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Archive for October 2010

US to review info on Headley shared with India

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Washington/ New Delhi: US intelligence officials will review the information that they shared on terror group Lashker-e-Taiba operative David Coleman Headley with India. The US move comes just a day after Union Home Secretary GK Pillai told CNN-IBN that the American authorities could have shared more information on Headley ahead of the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai.

At a special White House briefing on Thursday, Washington-based Indian reporters were told that a top intelligence official would conduct the review of everything that was known related to the Headley case.

The statement comes a day after Home Secretary GK Pillai caused a storm ahead of US President Barack Obama’s maiden visit to India by claiming that the US did not share enough information on Headley with India.

“We could say that we were disappointed that the name of David Headley was not provided, if not pre-26/11 at least post 26/11. So that when he came subsequently in March 2009 to India at least at that time we could have nabbed him here,” Pillai had told CNN-IBN.

However, a few hours later US Ambassador to India Timothy Roemer denied Pillai’s charge on information related to Headley but refused to get into a war of words.

“When India asked for access to Headley we gave it, because India is our partner, our friend and someone with whom we share intelligence on a daily basis. So India could sit down with Headley and ask him what happened prior to Mumbai. We weren’t afraid of what he would say. In fact, we provided that opportunity to India with unprecedented access,” claimed Roemer.

What is your caste?

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Anwer Mooraj

Just as this writer has never met anybody who is looking forward to his next appointment with the dentist, he has also not met anybody who doesn’t go a little pale when an envelope arrives from the income tax department. So when this ominous looking sachet turned up a couple of days ago from the Darakshan police station at this writer’s residence, he was greatly relieved to discover that all that the envelope contained was a printed data collection form which asked a resident to provide basic information about a householder and his family which would help the law enforcement agency to act expeditiously in the event of an emergency.

The police didn’t specify just how details on the form would help the flatfoots nab an intruder. However, though one greatly appreciated the gesture, one couldn’t help being a little irked by the inclusion of a word which had been scribbled in, as if as an afterthought. The word not only stuck out like a sore thumb, but also conveyed the impression that the answer to the query might determine the degree of promptness and alacrity with which the police would tackle a problem should it arise. The word, in case the reader hasn’t guessed it after reading this far, was …caste.

What is quite inexplicable is that the word which ought to have been thrown out in 1947 still appears in government forms and applications. One remembers an incident in a sessions court in the late 1990s, when it made an ignominious verbal appearance, and this writer who had kissed the Blarney Stone in Ireland to acquire the gift of eloquence, was, for the first time in his life, at a loss for words.

He was appearing as a witness in a case where a student, in a fit of unrequited passion, had emptied the chamber of his pistol on the premises of the cultural centre of which the writer was executive director. The day had apparently started rather badly for the lady judge who had a powerful voice which could be heard in the parking lot. She had a cold and her stenographer had not turned up. This meant she had to record details in long hand. This posed something of a problem as the pen, after recording the witness’ name and family details, refused to cooperate. Suddenly, the judge looked up from her desk and fixing this writer with a cold stare said, “caste?”

This was the moment of truth. There was pin drop silence in the hall and one got the impression that all eyes were turned on the witness who felt that if he gave a derisory answer, he might be banished to the salt mines. For a brief second, he contemplated telling the judge that he believed there were no castes in Islam and if she wanted to find out if somebody was a Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya or Shudra, she should cross the eastern border. But as he had only three seconds to come up with an answer, before he was suspected of being an immigrant from the Transvaal, he took a deep breath and said, “Rajput.”

This seemed to satisfy the judge and everybody else in the courtroom who nodded sagely, and it must have satisfied the police. Regrettably, the caste system is alive and kicking in Pakistan.

Author Arundhati Roy defends Kashmir statements

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NEW DELHI – Indian author Arundhati Roy, facing possible sedition charges over remarks she made about disputed Indian Kashmir, said on Tuesday she had only been calling for “justice” for the region.


The Booker prize winning Indian author, Arundhathi Roy

Roy’s statement came after police in New Delhi said they were weighing whether to bring sedition charges against the Booker prize-winning author over comments she made about Kashmir in recent days.

The author of the novel “The God of Small Things” issued a statement Tuesday saying her remarks urging “azadi” or freedom for Kashmir were “fundamentally a call for justice.”

The region has been beset by anti-India violence, curfews and strikes since early June, when a 17-year-old student was killed by a police teargas shell. Since then, a total of 111 protesters and bystanders have died.

“What I say comes from love and pride. It comes from not wanting people to be killed, raped, imprisoned or have their fingernails pulled out in order to force them to say they are Indians,” she said in an emailed statement.

Arundhati, who has emerged in recent years as a prominent social activist, has spoken out on two occasions in recent days on Kashmir, in one instance sharing a stage with hardline separatist Kashmiri leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has objected strongly to Roy’s remarks, calling them “seditious” and accusing the Congress-led government of “looking the other way” by not taking any legal action against Roy.

Law Minister Veerappa Moily said the comments were “most unfortunate”. While there is freedom of speech, “it can’t violate the patriotic sentiments of the people,” Moily said, according to the Press Trust of India.

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan each hold part of Kashmir but claim it in full. India insists that Kashmir is an “integral part” of the country.

The Himalayan region, which has triggered two wars between the nuclear-armed neighbours, has been wracked by a militant insurgency against Indian rule since 1989.

Rebel violence has declined sharply since the start of a peace process between India and Pakistan.

Roy said in her statement that she had read in Indian newspapers that she might be arrested on charges of sedition for her remarks supporting freedom for Kashmir.

“I said what millions of people here (in Kashmir) say every day. I said what I as well as other commentators have written and said for years,” she said.

“Anybody who cares to read the transcripts of my speeches will see that they were fundamentally a call for justice,” she said.

Geelani also faces the threat of sedition charges for comments he made while sharing the podium with Roy, according to the Indian media.

When told of the possible charges, the elderly separatist leader said 90 such cases had already been filed against him.

“Let this be the 91st,” he declared.

Five hurt as security forces fire on Indian Kashmir protest

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SRINAGAR, India – Five people were wounded Tuesday when Indian security forces opened fire on protesters who attacked their vehicles with stones during a demonstration against Indian rule, police said.


An Indian Central Reserve Police Force serviceman stops a motercyclist during a curfew in Srinagar

“Security forces had to open fire to ward off violent protesters who attacked security force vehicles with stones and bricks,” a police officer said, asking not to be named.

The incident took place in southern Pulwama district.

Four more people, including two policemen, were injured in two separate clashes between police and stone-throwing protesters elsewhere in Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, the officer said.

Since a wave of violent anti-India protests began in June, 111 people have been killed by security forces, mostly when they have opened fire on stone-throwing protesters during some of the biggest pro-freedom demonstrations in two decades.

Indian Kashmir has been under rolling curfews and strikes since the protests began on June 11, when a 17-year old student was killed by a police teargas shell in Srinagar.

On Tuesday, a curfew was imposed in parts of Indian Kashmir summer capital Srinagar to pre-empt a separatist march, police said.

In other parts of Srinagar, where a curfew was not in force, a separatist strike closed down shops and businesses.

The fresh violence came as Indian experts trying to defuse tensions in Kashmir have been holding a series of talks, despite opposition by separatists who have been spearheading the recent protests.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram said last week that the government had selected senior journalist Dilip Padgaonkar and professors M.M. Ansari and Radha Kumar to hold talks with separatists and other people in the troubled state.

The team arrived in Indian Kashmir summer capital Srinagar on Saturday.

They have held talks with jailed militants, university students, pro-India politicians, ordinary citizens and the region’s chief minister, Omar Abdullah.

Conflating Hinduism and Hindutva

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By Subhash Gatade

I.

Mr Mohan Bhagwat, the ‘young’ Supremo of an eighty plus year old exclusively male cultural organisation called Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is in high spirits these days.

It is not very difficult to understand the glee on his face which has to do with the latest developments in the cause celibre of Sangh Parivar . One can even notice that every member of this different kind of ‘family’ also seem to be upbeat , whose representatives can be traced on neighbourhood playground in the morning doing drills, playing games or listening to ‘sermons’ of their seniors which they call Baudhik .

The Ayodhya verdict which deliberated on the sixty plus year old legal dispute over the title of a piece of land where a mosque stood for the last five hundred years and which was demolished by hordes of gangs inspired by the ideas which the Sangh Parivar still espouses has in fact come as a blessing in disguise for Mr Bhagwat. While every peace and justice loving person felt betrayed with the judgement which neither mentioned the criminal act of demolition of the Mosque, or the blows it gave to the Indian Constitution and the crude manner in which it rediscoverd virtues of faith, it has emboldened the Parivar which had never felt comfortable with the rule of law enshrined in the constitution. Any cursory glance at the making of the constitution provides details of the manner in which the then leaders of Project Hindutva opposed the whole process and wanted that newly independent nation adopt Manusmriti – the code of conduct of the Hindus scripted by Manu -in its place. From time to time their fascination for Manu’s edicts , which supports hierarchial division of society based on caste and gender which denies basic human rights to wider populace, has been visible in very many ways. It was not for nothing that when BJP, one of the affiliated organisation of RSS came to power at the centre twelve years ago, it did not waste much time in appointing a commission to review the constitution. Although they could not tinker with it as they lacked necessary majority but still they made their intentions clear.

As any neutral observer would be able to tell that apart from the ‘vindication’ of their ideas the verdict has solved many of the immediate problems facing the Parivar. Gone is the talk of disarray in the fraternity with every other affiliated organisation trying to put blame on the other for the dip in their collective fortunes, gone also is the defensive posture which the RSS had to adopt when recently many of its ‘wholetimers’ (called Pracharaks in their lexicon) were found to be involved in terrorist acts, with sleuths of different investigating agencies raiding their houses and parading these Pracharak terrorists hooded like common criminals. In fact the situation seemed so serious that in June the top leadership of RSS assembled for a five day emergency meeting in Jodhpur to deliberate on the whole situation. Anyone can guess that the overall mood within the Parivar was quite gloomy. The verdict has altered the scene completely. Sensing this opportunity when secular-democratic camp has gone on defensive and is contemplating next line of action, like a true general Mr Bhagwat has decided to strike back. Basing himself on the ageold maxim ‘Offence is the Biggest Defence’ he seems to have decided to take the plunge to take the battle to the camp of ‘pseudoseculars’ themselves.

One is reminded of the manner in which Balasaheb Deoras, the third Supremo of RSS went round the country claiming victory ( Jitam Maya – We have won) after the emergency was over (1977) and Janata Party had come to power. The high moral posture adopted by the likes of Deoras about the ‘valiant struggle by the RSS against Emergency’ did not last long when it was disclosed that the same Deoras had written long letters to Indira Gandhi and tried to persuade Vinoba Bhave to mediate so that ban on Sangh is lifted. The Sangh leadership had even directed thousands of its volunteers/activists lodged in different jails to give an undertaking to the jail authorities assuring them ‘good behaviour’ if they are released from jail. ( For details of the correspondence readers may refer to ‘RSS by D.R. Goyal, Rajkamal, Delhi )

II.

Terrorism, Hindus are oxymoron: Mohan Bhagwat

17 October 2010 , press trust of india

Nagpur, 17 OCT: Taking strong exception to the use of the term ‘saffron or Hindu terror’, RSS chief Mr Mohan Bhagwat today said terrorism and Hindus are “oxymoron” and can never be linked to each other.

“There is only one country left in the world on which you can’t put the blame of terrorism and that country is India . Terrorism and Hindus, terrorism and saffron, and terrorism and the Sangh are oxymoron and can never be related to each other.

“This (effort to connect the two) was an attempt to weaken the strength of Hindus in India and, at the same time, to appease Muslims, he said ..addressing the annual Dussehra rally at Reshim Bagh ground here. …”These are sinister conspiracies to mislead the Hindus through a campaign of lies and defame Hindu saints and noble citizens,”

Close watchers of RSS know the long tradition within the organisation wherein the Supremo gives a speech on its foundation day (i.e. Dusshera) which is supposed to be a guideline to all the affiliated organisations – ranging from the parliamentary to the extraparliamentary ones . Newspapers tell us that during his speech on the Reshim bagh ground in Nagpur Mr Bhagwat basically raised three points in his speech: One, he welcomed the Ayodhya verdict and hoped that the day is not far off when they would build a ‘Grand Ram Temple’ at Ayodhya ; two, he talked of deteriorating situation in Kashmir and emphasised that coming months it would on the focus of the Parivar ; thirdly, he said that Hindus and terrorism are oxymorons and whosoever is calling Hindus terrorists is stigmatising the whole community.

Nobody can deny that Ayodhya and Kashmir are important issues and every social-political formation will have to devise its own strategy for intervention. And looking at the difference in world view, any truly democratic and secular intervention would be qualitatively different from what Mr Bhagwat’s boys intend to do as part of their ‘nationalist’ duties. Not some time ago RSS had devised a unique plan to tackle the Kashmir situation by suggesting to trifurcate it on religious lines – Leh for Buddhists, Jammu for Hindus and Kashmir for Muslims. It is a different matter that this divisive plan did not get any support from the rest of the polity despite the Saffron dispensation holding the reins of power at the centre.

It is not much difficult to see that the highlight of the speech is the new wisdom which has dawned on Mr Bhagwat. that Hindus and terrorism are oxymorons. Definitely it would soothe the egos of many among the community who have no qualms in rationalising incidents like Gujarat genocide or Kandhamal riots or attacks on Churches or forcible separation of two adults belonging to different religious communities supposedly to defend community honour.

Coming to this new found thesis which emphasises incompatibility of Hindus with terrorism one wishes to ask Mr Bhagwat whether he or his organisation has made any new discoveries as far as the religious affiliations of the first terrorist of independent India called Nathuram Godse is concerned, whose band of terrorists included Madanlal Pahwa, Karkare, Parchure and several others. The same Nathuram who cut his political teeth in the RSS shakhas only and later focussed on his work on the Hindu Mahasabha front. Interestingly during his trial Nathuram formally said that he had left RSS in 1933, but in an interview to the magazine ‘Frontline’ in late 90 s his younger brother Gopal Godse, who was also part of the conspiracy specifically said that none of the brothers ever left RSS. When the reporter asked him pointedly why Nathuram ‘lied’ about his dissociation, pat came the reply : To save the organisation from harassment.

It has been on record that there were five attempts on Mahatma Gandhi’s life during his life time and the last one proved fatal. It is revealing to know that Hindu fanatics were involved in all these attempts who were eager to eliminate the Mahatma – for many ‘the biggest Hindu of 20 th century’.

Of course, it is possible that for many among the Hindu right who yearn to build a Hindu Rashtra of their dreams the death of the Mahatma was not a terrorist act rather it was a ‘patriotic act’. It is an open secret that every year many from the hindu right do celebrate the day Nathuram was hanged as ‘Martyrs day’? And it is not a Pune specific phenomenon where Nathuram lived. A narco analysis of those involved in the Nanded bomb explosion (April 2006) which saw the deaths of Himanshu Panse and Rajeev Rajkondwar – both activists of RSS/Bajrang Dal – tells us how these ‘patriots of a different kind’ use to organise programmes on this day.

And what about Savarkar the pioneer of the idea of Hindutva who escaped conviction in the case of Mahatma’s assasination only on technical grounds. It is a different matter that the Kapoor commission which was formed in the sixties to look into the conspiracy angle of Mahatma Gandhi’s assasination – where many fresh witnesses to the case appeared – rightly concluded that Savarkar was very much a part of that conspiracy. And why did these fanatics killed him, only because Gandhi was trying to practice Hinduism in his own way. And so when independence came, this frail old man – who was called ‘One Man Boundary Force’ by the then Governor General for singlehandedly bringing peace to strifetorn Calcutta by resorting to fast unto death – did not join the celebrations but rather was touring Noakhali to console, help people affected by riots.

While the role played by Hindu fanatics in Mahatma’s assasination is widely known, not much has been written on the bomb blast in Shikarpur area of Karachi at the time of independence which witnessed deaths of two Sangh Pracharaks namely Vasudev and Prabhu Badlani. Their third accomplice was apprehended by the Pakistani police and had to languish in their jail for quite some time. And how come there was a bomb blast in the residential area in a house owned by one Raibahadur Tolaram which was rented by the RSS people supposedly to run tuitions for kids ? (RSS in Sindh, Economic and Political Weekly, 8 July 2006 ) The plan hatched by a 21 member team of RSS workers was to organise bomb blasts in different places in Karachi and kill as many people as possible. The house served the purpose of storing bombs. Police records reveal that the explosion was so severe that the whole house came literally crumbling down. Anderson and Damle who have penned down a monograph on the Sangh Journey ‘Brotherhood in Saffron’ also provide details of the incident. Perhaps Mr Bhagwat can get few more details of the case from Lal Krishna Advani, who was looking after the work of Sangh in the area. It need to be investigated further whether Mr Advani was in the know of things or not ?

To be very frank, one can quote n number of other examples which can help puncture Mr Bhagwat’s argument that ‘Hindus cannot be terrorists’. The exposure in the Malegaon bomb blast case (Sept 2008) which brought to the fore an elaborate national network of terrorists involving military officers like Lt Col Purohit, religious people like Swami Dayanand Pandey or for that matter Sadhvi Pragya or the likes of Dr R.P Singh, Himani Savarker or RSS activists like Ramji Kalasangra, Aseemanand or Sunil Joshi ( killed by his own people) or the actions by Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janjagruti Samity like putting explosives and bombs in crowded places just goes to show that contrary to popular perceptions Hindus can be found to be equally involved in such anti-human actions.

One need not go into details of every incident but the point worth underlining is that terrorism cannot be the sole preserve of a this or that community. One can find terrorists in every community and also sane elements in every community. Just as there are good people or bad people in every community, there are fanatics or sane elements in every community.

Singling out a particular community for the ills of society or for negative traits reflects what is popularly known as a communal understanding of society. Today’s multicultural, multiethnic, multilingual and multireligious world where the world seems to becoming a global village such an outlook definitely sound at variance with the growing intermingling of people, communities, cultures.

Nobody can deny that post 9/11 developments have contributed a lot to further strengthen a warped understanding of history. The manner in which US declared ‘War Against Terror’ as a new strategem to further its influence and gain legitimacy for its criminal actions, effectively got reduced to stigmatising and targetting people, formations or countries owning allegiance to Islam. It was a sheer coincidence that BJP an affiliated organisation of RSS was in power at the centre when US rulers unleashed the ‘war against terror’. Looking back one can say that there was deep resonance between what Bush regime wanted and what was on offer for them here.

III.

The ‘thesis of oxymoron’ has shades of the concept of Supreme Hindu Race emanating from it. In fact it can also be interpreted as an indirect admission that whereas Hindus and terrorism are incompatible with each other terrorism easily gels with all non-Hindu communities. Definitely it is a very dangerous statement not only because it tries to denigrate every other community, it tries to pass on blame to others. It can thus be seen as a poor attempt to deflect attention from the n number of crimes committed by Hindu fanatics.

To avoid confusion of any sort when we are discussing crimes of Hindu fanatics then it should in no way construed as one is soft towards the crimes of Islamic fanatics or Christian fanatics or similar faith based fanaticisms. Fanaticism of every kind needs to be condemned in every possible manner. In fact, history is witness to the fact that religion based fanaticism has killed more innocent people than any other social catastrophe.

Surprisingly Mr Bhagwat’s speech also conveys the deliberate conflation of two distinct terms : Hinduism and Hindutva. According to him all those people who talk of Hindu terrorism are trying to denigrate the whole community. It cannot be denied that few people did describe the role of Hindu fanatics in terrorist operation as ‘Hindu terrorism’. But a large majority of the critics avoided describing it in this fashion and instead talked of Hindutva terrorism.which seems to be a more accurate description of the phenomenon.

All those people who are not aware of the debates in the movement would feel that what is the big difference between Hindu terrorism and Hindutva terrorism. Perhaps it would be better to refer to a book by Savarkar, who is considered to be a pioneer of the Hindu Right or ‘Hindu nationalist movement’. This monograph which is named ‘Hindutva’ has reached classic status and lays down the guiding principles of the idea.

What does the monograph say ? Its key contribution is the way in which it differentiates between Hinduism and Hindutva :

Hinduism is only a derivative, a fraction, a part of Hindutva. Unless it is made clear what is meant by the latter, the first remains unintelligible and vague.Failure to distinguish between these two terms has given rise to much misunderstanding and mutual suspicion between some of those sister communities that have inherited this inestimable and common treasure of Hindu civilisation.[..] Here it is enough to point out that Hindutva is not identical with what is vaguely indicated by the term Hinduism. By an ‘ism’ it is generally meant a theory or a code more or less based on spiritual or religious dogma or system. But when we attempt to investigate into the essential significance of Hindutva, we do not primarily and certainly not mainly concern ourselves with any particular theocratic or religious dogma or creed. Had not linguistic usage stood in our way, then ‘Hinduness’ would have certainly been a better word than Hinduism as a near parallel to Hindutva. Hindutva embraces all the departments of thought and activity of the whole being our our Hindu race[..] It is imperative to point out that we are by no means attempting a definition or even a description of the more limited, less satisfactory and essentially sectarian term Hinduism.

(V. D. Savarkar, Hindutva ( Delhi : Bharti Sahitya Sadan, 1989 ; sixth edition}, 3-4)

It is imperative that before getting confused with what Mr Bhagwat wants to convey , it would be definitely helpful if one refers to this classic monograph and understand for herself / himself that when we say Hindutva terror then it is does not at all mean all those people who have deep faith in principles of Hinduism. Just as Islam and Political Islam cannot be considered equivalent, Hinduism and Hindutva cannot be measured on the same scale.

Looking at the emphasis on action as opposed to contemplation (which involves reading also) in the whole Hinduva movement, it can easily be presumed that a large majority of those people who today owe their allegiance to the ideas of Savarkar, Hedgewar and Golwalkar and who want India to usher into Hindu Rashtra must not have bothered to even read Savarkar’s monograph. And this cannot be said to be an exaggeration There have been instances when RSS-BJP people had to withdraw books which were published under their own aegis or withdraw articles from textbooks which they themselves had ratified.

A newsitem is worth taking note of :

Mystery surrounds the sudden withdrawal of one of the 16 volumes of an official account of the Jana Sangh-BJP history, four months after it was released as part of the silver jubilee celebrations in Mumbai. The series, written by historian Makhan Lal under the supervision of senior BJP leader J P Mathur, carry a foreword by Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha L K Advani. (Indian Express, 9 th May 2006)

But perhaps the Orissa experience truly shows the mental abilities of the plethora of activists of the Hindutva brigade who needed around five years to notice ‘discrepancy’ in a textbook when the person in charge of education department was a hardcore RSS pracharak called Samir Dey himself. It was the period when BJP was sharing power with Biju Janata Dal.

In its report on its front page captioned ‘In NDA Orissa, a textbook equates BJP with Lashkar’ (Indian Express, Delhi, 2 nd February 2007) the paper gave details about the manner in which a textbook on ‘Indian Polity’ for second-year degree students in Orissa clubbed Lashkar-e-Toiba with BJP. According to the report

The chapter on the ‘Existence of Terrorist Organisation’ says : “Terrorist organisations create tension in the country. Communal parties like the BJP, RSS, Bajrang Dal, Hurriyat Conference and Lashkar-e-Toiba are responsible for fomenting violence..leading to the killing of hundreds in the country and especially Kashmir .”

It is worth noting that the said textbook – which was written by one Amarendra Mohanty and Shyama Charan Mohanty, teachers of political science was taught since 2003. The matter could come to light only after a BJP worker in Salepur, about 60 KM from the state capital, noticed it and lodged a FIR. And as expected to remove the egg on its face members of the Hindutva brigade did lot of things which can be bracketed as ‘taking law into their hands.’

Mr Bhagwat who is in high spirits these days, would do his organisation a great favour if he could inculcate some reading habits in his people who believe more in action.

I pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice: Arundhati Roy

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Arundhati Roy

“I write this from Srinagar, Kashmir. This morning’s papers say that I may be arrested on charges of sedition for what I have said at recent public meetings on Kashmir. I said what millions of people here say every day. I said what I, as well as other commentators have written and said for years. Anybody who cares to read the transcripts of my speeches will see that they were fundamentally a call for justice. I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world; for Kashmiri Pandits who live out the tragedy of having been driven out of their homeland; for Dalit soldiers killed in Kashmir whose graves I visited on garbage heaps in their villages in Cuddalore; for the Indian poor who pay the price of this occupation in material ways and who are now learning to live in the terror of what is becoming a police state.

Justice.JPG
Writer-activist Arundhati Roy at Geelani’s convention in Delhi.

Yesterday I traveled to Shopian, the apple-town in South Kashmir which had remained closed for 47 days last year in protest against the brutal rape and murder of Asiya and Nilofer, the young women whose bodies were found in a shallow stream near their homes and whose murderers have still not been brought to justice. I met Shakeel, who is Nilofer’s husband and Asiya’s brother. We sat in a circle of people crazed with grief and anger who had lost hope that they would ever get ‘insaf’-justice-from India, and now believed that Azadi-freedom- was their only hope. I met young stone pelters who had been shot through their eyes. I traveled with a young man who told me how three of his friends, teenagers in Anantnag district, had been taken into custody and had their finger-nails pulled out as punishment for throwing stones.

In the papers some have accused me of giving ‘hate-speeches’, of wanting India to break up. On the contrary, what I say comes from love and pride. It comes from not wanting people to be killed, raped, imprisoned or have their finger-nails pulled out in order to force them to say they are Indians. It comes from wanting to live in a society that is striving to be a just one. Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds. Pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice, while communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters, looters, rapists, and those who prey on the poorest of the poor, roam free.”

India: 400 residents of booming knitwear capital commit suicide this year

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BY THUFAIL PT

THE KNITWEAR capital of India is getting suicidal by the day. More than 400 people in the booming town of Tirupur and other parts of the district in Tamil Nadu have taken their lives in the first eight months of 2010. Around 215 suicides were reported between June and August.


Life on the edge Maratakavalli, who consumed poison after a family spat, lies in a Tirupur hospital

Located on the banks of the Noyyal river, Tirupur is one of the fastest growing industrial centres in the state. Most of the town’s population consists of uneducated migrant labourers who work in 6,000 garment units scattered all over the district. Girls and boys from impoverished families of southern districts and other states come here in search of jobs.

At a time when the textile export industry in Tirupur is growing phenomenally with an annual turnover of Rs. 12,000 crore, why aren’t the workers enjoying the fruits of the industrial revolution, and instead wallowing in despair?

In search of answers, TEHELKA visited the Tirupur Government Hospital, where most of the people, whose suicide attempts fail, end up. On 2 October, there were three such cases registered on the same day in the women’s ward alone.

“Anything between 5-10 cases of suicide attempts are registered every day in this hospital,” says Dr ASM Samy, who was on duty in the casualty ward. “The victims, both men and women, usually consume rat poison, bleaching powder or a chemical commonly known as cowdung powder, which are cheap and easily available.”

Maratakavalli, 26, is perched on one of the beds. “Why should I stay alive?” asks the textile worker, who was admitted just hours earlier after consuming cowdung powder. “My husband doesn’t want me to live with him. I don’t want to live as a burden to my parents,” she sobs, as her mother, sitting nearby, lets out a sigh.

The district administration, which started functioning from 22 February 2009 after Tirupur was carved out of Coimbatore and Erode districts, is scrambling to stem the tide of suicides. “We are alarmed by the rising number of suicides,” says Collector C Samayamoorthy. “We had a brainstorming session and formed a committee to study the situation and prevent such cases.”

Alcoholism, family disputes, failure in love and extra-marital affairs are cited by experts as the main reasons for the spike in suicides. Inspector Saraswathi at the All Women Police Station in Tirupur confirms this general trend on the basis of the complaints that they record. “We get at least five cases every day with the victim showing high levels of suicidal tendency,” she says. Such cases are often referred to the counselling centres at the YWCA or Mariyalaya, an NGO.

“A lot of women who come here for counselling are at their wits’ end. It is shocking,” says Padmini Visuvasam, former secretary of the YWCA. Interestingly, it isn’t just the women who are embracing death. This year, 252 men have committed suicide, twice the number of women victims. In 2009, of the 482 suicide deaths, 300 were men.

In 2010, 252 men have committed suicide so far, twice the number of women victims

The town has been on the suicide radar after posting figures higher than the state average for the past three years.

“The majority of suicides in Tirupur are reported among the factory workers,” says C Murthi, general secretary of the Banian and General Workers Union. He says the poor living conditions and low wages are the underlying causes for the problems. “Many commit suicide because of debts and high-interest loans taken from moneylenders,” he adds.

Goutam, 33, who started earning his bread at the age of 17, has worked in all sections of the garment industry: stitching, pressing, printing and dyeing. He worked from 8 am to 10 pm and earned Rs. 200 a day. Goutam struggled to meet the financial needs of his family as the cost of living is high in this industrial town.

“Goutam took a loan from a local moneylender at a high interest rate,” says his mother, Ponnamma. “After his son’s birth, he again went through a serious financial crisis and wanted to take another loan. Goutam and his wife quarrelled over the issue a lot. On 13 September, both of them took their lives, abandoning their 18-month-old child.”

In a similar tale, Laxmi, 32, had been working in the industry for 10 years. After migrating from Rameswaram 15 years ago, Laxmi found a co-worker as her life partner. They lived in a rented room with their three kids. Laxmi worked for oneand- a-half shifts, while her husband did two. “However, when Laxmi got a tumour in her stomach, they didn’t have enough money for the surgery. She hanged herself two years ago,” says her father Manova, who also works in the industry. Now, he looks after his three grandkids.

MOST OF the workers and their families live in single rooms or huts that are rented out at exorbitant rates. At the slum in Tirupur’s KVR Nagar, where there are more than 2,000 huts, most of the residents are industry workers. At 8 am, the colony empties out as the residents rush to the factories. “We don’t have time to talk to you. If we talk to the media about our company, we will be threatened,” says Malathi, a worker.


No respite The workers get a pittance despite doing overtime

“Most of us work overtime, but look at our plight,” complains Chentamara, 37. “We are not even provided drinking water here. The pipe water comes once in 10 days.” She and her husband Murukesh, 40, have been working in the industry for the past 20 years. They still live in their rented hut. Now, their two sons have also started working in the same sector.

The textile units in Tirupur and neighbouring districts are infamous for exploiting the workers, especially girls, through a scheme called Sumangali Thittam. Under this scheme, unmarried girls from poor families are brought to the factories through agents, who promise them a lumpsum – in most cases Rs. 30,000 – for a fixed duration of work. It is three years in most cases.

The scheme is nothing but bonded labour,” says Gunasekharan, a research scholar at the Centre for Education and Communication in New Delhi, who has studied the workers’ exploitation in Tamil Nadu’s textile industry. Most of the girls are forced to work overtime, face sexual abuse, and live in ghetto-like conditions. “The number of Sumangali scheme victims are increasing in this region as many companies are adopting this system,” says Gunasekharan.

However, Tirupur Exporters Association president A Saktivel has a different story to tell. “The workers are happy and well-paid. If they are not happy with one company, they are free to work for another as in Tirupur, we have no shortage of textile companies,” he says.

WHEN ASKED whether labour troubles were the main cause for suicides, Tirupur SP A Arun replied: “We don’t have any data on the economic class of the victims. Labour problems and the suicide issue are two separate things.”

Extra-marital affairs, alcoholism and family disputes are often cited as the reasons

Collector Samayamoorthy admits that the authorities are yet to work on a solution that will address the welfare issues faced by the workers. “The spike in suicides have to be addressed after understanding the different aspects,” he says.

Meanwhile, lying limp in her hospital bed, Maratakavalli explains that if her husband hadn’t faced financial problems, and if the couple had enough time to spend together, she might have never contemplated suicide. “But both of us work for different companies from 9 am to 10 in the night,” she says. “By the time we reach our rented room, we are too tired. We were struggling to make both ends meet. My husband ended up torturing me to escape his wretchedness.”

As the town slips into a downward spiral, every household is a potential suicide ticking bomb. If the authorities don’t stem the tide, Tirupur will soon be known as the suicide capital rather than the textile capital of the country.

Use of Contractors Added to War’s Chaos in Iraq

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By JAMES GLANZ and ANDREW W. LEHREN

The first shots sailed past Iraqi police officers at a checkpoint. They took off in three squad cars, their lights flashing.

It was early in the Iraq war, Dec. 22, 2004, and it turned out that the shots came not from insurgents or criminals. They were fired by an American private security company named Custer Battles, according to an incident report in an archive of more than 300,000 classified military documents made public by WikiLeaks.

The company’s convoy sped south in Umm Qasr, a grubby port city near the Persian Gulf. It shot out the tire of a civilian car that came close. It fired five shots into a crowded minibus. The shooting stopped only after the Iraqi police, port security and a British military unit finally caught up with the convoy.

Somehow no one had been hurt, and the contractors found a quick way to prevent messy disciplinary action. They handed out cash to Iraqi civilians, and left.

The documents sketch, in vivid detail, a critical change in the way America wages war: the early days of the Iraq war, with all its Wild West chaos, ushered in the era of the private contractor, wearing no uniform but fighting and dying in battle, gathering and disseminating intelligence and killing presumed insurgents.

There have been many abuses, including civilian deaths, to the point that the Afghan government is working to ban many outside contractors entirely.

The use of security contractors is expected to grow as American forces shrink. A July report by the Commission on Wartime Contracting, a panel established by Congress, estimated that the State Department alone would need more than double the number of contractors it had protecting the American Embassy and consulates in Iraq.

Contractors were necessary at the start of the Iraq war because there simply were not enough soldiers to do the job. In 2004, their presence became the symbol for Iraq’s descent into chaos, when four contractors were killed in Falluja, their bodies left mangled and charred.

Even now – with many contractors discredited for unjustified shootings and a lack of accountability amply described in the documents – the military cannot do without them. There are more contractors over all than actual members of the military serving in the worsening war in Afghanistan.

The archive, which describes many episodes never made public in such detail, shows the multitude of shortcomings with this new system: how a failure to coordinate among contractors, coalition forces and Iraqi troops, as well as a failure to enforce rules of engagement that bind the military, endangered civilians as well as the contractors themselves. The military was often outright hostile to contractors, for being amateurish, overpaid and, often, trigger-happy.

Contractors often shot with little discrimination – and few if any consequences – at unarmed Iraqi civilians, Iraqi security forces, American troops and even other contractors, stirring public outrage and undermining much of what the coalition forces were sent to accomplish.

The mayhem cropped up around Iraq, notably in one episode reported in March 2005 in which a small battle erupted involving three separate security companies.

At a notoriously dangerous checkpoint on the main road to the Baghdad airport, a cement truck entered a lane reserved for Department of Defense vehicles. A guard from Global, a British company, fired a warning shot, and when a man initially identified as an Iraqi opened the door and tried to flee, guards from a tower started firing, too. The man dropped to the ground. Then members of an Iraqi private security team parked nearby also opened fire, shooting through the chest not the driver but a worker from DynCorp International, an American security company.

When the truck driver was finally questioned, he turned out to be a Filipino named José who worked with yet a third company, KBR, the American logistics and security giant.

The conclusion drawn from this chaos was, “IT IS BELIEVED THE DRIVER ENTERED THE DOD LANE BY ACCIDENT.”

For all the contractors’ bravado – Iraq was packed with beefy men with beards and flak jackets – and for all the debates about their necessity, it is clear from the documents that the contractors appeared notably ineffective at keeping themselves and the people they were paid to protect from being killed.

In fact, the documents seem to confirm a common observation on the ground during those years in Iraq: far from providing insurance against sudden death, the easily identifiable, surprisingly vulnerable pickup trucks and S.U.V.’s driven by the security companies were magnets for insurgents, militias, disgruntled Iraqis and anyone else in search of a target.

Most of the documents are incident reports and match what is known of the few cases that have been made public, although even this cache is unlikely to be a complete record of incidents involving contractors. During the six years covered by the reports, at least 175 private security contractors were killed. The peak appeared to come in 2006, when 53 died. Insurgents and other malefactors kidnapped at least 70 security contractors, many of whom were later killed.

Aegis, a British security company, had the most workers reported killed, more than 30. Most of those were Iraqi drivers, guards and other employees. Not only the military, but journalists and aid workers as well relied on contractors to help protect them.

The security contractors seemed overmatched, often incinerated or torn apart by explosions their vehicles had no chance of warding off. In August 2004, the corpses of two men who had worked with Custer Battles were found charred and abandoned in a truck that was still burning on the road between Tikrit and Mosul, after it was struck by an improvised explosive device and fired upon from a Volkswagen, one report said.

In July 2007, another report said, two were killed when a gun truck operated by ArmorGroup, a British company, flew like a wobbling discus 54 yards through the air, flipping approximately six times, after a huge I.E.D. exploded beneath it in northern Iraq.

And in May 2009, three Americans, including a senior Navy officer, were killed outside Falluja when an I.E.D. overturned a vehicle escorted by Aegis contractors during a visit to a water treatment plant financed by the United States, according to another report and American government statements at the time.

Death came suddenly, from all sides, in all forms.

In late 2004 in Tikrit, seven men emerged from two Daewoo vehicles and mowed down Iraqi workers for Buckmaster, a company hired to destroy old munitions, as the workers got out of a bus, a report said. The gunmen did not flee until they ran out of ammunition, killing 17 and wounding 20 as two Iraqis saved themselves by hiding under seats in the bus.

There were suicide bombings, desert ambushes, aviation disasters and self-inflicted wounds, as when a Ugandan guard working for EOD Technology, an American company, shot and killed his South African supervisor and then himself in 2008 after being terminated, a report said.

A spokesman for EOD confirmed the incident and said that the investigation had been unable to determine “why this particular guard decided to take the actions that he did.”

“I think the only elaboration on this incident is to note that it was a very sad and unfortunate event,” said the spokesman, Erik S. Quist.

In another case, in Baghdad in the summer of 2009, a British contractor with ArmorGroup was reported to have shot and killed two co-workers, a Briton and an Australian, then run wild through the heavily fortified Green Zone in an attempt to escape. Finally, a coalition soldier tackled him, a report said, and another soldier “shot a directed-aimed warning shot into sand bags which immediately stopped resistance from suspect so that he could be brought under control.”

The alleged killer, Daniel Fitzsimons, is still being held in Baghdad while awaiting trial under Iraqi law.

The contractors also suffered horrific traffic accidents with multiple fatalities all over Iraq, seemingly as a side effect of driving at high speeds on bad roads where a threat can appear at any moment.

The threats were not limited to insurgents, the documents show: private security contractors repeatedly came under fire from Iraqi and coalition security forces, who often seemed unnerved by unmarked vehicles approaching at high speeds and fired warning shots, or worse. Even as the war dragged on, there seemed no universal method for the military to identify these quasi soldiers on the battlefield.

To cope, the contractors were reduced to waving reproductions of coalition flags from inside their vehicles, the documents show – but even that did not always work. After being shot at by an American military guard tower near Baiji in July 2005, contractors with Aegis first waved a British flag. When the shooting continued, the contractors, who said they were transporting a member of the American military at the time, held up an American flag instead. “THE TOWER KEPT SHOOTING,” a report said, although no one was injured in the episode.

But whatever the constellation of reasons – from war-zone jumpiness to outright disregard for civilian lives – the security companies are cited time after time for shootings that the documents plainly label as unjustified. This has blackened their reputation, even if it has not lessened the military’s dependence on them. “AFTER THE IED STRIKE A WITNESS REPORTS THE BLACKWATER EMPLOYEES FIRED INDISCRIMINATELY AT THE SCENE,” read one report from Aug. 22, 2006, referring to the company, now known as Xe Services, that the following year would become notorious for an apparently unprovoked killing of 17 Iraqis at Nisour Square in Baghdad.

In a written statement last week, Xe said, “While it would be inappropriate to comment on specific cases, we work closely with our government customers and cooperate fully in all investigations.”

In December 2004, just a few days after the confrontation with Iraqi security forces, another Custer Battles convoy fired into the windshield of a Humvee driven by American military police soldiers in a patrol that was approaching the convoy from behind on another road near Baghdad. The report noted laconically that the security contractors did not stop their convoy until they reached an American checkpoint, “WHERE THEY ADMITTED TO FIRING ON THE MP PTL,” the military police patrol.

Many of the companies apparently felt no sense of accountability. Contractors with a Romanian company called Danubia Global killed three Iraqis in Falluja in 2006, another report said, then refused to answer questions on the episode, citing a company policy not to provide information to investigators.

In 2007, a convoy operated by Unity Resources Group, based in Dubai, shot at an approaching vehicle near the Green Zone in Baghdad, wounded a bodyguard for President Jalal Talabani of Iraq and did not report the shooting until Mr. Talabani’s staff contacted the American authorities, one report said.

When asked about the incident last week, a Unity official, Jim LeBlanc, said that “in a time of numerous suicide vehicle attacks, a vehicle had presented itself in a profile that was consistent with the behavior of a suicide attacker.” Unity guards fired “carefully aimed warning shots” when the vehicle refused to stop, Mr. LeBlanc said, and the company did not initially believe that anyone had been hurt.

Only when contacted by American investigators did Unity realize that “an Iraqi security force member” had been struck by a ricochet, and from that point on, the company fully cooperated, Mr. LeBlanc said. After the investigation, he said, “all Unity members were cleared to immediately return to work.”

And still more recently, in July 2009, local contractors with the 77th Security Company drove into a neighborhood in the northern city of Erbil and began shooting at random, setting off a firefight with an off-duty police officer and wounding three women, another report said.

“It is assessed that this drunken group of individuals were out having a good time and firing their weapons,” the incident report concluded.

In many other cases, contractors cited what they considered a justifiable “escalation of force” as an Iraqi vehicle moved toward them and did not respond to “hand signals” and other signs that the driver should stop. At that point, the contractors would fire into the vehicle’s engine block or through the windshield.

The Iraqis who were shot at, and who the documents show were nearly always civilians, not surprisingly saw things differently. To judge by the disgust that seeps through even the dry, police-blotter language of some of the incident reports, American military units often had a similar perspective. That appears to be especially true of reports on “escalations of force” by Blackwater in the years leading up to the Nisour Square shooting, the documents show.

On May 14, 2005, an American unit “OBSERVED A BLACKWATER PSD SHOOT UP A CIV VEHICLE,” killing a father and wounding his wife and daughter, a report said, referring to a Blackwater protective security detail.

On May 2, 2006, witnesses said that an Iraqi ambulance driver approaching an area struck by a roadside bomb was killed by “uncontrolled small arms firing” by Blackwater guards, another report noted.

On Aug. 16, 2006, after being struck by an I.E.D. in the southbound lane of a highway, Blackwater contractors shot and killed an Iraqi in the back seat of a vehicle traveling in the northbound lane, a report said. At least twice – in Kirkuk and Hilla – civilian killings by Blackwater set off civilian demonstrations, the documents say.

And so it went, up to the Sept. 16, 2007, Nisour Square shooting by Blackwater guards that is again noted as an “escalation of force” in the documents. Little new light is shed on the episode by the documents, although in a twist, the report indicated that the street from which the Blackwater convoy charged into the square went by the military code name Skid Row.

The last reference to Custer Battles, which eventually lost a $10 million whistle-blower case in which it was claimed that the company defrauded the United States on billing invoices for the company’s work in Iraq, appears in a report dated March 15, 2005, describing an I.E.D. strike on an exit ramp in western Baghdad. An Iraqi driver for the company received shrapnel wounds in the face from the bomb and was wounded in the chest by gunfire that broke out after the explosion. The driver was taken to a local hospital, ultimate fate unknown.

The Secret World of Extreme Militias

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By Barton Gellman

Camouflaged and silent, the assault team inched toward a walled stone compound for more than five hours, belly-crawling the last 200 yards. The target was an old state prison in eastern Ohio, and every handpicked member of Red Team 2 knew what was at stake: The year is 2014, and a new breed of neo-Islamic terrorism is rampant in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio… The current White House Administration is pro-Muslim and has ordered a stand-down against Islamic groups. The mission: Destroy the terrorist command post – or die trying. The fighters must go in “sterile”-without name tags or other identifying insignia-as a deniable covert force. “Anyone who is caught or captured cannot expect extraction,” the briefing officer said.


ODF militiamen Frank Delollis, right, signals for a patrol party to turn around while searching the Old Roseville Prison property in Roseville, Ohio for enemy combatants during the Ohio Defense Force’s annual FTX on Aug. 21, 2010.

At nightfall the raiders launched their attack. Short, sharp bursts from their M-16s cut down the perimeter guards. Once past the rear gate, the raiders fanned out and emptied clip after clip in a barrage of diversionary fire. As defenders rushed to repel the small team, the main assault force struck from the opposite flank. Red Team 1 burst through a chain-link fence, enveloping the defense in lethal cross fire. The shooting was over in minutes. Thick grenade smoke bloomed over the command post. The defenders were routed, headquarters ablaze.

This August weekend of grueling mock combat, which left some of the men prostrate and bloody-booted, capped a yearlong training regimen of the Ohio Defense Force, a private militia that claims 300 active members statewide. The fighters shot blanks, the better to learn to maneuver in squads, but they buy live ammunition in bulk. Their training-no game, they stress-expends thousands of rounds a year from a bring-your-own armory of deer rifles, assault weapons and, when the owner turns up, a belt-fed M-60 machine gun. The militia trains for ambushes, sniper missions, close-quarters battle and other infantry staples.

What distinguishes groups like this one from a shooting club or re-enactment society is the prospect of actual bloodshed, which many Ohio Defense Force members see as real. Their unit seal depicts a man with a musket and tricorn hat, over the motto “Today’s Minutemen.” The symbol invites a question, Who are today’s redcoats? On that point, the group takes no official position, but many of those interviewed over two days of recent training in and around the abandoned Roseville State Prison near Zanesville voiced grim suspicions about President Obama and the federal government in general.

“I don’t know who the redcoats are,” says Brian Vandersall, 37, who designed the exercise and tried to tamp down talk of politics among the men. “It could be U.N. troops. It could be federal troops. It could be Blackwater, which was used in Katrina. It could be Mexican troops who are crossing the border.”

Or it could be, as it was for this year’s exercise, an Islamic army marauding unchecked because a hypothetical pro-Muslim President has ordered U.S. forces to leave them alone. But as the drill played out, the designated opponents bore little resemblance to terrorists. The scenario described them as a platoon-size unit, in uniform, with “military-grade hardware, communications, encryption capability and vehicle support.” The militia was training for combat against the spitting image of a tactical force from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), FBI or National Guard. “Whoever they are,” Vandersall says, “we have to be ready.”

As militias go, the Ohio Defense Force is on the moderate side. Scores of armed antigovernment groups, some of them far more radical, have formed or been revived during the Obama years, according to law-enforcement agencies and outside watchdogs. A six-month TIME investigation reveals that recruiting, planning, training and explicit calls for a shooting war are on the rise, as are criminal investigations by the FBI and state authorities. Readier for bloodshed than at any time since at least the confrontations in the 1990s in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas, the radical right has raised the threat level against the President and other government targets. With violence already up on a modest scale, FBI, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and state agencies point to two main dangers of a mass-casualty attack: that a group of armed radicals will strike out in perceived self-defense, or that a lone wolf, trained and indoctrinated for war, will grow tired of waiting. Even the most outspoken militia commanders worry about the latter scenario. Kevin Terrell, a self-described colonel who founded a group of “freedom fighters” in Kentucky and predicts war with “the jackbooted thugs” of Washington within a year, says he has to fend off hotheads who call him a “keyboard commando.” Some are ejected from his group, he says, and others are willing to wait a little longer. “You have to have the right fuel-air mixture, the piston has to be in the right position, the spark has to be perfectly timed,” he says. “The day will come-sooner than later.”

Twisted Patriots

Within a complex web of ideologies, most of today’s armed radicals are linked by self-described Patriot beliefs, which emphasize resistance to tyranny by force of arms and reject the idea that elections can fix what ails the country. Among the most common convictions is that the Second Amendment-the right to keep and bear arms-is the Constitution’s cornerstone, because only a well-armed populace can enforce its rights. Any form of gun regulation, therefore, is a sure sign of intent to crush other freedoms. The federal government is often said in militia circles to have made wholesale seizures of power, at times by subterfuge. A leading grievance holds that the 16th Amendment, which authorizes the federal income tax, was ratified through fraud.

In a reversal of casting, the armed antigovernment movement describes itself as heir to the founders. As they see it, the union that the founders created is now a foreign tyrant. “It’s like waking up behind enemy lines,” says Terrell. He says he smelled a setup when the FBI arrested nine members of Michigan’s Hutaree militia in March and charged them with plotting to kill police. (Their trial is set to begin in February.) Terrell and other leaders put their forces on alert, anticipating a roundup. “There was a lot of citizens out there in the bushes, locked and loaded,” he says. “It’s only due to miracles I do not understand that civil war did not break out right there.”

Some groups, though not many overtly, embrace the white-supremacist legacy of the Posse Comitatus, which invented the modern militia movement in the 1970s. Some are fueled by a violent stream of millennial Christianity. Some believe Washington is a secondary foe, the agent of a dystopian new world order.

A small but growing number of these extremist groups, according to the FBI, ATF and state investigators, are subjects of active criminal investigations. They include militias and other promoters of armed confrontation with government, among them “common-law jurors,” who try to make their own arrests and convene their own trials, and “sovereign citizens,” who respond with lethal force to routine encounters with the law. In April, for example, Navy veteran Walter Fitzpatrick, acting on behalf of a group called American Grand Jury, barged into a Tennessee courthouse and tried to arrest the real grand-jury foreman on the grounds that he refused to indict Obama for treason. In May, Georgia militia member Darren Huff was arrested by Tennessee state troopers after telling them that he and other armed men intended to “take over the Monroe County courthouse,” free Fitzpatrick and “conduct arrests” of other officials, according to Huff’s indictment and his own account in an interview posted online. Investigators are keeping a wary eye on a related trend, which has yet to progress beyond words, in which law officers and military service members vow to refuse or resist orders they deem unconstitutional. About a dozen county sheriffs and several candidates for sheriff in the midterm elections have threatened to arrest federal agents in their jurisdictions.

Group distinctions are seldom clear because of overlapping memberships and alliances. The Ohio exercise, for example, included a delegation from the 17th Special Operations Group led by Colonel Dick Wolf, a former Army drill sergeant who previously took a unit to join Arizona militia leader Chris Simcox in armed patrols along the Mexican border. Wolf travels around the country to train other groups in such skills as knife fighting and convoy operations. He does not ask about their philosophies. “That’s their business,” he says.

The Obama Factor

None of these movements are entirely new, but most were in sharp decline by the late 1990s. Their resurgence now is widely seen among government and academic experts as a reaction to the tectonic shifts in American politics that allowed a black man with a foreign-sounding name and a Muslim-born father to reach the White House.

Obama’s ascendancy unhinged the radical right, offering a unified target to competing camps of racial, nativist and religious animus. Even Patriots who had no truck with white supremacy found that they could amplify their antigovernment message by “constructing Obama as an alien, not of this country, insufficiently American,” according to Michael Waltman, an authority on hate speech at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Perennial features of extreme-right scare lore-including imagined schemes to declare martial law, abolish private ownership of guns and force dissidents into FEMA concentration camps-became more potent with Obama as the Commander in Chief.

Threats against Obama’s life brought him Secret Service protection in May 2007, by far the earliest on record for a presidential candidate. At least four alleged assassination plots between June and December-by militiamen in Pennsylvania, white supremacists in Denver, skinheads in Tennessee, and an active-duty Marine lance corporal at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune-led to arrests and criminal charges before Obama was even sworn in.

“We call it somewhat of a perfect storm,” says a high-ranking FBI official who declined to speak on the record because of the political sensitivities of the subject. With an economy in free fall and rising anger about illegal immigration, Obama became “a rallying point” for dormant extremists after the 2008 election who “weren’t willing to act before but now are susceptible to being recruited and radicalized.”

Theirs is not Tea Party anger, which aims at electoral change, even if it often speaks of war. In the world of armed extremists, war is not always a metaphor. Some of them speak with contempt about big talkers who “meet, eat and retreat.” History suggests that even the most ferocious, by and large, will never get around to walking the walk. Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center observes that “there are huge numbers of people who say, ‘We’re going to have to go to war to defend the Constitution or defend the white race,’ but ‘That will be next week, boys.'”

And yet there are exceptions, and law-enforcement officials say domestic terrorists are equally the products of their movements. Those most inclined toward violence sometimes call themselves three percenters, a small vanguard that dares to match deeds to words. Brian Banning, who led local and interagency intelligence units that tracked radical-right-wing violence in Sacramento County, Calif., says, “The person who’s interested in violent revolution may be attracted to a racist group or to a militia or to the Tea Party because he’s antigovernment and so are they, but he’s looking on the fringe of the crowd for the people who want to take action.”

The Supremacist

One such man was James Von Brunn. On June 10, 2009, he pulled up to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, raised a .22-caliber rifle and shot security guard Stephen Tyrone Johns in the chest. Part of Von Brunn’s story is now well known, but police, FBI and Secret Service investigators held back a startling epilogue.

Von Brunn was an avowed white supremacist with a history of violence that reached back decades. He had spent six years in prison after an attempt to take hostages at the Federal Reserve in 1981. After finding only disappointment in organized groups, Von Brunn retreated to his website and railed against passive comrades. “The American Right-wing with few exceptions… does NOTHING BUT TALK,” he wrote. At 88 and hospitalized with a gunshot wound he suffered at the museum, Von Brunn did not loom large in the public eye as a figure of menace. He was profiled as a shrunken old man, broke and friendless, who ended another man’s life in an empty act of despair. He died seven months later in prison before he could be tried.

What authorities did not disclose was how close the country had come to a seismic political event. Von Brunn, authoritative sources say, had another target in mind: White House senior adviser David Axelrod, a man at the center of Obama’s circle. The President was too hard to reach, in Von Brunn’s view, but that was of no consequence. “Obama was created by Jews,” he wrote. “Obama does what his Jew owners tell him to do.”

The episode sent a jolt through the FBI and DHS. Von Brunn had demonstrated motive, means and intent to kill one of the President’s closest aides. The Secret Service assigned Axelrod a protection detail and took other, undisclosed steps to broaden its coverage. The DHS put out bulletins to state and local law-enforcement agencies on the tactics, warning signs and other lessons of the case. FBI agents need to understand, a senior supervisor says, that “it isn’t just the threat from Islamic extremists but also from homegrown or domestic terrorists” with antigovernment agendas-as the bureau had already seen in a small town in Maine.

The Dirty Bomber

The first thing Jeff Trafton noticed at 346 High Street was a “big swastika flag in the living room.” Upstairs, where a man lay dead in his bedroom, there were photographs of the victim posed in a black Gestapo trench coat. Any murder was unusual in Belfast, Maine, a town of 7,000 where Trafton is chief of police. This one kept getting stranger.

Who did it was not a mystery. Amber Cummings, then 31, shot her husband James, 29, to death, dropped the Colt .45 revolver and walked to a neighbor’s to dial 911. Evidence of her torment at the dead man’s hands during years of domestic abuse would later persuade a judge to spare her a prison sentence.

On the day of the shooting, Dec. 9, 2008, the story she told and an initial search of the house brought an FBI forensic team running. James Cummings appeared to have accumulated explosive ingredients and radioactive samples. He had filled out an application to join the National Socialist Movement and declared an ambition to kill the President-elect.
It was hard to tell how seriously to take that threat. On Jan. 19, 2009, WikiLeaks made public the FBI search inventory, which was distributed to security planners for Obama’s Inauguration. State police assured reporters, in response, that the Cummings home lab had posed no threat to public safety.

A much more sobering picture emerged from the dead man’s handwritten notes and printed records, some of which were recently made available to Time. Fresh interviews with principals in the case, together with the documents, depict a viciously angry and resourceful man who had procured most of the supplies for a crude radiological dispersal device and made some progress in sketching a workable design. In this he was far ahead of Jose Padilla, the accused al-Qaeda dirty-bomb plotter, and more advanced in his efforts than any previously known domestic threat involving a dirty bomb. Cummings spent many months winning the confidence of online suppliers, using a variety of cover stories, PayPal accounts and shipping addresses. He had a $2 million real estate inheritance and spent it freely on his plot.

“He was very clever,” says Amber Cummings, who until now had not spoken publicly about her late husband’s preparations. “There’s a small amount of radioactive material he can legally buy for research purposes. He’d call those companies, and he had various stories. He’d claim he was working as a professor.”

On Nov. 4, 2008-Election Day-Cummings placed his last two orders for uranium, at a total cost of $626.40, from United Nuclear Scientific Equipment & Supplies. The Michigan-based company, which declined to answer questions, offers uranium for sale online in “medium, high, super high and ultra high radiation” blends. In an ironic twist on customer service, United Nuclear wrote with regret to inform Cummings that one of the samples he ordered that day “was already purchased by Homeland Security for training purposes.” By way of apology, the company sent a larger quantity, in two chunks.

A vendor in Colorado sold Cummings radioactive beryllium. Cummings produced a third radiation source at home. From standard references and technical manuals, Cummings learned how to extract thorium from commercially available tungsten electrodes by soaking them in a peroxide bath.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, all three metals-uranium, thorium and beryllium-are highly toxic when ingested and cause cancer if inhaled as fine airborne particles. Cummings had none of them in large quantity, and none had the high output of gamma rays that would make for the most dangerous kind of dirty bomb, but he was looking for more-lethal ingredients. A shopping list, under the heading “best for dirty bombs,” named three: cobalt-60, cesium-137 and strontium-90.

Cummings made his best progress on high explosives. He bought large quantities of 3% hydrogen peroxide, which is commonly sold in pharmacies, then concentrated it on his kitchen stove to 35%. With acids on hand, Cummings had a recipe and all the required ingredients for TATP, a hellishly energetic explosive favored by Middle Eastern suicide bombers.

In 2001, when shoe bomber Richard Reid came close to downing American Airlines Flight 63, he had several ounces of TATP in his hiking boots. Cummings had the ingredients to make many times that much, as well as aluminum powder, thermite, thermite igniter and other materials used to detonate the explosive and amplify its effects. Crude designs Cummings sketched on lined paper suggest that he had a lot to learn about efficient dispersal of radioactive particles. Even so, he was aware of the gaps in his knowledge. “His intentions were to construct a dirty bomb and take it to Washington to kill President Obama,” Amber Cummings says. “He was planning to hide it in the undercarriage of our motor home.” She says her husband had practiced crossing checkpoints with dangerous materials aboard, taking her and their daughter along for an image of innocence.

Maine state police detective Michael McFadden, who participated in the investigation throughout, says he came to believe that James Cummings posed “a legitimate threat” of a major terrorist attack. “When you’re cooking thorium and uranium under your kitchen sink, when you have a couple million dollars sitting in the bank and you’re hell-bent on doing something, I think at that point you become someone we want to sit up and pay attention to,” he says. “If she didn’t do what she did, maybe we would know Mr. Cummings a lot better than we do right now.”

Who Would They Fight?

The abandoned state prison in Roseville, with its broken cinder-block walls and crumbling stairwells, made a suitably apocalyptic set for the Ohio militia’s August exercise. In the officers’ ready room, where back issues of Shotgun News and Soldier of Fortune lay on folding tables, an ancient graffito reading “KKK” had been painted over by one of Kenneth Goldsmith’s men. “The Klan in this area, they don’t like me at all,” Goldsmith says. “They came to me a few years ago to join forces… I told the guy, ‘You think you are from a superior race, is that it?’ He said yes. I said, ‘You don’t look so superior to me.'”

Members of militias around the country say, like Goldsmith, that they resent comparison with white supremacists like Cummings and Von Brunn. They complain of being tarred as members of hate groups by watchdogs at the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center. “I can’t tell you how much I enjoy being lumped in with sociopathic organizations like neo-Nazis, anti-abortion extremists and Holocaust-denial groups,” says Darren Wilburn, a private detective in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., who trains with a hard-core militia he preferred not to name. He cites his motto, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of anyone who threatens it,” as evidence that he is not looking for trouble as long as trouble keeps clear of him.

The same two points-a defensive posture and ill will toward no one-were repeated with sincerity by many of Goldsmith’s men. There were layers of meaning beneath those words, which peeled back as the weekend progressed. The Ohio Defense Force charter declares two missions, which may sound the same to outside ears but mean very different things. One is to help state and local law enforcement upon request. The other is to “assist in the protection of local citizens in emergencies.”

An example of the first mission, the most recent one Goldsmith could think of, came after flooding struck Columbiana County six years ago. Chief Deputy Sheriff Allen Haueter says the militia helped direct traffic, leaving sheriff’s officers free to respond to emergencies. But Haueter did not authorize them-“Oh, no, no,” he says-to carry guns. They could as easily have done the job garbed as candy stripers.

Why, then, the paramilitary training that takes up nearly all the militia’s time? That question bothers Sheriff Matt Lutz of Muskingum County, where the militia is headquartered. “There is no correlation with them saying they’re there to help us in any way and them running around with assault rifles in the woods,” he says. “That’s what scares people. That just tells me they’re preparing for the worst.”

As indeed they are. The militia’s second mission, protecting local citizens, requires no invitation from the likes of the sheriff. An officer named Ken, who asked that his last name and hometown go unmentioned, says, “You can be a civilized human being and defend yourself without being a bad guy.” Against what? “Most likely it will start when the government tries to take our guns,” he says.

Craig Wright, 50, a consulting engineer from Mansfield, was one of the face-painted raiders who ambushed the Blue Team’s rear-perimeter guards. He learned something important, he says, when he went drinking with fellow members of force Red. “Some of these people are, quite honestly, quite scary,” he said. “They might not be well educated, they might not listen to Beethoven, but they can take care of themselves.”

And that is what Wright is looking for.

“We’re not planning to overthrow the government,” he said. “We’re planning for what could happen.” He proceeded to list, among other scenarios, a pandemic; economic collapse; hunger-driven big-city refugees; a biological, chemical or nuclear terrorist attack; an electromagnetic pulse from the sun that wrecks earthly machinery; invasion by Mexican drug cartels; and an eruption of ash from Yellowstone that “wipes out the breadbasket of the United States.” Any one of those would likely give Washington the excuse to declare martial law. If so, Wright and his brothers in arms would fight back. “Hopefully,” he said, “if they rule the cities, we’ll rule the countryside.”

This is a frame of mind that law-enforcement and counterterrorism officials have seen before, and it worries them. “There are a number of militias out there that we call almost defensive in nature, right?” a senior national-security official says. “So they train. They’re pulling in arms or pulling in weapons. They’re pulling in food. They’re preparing bunkers… They’re preparing for confrontation, but they will call it defensive.” The official paused as if to play out a scene in his mind’s eye. A well-equipped paramilitary force with “a perception of being confronted would strike out and strike out pretty hard,” he says. “For a small or even a medium-size law-enforcement agency-anybody, really-there would be some serious, serious issues.”

War on the Feds

On the sidelines of the disparate antigovernment movement, its philosophers are edging their followers closer to violence.

Bob Schulz, a leading exponent of the view that the IRS and much of the government it funds are operating illegally, has reached the brink of calling for war. The moment is significant because he is an influential voice among militia groups.

After more than a decade of conventional legal battles, Schulz and a network of allies organized by the We the People Foundation began filing hundreds of petitions for redress of grievances. Schulz had come to believe that the First Amendment’s petition clause required governors, legislatures and federal agencies to provide specific and satisfactory answers to accusations of wrongdoing. He filled government dockets with thousands of questions-one petition, for instance, asked the IRS to “admit or deny” 116 allegations of fraud in the 1913 debate that ratified the 16th Amendment. When his petitions went ignored and the Supreme Court declined to hear his case in 2007, he wrote a formal brief accusing the court of “committing treason to the Constitution.” The IRS, meanwhile, revoked his foundation’s tax-exempt status, alleging that he used it to promote an illegal “tax termination plan” and bringing tax-evasion charges against some of the people who followed Schulz’s advice.

Last year Schulz convened hundreds of delegates to a second Continental Congress in St. Charles, Ill., drafting Articles of Freedom with “instructions” that state and federal governments halt unlawful operations. Refusal to comply would be “an act of WAR,” the delegates wrote, and “the People and their Militias have the Right and Duty to repel it.” Several militia leaders are among the authors.

Then, in November and March, Schulz staged vigils at the White House in which he and some of his followers dressed in the mask of the menacing “V” from the film V for Vendetta. (In the movie’s final scene, the oppressive seat of government erupts in spectacular flames to the swelling strains of the 1812 Overture.) “If the First Amendment doesn’t work,” Schulz says, “the Second Amendment would.” He asks, “What does a free man do” when all other avenues are closed? “I am struggling with my conscience.”

Regardless of what conscience tells them, what chance do would-be armed rebels possibly have of prevailing against the armed might of the U.S.?

One answer comes from former Alabama militia leader Mike Vanderboegh, who wrote an essay that is among the most widely republished on antigovernment extremist sites today. In “What Good Is a Handgun Against an Army?” Vanderboegh says the tactical question is easy: Kill the enemy one soldier at a time. A patriot needs only a “cheap little pistol and the guts to use it,” he writes, to shoot a soldier in the head and take his rifle; with a friend, such a man will soon have “a truck full of arms and ammunition.” Vanderboegh is hardly a man of action himself, living these days on government disability checks. Even so, when he wrote a blog post in March urging followers to protest the health care bill by breaking windows at Democratic Party offices, they did so across the country.

Another answer comes from Richard Mack, who is holding constitutional seminars for county sheriffs from coast to coast, urging them to resist what he describes as federal tyranny by force. In his presentations, he shows movie clips to illustrate his point, like a scene from The Patriot in which Mel Gibson says, with fire in his eyes, “You will obey my command, or I will have you shot.”

Citing a long list of antecedents, beginning in 11th century England, Mack asserts that each of the nation’s county sheriffs is the supreme constitutional authority in his or her jurisdiction. A sheriff has the power to arrest and, if necessary, use lethal force against federal officers who come uninvited, and he may “call out the militia to support his efforts to keep the peace in the county.”

In his term as sheriff of Graham County, Ariz., Mack became famous for fighting and winning a legal battle against a provision of the Brady Bill that required him to enforce federal gun-control laws. He now says he wishes he had stayed out of court and simply drawn a line in the sand with the ATF. “I pray for the day when the first county sheriff has the guts to arrest the real enemy,” he says. Among the enemy, he numbers “America’s gestapo,” the IRS. Steve Kendley, a Lake County, Mont., deputy sheriff who is running for the top office there on Mack’s platform, says he expects federal agents to back off when threatened with arrest, but he is prepared for “a violent conflict” if “they are doing something I believe is unconstitutional.”

The nearest antecedent to Mack’s argument, and the only one known to scholars interviewed for this story, is the Blue Book of the Posse Comitatus, by white-supremacist militia leader Henry Lamont Beach, whose organization disintegrated after leading members were convicted of felonies or killed in 1983 during shoot-outs in Arkansas and North Dakota with federal marshals and uncooperative sheriffs. Beach used nearly identical language, saying the county is “the highest authority of government in our Republic” and the sheriff “the only legal law-enforcement office.” After Time e-mailed Mack extracts of Beach’s book, he replied that it “sounds exactly like Jefferson.”

Beware the Lone Wolf

Federal law-enforcement agencies want no part of a conversation about angry antigovernment extremists and refused in virtually every case to speak on the record. A few injudicious passages from career analysts at the DHS in an April 2009 report titled “Rightwing Extremism” – which could be misread to suggest danger from ordinary antigovernment opinions or military veterans in general-brought a ferocious backlash. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano distanced herself from the report and forbade further public discussion of the subject. Shortly afterward, the National Security Council staff canceled plans for a working-group meeting on the surge of violent threats against members of Congress.

Yet the months that followed brought fresh support for the study’s central finding, that rising “rightwing radicalization and recruitment” raised the risk that lone wolves would emerge from within the groups to commit “violent acts targeting government facilities, law-enforcement officers, banks and infrastructure sectors.”

Within 90 days came the Von Brunn shooting; a triple murder of police officers in Pittsburgh by white supremacist Richard Andrew Poplawski; and a double murder of sheriff’s deputies in Florida by a National Guardsman, Joshua Cartwright, who attributed his rage to Obama’s election.

The specter of the lone-wolf terrorist is what most worries law-enforcement officials, who return again and again to the searing example of Timothy McVeigh. Before destroying the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people, McVeigh cycled through several white-supremacist groups and militias. In the end he decided to act alone, abetted by his friend Terry Nichols.

A top FBI counterterrorism official says the bureau’s “biggest concern” is “the individual who has done the training, has the capability but is disenchanted with the group’s action-or in many cases, inaction-and decides he’s going to act alone.” A high-ranking DHS official added that “it’s almost impossible to find that needle in a haystack,” even if the FBI has an informant in the group. James Cavanaugh, who recently retired from a senior post at the ATF and took part in some of the bloodiest confrontations with the radical right in the 1990s, says the creation of monsters in their midst is the greatest danger posed by organized groups.

The ceaseless talk of federal aggression-and regular training to repel it-“becomes a hysteria where you constantly, constantly practice and nothing happens,” he says. “Now most of them wouldn’t go out offensively, O.K.? But generally why they’re dangerous is that some people can’t stand that rhetoric and just wait for it to happen. And they go off the rails, á la McVeigh.”

Written by rohitkumarsviews

October 21, 2010 at 8:27 am

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Pakistan — abandoned at birth

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One has been blessed with a fortunate life in a myriad of magical ways. But the greatest fortune is the experience of a childhood in Pakistan. The connection I have with this troubled land is an umbilicus that refuses to be severed and, despite what the media force-feeds me, nurtures me unlike any other encounter I have had. I seldom set foot on the land yet these invisible roots are the true song lines by which I live my current privileged life.

Many experience this passion for Pakistan, yet we feel we are being submerged in an alternate perception; the face of Pakistan that gets all the attention, the ugly apparent truth of a country ravaged, savaged and damaged by corruption, poverty, religious fundamentalism and hopelessness.

But there’s this thundering velvet voice, persistent and persuasive, that demands we listen to its innocent message. It insists that we turn our attention away from all the hatred that the world and the country’s own citizens focus on. It whispers frantically in our ear that this country doesn’t need hard-nosed politicians, clever economists or professors with infinite letters attached to their names. It doesn’t need rambling rhetoric or egoistic debate and it certainly doesn’t need punishing. What it needs is unconditional love.

They say that unlike normal birth where a child is organically pushed through the birth canal, a child of Caesarean beginnings is pulled into the cold air of an unfamiliar world without preparation or transition time. They need extra nurturing, close contact and patience in order to develop fully.

The birth of Pakistan is similar – a literal line drawn in the sand in August 1947, the surgeons cut. The terrifying exodus of a persecuted people from one world to another tainted with blood and guts, the unprotected transition, a massive shock. This country, this child, was born to immature teen parents, unprepared politicians, who were given the task of taking care of something new and fragile. These floundering leaders had little cultural confidence or pertinent history to reference, nor did they wish to turn to their subcontinental ‘grandmother’ for help because this was the source of the original wound.

The solitary hook the keepers of this precious newborn land had to hang its hat on was a religion and culture underpinned by honour and shame, but to raise a child with guilt and fear creates a dysfunctional adult.

Pakistan is an abandoned child with scant memory of a mother who held her with unconditional love, or a father who cared enough to protect her; a neglected child left alone whilst her ‘family’ went out to ‘work’, ‘pray’ and ‘party’, satisfying their own egos, forcing her to fend for herself too soon. The abused now abuses, unable to define right from wrong, functioning from a hollowed out abandoned space in her heart, the floods her long repressed tears of sadness and muted suffering.

Hate or political policy based in intellect won’t heal her. Religious fervour won’t save her soul. For the ever increasing circle of cynics such idealism might be too simplistic, trite or brown basmati rice and navel gazing, but the people of Pakistan are her mirror on the wall.

Each of us can change Pakistan’s reality. Focusing on her largely ignored prolific positive traits, and by loving all of her including her flaws, will release her pain and allow her to blossom into the potentially beautiful country we know she is.