April 17, 2014

Nigeria: Escalating Communal Violence - Human rights Watch

Human Rights Watch - 15 April 2014

Nigeria: Escalating Communal Violence
Hundreds Killed Since December in North Central Region

The aftermath of a bomb explosion on April 14 that killed more than 71 people in a bus station near Nigeria's capital city of Abuja.
© 2014 Getty Images

The lack of justice for years of violence resulting from inter-communal tensions has created a combustible situation. The government needs to ensure full criminal investigations and provide justice for the victims and their families.
Daniel Bekele, Africa director

(Abuja) – Escalating violence across five states in central Nigeria has killed more than 1,000 people since December 2013, Human Rights Watch said today. The failure of Nigerian authorities to investigate the attacks or bring those responsible to justice is likely to exacerbate the cycle of violence in the conflict-prone north central region.

Communal violence, stoked by competition between local farming communities and nomadic herdsmen, has plagued this region for many years and is spreading to other states in northern Nigeria.

“The lack of justice for years of violence resulting from inter-communal tensions has created a combustible situation,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The government needs to ensure full criminal investigations and provide justice for the victims and their families.”

Adding to the overall tension in the central region, a bomb explosion on April 14, 2014, killed more than 71 people and injured hundreds others in Nyanya, in the Abuja suburbs. The attack, occurring during an early morning peak period and at a usually crowded commuter motor park, appeared aimed at achieving a high casualty rate. Nyanya is in Nasarawa state, one of the states affected by communal violence, though it did not immediately seem to be connected to those conflicts.

The recent conflicts have taken a very high toll in lives and livelihoods and led to the displacement of hundreds of people, who have sought refuge in neighboring urban areas.

Human Rights Watch spoke to scores of displaced residents of affected communities camped at six locations in Makurdi, the capital of Benue, one of the affected states. The others are Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, and Taraba. Other northern states to which the violence is spreading include Zamfara and Katsina.

In a December 2013 report, “‘Leave Everything to God’: Accountability for Inter-Communal Violence in Plateau and Kaduna States, Nigeria,” Human Rights Watch analyzed the pattern of violence that has engulfed two states in central Nigeria since 2010. The report documented how the lack of accountability for communal violence and mass murder led to preventable cycles of violence and reprisal killings in those states.

The main causes of the violence appear to include struggles around livelihood and identity, particularly between sedentary farmers and nomadic pastoralists over access to grazing lands. An activist working on peace initiatives in the north central states told Human Rights Watch that some affected state governments were failing to impartially protect residents, siding with one group against the other. In other cases, the advocate said, state governments were using force to restore peace, but, instead of quelling violence, seemed to exacerbate it.

Since mid-December, accusations of attacks by herdsmen against farmers in rural parts of Kaduna and Plateau states have intensified. On January 6, 2014, armed men described by residents as herdsmen attacked Bachit and Shonong communities in Riyom in Plateau State and killed an estimated 36 people. Attacks on Wase and Barkin Ladi communities in Plateau State killed 22 and 13 people respectively. In Kaura, part of Kaduna State, early morning raids by unidentified gunmen on February 3 and March 15 left 30 and 100 people dead respectively.

On April 2, Nigerian media reported that soldiers in the southern Kaduna town of Kafanchan killed two young men who were part of a group of youths protesting perceived unfairness in the justice system. The demonstrators had been protesting based on fears of the release of a group of men who had allegedly been arrested at a military checkpoint with a truckload of weapons. The killings of the two youths set off widespread violence in the town.

Benue State, with a majority agrarian population, has had some of the worst attacks, in Logo, Guma, Gwer West, Gwer East, and Agatu local government areas, where more than 321 people have been killed since early March. In a March 28 attack on several villages in Agatu, gunmen killed 19 people and abducted 15 others, including women and children. On March 25, gunmen killed more than 60 people in their beds in an early morning attack in Agena in Ikpayongo district of Gwer East local government area.

A resident who spoke to Human Rights Watch said that when herdsmen set their town on fire, his brother was asleep and died in their burning house.

Apparently in response to these attacks, on March 31 the Nigerian military announced a major internal security operation aimed at restoring peace in Benue, Nasarawa, and Plateau States. On April 3 security forces allegedly invaded the town of Keana in Nasarawa State, killing at least 30 Fulani people, mostly aged men who had gathered to pay their condolences at a home where a man had died three days earlier.

While moves to provide better protection and security are needed, security forces should also take adequate steps to investigate, arrest, and prosecute those responsible for the violence that has claimed so many lives. In addition, it should investigate the allegation that security forces invaded the homes of, and killed, unarmed residents in Keana. In responding to the violence, the authorities should be evenhanded and impartial, while ensuring that the right to life of all is protected and crimes are investigated and prosecuted.

“The security forces should not be creating greater insecurity in this volatile area,” Bekele said. “They should investigate violence by community residents and prevent their own forces from causing further harm.”

Accounts from Benue State
More than 1,300 people have taken refuge at the Local Government Education Authority (LGEA) primary school in Wurukum, Makurdi. They were displaced from Gbajimba, about 32 kilometers northeast of Makurdi, on the shores of the Benue River. Witnesses at the school told Human Rights Watch that on March 23, 2014, Fulani herdsmen and local Hausa/Kabawa residents razed their town. One said:

It was on a Sunday, as I came out of church I heard sounds of gunshots coming from the bush around the town. I began to run toward the river but I saw our Kabawa and Hausa neighbors shooting and cutting people with machetes as they came in my direction. My father-in-law at 85 years old was too old to run and was shot. My brother fell and died without any bullet or machete touching him. I do not know what killed him. I, with the rest of my family, are lucky to have escaped.

Officials of the camp said most of the 25 people killed in that attack were the very old and infirm who could not run.

Displaced residents, predominantly farmers, camped at Saint Mary primary school, in north bank Makurdi, told Human Rights Watch that the local government failed to protect them from repeated attacks from unidentified gunmen. The attacks had forced more than 852 people taking shelter there to leave their villages and farms since January.

About 270 people camping at the abandoned Otum Plastic factory fled the town of Adaka, near Makurdi, after more than three attacks in late 2013 in which much of the town was burned down. They told Human Rights Watch that herdsmen have seized their land. They have not been able to return to their homes or fields or even to bury the bodies of relatives killed in the attacks.

Local farmers have also been involved in revenge killings against herdsmen. On March 27, 2014, seven Tiv men were arraigned at a Makurdi magistrate court, accused of killing two Fulani men and burning the truck they were using to transport cows near Gboko, in Benue State.

Security Forces’ Abusive Response
One witness to the security force killings in the town of Keana recalled that at about 10 a.m. she was at home receiving visitors expressing condolences over her father-in-law’s death when four military trucks pulled up to the house and began to shoot into the crowd. She hid in the compound for a while, but then saw the soldiers break the hands of a pregnant woman even as she was pleading with them to leave her. At that point, the witness ran out and managed to escape.

The Nasarawa state secretary of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association told Human Rights Watch that the security forces came into town the previous night, but did not begin the killings until the following morning. He said he had personally attended the burials of the 30 people killed in the attack. He said that some criminal elements in the Fulani community have been involved in the violence and killings across northern Nigeria, but that “There is no reason why people should be killed in their houses by government troops who are supposed to protect them.”

Human Rights Watch renewed its earlier calls on the Nigerian government to:

Establish and publicize clear boundaries for international and regional cattle routes and grazing reserves;
Establish mechanisms to mediate between local farmers and nomadic herdsmen on the basis of recognizing and protecting the rights of all;
Ensure that those responsible for mass killings, including security forces, are promptly investigated and prosecuted;
Order a thorough review of the status and outcome of police investigations into communal violence in north central Nigeria; and
Establish and train a mass crimes unit in the police force that can be quickly deployed to investigate mass crimes.

April 16, 2014

India 2014 elections: Who is paying for BJP's publicity Blitz?


BJP's advertisement plan may cost a whopping Rs.5,000 cr
Himani Chandna Gurtoo, Hindustan Times New Delhi, April 13, 2014
First Published: 00:19 IST(13/4/2014) | Last Updated: 13:20 IST(13/4/2014)
Pick up any newspaper, switch on any TV channel, drive down any main street or tune into any FM channel and chances are that you will be bombarded with advertisements exhorting you to vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

The tab? Media buyers and sources close to the BJP’s campaign said the party could end up spending about Rs. 5,000 crore by May 12, when the last phase of polling takes place. Sam Balsara, chairman and managing director, Madison World, which is handling the BJP’s media planning, refused to say anything beyond “we are moving as per the approved plan”.

But a veteran media planner, who is working closely with the BJP, told HT on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media: “Planned spends on all media, including print, television, outdoor, internet and radio would be close to Rs. 4,500 crore. The party has set aside an additional Rs. 500 crore, which will be used, based on need, to beef up the campaign in critical constituencies and states in the last few days of campaigning.”

“The strategy, apart from carpet bombing voters with BJP’s message, is to block out all other political parties across the print, television, online and offline media irrespective of cost,” said a media planner from Madison on condition of anonymity.

The party has booked 15,000 hoardings across India for up to three months. The cost: From Rs. 2-3 lakh per hoarding per month in cheaper locations to as much as Rs. 20 lakh per hoarding per month in Mumbai’s Nariman Point. The total cost: Rs. 2,500 crore.

In the print media, the BJP has bought the most prominent ad slots across national, regional and vernacular newspapers for 40 days. “We have chosen 50 top national and regional newspapers across India and plan to release about four to five ads everyday till the end of the election process,” said the planner. The budget: Rs. 500 crore. The advertisement budget for magazines is an additional Rs. 150 crore.

In TV, the BJP has bought about 2,000 spots a day across Hindi, English and regional news, general entertainment and sports channels. A spot in most popular entertainment channels cost about Rs. 80,000 per 30 seconds. The budget: Rs. 800-1,000 crore. It spent another Rs. 150 crore during the T20 World Cup. The online and radio budget is about Rs. 35 crore.

Asked to comment on its ad budget, a senior BJP leader said, “The expenditure would be about Rs. 700-750 crore.”

“The BJP’s spending is at least four times that of the Congress,” said Santosh Sood, former COO, Rediffusion Y&R, a media buying agency.

2014 Elections: An Appeal to Indian Voters


April 15, 2014

Does US really care? - Jawed Naqvi

DAWN - 15 April 2014

US AMBASSADOR Nancy Powell recently resigned from her job as envoy to New Delhi. There is speculation and denial that her departure, scheduled for next month, is linked to the rise of Narendra Modi as the country’s prospective prime minister.

Mr Modi, who inspires hysterical adulation and serious apprehension among opposite sets of Indians, has so far been denied a US visa after right-wing Hindu mobs attacked minority Christians and Muslims under his watch in the communally polarised state of Gujarat.

Mr Modi’s election has been sponsored by the combination of a hate-mongering Hindu right and a clutch of business entrepreneurs who have been complicit by never condemning the violence. And some of them have enviable connections with the current and previous American presidents. Leading the pack of favourites are the Ambani siblings. Their father, the late Dhirubhai Ambani, is said to have had personal bonding with the Clintons.

According to one version of his global interests, they straddled Pakistan too. Inaugurating scribe M.J. Akbar’s book in Marathi last year, former BJP president Nitin Gadkari claimed that Dhirubhai had a one-on-one meeting with president Clinton during his 2000 visit to India that was followed by a short halt in Pakistan.

The tycoon, according to Mr Gadkari, had pleaded with Mr Clinton to speak to Gen Pervez Musharraf to spare the life of the then ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Whatever the merits of the claim, suffice it to say that the late Mr. Ambani’s sons have been invitees at the Bush and Clinton presidential inaugurals.

If Ms Powell is indeed being moved to prepare the ground for Mr Modi’s coronation, she will be seen by an overwhelming majority of Indians as a friend who stood by the ground at a critical moment. Mr Modi’s minders in the Hindu neo-fascist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have gleefully claimed that Ms Powell was being sent home to clear the way for a Gujarati American successor.

The RSS journal, The Organiser, offered two explanations for Ms Powell’s premature departure: “The first reason being detention and humiliation of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade on American soil, and the other being her delay in engaging with Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi well in time.”

The paper noted that though “other detractors, Britain, Canada and European countries” restored communication with Modi in good time, US engagement has been delayed as Powell was believed to be “going by the hostility of the Congress-led UPA government”.

The RSS spoke of the “possibility of Obama administration naming Indian-origin Rajiv Shah, who is a Gujarati, as a replacement of … Powell”. This, it said, was being seen as a diplomatic step to improve ties with India. If Shah’s appointment becomes a reality, the RSS says it would indicate “that the United States has finally begun taking affirmative steps to engage with the soon to be government in Delhi.

For a majority of Indians, Washington’s response regardless of who its next envoy is will be seen in the context of India’s existential challenge that Mr Modi poses. In other words, any dilution of the admonition of the prime ministerial hopeful will be seen by a majority of Indians as a policy laced with opportunism.

We have seen the humane side of president Clinton. Even after he had demitted office he came to visit the devastation caused by the Bhuj earthquake in Gujarat. He even helped raise millions of dollars in aid for the victims.

“I have followed this earthquake on television, but when I came here I realised that this is something unimaginable, almost incomprehensible,” he had said. No such words on the slaughter.

The United States has a history of missing the point at crucial and potentially tragic moments. It missed the Iranian revolution. It missed the Rwanda massacre. It missed India’s nuclear explosion. And when it doesn’t miss an unfolding tragedy, it becomes complicit in its denouement.

It was the George W. Bush era in Washington when the pogroms took place in Gujarat. There was not a word of criticism. By sheer contrast, the enormity of the mass murder wreaked by Pakistan’s military in Bangladesh was far higher when Richard Nixon was firmly in power in Washington.

The Bangladesh documents were declassified ironically in the year of the Gujarat pogroms. They show how the policy directed by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger was on a trajectory that became known as ‘The Tilt’.

We are not privy to what Ms Powell has told her seniors in Washington about the prospects for India under Mr Modi. In the case of Bangladesh, one of the first ‘dissent cables’ questioned US policy and morality at a time when, as the consulate general in Dhaka Archer Blood wrote: “Unfortunately, the overworked term genocide is applicable.”

The role that Nixon’s friendship with Yahya Khan and the China initiative played in US policymaking leading to the tilt towards Pakistan is all too well known.

Discussing the martial law situation in East Pakistan during March of 1971, president Nixon, in his February 1972 State of the World report to Congress indicated that the “United States did not support or condone this military action”. Nevertheless, the US did nothing to help curtail the massacre and never made any public statements in opposition to the West Pakistani repression.

The question then arises in the liberal circles of India, just as it has been doing the rounds in Islamabad and Dhaka for years: does the US really care?

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.


India: BJP, RSS, ABVP, VHP cadres campaigning for modi in Varanasi

30,000 saffron soldiers take up Modi's fight in Varanasi
Darpan Singh, Hindustan Times Varanasi, April 15, 2014

About 10,000 members of the BJP's ideological parent, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and 20,000 from its affiliates such as the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal, Durga Wahini and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) are pulling out all stops to ensure the victory of Narendra Modi in Varanasi.

These 30,000 cadres are locals. Apart from them, thousands more are flocking to the Hindu holy city from other states. Neither the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nor RSS have agreed to quantify the force, saying they are non-political and trying "only to awaken" the 1.6 million voters here.

Sanjay Bhardwaj, BJP's east UP media-in-charge, said, "About 7,000 people have come to Varanasi from other states such as Gujarat, Maharashtra and Delhi. On Monday night itself, 150 people came from Haryana. These are mostly pure Modi supporters, without Sangh background. The rush will increase once Modi files his papers and does a road show on April 22."

Ram Kumar, who has left his daily-wage job at a Gujarat factory and have come to Varanasi, told HT, "I'm here for the big May 16 (when poll results are announced) celebration."

A large number of people, quite a few of them Gujarati, celebrated Hanuman Jayanti in Varanasi on Tuesday.

"In the run-up to the polling on May 12, about 30,000 Gujaratis are expected here," said Bhardwaj.

Senior RSS pracharak Nagendra Dwivedi said, "There are 300 RSS shakhas in Varanasi with 10,000 members. Plus there are 20,000 members of VHP, Bajrang Dal, Durga Wahini, ABVP and Bharat Vikas Parishad. So effectively, there are 30,000 people who are working every day to awaken the voters.

ABVP's national executive member Ghanshyam Shahi said, "We're informing voters about issues such as uniform civil code, article 370 (special status to Kashmir) and Ram Mandir."
The VHP's job is to use thousands of temples and many akharas in Varanasi to mobilise support and bring here sadhus-sants from other states.

A former BJP minister, currently in Varanasi, admitted, "Top RSS leadership is coordinating Modi's campaign. There is an apprehension that the city will not be able to take in the rush."

The disciples of yoga guru Ramdev are in town under the banner of Bharat Swabhiman Nyas. Ramdev will himself camp here from May 2 to May 4.

The BJP is also trying its best to whip up the Hindutva sentiment. It has planned a 'Ganga Pranam Yatra' which will have around 100 boats with Modi cut-outs atop them travelling from Assi Ghat to Raj Ghat.

[. . .]

India: Why the Sangh fears Modi | Manjari Katju

The Indian Express

The RSS acknowledges Modi’s indispensibility to the BJP’s bid for power. But it is uneasy with his personality cult. Tweet This
Written by Manjari Katju | April 14, 2014

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s advisory, in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls, to the organisation’s cadres to stay detached from party politics, especially from any personality-driven campaigns by its associate, the BJP, reveals interesting aspects of the two organisations and their relationship. It highlights the long-established and accepted style of working of the RSS, which was chosen for it by its second sarsanghchalak M.S.Golwalkar, who took up its leadership in 1970. The emphasis on sadhutva or life of renunciation in the organisation was his contribution.

He was unequivocal that the RSS should stay away from political power and that Hindu national reconstruction could be carried out more effectively outside the arena of politics and away from the public glare.

The RSS thus chose to work in the “cultural” realm in a goal-oriented rather than personality-driven way. The constitution of the RSS, which was drawn under Golwalkar’s leadership after the first ban on the organisation was lifted, said that the RSS “has no politics” and is devoted to “purely cultural work”. Political limelight was sought to be avoided also because of the notoriety the RSS had acquired after Mahatama Gandhi’s assassination.

A way to avoid more adverse publicity was to remain outside the public arena. It was, however, made clear that individual swayamsevaks could join and work for political parties if they so wished. Interestingly, the RSS began playing a decisive role in the functioning of the BJP right from its initial years (when it began as the Bharatiya Jan Sangh). The goal of “Hindu” nationhood had brought the two together.

The RSS leadership had made it clear at the beginning that it had no intentions of playing second fiddle to any political party. The RSS provided the much-needed organisational, financial and cadre support to the fledgling party to take on the mammoth Congress. This set the tone for the way their relationship was built in the coming years. The BJP became a part of the Sangh Parivar, and the RSS’s political front.

Bhai Mahavir, Balraj Madhok, and Deendayal Upadhyay were some of the early stalwarts who had come from the RSS to work for the new party. They were followed a little later by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K.Advani. Thereafter, the young Govindacharya, Sushil Modi, Narendra Modi, Arun Jaitley and the late Pramod Mahajan were inducted into the party. The influence these and other RSS pracharaks wielded in the BJP is now well known.

But the tendency was to keep RSS involvement in party work under wraps; there was reluctance on both sides to acknowledge the active and decisive position the RSS had in the party’s organisation and functioning. This propensity to hide this association changed somewhat in the early 1990s, when significant political transformations happened.

The RSS sees itself and wants to be seen as an ascetic and austere organisation detached from worldly affairs. Its self-image is of an organisation that is rooted firmly in Hindu traditions but above the nitty-gritties and squabbles of politics. This self-definition is deployed in public to project a morally clean and superior persona that is dedicated to the goal of character- and nation-building. Whenever needed, this reminder is sent to the BJP, lest it forget who the patriarch in the Sangh Parivar is.

The RSS looks upon the BJP as a political entity often swayed by the attractions of power, susceptible to corruption and moving away, every now and then, from the ideological goal of Hindu nationhood. There is also the spectre of the post-Emergency political debacle, which perhaps still haunts the RSS. The break-up of the Janata Party because of irreconcilable differences among its leaders — symptomatic of deeper structural problems — harmed the political career of its biggest faction, the BJS. It was Balasaheb Deoras, the sarsanghchalak of the RSS after Golwalkar’s death, who is said to have built the party’s sagging career from the 1970s.

His organisational skills and keen political sense breathed new life not only into the party but the entire Sangh Parivar network, including the RSS itself. The RSS from then on has tried to maintain a stronger hold and closer watch over the BJP. Even top-level party leaders who have risen from the RSS’s own ranks have been made to fall in line if, in its view, they have shown any signs of ideological deviation. One only has to recall how L.K. Advani’s statements about Jinnah in 2005 had incensed the RSS leadership, leading to his resignation as the president of the BJP.

If such are the dynamics within the Parivar, it is understandable that the RSS occasionally rings the warning bell aimed at both the BJP and its own cadres to put things in order, and work for the larger and long-term goal of Hindutva rather than any leader’s political programme. The RSS acknowledges that Narendra Modi has infused vigour in the BJP organisation. It has endorsed Modi’s candidature as the prime ministerial nominee of the party. But Modi’s self-centric style of politics, antagonistic and vindictive towards dissenting voices, and the Modi-centric way in which the party is conducting itself lately, has made the Sangh not only uncomfortable but also, it seems, insecure. It is obvious to everyone that in present times, it is difficult for the Sangh leadership to attain the grand stature of Golwalkar and Deoras within the Parivar. We have also surpassed the times when sadhutva and spirituality had a pedestal status. In such a context, the RSS looks apprehensive that it might become eclipsed by the present avatar of the BJP. Therefore, it is keen to assert its position vis-a-vis the BJP and send a clear message that Narendra Modi or his popularity should not be taken to mean that the BJP or Modi has risen in hierarchy over and above the RSS or Hindutva. To endorse its paternal position and to bring its cadre in line with its ideology, the patriarch of the Sangh Parivar issues such advisories from time to time. This time, however, it might be from a feeling of apprehension and insecurity.

The writer teaches political science at the University of Hyderabad and is the author of ‘Vishva Hindu Parishad and Indian Politics’

India: BJP candidate adresses elections campaign meeting directly from Hindu Temple

The Times of India

FIR against Hema Malini for addressing people in temple
PTI | Apr 15, 2014, 07.12 PM IST

FIR against Hema Malini for addressing people in temple
An FIR has been filed against actress Hema Malini, the BJP candidate from Mathura Lok Sabha seat, for allegedly violating the model code of conduct by addressing people at a temple in Bera village.
MATHURA: An FIR has been filed against actress Hema Malini, the BJP candidate from Mathura Lok Sabha seat, for allegedly violating the model code of conduct by addressing people at a temple in Bera village here.

"Not only flag and banner of the party was put on the building of Alkeswar Temple of Bera village falling under Mat Tahsil, but Hema Malini addressed a meeting on loudspeaker using temple premises as platform on April 7," ADM Dhirendra Sachan said.

Three FIRs have already been filed against the actress for alleged violation of the model code of conduct, he stated.

Meanwhile, notices have been issued against three other candidates from the constituency for alleged violation of model code of conduct.

"While AAP candidate Anuj Garg was found guilty of distributing party caps to people, BSP candidate Yogesh Dwivedi did not mention the number of pamphlets he distributed after getting them printed from a press.

Bahujan Mukti Party candidate Maharam Singh distributed pamphlets which did not carry the name of the press where it was printed.

He also did not furnish proof of the number of pamphlets he got printed," Sachan said.