Category Archives: International

Is Osama Bin Laden really dead?

Osama Bin Laden was on the FBI’s list of 10 Most Wanted Fugitives and Most Wanted Terrorists.

The US had been attempting to capture Bin Laden since his involvement in the US embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998.

Furthermore, he has been involved in other militant activities like the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York City and the Pentagon in Virginia through his connections with the Al-Qaeda of which he is the leader.

Attempted capture

Capturing Bin Laden has been on the US agenda since over a decade. Since the mastermind of the attacks went into hiding, the US government appealed to the Taliban government of the Afghanistan for trial or for extradition. US Presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama have all launched search operations to apprehend Bin Laden and bring him to the USA for trial.

Bin Laden was allegedly sighted several times during the last decade in areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Tora Bora was a suspected hideout of Bin Laden.

Is he really dead?

There have been reports over the years that Bin Laden has been found dead due to natural causes or has been killed. They were however, mere rumours.

On May 1 2011, US President Barack Obama announced that the US conducted a search operation that killed Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad in Pakistan.

However, DNA samples were used to match the person believed to be Osama Bin Laden. The burial at sea less than a day after he death raises further doubts about the credibility of the official announcement made by Barack Obama. Where are the pictures? Where is the evidence that the person who was killed was indeed Osama Bin Laden? How do we ensure that any pictures released in the near future are not “Photoshopped”?

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Why Should You Vote?

  • Casting a vote allows an individual to express a choice among candidates who wish to become government leaders.
  • Failing to register a vote is tantamount to saying you don’t care.
  • If you don’t vote, you are missing out on a great national privilege and a significant personal freedom
  • Voting provides a medium for citizens to support the democratic structure. If a majority of citizens choose not to vote, democracy might become a thing of the past and will be replaced by another form of government that might prove more elitist in nature.
  • Registering to vote means that you believe in the democratic process and will participate in it to represent your right to freedom of speech.
  • Showing that you care with your vote tells candidates that they must be accountable to the public.
  • Showing up at the polling booth on voting day sets a good example to others. Remember, your children observe all that you do and will learn from your example, right or wrong as it may be. Civic awareness is an important part of their training and one of the early steps on the road to maturity. Voting also sets a positive example to neighbours, friends, and family who may be uninterested in or unfamiliar with the electoral system.

If you don’t vote you really have no right to complain about government decisions you don’t like.

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The Plight of Refugees

Every year 20 June is celebrated as World Refugee Day in order to highlight the plight of all the refugees in the world. In order to commemorate this day, I am dedicating this week’s post to the cause of refugees.

According to Euripides, “There is no greater sorrow on earth than the loss of one’s native land”. This is often the case of a refugee. A refugee’ is defined as “a person who has fled his country owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable or, owing to fear, is unwilling to avail himself the protection of that country.” This definition is according to Article 7 of the 1951 Convention and Protocol relating to the status of refugees. However, India being home to about 3,30,000 refugees, considers them as “aliens”. India, despite completing 60 glorious years of Independence, does not have any special laws for the protection of these refugees. India deals with refugees under the Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939 and Foreigners Act, 1946 which is applicable to aliens.

However, the Government of India is empowered to regulate the entry, presence and departure of these aliens. In India, wage earning rights and work permits have no meaning for refugees. Hence, they have no way of supporting themselves and thus remain in poverty. When they just enter India, they are taken to a transit camp. There the necessities are not easily available. Over a period of time, they muster courage to move freely within the country and hence they do not have to live in transit camps.

People flee from their mother countries due to civil conflicts, massive violations of human rights, foreign aggression and occupation, poverty, famine, disease and natural calamities. Reasons such as famine, disease and natural calamities are just passing phases. After this, they return to their own countries whereas the other reasons are long standing anxieties that may or may not be solved.

The Sikhs and Hindus migrated from Pakistan to India and the Muslims migrated from India to Pakistan during the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. India and Pakistan readily accepted and rehabilitated these migrants. People of Indian origin were forced to leave Burma (now Myanmar) under the programme of Burmanization. During Bhutanization, the people of Nepali origin were pushed to India and Nepal. Sri Lanka upon becoming independent sent the Tamil plantation workers who were taken to the island by the British back to India. Bihari Muslims were sent to India during the liberation war of Bangladesh though they wanted to enter Pakistan. India continues to host and assist refugee population from different countries especially Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Tibet. Thus, India is diverse of refugee population.

Refugees undergo many trials and tribulations. There is arbitrary arrest of newly arrived young men on suspicion of rebel connection. Sometimes, they are even deported for security reasons. The host country does not welcome them willingly and hence they do not develop a sense of belonging towards the host country. When the refugees flee and seek asylum into another country, they come empty handed leaving behind their belongings. They have to start their life in the host country right from scratch. They are not granted refugee status or given citizenship easily as they are considered liabilities to the country. They are often targeted and accused in case of thefts or terrorist attacks. They are subjected to assaults, both physical and mental. Since they come empty handed, they do not have documentary evidence of their educational qualifications, income, proof of residence and so on. Sometimes even if they have documentary evidence, it is seized upon arrival in the host country. They are often denied accommodation, health facilities, education, protection and the like. Sometimes, they are separated from their families. Though they want to go back to their country, they have no option but to stay at the host country hoping that their own country will become safe one day. Sometimes, the country builds high walls to shut out refugees and asylum seekers. This insensitive gesture is not justified. The Sri Lankan refugees in India face problems of a different genre. They are firstly labeled as terrorists as people consider them as members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ellam (LTTE). A large number of them happen to be Dalits. They are forced to flee because of their caste, only because they are Dalits. They face the problem of apartheid.

Any person seeking refugee status has to approach the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). In spite of not being a member of the 145 – nation signed 1951 Geneva Convention, India has allowed the UNHCR to function in India through its offices in Delhi and Chennai. Many refugees have spent years waiting for resettlement but end up becoming a burden to the government. They are pleading with the Indian Government to grant them protection and refugee status.

The lack of legal provisions and policies on refugees is one of fundamental flaws of protection in India. At the same time, India cannot be blamed for this because many people take advantage of the hospitable nature of the Indian Government. They flee for better prospects and to enhance their quality of life. This is not forced migration but migration out of choice. Thus, the Government is very careful in granting refugee status.

I feel that safeguarding the refugees is the responsibility of the international community. It is high time India becomes a part of the UNHCR Convention of 1951. India should also consider amending its Foreigners Act, 1946 and differentiate between a “refugee” and a “foreigner”. We should realize that refugees are not born refugees; they are made refugees. Hence, we should not ostracize them. This will be possible only through awareness in refugee issues that will sensitize the people to give the refugees a hassle – free stay in India.

 

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