Monday, February 21, 2011

Looking at the Egyptian uprising

It all began in a rural Tunisian town. Mohamed Bouazizi, who sold fruits and vegetables on the streets to make a living for himself and his impoverished family, was publicly humiliated on December 17 by a policewoman Fedya Hamdi. Hamdi slapped Bouazizi in the face, spat at him and forcefully confiscated his goods and weighing scale. An angry and distressed Bouazi­zi, who often suffered harass­ment and abuse at the hands of the local police, went to complain his grievances to the local municipal officials but failed to get any recourse as the officials just refused to meet him. As an act of desperation, Bouazizi doused himself with inflammable fluid and set his body on fire outside the municipal office. The plight of young Bouazizi became the catalyst that sparked off massive anger against the regime of president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who ruled Tunisia since 1987 with an iron fist. Thousands of furious Tunisians came out on the streets to protest against police brutality, the corrupt power structure, soaring unemployment and unending poverty. Weeks of violent demonstrations followed as protesters clashed with the state security forces. Members of the police force clubbed the unarmed anti-regime protesters and open fired on them killing dozens. Sensing the enraging public mood, Ben Ali visited the bedside of Bouazizi in an attempt to draw public support. He also dissolved the government, promised legislative elections within six months and assured to take meaningful steps toward political reform. But his entire attempt was all but too late. On January 4, Bouazizi succumbed to his injuries escalating unrest and further violence. On January 14, president Ben Ali fled the capital Tunis with his wife Leila in a private jet to Saudi Arabia shortly after the army general Rachid Ammar refused to back his orders to keep shooting on the protesters. According to French agencies, the 74-year-old dethroned president suffered a stroke and is now lying in coma at a Saudi hospital.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Who are the Harmads of Bengal?

When a joint forces team raided and arrested two suspected Maoists – Amiya and Asim Mahato from the Municipal Guest House in Midnapore town, Trinamool Congress chieftain and railway minister Mamata Banerjee rushed at the spot with “friendly’’ television units and swung into damage control mode. Banerjee’s quick reaction does not need much explanation. The guest house was run by her party with the Congress as a relief camp to “shelter” party workers who are on the run from CPI(M) cadres “reclaiming” lost ground in various parts of West Midnapore district. According to Midnapore police chief Manoj Verma, the “sheltered Trinamool workers” comprises many hardcore Maoists and PCAPA activists from the Jangalmahal area. His team was keeping a keen watch on the guesthouse for a long time and the raid took place only after they became definite that seven Maoists had been staying there. Eight letters of CPI(Maoist) politbureau member Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji, senior Maoist leader Asim Ghosh alias Akash and Jharkhand Maoist leader Ranjan Munda has been seized from the two arrested suspects. One of Kishenji’s letters was addressed to the boisterous and bleeding-heart Trinamool MP Kabir Suman. The police have also informed that Amiya Mahato was present with Maoist commander Sidhu Soren when the faction encountered with the joint forces and lost eight of their members including Soren. Asim Mahato acted as Kishenji’s courier. The duo was hiding in the guesthouse since September 2010 with other Maoists including Kanchandeb Sinha, who was arrested on November 2010, from Trinamool block president Nepal Singh’s car in Shalboni. They have also participated in the recent Trinamool-PCAPA rally at Lalgarh. The joint forces team faced stiff resistance from local Trinamool men and women who had tried to prevent them from raiding the den for a second time. Six journalists suffered injuries when the police baton charged the mob to control the pandemonium. The police force has failed to nab the other suspected Maoists who have fled the den after breaking a window at the back of the building. (Source)