Nahid Afrin

by Nava Thakuria, CounterVortex

Defying the diktat of local Islamic clerics, a Muslim teen singer recently performed at a cultural function in India's conflicted northeastern state of Assam. The  Indian Idol celebrity, Nahid Afrin, 16, not only sang in the cultural night on March 25, but also enthralled thousands of audience members till midnight.

News broke on March 14 from the Muslim-dominated Hojai and Nagaon localities of central Assam, where some residents distributed a two-page leaflet (termed gohari or appeal) urging that the proposed cultural show at the Udali Sonai Bibi College campus in Lanka town of Hojai district should be discouraged.

Endorsed by 46 Muslim representatives of a number of Assam-based Islamic organizations, it asserted that no cultural function should be held at the venue as it was surrounded by mosques, madrassas, eidgahs (public prayer spaces) and cemeteries. It warned that the performance violated Sharia, was a threat to the sanctity of future generations, and would invite the wrath of Allah.

The Municipal Resistance in El Salvador


by Sandra Cuffe, Waging Nonviolence

Communities and organizations in northern El Salvador continue to organize referendums in an effort to keep their territories free of mining.

Established by the country's Municipal Code as a mechanism for community participation, the consulta popular is an official municipal-level referendum on an issue of local concern that can be invoked by petition if residents are able to gather signatures from 40 percent of registered voters. On the books for years, the mechanism had never been used, but it now plays an important strategic role in the country's movement against metallic mining.

The most recent referendum took place on February 26, when more than half of all registered voters in the municipality of Cinquera flocked to polling stations in four communities. The final tally was along the lines of the four previous referendums on the issue: 98.1 percent of participating registered voters in Cinquera cast a ballot opposing metallic mining exploration and exploitation. The local government will now draw up an official municipal ordinance prohibiting mining in its jurisdiction.


by Laurence Davis, openDemocracy

Two new worlds are now struggling to be born amidst the crumbling ruins of neoliberalism and market globalization. The first is the waking nightmare now unfolding in the United States in the glare of the international media. A reality show with a cast of horrors, its politically successful mix of faux right-wing populism and neo-fascism has inspired and emboldened autocrats everywhere and threatens in the absence of an effective counter-power to become our new global reality.

The second, a just, compassionate, ecologically sound and democratically self-managed post-capitalist world, may be detected in what Colin Ward once described as scattered "seeds beneath the snow." Deeply rooted in a rich soil of ideas and a utopian imagination nourished by countless counter-cultural critics of capitalism, industrialism and grow-or-die economics from William Morris, Peter Kropotkin and Elisée Reclus to Gandhi, Ivan Illich, Murray Bookchin and Ursula Le Guin—as well as a long history of popular movements from below working to resist regimes of domination and develop progressive and sustainable alternatives—the tender shoots of another world are emerging all around us.

Ko Soe Moe Tun

by Nava Thakuria, CounterVortex

Killings of media workers on the Indian subcontinent are nothing unusual. The subcontinent annually losses around 10 journalists to assassins. India, Pakistan and Afghanistan often top the list of victims, with additional inputs from Bangladesh and Burma. Despite its still-tentative democratic opening after generations of dictatorship, Burma (also known as Myanmar or Brahmadesh) as a whole witnesses fewer incidents of journo-killing, with only five regsitered over the past one-and-a-half decades. But the recent murder of a young reporter in Burma's northwestern region, adjacent to India's conflicted states of Nagaland and Manipur, exposes the vulnerability of writers who dare to cover critical issues—in this case threats to the environment by rampant resource exploitation in the region.

Ko Soe Moe Tun, 35, of Monywa, a town in northern Sagaing region, was found dead near his home on December 13—clearly targeted for his extensive investigations and reportage on timber-smuggling and illegal logging and mining in northwest Burma. The reporter, employed by national newspaper Daily Eleven, also posted few details on his Facebook page about the figures involved in the illegal timber trades. The autopsy report revealed that Soe's skull was fractured. He leaves behind a young wife and a son. The family source claimed that he was popular in his locality, with no enmity toward anyone.

U Street

by Bill Weinberg, Muftah

The United States is poised on the brink of a fascistic situation since the inauguration of Donald Trump. But the American left, logically the wellspring of resistance to the establishment of a fascistic order in the world's most powerful country, finds itself in a very compromised position.

With many Democrats denying the legitimacy of Trump's presidency on the basis of evident Russian manipulation of the election, it is a bitter irony that the most popular "progressive" voices are rushing to exonerate Moscow of meddling. Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, and Jeremy Scahill are among those effectively seeking to exculpate Vladimir Putin, demanding the CIA show its "evidence," as if this—and not preparing to resist Trump—were the urgent priority. It also ignores the reality that Trump's toeing of the Moscow line on Syria, Ukraine and NATO (not to mention his fawning praise of Putin) strongly points to a quid pro quo.


by Bill Weinberg, Skunk Magazine

On Maple Street in the Brooklyn enclave of Prospect Lefferts Gardens there is a little plot of land filled with garden beds where local residents grow kale, garlic, beans, peppers and other such organic yummies. Aptly if not imaginatively named Maple Street Community Garden, this is, like many such gardens around New York City, reclaimed land. When local residents moved in and started turning it into a garden three years ago, it had for years before that been a blighted vacant lot, weeds growing amid dumped washing machines and car parts. "It was a total jungle," said Tom La Farge, one of the gardeners. He was shoveling compost when I dropped by the garden on a cold day in early March.

The garden has received some acknowledgement from pillars of the city's establishment. The Maple Street Block Association received a $1,000 grant from the Citizens' Committee of New York to clean up the lot. The garden is now part of the GreenBridge network, set up by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to promote urban greening with plant and seed donations.

But on September 22, 2014, the brothers Michael and Joseph Makhani—partners in a limited liability company claiming to own the plot—showed up at the garden, tore down the sign on the fence reading "Maple Street Community Garden," and told the gardeners to clear out. When they refused, the brothers retorted, "You'll leave when the back-hoes come," La Farge recalls.

by Amy Booth, IRIN

"This should be tremendous, deep. There should be karachi fish and silverside in here," says Abdon Choque Flores, pointing to a shoulder-high tide mark on the long road bridge that crosses the Desaguadero River in Bolivia's drought-hit Oruro department.

High on the Andean plateau, the Desaguadero used to connect vast Lake Titicaca with smaller Lake Poopó. But the second lake dried up in late 2015 and there is now so little water in the river that the stretch beneath the bridge is completely dry.

Flores lives in nearby Puñaka, a community of Uru people who traditionally made their living on Lake Poopó, fishing and hunting water birds for their meat and eggs. Now, the village looks across an expansive, white plain that stretches as far as the eye can see.

With the Urus' main source of food gone, along with the lake, many in the community have been forced to leave to find work in nearby towns. The government is providing those left behind with food aid, but it doesn't come close to plugging the gap. Flores says they chew coca to suppress their appetite.

Lake Poopó was once Bolivia's second largest lake, after Titicaca. Climate change has melted the Andean glaciers that fed the lake. Water from its tributaries has been diverted for mining and agriculture. But it was the country's worst drought in 25 years that dried it up completely.

Larung Gar protest

by Bill Weinberg, The Villager

"Stop the forced evictions! Stop the demolitions!"

That's what was repeatedly chanted, and what the big banner read, at the spirited rally of some 200 at Union Square the evening of Oct. 19. But this wasn't about the depredations of dirty New York landlords or saving historic East Village buildings from being cleared to make way for a luxury hotel. The large type above these demands on the banner read: "Stand With Larung Gar."

Larung Gar is the world's largest Buddhist sanctuary, in a valley in the traditional region of Tibet—although today officially in the Chinese province of Sichuan. At the rally, activists stood with painted cardboard cut-outs representing the monastery or Buddhist academy there, and smaller outlying buildings. Other cut-outs represented a bulldozer and truck-mounted wrecking ball, both "driven" by activists wearing People's Liberation Army uniforms. Sitting below the display were two monks in traditional robes, Tibetan flags draped across their shoulders.

Protest organizer Urgyen Badheytsang, who just arrived here from Toronto to work in the Students for a Free Tibet office on 14th Street, relates some of the history to me. The community was founded in the 1980s, when post-Mao China started to loosen up, by the lama Jigme Phuntsok, dedicated to preserving and reviving the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. It rapidly grew, with some 10,000 small cabins today lining the valley walls. These are what the Chinese government is now demolishing, claiming safety and overcrowding concerns. But Badheytsang doesn't buy it.

"It is political," he said. "China fears the growing influence of Larung Gar."