Friday, May 24, 2013

Continuing Hunger, Vampire Squids, and a Bit of Good News


Rising food prices have been driving millions of people across the world into extreme poverty over the last few years, even as banks and financial investors have been making a killing. 

Goldman Sachs, the US investment bank -- (which journalist Matt Taibbi famously described as "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money") -- made an estimated $400 million from speculating on food in the year 2012.

The amount of financial speculation on food nearly doubled, from $65 billion in 2006 to $126 billion in 2011.

(Speculation is generally defined as the practice of engaging in financial transactions in an attempt to profit from short or medium term fluctuations in the market value of a commodity, such as wheat or rice. In its present global form, speculation has acquired a scale so as to distort or even drive the market in a manner that a few traders could make huge profits at the expense of millions of consumers and producers.)

Any trader -- or anyone who has an instinct for how markets operate in the real world -- would tell you without batting an eyelid that huge speculative investments in commodities do drive up prices.

Despite this common knowledge -- as it happens in a world ruled by corporations -- there has long been a "debate" over the factors causing unprecedented rise in prices of food commodities across the world. 

Given the empirical evidence that has been accumulating over the years, even this apology for a debate would long be over, had it not been for Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street vampire squids.

The mounting evidence and public pressure have, nevertheless, resulted in positive developments; some big European banks have recently pulled back from speculative trading in farm commodities.

Check below a link to the website of WEED (World Economy, Ecology and Development), to find a PDF containing a list of 100 summarized studies -- compiled by this European research and advocacy organization – which establish the role of speculation in driving up food prices.

The varied sources of these studies include Harvard University and UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).


This list may come in handy for Right to Food activists and as material adding weight to the empirical evidence establishing the role of speculation in distorting food markets.

Read below a report published on 23 May, 2013 in British newspaper The Guardian to get a sense of how the American vampire squid is blocking the measures that will protect the vulnerable populations across the world from wild fluctuations in prices of food. 

That follows another report, published in British magazine New Internationalist, on the ending of food of speculation by Barclays and other European banks.

Pasted at the very bottom of this post is a report, published in the Indian Express, which talks about FAO's dire warning against "tremendous human impact" of financial speculation. 
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What Goldman Sachs should admit: it drives up the cost of food
As Goldman shareholders meet today, they should be hearing about the financial titan's exploitative business practices
Deborah Doane
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 23 May 2013

Today, 23 May, is the annual general meeting (AGM) of financial speculator Goldman Sachs, the archetypal villain of the global economic meltdown, bailed out by US taxpayers to the tune of $5.5bn. Perhaps they'll hand out last year's Community Impact report, which shows how they've tried to redeem themselves with charity, like serving up almost 30,000 meals and preparing about 250,000 others in community projects in the US and around the world.

The irony, of course, is that while they're serving up a few meals, their core business is virtually starving people at the same time. In 2012, the US investment bank made an estimated $400m from speculating on food.

The World Bank estimated in 2010 that 44 million people were pushed into poverty because of high food prices, and that speculation is one of the main causes.

Since Goldman led the drive to deregulate commodity markets in the 1990s, after constraints were imposed following the 1930s Wall Street crash, they've been at the vanguard of creating and promoting complex commodity instruments, from which they've raked in huge profits.

Wallace Turbeville, a former vice president and the inventor of commodity index funds, has been outing the company's methods. He says that in his time at Goldman, investment increased from $3bn in 2003 to $260bn in 2008, and commodity prices rose dramatically during the same period, increasing from 2006 to 2008 by an average of 71%.

In 1996, speculators held 12% of the positions on the Chicago wheat market, with most of the market being made up of the legitimate users of food – from farmers to producers. But the legitimate hedging element of commodity markets has virtually disappeared in the intervening years.

By 2011, pure speculators made up a staggering 61% of the market. Of course, Goldman Sachs isn't the only player, but it is certainly the largest.

For several years, it was hotly debated whether speculation in food commodities drives up prices. But the evidence now firmly says it does, and that there's little correlation between rising prices and actual supply and demand.

There are now well over 100 studies which agree (pdf), from sources as varied and valuable as Harvard University, the Food and Agricultural Organisation and the United Nations.

The knock-on effect of increased speculation has meant price spikes are now more and more common. In November 2012, the World Bank declared a new era of food price volatility.

While regulators play catch-up on both sides of the Atlantic, financial lobbyists are doing their utmost to block progress. The Dodd Frank Act, passed in 2010, imposed limits on speculation; but industry lobbyists are fighting at every pass.

In September last year, just before new rules would have come into effect, a Washington DC court ruled in favour of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association and the Financial Markets Association, which brought forward a claim that the rules were drafted faultily. An appeal is now pending, putting any effective regulation way out into the long grass.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, as Brussels tries to bring forward similarly progressive regulation, the tentacles of Goldman's influence are everywhere. In the UK, Goldman Sachs gave £8.8m ($13.4m) to political parties. The UK is the primary opponent blocking Brussels-regulation against commodity speculation.

Members of the European parliament on the economics and monetary committee met with representatives of Goldman Sachs, its lobby groups and PR companies nine times in the first six months of 2010 alone – the year regulation was drafted.

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs is represented on 16 industry groups that were invited to join a "special working group" to look at financial reforms for the European Commission.

Charity may be alive and well, but until the regulators stand up to its influence, Goldman Sachs and its financial sector cohorts are still able to give with one hand while taking significantly more with the other.

Barclays ends food speculation
By New Internationalist Editorial, Feb 2013  

Barclays, which announced an end to its speculation on food on Tuesday 12 February, made up to an estimated £278 million from the trade in 2012. The figure brings the bank’s total revenue from food speculation from 2010 to 2012 to an estimated three quarters of a billion pounds.

Campaigners have welcomed the move to pull out of speculative deals with hedge funds but are disappointed by Barclays’ decision to continue selling investment products that allow other financial players, like pension funds, to speculate.

The £278 million ($431.4 million) figure was released by the World Development Movement, which is calling for regulation to prevent banks betting on food prices and contributing to the global hunger crisis.

Barclays has been the leading British player in speculating on food. Goldman Sachs is widely recognised as the world leader.

Barclays’ withdrawal follows announcements in 2012 by several German, Austrian and Scandinavian banks that they would reduce or suspend trading in food commodity markets. But German giant Deutsche Bank, one of the banks indicating a withdrawal, has since returned to speculating on food.

Legislation to curb speculation is on the table at the EU, but the British government has so far opposed effective controls.

World Development Movement campaigner Christine Haigh said: ‘Barclays’ announcement is a welcome step. One of the world’s biggest banks has acknowledged that gambling on food is not an acceptable way to make money, and other speculators like Goldman Sachs should take heed. But Barclays remains in the market peddling investment products which enable others to speculate on food prices, and could return to larger scale speculation at any time. The only thing that will prevent banks driving up prices is tough regulation, and this is what the UK government should be supporting.’
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Excessive speculation leading to volatile food prices: FAO
Indian Express, Jul 08, 2012

New Delhi: Excessive speculation in futures and commodities markets is leading to high volatility in food prices, which has a "tremendous human impact", United Nation's body Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has said.

"Let's make one thing clear, we are not talking about speculation related to price discovery and the normal functioning of the futures markets. We are talking about excessive speculation in derivative markets, which can increase price swings and their speed," FAO Director General Jose Graziano Da Silva said in a statement.

Speaking at a high-level debate on role of financial speculation in food price volatility last week, Da Silva said that the world needs to take a hard look at speculation on the financial markets and its potential impact on food price volatility.

"Excessive food price volatility, especially at the speed at which they have been occurring since 2007, has negative impacts on poor consumers and poor producers alike all over the world," he added.

Keynote speaker at the debate, President of the Dominican Republic Leonel Fernandez Reyna stressed on the need for more information to get a clearer picture on market transactions, in order to better understand the role of speculation in agricultural commodities.

Fernandez said that the food price swings were having a "tremendous human impact" and cautioned against using food commodities purely as financial instruments.

"Financial speculation is exacerbating market fluctuations and this exacerbation is generating uncertainty - this uncontrolled, unregulated exacerbation is provoking a dramatic impact on countries that are net food importers," he added.

FAO has pointed out that the period between 2008 and 2011 was characterised by a series of extreme highs and lows in food pricing, which made it difficult for economically vulnerable consumers and agricultural producers to cope.

"Food price inflation has already been higher than overall inflation in almost every country. This has a greater impact on the poorer population, who can spend up to 75 per cent of their income in food," Da Silva said.

The view that speculation contributed to recent price volatility has led to more awareness among governments on the need for the introduction of greater regulation to limit this activity. However, the question of how much and what form of regulation is a matter of debate, he added.
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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Nestle is stealing stuff from your home


Nestle -- the criminal corporation that made 11.55 billion dollars (Rs 56,595 crore) in pure profits last year by selling people junk food like Maggi, baby milk formulas that destroy the health of new-borns as well as water stolen from natural commons -- may have been receiving some help from the corrupt Manmohan Singh government in stealing India's traditional knowledge.

While we enrich Nestle by buying its junk food  -- more so by heeding a fuckhead like Amitabh Bachchan who's banking some extra crores by selling you "Meri Maggi" -- this transnational corporate thug has been busy enclosing more of global commons -- traditional knowledge that is.

Nestle is well on its way to patent Nigella sativa -- or kalaunji (Hindi), karinjirakam (Malayalam), kalo jira (Bangla). It's a herb that's widely used as a traditional medicine as well as a culinary ingredient in Indian households. Your mother or grandmother will bear me out.

Nigella sativa's medicinal uses include as a cure for asthma --- all well documented by scientists in India, Pakistan and elsewhere in the non-Western cultures.

SumOfUs, a US-based activist group, has run a campaign against Nestle's attempt to patent Nigella sativa -- eliciting international outrage and compelling this corporate bandit to make a fraudulent statement.

http://action.sumofus.org/a/nestle-nigella-sativa/?sub=homepage

http://www.naturalnews.com/040155_Nestle_food_patents_nigella_sativa.html

http://www.navdanya.org/news/333-nestle-is-trying-to-patent-the-fennel-flower

http://www.nestle.com/aboutus/ask-nestle/answers/is-nestle-trying-to-patent-fennel-flower-nigella-sativa

Read more about Nestle's patent application at the following link.

https://data.epo.org/publication-server/rest/v1.0/publication-dates/20101222/patents/EP2263664NWA1/document.pdf

Read more about Nestle's bio-piracy attempt at http://www.cbd.int/abs/side-events/icnp2/twn-icnp2-no5-Nestle-Nigella.pdf. And read my understanding of the matter, including Nestle's fraudulent statement and why India seems supine in the face of this theft, in the paras at the bottom of this post.

You may like to write to V.K. Gupta of Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) and Biswajit Dhar of Research and Information System for Developing Countries to tell them to do what they can to stop this outrage.

Their email addresses are vkg@csir.res.in (Gupta) and biswajit@ris.org.in and dgoffice@ris.org.in (Dhar).
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Why does Nestle think it can get way with this? Here is what I understand why.

First a little background: India seems to have been one of the more tougher challengers -- among developing countries -- to Nestle's repeated attempts at bio-piracy. India is, of course, also a big stakeholder. It has a wealth of traditional medicine systems like Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani and ancient texts/recorded knowledge.

It's one of the 17 "mega-diverse" countries, i.e. countries that are especially generously endowed with bio-diversity and plant genetic resources.

In fact, India had intervened earlier, successfully, to prevent an attempt by Qatar-based Al Jassim Group to patent Nigella Sativa knowledge for treatment of Asthma/allergy.

Data from India's Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) was used to invalidate Al Jassim's patent application no. EP1709995.

http://www.tkdl.res.in/tkdl/langdefault/common/Abouttkdl.asp?GL=Eng

http://www.tkdl.res.in/TKDL/Conference/pdf_files/V_K_Gupta_INDIA_4.pdf

And data from TKDL have been used successfully to invalidate Nestle's three patent applications. Under agreement with India, a patent office in Europe (or elsewhere) must test patent applications against records in TKDL of 'prior art'.

One of these applications by Nestle had to be withdrawn in June 2011 and two in January 2012. The three patent applications were:

(a) Application no. EP2263481 -- Green tea extracts of improved bioavailability"
(b) Application no. EP2251032 -- Lactoferrin and brain health and protection in adults"
(c) Application no. EP2251029 -- Lactoferrin and gut neuronal health in adults and/or elderly"

So what has changed this time round? Why have TKDL data not been effective in invalidating Nestle's bid to patent Nigella Sativa knowledge?

I think the answer lies in Nestle's cunning strategy, along with the advent of Nagoya Protocol which Government of India is in the process of ratifying.

Nestle has tried to foolproof its strategy in the following, two-pronged manner.

(a) Pretend that the patent is not based -- in the first place -- on 'traditional knowledge'.

(b) Simultaneously, look and sound fair-minded and large-hearted by saying that 'we are anyway going to share the benefits, under Nagoya Protocol, arising out of the use of Nigella Sativa with the countries that produce the plant'.

Nestle spokesperson told Business Standard, an Indian daily, that "the research on Nigella Sativa was not inspired by any kind of traditional knowledge but focused on the compound which is found in this plant and other plants".

"The compound can be a thymoquinone containing extract, such as an extract from Nigella sativa (black cumin), or from other plants such as Eupatorium ayapana (now Ayapana triplinervis, or water hemp, an American plant from the daisy family), Satureja montana (winter savory, a European plant from the mints family), or the Thymus genus (plants from the mints family, found in Europe, North Africa and Asia)," Nestle spokesperson said.

Pressed further on patent application's appropriation of traditional knowledge, Nestle spokesperson said:
"Nestle recognizes the importance of biodiversity and respects the sovereign rights of nations over their natural resources, including genetic (biological) resources. We fully support the principle of fair access and benefit-sharing as described in the Convention on Biological Diversity of 1992 and the more recent Nagoya Protocol of 2010."

It's easy to see that benefits sharing under Nagoya Protocol does not prevent misappropriation of traditional knowledge or bio-piracy; it just fosters a framework of compromise in which there will likely be sharing of benefits between exploiters of genetic resources and providers of such resources.

So Nagoya Protocol may have lulled India into inaction in blocking Nestle's bid to appropriate its traditional knowledge pertaining to Nigella Sativa.

I won't even be surprised if it transpired that Nestle engaged in some underhand dealing with some part of the Government of India to weaken the case against the patent application, such as buying time until Nagoya Protocol is ratified.

(I understand the US is not among the signatories of the Nagoya Protocol. So even the compromise on benefit sharing is far far from fair.)
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Friday, May 17, 2013

We are all poor and getting poorer by the day


I came across recently a copy of the book, ‘Asking the Earth: The Spread of Unsustainable Development’, written by late Winin Pereira and Jeremy Seabrook.

Pereira (1928 - 1999) was a Mumbai-based critic of Western hegemony and Western-style development. He founded the ‘Centre for Holistic Studies’ (CHS), which has been devoted to "an analysis of the impact of 500 years of colonialism, and to the recovery of alternative, indigenous social and economic values".

"Pereira turned to traditional Indian culture, the doctrine of ahimsa and minimal interference in nature. CHS has since become a resource-centre and library." (http://www.chs-sachetan.org/)

Jeremy Seabrook is a British author and journalist specialising in social, environmental and development issues. He shares Pereira's understanding of how the 'West' has been exploiting what he terms the 'Two-Thirds World'.

Seabrook's latest book is called, 'Pauperland: A Short History of Poverty in Britain'. (http://www.amazon.com/Pauperland-Short-History-Poverty-Britain/dp/184904273X)

He also wrote 'The No-Nonsense Guide to World Poverty'. (http://www.amazon.com/No-Nonsense-Guide-World-Poverty-Guides/dp/1904456669)

(“The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied... but written off as trash.”)

Reproduced below is an article written by Seabrook. Read it to get a sense of the dystopia that the humankind seems to have been living through. 
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http://www.jeremyseabrook.net/wordpress/?p=93
We Are All Poor
Jeremy Seabrook, February 2012

‘Mankind, it seems, hates nothing so much as its own prosperity. Menaced with an access of riches that would lighten its toil, it makes haste to redouble its labours and to pour away the precious stuff, which might deprive of plausibility the complaint that it is poor.’

These words of R.H. Tawney in 1926 referred to the increased wealth of Europe in the sixteenth century, an access of riches squandered on warfare.

Tawney’s observation has not been invalidated by posterity. For we have acquired the mysterious gift of creating, by means of wealth the world has never seen, a poverty so profound and immitigable that no one can foresee an end to it.

A subjective feeling of inadequacy now gnaws away, not simply at those surviving on the edge of subsistence, but also at those who, in a more innocent time, might have been regarded as the rich.

How such a state of affairs has come about is rarely debated; perhaps because of its simplicity and its central importance to what we commonly understand by ‘our way of life.’

For an experience of perpetual inadequacy is a natural response to a world, in which permanent economic growth takes priority over everything else.

In the presence of limitless expansion, everyone feels poor, under-rewarded, deprived or unrecognized; none more so than the already wealthy, since they measure riches, not against what they have amassed, but against the multitude of things and treasures they still do not possess.

The individual stands alone before the awful majesty of the market, much as the individual was believed, in a more credulous age, to stand before the throne of God.

We assess our ‘worth’ in relation, less to any identifiable human need, than to the power of production of an economy which is potentially boundless. No one can ever expect to fulfil desires prompted by this profane version of the infinite.

This is why it is vain work to rail at the greed of bankers, to censure the excesses of those who give themselves exorbitant rewards, since these are felt by their recipients as essential to alleviate some desperate sense of personal impoverishment. It is significant that bankers now refer to their income as ‘compensation’, as though this were to make amends for some terrible calamity that had befallen them.

This is no longer a moral issue in a continuously dilating economic universe. If we feel diminished and powerless, pitifully rewarded, this is because capitalism knows a dangerous but highly profitable secret – how to create a universal sense of neediness, which sets up a wanting without end.

Human longing, formerly expressed, sometimes contained, by the consolations of religion, is now simply another business opportunity; and because even the wealthiest can access only a fraction of the plenitude of a global market, they become impatient, frustrated by contemplation of what they do not have; this does not, however, prevent them from flourishing what they do have in the company of those who have less; but they persist in pining for all that remains, tantalisingly, just out of reach of their outstretched hands and overstretched means.

So it has come about that no one can now define the meaning of ‘enough.’ By means of this simple development, we are all poor. Bill Gates is poor – imagine all the philanthropic works forgone in the absence of a few extra billions. Bankers are poor, since they require bulky ‘packages’ in bonuses, money, shares and other specie, so that their atrophied imaginations can search the Financial Times weekly supplement on How to Spend It.

Russian oligarchs are poor, since so many must go into exile to protect assets diverted from the State into their own pockets. The great landowners of Britain are poor under the heavy responsibility of maintaining their properties and estates.

Chief executives are poor, for how can money ever compensate for ulcers, heart conditions and other symptoms of health ruined in pursuit of wealth; show business celebrities are poor, since their full talent is never adequately perceived, and no gains can ever satisfy their mysterious cravings; even footballers are poor, since the period of their competence is brief.

It goes without saying that professional women and men are poor, since theirs, the indispensable work of society, is always under-rewarded. Carpenters, bricklayers, plumbers and electricians are poor, carers and service personnel are poor, domestic servants and cleaners are poor, beggars and the homeless are poor.

Under the universal flail of poverty, governments are poor, forced to cut public spending with heavy hearts, a course of action they can contemplate only in the superior light of the national interest.

But what could be more conducive to social peace than that all classes and conditions of people should come together in a common desire to relieve their common affliction? The English riots of August 2011 disturbed this carefully crafted equilibrium, for it snapped – briefly – the single ideological thread that unites rich with poor in combating a sense of relentless insufficiency.

This is why they had to be represented by the government as ‘pure criminality’, since to succumb to the proposition that they were caused by ‘deprivation’ would shatter the unity of a people dedicated to permanent enhancement of ‘purchasing power’, not as theory, but in the practice and expectation of daily life.

I interviewed a well-known trade union leader in the 1970s, who solemnly said ‘the most beautiful word in the English language is more’. This epic pronouncement effectively marked the passage of the labour movement from a collective demand for a dignified subsistence into acknowledgement that continuous expansion was the true purpose of society, and to be part of it the true destiny of labour.

We are living with the consequences of that fateful renunciation of any other objective, from which it is inconceivable that we should emancipate ourselves, or even form a desire to do so.

How easy it is to look at whatever disposable income slips through our butter-fingers, and to see in it a pitiful shortage of what would be necessary for a half-decent life! When economic consciousness crowds out its social and moral rivals, the consequences are unlikely to be benign.

Individuals cannot be blamed for reflecting the dominant ideology of the age. We have collectively assimilated economic necessity and in the process identified it as representing our own needs. In other words, we have made our own the desire of a global economy for permanent expansion, and this is duly reflected in our daily assumptions about the world and our own role in it.

The impersonality of an economic system has been ‘humanised’ and we tenderly articulate it as if it were simply an aspect of our own deepest desires.

This is the principal reason why bankers have not been punished for the recent crisis. Their unhumbled pride shows they are well aware of their indispensability, as begetters of wealth and also as a modern version of the Fates, engineers of human destiny; since at the first hint of punitive measures against them, they threaten to return to Asgard or Olympus, taking with them the holy substance on which we all depend.

Despite the general lament of the people – all the people – that they are on the brink of pauperism, poverty is not the real problem of the world. The fault lies with wealth; or rather with a narrow monetary version of it, which has been elevated into mentor and guide, but which also turns out to be oppressor and tyrant.

And we race to throw away the vast productive power of globalism, in order to sustain the fiction of enduring poverty, which afflicts those wallowing in wealth no less than the most destitute scavenging for a few grains to eat on the margin of survival.

Tawney wrote of a world ‘which turned the desire for pecuniary gain from a perilous, if natural, frailty into the idol of philosophers and the mainspring of society.’ His cautionary chronicling of how old vices were transformed into economic virtues has been lost to the world.

The great truth – that a lack of the means of sustenance makes the life of an individual not worth living has blinded us to an even greater falsehood, namely that wellbeing grows in proportion to the accumulation of wealth. The price of this misperception is to condemn humanity to an impoverishment without end.
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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

'Independent' and 'secular' media serving the Church and how

Here is a sampling of the language and idiom of the "servants of the Church" in their fight against "communal forces". These servants include a "woman activist and change agent".


It seems Narendra Modi has been deliberately fomenting “dissent” between Hindus and Christians by such communal activities as visiting a “Christian district” in Gujarat on “Indian Republic Day”. This “calculated move” by Modi to go to Dangs, last January, was also aimed at “pitting Christians and tribal people against each other”.

“Feeling politically threatened in the tribal areas with substantial Christian populations,” Modi’s party has been trying to “Hinduize the whole area”.

That’s according to a report – reproduced at the bottom of this post – filed by the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) which describes itself as “Asia's most trusted independent Catholic news source” with operations in 22 countries (including India), 46 full-time staff with up to 200 reporters.

“UCAN is a media resource at the service of the Church. Our goal is to enhance the mission and the identity of the Church in Asia by applying the disciplines and processes of media professionals to the challenge,” says UCAN annual report 2011 available on its website (http://www.ucanews.com/)

UCAN lists its ‘values’ as: “independent, objective, respectful and humane”.

UCAN’s governing board includes Virginia Saldanha, who has been described on Christian websites as a Mumbai-based theologian. Her Linked-in profile describes her as “a writer, speaker, educator, woman activist and change agent, making the world a better and safer place for women”.

The UCAN report is posted on PesecutedChurch.info website.
‘PersecutedChurch.info’ belongs, of course, to India’s ‘persecuted religious minority’. It’s a website run by Mumbai-based Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) which describes itself as “India’s only social activist and human rights NGO for the Church, Community and others to be”. (http://www.thecsf.org/home.html)

Its founder and general secretary, Joseph Dias, describes himself as having been “serving the Catholic and Christian Churches in various capacities over the last three decades”. He also claims to have been the head of “the Trinity Group of companies”.
Dias also says he “participates and organizes demonstrations against communal forces throughout the country”.

Note that UCAN is “Catholic” and “independent” at the same time and CSF is “Catholic” as well as “Secular” without any contradiction. That’s universally possible as long as you are “Catholic” – or indeed “Christian”. With “Hindu”, it’s a different matter, of course.

Note carefully the language of the UCAN report that follows, especially words like “Hindu celebrations”, “Christian district”, “Indian republic day”, “Hinduize”, “pro-Hindu”, “Hindu revivalist”, “tribal Christian vote”, “anti-Christian” and “re-conversion”.

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Modi aims to sow dissent in Dangs, say priests
UCA News, January 29, 2013
Modi visits Hindu celebrations in Christian district

Gujarat, January 28, 2013: Church leaders have accused Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of deliberately aiming to create dissent between Hindus and Christians.

This follows his appearance at an Indian Republic Day celebration on January 26 at Ahwa, the capital of the Dangs district of Gujarat, which is mostly populated by tribal Christians.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is “feeling politically threatened in the tribal areas with substantial Christian populations and they are trying to Hinduize the whole area,” said Father Cedric Prakash who directs a human rights center in the state’s business capital, Ahmedabad.

He told ucanews.com on Sunday that though Modi did not make any controversial speech at the event, it was a subtle strategy to widen the base of his pro-Hindu party.

Modi attended several other functions over the weekend, including a meeting of the Swami Vivekananda Yuva Parishad youth group. The state government launched the group to promote the ideals of Swami Vivekananda, a 19th century Hindu revivalist.

“It was a calculated move by Modi to go to the Dangs. He will try to pit Christians and tribal people against each other,” said Fr Xavier Manjooran, who provides legal help to tribal people against their exploitation by private and government agencies.

During the December 2012 state elections, BJP candidates were defeated in the Dangs and neighboring Dharampur, mainly because of the tribal Christian vote.

The Dangs district witnessed anti-Christian attacks in 1998 and again in February 2006, when local politician Swami Aseemanand organized a program for the re-conversion of tribal Christians.

Aseemanand has since been jailed, but Fr Manjooran believes that Modi wants to revive the program under the guise of a plan to develop religious tourism.

Indian states normally hold Republic Day and Independence Day programs in their capital cities. But Modi has introduced a system in which they are held in different districts on a rotation basis.
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AAP says its coffers are empty; so where are millions of Aam Aadmis supporting “honest politics”?

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said on 27 May 2017 that it is planning to contest assembly elections next year in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh (...