…And Ishrat Jahan is dead

President Barack Obama went to India last week. He declared that India is “not simply an emerging power but now it is a world power.” President Obama suggested that India’s emergence as a world power now gave it the authority to “promote peace, stability, prosperity.”  He embraced Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He met with leaders of the business community and spoke to the Parliament. He met with university students, he danced with primary schools students.

The President of the United States of America met with many people of the Republic of India. He talked of peace between nations, in particular Pakistan and India. He announced that the United States would support India’s permanent membership on the United Nations Security Council.

Security is on the minds of many in India, and across South Asia. Many want to redefine security. National security. Personal security. Community security. Many of those who seek an alternative to security through military means and, even more, through the militarization of domestic spaces are women. President Obama did not meet with those people. He did not meet with those women who counsel nonviolent alternatives to security based on arms and force. Instead he talked about the Security Council

President Obama did not meet with Medha Patkar, the driving and visionary force behind the Narmada Bachao Andalan movement, a movement of tribal and aboriginal people, of farmers and peasants, of women, and of supporters. Narmada Bachao Andalan is a nonviolent direct action mass and popular movement that this year celebrates, in song and struggle, twenty-five years of organizing for real security. This began as a struggle to stop a big dam being erected on the Narmada River, and has evolved into an alternative vision of statehood, nationhood, security. President Obama did not meet with Medha Patkar, and no one is surprised.

President Obama did not meet with Irom Sharmila, who has been on a hunger strike for ten years now. In early November 2000, in the state of Manipur, insurgents attacked a battalion. The battalion retaliated, later, by mowing down ten innocents standing at a bus stop. Included among them was “a 62-year old woman, Leisangbam Ibetomi, and 18-year old Sinam Chandramani, a 1988 National Child Bravery Award winner.” A pregnant woman was also reported as being one of the dead.

The army knew it could act with impunity because it was covered by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, or AFSPA. AFSPA was imposed in Manipur in 1961. Much of the rest of the Northeast has been under its rule since 1972. According to government reports, more than 20,000 people. By the government’s own statistics, tens of thousands of people, have been disappeared, tortured, beaten, abused. In Manipur, this began in 1961. By 2000, it had gone for almost four decades.

A young 28 year old woman, Irom Sharmila, decided enough was more than enough. She entered into an indefinite fast, a hunger strike that would continue until the Armed Forces Special Powers Act is rescinded, the soldiers withdrawn, the people restored. November 4 marked the tenth year of Sharmila’s fast. President Obama did not meet with Irom Sharmila, and again no one is surprised.

President Obama did not meet with these women of peace, considered by many to be the true Gandhians. Nor did he meet with Ishrat Jahan.

In 2004 there was a `police encounter’ in Ahmedabad, in the state of Gujarat. Police encounter is a delicate euphemism for extrajudicial killings. Extrajudicial killings is a discrete euphemism for police murder, assassination, torture, disappearance, terror.

In 2004 the police encountered Ishrat Jahan. She was nineteen years old, a college student. She and three others were gunned down. The police claimed they were part of a terrorist organization and were planning to kill the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Five years later, in 2009, a police investigation determined that Jahan and her three colleagues had absolutely no ties to any terrorist organization of any sort. It was further determined, by police, that assassinations had been planned and carried out by senior officials who wanted to impress the Chief Minister. In a word, they were seeking promotion. Through security.

Jahan’s family was relieved and demanded further inquiry. The Gujarat High Court appointed a Special Investigative Team to delve deeper. The State of Gujarat appealed to the Supreme Court to disband the SIT, saying the High Court had no power, had no standing, when another agency was already investigating. The Supreme Court decided against the State … and for due process, and perhaps the people. This has been described as “an embarrassment to Gujarat government.” The investigation will continue.

…And Ishrat Jahan is dead. As she lies with the tens and hundreds of thousands killed in the name of security, killed and tortured in the pursuit of prosperity, Ishrat Jahan haunts the peace of so-called world powers.

 

(Photo Credit: BBC.com/AFP)

 

About Dan Moshenberg

Dan Moshenberg is an organizer educator who has worked with various social movements in the United States and South Africa. Find him on Twitter at @danwibg.