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Gunfire pounds anti-Mubarak protest camp in Cairo

Posted by Admin on February 3, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110203/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_egypt

CAIROHeavy automatic weapons fire pounded the anti-government protest camp in Cairo‘s Tahrir Square before dawn on Thursday in a dramatic escalation of what appeared to be a well-orchestrated series of assaults on the demonstrators. At least three protesters were killed by gunfire, according to one of the activists.

The crowds seeking an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s nearly three decades in power were still reeling from attacks hours earlier in which Mubarak supporters charged into the square on horses and camels, lashing people with whips, while others rained firebombs and rocks from rooftops.

The protesters accused Mubarak’s regime of unleashing a force of paid thugs and plainclothes police to crush their unprecedented nine-day-old movement, a day after the 82-year-old president refused to step down. They showed off police ID badges they said were wrested from their attackers. Some government workers said their employers ordered them into the streets.

The violence intensified overnight, as sustained bursts of automatic gunfire and powerful single shots rained into the square starting at around 4 a.m. and continuing for more than two hours.

Protest organizer Mustafa el-Naggar said he saw the bodies of three dead protesters being carried toward an ambulance. He said the gunfire came from at least three locations in the distance and that the Egyptian military, which has ringed the square with tank squads for days to try to keep some order, did not intervene.

Footage from AP Television News showed one tank spreading a thick smoke screen along a highway overpass just to the north of the square in an apparent attempt to deprive attackers of a high vantage point. The two sides seemed to be battling for control of the overpass, which leads to a main bridge over the Nile.

In the darkness, groups of men hurled firebombs and rocks from the bridge, where a wrecked car sat engulfed in flames. Others dragged two apparently lifeless bodies from the area.

Egypt‘s health minister did not answer a phone call seeking confirmation of the number killed.

Click image to see photos of anti-government protests in Egypt

At daybreak, the two sides were still battling with rocks and flaming bottles of gasoline along the front line on the northern edge of the square, near the famed Egyptian Museum.

Demonstrators took cover behind makeshift barricades of corrugated metal sheeting taken from a nearby construction site and Mubarak supporters seemed to hold their ground on the overpass. Between them stretched a burning no-man’s-land of smoldering cars, hunks of concrete and fires.

The fighting began more than 12 hours earlier, turning the celebratory atmosphere in the square over the previous day into one of terror and sending a stream of wounded to makeshift clinics in mosques and alleyways on the anti-government side. Three people died in the violence on Wednesday and 600 were injured.

Mustafa el-Fiqqi, a senior official from the ruling National Democratic Party, told The Associated Press that businessmen connected to the ruling party were responsible for what happened.

The notion that the state may have coordinated violence against protesters, who had kept a peaceful vigil in Tahrir Square for five days, prompted a sharp rebuke from the Obama administration.

“If any of the violence is instigated by the government, it should stop immediately,” said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

The clashes marked a dangerous new phase in Egypt’s upheaval: the first significant violence between government supporters and opponents. The crisis took a sharp turn for the worse almost immediately after Mubarak rejected the calls for him to give up power or leave the country, stubbornly proclaiming he would die on Egyptian soil.

His words were a blow to the protesters. They also suggest that authorities want to turn back the clock to the tight state control enforced before the protests began.

Mubarak’s supporters turned up on the streets Wednesday in significant numbers for the first time. Some were hostile to journalists and foreigners. Two Associated Press correspondents and several other journalists were roughed up in Cairo. State TV had reported that foreigners were caught distributing anti-Mubarak leaflets, apparently trying to depict the movement as foreign-fueled.

The scenes of mayhem were certain to add to the fear that is already running high in this capital of 18 million people after a weekend of looting and lawlessness and the escape of thousands of prisoners from jails in the chaos.

Soldiers surrounding Tahrir Square fired occasional shots in the air throughout Wednesday’s clashes but did not appear to otherwise intervene and no uniformed police were seen. Most of the troops took shelter behind or inside the armored vehicles and tanks stationed at the entrances to the square.

“Why don’t you protect us?” some protesters shouted at the soldiers, who replied they did not have orders to do so and told people to go home.

“The army is neglectful. They let them in,” said Emad Nafa, a 52-year-old among the protesters, who for days had showered the military with affection for its neutral stance.

Some of the worst street battles raged near the Egyptian Museum at the edge of the square. Pro-government rioters blanketed the rooftops of nearby buildings and hurled bricks and firebombs onto the crowd below — in the process setting a tree ablaze inside the museum grounds. Plainclothes police at the building entrances prevented anti-Mubarak protesters from storming up to stop them.

The two sides pummeled each other with chunks of concrete and bottles at each of the six entrances to the sprawling plaza, where 10,000 anti-Mubarak protesters tried to fend off more than 3,000 attackers who besieged them. Some on the pro-government side waved machetes, while the square’s defenders filled the air with a ringing battlefield din by banging metal fences with sticks.

In one almost medieval scene, a small contingent of pro-Mubarak forces on horseback and camels rushed into the anti-government crowds, trampling several people and swinging whips and sticks. Protesters dragged some riders from their mounts, throwing them to the ground and beating their faces bloody. The horses and camels appeared to be ones used to give tourists rides around Cairo.

Dozens of men and women pried up pieces of the pavement with bars and ferried the piles of ammunition in canvas sheets to their allies at the front. Others directed fighters to streets needing reinforcements.

The protesters used a subway station as a makeshift prison for the attackers they managed to catch. They tied the hands and legs of their prisoners and locked them inside. People grabbed one man who was bleeding from the head, hit him with their sandals and threw him behind a closed gate.

Some protesters wept and prayed in the square where only a day before they had held a joyous, peaceful rally of a quarter-million, the largest demonstration so far.

Egyptian Health Minister Ahmed Sameh Farid said three people died and at least 611 were injured in Tahrir Square on Wednesday. One of those killed fell from a bridge near the square; Farid said the man was in civilian clothes but may have been a member of the security forces.

Farid did not say how the other two victims, both young men, were killed. It was not clear whether they were government supporters or anti-Mubarak demonstrators.

After years of tight state control, protesters emboldened by the uprising in Tunisia took to the streets on Jan. 25 and mounted a once-unimaginable series of demonstrations across this nation of 80 million. For the past few days, protesters who camped out in Tahrir Square reveled in a new freedom — publicly expressing their hatred for the Mubarak regime.

“After our revolution, they want to send people here to ruin it for us,” said Ahmed Abdullah, a 47-year-old lawyer in the square.

Another man shrieked through a loudspeaker: “Hosni has opened the door for these thugs to attack us.”

The pressure for demonstrators to clear the square mounted throughout the day, beginning early when a military spokesman appeared on state TV and asked them to disperse so life in Egypt could get back to normal.

It was a change in attitude by the army, which for the past few days had allowed protests to swell with no interference and even made a statement saying they had a legitimate right to demonstrate peacefully.

Then the regime began to rally its supporters in significant numbers for the first time, demanding an end to the protest movement. Some 20,000 Mubarak supporters held an angry but mostly peaceful rally on Wednesday across the Nile River from Tahrir, responding to calls on state TV.

They said Mubarak’s concessions were enough. He has promised not to run for re-election in September, named a new government and appointed a vice president for the first time, widely considered his designated successor.

They were bitter at the jeers hurled at Mubarak.

“I feel humiliated,” said Mohammed Hussein, a 31-year-old factory worker. “He is the symbol of our country. When he is insulted, I am insulted.”

The anti-Mubarak movement has vowed to intensify protests to force him out by Friday.

State TV said Vice President Omar Suleiman called “on the youth to heed the armed forces’ call and return home to restore order.” From the other side, senior anti-Mubarak figure Mohamed ElBaradei demanded the military “intervene immediately and decisively to stop this massacre.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke with Suleiman to condemn the violence and urge Egypt’s government to hold those responsible for it accountable, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.

___

AP correspondents Sarah El Deeb, Hamza Hendawi, Diaa Hadid, Lee Keath, Michael Weissenstein and Maggie Michael contributed to this report.

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Independence of India

Posted by Admin on August 15, 2010

Independence of India

¤ Sailing of San Gabriel To India

Mahatma GandhiWhen the San Gabriel sailed around the Cape of Good Hope to finally dock at Calicut, a prosperous port and an independent principality on the Malabar Coast in May, 1498, half a century of the Portuguese tentative to find a sea route to India was finally crowned with success.

The man behind the quest was Vasco da Gama (1460-1524) – a devout Roman Catholic whose nightlong vigil in a Lisbon chapel before commending himself to the unsure waters had finally paid off. and if ‘Christians and spices’ were his twin pretext at the outset, da Gama’s successive visits to India, first in 1500 to set up a ‘factory’ or a trading base, then in 1502 to wreak havoc on the port and Arab trading vessels alike, proved that Portugal and its prime sailor had other things on their mind as well.
The Portuguese were probably here to stay, and da Gama was to earn himself the distinction of Governor of all Portuguese possessions in India in the twilight of his life.

While da Gamma paved the way for the Portuguese to India, Dom Alphonso D’Albuquerque (1495-1515) chalked out and consolidated Portugal’s trade routes to India during the sixteenth century.

¤ Portuguese Emerged As New Ruler

Albuquerque was an imperial rather than a commercial emissary of Portugal. Harnessing strategic ports mainly in the Persian Gulf, along the west coast of India and beyond, overrode the need to garner support of the local rulers. This drove him to capture Goa on the west coast of India in 1510, Melaka (Malacca) on the Malay peninsula in 1511, Hormuz at the opening of the Persian Gulf in 1515, Bassein in 1534, Daman and Diu in 1535 and Colombo in 1597. The series of offensives proved that the Portuguese were the new rulers of the roost.

Their mercantile and imperial strategies were paralleled by a drive to convert the masses to Roman Catholic Christianity. Temples disappeared from the Goan landscape to be replaced with churches, monasteries and seminaries. As the Portuguese Viceroy in India, Albuquerque encouraged mixed marriages with the intent of procuring fresh recruits, especially in the form of offsprings, to serve the Portuguese project in India and elsewhere.

However, with the rise of military, political and maritime mights like the Dutch and the English, History forced the Portuguese in India into the wings.

Unable to cast its net much further than Goa after being united to Spain, Portugal’s focus of interest shifted from India to more lucrative lands.

¤ The Arrival of Dutch

The Dutch sailed their ships eastward for the first time in 1595. However, their first stop was not India but Jakarta in Indonesia where they lost no time in establishing their monopoly over the spice trade. India was significant only insofar as it constituted part of the great Asian trade route that the Dutch had developed and that cut through Ceylon and Cape Town.

Even though in 1602, when the Dutch East India Company was chartered, the Dutch harboured no military ambitions about India, around 1605, a fleet of thirty-eight ships dispatched by the Dutch East India Company inflicted a crushing defeat on Portuguese ships off Johore and the Dutch wrested the fortress at Ambiona from Portuguese control. The unstoppable Dutch then went on to seize secret Portuguese maps and oceanic charts detailing the trade routes with India. These were soon to serve as guides to the eastern waters.

¤ Arrival of English

The English entered the East Indies almost as the same time as the Dutch. However, the English were quick to realise that the Dutch were unwilling to share their turf in the East Indies with them. The tenacity with which the Dutch refused to relent on the East Indies forced the British to turn to India. Spices in India abounded in the south but the trade monopoly of the local rulers and other Europeans had to be broken.

The British East India Company was established by the Royal Charter in 1600, and in course of time, the Protestant Dutch and English would embark upon the common project of eroding Catholic Spain and Portugal’s trade monopoly in the Indian Ocean.

It is interesting to note, however, that although the Dutch had their ‘factories’ in Cochin, Nagapatam and even up in Agra, they did not give the idea of military expansion in India much thought. The spice trade was rewarding and they were quite content with just that.

¤ French Also Making Forays Into India

The Dutch and the English were not the only nations to take an interest in India in those days.The seventeenth century also saw the French making forays into India. While the success stories of the Dutch and the British East India Companies were a motivating factor, the reasons for setting up the French East India Company were not mercantile.

The initial wave brought along men of letters, explorers, adventurers, missionaries et al. Jean Baptiste Tavernier and François Bernier’s vivid accounts of the Mughal kingdom and beyond went a long way in moulding Europe’s impressions about this distant, exotic and opulent land.

The French set up their first trading post in 1666 at Surat. The Sultan of Golconda then allowed them to set up another trading post in Masulipatam on the Coromandel Coast in 1669. In 1670, the Sultan gave the French land in Pondicherry. In the next two decades, the French obtained trading concessions in Bengal and Chandernagore, and established a post at Mahe on the Malabar coast of southwest India.

But the French East India Company did not turn out to be as prosperous as the Dutch and the British East India Companies.
Meanwhile, the British had made some important moves.

¤ British Developed Strong Relations With Mughals

Sir Thomas Roe arrived at the Mughal Emperor Jahangir’s court as the envoy of King James I of England, and stayed in India from 1614-1618. While William Hawkins had already initiated successful diplomatic relations with the Mughal court, Roe consolidated them further, gaining in the process not only friends in the Mughal court but also the Emperor’s permission to establish a British East India Company trading post at Surat. Roe’s diplomacy with the Mughals paid off so well that by 1618, the East India Company became their unspoken naval aide.

Henceforth the commercial rise of the British in India was meteoric. By 1661, Bombay was given to Charles II of England as dowry when he married Catherine of Braganza. Bombay was then dutifully passed on to the British East India Company. By 1708, around the dawn of the Modern Indian Era, the British found themselves quite comfortably placed in India, at least commercially.

and Aurangzeb’s exit from Indian History in 1707 and its aftermath were to eventually throw up the new keepers of India’s destiny – the British.

¤ The Decline of Mughal Court

The decline of the Mughal empire after Aurangzeb’s death was shockingly swift. (See Medieval Indian History). Power and glory bowed out to disarray and disgrace The state treasury ran dry. It was clearly an oft repeated moment in History when devoid of will, a dynasty lingered on, waiting to be saved or damned.

¤ The Advent of Nadir Shah

A series of disastrous invasions against Delhi finally broke its spirit. The first of these was led by the famous Persian king, Nadir Shah in 1739. At the time, the court in Delhi was fending off the Maratha offensive.
One of the finest ministers of the Mughal court , Nizam-ul-Mulk met Nadir when the latter arrived near Delhi and talked him out of his initial idea of sacking Delhi by offering him Rs 50,00,000. The matter would have been settled had not one of Nizam’s rival generals at court convinced Nadir Shah that the latter was being short-changed. Delhi’s legendary wealth could not be relinquished for so paltry a sum.

Soon Nadir Shah marched over to Delhi in time to have a khutba read in his name. Unfortunately, it was around the same time that a rumour about Nadir Shah’s death spread in Delhi. Not only was this news greeted with jubilation by the inhabitants of Delhi, some of them went so far as to actually attack a few Iranian soldiers. No one could have forseen the consequences.

On March 11, 1739 an order was issued by Nadir Shah. Delhi witnessed yet another blood bath. Chandni Chowk, the fruit market, the Dariba bazaar and the buildings around the Jama Masjid were burnt to cinders. Each and every inhabitant of the area was killed in retaliation. People living around the area still point at the Khooni Darwaza (Gateway of Slaughter) in the old city and talk of the massacre as though it had taken place only the previous day. The royal treasury was sacked and its contents seized. When Nadir Shah left Delhi after 57 days, he also took along with him the fabulous Peacock Throne of the Mughals and the last remnants of the Mughal pride.

Lead by Ahmad Shah Abdali, an ex-general in Nadir Shah’s army, the Afghans were the next raiders of Delhi. Abdali led as many as seven invasions into India between 1748-1767.

In January 1757, Abdali captured Delhi. What followed was a carnage of the Nadir Shah vintage. After pillaging Delhi, the Afghans overran most of Northern India. It is said that after the sack of Mathura, Brindaban and Gokul, for `seven days the waters of the Jamuna flowed a blood-red colour.’

An outbreak of cholera in Abdali’s army forced him to withdraw, though not before making the Delhi court cough up around 120,000,000 rupees. He also demanded, and got Kashmir, Lahore, Sirhind and Multan. This, unfortunately, was not the last time that Abdali was to invade India.
and a retiring Delhi court would leave it to the Marathas to counter Abdali’s next invasion. Unable to resist the immense riches of Delhi, Abdali stormed the city again. On January 13, 1761, he took on the Maratha confederation, and humbled the Marathas in the third and final battle of Panipat, rooting out the possiblity of Maratha dominion over North India, at least for the next decade.

Abdali returned in 1764, driven once again by his lust not so much for power as for gold. His sixth invasion had the Sikhs, who had by then carved out a kingdom for themselves under the famous Maharaja Ranjit Singh, up in arms. The determined Sikhs, who never allowed the Marathas to establish themselves up north, now put up a stiff resistance. When Abdali invaded India for the last time in 1767, he met his comeuppance at the hands of the Sikhs who then took Lahore and Central Punjab. However the areas extending from Peshawar and beyond remained with Abdali.

¤ The Slow Rise of British

Against this troubled backdrop, the British rise to power was slow, but remarkably steady. Slow because the British had an uphill task to accomplish; first there were the French to deal with. The commercial rivalry amongst the British and the French had its roots in the prevailing political situation in Europe.
As long as the French carried on business in a small way in India, the British left them to themselves. But between 1720 and 1740, the French East India Company’s trade with India recorded almost a ten-fold growth to measure upto half the volume of that the British East India Company at the time. The stakes were too high for either to ignore – especially since the British East India Company generated more than ten percent of England’s revenue.

¤ The Rise of Carnatic War

This was the time when the War of Austrian Succession (1740-48) had broken out in Europe, following Fredrick the Great of Prussia’s seizure of Silesia in 1740. The French and British found themselves in opposing camps in this war. Later, during the Seven Years War (1756-63), both were at loggerheads with each other once again, supporting rival camps. These two European wars were to have an immediate bearing on India’s political destiny.

Between 1746-48, the French and English finally came to blows in the first Carnatic War (1746-48) in the Deccan. Two more of these wars sealed the fate of the French East India Company in India.

The first Carnatic War was perhaps a fallout of the Austrian War of Succession. The fight was over Madras and though the French had captured it, it was given back to the English as part of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle of 1748. In the meanwhile the British and French had got their fleets upto the Indian mainland – an important development as the balance of power within the mainland was fast slanting in favour of the Europeans. and Dupleix, the French governor of the time, decided to turn the tide in France’s favour.

A shrewd and resourceful character with great diplomatic skills and a fine understanding of local politics, Dupleix was nevertheless difficult to work with because of his nervous temperament and inadequate military knowledge.

The opportunity Dupleix was waiting for came his way in 1748 when the Nawab of Arcot (in present Tamil Nadu) died leaving behind the question of succession unresolved. Dupleix succeeded in having a Nizam of his choice, Chanda Sahib enthroned. The new Nizam was supported by the old Nawab’s grandson, Muzzafar Jung, and backed by French troops under the able command of de Bussy. The idea was to close in on Madras by surrounding it with French territory.

Everything would have gone off as planned but for Robert Clive who arrived in Madras as a clerk and proved himself to be a brilliant strategist. He laid the seige of Arcot in 1751 with a mere 210 men, turning Dupleix’s dream into a nightmare. Chanda Sahib was killed and a British nominee was placed on the throne of Arcot. Recalled to France in 1754, Dupleix retired in ignominy.

Dupleix was succeeded by Godeheu, who sued for peace with the British. Both the French and the British agreed not to interfere in India’s internal matters and went back to their old positions. The French also agreed to give up everything they had taken so far. Godeheu was denounced for having ‘signed the ruin of the country and the dishonour of the nation’, but the damage was done. The British had emerged much stronger after the second Carnatic War.

The third and final phase of this Anglo-French war for supremacy was precipitated by the Seven Years War in the shape of the third Carnatic War (1756-63). However, despite very fine French generals like de Bussy and Lally, the British inflicted a crushing defeat on the French who ended up losing practically everything they had in India.

The dream of the ‘dominion de l’empire de la France’ in India was over. and thanks to their naval supremacy, greater resources and steadier support from Europe, the British had emerged as the clear winners.

¤ British Rose To Power In India

Thereafter, the British steadily rose to power in India, at least till the Uprising of 1857.

The Uprising was a culmination of a number of factors. People were growing increasingly resentful of Britain’s political and cultural motives in India. But the mandatory use of Enfield Rifles, and cartridges greased with animal tallow – pig or cow – that were to be readied by mouth by practising Hindus and Muslims in the Sepoy Army of Indian troops, precipitated the event.

There is enough evidence to support the fact that the Uprising had been planned for months before the actual outbreak. However, revolutionaries failed to spread the word about it beyond Central India and Delhi, and the Uprising did not quite unfold as planned. Had it gone according to schedule, the Uprising would have broken out in many areas simultaneously and been difficult for the British to contain. However, as things turned out, trouble erupted sporadically in various places in May 1857 and there was little, if any, coordination between the outbreaks. For the British, quelling such a rebellion was hardly intimidating.

¤ The Revolt of 1857

Stories about the British and Indian confrontation in Delhi in 1857 abound. Tales of valour and bravery about both sides alternate with accounts of unimaginable horror and destruction.

The poet-Mughal in Delhi, Bahadur Shah Zafar, Tatia Tope of Gwalior (Gwalior itself did not rebel, Tope was merely a general), the Rani of Jhansi too joined in the rebellion as they had their own interests to protect. None of them would actually have rebelled had the British not rethought the `compensation’ that these rulers were being paid in exchange for a share in the governance.

The people of Delhi, Lucknow, Gwalior and the rest of India, however, had nothing to gain, at least not personally. Their war was not for a private kingdom; they were fighting for freedom.

Scholars and historians who have revisited the event have tried to define the Uprising in terms that were at times limiting or expansive – a simple Mutiny, India’s first National War of Independence, a Princely plot, to name few. In any case, it would be difficult to package the event in a single neat definition.

Following the Uprising, the British Crown in Parliament formally took over the responsibility of ruling India from the British East India Company.

What was happening in the Indian society all this while was difficult to overlook. A cultural revolution had been taking place even before the Uprising of 1857. Sati was banned, the Arya Samaj was a new religious alternative, education for women was encouraged and a whole new breed of intellectuals – mostly from Bengal – were making their presence felt. This new breed of Indians was a power to reckon with.

After the Uprising, India was poised at the dawn of a new era of political awareness.

¤ Indian National Congress Came Into Being

In December 1885, despite the Governor General of India, Lord Dufferin’s reluctance to endorse the idea, Allan Octavian Hume formed the Indian National Union (which would soon be renamed Indian National Congress), alongwith seventy-two learned Indian delegates hailing from different parts of the country. The Indian National Congress’ first meeting took place in Bombay in 1885, and was presided over by W C Bonnerjee.

In its early phase, referred to as the phase of the Moderates (1885-1905), the Congress pledged loyalty to the British. The moderates were a class of elite erudite men who were into philosophy and intellectual discussions; the much more popular peoples’ leaders were to follow. One of the most prominent leaders, Dadabhai Naoroji, wrote extensively to highlight the drain of wealth from India to Britain.

The Congress was soon to enter a turbulent phase, and in 1907, during the session at Surat, there was an open split in the party.  The moderates led by Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Pherozeshah Mehta and those that the British qualified as extremists headed by Bal Gangadhar Tilak, parted ways. The Congress would regain its vitality only years later (1919-1934) under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.

In 1905, Lord Curzon’s brainchild, the partition of Bengal was implemented. The decision evoked sharp reactions from all quarters of India. The day on which the partition came into effect was observed as a day of mourning and fasting throughout Bengal. Rabindranath Tagore, the famous Nobel-laureate and writer, passionately spoke out against it. This was the time when the Swadeshi movement was first launched; Indians participated in auto-da-fés of foreign goods and turned to indigenously manufactured articles. Lots of young leaders from Bengal took up the task of educating people. On August 15, 1906, a National Council of Education was set up under the educationist Aurobindo Ghose.

The government came down heavily on the agitators, disrupting meetings, insulting leaders and beating up peaceful protestors. In 1907, Lala Lajpat Rai and Sardar Ajit Singh were deported from the Punjab. In 1908, Bal Gangadhar Tilak was arrested and sentenced to six years of prison. Aurobindo Ghose was arrested, prosecuted and although acquitted, he chose to retire to Pondicherry.

The agitation against the partition of Bengal (although the partition was revoked in 1911) ushered in the age of Indian nationalism. It was a question of time before this nationalistic fervour settled down to the more concrete issue of how India was to cast aside the British yoke.

¤ Indian National Movement Continues

While Great Britain was entangled in World War I, India’s national movement, despite being at a nascent stage, continued to throw up surprises. In December 1915, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the first nationalist leader with a deep understanding of India’s grassroots, and a considerable following, voiced the idea of Home Rule (`swadeshi’, was a word the British were wary of). It was for the first time that someone had alluded to Home Rule being the goal of the Indian National Movement. On April 28, 1916, the Home Rule League was founded, with its headquarters in Poona (Pune). Tilak went on a whirlwind tour of the country, appealing to everybody to unite under the banner of Home Rule League. Annie Besant who subscribed to the cause herself assisted him in this task.

The implications of the Home Rule movement were clear to all now. The independence of India was the goal of the Indian national movement. But while the idea of independence was swiftly gaining ground, for the most part, the bougeoisie was still unsure about whether it needed to jump into the fray or hold itself at bay. Meanwhile the Crown rule decided to tighten the clamps. Laws were formulated to prevent agitations, undesirable elements were banned from entering India, propaganda came under government scrutiny – the British had reason to be nervous.

¤ Gandhiji

and then, as Jawaharlal Nehru would later say, Gandhi came.

He was not anyone’s idea of a charismatic leader. Just a short, thin, shrivelled man, with what Sarojini Naidu called `Mickey Mouse ears’ and a twinkle in his eyes. He talked of ahimsa, or non-violence and ahimsa would finally disarm the British.

When Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi finally returned to India from South Africa at the age of 46, his arrival was preceded by his formidable reputation as a political leader. Moments after having docked at Bombay, he was asked to lead the National Movement.

Gandhi, however, declined, opting to get to know India thoroughly. The first causes he chose to associate with were minor local affairs, and the nationalist leaders of the time did not know what to make of this almost too-mild, too-moral and too-impractical maverick.

During 1917-18, with revolutionary conspiracies being on the rise within the country, the British grew progressively uneasy. To counter these, Justice S A T  Rowlatt proposed the Rowlatt Acts. Among other things, this act empowered the government with special wartime controls that included the right to try political cases without a jury, and gave the provincial governments along with the centre, the power to imprison without trial. Gandhi, in his typical style, said that the repressive Rowlatt Acts raised issues of trust and self-respect, and hence needed be met with a moral response in the form of a hartal, or a protest that entailed striking work on April 8, 1919.

¤ The Massacre At Jallianwala Bagh

The flashpoint came in Punjab. On April 12, 1919, General R E H  Dyer who had taken over the troops in Punjab the day before, prohibited all meetings and gatherings. So when a group of unarmed people congregated at the Jallianwala Bagh, a walled park with only a single narrow entrance, on April 13, 1919 to celebrate the Sikh festival of Baisakhi. What followed was to blight the pages of Indian History and its peoples’ minds for a very long time to come. A peaceful congregation had been transformed into an unmitigated blood bath.

Later, during the court martial, General Dyer coldly observed that he had fired only 1600 rounds of ammunition on the crowd as that was all he had. He added that he would have fired more had he so deemed fit.

The brutality of the Jallianwallah Bagh massacre shocked the country. It also shook the moderates out of their stupour and brought Gandhi out in the open.

¤ Congress Launched Non-Cooperation Movement

In 1920, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian National Congress launched the first movement of protest – the Non-Cooperation Movement. It involved surrendering all titles, honorary offices and nominated posts in local bodies. Government functions and darbars were to be boycotted. Parents were requested to withdraw their children from government schools and colleges. Indians stayed way from the British courts and army, and were to stand for elections to government and legislative bodies. Ahimsa or non-violence was to be observed strictly.

The magnitude of the Non Cooperation Movement amazed every political leader in India. Gandhi’s approach was not so meek after all. The idea appealed immensely to popular imagination and suddenly, in a single sweep, the Non-Cooperation Movement had touched every man on the street. People came out in droves to support Gandhi and his movement.

The government machinery did not actually break down, but came under visible strain. Unfortunately, at a time when the movement was showing signs of success, in Chauri Chaura, a mob of 3000 people killed 25 policemen and one officer. Similar incidents had taken place earlier on November 17, 1921, in Bombay and on January 13, 1922, in Madras. On February 7, Gandhi suspended the movement. He was arrested on March 13, 1922. Suddenly, the future of swaraj, or self-rule within a year seemed uncertain.

Gandhi came under fire from several quarters for disassociating himself from the Non-Cooperation Movement. The man of the masses took the masses along when he made his exit. and this was not to be the only time when differences of opinion cropped up in the Congress about Gandhi’s actions. and each time, in the end, people invariably gave in to the Mahatma. Gandhi had won over the heart of an entire nation.

In 1927 the British government set up a committee headed by Sir John Simon to review the state of affairs in India. However, the committee that came to be known as the Simon Commission did not include even a single Indian. The Congress took umbrage to the omission.

At this time, young radicals like Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose were insisting on making total independence the goal of the Congress. At midnight, on December 31, 1929, Jawaharlal Nehru unfurled the Tricolor on the banks of the river Ravi in Punjab and the Congress called for purna swaraj, or complete Independence. January 26, 1930, was declared as Independence Day. From February 14 to 16, 1930, the Congress Working Committee met at Gandhi’s famous ashram in Sabarmati and requested him to launch the Civil Disobedience Movement ‘at a time and place of his choice.’

On February 27, the plan for the agitation was made public. The entire nation was in ferment. Everyone, including the British, was curious to see what the Mahatma would do next.

On March 12, 1930, accompanied by 78 colleagues of the Sabarmati Ashram, Mahatma Gandhi embarked on a 60-mile march to the sea coast of Dandi. He intended to defy the new salt taxes that the government had levied and that would directly impact each and every peasant. To begin with, the government thought it better to ignore the event. However, soon the entire country was abuzz with hartals, protests, agitations, processions. The rising tide of discontent had to be checked. Gandhi was arrested on May 5, 1930. Abbas Tyabji took the relay to lead the movement. When Tyabji was arrested, Sarojini Naidu, the nightingale of India, replaced him.

All over India, the mood was upbeat, the atmosphere tense and the people on the streets. Louis Fischer wrote about the Civil Disobedience: “The British beat the Indians with batons and rifle butts. The Indians neither cringed nor complained nor retreated. That made England powerless and India invincible.”

¤ First Round Table Conference

When the first Round Table Conference was held in London from November 12, 1930 to January 19, 1931, not a single member of the Congress attended it. The British now appealed to the Congress to work with them. Lord Irwin also declared that Mahatma Gandhi and the other members of the Congress Working Committee would soon be freed to consider the matter ‘freely and fearlessly.’

The Mahatma and Lord Irwin finally met. The result was the Gandhi-Irwin pact. Amongst other things, the Civil Disobedience Movement was withdrawn under the pact, and a second Round Table Conference with Congress participation was agreed upon. This peace did not last long. Gandhi attended the Second Round Table conference in London in 1931 as the sole representative of the Congress. He demanded control of foreign affairs and defence, and the matter of minorities, with little help from Muhammad Ali Jinnah, His Highness the Aga Khan and Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, ended in a complete deadlock. Gandhi returned to India on December 28, 1931 empty-handed.

By May 1934, the Civil Disobedience Movement had been completely withdrawn.

During World War II, the Congress decided that India should co-operate with Britain on the understanding that complete independence would be granted to India after that. The British, however were unwilling to discuss the issue of independence during wartime. This had the members of the Congress wondering about the intentions of the government. Meanwhile, the divide between Jinnah’s Muslim League and the Congress’ aims and demands had grown sharper. In early 1940, Jinnah declared Pakistan as the goal of the League.

After the fall of France in 1940, Gandhi declared, “We do not seek independence out of Britain’s ruin.” The British reply to this was an offer to discuss an Indian constituent assembly, as well as Dominion status `after the war’. The offer was spurned. This resulted in yet status would be another deadlock not to be resolved till 1947.

¤ The Launching of Quit India movement

Gandhi with his usual innovative skill now had the country and Congress rallying behind him. The moment had arrived to launch the Quit India movement. The unnerving part was that the launch of another Civil Disobedience Movement could coincide with the Japanese advances from the far-east towards India. “After all,” Gandhi said, “this is open rebellion.” The country was willing to court risks for the freedom that was to be won.

The movement was launched on August 8, 1942 in Bombay. Gandhi declared: “I want freedom immediately, this very night, before dawn, if it can be had. You may take it from me that I am not going to strike a bargain with the Viceroy for ministers and the like… Here is the mantra, a short one, that I give you… Do or die. We shall either free India or die in the attempt.”

From 1942 onwards it was quite clear that the countdown to an independent India had begun.

¤ Arrival of Lord Mountbatten

In 1946, Lord Mountbatten arrived in Delhi amid a buzz of political activity. After World War II, the British seemed keen to wash their hands off India. For their part, the Indians were not loathe to such an idea.

However, there were too many emotional ties – the British and the Indians went too far back together for the British to just pack up and leave. Mountbatten was entrusted with the responsibility of transferring power to the Indians, safeguarding British interests and prestige for future interaction with independent India and Pakistan. and in the bargain, if Partition was inevitable, the nations would have to live with the realisation and the consequences

¤ Partition of India

It was one of the worst movements of people in recent history after that of the Jews in the World War II. A nation was dismembered. On August 15, 1947 – India kept her ‘tryst with destiny’. Midnight bore her the precious gift of freedom. Following an announcement on August 17, 1947 Pakistan became the other independent state.

Gandhi, the father of the nation, did not join in the celebrations that followed. He was elsewhere working in riot torn areas, praying for peace. For him independence was tinged with sadness and disappointment. He was ready to withdraw from active politics.

Accusations of siding with the Muslims and giving Pakistan away too easily, dogged Gandhi since the day the state of Pakistan was declared. On January 30, 1948, a Hindu fundamentalist called Nathu Ram Godse shot the Mahatma. India lost the man who, alongwith so many others, had taught it to dream of independence, and to throw a bridge between that dream and reality. and on August 15, 1947, Indians had walked across that bridge.

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Facets of the Nation

Posted by Admin on August 15, 2010

Facets of the Nation

  • The National Song of India, Vande Mataram, was composed in Sanskrit by Bankimchandra Chatterji, and was a source of inspiration to the people in their struggle for freedom. It has an equal status with Jana-gana-mana. The first political occasion when it was sung, was the 1896 session of the Indian National Congress.
    Download National Song of India (1.06 MB, 1:09 Sec.).
  • A very significant facet of the nationalism of India is the cornucopia of national symbols, which present a vivid canvas of the national elements of India.
    Know more about these national symbols.
  • The Indian independence was certainly not attained on a silver platter by its people, but was a tale of a long and arduous struggle that bore the fruit of freedom for the Country.
    Historical background of the Indian freedom struggle.

Culture & Heritage: The ancient land of India portrays a landscape of vibrant cultural heritage and spiritual mysticism, which speaks volumes for its vast display of colourful traditions and rich heritage. Know more about the culture & heritage of India.

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Interesting Facts about India

Posted by Admin on August 15, 2010

Interesting Facts about India

  • India never invaded any country in her last 100000 years of history.
  • When many cultures were only nomadic forest dwellers over 5000 years ago, Indians established Harappan culture in Sindhu Valley (Indus Valley Civilization)
  • The name ‘India’ is derived from the River Indus, the valleys around which were the home of the early settlers. The Aryan worshippers referred to the river Indus as the Sindhu.
  • The Persian invaders converted it into Hindu. The name ‘Hindustan’ combines Sindhu and Hindu and thus refers to the land of the Hindus.
  • Chess was invented in India.
  • Algebra, Trigonometry and Calculus are studies, which originated in India.
  • The ‘Place Value System’ and the ‘Decimal System’ were developed in India in 100 B.C.
  • The World’s First Granite Temple is the Brihadeswara Temple at Tanjavur, Tamil Nadu. The shikhara of the temple is made from a single 80-tonne piece of granite. This magnificent temple was built in just five years, (between 1004 AD and 1009 AD) during the reign of Rajaraja Chola.
  • India is the largest democracy in the world, the 6th largest Country in the world, and one of the most ancient civilizations.
  • The game of Snakes & Ladders was created by the 13th century poet saint Gyandev. It was originally called ‘Mokshapat’. The ladders in the game represented virtues and the snakes indicated vices. The game was played with cowrie shells and dices. In time, the game underwent several modifications, but its meaning remained the same, i.e. good deeds take people to heaven and evil to a cycle of re-births.
  • The world’s highest cricket ground is in Chail, Himachal Pradesh. Built in 1893 after leveling a hilltop, this cricket pitch is 2444 meters above sea level.
  • India has the largest number of Post Offices in the world.
  • The largest employer in the world is the Indian Railways, employing over a million people.
  • The world’s first university was established in Takshila in 700 BC. More than 10,500 students from all over the world studied more than 60 subjects. The University of Nalanda built in the 4th century was one of the greatest achievements of ancient India in the field of education.
  • Ayurveda is the earliest school of medicine known to mankind. The Father of Medicine, Charaka, consolidated Ayurveda 2500 years ago.
  • India was one of the richest countries till the time of British rule in the early 17th Century. Christopher Columbus, attracted by India’s wealth, had come looking for a sea route to India when he discovered America by mistake.
  • The Art of Navigation & Navigating was born in the river Sindh over 6000 years ago. The very word Navigation is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘NAVGATIH’. The word navy is also derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Nou’.
  • Bhaskaracharya rightly calculated the time taken by the earth to orbit the Sun hundreds of years before the astronomer Smart. According to his calculation, the time taken by the Earth to orbit the Sun was 365.258756484 days.
  • The value of “pi” was first calculated by the Indian Mathematician Budhayana, and he explained the concept of what is known as the Pythagorean Theorem. He discovered this in the 6th century, long before the European mathematicians.
  • Algebra, Trigonometry and Calculus also originated in India.Quadratic Equations were used by Sridharacharya in the 11th century. The largest numbers the Greeks and the Romans used were 106 whereas Hindus used numbers as big as 10*53 (i.e. 10 to the power of 53) with specific names as early as 5000 B.C.during the Vedic period.Even today, the largest used number is Terra: 10*12(10 to the power of 12).
  • Until 1896, India was the only source of diamonds in the world
    (Source: Gemological Institute of America).
  • The Baily Bridge is the highest bridge in the world. It is located in the Ladakh valley between the Dras and Suru rivers in the Himalayan mountains. It was built by the Indian Army in August 1982.
  • Sushruta is regarded as the Father of Surgery. Over2600 years ago Sushrata & his team conducted complicated surgeries like cataract, artificial limbs, cesareans, fractures, urinary stones, plastic surgery and brain surgeries.
  • Usage of anaesthesia was well known in ancient Indian medicine. Detailed knowledge of anatomy, embryology, digestion, metabolism,physiology, etiology, genetics and immunity is also found in many ancient Indian texts.
  • India exports software to 90 countries.
  • The four religions born in India – Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism, are followed by 25% of the world’s population.
  • Jainism and Buddhism were founded in India in 600 B.C. and 500 B.C. respectively.
  • Islam is India’s and the world’s second largest religion.
  • There are 300,000 active mosques in India, more than in any other country, including the Muslim world.
  • The oldest European church and synagogue in India are in the city of Cochin. They were built in 1503 and 1568 respectively.
  • Jews and Christians have lived continuously in India since 200 B.C. and 52 A.D. respectively
  • The largest religious building in the world is Angkor Wat, a Hindu Temple in Cambodia built at the end of the 11th century.
  • The Vishnu Temple in the city of Tirupathi built in the 10th century, is the world’s largest religious pilgrimage destination. Larger than either Rome or Mecca, an average of 30,000 visitors donate $6 million (US) to the temple everyday.
  • Sikhism originated in the Holy city of Amritsar in Punjab. Famous for housing the Golden Temple, the city was founded in 1577.
  • Varanasi, also known as Benaras, was called “the Ancient City” when Lord Buddha visited it in 500 B.C., and is the oldest, continuously inhabited city in the world today.
  • India provides safety for more than 300,000 refugees originally from Sri Lanka, Tibet, Bhutan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who escaped to flee religious and political persecution.
  • His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, runs his government in exile from Dharmashala in northern India.
  • Martial Arts were first created in India, and later spread to Asia by Buddhist missionaries.
  • Yoga has its origins in India and has existed for over 5,000 years.

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Indian Independence Day – 15th August

Posted by Admin on August 15, 2010

India’s Independence Day is celebrated on 15 August 1947, India attained freedom from the British Rule. So every year, August 15 is celebrated as the Independence Day in India. Independence Day is a celebration of our culmination of long struggle for freedom. It is celebrated all over the country through flag-hoisting ceremony. The day is a national holiday in India. This national festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm all over the country. It was this day when India’s tricolor flag was unfolded by Pandit Nehru on the barricades of the Red Fort at Delhi. Each and every patriotic soul watched with excitement and paid tribute to thousands of martyrs who sacrificed their lives for India’s freedom.

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Israeli Attack on Flotilla Sparks Wave of International Protests

Posted by Admin on June 2, 2010

by: Nora Barrows-Friedman, t r u t h o u t | Report

photo
This protest in Madrid, Spain, is one of many worldwide that are expressing outrage against Israel’s raid on humanitarian flotillas headed for Gaza. (Photo: Carlos Barbudo)

Rami al-Meghari watched the news unfold from live video feeds monitoring international waters 65km off the coast of the Gaza Strip Monday morning, one of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents anticipating a shipment of wheelchairs, prefabricated homes, crayons, raw construction supplies, dental surgery equipment and reams of paper brought by international humanitarian activists on board a flotilla of boats.

However, the flotilla was intercepted and attacked by Israeli naval commando units, flanked by armed speedboats and helicopters. Soldiers climbed on board the Turkish-owned Mavi Marmara ship and opened fire with live ammunition, killing at least 19 people and wounding 60, according to the latest reports.

A journalist living in Gaza’s Meghazi refugee camp, al-Meghari tells Truthout that the attack was a devastating blow to the Palestinian people in Gaza – who have suffered through a three-year-long blockade as Israel forbids the entry of essential goods and humanitarian supplies, including medicines. He says he was horrified at what took place on the ship. “I am in absolute sorrow for the human loss,” he said.

From the occupied Gaza Strip to the San Francisco Bay Area, global reaction in protest of the Israeli military’s attack on the flotilla has been swift. Outraged by Israel’s attack on the flotilla, and fueled by international news headlines and internet-based information swapping through sites such as Twitter and Facebook, tens of thousands of people across the world have taken to the streets in sustained anger against Israeli policies and the actions of its military toward the humanitarian aid flotilla, while the United Nations and the Turkish government work to impose diplomatic pressure.

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank launched demonstrations against the Israeli military immediately following the attack, but the protests were quickly dispersed and banned by the Palestinian Authority’s security forces. Earlier in the day, Israeli forces shot a young American journalist in the face with a tear gas grenade during a women-led demonstration at the Qalandiya checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem. There were also protests inside the old city in occupied East Jerusalem, while others demonstrated outside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s house in the Western side of the city.

In the Palestinian city of Umm al-Fahem in northern Israel, Palestinian youth burned tires as Israeli forces attempted to lock down areas of the city. Elsewhere, Israeli and Palestinian protesters descended on the city of Ashdod, where detention camps had been set up by the military to hold those arrested from the flotilla and to where some of the ships on the flotilla were being towed. Protesters in Haifa and other northern Israeli cities also joined the day of action.

People in Egypt and Jordan took part in similar protests as thousands across the region demanded that their governments sever diplomatic and political ties with Israel. Lebanese demonstrators surrounded the UN headquarters in Beirut to condemn Israel’s policies and the violent attack against the flotilla.

In Turkey, thousands of protesters attempted to storm the Israeli embassy in Istanbul right after the killings. Later in the day, Turkish government officials categorized Israel’s attack as “state terrorism” and withdrew its ambassador to Israel as thousands of protesters hit the streets in spontaneous demonstrations demanding justice for those killed in the attack and for Palestinians in Gaza.

In Canada, protests were planned at Israeli embassies and Federal buildings in an “emergency response” to Israel’s aggressions. Seven thousand Swedish demonstrators hit the streets of Stockholm as the Swedish government summoned its Israeli ambassador, condemning the attack as “completely unacceptable” and demanding clarification by the Israeli government. Sweden had several of its citizens on board the ships.

Meanwhile, across the US, pro-justice activists took to the streets in anger and anguish over the killings. Protesters organized in New York City’s Times Square, and in Houston, Cleveland and Seattle, among other cities. University of Chicago freshman Sami Kishawi tells Truthout he joined a massive demonstration in downtown Chicago on Monday afternoon. “I will remain open and willing to participate in dialogue that will reveal to the public the grim reality of the oppression of the Palestinian people,” he said.

In the Bay Area, activists protested outside Israeli embassy in downtown San Francisco. Oakland resident Amir Qureshi told Truthout that he joined the protests in solidarity with the more than 600 activists on the flotilla, and is taking part in other actions as well, including countering some of the Israeli propaganda that’s filtered down inside the US corporate media and calling US representatives in Congress. “Ordinary unarmed global civilians from more than a dozen countries have the courage to take on Israel’s navy in support of the besieged population of Gaza and even give our lives in doing so,” Qureshi said. “Such global solidarity shows the power of people and how it can affect global causes.”

At the same time, condemnation of Israel’s attacks have come from global leaders and icons of civil rights and justice. The Elders – a contingent of past and present world leaders and Nobel laureates, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela and Jimmy Carter – released a press statement on Monday declaring Israel’s attack as “completely inexcusable.”

“This tragic incident should draw the world’s attention to the terrible suffering of Gaza’s 1.5 million people, half of whom are children under the age of 18,” The Elders’ statement said.

Back in Gaza, locally-based civil society groups sent out a press statement urging the international community to take direct action against Israeli policies. They wrote:

<blockquote>”We Gaza based Palestinian Civil Society Organizations and International activists call on the international community and civil society to pressure their governments and Israel to cease the abductions and killings in Israel’s attacks against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla sailing for Gaza, and begin a global response to hold Israel accountable for the murder of foreign civilians at sea and illegal piracy of civilian vessels carrying humanitarian aid for Gaza.

“We salute the courage of all those who have organized this aid intervention and demand a safe passage through to Gaza for the 750 people of conscience from 40 different countries including 35 international politicians intent on breaking the Israeli-Egyptian blockade. We offer our sincerest condolences to family and friends who have lost loved ones in the attack.

“… The people of Gaza are not dependent people, but self sufficient people doing what they can to retain some dignity in life in the wake of this colossal man-made devastation that deprives so many of a basic start in life or minimal aspirations for the future.

“We, from Gaza, call on you to demonstrate and support the courageous men and women who went on the Flotilla, many now murdered on a humanitarian aid mission. We insist on severance of diplomatic ties with Israel, trials for war crimes and the International protection of the civilians of Gaza. We call on you to join the growing international boycott, divestment and sanction campaign of a country proving again to be so violent and yet so unchallenged. Join the growing critical mass around the world with a commitment to the day when Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as any other people, when the siege is lifted, the occupation is over and the 6 million Palestinian refugees are finally granted justice.”</blockquote>

From Gaza’s Meghazi refugee camp, al-Meghari said of Israel’s actions Monday morning, “violence only breeds violence. And as long as Israeli repression remains in place, Palestinian and pro-justice people around the world will keep up their resistance to that repression.”

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Obama Must Ask Netanyahu the Right Questions

Posted by Admin on June 2, 2010

by: Ira Chernus, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

photo
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo: Moshe Milner GPO / IsraelMFA)

Debate rages around the world about the Israeli attack on the humanitarian flotilla headed to Gaza. And it should rage. As Martin Luther King Jr., said, an injustice to one is an injustice to all.

But the debate that matters most – the one that will decide the fate of Palestinians and Israelis alike – is going on inside the Oval Office. If Barack Obama ever decides that the Israelis absolutely must end the occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza, he’ll demand and get a settlement. Then, both peoples can start living in peace, sooner than most Americans think.

If Obama continues waffling and lets the Israelis maintain the status quo, the conflict will continue, and so will the insecurity it inflicts on both sides.

Obama must understand that perfectly well as he prepares for the delayed visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He must know that he could make the conversation a genuine turning point in US policy, if he wants to. The agenda he sets for that conversation is crucial.

So far, the indications are not promising. In a brief phone talk with Netanyahu just hours after the brutal attack at sea, Obama merely “expressed the importance of learning all the facts and circumstances around this morning’s tragic events as soon as possible,” the White Housesaid.

No, Mr. President, that’s the wrong way to begin. It avoids the real issue – which is just what the Israeli leader wants. He’d love to see the world debating about “all the facts and circumstances.” He’d love to treat the whole terrible disaster at sea as if it were a schoolyard scrap: He hit me first. No, he hit me first. Liar! No, you’re a liar!

Netanyahu and the Israeli government would be happy to drag that argument out because it gives them a double victory. They get to play their favorite role – the victim of threats to their very existence – while distracting the Obama administration from the issue that really matters: the Israeli domination of Gaza and the West Bank.

As long as that domination continues, whether in the form of occupation or blockade, it makes a peace settlement impossible. And that seems to be precisely what the Israeli government aims for – or certainly at least itspowerful right wing, which has Netanyahu in its power. Instead of pursuing peace, Israeli leaders want to pursue a public relations effort at damage control, which comes down to image control.

So, they’re happy to have everyone – especially in the Oval Office – scrutinizing all the video footage and eyewitness accounts to figure out exactly what happened on the Mavi Marmara, minute by minute. The battle of competing images and interpretations could go on for months, even years. As long as the world is distracted by that battle, it will bring any chance of a meaningful peace process to a grinding halt.

The Israelis seem to have had something like that in mind when they set out to stop the Gaza flotilla. Their PR machine was in high gear before the flotilla even set sail. A sympathetic analyst in the conservative Jerusalem Post lamented the failure of the Israeli “diplomatic [read: PR] initiative aimed at explaining to the world why it planned to stop the ships.” As he noted, “stories were leaked by the government to the press about the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), the Turkish organization that is behind the flotilla, described as a ‘radical Islamic organization.'”

Within hours of the attack at sea, top Israeli leaders were holding press conferences touting the same unsubstantiated claims that the flotilla was led by violent supporters of international terrorist groups. “Gaza has become a base for terrorists backed by Iran,” said Netanyahu,  suggesting that this unsubstantiated claim somehow justified all that killing; it was simply “self-defense.”

Could it be just coincidence that so many Israeli military personnel, politicians and journalists all repeated the same strange charge that IDF soldiers were victims of “attempted lynching”? (Find it hereherehere,here and here, for example.) It’s more likely that the word “lynch” was cooked up in a PR office, well before the disaster at sea took place (probably by some flake who doesn’t know English well enough to know what the word really means).

The Israelis went to sea not only with 50 Border Guards as well as sailors, but also with embedded Israeli reporters. Prominent journalist Ron Ben-Yishai was apparently given permission for a scoop, the first direct report from scene, predictably sympathetic to the Israelis. (The other reporters’ dispatches were embargoed until they could be vetted by censors.) Back on land in Israel, one blogger reported hours after the event, the talking heads were already focusing only on “the threat to the soldiers lives and the insufficient force that was sent to take control over the Mavi Marmara.” The Israeli media allowed little doubt that their military personnel were the victims, not the perpetrators, of the attack.

Some skilled video producers went along on the mission, too. Shortly after the confrontation, they released slick footage, which does indeed seem to show Israeli troops descending onto the Mavi Marmara and immediately being brutally attacked. No doubt, Netanyahu will bring that film with him to the Oval Office and hope Obama watches every second of it. After all, the president says he wants to know “all the facts and circumstances.”

In the end, though, Netanyahu will tell him that only one fact really matters: Israel was justified because it was acting in self-defense. And, surely, he’ll remind Obama of Israel’s ultimate goal, the one he repeats at every opportunity: preventing another Holocaust. He’ll link the killing on the Mavi Marmara with the specter of the Holocaust, using the whole arsenal of weapons that his skilled PR experts have invented in their fertile imaginations.

He’ll try to keep the conversation focused on the one question that dominates Israeli political life: Weren’t the Israelis merely doing what they had to do to stop the next Holocaust? And, perhaps, even to save Western civilization against “radical Islamic forces,” according to ananalysis published hours after the attack by a prominent Israeli academic in one of his nation’s most popular newspapers. That will be a common response among many Jews, especially in Israel, but some here in the US, too.

Uri Avnery, the grand old man of the Israeli peace movement, summed it up most incisively, as usual, in a recent column titled “Hallelujah, the World is Against Us!” In recent years, he wrote, as Jews have escaped persecution and gained power, “a sense of unease, of disorientation, set in.” Many Jews “felt that something was out of order, that the well-known road signs were not working anymore…. That’s frightening,” and it makes many Jews suspicious. So, “without being conscious of it,” many Jews “do what we can to be hated again, to feel at home, on familiar ground…. We shall not rest until the world is anti-Semitic again, and we know how to behave. As the jolly song goes: ‘The entire world is against us, but what the hell.'”

If Obama, and the world, focus only on “all the facts and circumstances” about who did what during that tragic dawn at sea, it will give Israeli leaders another excuse to lead their people in singing their jolly song, perpetuating their cherished images of victimization. The more criticism they receive, the more most Israelis will be convinced that the worlds really is against them. And the more excuse that will give them to resist serious negotiations for peace.

This is not to deny the need for a full investigation. But it’s vital to put even the worst events in broader perspective. The US government has supported so many evils of the Israeli occupation and blockade because the Israeli PR machine has been so successful. It has managed to get the US mass media, most of the US public and, very possibly, their president to believe that the whole world just might be against Israel, that any Israeli violence might very well be justified self-defense against another Holocaust.

If Obama really wants to be the president who brings peace to the Middle East, he has to take a much broader view. When he asks Netanyahu for “all the facts and circumstances,” he must ask the big, crucial questions: By what right does Israel maintain its blockade of Gaza at all costs, despite all the human suffering it brings? By what right does Israel maintain its occupation of and settlements on the West Bank at all costs? Why does Israel resist the peace settlement that the rest of the world sees as fair and just? Why does Israel persist in such self-defeating policies, keeping its own people as well as its Palestinian neighbors locked in a vicious cycle of insecurity?

Even those who want to focus on the one terrible incident of violence at sea should be asking not who started the fighting, but by what right did the Israeli Navy steam into international waters and unilaterally declare a “naval blockade”? (Strangely, the Israeli PR machine put out video of that declaration, as if it somehow justified all the killing to come.) It’s all part of the same pattern: Israel making unilateral decisions that put intolerable restrictions on Palestinians’ lives.

That’s what the flotilla to Gaza was trying to shine a light on. Now, the light has grown much brighter, though it is encased in the dark shadow of mourning. But if we let it become a narrow pencil light, illuminating only the events of a few tragic hours, we will miss the larger picture at which the Obama administration should be looking: the injustices perpetuated by Israel over many tragic decades.

Those of us who want to see a just peace and a truly independent viable Palestinian state should do whatever we can to break through the fallacious stereotype of Israel as the eternal victim. If that image is discredited – if it no longer frames discussion of the Middle East conflict here in the US – the Obama administration can begin to explore new options for US policy.

Every time we persuade a friend, a neighbor, a relative, a co-worker to see Israel as a dominating power, not an endangered victim, we take a step closer to a just peace in the Middle East. That can be the most fitting memorial for the victims of Israeli bullets, who wanted only to bring humanitarian relief to Gaza.

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What does Israel fear from media coverage?

Posted by Admin on June 1, 2010

This video image released by the Turkish Aid group IHH Monday May 31, 2010 purports to show Israeli soldiers aiming a gun on the deck of a Turkish ship, part of an aid convoy heading to the Gaza Strip, after Israeli soldiers boarded the vessel in international waters off the Gaza coast.

The New York Times, today:

A day after Israeli commandoes raided an aid flotilla seeking to breach the blockade of Gaza, Israel held hundreds of activists seized aboard the convoy on Tuesday . . . .Reuters reported thatIsrael was holding hundreds of activists incommunicado in and around the port city of Ashdod, refusing to permit journalists access to witnesses who might contradict Israel’s version of events.

Physically blocking journalists from reporting on their conduct is what Israel does (as well as others); recall this from The New York Times on January 6, 2009, regarding Israel’s war in Gaza:

Israel Puts Media Clamp on Gaza

Three times in recent days, a small group of foreign correspondents was told to appear at the border crossing to Gaza. The reporters were to be permitted in to cover firsthand the Israeli war on Hamas in keeping with a Supreme Court ruling against the two-month-old Israeli ban on foreign journalists entering Gaza.

Each time, they were turned back on security grounds, even as relief workers and other foreign citizens were permitted to cross the border. On Tuesday the reporters were told to not even bother going to the border.

And so for an 11th day of Israel’s war in Gaza, the several hundred journalists here to cover it waited in clusters away from direct contact with any fighting or Palestinian suffering, but with full access to Israeli political and military commentators eager to show them around southern Israel, where Hamas rockets have been terrorizing civilians. A slew of private groups financed mostly by Americans are helping guide the press around Israel.

Like all wars, this one is partly about public relations. But unlike any war in Israel’s history, in this one the government is seeking to entirely control the message and narrative for reasons both of politics and military strategy.

Isn’t it strange how Plucky, Democratic Israel goes to such extreme lengths to prevent any media coverage of what they do, any journalistic interference with their propaganda machine, in light of the fact that — as always — They Did Absolutely Nothing Wrong?  Is physically blocking the media from covering what happens the act of a government that is in the right?  Thomas Jefferson answered that question quite some time ago:

Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues of truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is freedom of the press. It is therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.

Israel is now not only detaining the victims of its aggression, but also threatening to prosecute and imprison them.  Israeli Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said yesterday:  “All those who lifted a hand against a soldier will be punished to the full extent of the law.”  So when Israel seizes ships in international waters and kills anyone who resists (and others standing near them), that is an act of noble, plucky self-defense.  But those who fail to submit completely to this lawless and barbarous act of aggression are the Real Criminals who will be prosecuted and imprisoned “to the fullest extent of the law.”  In other words, not only is Israel — which seized ships in international waters and killed civilians — the Real Victim, but the Real Criminals are those on the ship.  But doesn’t the victim of a crime usually want media coverage of what the criminal did?  How odd for the victim in this case to take such extreme steps to ensure that the world cannot hear from the witnesses.

* * * * *

Two other related points:  (1) as I noted yesterday, the real question for Americans is our own country’s responsibility for what Israel does; asvirtually the entire world vehemently condemns Israel’s conduct, the U.S. — as usual — acts to protect the Israelis at the U.N. and joins it in heaping blame on its victims; and (2) Robert Farley highlights a small though typical piece of false Israeli propaganda, this one from supreme propagandist Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, which pervades our discourse in unchallenged form.

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Indian Rebellion of 1857

Posted by Admin on February 16, 2010

Indian Rebellion of 1857

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Indian Rebellion of 1857/8
1857 rebellion map.jpg
A 1912 map of ‘Northern India The Mutiny 1857-9’ showing the centres of rebellion including the principal ones: Meerut, Delhi, Cawnpore (Kanpur), Lucknow, Jhansi, and Gwalior.
Date 10 May 1857
Location India (cf. 1857)[1]
Result Rebellion Suppressed,
End of Company rule in India
Control taken by the British Crown
Territorial
changes
Indian Empire created out of former-East India Company territory, some land returned to native rulers, other land confiscated by the Crown.
Belligerents
Mughal Empire
Flag of the British East India Company (1801).svg East India Company Sepoys
7 Indian princely states

Oudh-flag.gif Deposed King of Oudh
Deposed ruler of the independent state of Jhansi
Some Indian civilians and converts to Islam.

United Kingdom British Army
Flag of the British East India Company (1801).svg East India Company‘s Sepoys
Native Irregulars
and EIC British regulars United Kingdom British civilian volunteers raised in Bengal presidency
21 Princely states

Pre 1962 Flag of Nepal.png Kingdom of Nepal
Other smaller states in region

Commanders
Mughal Empire Bahadur Shah II
Nana Sahib
Mughal Empire Mirza Mughal
Flag of the British East India Company (1801).svg Bakht Khan
Rani Lakshmi Bai
Flag of the British East India Company (1801).svg Tantya Tope
Oudh-flag.gif Begum Hazrat Mahal
Commander-in-Chief, India:
United Kingdom George Anson (to May 1857)
United Kingdom Sir Patrick Grant
United Kingdom Sir Colin Campbell (from August 1857)
Pre 1962 Flag of Nepal.png Jang Bahadur[2]

The Indian Rebellion of 1857 began as a mutiny of sepoys of the British East India Company‘s army on 10 May 1857, in the town of Meerut, and soon erupted into other mutinies and civilian rebellions largely in the upper Gangetic plain and central India, with the major hostilities confined to present-day Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, northern Madhya Pradesh, and the Delhi region.[3] The rebellion posed a considerable threat to Company power in that region,[4] and it was contained only with the fall of Gwalior on 20 June 1858.[3] The rebellion is also known as India’s First War of Independence, the Great Rebellion, the Indian Mutiny, the Revolt of 1857, the Uprising of 1857 and the Sepoy Mutiny.

Other regions of Company controlled India—Bengal province, the Bombay Presidency, and the Madras Presidency—remained largely calm.[3] In Punjab, the Sikh princes backed the Company by providing both soldiers and support.[3] The large princely states, Hyderabad, Mysore, Travancore, and Kashmir, as well as the states of Rajputana did not join the rebellion.[5] In some regions, such as Oudh, the rebellion took on the attributes of a patriotic revolt against European presence.[6] Rebel leaders, such as the Rani of Jhansi, became folk heroes in the nationalist movement in India half a century later,[3] however, they themselves “generated no coherent ideology” for a new order.[7] The rebellion led to the dissolution of the East India Company in 1858, and forced the British to reorganize the army, the financial system, and the administration in India.[8] India was thereafter directly governed by the Crown in the new British Raj.[5]

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[edit] East India Company expansion in India

India in 1765 and 1805 showing East India Company Territories

India in 1837 and 1857 showing East India Company and other territories

Although the British East India Company had earlier administered the factory areas established for trading purposes, its victory in the Battle of Plassey in 1757 marked the beginning of its rule in India. The victory was consolidated in 1764 at the Battle of Buxar (in Bihar), when the defeated Mughal emperor, Shah Alam II, granted control of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa to the Company. The Company soon expanded its territories around its bases in Bombay and Madras: the Anglo-Mysore Wars (1766–1799) and the Anglo-Maratha Wars (1772–1818) led to control of most of India south of the Narmada River.

After the turn of the 19th century, Governor-General Wellesley began what became two decades of accelerated expansion of Company territories.[9] This was achieved either by subsidiary alliances between the Company and local rulers or by direct military annexation. The subsidiary alliances created the Princely States (or Native States) of the Hindu maharajas and the Muslim nawabs. Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, and Kashmir were annexed after the Anglo-Sikh Wars in 1849; however, Kashmir was immediately sold under the Treaty of Amritsar (1850) to the Dogra Dynasty of Jammu and thereby became a princely state. In 1854, Berar was annexed, and the state of Oudh was added two years later.

[edit] Causes of the rebellion

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