Bamiyan Panorama

Bamiyan Panorama

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

India jail-born man bails mother after 19 years

India jail-born man bails mother after 19 years

In a dusty tenement in a crowded neighbourhood in the Indian city of Kanpur, a young man takes out a bright yellow sari from a shopping bag and presents it to his mother.

"Do you like it?" he asks her. "Yes," is her reply.

It is an innocuous scene, except that the young man, Kanhaiya, has waited a long time to give his mother a gift.

Nineteen years ago, his mother Vijai Kumari was convicted of murder - wrongfully, she claimed.

She was granted bail on appeal but she did not have the 10,000 rupees ($180; £119) she needed to post bail. Her husband abandoned her and no-one else came forward to help her.

"I thought I'd die in prison," she says. "They told me in there that no-one ever gets out."

She was pregnant when she went to jail. Four months later, Kanhaiya was born.

"I sent him away when he got a bit older. It was hard but I was determined. Prison is no place for a young child," she says.

So she stayed in prison all these years, lost in the system and forgotten.

All she had to keep her going was a passport-size photograph of her son and his visits to her every three months.
'Think of her and cry'
Kanhaiya spent most of his childhood growing up at various juvenile homes. And he never forgot his mother.

"I would think of her and cry," he says, speaking softly and with a lisp.

"She was in prison, all alone. No-one else ever visited her. And my father turned his back on her."

Kanhaiya's mother Vijai Kumari only had a photo of her son in jail Vijai Kumari only had a small photograph of her son Kanhaiya

As soon as he turned 18, he was trained to work in a garment factory. And he began saving up to get his mother out.

Eventually, he hired a lawyer.

"Someone told me about him. He was surprised to hear about my mother's case."

The lawyer took on his case and earlier this month, his mother was freed from prison.

Judges expressed their shock at her situation and the "callous and careless" behaviour of the authorities.

They have now ordered a sweep of all the prisons in Uttar Pradesh state to see if there are others like Vijai Kumari.

The reality is that hers is not an isolated case.

There are an estimated 300,000 inmates in India's prisons, 70% of whom are yet to face trial. And many of them have spent a long time in custody.

It is a reflection of India's shambolic and sluggish legal system where it can often take years for a case to be heard and a trial to be concluded.

But, for the moment, mother and son are reunited and anxious about their future.

"All I want is for my son to be settled," Vijai Kumari says, her voice breaking and her eyes moist.

"He's all I have in this world."

Kanhaiya and his mother plan to approach his estranged father and fight for their rights, including a share of the family property.

But for now, they are taking in the present and trying to make up for all the time they have lost.

Friday, May 24, 2013

What do suicide bombers accomplish?

Afghan Taliban battle police in central Kabul

Afghan police run to the site of a gun battle, Kabul, 24 May 2013 There was a large explosion at the beginning of the attack


Afghan security forces have fought Taliban insurgents for hours in the centre of Kabul, after a major explosion shook the city.

A Nepali guard and an off-duty policeman were killed, along with a number of militants.

The attack hit a guesthouse used by the International Organization for Migration, one of whose employees was badly injured.

The Taliban told the BBC it was targeting CIA trainers.

The attack began at about 16:00 local time (11:30 GMT) with a car bombing, and it was late evening in Kabul by the time interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said the last of the assailants had been killed.

The militants, who officials said numbered five or six, had been holed up in the area, home to a number of buildings used by foreign workers.

"We are dealing with a well co-ordinated attack," Kabul police chief Gen Ayub Salangi told the BBC as the attack unfolded.

He said seven policemen had been injured.

A Taliban spokesman said the group had targeted CIA trainers instructing Afghans at the National Directorate of Security (NDS) intelligence agency.

The IOM, which is affiliated to the UN, said three of its employees had been injured, one of them seriously burned by a grenade. An employee of the International Labour Organization was also wounded.
'Spring offensive'
It was not clear whether the guesthouse used by the IOM employees was the Taliban's main target.

UN special envoy Jan Kubis strongly condemned the attack, and said all UN staff had been accounted for.

During the assault, Afghan TV Channel One quoted police as saying a group of militants had taken up position inside the nearby headquarters of the Directorate of the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF).

A hospital run by the NDS is also in the area.

The initial explosion was felt several kilometres away, shattering shop windows and sending a plume of smoke into the sky. There were reports of smaller, subsequent blasts.

Graeme Smith, who works for the think tank Crisis Group and lives in the New City neighbourhood about 1km (0.6 miles) away from the site of the fighting, said he had heard a constant exchange of gunfire for several hours.

"It seems to have been contained, which shows how robust the Afghan forces are in the capital," he said.

"In more rural parts of the country this would have had a much bigger impact."

The Taliban announced a "spring offensive" in April, saying it would target foreign military bases and diplomatic areas.

Last week another Islamist militant group, Hezb-e-Islami, said it had carried out an attack on a military convoy in Kabul in which at least 15 people were killed and dozens injured.

In the last major attack in Kabul before that, a suicide bomber blew himself up near the defence ministry, killing nine people.

Most international troops are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Afghan forces are due to take responsibility for the security of the whole country in the next few months, for the first time since 1992.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Lion of Kabul recruited for 'clean and green' campaign

Lion of Kabul recruited for 'clean and green' campaign

Lion King character in Afghanistan
Keep it clean! Shir Sultan is a big hit with Kabul children

Once known as a city of gardens and abundant fruits, Kabul is fighting hard to maintain even a basic level of cleanliness, among its many other problems. Kabul municipality has now recruited a popular cartoon character to encourage children to keep the city clean and green.

Shir Sultan, or the Lion King, has been visiting schools in the Afghan capital to spread the message.

Needless to say, he is a big hit among 400 schoolchildren sitting in the playground of Abdul Ali Mustaghni school in the west of the city, where cheers and claps greet the cartoon character's every move.

The synthetic lion hits it off instantly with his audience when he asks them the question: "Who is a friend of Kabul?"

Hundreds of supportive hands go up in the air. Some children even stand up to express their commitment to the cause.

"I am going to be sending my son, Sher Bachcha, to this school," a pleased Shir Sultan announces to the further delight of his audience.

By pledging to be friends of Kabul, the children join the city's "Cleaning and Greening" campaign, and in so doing agree to be agents of change.
Decrepit sewer systems
The US Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded campaign was launched last year by Kabul's mayor, Muhammad Yunus Nawandish.

The idea is to encourage students to adopt hygienic habits and help civic authorities keep the city clean and green.

Kabul municipality staff cleaning the city
Kabul municipality faces huge challenges in its campaign to keep the city to keep the city clean

While Shir Sultan is the mascot of the campaign other tactics are also used to generate interest.

Colouring and story books are used to tell the pupils of the best ways to dispose of rubbish, the importance of washing hands and how to water trees.

Last year alone, Shir Sultan was directly introduced to more than 25,000 children, where he distributed about 180,000 story and colour books.

It is a campaign where there is no shortage of challenges - first and foremost Kabul does not have proper sewer systems.

Furthermore, the city's civic system is mostly in decay, eaten up by years of war and the neglect of the authorities.

At the same time the city's rapid pace of construction in recent years has robbed Kabul of much of its green cover, leaving its population of five million with few green spaces.

But the authorities say that things have improved in recent years.

"My aim is to have a dust-free Kabul," says Mayor Nawandish, never a man to avoid the toughest of challenges.

Officials at Kabul municipality hope that initiatives like the USAID one will ultimately help in restoring the city to its past glories.

An Afghan student
Farzad says that he is eager to know how to keep his home and school clean.

"We are educating children so that they spread the word in their families, among their friends." says Mohammad Sadiq Sediqi of Kabul municipality.

Because the scale of the challenge is so immense, it is easy to be sceptical about the prospects of such challenges ever succeeding.

But the enthusiasm among the children at the Abdul Ali Mustaghni school is infectious.

"What brings you here?" I ask Farzad, a sixth-grade student.

"I am here to listen and learn," he says with a glint in his eyes. "I want to learn how to keep my home, my school and my city clean."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Girl's organs vanish after vacation death; family believes they may have been sold

Girl's organs vanish after vacation death; family believes they may have been sold

BPM Media
Gurkiren Kaur, 8
A girl who died while vacationing in India was missing her internal organs when she returned to Britain, sparking questions about whether she was the victim of the illegal trade in human body parts.
Gurkiren Kaur, 8, died moments after a doctor treating her for dehydration in India’s Punjab region gave her an injection, according to her family.
When her body was returned to the U.K., it was found to be missing all of her internal organs. The organs have still not been located. Her grief-stricken family believes they may have been removed for sale.
A member of parliament in the girl’s home city of Birmingham, England, has demanded an international investigation into the case. Shabana Mahmood, a lawmaker with the opposition Labour Party, told ITV News she had raised the “deeply suspicious circumstances” of the case with British Foreign Secretary William Hague.
The Birmingham Mail newspaper, which first reported the story, said the commercial trade of human organs remained big business in India, despite having been banned in 1994.
A local politician, who is also a friend of the family, said there were "many unanswered questions" about Gurkiren's death and suggested it was "very possible" the girl was deliberately killed for her organs.
"It does happen in India, and since this case was first reported we have been contacted by other families who say their relatives have died and had organs removed without an explanation," Birmingham City Councillor Narinder Kooner said.
Gurkiren was visiting India on her first overseas vacation when she became ill on April 2 with a mild case of dehydration, according to her family. After being given an injection at a clinic, her eyes rolled to the back of her head and she quickly became unresponsive.

BPM Media
Gurkiren Kaur is seen with brother Simram and parents Santokh Singh Loyal and Amrit Kaur as they set off for their holiday in India.
Her mother, Amrit, and father, Santokh, took her to a nearby hospital where she was declared dead. Doctors promised to perform only a biopsy in order to record a cause of death, in accordance with Indian requirements.
However, a British coroner called Gurkiren's parents to say her body had arrived back in the U.K. without any of the organs necessary to investigate her cause of death. It is common practice in Britain for an autopsy to be carried out in U.K. on citizens who die overseas.
Gurkiren's parents allege the clinic claims to have lost medical records relating to the case, and that attempts to investigate it have been frustrated by Indian authorities.
They say the clinic's doctor refused to tell them what had been in the injection.
Her mother Amrit, who is a postal worker, told ITV News: "I said, ‘What is the injection for? She doesn't need an injection she just needs a saline drip for half an hour or 45 minutes.’ He didn't answer me at all he just gave me a blank look and totally ignored me and just inserted the needle into a syringe and as soon as he pushed it in her neck flipped backwards.
"Her eyes rolled over and she turned a grayish-whitish color. She just blinked twice and her mouth was left open."
Kooner said the case raised many questions.
"Did the clinic doctor have her organs in mind when he gave her this injection?" she asked. "Or was she the victim of medical incompetence who then had the organs removed by somebody at the hospital? What has happened to these organs? We just don’t know."
Kooner conceded that it was possible the girl had been the victim of a series of individual acts of incompetence, but added: "Gurkiren was a happy, healthy girl who was laughing and joking until this injection. We will never be able to investigate the cause of her death until these organs are found."
The girl’s parents also remain convinced of a sinister explanation for the missing organs. “I knew my innocent child had been murdered,” Amrit told the Birmingham Mail.
In a statement, Britain’s Foreign Office said: "We can confirm the death of a British national in Punjab, India, on April 2. We are providing consular assistance in the case and cannot comment further."
In addition to the black market for organs, there is a legitimate global trade in human tissue taken from bodies - supposedly with the prior consent of the deceased.
A recent investigation found that, in the United States, an estimated two million products derived from human tissue are sold each year, a figure that has doubled over the past decade.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Wrecked cars reborn on Afghanistan's dusty streets

Khalid (left) and Barhanuddin regularly buy and sell used cars for their logistics company in Kabul, Afghanistan.   
USED CAR SALESMEN: Khalid (left) and Barhanuddin regularly buy and sell used cars for their logistics company in Kabul, Afghanistan. Cars from the US, Canada and Europe are at a premium in Afghanistan, even ones termed a "total loss" by insurance companies are desired.

Alambiq, 70, has never owned a car but has long worked fixing tyres and hubcaps in Kabul, Afghanistan. He says he would like to buy an American car. USED CAR DREAM: Alambiq, 70, has never owned a car but has long worked fixing tyres and hubcaps in Kabul, Afghanistan. He says he would like to buy an American car.
They sit in the sun harbouring their lost histories, their forgotten dreams, their traces of funerals, graduations and stolen kisses.
On dusty windshields, insurance stickers from Travelers and State Farm bear witness to wrecks in "Metro DC," "Hardin, Texas," and "North Hollywood," some with bright orange "total loss" decals.
For their former owners, that was it, nothing left but a story to recount of a corner rounded too quickly, a red light run, one too many drinks for the road.
But here on the highway to Iran, thousands of used cars from America and Western Europe begin a second life.
Afghanistan doesn't manufacture its own cars, or much else, so most vehicles sold here are "pre-owned" (and many pre-crashed - but with barely a dent, thanks to deft repair work by local body shops).
Most begin their journey by ship to a new world of unpaved roads, kidnappers and Islamist militants after being auctioned to middlemen by US or European insurers. The vehicles land in Dubai or other ports and are then transferred onto other ships bound for Pakistan or - after being resold to circumvent US and European sanctions - Iran.
The final leg of their trip to this "graveyard of empires" (and Toyota Corollas) is via transport truck.
American brands don't sell as well as Japanese and are hard to find parts for, said Abdullah, a salesman with Herat's Tamin Ansar Autos who, like many Afghans, uses only one name. "I know one guy who sells Fords," he said. "He sold them very cheap. They use too much gas."
Musty interiors reveal vestiges of former lives, from sweat-stained lumbar supports and air-freshener strips to coffee-stained upholstery and shag carpeting.
Dealers in this Muslim country are careful to remove such potentially offensive hitchhikers as liquor bottles and pork-sandwich wrappers.
"No one worries if 'infidels' drove them, as long as they're cleaned," said lot owner Abdul Aziz, 35.
Some lots sport frayed coloured flags and one has a rusting model airplane out front, but there isn't much devoted to marketing, as evidenced by dealers who apparently see insurance "collision" stickers as a point of pride.
Prices range from NZ$18,000 for late-model used Toyotas to NZ$3000 for aging wrecks. Unlike their American cousins, most northern European cars here aren't accident victims and thus command higher prices.
"I think Germans and Swiss must be better drivers, neater, more law-abiding," Aziz said as a chicken strutted past.
"Americans have that cowboy history."
Used car parts salesUsed-car importing became a lucrative business after Taliban rule ended in late 2001. But uncertainty tied to the departure of foreign combat troops in 2014 is now hurting the Afghan economy.    

On a recent Friday, normally the week's busiest day, a handful of shoppers browsed the half-mile strip of 30 or so used-car lots lining both sides of the road a few miles west of Herat.
"We have nothing but time," said Aziz, watching as his 3-year-old son, Omar, and friend Kaihan, 8, took one of his cars for a spin. Kaihan sat atop a booster on the driver's seat, and Aziz said Omar also sometimes took the wheel. Sure, he said, the kids are too young for driver's licenses, but they stay inside the lot and have never had an accident.
Three years ago, customers snapped up two or three of the road warriors a day, dealers say. Now two weeks can pass without a sale.
Sangin, 40, said he's lucky to clear NZ$55 a month as both salesman and security guard, compared with NZ$235 a couple of years back.
"People are worried about the future," he said, standing near a Toyota 4Runner bearing Virginia safety stickers splattered with bird poop. "They're just not spending."
Amid a sea of Corollas sit a few used trucks, Korean ambulances and high-end SUVs. "I don't deal with warlord customers," Abdullah said. "Besides, most don't buy used cars. Armored vehicles are specially ordered." Toyota Land Cruisers and Lexus are the models of choice, with most "hardened" in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Shams, 33, pulled into the Baharan Jadid Auto Co. lot on a dented motorbike and looked over a Suzuki sedan without air conditioning for NZ$3000 as salesman Rahmatullah popped open a hood to reveal a dust-caked engine. Shams then considered a nearby air-chilled sedan for NZ$500 more.
"The price is negotiable," Rahmatullah added plaintively as Shams headed to the next lot.
Despite the economic turndown, traffic jams in Kabul and Herat have become world-class. The rare traffic signals are all but ignored in a driving culture that dictates going as fast as possible, zigzagging in and out of oncoming traffic and beeping the horn incessantly while ignoring demoralized traffic policemen in ill-fitting uniforms.
But it will be a while before Afghans catch up to Americans in terms of numbers: At last check in 2010, there were 20 cars per 1000 people, up from 17 per 1000 in 2006 in a population of 34 million, the World Bank reported. That compares with 797 cars per 1000 Americans.
Buying carIn Herat's Shahin market, electrician Sufiullah Herawi double-parked his 1996 Toyota Corolla and two workers installed a checkered strip on his doors, complementing his dashboard carpet, leather steering wheel cover and DVD player. "My friends are jealous," he said. "Whenever I add something, they copy me."
"It's good to see Afghans become more car-conscious," added Abdul Zahir, owner of a nearby accessory shop, surrounded by high-end tires and rims. "And it's great for my business."
In the 1950s and 1960s, Ford, Mercedes and GM cars graced Afghanistan's hot, dusty roads, giving way to temperamental Volgas after the 1979 Soviet invasion.
Once the Taliban took over, dealers said, used made-in-Japan cars grew more popular. After the group's ouster, regulations were imposed requiring that steering wheels be on the left side, opening the door for a torrent of imports from the US and Europe.
For Anna Patterson, author of a study on Afghanistan's used-car market, there's a certain magic in the aging autos. "It feels a bit like a camel herd in medieval times, with so many stories around these vintage vehicles," she said. "It's rather romantic."
For local dealers, it's just a paycheck. "I don't know why Americans don't fix their cars after an accident and keep using them," salesman Abdullah said. "Perhaps they have so much money they don't care? Anyways, we sell 'em all."

Ai Weiwei films bloody Beijing brawl

This is so interesting - I don't know anything about this video other than it involves Han restauraunt workers and Tibetan street vendors in Beijing.  China is normally so good at keeping 'incidents' under wraps, I wonder how they feel about this video being shown around the world. 

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Why are Indian women being attacked on social media?

Why are Indian women being attacked on social media?

Sagarika Ghose Sagarika Ghose has stopped giving her views on Twitter

What does a top woman journalist do when she is threatened regularly with gang rape and stripping on Twitter?

And what about when her teenage daughter's name and details of her class and school are tweeted too?

"It was very disturbing. I didn't know what to do. So for a few days I had her picked up and dropped off to school in our car and not via public transport, because I was really scared," says Sagarika Ghose, a well-known face of Indian television news, who anchors prime-time bulletins on CNN-IBN and writes for a leading newspaper.

On Twitter, she has more than 177,000 followers.

"Targeting me for my journalism is fine. But when it is sexist and foul-mouthed abuse which insults my gender identity I get incredibly angry. In the beginning I used to retaliate, but that would lead to more abuse."

Ms Ghose says women abused on Twitter in India tend to to be "liberal and secular".

"The abusers are right wing nationalists, angry at women speaking their mind. They have even coined a term for us - 'sickular'."

Ms Ghose has now decided to stop putting out her views on Twitter.

"I just put out our programmes and disseminate information. Though I still re-tweet some of the abusive tweets because there has to be awareness of what women journalists face. What else can you do?"
Vicious attack
Kavita Krishnan, a prominent Delhi-based women's activist, was attacked viciously during a recent online chat on violence against women on, one of India's leading news websites.

"It began well. I had answered a few interesting questions. And then one person, with the handle @RAPIST, started posting abusive comments. He then asked me where he could come to rape me using a condom," she said.

She says she decided to leave the chat after the abuse continued.

Ms Krishnan considers herself "thick skinned, used to addressing difficult questions and dealing with abuse", but this, she says, was "sexual harassment".

"What angered me was that Rediff didn't ensure that their guest was given a safe environment, the chat was not moderated nor was the abusive handle blocked."

Rediff did not respond to BBC's requests for an interview.

However, they posted an edited transcript of the chat on their website. The offensive posts had been removed and an apology made to Ms Krishnan.

More than 90 million Indians are active users of Facebook and Twitter and a large number of them are women. Cyber stalking and bullying of women are common.

Writer-activist Meena Kandasamy chose to go to the police when she faced sexist abuse online.

Last year, she had tweeted about a beef-eating festival at a university in the city of Hyderabad after which she was threatened with "live-telecasted gang-rape and being torched alive and acid attacks".

Hindus who regard cows as sacred had clashed with low-caste Dalit groups who had organised the event.

"On an average, I get about 30 to 50 abusive tweets on days when I am active on Twitter. During the beef festival, there were more than 800 tweets in a span of two to three hours," Ms Kandasamy says.
She believes that many Indian men react to posts that are critical of "caste and of Hindu nationalism".

"I face the threat of violence even outside this virtual world in terms of people who don't like my writings, my politics. Copies of my books have been burnt. I feel that kind of pain is far more deep and real than anonymous trolls and threats," says Ms Kandasamy.

K Jaishankar, a teacher of criminology who has been studying bullying, stalking and defamation of women online, says India's "patriarchal mindset has pervaded the internet space".

"Men don't like women to talk back. Public personalities who express strong opinions are trolled in a bid to force them off line," he says.

Mr Jaishankar, who counsels victims of cyber crime along with his colleague and lawyer Debarati Haldar, says that Indian users online are largely male introverts who have found the web a place where they can express themselves freely and anonymously.

"These men could be respectable professionals such as doctors, lawyers or professors in real life but online, they tend to show a darker side."

Most of the women affected online do not go to the police, Ms Haldar says. Instead, they try to get the objectionable content removed, which is not usually easy.

India has a law - Section 66A of India's Information Technology [IT] Act - against sending inflammatory and indecent messages on the internet and in recent times it has been used by the state as a weapon against dissent.

But, Ms Haldar says, women facing cyber bullying of a sexual nature have not been able to convince the authorities to take action against their abusers under the law.

"In many instances, when I motivated the woman to go to the police, they came back and told me that their complaints were dismissed as trivial. Instead, the police told them that it was not necessary for women to give their opinion on social media."

Ms Haldar says the authorities must take these cases more seriously and charge the offenders under Section 66A of the IT law.

Even charging the offenders under the existing laws on sexual harassment could go a long way in curbing such abuse against women, she says.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Kabul Dreams music video

Music Video 'Sadae Man' by Afghan rock band Kabul Dreams.

Chill Morghak

Good Morning Freedom