Democracy Now! - September 29, 2015

President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin held their first formal meeting in two years on Monday in New York to discuss Syria and Ukraine. During the 90-minute meeting, Obama and Putin agreed that their armed forces should hold talks to avoid coming into conflict in Syria, where fighting has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced millions. Both leaders addressed the United Nations Monday, with Putin defending Russia’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Obama expressing willingness to work with Russia to resolve the crisis in Syria. According to reports, however, the United States ignored a Russian offer in 2012 to have Assad step aside at some point after peace talks had started between the regime and the opposition. And former Finnish president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari has said Western powers failed to seize on the 2012 proposal because the United States, Britain and France were convinced that the Syrian dictator was about to fall. Since then, tens of thousands more have been killed, and militants from ISIL have seized swaths of Syria. We talk about the crisis in Syria and the Obama-Putin meeting with Vijay Prashad, professor of international studies at Trinity College and columnist for the Indian magazine Frontline. He also is the author of several books, including "Arab Spring, Libyan Winter."

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the U.N. General Assembly on Monday before leaving the United States after a seven-day trip that focused primarily on strengthening commercial ties between the U.S. and India. More than 100 academics in the U.S. wrote a letter protesting Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley, warning tech giants of the dangers of doing business with a government that has "demonstrated its disregard for human rights and civil liberties, as well as the autonomy of educational and cultural institutions." Before his election, Modi had been barred from the United States for many years over his role in anti-Muslim riots in 2002 that left more than 1,000 dead in Gujarat, where he was chief minister. He has never apologized for or explained his actions at the time. We speak with Trinity College professor Vijay Prashad, who signed the protest letter, and Ruth Manorama, a Dalit activist from India who won the Right Livelihood Award in 2006.

There are 200 million Dalits, who were previously called "untouchables," in India. According to the country’s National Crime Records Bureau, four Dalit women are raped, two Dalits are murdered, and two Dalit homes are torched every day. Now the Dalit Women’s Self-Respect Movement, a new national campaign to end caste-based sexual violence, is underway in India. The movement is the subject of the upcoming documentary, “#Dalitwomenfight!” We speak with Ruth Manorama, a well-known Dalit activist, who was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 2006 for "her commitment over decades to achieving equality for Dalit women, building effective and committed women’s organizations and working for their rights at national and international levels."

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