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Detained, Deported, but not Deterred: Egypt Stops International Women’s Day Delegation to Gaza
Women activists protest at Cairo airport in support of the women of Gaza
(image by Cayman Kai)
On International Women’s Day, although I woke up in America, my heart was in Gaza. After having been detained for over 22 hours in the Cairo airport without explanation, I had been deported to London and ultimately sent back to America. I was the youngest American of an International Women’s Day Delegation bound for Gaza to answer the call of the women of Gaza issued to the women of the world to come and stand with them in solidarity. We were “armed” with microscopes for hospitals, toys for children, chocolate gifts, and solar lamps as a gesture to give them light in the darkness caused literally and figuratively by the Israeli blockade. As I sat stuck with an amazing group of forty women from around the world between passport control and the arrival gates exit, our thoughts were constantly with the women we were on a mission to visit.
Tired from my seventeen-hour flight and looking forward to finally crashing in a bed at the hotel, I was surprised when the guard at passport control picked up the phone after stamping my passport and then told me to go sit down without giving my passport back to me. I knew that it would be difficult to get into Gaza, but I did not think it would be difficult to get into Cairo at least.
At first I was still optimistic about getting in. Within the first hour of my detention, a large group of French women arrived, joining the eight French women who had been on my flight, all of them hoping to get to Gaza. When they learned that the French who had initially arrived had their passports taken while they were detained, the new group refused to even try to get in. They made it clear from the start: all of them were getting in or none of them were. They made it difficult for the authorities because they did not hand over their passports.
I was at first surprised by their solidarity and did not join in when they started to chant and sing and wave Palestinian and French flags. However I quickly realized they had the right idea; by forming a group and making one loud and unified demand, the authorities were forced to listen to us. If we had tried our luck, one by one, we would have been swiftly shut down. It made me realize that in this fight to speak the truth and shed light on the countless injustices committed against the Palestinians by the Israelis, we cannot do it alone — we must join as many hands as possible and lift up our voices together.
No one at the airport seemed capable of decision-making, not even the small redheaded man bopping around who was supposedly the owner. It quickly became clear that nothing was going to happen anytime soon, so I, along with my fellow American delegate, Donna, who had been on the same flight, abandoned trying to look like mere tourists and we slowly joined in with clapping, singing, and dancing.
We relinquished our hope that we would be able to get to Gaza and we shifted to a hope that we could somehow make a difference right there, stuck between passport control and the arrival gates exit in the Cairo airport. The authorities roped off the area around us, attempting to separate us from the rest of the airport.
Ironically, it was not our efforts but theirs that were in vain. Their attempt to contain us only inspired us to clap longer and sing louder. Passersby took photos and videos; some even clapped and danced or cheered. A pilot jetting by us even stopped for a second to give us a thumbs-up.
We were eventually given food and clean water, but as we brought out the solar lamps intended for the women of Gaza, we could not help but think how those women are constantly denied these simple things. The people of Gaza cannot treat their sewage and they must pump it back into the sea. Because there are electricity shortages every single day up to 18 hours a day, they sometimes cannot even do that. The sewage contaminates the aquifer and their drinking water and sometimes it floods entire towns and people and babies drown — yes, they die — in sewage.
We were eventually all deported, not one of us let in even to Cairo, let alone Gaza. A few delegates had gotten in to Cairo before our large group, but they also will not make it to Gaza. As the authorities prepared to deport those of us in the airport, there were vague mutterings that we were “security threats,” but when I asked how I, as a twenty-year-old college student who has never been to Egypt, qualified as a “security threat,” no one could answer me.
It breaks my heart that the women of Gaza, contained in the largest open-air prison in the world, cannot even have visitors. In America we would call this cruel even for some of our worst criminals, yet we continue to pay for this oppression with our tax dollars by giving $3 billion a year to Israel, one of the world’s wealthiest nations.
Although we did not get in, we hope that our message has been heard by the women of Gaza and the people around the world: we have not forgotten the women of Gaza and we will continue to carry them in our hearts and speak, yell, and sing the truth until there is justice and accountability for what is being done to the Palestinians.
Muslim Hijab Draws Attention at Oscars
ബംഗലൂരു: പൊതുഗതാഗത രംഗത്ത് രാജ്യത്തിന് തന്നെ മാതൃകയായ കര്ണാടക റോഡ് ട്രാന്സ്പോര്ട്ട് കോര്പ്പറേഷന് മറ്റൊരു ചരിത്രനേട്ടം. ഇന്ത്യയിലെ ആദ്യത്തെ ഇലക്ട്രിക് എയകര്ണ്ടീഷന്ബസ് ബംഗലൂരുവില് പരീക്ഷണ അടിസ്ഥാനത്തില് ഓടിത്തുടങ്ങി. കര്ണാടക ഗതാഗത മന്ത്രി രാമലിംഗ റെഡ്ഡിയാണ് ആദ്യബസ് യാത്ര ഉദ്ഘാടനം ചെയ്തത്.
അന്തരീക്ഷ, ശബ്ദമലിനീകരണങ്ങളില്ലാതെ തികച്ചും പരിസ്ഥിതി സൗഹാര്ദ്ദമായ ബസാണ് ബി.വൈ.ഡി കെ.9 സീരീസ് ഇലക്ട്രിക് ബസ്. ബാംഗ്ലൂര്മെട്രോപൊളിറ്റന് ട്രാന്സ്പോര്ട്ട് കോര്പ്പറേഷനും ചൈനീസ് കമ്പനിയായ ഉട്യോപ്യാ ഓട്ടോമേഷന് കണ്ട്രോളും സംയുക്തമായി 3 മാസത്തെ പരീക്ഷണ ഓട്ടമാണ് രാജ്യത്തെ ഐ.ടി തലസ്ഥാനത്ത് തുടങ്ങിയിരിക്കുന്നത്. മജസ്റ്റികില് നിന്നും കാഡുഗൊഡി വരെയാണ് ബസ് സര്വീസ് നടത്തുന്നത്. രാവിലെ 7 മുതല് വൈകീട്ട് 7 വരെ 6 സര്വീസുകളാണുള്ളത്.
കര്ണാടക ഗതാഗത മന്ത്രി രാമലിംഗ റെഡ്ഡിക്ക് പുറമെ ഉട്യോപ്യാ ഓട്ടോമേഷന് കമ്പനിയുടെ ഇന്ത്യയിലെ മാനേജിംഗ് ഡയറക്ടര് പ്രസന്ന ദേശ്മുഖും ഉദ്ഘാടന ചടങ്ങില് പങ്കെടുത്തു. ആറുമണിക്കൂര് വരെ ചാര്ജ് നില്ക്കുന്ന നാലുബാറ്ററികളാണ് ബസിലുള്ളത്. 250 കിലോമീറ്റര് വരെ ഇതുവഴി ഓടാം.18,000 കിലോഗ്രാം ഭാരമുള്ള ഈ ബസിന് മണിക്കൂറില് 96 കിലോമീറ്റര്വരെയാണ് പരമാവധി വേഗത.
െ്രെഡവര്ക്കുള്പ്പെടെ 31 സീറ്റാണ് ബസിലുള്ളത്. ഓട്ടോമൊബൈല് റിസര്ച്ച് ഇന്സ്റ്റിറ്റിയൂട്ട് ഓഫ് ഇന്ത്യ നേരത്തെ തന്നെ ബസ് സര്വീസിന് ബിഎംടിസിക്ക് അനുമതി നല്കിയിരുന്നു. വോള്വോ ബസില് ഈടാക്കുന്ന നിരക്കാണ് ഇലക്ട്രിക് ബസ് യാത്രക്കും ഈടാക്കുക. സ്റ്റോപ്പുകളുടെ വിവരങ്ങള് നല്കാന് എല്ഇഡി ഡിസ്പ്ലേയും ഇംഗ്ലീഷ്, കന്നഡ ഭാഷകളില് അനൗണ്സ്മെന്റും ഉണ്ട്.
സി.സി ടി.വി ക്യാമറകള് ഉള്പ്പെടെ അത്യാന്താധുനിക സാങ്കേതിക വിദ്യകളാണ് ബി.വൈ.ഡി കെ9 സീരീസ് ഇലക്ട്രിക് ബസിലുള്ളത്. ചൈനയില് ഇത്തരം 300ഓളം ബസുകള് സര്വീസ് നടത്തുന്നുണ്ട്. സിംഗപൂരിലും മലേഷ്യയിലും വിജയകരമായ ശേഷമാണ് ഇന്ത്യയിലേക്കും ഇലക്ട്രിക് ബസുകള് എത്തുന്നത്. സൗരോര്ജ്ജം വഴിയും ബാറ്ററികള് ചാര്ജ് ചെയ്യാനാവും എന്നതാണ് മറ്റൊരു പ്രത്യേകത. 2 കോടി രൂപയാണ് ബസിന്റെ വില.
Swami Aseemanand Says the RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat Sanctioned Terrorist Attacks
Swami Aseemanand, incarcerated in Ambala Central Jail for abetting terrorist attacks on various targets between 2006 and 2008—Samjhauta Express (February 2007), Hyderabad Mecca Masjid (May 2007), Ajmer Dargah (October 2007) and two attacks in Malegaon (September 2006 and September 2008)—which together took the lives of 119 people, has made a revelation to The Caravan which has been published in the latest issue of the magazine. In the course of over two years, Aseemanand granted four exclusive interviews to The Caravan journalist Leena Gita Reghunath inside Ambala jail, the total duration of which ran into 09 hours and 26 minutes. In the last two interviews, Aseemanand repeated that his terrorist acts were sanctioned by the highest levels of the RSS—all the way up to Mohan Bhagwat, the current RSS chief, who was the organisation’s general secretary at the time.
Aseemanand told The Caravan that Bhagwat said of the violence, “It is very important that it be done. But you should not link it to the Sangh.” (A list of questions was sent to Bhagwat, but he has not responded.)
Extract from the 11,200-word-long The Caravan article:
Over the course of our conversations, Aseemanand’s description of the plot in which he was involved became increasingly detailed. In our third and fourth interviews, he told me that his terrorist acts were sanctioned by the highest levels of the RSS—all the way up to Mohan Bhagwat, the current RSS chief, who was the organisation’s general secretary at the time. Aseemanand told me that Bhagwat said of the violence, “It’s very important that it be done. But you should not link it to the Sangh.”
Aseemanand told me about a meeting that allegedly took place, in July 2005. After an RSS conclave in Surat, senior Sangh leaders including Bhagwat and Indresh Kumar, who is now on the organisation’s powerful seven-member national executive council, travelled to a temple in the Dangs, Gujarat, where Aseemanand was living—a two-hour drive. In a tent pitched by a river several kilometres away from the temple, Bhagwat and Kumar met with Aseemanand and his accomplice Sunil Joshi. Joshi informed Bhagwat of a plan to bomb several Muslim targets around India. According to Aseemanand, both RSS leaders approved, and Bhagwat told him, “You can work on this.” Indresh added, “You can work on this with Sunil. We will not be involved, but if you are doing this, you can consider us to be with you.”
Aseemanand continued, “Then they told me, ‘Swamiji, if you do this we will be at ease with it. Nothing wrong will happen then. Criminalisation nahin hoga (It will not be criminalised). If you do it, then people won’t say that we did a crime for the sake of committing a crime. It will be connected to the ideology. This is very important for Hindus. Please do this. You have our blessings.’”
Chargesheets filed by the investigative agencies allege that Kumar provided moral and material support to the conspirators, but they don’t implicate anyone as senior as Bhagwat. Although Kumar was interrogated once by the CBI, the case was later taken over by the NIA, which has not pursued the conspiracy past the level of Aseemanand and Pragya Singh. (Joshi, who was allegedly the connecting thread between several different parts of the conspiracy—including those who assembled and those who planted the bombs—was killed under mysterious circumstances in December 2007.)
Sixty-three-year-old Aseemanand dedicated almost his entire adult life to the tribal arm of the RSS, the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (VKA). At the time he planned the terrorist attacks, he had been the national head of the VKA’s religious wing, the Shraddha Jagran Vibhag—a position created especially for him—for a decade. In honour of Aseemanand’s service to the Sangh, in December 2005, he was awarded a special Guruji Samman on the occasion of the birth centenary of MS Golwalkar. The award came with a one-lakh-rupee cash prize and the veteran BJP leader and former party president Murli Manohar Joshi gave the ceremony’s keynote address. Not only have the RSS and the BJP never disowned Aseemanand for his roles in the terrorist attacks, or taken back the awards, Aseemanand confessed to The Caravan that RSS-affiliated lawyers are providing his legal aid.
Knowing the national relevance of the sensitive information that Aseemanand revealed to The Caravan journalist, in an interview which was conducted with the full consent of Aseemanand, we place these facts in front of the public, along with a tape recording and transcript of parts of the conversation that mention Mohan Bhagwat. The full story is at caravanmagazine.in/reportage/believer
Date: 5 February, 2014
|Mr. Anant Nath||Dr. Vinod K Jose|
|Editor, The Caravan and Director, Delhi Press||Executive Editor, The Caravan|
Total number of interviews: 4
Dates taken: 10 January 2012, 22 June 2013, 9 January 2014, 17 January 2014
Place taken: Ambala Central Jail, Haryana
Total duration of all interviews together: 9 hours, 26 minutes, 51 seconds
Relevant audio related to Mohan Bhagwat:
Interview 3: 1:40 – 1:42
THE CARAVAN TRANSCRIPTS
Writer: Leena Gita Reghunath
Editors: Vinod K Jose (reporting and content) and Alex Blasdel (structure and story)
Copy Editor: Ajay Krishnan
Fact Checker: Manas Roshan
Transcribed on: third interview—10 January 2014; fourth interview—17 January 2014
Transcription extracts / highlights on Mohan Bhagwat:
From third interview with Aseemanand, 10 Jan 2014, Ambala Central Jail, Haryana:
@ 1 hr: 40 min:
Aseemanand: Mohan Bhagwat, Indresh and Sunil, they all came to meet me in Shabari Dham.
Sunil said to Bhagwatji: Thoda hindu ka akraman hona hai. Sangh se jude hue log hai jo yeh vichar rakhte hai. Jo bhi hoga hum tak hi rakhenge. Sangh se inko jho denge bhi nahin. Aap se koi madat nahi lenge. Aap adhikari hai is liye aap ko bata rahe hai. Is liye aap ko bata raha hai, ki hum log soch rahe hai. [We should do some violence in the name of Hindus. There are many in the Sangh who feel so. Whatever happens it will be limited to us. We will not link the Sangh with this. We won’t take any help from you for this. We are letting you know because you are the top officials of the Sangh that we are planning to do this.]
Then Mohanji and Indresh, both said: Yeh bahut achcha hai. Zaroori hai. Sangh se nahi jodna. Sangh nahi karenge. [unclear] Hindutva ke liye bhi aisa koi hai. Sangh ka yeh vichar nahi hai. [This is great. It’s very important that it be done. But the Sangh will not do this … (unclear) … That now Hindus will also have someone to do this. But don’t link this to the Sangh. Because this not the ideology of the Sangh.]
Then told me: Swamiji aap yeh karenge toh hum nishchint hoga. Koyi galat nahi hoga. Criminalization nahi hoga. Aap karenge toh crime karne keliye kar rahe hai aisa nahin lagega. Ideology ke saath juda rahega. [unclear] Bahut zaruri hai yeh hindu ke liye. Aap log karo. Aashirwad hai. Is se aage kuch bhi nahi. [If you will do this, we will be at ease with this. Nothing wrong will happen then. This will not be criminalized then. If you do it then people won’t say that we did a crime for the sake of doing a crime. It will be connected to the ideology. This is very important for Hindus. Please do this. You have our blessings. Nothing more than that from us.]
Interview 4: 2:29 – 2:30
Extract from fourth interview January 17, 2014:
Aseemanand: Phir kya hua ki Mohanji bola ke [So then Mohanji told me that] “aap kaam kar sakte hai.” Indreshji bola ki “haan aap kaam kar sakte hai. Sunil ko leke aap kaam kar sakte hai. Par ham log nahi rahenge. Aap hai to ham log aapke saath hai yeh aap maan lena. Aap jo karenge galat nahi hoga. Disha teekh rahega.” [You can work on this. You can work on this with Sunil. We will not be involved. But if you are doing this, you can consider us to be with you on this. If you do this we are ensured that nothing wrong will happen. This will be on the right course (with your presence).]
This I had told Bharat and Bharat had told this to the CBI. I was surprised how CBI got to know all these things. That only me, Sunil, Bhagwatji and Indresh had met in a camp at the Shabri Dham. Yeh yeh baat hua tha [we had talked about these particular topics] – it was very surprising to me that how CBI knew about this. [In] 2005, after the Surat meeting this happened, close to Diwali.
Corrections: 1) |5 February, 2014| This press release previously stated that the reporter’s first interview with Aseemanand was in December 2011. The reporter met Aseemanand at a hearing that month. The first interview took place on 10 January 2012. 2) |9 February, 2014| An earlier line from the story, also excerpted in the press release, contained a transcription error. The line originally read: ‘According to Aseemanand, both RSS leaders approved, and Bhagwat told him, “You can work on this with Sunil. We will not be involved, but if you are doing this, you can consider us to be with you.”’ This line has been modified to: ‘According to Aseemanand, both RSS leaders approved, and Bhagwat told him, “You can work on this.” Indresh added, “You can work on this with Sunil. We will not be involved, but if you are doing this, you can consider us to be with you.”’ The Caravan regrets the errors.
– See more at: http://caravanmagazine.in/press-release#sthash.ZBb5QmnU.dpuf