The Eerie NGO Phenomenon in Kashmir

October 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

By Parvaiz Bukhari

(This article was first published by The Honour Magazine, April 2010, (pg. 16-20).)

Kashmir as an Integral Part of India.  Cartoon by Mir Suhail Qadiri

Kashmir as an Integral Part of India. Cartoon by Mir Suhail Qadiri

Conflicts have always allowed very suitable ecosystems for Non Governmental Organisations or NGOs to flourish in. Embroiled with armed insurgency for about two decades now, Kashmir has attracted a plethora of organizations. But going by the numbers, the region seems to have become a heaven for NGO activity.

There is no central register for the NGOs operating here, no guidelines or any overt accountability. Various estimates put the figure of existing NGOs up to 16,000. Apart from the office of the Registrar of Societies, NGOs are registered for various non-profit activities as trusts and voluntary groups in the district courts. Besides, many NGOs from across the country operating in Kashmir are not registered here.

All you need is five persons and a draft of bylaws along with a declaration of supposed objectives that is then registered in any district court where no count is maintained.

Just what is this huge mass of NGOs doing and who are the people who run them? What is the real intent and incentive for this NGO boom in a region that is still considered business ‘unfriendly’? Where is the funding coming from? A superficial enquiry reveals a dizzying range of unclear activity bordering on subterfuge.

Government employees, close relatives of bureaucrats, politicians, well-off families and people who have been a part of counter insurgency think tanks, run a number of NGOs in the Valley. Kashmir Foundation for Peace and Developmental Studies (KFPDS) run by a former militant commander, Firdous Sayeed Baba alias Babar Badr, has been on the scene for many years now. Babar and four other former militant commanders were the first to enter into dialogue with New Delhi in 1995. He is also known to be very close to the former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief A S Dullat, who for many years earlier and during NDA regime served as New Delhi’s point man on Kashmir affairs. « Read the rest of this entry »

A Tribute to Helen Thomas

July 21, 2013 § 3 Comments

Sadly the renowned journalist Helen Thomas passed away on Saturday at the age of 92. In the following two videos we see Helen help Colbert roast Bush at the legendary White House Correspondents’ dinner in 2006 and, in 2010, in a Real News interview, we see her defend herself admirably after her resignation. For more of Helen on the Real News see here or for more on her passing see the following by Ralph Nader: There will Never be Another Helen Thomas.

Chris Hedges: Urban Poverty in America Made Me Question Everything

July 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

Launching a new show “Reality Asserts Itself”, Paul Jay interviews author, journalist and activist Chris Hedges about the formative experiences that shaped his world view. Part 1 of 6, the following episodes will be added to this post as they appear.

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Translation and Conflict

July 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

Here was me, Dan Gorman and Samia Mehrez talking about translation and conflict for the Literary Translation Centre at the London Book Fair 2013.

Glenn Greenwald on the state of American journalism

June 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

Glenn Greenwald speaks at the Socialism 2013 conference. He is introduced by Jeremy Scahill.

Criminalising Investigative Journalism

June 24, 2013 § 4 Comments

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Going Against The Grain

February 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

Al Jazeera World on the great Gideon Levy.

Gideon Levy is someone who evokes strong emotions from fellow Israelis. The writer and journalist has made weekly visits, over the past three decades, to the occupied Palestinian territories, describing what he sees – plainly and without propaganda. For some Israelis, he is seen as a brave disseminator of the truth. But many others condemn him as a propagandist for Hamas. And his columns for the Tel Aviv-based Haaretz newspaper have made him, arguably, one of the most hated men in Israel. Going Against The Grain follows Gideon Levy on one of his assignments in Hebron, and meets some of the ordinary Palestinians whose lives he has described in his regular column for Haaretz.

Pedagogy of the Connected

September 20, 2012 § 4 Comments

This was published in the August issue of Learning Curve (India) and republished at Bella Caledonia. (Art: Computer Chaos by Joana Coccarelli)

In Amusing Ourselves to Death, a prophetic work on the impact of television on culture, the late media scholar Neil Postman compared two dystopias. One was George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four, a world of strict thought control and surveillance where dissent was drowned under screams of torture. The other was Aldous Huxley’sBrave New World, a culture of permanent distraction, immobilized by entertainment and diminished by superficiality. One society was watched by Big Brother; the other entertained by it.

Postman found Orwell’s vision irrelevant to western democracies. Modern society, he said, was less a prison than a burlesque. Like Huxley’s nightmare vision, culture was being impoverished by distraction and trivia, and thought devalued. The problem wasn’t so much entertainment as the habit of mind that resulted from being permanently stimulated and amused, leaving little space for reflection.

The case against television may have been overstated. It was after all a passive medium and individuals were free to walk away. Internet too in its first incarnation had limited claim on our lives. But things have changed dramatically with Web 2.0. We no longer just consume information; we also create it. Barriers to entry are lower and technical skills are no longer necessary. Combined with smart phones and wireless technology, we are in the midst of an epochal change. We are dependent on technology in a way we have never been before.

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Dead journalists and Sister Agnes-Mariam

August 21, 2012 § 8 Comments

The Committee for the Protection of Journalists has an important report up by Dahlia El Zein. The attacks on media personnel affiliated with the Syrian regime has been rightly condemned. But not enough is said about the regime’s more systematic policy to co-opt and in some cases deliberately trap journalists for propaganda purposes. Most shocking however is the role of Sister Agnes-Mariam, the regime-affiliated nun who has been feted both by the far left and the Christian right. The nun has already been condemned by Father Paolo Dell’Oglio, who was expelled by the regime for his criticisms after spending 30 years of his life in the country. The following story is further indictment.

Evidence of government targeting in the deaths of the international journalists is circumstantial, although the journalists on the ground perceived that they were under attack. CPJ spoke with Sid Ahmed Hammouche, a reporter with the Swiss daily La Liberté who participated in the government-sponsored trip that ended in Jacquier’s death. He said he believes the government laid a trap for the reporters.

Gilles Jacquier (AFP)

Gilles Jacquier (AFP)

Hammouche and Jacquier were among a group of 15 journalists allowed into Syria on government-issued visas facilitated bySister Agnes-Mariam de la Croix, a Lebanese nun of Palestinian origin with close relations to the Assad regime. Sister Agnes had helped arrange a reporting trip to Homs on January 11, although she declined to accompany the group, saying her absence would help them move freely. Jacquier resisted the Homs trip, believing it unsafe, but Sister Agnes urged him to go or risk losing the opportunity to renew his visa beyond the initial four-day period, Hammouche told CPJ in an account consistent with news reports.

Once they arrived in Homs, the journalists divided into two groups, one with journalists from CNN, CBS, and BBC who were led by the Ministry of Information to visit a local hospital. The other contingent included Hammouche, three French journalists, including Jacquier, his wife, Caroline Poiron, Jacquier’s cameraman, Christophe Kenck; and Swiss and Belgian journalists. That group was escorted by 20 Syrian soldiers dressed in military fatigues and in plainclothes. This group was also supposed to visit the hospital but they were detoured without explanation to a pro-Assad neighborhood, Hammouche said, where they interviewed residents. As they left the area, the group encountered a pro-Assad march and heard an explosion.

To his surprise, Hammouche said, the soldiers took no evident action to protect the journalists or respond to the explosion; instead, most of the soldiers dispersed without explanation, leaving four escorts who appeared relaxed and dismissed the noise as a “sound explosion.” Hammouche said the soldiers urged the journalists to go toward the explosions to investigate. Hammouche said he and a Swiss colleague refused, remaining in one of two government vehicles, but Jacquier and the others traveled toward the source of the initial explosion.

More explosions followed, Hammouche recounted: “There were four explosions total in a 10-minute period. And that’s it. We didn’t hear a sound after that.”

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Bill Moyers interviews Chris Hedges

July 24, 2012 § 3 Comments

In the following video, Chris Hedges has a wide-ranging discussion with Bill Moyers.

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