Marxist poetry from India’s Naxalites

This is very powerful poetry, full of imagery. The struggle goes on and seems to be getting better for this group, with estimates that the Maoists Marxists, known as the Naxalites after the Naxalbari region of Bengal, where they started, now control almost 40 per cent of the landmass of India and have feudal landlords and the Indian army on the run. The poems remind me of  ‘The Prison Poems of Ho Chi Minh’. Enjoy!

Poetry of Certain 1970s Naxalbari martyrs: Translated from Bangla


THE OTHER FACE OF ISLAM: Letter to a Daughter Studying Fine Arts in Paris

Letter to a Daughter – on the Importance of Prayer


[Dear Shireen,
The words below were written by the late professor A.A.A. Fyzee, married to Adda’s (my mother Khursheed Kashmeri) sister (your great Aunt), and one of the foremost scholars of Islam and Middle Eastern Studies who taught at Cambridge and Oxford and wrote scores of books and papers that are still used in major universities. It was written in 1954 to his daughter Summaya, or Summi, as we call her, who is dying to meet you and take you to the family’s little island retreat, Kihim, off the coast of Bombay, where I spent many happy summers as a child. She was studying painting at Les Écoles de Beaux Art in Paris. A copy of this letter was given to me by Uncle Fyzee, himself, or Khaloojan (my dearest uncle), as I called him. – Dad]



9 Roberts Lane,
New Delhi

I have been thinking of writing to you for some time, but have had no time on account of work and other preoccupations.  Since your mother left for Bombay, there is a considerable amount of household work, in addition to looking after and amusing the children which takes a good deal of doing.  Anyhow, on this New Year I had promised myself to write to you fully on a certain matter of importance.

You will recollect that I have often told you it is desirable to pray. You have so far been young and have not yet seen the necessity of regular prayer. This is not by any means an order or a lecture or a command but an invitation to see things as I see them.  Reject or accept it, as you wish.

A 1968 portrait of A.A.A. Fyzee on the balcony of his apartment by the Arabian Sea in Bombay. (Photo: Zuhair Kashmeri)

A 1968 portrait of A.A.A. Fyzee on the balcony of his apartment by the Arabian Sea in Bombay. (Photo: Zuhair Kashmeri)

A man’s life cannot be complete without work, rest and peace. Mental peace can only come when his life and work conform to certain ideals. These ideals cannot be learned from books or from teachers or from parents, but they must be realized by oneself.  The question arises why we should believe in any religion at all and if we do believe in a religion and in a God, then why should we pray?  Putting it in another way, there are two questions which I wish to answer today: first, to whom shall be pray, and second, why should be pray?

In the world today, there are a number of important religions.  To my way of thinking, they are all true in their own way.  They show the path to the eternal life and they show the path to peaceful existence in this world.  And these great religions are according to the number of adherents: first Christianity [800 million], secondly Buddhism [500 million], thirdly Islam [400 million], and fourthly Hinduism [300 million].  In our country, we have them all and each one of them emphasizes a certain way of life and a certain aspect of the final unknowable truth.
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OMNI-TV File: The 2 Facets of Bangladesh’s garment workers’ tragedy; Slow Food movement and the importance of buying local produce

Zuhair Kashmer on OMNI TV commentary logo

Bangladesh factory deaths — two facets of colonialism (april 4, 2013)

There are two facets to the tragedy near Dhaka in Bangladesh caused by the ravages of a world dominated by perverse capitalist thinking that feeds cheap goods to the west on the backs of cheap labour in the east – first the human tragedy — hundreds of workers trapped as they manufactured clothing for the likes of Loblaw’s Joe Fresh — at the time of writing 400 had perished but there was no count of how many remained trapped, presumed dead, in the collapse of a factory which would not even pass the test for a garden shed in Canada — but this tragedy is not new to Bangladesh — since 2005, more than 700 workers have died in accidents – and these are official figures — look elsewhere in South Asia, and tragedies are happening every day — millions of children not attending school in India and Pakistan because their nimble little fingers are better in hazardous mines that will probably give them cancer or lead poisoning or weaving carpets — the second facet of this tragedy is woven in Bangladesh’s history — the story of the finest muslin cotton every woven – what was known as Dhakay ka malmal – so fine that three yards of it that Indian women wear as a sari could be fed through your wedding ring — this centuries old industry was destroyed by the British who had workshops burned down and hands crushed of weavers that wouldn’t stop — all in order to open up the market for cheap cotton woven in the substandard industrial mills of Birmingham — today the shoe is on the other foot — think about it, I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.
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OMNI TV File: Canadian supreme court rules emails are private communication, cops told to get wiretap warrants from judge

Zuhair Kashmer on OMNI TV commentary logo

Steven Harper goes right, Supreme Court goes left

It is heartening to witness how as Steven Harper’s government moves to the extreme right, our Supreme Court continues to maintain a steady respect for civil rights – we saw recently how it backed the Saskatchewan human rights commission that free expression does not mean unfettered hate speech that demonizes an identifiable group — now it has told our police that they cannot obtain all the e-mails of individuals without the same process as wiretapping, meaning they must first convince a judge — the Sudbury police had argued that a general warrant was enough since e-mails were not private conversations — TELUS Mobility very rightly appealed the general warrant, which is far easier to obtain than a wiretap — our iconic Justice Rosalie Abella pointed out that e-mails are private conversations, only the means of transmission is different — I am elated — it was only 30 years ago that I sat through a trial where the police described how they walked into an apartment building, broke into a Bell Canada box, wiretapped the wrong apartment where they listened to a matrimonial quarrel — All without any warrant – but pressures are mounting to resurrect Ottawa’s infamous internet surveillance bill to give law enforcers a free reign, as we saw after sensational media coverage of the two young radicalized Muslims from London, Ontario, who were involved in the terrorist takeover of a gas plant in Algeria – my take is that the ineptness of our police and intelligence is no excuse to legalize Dirty Harry — think about it, I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.


OMNI TV File: India’s Supreme Court denies patent to Novartis for anti-cancer drug

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Multinational Drug Company gets knuckles rapped

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Finally, an example of some real democracy emanating from India – its Supreme Court has ruled that the multibillion dollar Swiss pharmaceutical company, Novartis, will not be allowed to re-patent an anti cancer drug called Gleevac — the newer version of the drug was not a new drug deserving a patent, the court ruled — the ruling has huge ramifications for cancer patients in poor countries who are supplied the same drug by a generic drug maker in India called Cipla — Gleevac costs $2,600 a month – Its generic version $175 — Aid groups, including Doctors Without Borders had opposed Novartis, fearing that a victory for it would limit access to important medicines for millions of poor people around the world — India is the world’s largest generic drug maker, a 26 billion dollar industry that supplies otherwise expensive drugs to poor nations — time and again we’ve seen how in the West, especially in the US, filthy rich global corporations tweak a drug to re-patent it for sale at abominably high prices, a practice called evergreening — Leena Menghaney of Doctors Without Borders said the ruling will end the abusive practice of evergreening patents to feed a company’s bottom line — she saw it happening with HIV medicines, where the cost has come down from $10,000 to $150 per year – my take: the majority of Indians make a dollar a day, putting them out of reach of even the cheaper generics – if only the Supreme Court could force New Delhi to tax the rich and redistribute wealth – think about it, I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.



OMNI TV File: Poo! Bah! Humbug! Obama’s assassination Czar is new CIA chief

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New CIA Chief

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How many of you were aware that the newest head of the CIA John Brennan – appointed by America’s first Black President Barack Obama – is known as the Assassination Czar, a moniker he earned under president George W. Bush for fine tuning the use of drones for murder — Now he will fine tune it even more under Obama – Obama meets weekly with the CIA chief and other security officials who brief the president about terrorist threats to Uncle Sam and who should be assassinated using a drone – based simply on information collected by the CIA and not vetted by a court — just like a mob assassination, Obama ticks off the name and the man is marked for deletion from human history by a nerd operating a drone – those assassinated have included American citizens – but wait, in each instance scores of innocent bystanders – entire families are wiped out – American security officials call them collateral targets – In America’s first invasion of Iraq, the phrase collateral target was defined as innocent bystanders who were in the wrong place at the wrong time – hundreds if not thousands of innocent Pakistanis have fallen victim to Obama’s assassinations – to the point that children scream hysterically when a drone appears in the skies above their village – wasn’t Obama supposed to shut down Guantanamo? Bring peace to the world? Give the poor a fair shake and I don’t mean from the guided missiles of a drone? – or is it as my beer buddy pop philosopher Andrew puts it: when you go into the White House you become … White – think about it, I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.




OMNI-TV File: The Hindu Muslim conflict in India; why it won’t end; half the world’s food is wasted

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The cause of the Hindu Muslim Conflict in India

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In case you are wondering why the Hindu Muslim conflict in India never ends, listen to the head of India’s semi-government Press Council – Markandey Katju, himself a Hindu, told a seminar that 90% of Indians are idiots who are easily taken for a ride by religious factions – religious riots are the easiest thing to start in India – to quote his words: 80% of Hindus and 80% of Muslims are communal – Wikipedia defines communal as denoting attempts to promote religious stereotypes and stimulate violence between groups such as Hindus and Muslims – while he blames the British Raj for injecting this poison for 150 years to main control and rule the country with ease – he also blames Indians for moving backwards instead of forward after independence – he’s right – as a result, India’s 150 million Muslims or 13% of the population face huge discrimination in everything from jobs to schooling, according to a government study – in fact, a feature story broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation revealed that large numbers of Muslims pose as Hindus to get jobs – ABC talked to a Muslim woman who every morning dresses up as a traditional Hindu wife for her job at a hospital – while an employment agency routinely describes Muslims as Hindus to place them – bottom line following Katju’s observation: the British have left but their communal torch is being carried faithfully by the idiots left behind – Think about it, I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.

Half the world’s food is wasted, specially in the west

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The next time a TV ad showing a hungry child appears on your screen, instead of your credit card reach for the telephone and call your MP, MPP and councillor, and tell them about a report by The Institute of Mechanical Engineers in Britain that half of the 4 billion tons of food produced in the world is thrown away, for reasons directly linked to our disgusting consumer society where supermarket specials coax you into buying food products that you don’t even need – in Europe and North America wastage totals 50% – this is also where regular ads send you into a buying frenzy – then there is the paranoia about deformed vegetables and fruits – the tomato must be round and shapely – after all, you cannot let a deformed tomato or cucumber destroy your signature salad – in the UK, 30% of vegetables are junked because they are deformed – says Tim Fox of the Institute: quote the amount of waste is staggering, this could be used to feed those in hunger today – now listen to this flipside of this waste: according to several medical journals, more than 300,000 Americans die each year because of obesity, making it second after smoking as a preventable cause of death – as the father of the English dictionary, Dr. Johnson, said, some people are born with a silver spoon in their mouth and others with a wooden ladle –Think about it, I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.


Why I love Mumbai (Bombay), by Pritish Nandy

Pritish Nandy writes, paints, makes movies and occasionally, when he wins an election, sits in Parliament. He has been writing for The Times of India for over 26 years. In “Extraordinary Issue”, he talks to all those who find his views controversial, challenging, charming or even utterly despicable. Just one small caveat. Nandy is always on the move, travelling for a film, writing a book, working on an exhibition of his paintings. Or simply eating lotus. So there could be occasional gaps, the odd delay. But Nandy is Nandy. He never ignores a barb, never lets a compliment go by without swatting it hard.


Well, to begin with, you can’t smoke here, neither a fag nor a joint. Cigarettes are banned most places. Joints, everywhere, barring prison where you can buy them openly. Now you can’t drink as well. Not unless you are 18 with a licence. You can’t go a bar and watch pretty girls dance. That’s banned too, even if they dance the Kathakali. The more exciting dancing girls have long gone. Their kothas have shut down. Sahir’s sorrowful poems have died with them. Bling shops have hijacked the red light district…



OMNI-TV File: Welcome Kathleen Wynne – Canada’s first openly gay premiere in Ontario

Zuhair Kashmer on OMNI TV commentary logo

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Hardly has Canada’s first openly gay premier taken office when the rumblings have started in some ethnic communities that Kathleen Wynne is going to lose the next Ontario election because she is openly lesbian – before political pundits smear us, let’s set the record straight – remember how she beat the popular Conservative John Tory in Don Valley West? – well I remember Wynne attending an election meeting that was packed by minorities, many of them Muslims – she was introduced by a woman wearing a hijab, and another hijabi was her campaign staffer – it was known even then that she was gay – she won hands down – Wynne is one tough cookie, who will no doubt whip the Liberal caucus into shape – her administrative talents are proven, her fondness for multiculturalism is an open secret and her political talents became clear in her oft quoted phrase that the Liberals are a party of social justice and fiscal responsibility – in fact I look forward to Ontario under Wynne, rather than watching Conservative Tim Hudak shut down the human rights commission – and here is some advice for Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the next First Minister’s Conference – Canada now has six female premiers representing 80% of the population and a Winnipeg columnist has forecast a lineup outside the ladies room – so convert the men’s room for women and send the males across the road to the local pub – think about it, I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.


OMNI-TV File: Unpunished Rapes of India among the poor and voiceless; Rohingya Muslims of Burma: where do they go?

Zuhair Kashmer on OMNI TV commentary logo

The Unpunished Rapes of India Among Poor and Voiceless (Jan. 11, 2013)

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Once you’ve gone past the sheer evil of the brutal gang rape that has shaken India’s rich and middle-class to their roots – and the tragic death of the victim – you see writing that has always been on the wall – not just about a woman’s place or lack of it in the world’s so-called largest democracy – but a continuing breakdown of law and order ever since India achieved independence from the British – in fact, Booker prize winning author and activist Arundhati Roy says that while the large protest by the have’s of India will lead to new rape laws that will protect middle class women – their enforcement will disappear at the level of the poor, the lower castes, the tribal communities, the rural voiceless – where rape is an everyday unpunished occurrence – or in conflict zones like Kashmir, Manipur, Chattisgarh where the army and police themselves use gang rape as a means of control – this is the bulk of India which is outside FaceBook and Twitter – in 2011, there were 95,000 pending reported rape cases and only 15 percent were expected to make it to trial – when I worked as a reporter in India, you doubled official figures and multiplied by four to get the real number – even after the recent rape, a spokesman for the popular RSS, the Hindu Taliban of India, said only westernized women in cities get raped – and a defence lawyer and a Hindu priest blamed the victim – the priest said she should have fallen at the feet of the rapists chanting god’s name – Remember the survey I told you about recently that India was named the worst place in which to be a woman – think about it, I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.

Rohingya Muslims of Burma: Where do they go (Jan. 4, 2013)

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Here we are in 2013, and before you get sucked in with clichés and rosy forecasts for the new year, let me tell you about the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar, formerly Burma – who to me are a metaphor for a world that has lost its moral compass as global trade and consumerism push aside human rights – almost a million of them continue to face ethnic cleansing at the hands of the Rakhine Buddhists who claim they are not really Burmese – almost a hundred thousand of them are kept in concentration type camps by the army after they were driven out of their generations old homes – those who fled to neighbouring Muslim Bangladesh were persecuted as foreigners – their plight has been documented and criticized by the UN, and human rigths groups such as Doctors without Borders – but what really upset me was the stony silence of someone we all supported – Oxford educated, Nobel Peace Laureate San Suu Kyi – who lived under house arrest for years, eventual winning her fight for democratic elections – she first did not think the Rohingyas were Burmese, in keeping with the official line of the army junta – and then she was silent about giving them Burmese citizenship – Why? Because her party is forecast to win the 2015 elections from the very Buddhist community that has hacked Rohingya men, women and children and torched their homes – and she becomes the Prime Minister – I didn’t mean to rob you of your new year’s eve cheer, but didn’t I warn you in my year ender that you are going to see more of the same in the 13th year of this century? – think about it, I’m Zuhair Kashmeri.