Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Anil Nauriya - Sectarian Politics and the Partition of India: The Targeting of Nehru and the Congress

The rise of Hindutva-related organisations in India, especially since the late 1980s, has witnessed frequent attacks by them on the pre-freedom Congress in relation to the partition of India in 1947. These attacks increased since 2013 in the run-up to the General Elections of 2014. Some Hindutva organisations have become less covert than before in their glorification of the assassins of Mahatma Gandhi. Simultaneously, other sections of Hindutva forces have sought to disclaim responsibility for Gandhi’s assassination and to shift the focus of their attack on Jawaharlal Nehru.

In this essay, (Download PDF [364 KB]Supreme Court advocate and writer Anil Nauriya, explores some aspects of these phenomena. He underlines also a connection between these tendencies and a development on another plane. This is that certain somewhat dubious and one-sided critiques of the pre-freedom Congress in relation to partition fostered by late 20th century colonialist historiography have been feeding into the Hindutva narrative.

Decades after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, the Hindu Mahasabha workers have in recent years become emboldened publicly to glorify his assassins. On January 30, 2016, precisely 68 years after the assassination, some of them reportedly distributed sweets to mark the killing as they continue to hold Gandhi responsible for the Partition of India in 1947. On the same day an intellectual associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) sought, on the electronic media, nominally to dissociate the RSS from the prime assassin. However, the RSS and its various offshoots, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have seldom dissociated themselves from holding the Indian National Congress (Congress) responsible for Partition. On the contrary, this has been a major plank in its propaganda offensive against the Congress. Many BJP leaders have resorted to such rhetoric, especially at election time.

For instance, these attacks became especially marked since the latter months of 2013 in the run-up to the General Elections of 2014 1 . Some of the Hindutva organizations have also become less covert than before in their glorification of the assassins of Mahatma Gandhi. Simultaneously, other sections of Hindutva forces have sought to disclaim responsibility for Gandhi’s assassination and to shift the focus of their attack on Jawaharlal Nehru 2 .
There have also been some gradual changes in the rhetoric of the BJP compared, on the one hand, with that of the Jan Sangh, its pre-1977 predecessor, and on the other, with that of its natural allies such as the Hindu Mahasabha, the Shiv Sena and similar parties. The Hindu law reform conducted in the 1950s during Jawaharlal Nehru’s tenure as Prime Minister had not gone down well with the sections of society prone to support the Jan Sangh, and the momentous churning of a near-stagnant social milieu provided a further point for conservative Hindu bitterness towards the country’s first Premier. It was some two decades later, with the Jan Sangh’s involvement in the political movement led by Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) in the mid-1970s, that the Sangh found itself having to engage Gandhians, Sarvodaya workers, socialists and others.

The targeting of Nehru: Thus, when the Jan Sangh re-emerged in 1980 as the BJP, its traditional doctrinal positions gave way to some modified formulations; alongside it became necessary to reshuffle the punching bags that the new party would target in its political practice. It is in this phase that its fire came to focus more exclusively on Nehru and his family. This did not mean that the BJP quite discarded its previous antagonism toward Gandhi. By the 1990s, the BJP under Lal Krishna Advani had internalised Hindutva, the ideological position of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the Hindu Mahasabha leader. In 2003 the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government even installed, in the Central Hall of Parliament, a portrait of Savarkar who had directly inspired Gandhi’s assassin. JP was long dead and, in any case, for the BJP, he had served his purpose. The BJP (and the Shiv Sena) felt enabled to disclose some more affinities with the Hindu Mahasabha without directly attacking Gandhi himself.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Ai Weiwei: Xia Lin verdict exposes the unfairness of China's legal system

I planned to sue the Public Security Bureau in Sichuan for exercising violence; Xia accepted my offer to hire him as a lawyer and went with me to Sichuan. Despite our efforts, we were unable to file a lawsuit in the Sichuanese courts. The Public Security Bureau, the Sichuan People's Procuratorate, and the provincial courts all denied any physical abuse took place.

It is a difficult struggle to be a lawyer in China. The law stands behind those in power, and the judicial system lacks independence. I knew that bringing Xia Lin along could not change the situation. He also felt helpless about it.

In 2011, we faced a familiar predicament when I was detained and released after 81 days. Fake Limited was charged with tax evasion, and it hired Pu Zhiqiang as its defense attorney. For that case, he partnered with Xia Lin, who was a colleague from the same law firm. Xia left the team after working on the case for a period of time. I could not agree with his reason for parting ways. 

Regardless, Pu Zhiqiang insisted on acting as the case's defense attorney until the end. This is as far as I am acquainted with Xia Lin. He was one of the earliest legal associates that I have worked with, he was not a primary defense attorney, and he left the position midway through the case.

When Xia Lin was arrested, I immediately connected the incident to his role in Guo Yushan's case. I was relieved to hear of Guo's release, thinking that this could indicate that Xia's sentence would not be too severe. However, Chinese politics and rule of law do not follow any logical reasoning, and my analysis was once again proven wrong. Xia Lin received a harsh verdict and an unjustifiable one.
Xia's case has at least several reasons for concern.

He was accused of failing to repay his loans on time. The party that offered him the loan should be the litigant in this kind of civil dispute. From what I have learned from other lawyers, including Pu Zhiqiang, Xia Lin's loan was not due and there were no civil lawsuits being filed. Instead of treating the case as a civil suit, the Public Security Bureau arrested and charged him for fraud. This approach violated protocol and was illegal. It reminded me of the time when I was taken away at the Beijing Capital International Airport in 2011. The Public Security Bureau accused me of tax-related crimes and charges were made against the company that I served.

The execution of the entire arrest, investigation and trial process was illegal under Chinese law. There was no clear conclusion to the case and they failed to provide any presentable evidence. Even if I did not understand Xia Lin's case completely, I am convinced of, and can relate to, the violations of procedure that he experienced.

The Chinese judicial system has never been independent and will never become independent. The Chinese political regime is afraid of discussing this topic and acknowledging that they refuse judicial independence. It is only a tool that operates under the Communist Party's directives. The country's rule of law has never fulfilled its responsibility to serve justice. Given such conditions, all verdicts under such a system are unfair by nature. Without a platform for debate, information disclosure, and transparency for the nature of evidence in trial, we can only presume that these judgments are unfair.

The judicial system is obligated to prove that it is fair and just. As citizens -- or even a lesser existence without the right to elections -- we are owed the right to a fair trial. If the courts fail to prove that it is fair, then it should be presumed unfair. Xia Lin's sentence is no exception. I find it absurd that he was sentenced to 12 years for a loan dispute. This shows that China manifests significant discrepancies on its treatment of justice issues and on its parameters for criminality. Xia Lin is not a corrupt official who embezzled public funds. His fault, if any, related to a private loan dispute.

Further, we cannot separate the harsh sentence from his longtime concern for human rights. If one person is treated unfairly in our society, the whole world dulls in color.


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SHAKIR MIR - It’s Time to Bring Kashmir’s ‘Miserable Guillotine’ Out from the Shadows

When the struggle against the tormentor becomes a torment itself, it is imperative to speak out.

Srinagar: On a warm morning a few weeks ago, the city was uncharacteristically serene. The previous night’s protests had died down, giving way to a tranquil dawn. But outside my home in an old part of town, a loud bang woke me up. I thrust my head out, eyes half-closed with sleep. A knot of young men, their heads and faces wrapped in cloth, had gathered around a grocery store whose owner had been tending to a line of customers. In a flash, one of the men lifted a thick lathi into the air and brought it down with full force. It struck hard. The first blow was furious, as was every blow after.

The reason? By opening his shop, the grocer had defied the state of collective defiance in the Valley. His act was seen as an affront to those who willingly incurred losses, inflicting harm on themselves in the hope that it would push India into giving up Kashmir. From a distance, I saw his wife running towards him. Sobbing, she pleaded for mercy with the assailants before herself passing out. The men left. The neighbourhood women eased her into their arms, offering her water, while the men watched impotently, muttering curses between their teeth.

For over two months, the Valley of Kashmir has been convulsed by chaos. The trigger was the death of a popular militant leader. Though it is said that he had not mounted a single attack, the purpose of his killing is being questioned. He had been part of a media blitz for over a year, yet the security forces never sought to close in on him. The month before he was killed, he released two back-t-back video messages. In one, he aspires to carve Kashmir into an Islamic Caliphate and in the other, he promises attacks in case Jammu and Kashmir policemen don’t come over to his side.

Whatever the reason, the decision to kill Wani turned out to be a terrible error of judgment. It mobilised thousands and thousands of people, spurring both peaceful protests and widespread instances of rioting – leading to the death of over 80 people, and injuries to 12,000, of which more than 5,000 are police and CRPF personnel.

The government is facing protests of the kind it does not know how to bottle. In trying to, it ended up committing terrible acts of brutality upon the civilian population using pump action guns, firearms, clubs and what have you. But then, there is a reason why I began my essay with an incident so out of keeping with events as we know them.

A few days ago, Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani reiterated his message that azadi was round the corner. He asked people to keep steadfast and persevere until it drew nearer and nearer. The more roads we fill, the more rocks we hurl, the closer it is getting.

But is it? On the contrary, we have embarked upon a great slide into a dead-end and azadi is yet to show up across the horizon. It hasn’t and in fact, never will. Not at least till another cataclysmic event embroils South Asia, dismembering the powerful nation states of today, leaving a fertile ground for smaller states to seek their separate nationhood. Britain did not relinquish control over India until it felt the crippling pain of World War II – never mind how “steadfast” was India’s struggle for freedom.

The current groundswell in Kashmir is spontaneous. There can be no two views about this. Separatist leaders have wielded formidable influence but they can do so only as long as they don’t stop mouthing platitudes that are palatable to a large section of the pubic. For instance, if the Hurriyat even tinkers with its protest calendars – to make them more flexible for daily wagers and businesses, perhaps – protesters will cut them down to size. That is perhaps why even on Eid, thecompendium of hartals followed the same course as on other days.

Spectre of public fatigue
The truth is that even the separatists are caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, they cannot show so much as the merest sign of exhaustion. On the other, the spectre of public fatigue has risen all around them. The craving for a normal life is beginning to take hold among a cross-section of people as they come to terms with the futility of self-harm. Anger against India is fine. Nursing dreams of azadi is too. But how long can one do so at the altar of one’s own livelihood?

The police will succeed in breaking the cycle of violence. They did so in 2010, allowing the anger to dissipate, rather slide, beneath an illusion of normalcy – only to turn effervescent again and re-emerge out through the cracks, drowning Kashmir afresh. All it needed was a trigger and there were always plenty of those.

The fatigue couldn’t be more apparent when recently, despite announcing that fruit growers have sworn allegiance to the Hurriyat and are ready to bear losses, it suddenly turned out that 8876 metric tons of fruit had been hauled off in 953 truckloads outside the state in the first half of August alone. There is no telling what mark it touched thereafter.

The separatists have channelised public anguish in a direction into which it is destined to peter out. Had it not been so, the situation of the 1990s would have reigned till today. The violence that flared in 2008 and 2010 would not have ended either. This is not because fellow Kashmiris are prone towards treachery or that their conscience is shallow but because human beings are hardwired to not want to live by violence for too long. The bedrock of the secessionist movement has always been the angst stemming from atrocities Indian soldiers commit. When the excesses halt, so does the angst and every other consequence it had branched off into. The movement is intrinsically unsustainable once the dynamic of the “oppressive military presence” is taken out of the equation.

A case in point is what happened on August 29, when the authorities lifted curfew for the first time since it was imposed on July 8. The response surprised everyone. Besides the re-eruption of protests across Kashmir, people came out in hordes in those areas which saw incredibly lower levels of violence – such as Srinagar. Traffic trickled past the streets once again and store owners lifted their shutters. By evening, the situation had all reversed. Frequent mob attacks coerced people into scaling back. So scandalised was Geelani by what had happened, he openly warned shopkeepers the next day that if they acted “traitorous”, they would be “wiped out like straw.”

In one fell swoop, the ageing leader also alienated thousands of taxi drivers and auto-wallas when he accused them of acting on India’s behest and receiving bounty for taking out their vehicles to commit an act no less sinful than scraping together a living.

I asked an ardent pro-azadi friend to show me this stash of money which the ‘deviant’ and ‘corrupt’ taxi drivers were drawing cash from. “I will tell a couple of auto-walla acquaintances so that they don’t have to starve,” I told him, tongue firmly in cheek. He smote his brows together before mumbling a few unintelligible words and leaving in a huff. I smiled inwardly, both at his naivety and the utter irony of the moment.


For India, Kashmiri protestors can only be provocateurs driven by Pakistan and Hurriyat to instigate trouble. For their part, the Hurriyat see ordinary Kashmiris who are desperate to make a living in trying times as “Indian agents” – entrusted by Delhi to “derail the movement.” Both sides see events though their own black and white vision, overlooking the real people out there with aspirations spanning a million shades of gray... read more: 
http://thewire.in/68602/kashmirs-miserable-guillotine/

see also
Praveen Swami - The new language of rage ...
INDIAN CITIZENS' STATEMENT ON KASHMIR JULY 12 , 2016

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Nandini Sundar - Chhattisgarh Police, Traders Target CPI Leader for Tribal Beliefs

An FIR has been lodged against Manish Kunjam for circulating an adivasi account of the Durga-Mahisasur conflict that upper caste migrants say hurts their religious sentiments.

Manish Kunjam is also the district secretary of the CPI, and one of the best known adivasi leaders in the area, who has consistently fought against Salwa Judum and police atrocities under Operation Green Hunt, against displacement by mining companies in Bastar

A spectre is haunting the Hindu right in Chhattisgarh: the spectre of adivasi and dalit or ‘moolnivasi’ independence from the Brahminical fold. All the powers of the old order have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, local traders, the media and above all, the police.

On September 15, Manish Kunjam, the Sukma, Chhattisgarh-based national president of the Adivasi Mahasabha, forwarded a WhatsApp message to a group he was part of. The message retold the adivasi version of the conflict between Durga and Mahisasur, a moolnivasi raja. The forward noted that in Bengal, Durga idols are considered incomplete till earth is brought from the house of a sex worker. (It is another matter that sex workers are beginning to resent this practice.) The message goes on to explain the origins of this practice, saying that the Brahmins, being unable to fairly defeat in arms the brave Santhal raja, Mahisasur, sent Durga as a beautiful woman. She plied him with alcohol and other amusements for 8 days till on the 9th day, seeing her chance, she killed him. 

The message goes on to say that the Brahmins not only defeated the moolnivasi raja, but actually made the adivasis worship his killer, Durga (Shakti being seen as an appropriation of an adivasi mother goddess). It also asks readers whether deities/demons with several arms and half-animal bodies can actually exist as humans, and to think rationally about these depictions. Finally, it addresses the moolnivasi samaj – who had been prevented by Brahminical ideology from reading for themselves – to awake and recognise their ideological subjection. The message ends with the words, ‘Namo Buddhai, Jai Bharat, Jai Moolnivasi’.

Many traditions, many contradictions: Had the sender not been Manish Kunjam, who is the leader of the Communist Party of India (CPI) in Bastar and an ex-MLA, the WhatApp message might have remained one of the main stories in circulation on social media describing an alternative version of history and myth, just as oral narratives circulated through the vast subcontinent with many different contradictory versions of the Ramayana, including those where Ravana emerges as the hero, and Sita a victim at the hands of a misogynist Ram.

The proliferation of Mahisasur festivals across the country may be a recent phenomenon, but the worship of Mahisasur has an old and widespread history. The Asurs of Jharkhand and West Bengal regard him as an ancestor and treat the nine days of Navratri as a period of mourning. In Mahoba, in Bundelkhand, there is an ancient Mahisasur temple which has been given protection by the Archaeological Survey of India. Santhals have held a public puja for Mahisasur on navami in Purulia district for at least the past 12 years.

The Durga-Mahisasur debate had come up in parliament even before Smriti Irani raised the Durga-Mahisasur issue. But whereas Irani brought it up to show the ‘depraved’ mentality of Mahisasur devotees, Indira Gandhi had earlier allegedly accepted the point that Durga had killed dalits and adivasis and refrained from accepting a comparison with her.

Complaint against Manish Kunjam: Unfortunately, the Congress cannot be relied on to be consistently secular, and when news of Manish Kunjam’s WhatsApp forward got around, the Youth Congress in Bastar took umbrage and its leader, Sushil Maurya, registered a complaint against Manish Kunjam in the Kotwali thana in Jagdalpur. Not to be outdone, a little known outfit called the Dharmsena filed a complaint in Sukma, and an FIR under Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code (intentionally insulting the religion of a particular class) was promptly registered by the police.

Many local traders, all of whom are immigrants from Hindu upper castes and have exploited the adivasis for years, looking down on them as ‘backward’ and ‘uncivilised’, went to town over the supposed insult. Effigies of Manish Kunjam were burnt at various places and on September 19, the traders and police jointly ensured a bandh of Sukma town.

The adivasi resurgence: However, Manish Kunjam is also the district secretary of the CPI, and one of the best known adivasi leaders in the area, who has consistently fought against Salwa Judum and police atrocities under Operation Green Hunt, against displacement by mining companies in Bastar, and for the introduction of the Sixth Schedule of the constitution, which would better guarantee adivasi rights than the Fifth Schedule has done.

Once the news got around that their leader was being targeted, all the moolnivasi communities of Bastar began to protest. There are several adivasi communities in Bastar – Halbas, Bhatras, Koyas (Gonds), Dhurwas and several groups which are classed as SC or OBC like the Maharas, Pankas, Rauts, and others – who collectively regard themselves as Bastariya. The CPI has tried hard in recent years to bring them under the common banner of moolnivasi, in its struggle for the Sixth Schedule. There are also umbrella bodies like the Sarv Adivasi Samaj or Sarv Samaj.

Significantly, all of them have issued statements condemning the case against Manish. For instance, the Koya Samaj has said that Mahisasur is worshipped in Bastar and the FIR is an attempt by some forces to impose their Brahminical Hindu ideology on weaker sections like adivasis. They say that adivasis have the right to worship whoever they like, and it should not concern anyone else. They also point out that the entire case has been drummed up to weaken the adivasi struggle for jaljangal and zameen (water, forests and land) in which Manish Kunjam has been a primary voice. Another press release issued on September 22 by the Sarv Adivasi Samaj has also strongly condemned the FIR against Kunjam and called for an FIR to be registered under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against those who levied the charges in the first place.

The provisions of the Act certainly seem to be attracted in this case, with its effigy burning and other attacks on a respected tribal leader, quite apart from the way in which the gory killing of Mahisasur is depicted and celebrated. Section 4 of the Amendment Act adds the following to Section 3:

‘Whoseover being non-SC/ST…
(p): institutes false, malicious or vexatious suit or criminal or other legal proceedings against a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe;

(t) destroys, damages or defiles any object generally known to be held sacred or in high esteem by members of the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes.
Explanation.––For the purposes of this clause, the expression “object” means and includes statue, photograph and portrait;

(u) by words either written or spoken or by signs or by visible representation or otherwise promotes or attempts to promote feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will against members of the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes;

(v) by words either written or spoken or by any other means disrespects any late person held in high esteem by members of the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes;
shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to five years and with fine.’

The Sukma Koya Samaj has called for a bandh on September 26, and in the meantime, irate villagers have attempted to shut down weekly markets in Nama (September 20), Korra (September 21), and Kukanar (September 23). Predictably, the police has been working with traders to foil this, and the media has dutifully reported it as a case of poor traders being done out of business and of disappointed village shoppers. Never mind that the same people who are sending these WhatsApp messages condemning the market closures are the same Salwa Judum/Samajik Ekta Manch/Agni leaders who shut down weekly markets for years during Salwa Judum and still prevent villagers from the interior visiting markets.

Previous cases: This is not the first time an attempt to insult adivasis has boomeranged on the Hindutva forces in Chhattisgarh. Earlier this year, journalist cum social activist Vivek Kumar in Manpur, Rajnandgaon was arrested for two months for a Facebook post on Durga and Mahisasur which he had posted two years previously. A March 12 rally by Hindutva forces shouting ‘Mahishasur (Bhainsasur) ki auladon ko, jutey maro salon ko’ (‘it’s time to hit the followers of Mahisasur with shoes’) then resulted in a counter FIR against them.

In 2014, the Delhi police had raided the office of Forward Press in Delhi, for publishing articles on Mahisasur and filed a case against its editor and owner, Pramod Ranjan. However, this has only made him more determined to research and spread the word on Mahisasur and other suppressed Bahujan heroes.

Bastar administration’s response: A clearly shaken administration which has always sided with upper caste immigrants against the adivasis and dalits they are constitutionally charged to serve is now trying to mobilise the traditional pargana majhis – or headmen – against Kunjam. Many of these people left their villages after Salwa Judum and started siding with the administration.
It remains to be seen who will win in this battle between the state-backed forces of the Hindu right and a resurgent adivasi population.

Nandini Sundar is a professor of sociology at the Delhi School of Economics. 
Her latest book is The Burning Forest: India’s War in Bastar (Juggernaut, 2016)


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JAVED IQBAL - This is How a Naxalite Dies // Jharkhand: Maoists’ kin, victims of violence meet, share their stories

The story of Rajita’s life and death has a Rashomon-like quality where not just truth but the idea of what is moral depends on who is telling the tale. 

A 32-year-old Maria Gond woman, Rajita Usendi, was killed on the night of May 8 in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra. She was a Naxalite. “They threw six or seven grenades to kill her…” “It was the longest encounter in Gadchiroli history…” “Her body was burnt beyond recognition…” These were some of the comments I heard about the gun battle that took place, after the police returned with the burnt corpse of the unidentified woman found in a house on the outskirts of Horekasa village in Gadchiroli district.
Raje and Birija, the septuagenarian parents of the slain Naxalite commander Rajita Usendi. Credit: Javed Iqbal
Raje and Birija, the septuagenarian parents of the slain Naxalite commander 
Rajita Usendi. Credit: Javed Iqbal

Eight days later, on May 16, constable Bandhu Vichami, also a Maria Gond. was killed after being kidnapped by CPI-Maoist fighters near Koti police station for the alleged offence of ‘building an information network.’ There being no civilian witnesses, the specific details of his death are not known. Neither incident is part of the mainstream narrative of events unfolding in the heart of India. While a memorial poster was put up for Vichami on May 17 outside the Gadchiroli sessions court (as has been done for countless other slain policemen), Rajita’s body was still in the mortuary, her public memory as controversial as the life she lived. Didn’t the Supreme Court once say the Naxalites were also ‘children of the republic’?

Rajita was born in 1984 or 1985 – the exact year is not known – in Javeli village, in Kasansur panchayat of Etapalli Block, and died as Naxalite area commander for Chatgaon. Her village Javeli is isolated:. villagers don’t venture too far into the towns, for fear of being deemed Naxalite supporters by the police. Others from the village had also joined the Maoists: a young man, Ramsu, who had previously joined the party, decided to leave it and live at home. However, he was not allowed to resume a normal life; a police team eventually arrived to take him away and then attempted to distribute saris, volleyballs and carrom boards. Ramsu is now a surrendered Maoist, but he only joined the police because he was beaten, according to the villagers, who bear no ill will towards him.

In the village itself, a decades-old transformer lies derelict. The village subsists without electricity. There are 83 homes in Javeli, 81 of which are Maria Gond, one Parden and one mixed Bengali-Maria, which the villagers talk about with pride (the father was a Bengali who married a Maria, whose son has also married a Maria). The villagers own land but depend on rain for cultivation.
Rajita was the youngest daughter of Birija and Raje and had studied till class 5. She had two older sisters, both married and with children.

She joined the party when she was still a teenager. Some say she was in the party for 18 years, others say 15. In one version of the story, she was 14 years-old when she joined the party, in another she was 17. Either way, there are no traces of her left in the village: no documents, no photographs. The police came in 2007 and removed every bit of her life that she had left behind.

The people of Javeli spoke in whispers.

High Hitler: how Nazi drug abuse steered the course of history - by Rachel Cooke

When Hitler fell seriously ill in 1941, however, the vitamin injections that Morell had counted on no longer had any effect – and so he began to ramp things up. First, there were injections of animal hormones for this most notorious of vegetarians, and then a whole series of ever stronger medications until, at last, he began giving him a “wonder drug” called Eukodal, a designer opiate and close cousin of heroin whose chief characteristic was its potential to induce a euphoric state in the patient (today it is known as oxycodone). It wasn’t long before Hitler was receiving injections of Eukodal several times a day. Eventually he would combine it with twice daily doses of the high grade cocaine he had originally been prescribed for a problem with his ears, following an explosion in the Wolf’s Lair, his bunker on the eastern front...

The effect of the drugs could appear to onlookers to be little short of miraculous. One minute the Führer was so frail he could barely stand up. The next, he would be ranting unstoppably at Mussolini. Ah, yes: Mussolini. In Italy, Blitzed will come with an extra chapter. “I found out that Mussolini – patient D, for Il Duce – was another of Morell’s patients. After the Germans installed him as the puppet leader of the Republic of Italy in 1943, they ordered him to be put under the eyes of the doctor.” 

Drugs in Nazi Germany by Norman Ohler: a crass & dangerously inaccurate account

The book in question is The Total Rush – or, to use its superior English title, Blitzed – which reveals the astonishing and hitherto largely untold story of the Third Reich’s relationship with drugs, including cocaine, heroin, morphine and, above all, methamphetamines (aka crystal meth), and of their effect not only on Hitler’s final days – the Führer, by Ohler’s account, was an absolute junkie with ruined veins by the time he retreated to the last of his bunkers – but on the Wehrmacht’s successful invasion of France in 1940. Published in Germany last year, where it became a bestseller, it has since been translated into 18 languages, a fact that delights Ohler, but also amazes him.

It’s not only that he is – as Der Spiegel helpfully pointed out – a non-historian (the author of three novels and the co-writer of the Wim Wenders film Palermo Shooting, this is his first work of nonfiction). It’s that there was anything new to be said at all. Arrange all the books that have been written about the Nazis end to end and they’d be longer than the Spree.

“I guess drugs weren’t a priority for the historians,” he says. “A crazy guy like me had to come along.” Still, crazy or not, he has done a remarkable job. If Blitzed is gripping, it is also convincing. Ian Kershaw, the British historian who is probably the world’s leading authority on Hitler and Nazi Germany, has described it as “a serious piece of scholarship”.

Unlikely as it sounds, it was Ohler’s friend, the Berlin DJ Alexander Kramer, who first put him on to the idea. “He’s like a medium for that time,” says Ohler. “He has this huge library, and he knows all the music from the 20s. One night he said to me: ‘Do you know the massive role drugs played in National Socialism?’ I told him that I didn’t, but that it sounded true – and I knew immediately it would be the subject of my next book.”

His plan was to write a novel, but with his first visit to the archives that changed completely. There he found the papers of Dr Theodor Morell, Hitler’s personal physician, previously only a minor character in most studies of the Führer. “I knew then that this was already better than fiction.” In the months that followed, supported by the late, great German historian of the Third Reich Hans Mommsen, Ohler travelled from archive to archive, carefully gathering his material – and how much of it there was! He didn’t use half of what he found. “Look at this,” he says, jumping up. When he returns, in his hand is a copy of a letter from Martin Bormann, Hitler’s private secretary, in which he suggests that the “medication” Morell is giving the Führer needs to be regulated for the sake of his increasingly wobbly health.

The story Ohler tells begins in the days of the Weimar Republic, when Germany’s pharmaceutical industry was thriving – the country was a leading exporter both of opiates, such as morphine, and of cocaine – and drugs were available on every street corner. It was during this period that Hitler’s inner circle established an image of him as an unassailable figure who was willing to work tirelessly on behalf of his country, and who would permit no toxins – not even coffee – to enter his body.

“He is all genius and body,” reported one of his allies in 1930. “And he mortifies that body in a way that would shock people like us! He doesn’t drink, he practically only eats vegetables, and he doesn’t touch women.” No wonder that when the Nazis seized power in 1933, “seductive poisons” were immediately outlawed. In the years that followed, drug users would be deemed “criminally insane”; some would be killed by the state using a lethal injection; others would be sent to concentration camps. Drug use also began to be associated with Jews. The Nazi party’s office of racial purity claimed that the Jewish character was essentially drug-dependent. Both needed to be eradicated from Germany.

Some drugs, however, had their uses, particularly in a society hell bent on keeping up with the energetic Hitler (“Germany awake!” the Nazis ordered, and the nation had no choice but to snap to attention). A substance that could “integrate shirkers, malingerers, defeatists and whiners” into the labour market might even be sanctioned. At a company called Temmler in Berlin, Dr Fritz Hauschild, its head chemist, inspired by the successful use of the American amphetamine Benzedrine at the 1936 Olympic Games, began trying to develop his own wonder drug – and a year later, he patented the first German methyl-amphetamine. Pervitin, as it was known, quickly became a sensation, used as a confidence booster and performance enhancer by everyone from secretaries to actors to train drivers (initially, it could be bought without prescription). 

It even made its way into confectionery. “Hildebrand chocolates are always a delight,” went the slogan. Women were recommended to eat two or three, after which they would be able to get through their housework in no time at all – with the added bonus that they would also lose weight, given the deleterious effect Pervitin had on the appetite. Ohler describes it as National Socialism in pill form… read more:


Peter Beaumont - Jordanian writer shot dead as he arrived for trial for insulting Islam

A prominent Jordanian writer, who was on trial for sharing a cartoon deemed offensive to Islam, has been shot dead outside a court in Amman where he was due to appear. Nahed Hattar, 56, was charged with inciting sectarian strife and insulting Islam after posting the cartoon on Facebook this year.

The cartoon, entitled The God of Daesh (Isis), depicted an Isis militant sitting next to two women and asking God to bring him a drink. Hattar was arrested in Augustand released on bail early this month. On Sunday, he was shot in the head three times as he arrived for a hearing.

According to the Jordanian state news agency Petra, a man was arrested at the scene of the shooting in the Abdali district. The government denounced the killing as a “heinous” crime. Two witnesses said the gunman, bearded and in his 50s, was wearing a traditional Arab dishdasha, or long robe. “He was standing at a short distance of about one metre in front of Nahed on the stairs of the supreme court,” a witness told the Associated Press.

Saad Hattar, a cousin of the victim, said: “Nahed was accompanied with two brothers and a friend when he was shot. The brothers and the friend chased the killer and caught him and handed him over to the police.” He said the family held Jordan’s prime minister, Hani al-Mulki, responsible for Hattar’s death. “The prime minister was the first one who incited against Nahed when he ordered his arrest and put him on trial for sharing the cartoon, and that ignited the public against him and led to his killing,” Saad Hattar said.

In a statement, the family called on the government to hold accountable all those who had incited violence against Hattar. “Many fanatics wrote on social media calling for his killing and lynching, and the government did nothing against them,” they said.

A government spokesman, Mohammad Momani, who condemned the killing as a heinous crime, said: “The government will strike with an iron hand all those who exploit this crime to broadcast speeches of hatred to our community.” Hattar had insisted that he had not meant to insult Islam by posting the cartoon, but wanted to “expose” how Isis “envisions God and heaven”. He accused his Islamist opponents of using the cartoon to settle scores with him.

A controversial figure on the left of Jordanian politics, Hattar has faced charges before, including for insulting the country’s king, Abdullah II. He has also been a prominent supporter of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and advocated depriving Jordanians of Palestinian origin of their legal and civil rights.

Hattar’s murder is the latest in a series of recent violent incidents in Jordan, which until recently had avoided the worst of the jihadi-related violence that has affected some other Middle Eastern states despite the fact that several thousand of its citizens have crossed into neighbouring Syria to join Isis.
Late last year, a Jordanian police captain opened fire on instructors at an international police training centre in Jordan’s capital, killing at least five people, including two Americans, before being shot dead by security forces.

In June, a suicide car bomb attack near the Syrian border killed seven Jordanian soldiers.
The incidents have raised fears among diplomats and analysts over Jordan’s security after years in which the kingdom has been seen as a haven of stability.