Starry dwarf frog, newly discovered Indian species

This 12 March 2019 video says about itself:

Newly-Discovered Starry Dwarf Frog is the Size of a Thumbnail

Scientists just found a new species of frog in India that’s the sole member of a mysterious ancient lineage.

From the Florida Museum of Natural History in the USA:

Meet India’s starry dwarf frog, lone member of newly discovered ancient lineage

March 12, 2019

The starry dwarf frog is an expert hider. Plunging into leaf litter at the slightest disturbance, it has successfully evaded attention for millions of years — until now.

The thumbnail-sized species was discovered in India’s Western Ghats, one of the world’s “hottest” biodiversity hotspots. Scientists have named the frog Astrobatrachus kurichiyana for its constellation-like markings and the indigenous people of Kurichiyarmala, the hill range where it was found.

But A. kurichiyana is not only a new species to science. It’s the sole member of an ancient lineage, a long branch on the frog tree of life that researchers have classified as a new subfamily, Astrobatrachinae.

“This is an oddball frog — it has no close sister species for maybe tens of millions of years,” said David Blackburn, the associate curator of herpetology at the Florida Museum of Natural History. “With frogs, there are still ancient lineages out there awaiting discovery. This gives us one more puzzle piece to think about deep time.”

Dark brown with a bright orange underbelly and speckled with pale blue dots, the frog camouflages well in wet leaf litter, and only a few individuals have been found.

“The coloration was the first thing that stood out to me, these starry patterns with a blue tinge,” said Seenapuram Palaniswamy Vijayakumar, lead author of the species description and now a postdoctoral fellow at George Washington University. “We hadn’t seen anything like this before.”

But the starry dwarf frog nearly got overlooked in the crush of new species that Vijayakumar and his then-doctoral supervisor Kartik Shanker were finding on a series of expeditions to the Western Ghats, a 1,000-mile-long mountain range along India’s southwestern coast.

Vijayakumar and Shanker, associate professor at the Indian Institute of Science, had designed a meticulous study, covering multiple elevations, habitats and hill ranges to record and map the region’s frogs, lizards and snakes.

“When we started sampling, we realized we were digging up a huge treasure,” Vijayakumar said. “This was one among 30 species we captured one night, and while I took photos of it, none of us paid much attention to it.”

The next morning, on a chilly, wet stroll over the grasslands — watching the ground for leeches — Vijayakumar spotted another of the unusually patterned frogs.

“I picked it up and said, ‘Hey, this is the same guy I photographed in the night,'” he said. “As a greedy researcher, I kept it, but at that point in time, it wasn’t too exciting for me. I didn’t realize it would become so interesting.”

Years passed before Vijayakumar and Shanker could turn their attention to the unknown frog species and assemble a research team to describe it. Alex Pyron, the Robert F. Griggs associate professor of biology at George Washington University and now Vijayakumar’s adviser, analyzed the frog’s genetics, and Florida Museum associate scientist Edward Stanley CT scanned the frog, revealing its skeleton and other internal features.

Thanks to CT technology, the starry dwarf frog could traverse more than 8,700 miles from Pune, India, to Blackburn’s computer monitor in Gainesville, Florida, in a matter of minutes.

“I’ve never physically seen this species we’ve put all this effort into describing,” Blackburn said. “Once specimens are digitized, it really doesn’t matter where they are. The strengths that Ed and I could contribute to the team — comparative anatomy — were things we were able to do digitally.”

Blackburn and Stanley could instantly compare the starry dwarf frog’s bone structure to other frog species from the Western Ghats that have been imaged as part of the openVertebrate project, known as oVert, an initiative to scan 20,000 vertebrates from museum collections.

“We have this deep bench of CT data that makes collections amassed over hundreds of years instantaneously available, not just to researchers, but to anyone with a computer,” Stanley said.

The team found that A. kurichiyana’s closest relatives are the family Nyctibatrachidae, a group of nearly 30 species native to India and Sri Lanka. But their last common ancestor could date back tens of millions of years.

“These frogs are relics. They persisted so long. This lineage could have been knocked off at any point in time,” Vijayakumar said. “Irrespective of who we are, we should be celebrating the very fact that these things exist.”

Scientists have found many ancient lineages of frogs in the Western Ghats, whose biodiversity stems from its history and distinct geography. India, once part of Africa, split from Madagascar about 89 million years ago and drifted northeast, eventually colliding with the Asian mainland and giving rise to the Himalayas. But its long isolation as an island provided fertile ground for the evolution of new life forms and may have sheltered species that disappeared elsewhere. This is especially true of the Western Ghats, which is much like a network of islands, Vijayakumar said. The elevated region has been cross-sectioned into separate hill ranges by millions of years of erosion and climatic changes.

“It’s a perfect scenario for cooking up new species,” he said.

One question he and Blackburn are interested in exploring further is whether peninsular India’s frogs are the descendants of African ancestors or whether they first originated in Asia and then moved south.

Finding ancient lineages like Astrobatrachinae can help fill in in the region’s distant biological past, but the starry dwarf frog maintains many mysteries of its own. Researchers still do not know its life cycle, the sound of its call or whether the species is threatened or endangered.

Vijayakumar said when study co-author K.P. Dinesh of the Zoological Society of India returned to the hill range where the frog was first found, “he searched the whole forest floor and hardly saw any individuals. This frog is so secretive. Just one hop into the litter, and it’s gone.”


Stop war between nuclear armed India, Pakistan!

This Associated Press video from South Korea says about itself:

Protest in Seoul against Indian PM’s peace award

(22 Feb 2019) A human rights activist on Friday protested against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi receiving a peace award in Seoul. Na Hyun-phil attempted to enter the Seoul Peace Award ceremony at a hotel in central Seoul, but was deterred by the police.

In an interview, Na said Modi does not deserve the peace award as he is responsible for a massacre of Muslims during his time as a state governor.

By Keith Jones:

India and Pakistan tobogganing toward a catastrophic war

2 March 2019

India and Pakistan, South Asia’s rival nuclear-armed states, are teetering on the brink of a full-scale military conflict. Early Tuesday morning, Indian warplanes attacked Pakistan for the first time since the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War. Striking deep inside Pakistan, they destroyed what New Delhi claims was the principal “terror base” of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, an Islamist group involved in the separatist insurgency in Indian-held Kashmir.

After a brief period of confusion, as it assessed the damage and strategic implications of the Indian attack, Islamabad vowed a strong military response. Pakistan, it declared, would not allow India to “normalize” illegal US or Israeli-style attacks inside Pakistan, whether mounted in the name of retaliation for, or preemptive strikes against, Kashmiri insurgent attacks.

The next day, Indian and Pakistani war planes engaged in a dogfight over the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, after Islamabad launched what New Delhi claims was an unsuccessful strike on Indian military installations. Both sides are claiming to have shot down at least one enemy plane in Wednesday’s encounter, with Islamabad presenting a captured Indian pilot as proof of its claim.

The US, China, Russia and other world powers are now publicly scrambling to avert the eruption of all-out war—a war they concede could quickly spiral into a catastrophic nuclear exchange, even were it to be “confined” to the subcontinent. Yet even as they counsel restraint and make offers of mediation, the great powers—themselves locked in, to use the Pentagon’s term, “a new era of strategic competition”—are trying to use the South Asian war crisis to advance their own geostrategic interests.

Washington, in particular, has used the standoff to further its efforts to diplomatically and militarily encircle China. It publicly greenlighted India’s attack on Pakistan as “self-defense”, and is using the current crisis to underscore the strength of the Indo-US “global strategic partnership”.

Adding to the explosiveness of the situation are the interconnected socio-economic and political crises buffeting the two states, headed respectively by Narendra Modi and his Hindu supremacist BJP and the Islamic populist Imran Khan.

Elected Pakistan’s Prime Minister just seven months ago on promises of jobs, development, and increased social spending, Khan has seen his popularity plummet as his government implements IMF-demanded austerity. Modi and his BJP are shamelessly using the war crisis to muster votes for India’s multi-stage April-May general election. The BJP is accusing the opposition of imperiling “national unity”, for not ceasing all criticism of the government and for not trumpeting its claims that the “strongman” Modi has thrown off the shackles of “strategic restraint” in India’s relations with Pakistan.

With the full support of the military, the corporate media, and virtually the entire opposition, the Modi government has rejected Khan’s offer of talks. New Delhi is insisting, as it has for years, that there will be no high-level interactions, let alone “peace negotiations”, between India and Pakistan until Islamabad demonstratively capitulates to New Delhi’s demands by cutting off all logistical support from Pakistan for the Kashmir insurgency.

A nuclear catastrophe in the making?

No one should underestimate the danger of what would be the first-ever war between nuclear-armed states. Since the 2001-2002 war crisis, which saw a million Indian troops deployed on the Pakistan border for nine months, both countries have developed hair-trigger strategies, with a dynamic impelling rapid escalation. In response to India’s Cold Start strategy, which calls for the rapid mobilization of Indian forces for a multi-front invasion of Pakistan, Islamabad has deployed tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons. India has, in return, signaled that any use by Pakistan of tactical nuclear weapons will break the “strategic threshold,” freeing India from its “no first use” nuclear-weapon pledge, and be met with strategic nuclear retaliation.

All this would play out in a relatively small, densely populated area. The center of Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city with a population in excess of 11 million, lies little more than 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) from the Indian border. The distance from New Delhi to Islamabad is significantly less than that between Berlin and Paris or New York and Detroit and would be travelled by a nuclear-armed missile in a matter of minutes.

A nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan would not only kill tens of millions in South Asia. A 2008 simulation conducted by scientists who in the 1980s alerted the world to the threat of “nuclear winter” determined that the detonation of a hundred Hiroshima-scale nuclear weapons in an Indo-Pakistani war would, due to the destruction of large cities, inject so much smoke and ash into the upper atmosphere as to trigger a global agricultural collapse. This, they predicted, would lead to a billion deaths in the months that followed South Asia’s “limited” nuclear war.

Whatever the immediate outcome of the latest war crisis—and events could easily spin out of control in the next days or weeks—it exemplifies how the breakdown of the postwar geopolitical order and the resulting surge in imperialist antagonisms and inter-state rivalry are inflaming all the unresolved conflicts and problems of the Twentieth Century: a century in which capitalism survived the challenge of socialist revolution, but only by dragging humanity through two world wars, fascism, and countless other horrors.

Partition and the historic failure of the national bourgeoisie

The Indo-Pakistan conflict is rooted in the 1947 communal partition of the subcontinent into an expressly Muslim Pakistan and a predominantly Hindu India—a crime perpetrated by South Asia’s departing British overlords and the political representatives of the rival factions of the native bourgeoisie, the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League.

Partition defied historical, cultural and economic logic and unleashed a firestorm of communal violence in which two million people were killed and another 18 million fled India to Pakistan or vice versa. But it served the cynical interests of the rival ruling elites of India and Pakistan, by bringing a bloody end to the mass anti-imperialist upsurge that had convulsed South Asia during the preceding three decades; and by giving them, as part of the independence-partition deal with London, control of the British-colonial capitalist state machine with which to meet the threat from an increasingly combative working class.

Unable to find any progressive solution to the problems of the masses, the Indian and Pakistani bourgeois have for the past seven decades used their strategic rivalry and communally-laced nationalist appeals as a mechanism for diverting social anger in reactionary directions.

The open wound that is Kashmir is testimony to their common bankruptcy. The Indian bourgeoisie has subjected the population of Jammu and Kashmir, Indian’s only Muslim majority state, to three decades of military occupation and expresses consternation at the continued mass popular disaffection with Indian rule there, even as it celebrates a party and prime minster implicated in anti-Muslim pogroms.

As for Pakistan’s venal ruling elite, it has run roughshod over the rights of the Kashmiris over whom it rules, and has manipulated the opposition in Jammu and Kashmir to bring forward the most reactionary Islamist elements.

For a working-class led movement against war and imperialism

Over the past two decades, the nature of the Indo-Pakistani conflict has been transformed. It has become enmeshed evermore inextricably with the US-China confrontation, giving it a massive new explosive charge, and raising the threat that an Indo-Pakistani conflict could draw in the world’s great powers.

Since the beginning of the current century, Washington, under Democratic and Republican administrations alike, has aggressively courted India, showering it with strategic favours, including access to advanced civilian nuclear fuel and technology and advanced US weaponry, with the aim of harnessing New Delhi to its strategic agenda.

The importance that US war-planners attach to South Asia and the Indian Ocean—the waterway that is the conduit for the oil and other resources that fuel China’s economy, as well as its exports to Europe, Africa, and the Middle East—is underscored by the recent renaming of the US Pacific Command as the Indo-Pacific Command.

Under Modi, as attested by India’s opening of its bases to US warplanes and ships and its increasing bilateral, trilateral, and quadrilateral strategic cooperation with the US, and its principal regional allies (Japan and Australia), India has been transformed into a veritable “frontline state” in the US military-strategic offensive against China.

Islamabad, during the Cold War Washington’s principal South Asian ally, has warned in increasingly shrill tones that US actions have shattered the “balance of power” in the region and emboldened India, but to no avail.

Consequently, Pakistan has dramatically strengthened its longstanding military-strategic partnership with China, which similarly fears the burgeoning Indo-US alliance.

Even as the US seeks to cool the current Indo-Pakistani tensions, on the calculation an all-out South Asian war would at this point cut across its global objectives, it does so within the framework of its drive for world hegemony including ultimately subjugating China. As part of this drive, Washington has made clear that it is determined to thwart China’s efforts to make Pakistan an anchor of its One Belt, One Road Initiative, and in particular to use the China Pakistan Economic Corridor to counteract US plans to economically blockade China by seizing Indian Ocean and South China Sea “chokepoints.”

The workers and toilers of India and Pakistan must join forces in opposition to the criminal war preparations of the ruling elite.

In South Asia, as around the world, the struggle against war is inseparable from the struggle against capitalism—against the rival nationally-based capitalist cliques whose rapacious struggle for markets, profits and strategic advantage finds ultimate expression in the drive for the repartition of the world; and against the outmoded, and in the case of South Asia, communally-infused nation-state system, in which capitalism is historically rooted.

In opposition to the bourgeoisie’s program of war, austerity, and communal reaction, workers and socialist-minded youth in South Asia should fight for the building of a working-class led movement against war and imperialism, as part of a global antiwar movement.

India and Pakistan issue fresh war threats: here.

War tensions between India and Pakistan continue to escalate, posing the danger of an all-out military conflict involving nuclear weapons. At least six civilians and two Pakistani soldiers were killed on Friday and Saturday as a result of cross-border shelling from both sides along the Line of Control (LoC), which separates the two parts of Kashmir ruled by India and Pakistan. Indian and Pakistani troops have attacked each other’s military posts and villages: here.

Cross-border shelling across the Line of Control (LOC) that separates Indian- and Pakistan-held Kashmir has reportedly declined over the past 48 hours. However, tensions between South Asia’s rival nuclear-armed powers remain extremely high, leaving the region teetering on the brink of a catastrophic war. Both sides continue to exchange bellicose threats and to accuse each other of preparing further military strikes, including “terrorist” attacks and covert operations: here.

Reports underscore how close India and Pakistan came to all-out war in late February: here.

Stop India-Pakistan conflict now

This October 2016 video says about itself:

A Pakistani peace activist’s message to Indian people

During peace demonstration by Aaghaz-e-Dosti in Lahore, a Pakistani activist gives a thought-provoking message to Indians.

Aaghaz-e-Dosti is a joint Indo-Pak Friendship initiative of India-based Mission Bhartiyam and Pakistan-based The Catalyst of Peace. Since 2012, it is striving towards its goal through interactive sessions in schools and colleges called Aman Chaupals, discussions, seminars, peace workshops, classroom to classroom connect, greeting card and letter exchanges in schools, an Indo-Pak Peace calendar which is a collection of paintings by school students from both sides, a virtual peace-building course called Friends Beyond Borders wherein we pair an Indian and a Pakistani who engage in a dialogue over different issues for eight weeks and various virtual campaigns that are run on its official Facebook page … and Twitter.

By K. Ratnayake in Sri Lanka:

Nuclear-armed India, Pakistan on brink of all-out war

28 February 2019

The danger of all-out war in Asia continued to rise yesterday, after the Indian air force bombed targets deep inside Pakistan on Tuesday. Yesterday, as fighting mounted, Pakistan announced that it had carried out a strike in India.

Amid heavy shelling across the Line of Control (LoC) between Pakistani- and Indian-administered Kashmir, the two countries’ air forces clashed and lost several fighter jets. The Pakistani Foreign Ministry released a statement claiming that its jets had struck “nonmilitary targets” in India from within Pakistani airspace. It added that the strike was “not a retaliation” for the Indian strike, though Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has pledged that Pakistan will retaliate, and that Pakistan is “fully prepared” for further escalation.

Pakistan’s military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor claimed two Indian MiG-21 fighters “crossed into Pakistani territory and were shot down”, and that the two pilots were captured.

Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar claimed India shot down one F-16 jet belonging to the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), after Pakistan targeted military installations on the Indian side of Kashmir with airstrikes. The airman was identified as wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman, and Pakistani authorities released a picture of him in detention.

In a sign that they expect the conflict to continue to escalate, both countries announced the closure of airspace and the suspension of commercial flights. Pakistan reportedly closed its airspace altogether and indefinitely closed three airports in cities near the Indian border. All flights from major airports, including Karachi, Peshawar and Lahore are suspended indefinitely. India has suspended flights from airports in Kashmir and the state of Punjab until further notice.

Washington, which has sought for over a decade to develop India as a diplomatic and military ally against China, is pouring fuel on the fire, tacitly backing the Indian attack. This poses immense dangers to humanity. Should fighting continue to escalate to a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan, hundreds of millions would die, and such a conflict could easily draw the two countries’ main allies, the United States and China, into a global conflagration.

Yesterday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement legitimizing the Tuesday bombing, which was a clear violation of international law. Pompeo did not criticize the Indian attack. Instead, he said he had spoken to Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj “following Indian counter-terrorism actions on February 26,” to “emphasize our close security partnership and shared goal of maintaining peace and security in the region.”

With Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, on the other hand, Pompeo underscored “the priority of de-escalating current tensions by avoiding military action, and the urgency of Pakistan taking meaningful action against terrorist groups operating on its soil.”

While all the governments make empty statements opposing escalation, Washington, New Delhi and Islamabad are ratcheting up the conflict. Pompeo said he had told “both Ministers that we encourage India and Pakistan to exercise restraint, and avoid escalation at any cost.”

In Wuzhen, China, where she was meeting with Chinese and Russian officials, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said India wants to avoid “further escalation of the situation.” Nonetheless, Beijing and Moscow bowed to Indian officials’ demands and endorsed moves to “eradicate the breeding grounds of terrorism”—the pretext New Delhi gave for bombing Pakistan, after blaming Pakistan for a deadly February 14 bombing of Indian forces at Pulwama, in Kashmir.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said: “China’s position is clear. We hope the two countries can exercise restraint, engage in dialogue and take action to ensure peace and stability in the region.”

The most direct warning came from the Pakistani prime minister, who addressed the nation warning of the danger of miscalculation and of world war. He declared, “All wars are miscalculated, and no one knows where they lead to. And World War I was supposed to end in weeks, it took six years [sic; four years] … The US never expected the war on terrorism to last 17 years.” Alluding to the nuclear weapons held by the armed forces of both countries, Khan said: “If this escalates, things will no longer be in my control or in Modi’s.”

Nonetheless, the US and Indian governments and Khan himself continue to escalate the fighting, even as they make veiled references to the danger of nuclear war.

The immense danger in this situation is that working people in Asia, in the United States and around the world are not fully aware of the imminent danger of a nuclear holocaust provoked by the policies of American imperialism and the bourgeoisies of South Asia. The decades-long war drive by US imperialism to dominate Eurasia, now targeting China, is coming together with the historic bankruptcy of the capitalist classes of the Indian subcontinent.

India is spiraling towards a catastrophic war with Pakistan rooted in the 1947 communal partition of the Indian sub-continent by British colonialism, with the connivance of the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League, between Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. Partition served to drown revolution against British colonialism in blood, divide workers along national lines and defend capitalist rule. Over 70 years later, these conflicts, which three times exploded into Indo-Pakistani wars costing millions of lives, threaten to unleash a world war.

Both the Indian and the Pakistani regimes are deeply unpopular among workers and the rural poor and, particularly in the run-up to the April–May 2019 Indian general elections, they are stoking war hysteria to press the population to rally behind them in war.

After the Pakistani strikes Wednesday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held an emergency meeting with top security officials. There were no reports on the contents of their discussions. According to PTI, Modi had been up all night Tuesday monitoring the Indian Air Force operation to attack an alleged terrorist camp at Balalkot, and relaxed after the bombing raid was over. Then he was “busy with the next day’s schedule,” meeting with defence officials and ministers to plan the next moves.

Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its Hindu extremist allies have organised rallies across the country since the attack Tuesday on Pakistan.

They are no doubt encouraged by US National Security Advisor John Bolton’s statement after the Pulwama attack that Washington recognizes “India’s right to self defence against cross-border terrorism.”

War fever is also spreading in Pakistan, as well. Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported yesterday that after the downing of Indian fighters, a “mood of belligerent triumph spread across Pakistani news stations and online.”

The enormous war danger vindicates the perspective of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) advanced in its statement, Socialism and the Fight Against War. The only way out is developing an international socialist movement of the working class against war …

The only way forward for workers is a break from all factions of the capitalist ruling elites and, rallying support from workers around the world, develop their independent political struggle for a Union of Socialist Republics of South Asia at the head of the toiling masses.

India, Pakistan, peace, not war!

This 30 August 2018 video says about itself:

My Indian Life: Peace and protest (Podcast) – BBC News

Gurmehar Kaur is a student activist who finds herself at the heart of the Kashmir dispute. This is her story – of death threats on one side, support on the other.

Both the Indian and the Pakistani government have nuclear weapons. In the Pakistani case, because of collusion by the CIA and other United States agencies. Similarly so for India.

If the present conflict between the two governments would escalate into a nuclear war, that would be lethal catastrophe, not just for the Indian and Pakistani people. Also for human and other life in neighbouring areas like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Iran, Tibet; and all over the world.

By Wasantha Rupasinghe in Sri Lanka:

India bombs Pakistan, Islamabad vows military retaliation

27 February 2019

India carried out an air strike deep inside Pakistan early Tuesday morning, its first since the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war, raising tensions between South Asia’s rival nuclear-armed states to a boil.

With Islamabad asserting it has a right to retaliate and the spokesman for Pakistan’s army vowing it will “surprise” India, there is a grave danger that escalating tit-for-tat retaliatory actions will spiral out of control into a catastrophic war.

Meanwhile, the BBC reports that Pakistan says it has shot down two Indian military jets and captured a pilot in a major escalation between the nuclear powers over Kashmir.

PAKISTAN SHOOTS DOWN INDIAN JETS Pakistan’s air force says it shot down two Indian warplanes after they crossed the boundary between the two nuclear-armed rivals in the disputed territory of Kashmir. An Indian pilot was reportedly captured. [AP]

Reports of heavy shelling across the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Indian- and Pakistan-administered Kashmir were appearing as this article was filed for publication.

The Indian government is claiming that 12 Indian Air Force Mirage fighter jets destroyed the main base of Jaish-e Mohammed (JeM), an Islamist group active in the insurgency against Indian rule in Kashmir, by striking it with 1,000 kilogram (2,000 pound) “precision” bombs. The reputed base was located at Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, some 60 kilometres from the LoC.

“In this operation,” Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale told a celebratory press conference Tuesday, “a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated.”

The Indian government has officially refused to be more precise in its death count. But Indian media, based on sources inside the Hindu supremacist BJP government, are speaking of between 200 and 300 dead.

While the precise form of India’s attack on Pakistan was not known in advance, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior government and military officials had repeatedly vowed Pakistan would be punished militarily for a suicide bombing that killed 40 soldiers in the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) near Pulwama, in Indian-held Kashmir, on February 14.

No sooner had the JeM claimed responsibility for the bombing than Modi declared Pakistan responsible and said India’s military had a “free hand” in exacting retribution.

As preparations for yesterday’s strike proceeded, the BJP government announced a slew of retaliatory measures. These include cancelling Pakistan’s Most Favoured Nation trade status and vowing to maximize India’s “rights” under the Indus Valley Water Treaty, effectively threatening to roil Pakistan’s economy by denying it the water it needs for irrigation and electricity generation.

Nevertheless, in an implicit admission that its planned retaliatory attack on Pakistan was a wanton violation of international law, New Delhi did not seek to justify yesterday’s strike by referring to the Pulwama attack. Rather, Gokhale claimed that it was a “non-military pre-emptive action”, exclusively targeting the JeM, because “credible intelligence” showed the Islamist group was on the verge of launching another terrorist attack.

Islamabad has disputed India’s account of the raid it mounted inside Pakistan under cover of darkness early Tuesday. A statement issued from a meeting of Pakistan’s National Security Committee, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, accused India of making “self-serving, reckless and fictitious” claims. According to Islamabad, the Indian fighter jets were chased off by Pakistani warplanes and their precision bombs fell in forested areas, with one injured civilian the lone casualty.

The wild divergence in the claims emanating from New Delhi and Islamabad underscores the explosiveness of the situation. The reactionary ruling elites of both countries have for decades used their strategic rivalry as a mechanism for diverting social tensions and stoking reaction, and made central to their rule the notion that any compromise with, slight from, or reversal at the hands of the arch-enemy is impermissible.

Even as they dismissed the impact of Tuesday’s attack, Pakistan’s military and government gave every indication they intend to respond in kind.

“Pakistan”, declared army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor, “will retaliate on diplomatic, political and military fronts to India’s action.”

He then added ominously, “Prime Minister Imran Khan told the army and people [to] get ready for any eventuality. Now it is time for India to wait for our response. We have decided. Wait for It.”

In ordering yesterday’s strike, Modi and his BJP government had a double objective.

First, to intensify India’s escalating campaign of diplomatic, economic and military pressure on Pakistan, and “normalize” India’s resort to illegal military action inside Pakistan in response to insurgent attacks in Indian-held Kashmir.

Shortly after it was propelled to power in 2014 by the Ambanis and India’s other newly-minted billionaires, the Modi-led BJP government signalled that it was determined to change the “rules of the game” with Pakistan, so as to force it to submit to India’s regional dominance and demonstratively cease all logistical support for the Kashmir insurgency.

The new wave of popular opposition to Indian rule that, since 2016, has convulsed Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, has only made Modi, the BJP and the RSS-led Hindu right more determined to lash out against Pakistan.

The second, and no less important aim of yesterday’s air strikes, is to incite a bellicose and communalist political atmosphere in the run-up to India’s April-May, multi-stage general election.

With its promises of jobs and development having proven to be a cruel hoax for India’s workers and toilers, the Modi government is facing mounting social opposition. Tens of millions of workers joined a two-day, nationwide general strike last month to oppose the BJP government’s austerity measures and “pro-investor reforms”. There have also been widespread farmer protests.

The BJP is seeking to use the war crisis with Pakistan to mobilize its Hindu right political base, project Modi as a strongman uniquely able to tame India’s enemies, and paint any criticism of him and his government as disloyal, if not treasonous.

Because of the foul atmosphere whipped up by the Hindu right in the wake of the Pulwama attack, thousands of Kashmiri students who were attending colleges in other states have already had to flee for home in fear for their lives.

The ability of the BJP to seize on the Pulwama attack to mount this vile and transparent political ruse is entirely bound up with the reactionary politics of the opposition parties.

Whilst they may voice the occasional criticism of the BJP government’s brutal repression in Kashmir, they … stand four-square behind the Indian bourgeoisie’s drive to bring Pakistan to heel and realize its great-power ambitions.

The Pakistani government and elite are seeking to cast themselves as victims of Indian aggression. But they are no less responsible than New Delhi for the reactionary strategic conflict that has riven South Asia since the 1947 communal partition of the subcontinent into an expressly Muslim Pakistan and a predominantly Hindu India, and which today threatens to culminate in a nuclear holocaust. Especially cynical is Islamabad’s attempt to portray itself as the protector of the Kashmiri people. Pakistan has run roughshod over the rights of the Kashmiris in Azad, or Pakistan-held Kashmir, and it has manipulated the popular opposition in Jammu and Kashmir, using its political influence and logistical muscle to promote anti-working class Islamist militia groups.

The Indo-Pakistan conflict is rooted in Partition, but it has been enormously exacerbated by the predatory actions of Washington. Determined to use India as a frontline state in its military-strategic offensive with China, successive administrations, Democrat and Republican alike, have showered strategic favours on India, while blithely ignoring Islamabad’s warnings that its actions have overturned the regional balance of power.

So as to further cement the Indo-US “global strategic partnership”, US National Security Adviser John Bolton gave the Modi government a green light to strike Pakistan. Less than 24 hours after the Pulwama attack and after hurried consultations with his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doyal, Bolton declared that Washington supports “India’s right to self-defense against cross-border terrorism.” Except for the name of the country, Bolton’s words were exactly those that US governments have for decades used to bless Israeli attacks on the Palestinians.

Fear of the burgeoning Indo-US alliance—which now includes a US right to use Indian military bases for refuelling and resupply—has led China and Pakistan to forge ever-closer strategic ties. Consequently the Indo-Pakistani and US-China conflicts have become enmeshed. A war between India and Pakistan would from the get-go risk drawing in the world’s great powers and igniting a global conflagration.

The latest Indo-Pakistani war crisis underscores the urgency of developing a working-class led movement against war and imperialism in South Asia and around the world. In opposition to Modi and Imran Khan, who pursue like policies of austerity and capitalist restructuring even as they toss bloodcurdling threats at one another, Indian and Pakistani workers must unite their struggles and rally the oppressed toilers behind them in the fight to overthrow capitalist rule, tear down the subcontinent’s reactionary communally-infused state system, and establish the United Socialist States of South Asia.

Indian tigers’ quarrel, video

This 19 February 2019 video says about itself:

A big male tiger from Chandrapur, India spotted a young submissive male tiger in his territory, and decided to give the young male a good smacking, he eventually left him alone to lick his wounds.

Filmed in: Chandrapur, Maharashtra, India

Credit: Ramya Jois via Viralhog

Indian Progressive Artists’ Group, New York exhibition

This video from the USA says about itself:

Symposium: The Progressive Artists’ Group — Creating Modern India

NEW YORK, October 25, 2018 — This panel presentation and discussion explores the idea of representing the “progressive” Indian nation through visual, literary, and performing arts by concentrating on the artists included in The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India.

The presenters included University of Washington Associate Professor of Art History Sonal Khullar, Michigan State University Associate Professor and Interim Chair of the Department of Art, Art History, and Design Karin Zitzewitz, and The Progressive Revolution guest curator and Courtauld Institute of Art Associate Lecturer Zehra Jumabhoy. The ensuing discussion was moderated by Boon Hui Tan, the vice president of global arts and cultural programs and director of Asia Society Museum. (1 hr., 39 min.)

By Josh Varlin and Evan Cohen:

The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India

Modern Indian art at the Asia Society Museum in New York

The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India; an exhibition at the Asia Society Museum, New York City through January 20, 2019, curated by Dr. Zehra Jumabhoy and Boon Hui Tan.

Progressive Artists Group exhibition, 1949. Courtesy The Raza Archives, The Raza Foundation, New Delhi, India

The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India, an exhibition at the Asia Society Museum in New York City on the Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG), was a valuable opportunity to view works from one of the most significant groups in Indian modern art. The PAG was founded in 1947 in Bombay (now Mumbai) by several left-leaning artists. After many of its members left India, it disbanded in 1956.

The Progressive Revolution is the first time the original PAG members’ art has been exhibited together outside of India.

The PAG was formed in 1947 and worked in the immediate aftermath of Indian independence and the communal partition between a predominantly Hindu India and an explicitly Muslim Pakistan, during which up to 2 million people were killed in communal violence and 18 million moved across the new borders in the largest human migration in history. The art the PAG produced during this tumultuous period stands as a powerful indictment of communalism, discrimination and the legacy of imperialist domination of the Indian subcontinent.

At the same time, it expresses the hopes of millions that independence would open up a new era of secular and democratic development for India, while articulating limited misgivings about the newly independent India, which saw power transferred to the native bourgeoisie and its Indian National Congress (INC).

This contradictory outlook was a product of the nature of Indian independence. In the last decade of the British Raj, the working class on the subcontinent, inspired by the Russian Revolution, emerged as the major force opposing British imperialism. This process was epitomized in the Quit India movement. This very development caused the Indian bourgeoisie (both Hindu and Muslim) to recoil in terror, relying on communal politics to divide the working class and securing independence via the imperialist-brokered Partition accepted by the bourgeoisie.

The PAG initially included K. H. Ara, S. K. Bakre, H. A. Gade, M. F. Husain, S. H. Raza and F. N. Souza. The Asia Society exhibition also features works by artists who joined the PAG after 1947 or were around it without being members, including V. S. Gaitonde, Krishen Khanna, Ram Kumar, Tyeb Mehta, Akbar Padamsee and Mohan Samant.

The group included artists from different social and religious backgrounds. Souza, who was briefly associated with the Communist Party of India (CPI) and did much of the writing for the group, was from a poor Roman Catholic family in Portuguese Goa. Souza was also involved in the Quit India movement. Ara was the son of a driver from the oppressed Dalit (“Untouchable”) caste, and he was a domestic servant when he began painting. Raza was the son of a forest ranger. Husain was a secular Muslim.

What brought these artists together amid the tumultuous end of British colonial rule was a rejection of staid academic art and the backward-looking, sentimental nationalist art of other Indian artists of the time, including the influential Bengal School of painting. Instead, they synthesized European modernist, Post-Impressionist and Expressionist techniques and the visual tradition of ancient Hindu, Punjabi, Jainist, Muslim and Buddhist art (and other Indian and Asian influences) into a bold break with the conventions of the Indian and British art worlds of their time.

While the PAG set out to create a new, secular art for the new Indian nation, many of the pieces featured in the Asia Society’s show, and many of the movement’s strongest works, show the failures of the Indian national project and proudly display the international cross-pollination that is fundamental to the birth of modern art.

Throughout the exhibit, paintings that borrow from and update traditional Hindu imagery are exhibited next to historical examples from the Asia Society’s collection. While some of these pairings suggest that the PAG reached back to discover an essential “Indianness”, others suggest that the artists’ influences went far beyond national folk traditions, and combined influences from across Asia and the world. The exhibit’s section “National/International”, for instance, suggests that the PAG’s works, as well as the work of European and American modernists, were valuable products of cultural exchange among sensitive artists expressing the upheaval and the contradictions of the post-war era.

Among the paintings that express the social divisions in post-independence India, some of the most successful are F. N. Souza’s Tycoon and the Tramp (1956) and Ram Kumar’s Unemployed Graduates (1956).

F. N. Souza, Tycoon and the Tramp (1956). Oil on masonite

Tycoon and the Tramp is a large oil portrait of the two title figures: the tycoon is a pallid, corpse-like man in a blue suit and shirt and tie, with a small, bemused smirk perched atop folds of fat; the tramp is a slight man wearing dark red and black clothing, with a thin, wispy beard, his face a deep red, with a blank, removed expression.

Both figures are outlined in heavy, rough, glossy black lines that foreshadow Souza’s later works—his violently crosshatched women and grotesque figures of Christ. They stand against an abstract, light green and sickly yellow textured background, and their eyes, framed by heavy lines and shadows, stare across the center of the image. Souza’s painting is a stark expression of the class divisions between the parasitic bourgeoisie and the working class that remained entrenched in the new India.

Ram Kumar, Unemployed Graduates (1956). Oil on canvas

Kumar’s Unemployed Graduates, completed after his return to India from Paris, is an oil painting of four ghostly young men in suits that hang off their gaunt, elongated bodies. The students’ faces are long and rendered, like the majority of the painting, in dull browns and grays. Of particular interest are the students’ eyes, which are abstracted into white and black ovals sunken into their faces. Unemployed Graduates is a haunting evocation of the economic struggles of ordinary people in post-independence India.

Krishen Khanna, News of Gandhiji's Death (1948). Oil on canvas

Krishen Khanna’s News of Gandhiji’s Death (1948) is a sorrowful depiction of Indians from various backgrounds gathered under a lamppost reading newspapers carrying word of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi at the hands of a right-wing Hindu nationalist. Reflecting the sectarian tensions Khanna feared, no one is reading together or discussing, but each, with his or her own paper, is reflecting.

The figures have muted facial features, with attention instead drawn to their stooped postures and garb depicting them as Muslim, Sikh or Hindu, all united in their grief over the assassination. The colors are dull, and the scene is surrounded by darkness. The figures holding newspapers are distributed about the canvas to form the rough shape of the Indian subcontinent. While not as emotionally evocative, in these reviewers’ opinions, as The Anatomy Lesson, which would come later, News of Gandhiji’s Death reflects the PAG’s contradictory misgivings about, and illusions in, the Indian national project.

M. F. Husain, Peasant Couple (1950). Oil on canvas. Courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.

Husain’s Peasant Couple (1950) is a painting of a man and a woman striding forward. The woman seems to be carrying something on her back, while the man seems to hold a tool or farming implement. The color palette is mostly earthen colors, with some vibrant splashes on the woman’s clothes. The unusual, more abstract depiction of the woman’s figure contrasts with the more realist depiction of the man’s, but both figures are distorted as if seen from many viewpoints, the shapes and colors of their clothing and bodies combining with the background into a collage from which the couple are emerging.

Peasant Couple seems to emphasize the Nehruvian ideal of “unity in diversity”, enhanced by the use of people from a rural area and the depiction of a woman, both associated with depictions of India qua India. Though an effort to turn toward the peasantry as a subject matter showcasing an “authentic” Indian national identity, the painting is also a successful and evocative combination of Cubism and Expressionism—a bold leap away from the sentimental nationalist paintings of the Bengal Art School.

V. S. Gaitonde, Untitled (1962). Oil on canvas

V. S. Gaitonde’s work was more abstract, with many of his paintings seeming at once austere and vast. An untitled work from 1962 is haunting, seeming to depict either a bird or a ship in an expanse that threatens to engulf the viewer as well. The subdued grays and blues add to the isolating effect. Gaitonde, like many European artists of an earlier generation, was influenced by Japanese art and ancient calligraphy. Gaitonde combined his influences into non-objective meditations not unlike Mark Rothko’s work, but with an emphasis on single colors and experiments with texture.

Krishen Khanna, The Anatomy Lesson (1972). Oil on canvas

Khanna’s 1972 work The Anatomy Lesson is one of the most successful comments on the bloody wars and partitions of the Indian subcontinent coming from artists associated with the PAG. The Anatomy Lesson was painted in the aftermath of the Indo-Pakistani War, which resulted in the bifurcation of Pakistan, the creation of Bangladesh, the military predominance of India, an intensification of religious and ethnic tensions, and mass deaths and atrocities on each side.

The painting is a menacing update to Rembrandt’s 1632 masterpiece The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp.

This 2015 video says about itself:

Rembrandt van Rijn, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, 1632, oil on canvas, 169.5 x 216.5 cm, (Mauritshuis, Den Haag). Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker. Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.

The article on the New York City exhibition continues:

Instead of a social event for well-to-do onlookers, Khanna’s work depicts a menacing group of pale, sharp-faced military figures preparing to dissect a shrouded human figure. The work’s cold pallet and monochromatic rendering of military officials condemns the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 and its immense human toll.

The PAG expressed in artistic form the genuine democratic and anti-imperialist strivings of the masses on the Indian subcontinent. However, its fate demonstrates the inability of the Indian bourgeoisie—or the bourgeoisie in other countries historically oppressed by imperialism—to achieve the great democratic tasks tackled by the bourgeois revolutions of an earlier era, such as the French Revolution.

When it took power as a result of the communal Partition, the Indian National Congress legitimized its rule in the large, multi-ethnic and multi-religious country by appealing to secularism and the slogan of “unity in diversity”, in contrast to Pakistan, which was founded as a Muslim republic. However, even before the horrors of the communal partition, the INC had incorporated elements of the Hindu Mahasabha, or communalists from the upper classes. …

The result is that the struggles of the workers and peasants on the subcontinent were channeled into a reactionary nation-state structure that hamstrung any efforts at overcoming the legacy of the Raj. This is somewhat brought out in the Asia Society Museum exhibit, which notes the repressive atmosphere faced by the PAG and the role it played in dissolving the group.

Bombay authorities raided Souza’s home and removed two of his works from an exhibition in 1949 on the grounds of “obscenity” for a nude self-portrait, although there were likely political motivations as well. He left for the United Kingdom shortly afterward. Raza, another founding member of the PAG, left for France in 1950. While Souza’s and Raza’s decisions to move exemplify the rich interconnection between different artistic traditions, they also express the difficulties of the period in India.

Also noted in the exhibit is that, after a years-long campaign by the Hindu right, Husain (a secular Muslim who chose to remain in India after the partition) was forced out of the country in 2006. He had faced death threats and legal challenges on the basis of his portrayal of Hindu deities. Husain died in 2011 a citizen of Qatar and had returned his Indian passport.

While the PAG was short-lived, the individuals in and around it are major, lasting figures in modern art in India and internationally. The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India brought these works together for an audience that normally cannot access them.