South Asia Citizens Web Dispatch
2 October 2000
[ IMPORTANT NOTE TO ALL !
This SACW has been put on a limited circulation till further notice; A very
serious problem with an infinite loop of e-mail messages getting delivered
100's of times has been reported by various recipients in India. This
problem is only limited to recipients with vsnl accounts in located mostly
in the New Delhi region. All the recipients affected have recieved repeated
deliveries of the SACW dispatch of 29th and 30th September. Everything is
being attempted to control & end this harmful and disruptive process. More
on this later !]
#1. On Kashmir & Pakistan Foreign Policy (Asma Jahangir)
#2. Pakistan: Jinnah: Making a myth (Mubarak Ali)
#3. Why do Hindutva ideologues keep flogging a dead horse? (Romila Thapar)
#4. Kashmir: Paper Jehadis and the Lie of the Land (Pankaj Mishra)
#5. Kashmir: Light Beyond the veil (Murali Krishnan / Outlook)
2 October 2000
Whither are we?
By Asma Jahangir
THE General, Chief Executive of Pakistan, arrived like an empty vessel at
the United Nations Millennium Summit in New York. His noise made little
sense to the international community, who yawned at his offer for peace and
a no-war pact to India.
A leader, who claims he has little control over militants in his country
and "spiritually" supports the strategy of "jihad", is not likely to be
taken seriously, especially as he does not officially head the "jihadis",
who are central to the tensions between the two countries - India and
Our Chief Executive sounded more like a deposed Maharaja of Kashmir,
rather than an interim military ruler of Pakistan, who had vowed to restore
"pure and true" democracy to the country - a promise made by every man on
The government's commitment to raise the issue of violations of human
rights in Indian held Kashmir is laudable. They must continue to do so, but
in a sincere and coherent manner. A government which has banned political
activities and refuses to hold general elections in its own country can
hardly be expected to champion the cause of human rights of the people of
Kashmir. To give weight to his concerns regarding the situation of human
rights in Kashmir, the Chief Executive would be best advised to improve the
record of human rights domestically too.
Is he concerned about the two hundred and thirtythree suicides committed
in the last seven months because of economic desperation? Did he wince at
the story of eve-teasing of women at Al-hamra, where young men stroked the
terrified women like vultures? What did he do for the pregnant woman who
was killed and her stomach slashed by a dare-devil male relative in the
name of honour? Does he get disturbed at the rising misuse of the blasphemy
A Hindu income tax inspector gets lynched in the presence of the army
personnel for allegedly having made a remark on the beard of a trader.
Promptly, the unfortunate Hindu government servant is booked for having
committed blasphemy, while the traders and the Lashkar-e-Tayaba activists
were offered tea over parleys. A seventy-year-old Mukhtaran Bibi and her
pregnant daughter Samina are languishing in Sheikhupura jail on
trumpeted-up charges of blasphemy.
Pakistan ranks as one of the front-runners in imposing death penalty -
over 4,00 prisoners are on the death row. Children, as young as twelve
years old, are in jails. One such child has been awarded death penalty.
Insecurity is acute and pervasive and militancy has turned into barbarism.
It has left a chilling effect on our society. Every able-bodied person is
making plans to opt out and leave his motherland. People of Northern Areas
have no rights. They do not even have the right to vote. They are without a
High Court or elected representatives.
Elections are regularly rigged in Azad Kashmir and the people denied basic
rights. All this is glossed over in the name of security. Every decent
person, Pakistani or otherwise, feels disturbed by consistent violations of
human rights in Kashmir. Similarly, they are equally concerned at the
oppression in Afghanistan. If human rights are central to our foreign
policy, then the government of Pakistan ought, at least, to cold-shoulder
its Taliban friends.
The hypocrisy of our foreign policy is apparent to everyone, except our
military leaders and their civilian sychophants. The Indian security forces
should and must, at all costs, be brought to justice for rape and
extra-judicial killings in Kashmir. At the same time, so should those in
Pakistan who killed and raped their own citizens in East Pakistan. We
cannot exonerate either.
Solving the Kashmir problem is not easy. It is complex and best left to
political leaders. No interim government, without a public mandate, can
hope to do much about it. It may well complicate matters. Recent bombings
at Lahore should be some warning.
Pakistan's insistence on plebiscite is not supported by many Kashmiri
groups. They want independence, rather than a choice between the devil and
the deep sea. No one will buy plebiscite, perhaps not even the people of
If independence is the next best choice, then Pakistan's leadership has to
be prepared to let go of Azad Kashmir and perhaps the Northern Areas too.
Many hope that an independent Kashmir will remain under our control.
Perhaps so, but only if we are able to offer them prosperity and
well-being, which we seem to lose fast enough in our dreams of grand
alliances and strategic depths. More optimistic analysts insists that
Pakistan is on the verge of getting the Valley. Any such move in the
presence of militants and Indian security forces will only end in bloodshed
and a constant proxy war.
The only route to solving the Kashmir issue is through a series of
negotiations - but they cannot start until violence decreases in Kashmir.
The recent cease-fire was a positive development but short-lived. Whether
it is a sustainable cease-fire or a series of talks, they can only be
negotiated by a civilian elected government. The military rulers, as we
have witnessed, have lost credibility both at home and abroad. The message
from the UN Summit was clear: "get off your high horse and be relevant."
Let us hope it has sunk somewhere.
Jinnah: Making a myth
by Mubarak Ali
Quaid-I-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had all peculiarities and characteristics
in his personality to make a myth of himself. He was reticent, reserved,
kept his personal matter in secrecy, behaved coolly and arrogantly and not
friendly with anybody. Perhaps he wanted to create a halo of awe and fear
around him. Sri Prakash, the first Indian High Commissioner, in his book '
Pakistan: Birth and early years' narrates about a reception which was given
by the Governor General of Pakistan, just after the independence to the
diplomats .It was also attended by the party leaders and bureaucrats.
According to his version, Mr.Jinnah was sitting at a distance alone on a
sofa and called one by one to those whom he wanted to talk. He exchanged
notes with each one of them just for 5 minutes. To the High Commissioner,
he appeared a lonely man, averse to people. His serious and somber
expression made all those who interacted him uneasy in his company.
This attitude gave the impression that he was the end all and all in every
matter. The Muslim League and its leaders were just rubber stamps. His
image of being a sole spokesman of his party and people created a number of
myths. For example, one myth about his serious illness which is narrated by
Larry Collins and Dominique Lappierre in their book" Freedom at Midnight"
fascinates everybody and they are compelled to take it seriously. The
version of their story is:
"if Louis Mountbatten, Jawahrlal Nehru or Mahatma Gandhi had been aware in
April 1947 of one extraordinary secret, the division threatening India
might have been avoided. The secret was sealed onto the gray surface piece
of a film, a film that could have upset the Indian political equation and
would almost certainly have changed the course of Asian history. Yet, so
precious was the secret that that film harbored that even the British
C.I.D., one of the most effective investigative agencies in the world, was
ignorant of its existence."
These were the X rays of Jinnah diagnosed as a T.B. patient. The authors,
after creating a suspense, further write that: "The damage was so extensive
that the man whose lungs were on the film had barely two or three years to
live. Sealed in an unmarked envelope, those X rays were locked in the
office safe of Dr.J.A.L.Patel, a Bombay physician."
On the basis of the story, Jinnah emerged as the one on whom depended the
whole movement of Pakistan. The story further becomes interesting when a
Hindu doctor kept the secret at the cost of Indian unity. His political
inclinations were more important than his professional integrity.
In 1997, on the occasion of the 5oth celebration of India-Pakistan
independence, Patrick French published a book"Liberty or Death'. He, after
his own investigation, refutes the whole story narrated by Collins and
lappierre .According to him: "The idea that Jinnah's poor state of health
was a closely guarded secret is absurd: it was referred to in the press at
that time, and it is obvious from photographs taken in the mid 1940s that
Jinnah was unwell. Moreover, the reduction of the Muslim league's wide
popular backing to the whim of one man's 'rigid and inflexible' attitude is
indicative of the way that Pakistan history has been traduced. A second
problem with Collins and Lappierre's story is that it is not correct.
Jinnah did not go to Bombay in May or June 1946, since he was busy in
negotiating with Cripps in Simla and New Delhi. Nor did he have a doctor by
the name J.A.I.Patel
Although it is possible that Jinnah had tuberculosis
in 1946, there is no evidence among his archive papers to support the theory."
However, Jinnah himself on many occasions expressed that he was the sole
creator of Pakistan. In one of his famous sayings he said that he and his
typewriter made Pakistan. The statement disregarded the efforts of his
colleagues and the leader of Muslim League in matter of politics. It is
also a denial of people's participation in the struggle for the separate
homeland. There are evidence that he did not like the leaders of Muslim
League.To him all of them were mediocre and incapable to lead the nation.
Perhaps, that was the reason that Jinnah, knowing his fatal illness,
accepted 'the moth eaten and truncated Pakistan'. The later history of
Pakistan confirms Jinnah's assessment about the Muslim League's leaders who
miserably failed to solve the problems of a nascent nation. The failure of
these leaders has transformed Jinnah's image as a superman. He overshadowed
every body. The nation also paid respect to its Great Leader in naming
universities, colleges, airports, roads, hospitals, and institutions of
different kinds with the result that a citizen of Pakistan feels his
presence every where in the country wherever he goes. Moreover, his image
as a Great Quaid is presented in the textbooks to mould the mind of the
young generation encouraging him to follow in his footsteps. Scholars are
writing continuously on different aspect of his life. Recently, a film is
screened to counter the film Gandhi in which Attenborough distorts the
image of Jinnah These efforts made him holy and sacred. Any criticism to
his person is regarded a treason. He has become a paragon of virtues,
beyond all weaknesses of a humanbeing.
There is such a reverence and high regard for him that mere association
with him catapults a person from a humble position to the rank of freedom
fighter. There are a number of people who claim to have shaken hands with
him (though he avoided to shake hands with people), seen him, talked to
him, or merely attended his public meeting. The rulers of Pakistan,
realizing the effects of his association, create myths of their links with
him. Z.A.Bhutto claimed that as a student he wrote him a letter (it is not
known whether he replied to that letter or not), Zia's sycophant
bureaucrats discovered a diary of Jinnah (that was the time when Hitler's
diaries were discovered and later on proved false) which disappeared along
with him. Nawaz Sharif, assuming to follow his footsteps, called himself as
'Quaid-I-sani (The second leader). One such similar example is found in the
history of France when Napoleon iii made an attempt to revive the image of
Napoleon I in order to legitimize his authority. Marx jokingly comments in
' The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,' that "Hegel remarks
somewhere that all facts and personages of great importance in world
history occur, as it were, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as
tragedy, the second as farce." Nawaz Sharif's self- given title proves it.
Jinnah has become such a symbol of wisdom in the Pakistani society that
people visualize Pakistan with his reference. His vision, his agenda, his
dream and his ideals, all.remained unaccomplished because he died soon
after the independence. It is commonly believed that had he lived some more
years, history of Pakistan would have been different. There are few nations
who rely so heavily on one individual.
No doubt, Jinnah was a great leader of his people. He was a man of
integrity and honesty, but to make him an idol and not allow anybody to
emerge out of his shadow is pathetic. Every generation has its own dreams
and vision which it wants to accomplish without interference. Not imitation
but freedom is required to build a new world. Therefore, attempt should not
be made to repeat but to make a new history. People should be liberated
>from the shadow and allow them to flourish in a free atmosphere. Great
leaders should be respected but not worshiped.
Volume 17 - Issue 20, Sep. 30 - Oct. 13, 2000
Hindutva and history
Why do Hindutva ideologues keep flogging a dead horse?
by ROMILA THAPAR
Frontline invited Romila Thapar, the eminent historian of ancient India, to
provide a perspective on the Cover feature.
"THE Aryans" became a historical category in the late nineteenth century.
There was much confusion between "Aryan" as race and as language, a
confusion that has not entirely cleared in popular perception. In its
application to Indian history, it was argu ed that the aryas referred to in
the Rigveda were the Aryans who had invaded and conquered northern India,
founded Indian civilisation, and spread their Indo-Aryan language. The
theory had an immediate impact, particularly on those with a politica l
agenda and on historians.
Potsherd with incised triple-trident sign found in early levels at
Harappa and dating sometime between 3500 and 2800 BCE.
Jyotiba Phule maintained that the Aryan invasion explained the arrival of
alien brahmans and their dominance and oppression of the lower castes. The
invasion was necessary to this view of history. For those concerned with a
Hindutva ideology, the invasio n had to be denied. The definition of a
Hindu as given by Savarkar was that India had to be his pitribhumi
(ancestral land) and his punyabhumi (the land of his religion). A Hindu
therefore could not be descended from alien invaders. Since H indus sought
a lineal descent from the Aryans, and a cultural heritage, the Aryans had
to be indigenous. This definition of the Hindu excluded Muslims and
Christians from being indigenous since their religion did not originate in
Pottery from a grave at Harappa.
Historians initially accepted the invasion theory and some even argued
that the decline of the Indus cities was due to the invasion of the Aryans,
although the archaeological evidence for this was being discounted. But the
invasion theory came to be disc arded in favour of alternative theories of
how the language, Indo-Aryan, entered the sub-continent. In 1968, I had
argued at a session of the Indian History Congress that invasion was
untenable and that the language - Indo-Aryan - had come with a series of
migrations and therefore involving multiple avenues of the acculturation of
peoples. The historically relevant question was not the identity of the
Aryans (identities are never permanent) but why and how languages and
cultures change in a given area.
Why then do Hindutva ideologues - Indian and non-Indian - keep flogging a
dead horse and refuse to consider the more recent alternative theories? For
them the only alternative is that if the Aryans were not invaders, they
must have been indigenous. That there is a range of possibilities between
the two extremes of invaders or indigenes does not interest them. The
insistence on the indigenous origin of the Aryans allows them to maintain
that the present-day Hindus are the lineal descendants of the Aryans and
the inheritors of the land since the beginning of history. This then
requires that the presence of the Aryans be taken back into earliest
history. Hence the attempt to prove, against the prevailing evidence from
linguistics and archaeology, that the authors of the Rigveda were the
people of the Indus cities or were possibly even prior to that.
Small terracotta tablet from Harappa depicting part of a mythological
scene. Combat between human and animal or animal and animal is often
The equation is based on identifying words from the Rigveda with objects
from the Indus cities. That the village-based, pastoral society of the
Rigveda could not be identical with the complex urban society of the Indus
cities is not conceded. Yet there a re no descriptions of the city in the
Rigveda or even the later Vedic corpus, that could be applied to the Indus
cities: no references to structures built on platforms, or the grid pattern
of streets and the careful construction of drainage systems, to g ranaries,
warehouses and areas of intensive craft production, to seals and their
function, and to the names of the places where goods were sent. If the two
societies were identical, the two systems would at least have to be
S.R. CLARK & L.J. MILLER
Terracotta cart, wheel, bovine, and human figurines. The assemblage is
reconstructed from pieces found in different archaeological contexts at
In order to prove that the Indus civilisation was Aryan, the language has
to be deciphered as a form of Sanskrit and there has to be evidence of an
Aryan presence, which currently is being associated with the horse and the
chariot. Attempts to decipher t he language have so far not succeeded and
those reading it as Sanskrit have been equally unsuccessful. But there are
linguistic rules that have to be observed in any decipherment. These make
it necessary for a claim to stand the test of linguistic analys es. The
readings also have to show some contextual consistency. These have been
demonstrated as lacking in the decipherment claimed by Rajaram and Jha.
To insist that a particular seal represents the horse as Rajaram does, was
an attempt to foreclose the argument and maintain that the horse was
important to the Indus civilisation, therefore it was an Aryan
civilisation. Quite apart from the changes made in the computer enhanced
image of the seal to give the impression of a horse, which have been
discussed in the article by Witzel and Farmer, the animal in the photograph
of the seal is clearly not a horse. Furthermore, if the horse had been as
central t o the Indus civilisation as it was to the Vedic corpus, there
would have been many seals depicting horses. But the largest number of
seals are those which depict the bull unicorn.
The ancient Harappans had bronze weapons like these from Harappa. Whether
they had warfare is unknown.
Indian history from the perspective of the Hindutva ideology reintroduces
ideas that have long been discarded and are of little relevance to an
understanding of the past. The way in which information is put together,
and generalisations drawn from this, do not stand the test of analyses as
used in the contemporary study of history. The rewriting of history
according to these ideas is not to illumine the past but to allow an easier
legitimation from the past for the political requirements of the present.
The Hindutva obsession with identity is not a problem related to the early
history of India but arises out of an attempt to manipulate identities in
contemporary politics. Yet ironically, this can only be done if the
existing interpretations of history are revised and forced into the
Hindutva ideological mould. To go by present indications, this would imply
a history based on dogma with formulaic answers, mono-causal explanations,
and no intellectual explorations. Dogmatic assertions with no space for
alternative ideas often arise from a sense of inferiority and the fear of
debate. Hence the determination to prevent the publication of volumes on
history which do not conform to Hindutva ideology.
Shell bangles from the left arm of a woman buried at Harappa.
History as projected by Hindutva ideologues, which is being introduced to
children through textbooks and is being thrust upon research institutes,
precludes an open discussion of evidence and interpretation. Nor does it
bear any trace of the new methods of historical analyses now being used in
centres of historical research. Such history is dismissed by the Hindutva
ideologues as Western, imperialist, Marxist, or whatever, but they are
themselves unaware of what these labels mean or the nature of these
readings. There is no recognition of the technical training required of
historians and archaeologists or of the foundations of social science
essential to historical explanation. Engineers, computer experts,
journalists-turned-politicians, foreign journa lists posing as scholars of
Indology, and what have you, assume infallibility, and pronounce on
archaeology and history. And the media accord them the status.
The article by Witzel and Farmer is a serious critique of the claims that
have been made by Rajaram and Jha about the Aryan identity of the Indus
civilisation and the decipherment of the Harappan script. The critique was
first put out on the Internet but those who have access to the Internet in
India are still a limited few. It is important for this article to be
published, for it is a salutary lesson for the media to be more cautious in
unfamiliar areas and not rush to publicise anything that sounds se
nsational. It is also necessary that the debate be made accessible to the
reading public so that people are not repeatedly taken for a ride. It shows
up the defective library resources in India that would need to be radically
improved if research in earl y Indian history is to be made more effective.
But above all, the article demonstrates the lengths to which historical
sources can be manipulated by those supporting the claims of Hindutva
Romila Thapar, 2000
Frontline thanks Richard H. Meadow, Director, Zooarchaeology Laboratory,
Peabody Museum, Harvard University, USA and Project Director, Harappa
Archaeological R esearch Project (HARP), for giving permission to
reproduce, in this article, the colour images of Harappan material with
specified captions. HARP owns the copyright to all the images except one.
Copyrights © 2000, Frontline & Tribeca Internet Initiatives Inc.
9 October 2000
Paper Jehadis and the Lie of the Land
A reply to the charges levelled by Prem Shankar Jha in his last week's column
Prem Shankar Jha's writings on Kashmir illustrate the truth of an amusing
remark British journalist Christopher Hitchens once made to me: he became a
journalist, he said, because he could no longer trust the press. Now Jha
(Self-inflicted Wounds, October 2) has joined Swapan Dasgupta of India
Today in accusing me of being unpatriotic. The immediate provocation is a
three-part article on Kashmir I recently published in The Hindu and The New
York Review of Books. It's always a tricky business trying to clarify
things said elsewhere, in a different context; and I would request
interested readers to look up the articles in The Hindu and on nybooks.com.
In the meantime, I'll try to nail some of Jha's falsehoods.
I was in Kashmir when 35 Sikhs were massacred, hours before Bill Clinton
began his state visit to India. Soon after the news of the massacre, New
Delhi blamed the Hizbul Mujahideen and the Lashkar-e-Toiba. There was no
evidence for this accusation at this stage-there still isn't, after a
failed attempt to manufacture it at Panchalthan where five local Muslims
were murdered, defaced and presented to the press as hard-core militants of
Once you are in Kashmir, that scepticism about the government's ability to
speak the truth returns, and multiplies fast. Not a single Kashmiri I spoke
to believed the government's story; and as the days passed it began to seem
less and less the final word on the subject it was taken to be by the
Indian press-if not any other press.
I still don't think anyone is in a position to identify with certainty the
killers of the Sikhs. The scope for private investigation remains limited;
there are areas in Kashmir journalists just can't go to. People have their
own suspicions; there are theories; there are the strange facts: for
instance, that a patrol party of Rashtriya Rifles, which was 1.5 km from
Chitsinghpura at the time of the massacre, heard the gunshots but did not
bother to go and investigate. Suspicions and theories and some strange
facts are not perhaps the best way to get to the truth but when the men in
power declare, without offering any evidence, that they have the complete
truth in their possession, and that there is no need for an inquiry; when
those men go on to murder innocents in their attempt to make lies seem like
truth, then it becomes all the more important for journalists to take some
What doesn't help in these uncertain conditions are misrepresentations and
accusations of bad faith from other journalists. Jha writes that Death in
Kashmir "concludes with the assertion" "that not only were many of the
pilgrims killed at Pahalgam victims of crossfire by the crpf (true) but
that all eight attacks on that day, which killed 100 Hindus, were probably
the handiwork of Indian security forces".
Careful readers of this sentence will notice how Jha begins his argument
quoting me with some very unambiguous language-Pankaj Mishra concludes with
the assertion. He then develops cold feet and quickly tries to hedge
himself in with the adverb "probably": "were probably the handiwork of
Indian security forces".
Jha's grudging little bracket with the word 'true' refers to the only
truthful thing in this sentence-the killing of pilgrims at Pahalgam by the
crpf-and that comes from my article. Let's now look at the facts Jha
manages to get wrong in just one sentence: 1. Death in Kashmir does not
conclude where Jha thinks it does; it goes on for several thousand words.
2. The eight attacks did not take place on the same day. 3. Less than 100
Hindus were killed in early August-the inflated figure Jha quotes includes
about 20 Muslims murdered in Pahalgam and Doda.
Let's now look at some of my cautiously-phrased 'findings' which Jha found
"It is still not clear-and probably won't be for some time-what actually
"These killings thus take their place, along with the murder of the Sikhs,
with some very relevant but ultimately obscure and unexplained incidents in
Kashmir's recent history."
"The turnover of atrocities on both sides in Kashmir is so high, and the
situation in general so murky, that it is hard to get to the truth, to
confirm, for instance, India's claim, in both late March and early August,
that Muslim terrorists are always responsible for them."
It doesn't require much close reading to know that no one is being blamed
here. I am simply making a general point about the uncertainty surrounding
events in Kashmir and the difficulty of going along with the government's
version when it is not supported by sufficient evidence, or a will to
Jha obviously thinks he can tell his readers whatever he likes. Here is
more of his hit-or-miss polemic: "Cunningly, Mishra saves them (his
conclusions) till after he has first described in equally harrowing detail
how the security forces and the Kashmir police picked up five innocent
young men in Anantnag district, killed and burned them and claimed that
they were the foreign militants who'd committed the killing."
As I've said, I reached no conclusions but the question still has to be
asked of Jha: has he forgotten that conclusions usually come after the
events they refer to have been described? What on earth could be so cunning
about a writer following the simple rules of prose narrative?
I had written in my article about Wagay, a Muslim resident of
Chitsinghpura, who was randomly picked up after the murder of the Sikhs and
tortured into signing declarations of his links with the Lashkar and
Hizbul. No less a figure than the home secretary appeared on TV, while
Clinton was still in India, to announce his arrest. He had apparently
escorted the 'Lashkar militants' to the massacre site; and he also knew all
about the hideout in Panchalthan where the army and the sog killed the five
'dreaded' Lashkar terrorists responsible for massacring the Sikhs.
All rubbish, as it turns out. Wagay was with four other men, including a
Sikh, when the massacre happened. The 'Lashkar terrorists' killed in
Panchalthan were local civilians, kidnapped, murdered, defaced and then
burnt so that no one would know who they were. I had written how Wagay's
family realises that he is a crucial figure in the Chitsinghpura cover-up,
a living negation of all the stories we have been fed about Chitsinghpura,
and how they fear for his life once he is out of prison.
At some point in my reading of Jha's piece, I began to realise that he
seems to be doing nothing more intellectually sophisticated than pressing
the hot button of patriotism in his readers in the hope they will be so
incited against me that they will stop noticing how far below the
journalistic standards of truth and accuracy Jha has slipped. An example of
this can be seen in the scandalised tones of the sentence, "Mishra also
exonerates the Lashkar-e-Toiba". The subliminal message to his readers is:
Mishra must surely be unpatriotic, perhaps even an isi agent, if he can
exonerate the Lashkar-e-Toiba, which we all of course know is a bunch of
Much as I would like to blame the Lashkar, an undoubtedly nasty lot, in the
10 separate incidents of violence I write about, I can't do so yet. I am
still waiting for evidence more convincing than the five murdered civilians
produced by the authorities in March.
Both Jha and Dasgupta deride me for mentioning that the Lashkar has issued
strong denials of their involvement in the March and August killings. As
both put it in their not dissimilar ways, we can expect nothing from these
Pakistani brutes but brutality-in which case, one might ask why should
these brutes, who are so unconcerned about their notoriety and rush to
claim their attacks on the Indian army, should even bother denying their
involvement in the killings of civilians? And why would the US State
Department, whose opinion Jha so clearly values, consistently refuse to
join the Indian government in blaming the Lashkar?
I realise I am only playing into Jha's hands here. As he sees it, neither
the denials from Lashkar nor lack of evidence should interfere with the
patriotic duty of Indian journalists to join their government in blaming
all inhuman acts in Kashmir on the vicious monsters in Pakistan. But if the
Lashkar's involvement is so obvious to Jha, he would perhaps like to mull
over the single-most mystifying thing about the March and August massacres:
that the government should not only refuse to hold an inquiry, even when it
is demanded by political parties in Parliament, but also produce no
evidence of the Lashkar's involvement except the defaced corpses of five
innocent men, an innocent man in jail and, in August, a couple of assault
rifles with Lashkar stickers on them.
What troubles me is that Jha doesn't realise how shaky and narrow is the
ground he presently stands on. Consider, for instance, his 'clinching'
argument: "If the 'army' had killed the Sikhs in March and 19 Bihari
labourers in August with the intention of pinning blame on Pakistan, would
it have gone to the village and the camp in uniform?"
Though I'm eager to remove all doubts of the army's involvement in these
killings, I don't think Jha's pathetic argument is what I'd use. He has a
very exaggerated idea of the skill and caution all-powerful men need to
kill in the moral void of Kashmir; it merely underlines his naivete about
the subject. He does acknowledge, in an abrupt moment of truth, that
"theoretically, anything is possible in the dark, brutal world the
Kashmiris now inhabit". The word 'theoretically' is another hedge against
the possibility of knowledge. Jha really should pursue this line of thought
and perhaps spend more time in Kashmir.
But Jha is not much interested in what goes on in Kashmir, even less in
what Kashmiris think. He is obsessed with how it all looks in the US.
Consider the way he starts off his piece, with the assertion that writing
for The New York Review of Books and The New York Times is a matter of
'pride'. Here, Jha betrays his own vulnerability to the glamour of American
periodicals. It was The Hindu which originally commissioned and published
the three-part article that later appeared in an slightly altered form in
The New York Review of Books-a significant fact that Jha doesn't even think
His exaggerated reverence for US periodicals is crucial as it is the root
of all his problems with my articles. It explains his absurd assertion that
my articles have 'done India great harm'. One wonders: in what way? I think
the reason lies in the idea of India Jha has bought into. This realpolitik
simulation of India leaves out all that should be of value to him: India's
people, their immense struggles, dreams and hurt. It is no more than a
foolish and vain fantasy: the fantasy of being a world power, which is so
insubstantial that in order to maintain it in the actual conditions of life
in India, people like Jha are forced to turn away from their own world.
Blind to the violence and anarchy around them, they go gaping at the remote
indifferent mirrors of the US press and are then outraged to find images of
India that don't match their little fantasy, that remind them too much of
the dark realities they are trying to suppress.
Much as I'd like to blame the Lashkar, a nasty lot no doubt, I can't do so
on the basis of slain, disfigured innocents.
His realpolitik simulation of India leaves out all that should be of value
to Jha: the people, their struggles, dreams, hurt.
© Copyright Outlook 2000
Light Beyond the veil
A withered economy, limited mobility, low education-and chauvinism with gun
in hand. In Kashmir's prune-dry landscape, a few gutsy women break the
By Murali Krishnan in Srinagar
They are voices drowned in the din of bombs and bullets. Caught between the
culture of the gun and an oppressive jehadi code, women in the Kashmir
Valley have been suffering silently. While any analysis of the conflict in
the Valley has largely concentrated on the political and military aspects,
it completely excludes the social dimensions. "Women's experiences and
perceptions, for example, have been ignored-especially when they have been
victims in the cycle of violence and abuse," says Ruksana Khan, a lecturer
in Kashmir University.
In the face of adversity, especially the so-called fatwas of pro-Pakistan
militant groups banning women from wearing jeans, watching music channels,
wearing their hair short and even running beauty parlours, fear runs high.
In early September, unidentified gunmen shot at two employees working at
the Shahnaz Beauty Parlour, Srinagar. Prior to this, on May 22, 14-year-old
Posha was shot in her legs outside her house in Bal Garden as she was
cycling clad in jeans. "She had come for a holiday from Delhi and now I
doubt if she will come again," says a family member. There have been other
such incidents. In February last year, Nowsheen Thanzoor, 14, and Mehvish
Nazir, 16, were targeted for wearing trousers. "They had gone shopping and
were shot at by motorcycle-borne militants," says a police official.
There has been no public condemnation of these incidents because of the
fear of retribution. And yet some have shown true grit to beaver away. Says
Maleeha, a gutsy 35-year-old who runs a beauty parlour in a houseboat, "I
face no problems. This is my third year and business is flourishing." On an
average, 60 women visit her parlour daily and she has four women on her
rolls. "There is nothing in Islam which bars women from running parlours,"
adds Maleeha. Sabreena, another parlour in fashionable Rajbagh, is also
doing well, attracting the college crowd.
But this is only one side of the story. Discrimination against women exists
in education, employment, inheritance rights and even at home. A mix of
conservatism, male chauvinism and fear of the jehadi groups is the reason.
But despite the odds, some have carved their own space in the public arena.
A space earned through persistence and perseverance in trying
circumstances. And which they are not willing to relinquish.
Tanveer Jehan, managing director of the government-run J&K Tourism
Development Corporation, is one example. Having joined the state government
in 1977, she says it's been a bitter struggle to reach where she has. "When
I joined, there were only three women. We faced many prejudices and had to
constantly prove our worth," she says. Her acceptance in a
popularly-perceived male domain is now complete. "Now, I am on par with
them." Tanveer's story is commendable considering much of her career
overlapped with the emergence of terrorism. As district collector of
Srinagar in 1997, a high point in her career, she faced many anxious
moments. "Basically, I had to handle law and order and it was a testing
period. It was tough but I acquitted myself creditably," she maintains.
It's also been a tough grind for 40-year-old Shaizada Praveen, one of the
three deputy superintendents of police in Srinagar. After 17 years in the
police force, weathering male dominance and violence, she confidently
proclaims that she has made her mark. "Girls now call me up at home asking
me if they can take me out for lunch. I am their role model," she exclaims.
She denies having received any threats from militants. "Even if I do, I
won't be cowed down."
While Jehan and Shaizada had the privilege of education and family support
to help them realise their ambition, this isn't true for Aleema from
Anantnag. Coming from an agricultural family, her two brothers were killed
in militant-related violence some years back. "My father did not have the
money to send me to college and moreover I had to help out at home," she
says. In the last four years, she has managed to learn tailoring and make
handicrafts which are sold in downtown Srinagar. "Some day, I would like to
run my own shop but all that depends on my fate," she says.
That jobs, particularly in the government, are scarce in the Valley is well
known. Most girls who aspire for a career in medicine or engineering find
no opportunities exist. "There is a freeze on government jobs and that's
why more and more girls are taking to computers and fashion technology,"
says.K. Verma, a state official.
In fact, there are no official figures available on the number of
government jobs women hold. Neither are there statistics on those employed
in the unorganised sector or even the level of unemployment among women in
Kashmir. "The last census was in 1981. We are in the process of collecting
data," says Girija Dar, chairperson of the newly set up Women's Commission.
The picture of rural womenfolk is even worse. Caught in the vortex of both
militant-and security-related violence, there seems to be no succour for
And a move out of the village is no guarantee of a better life either. It
is an ordeal for women who want a career. Ruhi Hashmi, a successful
boutique owner, has laboured hard to build up her business. "Breaking the
ceiling in a male-dominated society is difficult but I persevered. Girls
from the Valley get very little exposure. Those who have the wherewithal
send their wards outside," she maintains. But Ruhi has been lucky. Her
salwar-kameez suits and wedding apparel are the talk of the town and she
gets bulk orders from Sopore and Baramulla during the marriage season.
Even in sunrise sectors like computers, women seem to be lagging behind.
Says Andleeb Bashir, 23, a counsellor for the computer training firm
Aptech, "Women here are lagging behind when compared to their counterparts
in other parts of the country. So though talent is not in short supply,
most remain unemployed because the job market has remained stagnant."
The only three sectors to have witnessed some growth are paging services,
fashion and computer training institutes. But the expansion has not been
enough to provide sufficient jobs. However, there are other avenues of
employment, even if limited.
Shaheen and Shazia are among the six customer service agents working for
Jet Airways in the city. Though they have a good job they wouldn't mind
seeking greener pastures outside the Valley. Says Shazia: "Some attitudes
will not change here. If we get the right break, we might think of taking
Similarly, Seema Qadri, 22, among a few women working in a hotel in
Srinagar, also believes avenues for individual enhancement are limited. "I
wanted to be different from the rest and that is why I took up a career in
hoteliering," she says. Working as a receptionist, she doubles up on the
front desk when the occasion demands.
Confronting and coping with insurgency, many women have not realised their
potential. "It is an unreal situation where individualism is not given free
play," says Zuhara, a college lecturer. But in an environment that offers
little hope, these intrepid women of the Valley have shown that
individualism works in different ways.
(Some names have been changed to protect their identity)
© Copyright Outlook 2000
South Asia Citizens Web Dispatch (SACW) is an informal, independent &
non-profit citizens wire service run by South Asia Citizens Web
since 1996. Dispatch archive from 1998 can be
accessed by joining the ACT list run by SACW. To subscribe send
a blank message to <firstname.lastname@example.org
[Disclaimer : Opinions carried in the dispatches
are not necessarily representative of views of SACW compilers]