenario? Yet, the same media fails to react when America or most other western countries are referred to as Christian nations or get agitated about the numerous Muslim nations; not even about those which still choose to continue with their harsh blasphemy laws. The central question that Wirth comes back to is why are these considered ok, and a Hindu nation is not? They don’t come up with suitable explanations; they just instantly assume that will tolerate numerous hardships in a ‘Hindu’ nation.

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According to Maria Wirth, “Maybe they came to this conclusion because minorities like Jews or Hindus suffer in certain Christian or Muslim nations though the media hardly pulls those countries up for it. However, even otherwise, this conclusion is wrong, as Hindus have a different mindset. They are open towards other views, unlike ‘good’ Christians and Muslims who feel obligated to make everyone believe what they believe, if necessary by deceit or force.”

Just like there are too many different ways to reach the goal of life, there are many minorities within Hinduism. Wirth explains how they all are based on the Vedic insight that everything, including our persons, is permeated by the same divine essence which is called by many names but is ultimately one. Our human consciousness (Atman) is one with the cosmic consciousness (Brahman) the goal and fulfilment of life lie in the realisation of this. “Satyam vada, Dharmam Chara” the Veda exhorts to speak the truth and do what is right under any given circumstances. Look for the real you which is not a separate entity but in the depths of your being one with all.

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Wirth also asserts that “From this follows that ‘good’ Hindus are those rare human beings whose dharma makes them regard all others as brothers and sisters. Their dharma makes them further respect nature and not harm unnecessarily any living being.”

Wirth points out that unlike a few other religions, Hindus do not divide humanity into those chosen by God and those who are eternally forsaken. Hindu children are not taught to look down on those who don’t share their religion, unlike children of certain dogmatic religions who are taught that their God does not have affection for others unless they join their ‘true’ religions. Also, Hindus are comparatively kinder to animals. The great bulk of vegetarians worldwide is Hindus.

Hindus never had to fight crusades or jihads to establish their dharma in foreign lands. Yet, for the past thousand years, Hindus were at the receiving end of jihads and conversion campaigns and millions of Hindus were killed in cold blood just for being Hindus. They held on to their tradition and did not succumb to the pressure and even violence brought on them to adopt blind belief that the full truth has been revealed by only one particular person. Instead, they continued trusting their sages who never asked for blind belief but asked to verify their insights through experience.

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Again coming back to the central question, Wirth asks again, why do media worldwide get so obsessed about ‘Hindu fundamentalists’ and a possibility of a ‘Hindu nation’. There is nothing wrong with the fundamentals, but there is one major difference: For Hindus, the Divinity can be found in all and all can be found in the Divinity, whereas for Christians and Muslims the Divinity is separate from his creation watching over us from somewhere.

The concept of Divinity is also different. The best description for the absolute truth for Hindus is sat-chit-ananda (it is true, aware and blissful). The belief in the existence of many personal gods helps the devotee to realise the Absolute in his own way. According to Wirth, the perception of divinity in Christians and Muslims in its highest form as a personal, superhuman entity who is ‘jealous of other gods’. She also mentions the first commandment in Christianity and a very important issue in Islam with the claim that nobody must worship other gods except the ‘one true god’, which both religions believe is only with them.

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When the first translations of Vedic texts appeared in the west, the Indian school of thought impressed greatest minds in Europe enormously. It did spread among scientists too and was used to push the frontiers of science further. Modern science discovering that all is one energy after Vedanta became known in the west is hardly just a coincidence as well as the Church losing much of its power in Europe when some of India’s wisdom filtered down to the masses.

Why then are the media worldwide so worked up about a nation where the Hindu roots are fostered?

Where Sanskrit is taught, the most perfect, dignified, powerful language on earth and which is useful even for NASA, where yoga is practised in schools which is an ideal means for all-round development and wellness and which, on a deeper level, helps to find fulfilment in life. Where Vedic philosophy is studied and imbibed which inspired the new scientific discoveries, for example in the field of nuclear physics. Where the amazing wisdom of Mahabharata and Ramayana is the common knowledge which is taught in business seminars abroad and where children are taught to chant “Loka Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu” (let all be happy).

Yet as soon as Hindus make suggestions for India to keep or rather gain back its Hindu character, there is an outcry by the media that “Hindu fundamentalists” intend to establish a ‘Hindu’ India and exclude religious minorities. Wirth asks, why would Indians who rather recently converted to Islam or Christianity not be proud of the achievements of their ancestors? India was the cradle of civilisation, a knowledge hub and the richest country on earth, known for its wisdom. Hopefully, the religious nazis will not have any objection that students are taught this factor the fact that the Rishis of the Rig-Veda (10.22.14) knew many thousand years before Copernicus that the earth goes around the sun. Surely or that students chant “May all be happy” in Sanskrit, the language of their forefathers.

Why does the media shout at someone who wants to revive their ancient culture instead of someone who objects to this teaching? To quote Maria Wirth, “Is not he the one who tries to divide society and not those who say “Vasudhaiva kutumbakam” (all is one family) due to their philosophical outlook?”

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Wirth finds Hindus to be the exemplary role model for ‘how not to exclude others’. Religious minorities have flourished and grown in India, the relative harmony in this amazing diversity in India is what grabs admiration abroad. It’s not just Indian food; Media persons need only to look around in the world to realise this there’s much more.

Why is it then that Hindus of all people are accused of excluding others?

According to Wirth, the reason probably is that neither the west nor Muslim countries would like to see a stronger India. They may fear that with the influence on her ancient culture, India may rise again to the top. Wirth asks, “Is it the media’s job to put Hindus perpetually on the defensive by spreading this bogey of Hindu fundamentalism and prevent a better education policy which would give India an edge?”

The infuriated media shout, “Imagine, India would become a Hindu nation!”
Why is it that they don’t have the intention to imagine it or ask basic questions? Maybe, if they could only imagine what a Hindu nation looks like, they might start propagating Hindu nations all over the globe for harmony and peace in the world.

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Wirth concludes by saying that, one day, when people have become tired of blindly trusting strange things, and when nobody is threatened any longer with dire consequences if he stops believing in those strange things, the world may be grateful to Bharat Mata that those eternal, precious insights have been conceived and preserved by her over millennia for the benefit of humanity.

– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang

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White House Reporters Prefer Sunlight to Spotlight

The White House Correspondents’ Associates controls the press room seating arrangements, but the White House, itself, determines which individuals receive credentials to enter and line the aisles

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White House spokesman Sean Spicer holds a press briefing at the White House in Washington, Jan. 23, 2017.

Steve Herman became VOA’s White House bureau chief in March after spending 25 years as a foreign correspondent. His previous post required Herman to travel often throughout the world. Now he reports from a small booth on the world’s biggest political stories. Here are his initial impressions of day-to-day work as a White House correspondent.

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The “mushroom method” refers to keeping reporters in the dark and feeding them manure. Throughout many presidential administrations, reporters assigned to the basement by the West Wing have frequently complained of being treated like mushrooms.

Philomena Jurey, who covered Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan for VOA, titled her autobiography A Basement Seat to History.

Others have compared their plight to prisoners in cramped, overcrowded quarters.

White House bureau chief Steve Herman (left) and senior correspondent Peter Heinlein discussing the day’s assignments in the small VOA studio in the basement of the West Wing.

White House bureau chief Steve Herman (left) and senior correspondent Peter Heinlein discussing the day’s assignments in the small VOA studio in the basement of the West Wing.

“Most people think the White House beat is glamorous. It isn’t,” recalls former VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson. “It can be a boring grind in a little booth that can feel stifling at times.”

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Wolfson adds that despite the mostly obstructed view the reporters “are an eyewitness to history and the job is what you make of it.”

Once cleared through the northwest gate, the roaming ground for White House correspondents is quite limited with infrequent exceptions.

The reporters can meander unescorted through the two narrow floors encompassing the press briefing room. Down one floor, the basement booths and desks are where VOA and a dozen or so other news outlets maintain their White House bureaus.

‘Pebble Beach’

The only outdoor space not off limits is between the so-called “Palm Room” doors and the winding driveway from the West Wing entrance to an area of the North Lawn where TV reporters’ stand-up positions are known as “Pebble Beach” (once covered with gravel, but now asphalt).

Presidential departures and arrivals via Marine One are generally open to all media with White House passes and credentials. That allows escorted trips to the South Lawn, which doubles as a landing pad for the presidential helicopter.

The events are an opportunity for reporters to shout questions at the arriving or departing president who can feign hearing difficulties due to the noisy aircraft engines.

Members of a White House press pool waiting outside the West Wing on a chilly day.

Members of a White House press pool waiting outside the West Wing on a chilly day.

There may also be glimpses of the president entering or exiting the Oval Office.

No more than a small designated pack of media ever assemble in the president’s famed Oval Office at any one time. This group is known as a “pool,” which shares its video, audio or notes with other non-attendees who toil for outlets on the rotating list of pool duty.

VOA finds itself on in-town pool duty, on average, twice a month. That means standing by for long hours of waiting for something (or nothing) to happen and then hearing a squawk over the loudspeakers to quickly assemble at the Palm Room doors.

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“Nobody is keen on pool duty,” said Wolfson who covered the White House from 1988-92 and again from 2001-2009. “You have to make sure your equipment is ready to record at all times. … And never forget to take a good book.”

These days the book is usually replaced with distracted scrolling through one’s Twitter feed.

Although pool duty is mostly mundane, it is, according to Wolfson, “a necessary evil – ask anyone who was covering the White House when Reagan was shot (in 1981 outside a Washington hotel).”

The most familiar scene involving reporters and the White House is the briefing by the press secretary.

Calling on reporters

In previous administrations, there was a tradition of calling first on a front-row senior wire service reporter (AP nowadays, UPI in decades past).

The White House Correspondents’ Associates controls the press room seating arrangements, but the White House, itself, determines which individuals receive credentials to enter and line the aisles.

FILE - White House press secretary Sean Spicer takes a question from a member of the media during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, Feb. 21, 2017.

FILE – White House press secretary Sean Spicer takes a question from a member of the media during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, Feb. 21, 2017.

VOA has had a full-time presence in the White House press for many decades and occupies a fourth-row permanent seat between National Journal and Fox News Radio in the briefing room.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer, much to the chagrin of the major media outlets, gives less priority to the wires and TV network journalists, instead pointing his finger over them to other reporters, including those on the sidelines. This includes those from entities so obscure that a Google search for their bylines yields no results.

Some reporters who ask questions at the daily briefings are not even in the room – they are the rotating recipients of the new “Skype seats” – their video images beamed in behind the press secretary, who has selected them in advance from across the country.

The interchange between the briefer and the questioners, in every administration, has been testy at times.

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In the Trump White House, however, it has frequently turned into a test of wills. Spicer daily finds himself on the defensive, called on to explain the president’s controversial tweets. He has no reluctance to turn the tables on the media, slamming journalists and accusing them of “deliberately false reporting.”

The reporters and Spicer quickly became material for parodies on television comedy shows, most notably NBC’s Saturday Night Live, where actress Melissa McCarthy portrays an unhinged Spicer ramming reporters with his lectern.

Life threatens to imitate art.

Spicer, when one recent briefing grew tense, quipped “don’t make me make the podium move.”

Behind the scenes in the press room, it has been less jocular.

Inclusion of far-right media

Tempers have frayed over the White House’s decision to credential commentators from far-right online websites, including those accused of supporting white nationalism and trafficking in conspiracies.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer calls on a member of the media during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, March 13, 2017.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer calls on a member of the media during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, March 13, 2017.

One such figure has commented publicly that he was in the press room primarily to dig up dirt on the established White House correspondents.

The grizzled standard-bearers of the mainstream media in the front row roll their eyes and mutter curses when Spicer points to the back of the room and calls on one of the so-called floaters – usually young Trump cheerleaders who will throw questions at Spicer with all the hardness of a beach ball.

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For the president’s supporters, the media’s criticism falls on deaf ears. Many of them are already critical of the mainstream media, so journalists’ complaints are taken as evidence the administration is following through on Trump’s attacks on the so-called “dishonest” media.

This all puts the White House press room reporters in the spotlight, despite their best efforts to keep it beamed on the president and his players.

Struggling to avoid being cultivated with the mushroom method, the subterranean journalists advocate to a sometimes-skeptical outside world the words of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” (VOA)

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Strategic ties with US secondary to Indians’ interests: Sushma

"Strategic partnership does not mean we will ignore the interests of the Indians (living in US)"

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Sushma Swaraj, VOA

India, March 21, 2017: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday said that strategic ties with Washington won’t prevent India from raising issues concerning Indians and Indian Diaspora with the US.

Replying to a question in the Rajya Sabha on hate crimes against Indians in the US, she said that for the Modi government, the interests of Indians preceded strategic partnership with any country.

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“Strategic partnership does not mean we will ignore the interests of the Indians (living in US),” she said in reply to a question raised by CPI’s D. Raja.

“For us, strategic partnership is secondary. The safety and security of Indians and people of Indian origin is primary. Have no doubts that we would keep silent because we have strategic relations with a country.”

Addressing concerns raised by members as to whether a trend in hate crimes was emerging in the US, Sushma Swaraj said New Delhi was “closely monitoring” the situation.

“Till date, the US authorities are saying these are sporadic incidents. But we are watching if a trend is emerging. We are sure the US authorities would not let it become these hate crimes a trend.”

In last few weeks, at least three incidents of attacks on Indians in the US have been reported.

On February 22, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, a 32-year-old Indian engineer, was shot dead by a US national, Adam Purinton, in a bar in Kansas.

On March 2, Harnish Patel, a US national of Indian origin, was shot dead by unknown individuals in Lancaster, South Carolina.

On March 4, Deep Rai, also a US national of Indian origin, was shot by an unknown person near Seattle, allegedly after being asked to leave the country.

“The government has taken up this issue with the US government at very high levels and conveyed our deep concerns. We have called for necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of Indian Diaspora and expeditious investigation into these incidents,” she said in her statement earlier.

She pointed out that President Donald Trump said on February 28 that the US “stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms”.

“Several Senators and Congressmen have also expressed their condolences and regret over the tragic incidents. They have been deeply appreciative of the contribution and role of the Indian community in the US.

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“I would like to reassure this House and the members that safety and security of Indian Diaspora abroad remains a top priority for this government.

“We are in a continuous dialogue with the US government. Close contacts with the local Indian community groups are being maintained through our embassy and consulates to address any emergent issues,” she said. (IANS)