Friday, February 04, 2011

Amnesty International urges Maoists

Posted on Fri, Feb 4, 2011 at 9:02 PM
Washington, DC: The Communist Party of India (Maoist), an armed opposition group, must immediately release a civilian and five officers of the Chhattisgarh state armed police force whom they have been holding as hostages since January 25 and must ensure their safety and well-being as long as they detain them, Amnesty International said.
The five police officers – Ramadhar Patel, Raghunandan Dhruv, T Ekka, and two constables Ranjan Dubey and Manishankar – and the civilian were traveling in a civilian transport bus at the time of their abduction at Kungera village. They were traveling from Dhanora post to Narayanpur town.
The Maoists, in a communication to the media issued by their East Bastar committee, have demanded that the authorities should stop plans to establish a new training centre on jungle warfare in Chhattisgarh to be run by India’s armed forces. The state authorities recently allotted 310 square miles in Abhujmaad, a dense forest believed to be partly under Maoist control.
The Maoists believe that this move could be the first step towards "eventual deployment" of the armed forces in the operations against them. The authorities maintain that the army’s plans are limited to training purposes and would not extend to combat operations.
The taking of hostages is prohibited by international law. It is contrary to fundamental principles of humanity, as reflected in international humanitarian law, to seize or detain anyone and threaten to kill or harm them if the authorities do not comply with the hostage-takers’ demands.
Amnesty International urges Maoists to stop threatening to kill or harm these police officers and guarantee their lives and safety.

According to latest reports, there have been attempts through informal channels to secure the release of the abducted police officers.

For the last five years, Chhattisgarh has witnessed operations by the state police, the central paramilitary forces and the Salwa Judum, a private militia widely held to be state-sponsored, against the armed Maoists who claim to be fighting on behalf of adivasi (indigenous) communities. Both sides have routinely targeted civilians and indulged in unlawful killings and abductions.

In the latest instance, the Maoists had abducted, on September 19, 2010, eight police officers in the forest areas on the state’s border with Andhra Pradesh demanding that the authorities halt ongoing operations against them and stop targeting of adivasi villagers and release those arrested on charges of having supported Maoists. The Maoists then killed three of the abducted policemen before releasing the others.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. 
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Remembering Malika Pukhraj

Abhi to Main Jawan Hoon.....!
Malika Pukhraj (b1912 – 4Feb 2004) was a highly popular singer of Pakistan. She was generally called as "Malika" meaning "The Queen." She is extremely popular for her rendition of Hafeez Jalandhri's song, Abhi to main jawan hoon ("I am still youthful"), which is enjoyed by millions not only in Pakistan, but also in India. Her popular numbers were,Lo phir basant aaya and Quli Qutub's Piya baaj piyale piya jaye na and Faiz Ahmed Faiz's Mere qatil mere dildar mere paas raho. Malika Pukhraj, was born in village Mirpur, on the banks of the River Akhnoor, 16 miles from Jammu, and as she grew up her mother moved to Kanak Mandi area of Jammu, in present Jammu and Kashmir, where she spent early years of her life, she was given the name "Malika" at birth, by 'Majzoob', 'Baba Roti Ram, a spiritualist, in Akhnoor area, and named Pukhraj by her Aunt Malika Pukhraj who was coached by Ustad [Ali Baksh Kasuri-father of Bade Ghulam Ali Khan]. At age nine, At nine she visited Jammu and performed at coronation ceremony of Maharaja Hari Singh, who got so impressed by her voice that she appointed a court singer in his Durbar, and stayed there for another nine years . 
Malika Pukhraj in 1920s in Kashmir
Over the next 8 decades she captivated her audience with her command over the singing genres of Thumri, Ghazal, Bhajan and folk Pahari Geet, including Dogri folk songs . She was among the greatest singers of British India in the 1940s, and after Partition of India in 1947, she migrated to Lahore, Pakistan, where she received further fame, through her radio performances with composer, Kale Khan.
In 1980, she received the Presidential Pride of Performance Award, Pakistan. In 1977, when All India Radio, for which she sang until Partition, was celebrating its Golden Jubilee, she was invited to India, and awarded with the 'legend of Voice' award. Malika Pukhraj also recorded her memoirs in the novel Song Sung True.
Malika Pukhraj, died in Lahore on February 4, 2004. Her funeral procession started from her residence West Canal bank, and she laid to rest at her ancestral 'Shah Jamal' graveyard in Lahore.
Malika Pukhraj was married to Syed Shabbir Hussain Shah, a Government Officer and had 6 children, including Safiea, her eldest daughter; Tahira Syed, one of Malika Pukhraj’s two daughters, emerged as a well-known singer in her own right. Her other daughter, Tasneem, is married to famous lawyer and senator S.M. Zafar. Her eldest son Tauqeer lives in Model Town, Lahore, and his wife Shahnaaz, her other son is, Maj. (R) Syed Tanveer Hussain. 
Gifted with a melodious voice that cascaded like a mountain, she sang both Hindustani and Dogri songs, interspersed with ghazals. This songstress of the hills was like a belle who unburdened her heart with natural ease and grace that never gave the impression that her music was being forced on the listener. It had the smoothness of a silken texture from which all crudeness had been eliminated so that the senses were not jolted but lulled into the realm of a dreamland, where soft rhythms merged with the morning breeze Naseem that seemed to waft through the assembly before which she performed. Mallika used to wear dark glasses all the time as though to escape the harsh realities of life, but still her vision was not blinkered. Her youthful daughter Tahira was there to remind one of Mallika's pristine beauty. 
This scribe tried to interview Mallika Pukhraj after the show but she held up her still dainty hand with the exclamation that the performance had tired her and she would expect people to judge her on the basis of hunar-e-mosiqui (talent of musical diction) to convey all that she had to say and stood for. Tahira was more forthcoming, her pretty face making her views and feelings more expressive as she spoke about her mother's love for India and the Dogri culture which she missed very much in Pakistan. After that brief meeting with Mallika Pukhraj one couldn't help drawing comparison with Begum Akhtar. To Jigar Moradabadi and Josh Malihabadi she was bulbul-ki-awaz, the sweet voice of the bulbul. Both were among the Begum's intimate friends who knew her even before the days when Munna Khan played the tabla at the Chowk in Lucknow, where she and her mother shared a kotha during the early years of World War II. Jigar's ustad, Asghar Gondawi was, according to some, her first husband. 
Iftikhar Chaudri
One never thought of Begum Akhtar as the courtesan of Faizabad because that part of her life was over by the time one got to know her. The days in Rampur with the nawab and the jewel scandal, the rivalry with Siddeshwari Devi and Rasoolan Bai and even Mallika Pukhraj of "Abhi to main jawan hoon" fame had also become part of drawing room whispers by then.
Tahira now thinks of Begum Akhtar as an aunt whose voice she heard distinctly even in the far-away Lahore while Mallika herself had only fond memories of her, with hardly a trace of envy. Yet some of those who saw the Begum would wish that she had the face and figure of Tahira, for that is the sort of beauty people who never met her link with that throbbing voice. But to come back to Mallika Pukhraj, one is sad that she is no more and sadder still to know that Tahira and her lawyer husband have separated after an acrimonious divorce. 
Her voice is reminiscent of her mother's with the sort of pathos one associates with the grieving heart of the beloved stranded in the wilderness. Every so often it pierces the heart and one sees in the mind's eye a nose-ring flashing through a half-open curtain, lightly painted cheeks and lips from which emanated that song of eternal love blending with the irony of an aging singer. To sustain such pathos long after being part of the big glamour show was Mallika Pukhraj's speciality.

"Joining US Military Academy was my dream"

Posted on Thu, Feb 3, 2011 at 7:51 PM
By Vince Little of The Bayonet
FORT BENNING, Ga., Feb. 3, 2011 - As a boy growing up in Uganda, Joseph D'costa became inspired by America's role in World War II and told his teacher he wanted to go to the U.S. Military Academy someday.
Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Reserve Lt. Col. Joseph D'costa receives the Order of St. Maurice, awarded by the National Infantry Association and the chief of infantry for the U.S. Army for significant contributions to the infantry, during a transfer-of-authority ceremony held at Fort Benning, Ga., Jan. 11, 2011. U.S. Army photo by John Helms 
"She laughed at me for my dream of going to West Point, telling me it would be impossible because I wasn't an American and Uganda had no ties to the U.S.," he recalled. "I still remember that to this day."
The 13th of 14 children raised by an Indian father and an African mother, D'costa was exiled to Austria at age 7 following Idi Amin's 1971 rise to power in Uganda. Two years later, he came to the United States and ultimately got into West Point on a third and final attempt, earning his commission in 1989.
Now a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, D'costa just completed a 10-month mobilization here as commander of 1st Battalion, 378th Infantry Regiment, a Lafayette, La.-based unit activated to augment basic combat training for the 192nd Infantry Brigade on Sand Hill.
"When we talk about the diversity of soldiers across our Army, Lieutenant Colonel D'Costa's life story is one that tells a great story and serves as a motivational and inspiring example for our soldiers, [Defense Department] civilians and the nation's civilian population," said Army Lt. Col. Roger O'Steen, the brigade's executive officer.
Shortly after Amin seized the Ugandan presidency in a military coup, D'costa's mother fell ill with pneumonia-like symptoms. Because of her religious faith, however, she didn't get proper treatment as Amin decreed that anyone who was not a Muslim would get sent to the back of the line for health care. She died at age 42.
"For me, it was very devastating, to realize the person I depended on so much was no longer there," said D'costa, who was 6 years old at the time. He said Amin then declared that anybody who wasn't 100 percent black had a choice: leave Uganda or face execution.
D'costa's father fled to India. A brother and sister got sent to Italy, and D'costa took exile in Austria with five other siblings. Three stayed behind.
"I was half, so I was considered impure and had to leave," he said. "Here's a black man saying, 'You are not the perfect race.' When you experience racism from your own race, ... I was not expecting that.
"Idi Amin was killing so many innocent people when they weren't leaving the country fast enough," he continued. "Books were burned. Even educated blacks got killed, because they were considered threats to Amin."
The "Butcher of Uganda," as Amin became known, ruled over the nation for eight years. The number of opponents killed, tortured or imprisoned varies from 100,000 to a half million, according to biographical accounts. The dictator was ousted in 1979 by Ugandan nationalists, and he fled into exile.
In Austria, a Catholic priest looked after D'costa, who spoke Swahili in Uganda and never learned English. In time, he learned German.
D'costa said he told the priest about his desire to attend West Point. The priest was a friend of then-U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, who arranged for 9-year-old D'costa and several siblings to go to the United States. He went to live with an older brother in Englewood, N.J.
After graduating high school in 1983, D'costa applied to West Point, but he was turned down.
"They said I'm not American and don't speak English well enough -- the very thing that teacher was telling me would happen," he said.
So he joined the Army ROTC cadet corps at Providence College in Rhode Island. Following his freshman year, the department head offered him a full scholarship, but he'd have to abandon his West Point dream and remain at Providence.
"It would've been the easy way out," he said, "but I needed to know how far I was willing to commit. I had given up on that, but [the ROTC department head] said, 'If West Point is in your heart, you need to apply again.'"
D'costa submitted a second application, but West Point was already at its 1,500-cadet limit, so he had to go to the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School at Fort Monmouth, N.J., for a year and then apply again. If turned down, he would have been too old for another shot, but he finally was accepted and became a 21-year-old "plebe."
D'costa served in the Gulf War as a field artillery officer. He left the Army in 1994, but joined the Army Reserve two years later. Since then, he's deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan, and he has supported military relief missions following Hurricane Katrina and the Pakistan earthquake.
At a ceremony in Lafayette on March 12, he'll turn over the battalion command that he's held since 2008. He's set to leave Fort Benning on Feb. 11.
"I credit every success I've had to my faith in Jesus Christ, because I shouldn't be alive today," he said. "My life should've ended in Uganda. All these people I encountered along the way were put into my life to help me reach my goals. ... I never looked at my skin color as a reason I did not get to West Point at first. They were looking for certain qualities and tools I needed to learn."
D'costa will return to work in the private sector, but he's expected to graduate from the U.S. Army War College by July. From there, he'll learn if the Army has any further plans for him.
The lieutenant colonel praised the U.S. military for preserving freedom around the globe and said he stays in the Army Reserve to serve his country.
"The United States could've said 'no' to me," he said. "Putting my life on the line for a country that took me in is a small price to pay. ... Freedom is so priceless, and all I have to do is serve in the reserves to continue saying 'thank you.' Until the Army tells me to get out, I'll stay.
"This is the greatest country in the world," he continued. "When I say that, I'm not just saying it because I heard it from somebody else. ... The majority of Americans don't know what it's like when you have no freedom."
D'costa said he hopes ultimately to work for NASA. In the late 1990s, he spent two years with the agency in a liaison role for a civilian company.
"West Point seemed like an impossible goal, ... but I kept pursuing that goal till I made it happen," he said. "You can achieve anything you want -- you just have to put a little effort into it." 

Military Partnerships Critical to World Affairs

By Lisa Daniel of American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2011 - The importance of strong civilian-military partnerships has never been greater, and the secretaries of state and defense are setting the example for how to build and sustain those partnerships, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today.
Click photo for screen-resolution image
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks at the inaugural Global Chiefs of Mission Conference at the State Department in Washington, D.C., Feb. 2, 2011. DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley 
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen made the comments to more than a hundred Foreign Service officers at the State Department's inaugural Global Chiefs of Mission Conference here.
"Thanks for what you do, thanks for what you do for our country and for people around the world," he said. "Your participation and feedback is absolutely critical in everything we're doing."
Mullen added that in his four decades in the Nav,y he was "trained very early on in ports around the world how important the country teams were. I can't say enough about the importance of the team right now."
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are setting an example for diplomats and service members at every level to follow in breaking with history to create a close working relationship, Mullen said.
"My capstone view is to be fortunate enough to literally watch two masters in Secretary Clinton and Secretary Gates," he said. "Many of you have grown up in this business where the secretaries of state and defense did not have each other over for dinner very often. It's actually fun to listen to Secretary Gates regale me with stories of the past. But those stories are in the past.
"We cannot, in this world we are living in right now, live without the kind of relationship we have between these two secretaries," the chairman continued. "The difference that they make in terms of setting the example ... resonates in both organizations. You see it from the very top to the most junior people we have in the field. I think it is an example for the 21st century that we fundamentally need to adopt."
Mullen noted that he and Gates sometimes appear before the House and Senate foreign relations committees, and that Clinton has appeared before armed services committees – often at the same time.
And Clinton, in introducing Mullen, said they frequently meet to talk through complex international issues. The chairman, she said, "grasps in a very deep and profound way a vision of an integrated American power."
"Time and time again, he has brought sensitivity and insight into causes of dilemmas we are watching unfold, and the forces at work," Clinton said.
Mullen said he tries to stay focused on the next generation of leaders and has been impressed with both the military members and civilians serving around the world, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he said the wars "changed us" into realizing the need for collaboration.
"I have great confidence in our future, because this young generation is wired to serve," he said, "and we just have to figure out how to give them the paths to serve, because we all will transcend this business to another part of our life.
Military relations in places such as Pakistan, Colombia and Haiti have been made easier due to the judgment and leadership of the State Department's ambassadors, Mullen said. "That's changing the world," he said, "and we do that in ways now that some of us couldn't imagine a few years ago."
To continue with such progress, Congress must fund the State Department at appropriate levels, Mullen said.
"We have got to get the State Department budget right," he said. "We took too much money away. And when you take money away from the State Department, you take people away, and people are your main effort. Having a robust enough budget to meet the needs of our time is absolutely mandatory.
"I'm not going to go so far as to say you can have some of mine," he continued, drawing laughter, "but I recognize that if these teams are going to work together, their budgets need to be about right."
Hillary Rodham Clinton 
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen
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