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South Asia

Sirimavo of Sri Lanka: Refocusing on World’s first Women Prime Minister

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Authors: Srimal Fernando and Pooja Singh*

In 1970s, there was a time when Sirimavo Bandaranaike caught the global attention and her premiership was one of the most momentous times in Sri Lanka’s political history. On 21 July, 1960, she became the first ever woman Prime Minister of Sri Lanka (formally known as Ceylon) and the world. Even today nearly half a century later, Sirimavo’s name is remembered among the thousands of Sri Lankans and among the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) supporters. Thus the Sri Lankan voters expectations about Sirimavo rose within no time after the unfortunate assassination of her husband S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike in 1959.

In the summer of 1970, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) , the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) and also the Communist Party (CP) was sweeping electorates in a general election by winning 115 seats out of 151. In essence, Sirimavo’s administration presented far-reaching constitutional and socio-economic reforms that were suitable for a small island nation.  In fact Mrs. Bandaranaike handled the transfer of island nation becoming a republic under a new constitution tactfully. In this context, Dr. N.M. Perera, Felix Dias Bandaranaike, Philip Gunawardena was some of the primary shapers of her administration. At that time, unlike her predecessors, the former premier showed great interest in developing cement, paper, steel and chemical industries. Despite promising signs under her leadership, uneven inequalities from 1948 to 1970 and economic stagnation created tensions within rural masses. Surprisingly, a coup in 1971 by the southern insurgents headed by Rohana Wijeweera, the leader of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) shattered the hopes of Bandaranaike government for a short time. Although coup was unsuccessful because of Sri Lanka’s military support to premier’s rule.

It is noteworthy to mention Sirimavo era solidified Sri Lanka’s foreign policy in the coming decades, which set the stage for the island to increase bilateral ties with India and China. In fact, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was a trustworthy friend of Mrs. Bandaranaike. This period also saw the closest bilateral relations between the neighbouring countries. Especially, Mrs. Bandaranaike was a giant among Non-Alignment leaders. In the summer of 1976 at the fifth Non Aligned Movement (NAM) summit held at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall(BMICH) in Colombo, Mrs. Bandaranaike stated, “The non-aligned countries should fight against injustice, intolerance, inequality, old concept of empire and intervention.”

On the domestic political scenario, the opposition leader J.R. Jayewardene and his deputy Ranasinghe Premadasa had been outspoken critics of Sirimavo Bandaranaike policies. When she lost 1977 general elections, it was extremely a difficult situation for Mrs. Bandaranaike and for the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) coalition partners who had developed a remarkable sense for socialist political culture within the multicultural society in  Sri Lanka. Seven years later Mrs. Bandaranaike had lost her civic rights, the party hierarchy nominated veteran SLFP stalwart Hector Kobbekaduwa for the forthcoming referendum. The Referendum results did not reflect the true situation. Then while the    atmosphere began to change in the island country after the eruption of ethnic conflict and signing of the Indo-Lanka accord. This scenario caused strong anti-United National Party (UNP) regime change feeling.  In a closely fought presidential election in 1988, the SLFP leader Mrs. Bandaranaike lost to UNP presidential candidate Mr. Premadasa. There were no immediate solutions to the crisis in Sri Lanka under Premadasa’s presidency.  Hence  in  the South, due to the JVP uprising and the Tamil tiger (LTTE) attacks in Northern and Eastern provinces, conditions inside the Island nation was going from bad to worse.

At the same time, the crisis in the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP)  came to surface and the party was divided into several wings.  Thus, the time had come for SLFP party unity for doing away with the seventeen years United National Party (UNP) rule. Mrs. Bandaranaike was convinced that it was time for a new generation of party leadership. She opened the corridors of political power to Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Mahinda Rajapaksa, and Maithripala Sirisena who later became presidents of Sri Lanka. In late years, Mrs. Bandaranaike was a prime minister for a short time from when her daughter Mrs. Kumaratunga was president. On the Foreign Policy front she reworked strong bilateral ties with India and China and her policies remained important for Non Aligned Movement (NAM) nations and for India  and China ties with Sri Lanka. After more than fifty years of service to the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), to the nation many of the Sri Lankan’s were finding it hard to come to terms with Sirimavo’s sudden death on 10th October, 2000.Late premier Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s pragmatic policies mattered very much for the South Asian island nation, the region and to the world at large.

* Pooja Singh, a scholar of Masters in Diplomacy, Law, Business at Jindal School of International Affairs, India.

Research scholar at Jindal School of International Affairs, India and an editor of Diplomatic Society for South Africa

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South Asia

The haunting Karo-Kari culture in Pakistan’s Sindh province

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Rural women of a nearby village passing through a graveyard where hundreds of Karis are burried

In the desolated land of district Ghotki in Pakistan’s Sindh province, which is comprising of sand dunes, barren fields and mounds of many destroyed settlements of yesteryears/past, hundreds of unfortunate women are buried who have been killed by any male member of their families in the name of honor. Tattered clothes and footwear of women, scattered human bones everywhere and a deep silence state that there are so many tragic untold stories of women who are killed for being Karis (dishonored) have been associated with this no man’s land. It is locally known as ‘The valley of witches’ so that people can be restricted from coming here and knowing the truth.

A local namely Rasool Bux tells an incident which happened to him a long ago here, ‘During my childhood, I once was passing through this place and saw that a flock of wild dogs was eating something mercilessly. I first thought that it could be a dead animal but when I saw the clothes on the dead body came to know that it’s a woman who might be buried by someone here and dogs had dig out the dead body. The blood curdling scene had made me seriously ill and for many days I was not in position to eat, talk or even walk. My parents thought that I had seen a witch but that was a woman’s dead body.’  

Besides this valley of witches, in Deh Pooh’s Mehar Shah graveyard, a large number of Karis (women killed in the name honor) are buried in a separate corner and an aged woman has been performing here the duty of Mujawari (care taker) for years. She daily comes early in the morning, fills water in water pitchers, cleans graves/graveyard with broom and goes back to her home before sunset. She says ‘My only loving daughter was declared as Kari and killed by her husband and father in law. She is buried here in that corner (she pointed her finger toward south-west corner) since that day I have been coming here to meet and take care of my unfortunate daughter. This is the last hope behind my existence.’

Next to it is Fatu Shaheed graveyard which is situated 7 kilometers away in south from Reti Railway Station. In Deh Derawaro, Gharho Pir and Pir Mehboob graveyards are also notorious as they all have separate corners for Karis. From the walking distance of the Kun Waro Qabarustan in Deh Pooh, hundreds of Karis are buried on a desolated sand dune. Once, a Hindu priest (Bhopa) was also caught red handed from here who was trying to carry a bagfilled with human bones. He also affirmed that this was his second effort of the same type and he had dig out hundreds of graves of women for using their bones in black magic.

At some distance from this point, in Deh Chacharki’s Lundi Wara Luk area many Karis are buried which also include those educated mother and daughter, who revolted against the unfairness of their male family members on a property matter and were cruelly tortured and finally killed by their own male blood relatives after declaring them as Karis. According to a local who was the eyewitness of the incident ‘They first shackled the hands of both women in a jeep, dragged them from home to here at this spot and then buried them without any funeral services.’

Hundreds of women are killed in the name of honor in Sindh province every year and shockingly there happens no registration of FIR (First Information Report) by the Police against the killers because the police couldn’t find any clue and witness about murderers or even the whereabouts of dead bodies. Most of the cases remain unreported so the majority of the culprits remain safe. There is also involvement and pressure of local feudal lords (locally called Wadheras/Sardars in Sindhi language) in continuation of this negative social custom which have destroyed thousands of households in the province. 

In a Karo-Kari case, mostly women suffer and men remain safe from being murdered. This happens because often the intensions behind declaring a couple, Karo happen to be financial and property related matters. Nobody takes any further efforts to prove those allegations ‘false’ because there happens no hearing or following of case after the murder of a Kari woman.

The height of our social backwardness can be measured from this Sindhi language phrase ‘Wadhi ya Kadhi’ means ‘slaughter or kick out’ which is considered as a powerful reply of a man when he finds that his woman has done anything wrong or betrayed him in a relationship. Kicking a woman out means giving her divorce which does not occur in most of the cases of Karo-Kari. Arranging a Jirga is the second and last part of this deplorable practice in which alleged man is pressurized to pay for the unproven guilt.

The women who get divorce from their men are handed over to relative Sardar’s palace for serving but in most of the cases they are sold by the local Sardars and powerful landlords and those who don’t get any buyer keep bearing the brunt for rest of their lives. According to a retired servant of a Sardar in upper Sindh(who requests to remain anonymous) his master/Sardar had sold around 2 dozen such women for approximately 5,000,000during his tenure of performing duties at his palace.

This is also a fact that for killing alleged Kari women, services of masters in this business are obtained. There are many such expert killers involved in honor killings in Sindh’s Ghotki, Jacobabad and Kashmore districts who have killed more than 10 women in Karo-Kari. A local tells ‘My uncle was famous in the area as an expert of honor killings as he alone killed more than 25 women throughout his nearly 100 years’ life. People came to him for such matters and he used to do that very easily for a little amount of money.’

Now since the state has been taking some action against such unlawful killings of deprived women and pressure of non-governmental agencies working to defend women’s rights starting to build up, the murderers have become adroit/clever and changed the modus-operandi of such killings. They now, first trace the desolated place and then kill the Kari women by expunging all the identities of the deceased. There is also another technique being used nowadays that is tying a stone to the neck of dead body and throw it in river/water body.

There is still a need that the awakened minds of the society must kick off an effective and decisive campaign against such social culprits in order to save the daughters of the Eve from the wildest humans of the social order because it’s the only way out to change the muted mindset of this society.

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South Asia

One year Siege of Kashmir

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Women walking past Indian security forces in Srinagar, summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Nimisha Jaiswal/IRIN

It has been one year, that 900,000 troops deployed in Jammu and Kashmir to impose a strict curfew. Indian trained troops used excessive powers and draconian laws to suppress the legitimate movement for self-determination, United Nation Security Council (UNSC) has provided them in 1948. India is denying their legal right and defaulter of the UNSC for 72 years.

The situation became worst, when India unilaterally annexed Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh, on the 5th of August 2019, revoking the Indian Constitution, the UN Charter, and bilateral Shimla Agreement. Changed the special autonomous status of the J&K and Ladakh and merged as a union territory.

There was widespread criticism inside India as well as globally. The intellectuals, Scholars, moderate politicians, and opposition political; parties criticized this decision as warned the severe consequences.

UN, International community, EU, US, and global NGOs also criticized and condemned the serious violations of Human Rights and Violations of freedom of religion. Kashmiris, around the world, are protesting and agitating against the Indian Government’s action in Kashmir.

It is one of the longest and largest curfews in the known human history. Indian troops are killing, torturing, kidnapping, detain, and raping the unarmed civilians. Damaging their properties, destroying their business, burning their agriculture, forcing them to give up their legitimate demand for self-determination. UNSC resolutions are legally binding on India to implement, but till date, India is denying.

The 87% of the population in J&K is Muslims, if plebiscite happens, the Muslims will vote for a merger with Pakistan. India due to this fear is delaying the plebiscite. On the other hand, India is issuing domicile to Hindus from other parts of India to settle in Kashmir. Special incentives are offered to Hindus from other parts of India to shift to Kashmir and settle down. Lucrative jobs are offered to non-Kashmiris, business incentives are extended to non-Kashmiris, Property &Agri-land, are offered to non-Kashmiris on priority. India is using all dirty tricks to change the demography of J&K. India wanted to change the Muslim majority status of J&K.

Recently, under a conspiracy, the Indian government sent 60,000 well trained, well equipped RSS youths into J&K, intending to kill the Muslims. Indian troops are shifting the Kashmiri youths to detention camps, which is an advanced stage of genocide. The well trained and well equipped RSS-youth are tasked to conduct a genocide of Muslims in Kashmir.

The people of Kashmir are under siege for one year, and strict curfew has created a shortage of food, fuel, electricity, and medicines. People’s lives are at stake, many are starving with hunger. Young kids are the worst-hit victims. Women are raped as a tool and weapon to humiliate and degrade them.

Indian has surpassed all records of Human Rights violations in the history of humankind. The Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other NGOs have reported all such violations. Although, there is a complete cut-off of J&K from the rest of the world, as mobile phones and internet services are suspended. There is a travel ban on Media and foreigners to enter J&K. Yet, a fraction of information is leaked to World Media.

Pakistan is obliged to extend its moral, diplomatic and political support to suppressed people of Kashmir. Pakistan is raising the J&K issue at all platforms including the UN. International media is reporting the situation in Kashmir. Yet the International community is silent, is beyond our understanding. May be the International community is waiting till the genocide happened to them they rush for photo-session, making videos, and making reports.

It is strongly appealed to the International community and civilized world and individuals with human consciousness, to act now to rescue human lives in Kashmir. Prompt action is required urgently to save human lives in Kashmir. Any delay might make us repent later on.

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South Asia

Banning Books

Hidayat Ullah

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From abducting civilians and journalist’s to banning books, there lies a bewildered dystopia. A Punjab Assembly board has chosen to boycott appropriation of three books by various writers, other than a day by day paper, and start lawful activity against in excess of hundred online networking IDs for supposedly containing irreverent substance. The Special Committee-6, which met at the get together secretariat here on Thursday under the seat of Law Minister Muhammad Basharat Raja, chose to boycott distribution as well as dissemination of The First Muslim and After the Prophet, the two works by outside creator Lesley Hazleton, and History of Islam by Mazharul Haq. The melancholic history of burning and banning Books has its roots back to when the Chinese emperor Shih Haung Ti buried alive 460 Confucian scholars to control the writings of History in his time. In 212 B.C, he burned all the books in his kingdom retaining only a single copy of each for the royal library. In the case of Pakistan, ideas of intellectuals that are allowed into the mainstream are sublimated through the meniscus of state ideology.

This truly depicts the Fascistphysiognomy and preconceptions of this totalitarian and authoritarian government lead by Imran khan. The so called intelligent morons of this land of pures and the harbingers of single curriculum had vanished the critical voices from the discourse of History. The decision of banning books reminds me of the Nazi’s in Germany when in 1930, they organized book-banning ceremonies. Books considered to be against the intrigues of the “Father land” were set on fire by the followers of supra Nationalist Adolf Hitler. Now, officials claiming that thousands of books are being banned in Punjab. This is the result of the critical nexus between the Military and religious establishment whose pre-eminence is to breed the politics of hate, repression, racism and misogyny.

The prosperous and democratic nation’s of the world disbanded the matters of extremism, Fanaticism and racism and we in the 21st century are banning books to get rid of un Islamic and anti Pakistani content. Instead of banning Books, we should have banned the dystopian elements and instead of following Hitler we should have followed the ideologies of Voltaire, Rene Descartes and Thomas Hobbes. Since 25 July 2018, this selected government has ruined the country in every way possible. The Punjab government in order to let people forget about their callous and incompetent policies decided to ban more than hundred books for having the picture of pig. As predicted by Pakistan’s renowned physicist and columnist DR. Pervez Hood boy earlier this week. He said and I quoted “ be prepared, Pakistan! Imran Khan’s government is poised to inflict damage upon this country’s Education system in a manner never seen before”.

The stage is all set for propelling the country into instability, turmoil and chaos. The maximalist behavior of this regime has hurt the social life of masses. Instead of erasing the male practices from society, the government looks more concerned about removing critical voices from the curriculum. The victims of Pakistan studies wants everyone to fall in their category. Banning books wouldn’t help in propagating the state’s Fascist ideology. It will further reveal the filthy and acrimonious attitude of the tyrants. Here in Pakistan Islam is not in danger because of tiktok andbooks accused of containing blasphemous and anti Pakistani content but what is more menacing is sectarianism, extremism and terrorism. Therefore instead of adding fuel to the fire, the authorities responsible should halt all these social and ethical evils that are plaguing the society. So in order to make this country a democratic one this system of repression and suppressing freedom of speech and freedom of expression must be ended.  Believing in miracles is the biggest miracle as an enlightenment philosopher lament’s, so looking for a miracle in case of this land of pures. In essence and to cut this debate short, the decision needs to be looked upon and allowing full freedom to the citizens will yield better results.

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