South Asia Citizens Wire | 2-3 September, 2005
[This issue of the SACW is dedicated to
remembering Alice Thorner. She died in Paris on
the 24th of August 2005. The late Alice was known
to several generations of South Asia scholars,
intellectuals. Alice will live on in our
 Bangladesh: Mullahs Bomb 63 of the 64 districts:
- We can't say that we haven't been warned (Zafar Sobhan)
- Religiously affiliated NGOs - A probing look
necessitated (Editorial, The Daily Star)
 Sri Lanka:
(i) We condemn the assassination of Minister
Kadirgamar (Democratic Left Front)
(ii) Impunity in the Name of Peace (University
Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Sri Lanka)
 Insurgency-ridden Kashmir has many 'disappeared' (Basharat Peer)
 Gay like Us - Why are Indians homophobic? (Farah Baria)
 Book Review: "The Parivar Raj and After by Mukul Dube" (Yoginder Sikand)
 Upcoming events:
(i) 'Land, Agrarian Struggles and Democratic
Rights' 20th Dr Ramanadham Memorial Meeting
(New Delhi, 3 September 2005)
(ii) The AMAN Peace and Conflict Studies Course
(Delhi, September 26 - October 26, 2005)
The Daily Star
August 19, 2005
WE CAN'T SAY THAT WE HAVEN'T BEEN WARNED
The only possible silver lining to the horrific
serial bomb blasts that reached into every nook
and corner of the country on August 17 (apart
from the fact that the death toll was thankfully
low) is that now at least we can perhaps agree
that the debate on the presence of religious
extremists in Bangladesh, their scope, and their
intentions can be put to rest.
There can be no doubt (not that there should have
been before, but anyway) that there exists a
well-organised movement that wishes to replace
our democratic system of government with a
religious theocracy, and that they are prepared
to use any means necessary to achieve their ends.
Don't take my word for it -- or that of any other
media trouble-maker for that matter. Take their
word for it.
Interestingly enough, though, early indications
are that neither the government nor the
opposition are doing so.
BNP Standing Committee member Khandaker Mosharraf
Hossain laid the blame for the bomb blasts at the
door of those "trying to tarnish the image of the
country." He did not come right out and implicate
the opposition, but his suggestion that the
perpetrators "want to create political issues as
they don't have genuine issues against the
government" echoes earlier critiques of the AL
and leaves little to the imagination.
Jamaat-e-Islami leaders were less circumspect.
Senior party leaders including Secretary General
and Cabinet Minister Ali Ahsan M. Mujahid pointed
the finger of blame straight at the AL, and
asserted that the blasts were part of an
opposition plan to make the country politically
unstable and bring it into disrepute.
This kind of irresponsible and mendacious
accusation is more of the same from the
government, which has made even more
unsupportable claims about previous terrorist
attacks such as the one on the AL rally last
August 21. The time has come to speak honestly
and to stop insulting the intelligence of the
Let's be perfectly frank. If the AL had the
organisational capacity and internal discipline
to pull off this kind of an attack, it would have
been able to force the government from office
For its part, the AL is laying the blame for the
bombings squarely at the feet of the government.
Sheikh Hasina is on record as saying that
"without government involvement no one could
carry out such a series of bomb blasts in 63
districts at a time" and opining that culpability
goes all the way to the PM.
Persuasive as this argument might seem, there is
another possibility in terms of how the
government could have let such an attack occur,
which given the government's record seems far
more likely -- common or garden incompetence.
Let's be frank here, too. If the government had
the ability to pull this off then one would have
expected that it would have been able to do a
better job running the country the last few years.
Two more persuasive reasons militate against the
possibility of government involvement or
complicity with the bomb blasts.
One, the text of the leaflets found as well as
the fact that administration and court buildings
were principal targets make it clear that the
bombers do not consider the current government
their friend, regardless of the presence of
mainstream religious parties within the ruling
Two, it is hard to see how the blasts do anything
but hurt the incumbent government. The fact that
religious extremists have been proved in such
dramatic fashion to exist and that the government
has apparently zero ability to curb their actions
cannot benefit an administration hoping for
re-election or trying to project a positive image
of its rule to the outside world.
But this is not to say that the government can
escape blame for what must be counted as a
shocking failure on its part.
In the first place, the blasts happened on its
watch, and so it is in part culpable. It is the
government's job to keep us safe and it is clear
that this is a duty that it is not meeting. In
light of the other terrorist attacks and
incidents of the past few years, the government
had an even greater duty to take the steps
necessary to ensure security, but what the blasts
have proved is that the government has done
little or nothing while the threat has grown
right under its nose.
In the second place, a big part of the problem
has been that for too long the government has
insisted that it is not presiding over a time of
rising religious militancy. The government
instead blamed the opposition and the media and
"foreign hands" for conspiring against it by
fabricating such accounts for their own gain. The
truth is that it is the government that has mined
this issue for partisan gain and we are all
paying the cost.
Third, the government's turning a blind eye to
other incidents of religious militancy and its
half-hearted pursuit of religious extremists in
the past has served only to embolden them.
Let us not forget that the Jamat-ul-Mujiahideen
was supposedly banned back in February. It is now
clear that what the media has been saying all
along, that the government action against the
militants, which had left most of the senior
leaders untouched, was little more than a public
relations stunt intended to enhance the
government's image rather than to strike
effectively at the terrorists, is entirely
But for all their faults, common sense and
political self-interest dictate that neither the
AL nor the BNP were behind the bomb blasts. The
less time the government and opposition spend
trading acrimonious accusations the better.
The question that we need to be focused on now is
the implications behind this attack: why now,
what do the bombers hope to gain from their
campaign, and what does this mean for the future?
The first thing to note is that it seems that the
attacks were intended not to cause maximum death
and destruction (one can be thankful for small
mercies), but to frighten or to send a message.
Had the bombs been more powerful, thousands could
have been killed or maimed.
It has been speculated that the blasts were a
"dry run" for a future more devastating attack.
But this makes little sense as one would have
thought that the terrorists would not have wanted
to tip their hand and alert the citizenry if they
wished to inflict maximum casualties in the
The most likely motivation is that the bombers
wished to send a message as to their
organisational capacity, reach, and intentions.
The interesting thing is that such an approach is
in marked contrast to earlier terrorist attacks
in the country, which were almost all committed
anonymously. The question we need to be asking is
what does it mean that the Jamat-ul-Mujahideen is
now stepping out of the shadows.
It means, at the very least, that the time is
long overdue for us to get serious about this
threat. It is not true, as the government has
long claimed, that violent extremists do not
exist in the country. It is evident that they
exist, and are well-funded and well-organised.
However, neither is it true that there are
extremists hiding under every rock and that they
are poised to take over the country. The good
news is that there is no evidence that the
terrorists enjoy any kind of support among the
general public. We cannot be complacent but we
need not be alarmist either.
But let us hear no more denials of what we all
know to be true. The government has brought this
on itself due to its perfunctory pursuit of
religious extremists in the past. Unfortunately,
it has brought this on all of us, too.
The Jamat-ul-Mujahideen has fired the first shot.
The serial bomb blasts need to be recognised as a
warning shot across the bows of the nation. The
smart move would be to take heed. This might
sound ridiculously obvious, but the fact is that
in the past too many of us have not taken heed of
the threat that has been gathering.
Let us never again hear anyone say that religious
extremists are not active in the country or that
they are not a serious threat. After August 17,
we can never again say that we haven't been
Zafar Sobhan is Assistant Editor of The Daily Star.
o o o o
The Daily Star
September 01, 2005
RELIGIOUSLY AFFILIATED NGOS
A PROBING LOOK NECESSITATED
The current administration has expended a great
deal of effort to bring certain NGOs under their
scrutiny. NGO finances have been rigorously
examined, and registration and operation of NGOs
has come under far more stringent control than at
any time in the past.
It is quite ironic that at the same time that it
has been exercising such strict control over
non-religiously affiliated NGOs, that the
government has been so lax in its oversight of
the religiously affiliated NGOs -- specifically
As a result, these entities have been given a
virtual free pass, and have been able to run with
only minimal governmental oversight and
There are 34 Islamic NGOs currently registered
with the NGO bureau and funded from abroad.
However, the oversight over these entities
remains negligible. In addition, there are
several hundred NGOs that are registered with the
social welfare department, which has neither the
resources nor the inclination to keep a tab on
their activities. These NGOs are barely
scrutinised, and little or no record of their
activities is maintained.
Finally, there are countless NGOs and NGO-type
entities that have no registration whatsoever,
and thus no government oversight.
In effect, the administration has permitted such
NGOs a virtual free hand. The result is that
there is no accurate accounting done of much of
the foreign funds that come into the country, or
what is done with them, or what the operations of
these NGOs are.
This is not to say that all the NGOs are suspect;
for, there may be those that are doing a good
Samaritan's job; but it is the rapid
proliferation of religiously nomenclatured
entities that makes one sit up and take note.
Let's not forget, the links between the more
disreputably affiliated NGOs, some of which have
been already outlawed by the government, and the
militant organisations, no longer remain matters
In light of recent events, now is the time for a
comprehensive policy to regulate such NGOs. There
is no justification for the fact that they are
subject to less scrutiny than regular NGOs. This
type of scrutiny should have been undertaken long
ago. Better late than never.
Democratic Left Front
WE CONDEMN THE ASSASSINATION OF MINISTER KADIRGAMAR
WE AWAIT THE RESULTS OF THE INVESTIGATION EAGERLY.
One can infer on the face of it that the LTTE could
be held responsible for the assassination for the
reason that Mr. Kadirgamar was being considered an
enemy by the LTTE for quite sometime. Nevertheless
according to the information available as of now there
has been a serious lapse related to his security
arrangements. When the former defence minister Mr
Ranjan Wijeratne was assassinated similarly the LTTE
was alleged to be responsible. But later on other
forces were suspected to be behind it. Up to date the
real fact of it is not known.
Therefore it is necessary to launch an immediate and
incisive investigation to probe into why and how the
assassin was able to get at him in this manner despite
the heavy security. Who knew that Mr Kadirgamar was
going to the place of incident on this day and at this
time? Why did his security leave him uncovered and
exposed in or near the swimming pool? How did the
assassin manage to escape so easily from the scene of
His death is a substantial loss to our society and
we express our condolences.
As an organization that deplores any political
violence we condemn this political assassination
vehemently. Similarly we also condemn efforts by
racist political forces to incite communal violence
and drag the country back to war capitalizing on this
49 1/1 Vinayalankara Mawatha
13 - 08 - 2005
o o o o
University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Sri Lanka
Date of Release: 17th August 2005
IMPUNITY IN THE NAME OF PEACE:
NORWAY'S APPEASEMENT STRATEGY CLAIMS ANOTHER VICTIM
The killing on 12th August of Lakshman Kadirgamar, Sri Lanka's Foreign
Minister and the government's most senior Tamil officeholder has brought
to the world's attention one of many heinous acts carried out by the LTTE
over the years. Will the international community once again make
rhetorical statements of condemnation and yet close its eyes to the other
daily acts of violence that have for so long engulfed our community?
Lakshman Kadirgamar was a respected figure in the Southern polity, one of
the few who understood and opposed the fascist nature of the LTTE and
voiced his criticism worldwide. There can be no illusions about who killed
him, or why. But Southern politics has long been dominated by illusions,
unattainable shortcuts and untrammelled opportunism. Upcoming elections
and the associated deal making currently in the air, work to Sri Lanka's
detriment and to the LTTE's gain.
A perverted culture also prevails among a section of the expatriate Tamil
community that celebrates this type of killing. The attitudes expressed in
the many websites which promote hatred and narrow ideology in the name
nationalism need to be checked if the Tamil community is going to regain
its humanity. And while the LTTE-dominated Tamil media gloats over
Kadirgamar's murder, the climate of impunity in Sri Lanka and the Police
atrophied by the non-investigation of hundreds of killings of Tamils will
leave room for mischief and manipulation. There can be no civilisation,
democracy, peace or dignity of citizens without competent law enforcement.
Since the beginning UTHR(J) has expressed concern over major flaws in the
peace process that reward impunity, encourage the LTTE to violate the
Cease-fire Agreement (CFA) and provide no meaningful checks on abuse.
We have also consistently raised questions about Norway's positioning,
which has often been both politically charged and extremely soft on human
rights. Norway began the peace process in 2002 by quite openly sidelining
President Kumaratunge in favour of her long-time political adversary,
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe. It showed its readiness to further
interfere politically when it threatened to withdraw from the peace
process over the President's takeover of ministries dealing with security
in November 2003.
At the same time, Norway has virtually ignored the LTTE's political
killings and its scandalous conscription of children. The Norwegian
government even facilitated LTTE efforts to strengthen its worldwide
propaganda network (and thus its control over Tamil populations) by for
example, helping them to acquire transmitting equipment. Norway has
facilitated travel abroad for so-called LTTE fact-finding missions,
including coaxing European representatives to meet them. Norwegian
lobbying of the international community has encouraged tacit support for
the LTTE's methods, and diluted or obstructed many initiatives aimed at
holding it to account.
It is time for Norway to reassess its role in the process and have the
courage to admit that they made wrong assessments of the ground realities
and to openly declare that it is not only the CFA that needs reappraisal,
but also that the SLMM is not an adequate mechanism for the task at hand.
Fantasies and Bankruptcy
Several NGOs in the South have sought comfort in "politically
correctness," projecting themselves as peacemakers by embracing conflict
resolution strategies endorsed by Norway that have little applicability to
the Sri Lankan reality. The daily killings and promotion by default of
terror politics in the Tamil community have been treated as minor
irritations to an otherwise excellent peace process. The LTTE's suicidal
ideology and its effect on the Tamil community has been almost completely
ignored, while any token commitment by the LTTE to democracy has been
welcomed as a statement of good faith in a bid to perpetuate the status
quo. In this perverted social analysis, fascistic actions are treated as
mere illiberal tendencies. Contrarily, when Southern groups voiced
anti-NGO rhetoric, they were called fascists without any reservation.
This attitude of the peacemakers and erstwhile progressives has out of
bankruptcy identified Tamil rights with appeasement of the LTTE. It
reflects a continuing disregard for the risks taken by members of the
Tamil community struggling against the LTTE's ruthless bid for asserting
total control while demanding a political solution ensuring dignity and
fair play. More ironically, the peacemakers have conceded the moral high
ground of defending the basic human rights of Tamils and their children to
Sinhalese supremacist elements, who long stood against a decent political
The UNP played a particularly callous game in this regard, flirting with
Sinhalese chauvinism to obstruct a political settlement, while at the same
time promising the LTTE a fiefdom to attain power. Combined with the utter
passivity of the present government, it allowed the LTTE to entrench its
killer squads all over the country and to play Russian roulette with the
The 'Sri Lanka experts' in global capitals, whose attitudes reflect the
growing contempt for democracy in their own countries, came to respect
principally the LTTE's stunning capacity for violence, which it held
together by constantly attacking the humanity of its people. Its
mafia-like network, which it wove to continually upgrade its destructive
power under the very noses of Western governments, is allowed to go
unchecked. Indeed, it was virtually rewarded with sole representation of
the Tamil community.
The ISGA or P-toms, both a formal expression of appeasement, looked
appropriate against the South being unable to present a cohesive political
challenge to the LTTE. Demands for human rights protection and democratic
space for alternative voices were treated as efforts to inhibit the peace
process. It was in fact, this lack of clarity and direction in all
sections of the Sinhalese polity and the failure to perceive the
consequences that pushed Norway into its disproportionately influential
Elite Southern NGOs and members of the international community appear to
be waiting for the UNP to come to power once again, to promote the ISGA as
the means to achieve peace, a strategy that promises rewards for everyone
but the ordinary Tamil people; their predicament is apparently of no
Even in this climate, individuals and small networks of committed
individuals in Sri Lanka and abroad, joined isolated organisations such as
UTHR(J) in exposing the continued child conscription and political
killings, and lobbied for tangible initiatives to address them. The
conscription of children was so rampant and open that even UNICEF, which
supported engagement with LTTE to resolve it, was finally forced to come
out openly and critically against the LTTE's behaviour. However, the
present initiatives in the Security Council to check child recruitment may
not have any real impact on the LTTE if the leading nations, especially
Norway, determine that they should be ineffective so that their
discredited peace strategy would have a further lease of life.
The Cost of Self-serving Illusions
Lakshman Kadirgamar's murder was one of many and bears a resemblance to
those that preceded it. Just hours before his assassination, SLBC
journalist Relangi Selvarajah and her husband were shot and killed in
their travel agency office in the Bambalapitya neighbourhood of Colombo.
Relangi Selvarajah had produced a radio programme that was critical of the
LTTE. They leave behind an eighteen-month-old infant born after many years
Subathiran of the EPRLF, who was important to the revival of democracy
among Tamils as Kadirgamar was to Sri Lanka, was killed on 14th June 2003.
The SLMM guardians played the role of the proverbial three respectively
blind, deaf and dumb monkeys, who dismiss political killings as mere
criminal acts unconnected with the peace process. It is further ironical
that ignoring the LTTE's use of a sniper from a nearby tall building to
assassinate Subathiran, who was exercising, may have served to encourage
its use as the modus operandi against Kadirgamar in similar circumstances.
The Police's failure to investigate Subathiran's killing despite the
evidence against Easwaran (then Nallur LTTE Commissar) being available
immediately, also created the climate for the same Easwaran to play a
leading role in abducting and killing Jaffna SP Charles Wijewardene
following the accidental shooting by an SL Army soldier in Inuvil on 5th
In the face of mounting internal dissension and resistance from the
people, the LTTE's typical moves are to provoke reprisals and a return to
war. This time the absence of reprisals against civilians, which the LTTE
hoped for, threw the focus on the LTTE's miscreants and placed it in a
crisis. Its provocations became more desperate.
Along with the lethargy in seeking a political settlement, the illusion
persists that the LTTE respects Sinhalese who act with friendliness and
goodwill, provided they ignore the LTTE's treatment of its fellow Tamils.
On the contrary it has contempt for them and when it wants to provoke,
they are the first targets. When the LTTE wanted to provoke war with the
Indian Army in October 1987, the first victims were Chairman Jayamanne of
the Cement Corporation and several journalists who had come from the South
in a spirit of goodwill. Soosai then cruelly killed two very friendly and
helpful Sinhalese policemen in Valvettithurai. When the LTTE wanted a
return to war in 1990, it killed hundreds of security personnel who were
hobnobbing with it during the appeasement that preceded it. In a land of
illusions and shortcuts leaders do not want to understand.
Dealing with the LTTE to prevent a recurrence of war is important. But
there can never be a surrender of human rights and basic functions and
responsibilities that give dignity to a State. Equally there should be no
illusions about the nature of the LTTE, for which there is absolutely no
excuse. The LTTE's recent behaviour has been precipitated by the Karuna
split in 2004 and the failure of Norway's stratagems on Prabhakaran's
behalf. (Norway pronounced that it was an internal affair, but did not
threaten to withdraw from facilitation citing a lack of clarity about who
held power in the North-East. It was such an alleged lack of clarity about
the South that Norway offered as the pretext for withdrawing from
facilitation in November 2003.)
Kadirgamar joins an unending line of Tamils, all distinguished in their
chosen spheres and victims of LTTE killer squads, who defied the advance
of fascism and worked for a dawn when there would be peace with dignity
for all. Among them were Subathiran, Cheliyan Perinpanayagam, Neelan
Thiruchelvam, Thangathurai and many others known and not so well known. In
the absence of the Sinhalese polity and leadership challenging the LTTE by
coming forward with a political settlement that addresses Tamil
aspirations, all such Tamils were facing marginalisation, of which they
were painfully aware, and life itself would have become more painful than
The Sinhalese polity has a choice. It could shower empty words of praise
on these Tamils and go on as before, or get its act together and seek
dignity and justice for all. If it chooses the former, appeasement with
its illusions is the only course open. If the latter, it is time to
examine Norway's role and show that we are capable of deciding our own
future. Then the demands below will be appropriate:
· Effective steps should be taken at the international level to take the
LTTE to task according to the full force of international law for its
crimes against humanity, and in particular the continuing perpetration of
political killings and child conscription.
· Those who support and promote the LTTE's
ideology in the Diaspora should
be challenged for their promotion of hatred and suicidal politics.
· The political parties in the South should unilaterally work towards a
political solution that addresses minority aspirations, given the LTTE's
refusal to negotiate, as evident from the assassination of Lakshman
· The international community should pressure the LTTE to resume
negotiations based on principles expressed in the Tokyo Declaration, with
the protection of human rights, independent participation of a Muslim
delegation in talks, a permanent political solution and de-militarisation.
· There should be zero tolerance for child
recruitment. The LTTE should be
required to release all children who have been recruited.
· The Government should immediately take
the initiative to ratify the Rome
Statute of the ICC.
September 10 , 2005
THE PRICE OF TURBULENCE
Insurgency-ridden Kashmir has many 'disappeared'
sons. Some are determined to find out where they
By Basharat Peer
From the picturesque village of Vangaam near the
north Kashmir border town Bandipora,
sixty-year-old Hajra has travelled 26-hours in a
bus to reach Delhi as part of a delegation from
Kashmir's Association of Parents of Disappeared
Persons (APDP). Formed in 1994, the APDP has been
fighting for justice for the persons who have
disappeared after being taken into custody by
security forces or the police in Kashmir. On the
occasion of the international day of
disappearance (August 30), the APDP came to
register their protest in the capital.
Three of Hajra's sons were killed in the early
years of the conflict and her fourth son, Bashir
Ahmad Sofi, who ran a bakery in her village, is
missing. She approached the local legislator, the
local police and went to the army camp. Eleven
years later, she still has no news of her son.
"They should at least tell us they killed our
boys, show us a dead body. But all that the army,
bsf, police or the government says is that the
disappeared men are not with them or they might
have crossed the border," said Parveena Ahanger,
president, APDP. Her 17-year-old son, who
suffered from a speech disorder, is missing too.
"Soldiers from National Security Guard took him
from my house. I filed a case in a Srinagar
court. It took years for the court to get
sanction from the Union Home Ministry to take
action against the army people who took my son.
But even then nothing happened."
She has lost her faith in the courts. But works
tirelessly to mobilise and guide people who share
her fate. Along with her lawyer, Pervez Imroz, a
human rights activist, Parveena set up the APDP.
It has documented most cases, and meets every
month in Srinagar. It believes more than 4,000
men are missing. Her determination and work has
been recognised this year: she is one of the
group of 100 women worldwide nominated for the
Nobel Peace prize.
The story, the pattern of arrest and
disappearance remains the same over the years. On
June 11, 1994, Shaheena Guru was walking in
Srinagar city centre with her brother, Sajjad
Guru. There was a grenade blast and half-an-hour
later they boarded a bus for home. Men from 30
bsf battalion grabbed Sajjad on his neck and took
him away in a jeep. She looked for him in all the
prisons and interrogation centres of Srinagar.
"We even went to Jammu and Rajasthan jails but
could not find him." In 1996, DD Saklani, then
adviser to the Jammu and Kashmir Governor,
offered her compensation of one lakh rupees and a
job for her younger brother on condition that she
accepted her brother was dead. She refused. "We
had some hope during the 2002 elections. pdp
leader Mehbooba Mufti said she will help us find
our missing relatives if we voted for her party.
But she did nothing."
These women scoff at the Mufti government's
much-talked-about 'healing touch' policy, calling
it 'peeling touch'. Since Mufti came to power,
188 more men have disappeared. Men like
32-year-old Tahira's husband, Tariq Ahmed, from
border town Uri. He had left his village in
Baramulla for Delhi on official work. He never
reached the capital, and has not returned home
since December 11, 2002. "I met army, police
officers and even law and finance minister
Muzzaffer Beigh. But there is no news of my
husband," said Tahira, who works in a sewing
centre in Srinagar and lives in a rented room
with her three sons.
Families of the disappeared persons have not seen
any positive sign. None of these lost boys has
returned home. Most believe they were killed in
"I have not seen my son's body. I dream about
him. I am sure he is alive somewhere," hopes
Hajra. Parveena, the APDP president, is
determined to fight on, to tell the world her
story: " I have come to Delhi to talk to the
people, not the government. We have to try our
bit. One day god will punish the guilty. I will
not give up till I am alive."
The Indian Express
August 26, 2005
GAY LIKE US
WHY ARE INDIANS HOMOPHOBIC?
That I can't name him in this piece, is perhaps
the ultimate irony. I can't, not because he gives
a fig leaf - he doesn't - but because the people
who care for him do. And so this man I love so
well is consigned to anonymity, to living in the
shadow of another love that dare not speak its
It hasn't been easy. At barely sixteen, he
clipped a silver ring on his left ear, and let
the world know exactly who he was - an act of
such naked bravery, it was tantamount to social
suicide. But hey, better to die than live a lie!
It hasn't been easy enduring those sidelong
glances from sniggering colleagues, sidestepping
black-mailing policemen, or assuring well meaning
relatives that he wasn't looking for a wife,
thank you very much.
Now, twenty years later, the earring is gone, and
the flagrant pink shirts have been packed away;
age has mellowed the rebel, taught him that while
what he does in his bedroom is no secret, it
isn't a public statement either. I once asked him
when he guessed he was gay. ''Oh, before I could
recite Georgie Porgie'' he said, with
characteristic black humor. ''I always knew I was
Last week, at the country's first official gay
rally in Mumbai, a section of his misunderstood
species protested that ''different'' does not
mean ''criminal.'' After all, in a world where
babies are butchered because they belong to
another God, and hatred is the official foreign
policy of nations, surely no love between two
consenting adults can possibly be a crime?
Yet, almost six decades after India pledged
herself to liberty and equality, section 377 of
the Indian Penal Code says it can - on the same
grounds as child abuse and bestiality. While
every other democratic country in the world has
legalized homosexuality, our Government, which
almost never addresses the issue of public
morality - how can it, when corruption is as
intrinsic to governance as the so-called
''crime'' of sodomy is to gay sex? - seems almost
passionate about enforcing its own brand of
personal morality on private citizens.
Recently, replying to a petition filed in the
Delhi High Court by Naz Foundation, an advocacy,
AIDS control and gay outreach organization, the
Government claimed that Indian society was ''not
ready'' for the practice of homosexuality. In
fact the 42nd report of the Law Commission opines
that society's disapproval was ''strong enough to
justify it being treated as a criminal offence,
even when adults indulge in it in private.'' The
penalty? Imprisonment for ten years or even life.
How ironic that in a country where criminals seem
to go scot-free for roasting 14 people alive in a
bakery, national leaders are acquitted for
abetting the carnage of 3,000 Sikhs, scores are
maimed or blinded because they belong to a
''lower'' caste, women are wantonly assaulted on
city streets, and many, many marriages are alibis
for legalized violence and rape, our government
wants to ''protect'' us from law abiding
citizens, whose only ''crime'' is their sexual
Worse, its absurd contention that legalizing gay
sex will encourage paedophilia is like saying
heterosexual intercourse encourages rape or
As for society not being ''ready'', 55 years ago,
when the Constitution was being framed, were we
ready for a ban on sati, equal rights to women,
and concessions to backward castes? I think not.
The joke is that for all our gratuitous prudery,
Indian society provides the model for Sigmund
Freud's gay archetype. According to Freudian
psychology, homosexuality is caused by faulty
child rearing, typically an overprotective,
fawning mother, and a distant, autocratic father
who the male child fails to identify with. But if
the Freudian theory was indeed true, nearly all
Indian men would be gay!
The scientific truth is that homosexuality is not
a social crime; its a genetic fact. In other
words, gays are born, not made, and persecuting
them for their sexual preference is like
persecuting someone for having a weak heart, poor
eyesight or a crooked nose. This is hardly a new
concept. Way back in 1948, the famous Alfred
Kinsey report on human sexuality estimate that
about 10 per cent of any given population across
the world is homosexual.
Why, then, are Indians so homophobic? One
hypothesis is that, as a nation, we are not
comfortable with our own heterosexuality. Its a
well researched fact that the human sexes are not
mutually exclusive, but fall along a continuum;
we all have masculine and feminine hormones,
masculine and feminine traits, masculine and
feminine orientations, in varying degrees. But
try explaining that to our average male
chauvinist! Only when Indian men understand,
accept and even celebrate their own feminine
side, without feeling threatened or insecure,
will we be free from sexual fundamentalism.
Moreover we are a nation of moral hypocrites. We
ban legal dance bars, while illegal prostitution
flourishes. We censor on-screen kissing, but
gleefully lap up every smutty detail of our
filmstars' lives. We police what college girls
wear to prevent ''indecent exposure'', but can't
seem to get enough of Baywatch.
That's why when a sizeable gay society wants to
come out of the closet and demand its fundamental
right to equality (Article 14), freedom (Article
19), and personal liberty (Article 21), it has to
find a more ''respectable'' reason: AIDS
prevention and control. A petition filed in the
Delhi High Court pleads that if homosexuality is
legalized by scrapping Section 377, high risk
gays will be encouraged to seek medical
intervention, instead of hiding for fear of
prosecution. But surely AIDS control is the
corollary, not the postulate!
If gay Indians want to be recognized, they need
to stop hiding behind the AIDS purdah, and demand
to be treated first as sexual minorities, on par
with religious and social minorities. If that is
against our so-called ''cultural values'', so be
it. Or as a gay friend once remembered, ''Feel
proud to be a faggot. And leave culture to the
New Book on Hindutva Fascism
Name of the Book: "The Parivar Raj and After"
Author: "Mukul Dube"
In the history of communalism in India, the
Gujarat carnage of 2002 was the most distinct
marker of the deep seated religious divide. This
divide was not an impromptu development but the
culmination of a series of incidents of communal
violence and of planned and targeted attacks on
religious minorities under the BJPís rule over a
decade. That rule itself came about because of a
succession of planned actions of violence and a
sustained campaign to propagate distrust and
Mukul Dubeís book, The Parivar Raj and After, is
a highly critical exposÈ of the gruesome
atrocities committed by the rabidly communal
Sangh Parivar on the minority Muslim community of
Gujarat, citizens of India. The authorís insights
and analyses bring out clearly the systematic
manipulation by the Sangh of facts about the
events of Gujarat 2002. He shows how this
communal outfit has successfully brainwashed the
people, taking hatred to unprecedented heights.
Another important theme which Dube discusses in
this book is the hypocritical so-called
commitment of the Congress Party to secularism.
According to Dube Gujarat remains a central theme
in the articles which were written after the
general election of 2004. News reports and other
public documents are used to show that the
Congress and its allies, who were returned to
power in that election, have calmly forgotten the
promises they had made. Justice remains a dream
for those tens or hundreds of thousands of
Indians who were brutalised in Gujarat ñ and who
continue to suffer because all they are given are
empty words and yet more brutality.
Mukul Dube born 1950, studied at the Delhi School
of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University and the
University of Sussex. Until the end of 1977 he
pursued an academic career, but since has
compiled and published the Directory of
Performing Hindustani Musicians (2001), his The
Path of the Parivar (nearly the whole of which is
reproduced in this volume) came out in 2004, and
a small book of childrenís stories is due to be
Vikas Adhyayan Kendra regularly publishes
materials that probe different facets of the
communal problem in the country. We hope that
this new addition will be a useful contribution
to the continuing debate on communal politics in
The book is available for sale in our office at the following address:
Vikas Adhyayan Kendra
D1, Shivdham, 62, Link Road,
Malad (West), Mumbai 400 064
Phone: +91-22-2882 2850/ 2889 8662
Fax: +91-22-2889 8941
Suggested Contribution: INR 200/ -*
US $ 10
(Both inclusive of postage charges)
* By M. O. or D. D. favouring Vikas Adhyayan Kendra
 [Upcoming events]
20TH DR RAMANADHAM MEMORIAL MEETING
People's Union for Democratic Rights invites you to a meeting on
Land, Agrarian Struggles and Democratic Rights
Date: 3rd September 2005 (Saturday)
Time: 1.30 p.m. to 5.30 p.m.
Venue: Deputy Speakers Hall, Constitution Club, (near V.P. House)
Rafi Marg (walking distance from Patel Chowk Metro Station)
Every year, for the last twenty years, PUDR has organized an annual meeting
in honour of Dr Ramanadham, Vice-President of the Andhra Pradesh Civil
Liberties Committee (APCLC), who was killed by the police in Warangal on 3
September 1985. Each time, we have tried to raise and debate wider issues of
significance to people's lives and for the democratic rights movement in
this country. The issues chosen are based on our understanding that an
important aspect of rights is that they are collective, and fought for
PUDR has, since the late 1970s, sought to intervene and report on radical
agrarian struggles and the repression they face, in Bihar and other states.
The issue of land reforms and agrarian struggles have been made invisible,
particularly in the last few years. Given economic 'reforms' since the
nineties and how agriculture has been affected, does it not in fact become
all the pressing? Let us meet to discuss and debate this, one of the most
pressing democratic rights issues of our times.
Prof. Anand Chakravarty (Delhi University)
D.M. Diwakar (Giri Institute, Lucknow; will focus on Uttar Pradesh)
Tilak Das Gupta (Writer and Columnist, West Bengal; on Bihar and West
D. Narendranath (Vice-President, Human Rights Forum, Andhra Pradesh; on AP)
Prof. Sucha Singh Gill (Panjabi University, Patiala; on Punjab)
Discussant: Bela Bhatia (CSDS, Delhi)
After the four presentations, we hope to have an enriching discussion.
Please do attend. Also pass on information about this meeting to anyone who
may be interested.
THE AMAN PEACE AND CONFLICT STUDIES COURSE (In collaboration with Jamia
Delhi, September 26 - October 26, 2005
The course aims at developing and widening intellectual discourse on the
subject among individuals working in NGOs, teachers, journalists,
students and other concerned citizens. The course will make Indian and
South Asian reality a starting point for an investigation of conflict,
violence and its many ramifications. A conceptual approach that will
connect, rather than compartmentalize themes relevant to violence and
conflict will be developed. We believe that philosophical and ethical
inquiry is a necessary element in such a study. Our lectures and
seminars shall examine the relationship between local and global issues,
competing histories and antagonistic polities; and the functions that
link ethnic identity, gender, and symbols to political and economic
The course will be conducted from 26th September to 26th October, 2005.
It will be interactive and residential, with two or three units being
conducted every day, two in the mornings and one in the afternoon/early
evening. Each unit will consist of two hours, and will include a lecture
and a discussion.
Three seminars will be organized over the duration of the course
Prospective participants are required to send the following information
by 20th August 2005.
1) A Curriculum Vitae
2) An essay in 500 - 800 words stating your reasons for applying for the
3) Names and contact details of two referees
Participants' ability to comprehend lectures and other forms of
discussion in English is necessary, although the course is open to those
who wish to speak and submit their coursework in Hindi.
Course Structure: The course will consist of the following six rubrics,
whose contents will be supplied in greater detail to participants over
the weeks preceding the course. The web site can be visited for regular
Rubric 1: Ethical and Philosophical Perspectives on Violence
Rubric 2: Aspects of twentieth century world history
Rubric 3: Gender Violence and Conflict
Rubric 4: The world order and concepts of conflict
Rubric 5 : Issues in the Contemporary History of India and South Asia
Rubric 6: Law, Conflict and Peace Processes
The costs for arranging this course are considerable. AMAN will charge a
minimum (subsidised) fee of Rs. 5,000/- (five thousand) for an
individual and Rs 10,000/- (ten thousand) for participants sponsored by
NGOs,organisations and institutions.
The costs are inclusive of accommodation and food but do not include
Scholarships: A limited number of scholarships are available. Those who
wish to apply for this should send us reasons for their request in no
more than 200 words.
Please ask for more information on the Aman Trust and the Peace Course
from our office, via e-mail, or ordinary mail. Address correspondence
Peace Course, The Aman Trust
C- 651, 1 st Floor,
New Friends Colony,
New Delhi- 110065
Visit AMAN web site for further details on the course and organization
Early applications will be appreciated as the course is limited to 20
Buzz on the perils of fundamentalist politics, on
matters of peace and democratisation in South
Asia. SACW is an independent & non-profit
citizens wire service run since 1998 by South
Asia Citizens Web: www.sacw.net/
SACW archive is available at: bridget.jatol.com/pipermail/sacw_insaf.net/
Sister initiatives :
South Asia Counter Information Project : snipurl.com/sacip
South Asians Against Nukes: www.s-asians-against-nukes.org
Communalism Watch: communalism.blogspot.com/
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed in materials carried in the posts do not
necessarily reflect the views of SACW compilers.