The Amazon
Peter Gorman

Podcast: entheogenic adventures with Peter Gorman

In Episode 99 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews an old friend and colleague—legendary journalist, naturalist and adventurer Peter Gorman, who reflects on his long years collecting (and personally sampling) psychoactive and shamanic plants, from the Peruvian Amazon, to the Rif Mountains of Morocco, to the Palani Hills of southern India. Now approaching 71, Peter is about to head back down to the Amazon to revisit the remote Matsés indigenous people, who he first contacted in 1985. His latest collection of first-hand accounts is Magic Mushrooms in India & Other Fantastic Tales. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo courtesy of Peter Gorman)

South Asia
tripura

India: press freedom at stake amid communal violence

Charges under India’s draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) have been brought against two human rights advocates and a journalist for their reporting on an outbreak of communal violence in the northeastern state of Tripura. Widespread attacks on Muslims erupted in response to attacks on Hindus across the border in Bangladesh during the Durga Puja festival. In the Tripura violence, mosques were vandalized, and Muslim shops and homes ransacked. These attacks were denied by the authorities until they were documented in a report by the rights advocates—who now face criminal charges for their efforts. Journalist Shyam Meera Singh was charged merely for tweeting “Tripura is burning.” (Photo via Twitter)

South Asia
ayodhya

Indian writer sued over Hindutva-jihad comparison

A criminal complaint was registered against Indian politician and former union minister Salman Khurshid over statements made in his recent book Sunrise over Ayodhya: Nationhood in Our Times. The complaint was filed under sections of the Indian Penal Code that protect “religious sentiments.” It alleges that Khurshid offended the religious sentiments of Hindus by comparing Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) with the ideology of terror groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram. Khurshid’s book on the Ayodhya holy site dispute created an uproar upon its release, with Hindu militant organizations calling for its suppression. (Image: Penguin Books)

Planet Watch
anthropocene

Glasgow: ‘climate-vulnerable’ protest ‘compromise’ pact

The COP26 UN climate summit concluded a deal among the 196 parties to the 2015 Paris Agreement on long-delayed implementation measures. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the deal a “compromise,” and indeed it was saved through eleventh-hour haggling over the wording. Just minutes before the final decision on the text of the Glasgow Climate Pact, India, backed by fellow major coal-producer China, demanded weaker language on coal, with the original call for a “phase-out” softened to “phase-down.” And even this applies only to “unabated” coal, with an exemption for coal burned with carbon capture and storage technology—a technofix being aggressively pushed by Exxon and other fossil fuel giants, in a propaganda blitz clearly timed for the Glasgow summit. Another corporate-backed fix that allows polluters to go on polluting was also embraced at Glasgow: the pact calls for establishment of a global carbon-trading market in 2023. (Photo: CounterVortex)

South Asia
Maharashtra

India: anti-mine protesters face repression

Police in Gadchiroli district of India’s Maharashtra state broke up a thiya andolan (sit-in) by local peasants and adivasis (tribal people) at the site of the contested Surjagarh iron-ore mining project, and arrested six of the organizers. Gadchiroli is within central India’s “Red Corridor” of Naxalite guerilla activity, and local authorities accuse the rebels of stirring up the protests. Following a demonstration at the mine site earlier in the week, two attendees were arrested by a local police “special operations team” as they departed, on charges of being Naxals. The mine at Surjagarh, in Etapalli taluka (subdistrict), is under lease by Lloyds Metals & Energy Ltd (LMEL). Since it began operations in June, it has faced repeated protests from local residents over its ecological impacts and usurpation of traditional lands. (Map: Google)

South Asia
underground asia

Book review: Underground Asia

A dauntingly detailed book from Harvard University Press on the roots of Asia’s anti-colonial movements documents the early influence of anarchism, and how it was ultimately displaced by nationalisms of different stripes—from the Moscow-aligned Leninist nationalism of Ho Chi Minh, to the fascist-inspired Hindutva movement that effectively rules India today. The early vision of a universalist, libertarian anti-colonialism evokes a tantalizing sense of what might have been. A timely book for a moment of re-emerging popular rebellion, from the militant farmer protests in India to the pro-democracy upsurges in Thailand, Burma and Hong Kong. (Image: Harvard University Press)

South Asia
adivasis

India: tribal rights activists accused as ‘Naxals’

The Bombay High Court issued a notice to India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA), directing it to file a reply to the bail plea of Anand Teltumbde, a Goa-based professor and civil rights activist who faces charges under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in relation to the notorious Bhima Koregaon case. In the case, dating to 2018, several advocates for Dalits (“untouchables”) and Adivasis (tribal peoples) are accused of links to the Maoist guerillas known as the Naxalites. Fifteen face lengthy prison terms and are still being denied bail. The case was back in the news in July, when a 16th among the accused, Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy, 84, died in a hospital in Mumbai after taking ill in jail. His medical bail plea was still pending when he expired. (Photo via Intercontinental Cry)

South Asia
kashmir

Kashmir under internet blackout —again

Indian-administered Kashmir was plunged back into internet darkness as India’s central authorities enforced lockdowns and a news blackout following the death of Syed Ali Geelani, a prominent separatist leader. Geelani’s body was immediately seized by authorities, and buried in a quiet funeral held under harsh restrictions. His son, Naseem Geelani, said the family had planned to bury him at the main martyrs’ cemetery in Srinagar, as specified in his will, but was not allowed to do so. Police also charged family members under an anti-terrorism law for wrapping his body in the Pakistani flag and raising anti-India slogans. Kashmir spent months without internet following an August 2019 crackdown. High-speed mobile internet was only restored earlier this year. (Photo: Kashmir Global via Nationalia)

Afghanistan
afghanistan

Afghanistan: Taliban seize provincial capitals

Taliban forces have dramatically stepped up their rapid advance across Afghanistan, seizing 11 capitals of the country’s 34 provinces. Herat and Ghazni, a strategic gateway to the national capital Kabul, were the most recent to fall. The northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif is besieged, and India’s military is mobilizing an airlift to evacuate the country’s nationals there. Kandahar, in the Taliban’s southern heartland, is also the scene of heavy fighting, as is Lashkar Gah, capital of adjoining province of that name. Reports of rights violations that “could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity” have emerged from areas under Taliban control. More than 359,000 Afghans have been displaced this year, bringing the total displaced in the country to over 5 million. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Planet Watch
Mars probe

Podcast: US robo-imperialism hands off Mars!

In Episode 64 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the maddening and telling irony that while we’re all supposed to be ga-ga with triumphalism over NASA’s latest Mars probe, it has received practicailly no attention that Afro-Brazilian peasant communities are being forcibly removed from their traditional lands to make way for a US-backed expansion of the Alcântara Satellite Launch Center in impoverished Maranhão state. This juxtaposition of news stories is paradigmatic of the whole global struggle—sustainable, Earth-rooted cultures against a hypertrophing technosphere that is now colonizing the very heavens. Meanwhile, there are already so many satellites in orbit that near-Earth space is experiencing a fast-growing “space junk” problem. And economic austerity down here on terra firma is compounding the agonizing impacts of the pandemic. Whatever useful knowledge may be gleaned from the Mars probe, accounts don’t note that Halliburton is drawing up plans for mining operations on Mars. We recall Gil Scott Heron’s wry reaction to the 1969 Moon landing (“Whitey on the Moon“), and say with Marvin Gaye: “Spend it on the have-nots!” Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image adapted from NASA photo)

Planet Watch
United Nations

Treaty on prohibition of nuclear arms takes force

The first nuclear disarmament treaty in more than two decades has come into force, following its 50th ratification last October, which triggered the 90-day period required before the treaty entered into effect. The UN completed negotiations on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at its New York headquarters in July 2017. The treaty constitutes “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading to their total elimination.” However, the US and the world’s eight other nuclear powers—Russia, China, Britain, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel—have not signed the treaty. (Photo: Pixabay)