South Asia Citizens Wire / Dispatch No.2
8 September 2001
[1.] SCHMEL LAUNCHER: Sri Lanka's New Weapon Against Tamils
[2.] Pakistan- India: Peoples' Voices at Wagah: Are the Two Leaders Listening?
[3.] India's saffron sums don't add up
[4.] India's Fascists poison young minds
[5.] India: Police Atrocities on the Muslim Minorities in the Old
City of Hyderabad
[6.] India: Citizens condemn dictat by Lashkar-e-Jabbar imposing the
veil on Kashmiri women
[7.] Special anniversary issue, of the-south-asian is now on the net
SCHMEL LAUNCHER: Sri Lanka's New Weapon Against Tamils
'A Tactical Nuclear Weapon Without Residual Radiation'
The story first broke when a Sri Lankan newspaper [Sunday Leader;
12 August 2001] reported, "A multi-million dollar arms deal for a
weapon banned by the Americans and now manufactured and sold only by
the Russians has been negotiated by the Sri Lanka Army via a third
party and has resulted in senior army officers and weapons agents
This report and the follow-up article [19 August 2001] by The Sunday
Leader were more concerned with the corruption in the army than
about the consequences of the use such weapons.
The Defense Ministry denied the story. The denial published by the
BBC said, "The Sri Lankan Government has categorically denied
reports that it recently acquired weapons with chemical warheads as
part of its fight against the Tamil Tiger separatist rebels". The
Defense spokesman, however, admitted that "it had [only] bought
infantry rocket flame-throwers, which are not banned and do not have
chemical warheads." [BBC; 17 August 2001]. Brigadier Sanath
Karunaratne, the Defesne Ministry spokesman, on the other hand, in an
interview with the BBC's Sinhala program (Sandesaya) said: "Yes, we
have imported the Russian Chemical Weapons [i]".
What is it?
What are these so-called "Infantry Rocket Flame-Throwers" that the
Sri Lankan Defense Ministry admitted buying?
Infantry rocket flame-thrower is also known as "Schmel Launcher",
"Thermobaric Weapon" 'Fuel-air weapon' or 'Vacuum-Bomb'. It is a
shoulder-fired, single-shot, disposable weapon with a range of about
1,000 meters. It detonates volatile Chemicals in its warhead, with
the resultant indiscriminate devastation of people, livestock,
vegetation and buildings. The round is 93 mm in diameter. It has
three types of projectiles: thermobaric (RPO-A), incendiary (RPO-Z)
and smoke (RPO-D).
It is a controversial piece of armament, known not only for its
massive destructive effect on enemy forces, but also for its
capacity to indiscriminately kill civilians in large numbers and to
flatten villages and towns. It is one weapon that has been
universally condemned by numerous human rights groups for its massive
and indiscriminate destructive power against civilians caught in war.
What does it do?
A US army publication, Marine Corps Gazette [August 2000], called it
a weapon that "can have the effect of a tactical nuclear weapon
without residual radiation."
Its effects, when launched, were described by the same magazine as follows:
"Fuel-air weapons work by initially detonating a scattering charge
within a bomb, rocket or grenade warhead. The warhead contents,
which are composed of either volatile gases, liquids, or finely
powdered explosives, form an aerosol cloud. This cloud is then
ignited and the subsequent fireball sears the surrounding area while
consuming the oxygen in this area. The lack of oxygen creates an
enormous overpressure. This overpressure, or blast wave, is the
primary casualty-producing force.
In several dozen microseconds, the pressure at the center of the
explosion can reach 30 kilograms per square centimeter (427 pounds
per square inch) normal atmospheric pressure at sea level is 14.7
pounds per square inch with a temperature between 2,500-3,000
degrees Centigrade [4,532-5,432 degrees Fahrenheit]. This is 1.5 to
2 times greater than the overpressure caused by conventional
Personnel under the cloud are literally crushed to death. Outside
the cloud area, the blast wave travels at some 3,000 meters per
second [9843 feet per second]. The resultant vacuum pulls in loose
objects to fill the void."
A 1993 US Defence Intelligence Agency report said the following
about the Chemical effects of the warhead:
"Even if the cloud fails to detonate properly, victims will be
severely burned, and will probably also inhale the burning fuel.
Since the most common FAE fuels, ethylene oxide and propylene oxide,
are highly toxic, undetonated FAE should prove as lethal to
personnel caught within the cloud as most chemical agents."
Indeed, it is a dangerous weapon with enormous destructive power to
indiscriminately kill and maim large numbers of civilians, by the
village or town loads. It is, as the US army publication described,
"a tactical nuclear weapon without residual radiation."
The induction of this deadly weapon by an army that has never shown
any regard for the welfare of civilians is a dangerous escalation of
this unwinnable war.
Experience in the field.
The Russians used it against the Chechens in Grozny, with
devastating effect on civilians. Marine Corps Gazette [August 2000]
"Unlike the first battle for Grozny (in late 1994-early 1995) or the
recapture of the city by the Chechens (in 1996), the Russians now
used quantities of fuel-air weapons, along with iron bombs,
surface-to-surface missiles with high-explosive warheads, massed
artillery and tank fire. These flattened large sections of the city
Human Rights Watch, in a report dated February 2000, said the
following about the use of this weapon in Chechnya:
"According to one Russian military scientist writing for the Russian
military magazine Voyennyye Znaniya (Military Knowledge), FAE
weapons are effective against exposed personnel, combat equipment,
fortified areas and individual defensive fortifications, clearing
passages in minefields, clearing landing sites for helicopters,
destroying communication centers, and neutralizing strongholds in
house-to-house fighting in a city. In addition, he stated that
"fuel-air explosives are capable
of completely destroying in a given
area vegetation and agricultural crops that have been planted." In
its destructive capability, it is comparable to low-yield nuclear
munitions. Used in large numbers, fuel-air explosives and other
blast weapons can have enormous destructive effects. When multiple
FAE warheads are exploded, the different blast waves reinforce each
other, increasing their destructive power. The effect of blast
weapons is also compounded in buildings and other enclosed spaces,
and is twelve to sixteen times more destructive than conventional
high explosives against targets with large surface areas, such as
frame buildings, bunkers, and vehicle shelters. Because FAEs cover a
wide area, they are prone to indiscriminate use, especially in or
near populated areas. Since this weapon is very effective against
personnel in fortifications, bunkers, and other buildings, Russian
forces may be tempted to use them in towns and cities where Chechen
fighters are dug in. In urban settings it will be impossible for the
Russians military to limit the destructive effect of this weapon to
combatants and very difficult for civilians to take shelter
Desperation Adding Fuel to Fire.
In recent times, the LTTE has shown tremendous restraint while the
Sri Lankan army has displayed increasing desperation. Just this past
Christmas, the LTTE declared a unilateral ceasefire and stuck with it
for four months, despite repeated provocations. When the ceasefire
ended they returned Sri Lankan army offensives in kind, as in the
case of Agni Kheela (April 2001), and the attack on the airforce base
(24 July 2001) in response to aerial bombings in the north.
Given this scenario, what lies next if and when the Sri Lankan army
decides to deploy this newly acquired weapon is frightening. To
expect that LTTE will roll-over-and-play-dead in this event is for
the naïve. If Tamil civilians are 'gruesomely' killed with these
so-called flame-throwers, the LTTE will most likely respond in kind.
It has, in fact, said so. [LTTE Statement]
It is the need of the hour for all concerned to intervene and
publicly demand a reversal of this maddening trend. The
international community, especially the ones that have taken greater
interest in the war in Sri Lanka, should take the lead.
Peoples' Voices at Wagah: Are the Two Leaders Listening?
Syeda Saiyidain Hameed
The shrill voices of hatred that have been heard since the last 2
months from both sides of the border were silenced for one evening.
On August 14, 2001 at the Wagah border, thousands of people collected
to celebrate friendship between India and Pakistan, an event which
owed nothing to the politicians. It was the effort of common people
of Punjab, from a platform which is called, Hind-Pak Dosti Manch.
Kuldip Nayar has been at the vanguard of this people to people
movement for many years. Since the last six years, on this very day,
he has gone to the border at the stroke of midnight, and lit candles
for peace between India and Pakistan. Sometimes alone, sometimes with
crowds, Kuldip has been determined to continue this tradition. Slowly
his caravan has grown. First it was people from Delhi along with some
local groups. Today, people of Amritsar have taken charge and have
taken ownership of the friendship campaign. Kuldip has transformed it
into a local initiative, homegrown and homespun, attended by people
from twenty villages around Attari as well as people from all walks
of life in the bustling, burgeoning town of Amritsar.
I had gone there with the very first group. That was the time when,
at the stroke of midnight, we walked on the strip called `no man's
land' with people like Nikhil Chakravorty. We reached the gate on
which was written `Islamic Republic of Pakistan', where we stood on
tiptoe to see if the Pakistan Rangers would permit any of our friends
to come up to their side of the strip. We learnt later that they had
not got permission to come to the checkpost. This time the respective
Home Ministries of India and Pakistan, denied permission to both
sides. Thanks to both governments, when midnight struck, there was no
one at either gate to light candles of friendship. Regardless,
thousands of candles were lit at the stroke of midnight, albeit 800
yards from the border. As light-bearers, we epitomised these lines of
the poet Majrooh Sultanpuri:
Jala ke mishal-jaan hum junoon sifaat chaley
(Having lit the taper of life we, mad people, set forth)
From the start to finish it was a peoples' show, which accounted for
its vibrancy and vitality. Right from the time we Dilliwalas were
received at the Amritsar station and taken to the idyllic campus of
the Guru Nanak Dev University, we were felt the proverbial warmth and
hospitality of Punjab. We reached the border just before the retreat
ceremony was to begin. On both sides of the gate there were throngs
of Indians and Pakistanis, primarily youth, both men and women. It
was an exuberant, elated crowd. On the Indian side a smart military
band was playing popular Daler Mehndi and Mohd Rafi songs like `Bolo
Tara-ra-rara' and `Ye desh hai veer jawanon ka', while Pakistan was
playing songs of the chart-busting group, Junoon, like `Di hai mera,
mulk mer, jan meri, janan-e-jan'. We walked very close to an
enclosure where we saw hordes of Pakistani women; they were clapping,
waving flags and hands, shouting slogans. On the other end, thousands
of young men and boys were dancing, singing doing `nara-bazi'
(sloganeering). On our side, the crowd appeared more disciplined but
returned song for song and nara for nara. Our hosts from Amrtisar
told us that this `tamasha' happens every year. Since August 14th is
their celebration, they said, the Pakistanis have come out in much
larger numbers. At the end of the event they will become
uncontrollable, they said, and the police have to apply the stick! In
1993, there was a Punjabi Mushaira on this side. On the other side,
people had crept as close to the border as they could, to listen to
the poetry. So while poems were recited from this side, the `Wah!
Wah!' emanated from the other!
At the pitch of excitement when both sides were outshouting each
other, suddenly a voice permeated the din. It was recitation of
Surah-e-Rahman from the Quran. `Fabi ai ala rabbakumma tukazibaan'
meaning, `Then which of the favours of your Lord will you deny?'
Suddenly there was pin drop silence. The only sound was the Quranic
recitation, rising above the 6000-7000 people on both sides.
The actual retreat ceremony consisted of lowering of the two flags,
of the BSF and Pakistan Rangers marching down their respective
strips, and one officer from each side stepping on the no-man's land.
It was characterized by belligerent posturing, flailing of arms and
legs and aggressive strides. The young soldiers' faces were contorted
with hate-filled expressions. Their body language was similarly
strident. The stamping of feet, the facial distortion and overall
aggression was a total travesty.
At Jalianwala Bagh, later that night, Kuldip lit the torch of
friendship which was to light thousands of candles. It was pitch dark
when we walked through the narrow gulley, at the end of which the
Colonel Dyer had stood and showered bullets on ordinary Sikhs and
Hindus, Muslims and Christians, innocent people of Amritsar. A slight
breeze arose but even as the taper was lit, a nearby mosque called
the Azan for the Isha prayer. Kuldip said, `This is real India. And
it is this sound which rises in the vicinity of Golden Temple, which
gives us the hope, which keeps us going'.
It was past nine when we reached the pandal erected outside the Wagah
check post. On the way we saw hundreds of people, on cycles, on foot,
in bullock carts, and some in cars going to the venue of the concert.
I had never seen a Hans Raj Hans concert. The man is a musical
genius. His songs are riveting; stunning alike for the young and the
old. He sang and danced and his audience, consisting of men and women
from all the surrounding 20 odd villages around Attari and from
Amritsar, sang and danced with him. Among his audience were 55 girls
and boys who had taken the bus from Delhi, to show solidarity with
the cause. Most of them were students, some artists and others who
have taken up the issues of peace and nuclear disarmament as their
life's mission. They spent their own money to travel 12 hours on the
bus from Delhi to Wagah and had just reached the border when the
concert began. When we saw them they were swaying and dancing with
the music, oblivious of the fatigue of the non-stop journey.
Hans Raj Hans began with a message from his `Bari Behan' Abida
Parveen who he had spoken to before coming here. `She said, you go
and perform and I will sit at the shrines of the Pirs and Faqirs and
pray for the India Pkaistan friendship and peace.' The man who
usually charges a hefty sum for his concert had not only donated his
performance but brought along his entire band free of cost. What was
immensely important was that throughout the excitement of a rock
concert by Punjab's most popular star, the message of peace between
Pakistan and India remained predominant. First, Sonia Jabbar read the
Joint Declaration prepared on July 12, 2001 by 450 Pakistanis and
Indians (endorsed by over 200 organisations), at the Peoples'
Solidarity Conference held in Delhi, two days prior to the Summit.
Then members of the Hind Pak Dosti Manch read, one by one, the
resolutions they had drafted pertaining to peace between the two
countries. They were careful to stress that they fully respected the
separate identities of the two neighbours but desired that their
similarities should bring them close as friends and well wishers. One
could see how hard they had worked to prepare the documents. At the
end they asked the crowd to raise their hands in support. Thousands
of hands went up at once. Kuldip's face was glowing. I remembered
what he had said to me earlier, `Long after we are gone they will
remember us as people who tried to build peace'.
Hind Pak Dosti Manch had arranged a langar for 700 people. The food,
the service, banquet hall, everything had been donated free of cost
by common people. In the large hall close to the venue, the food was
simple, hot, delicious and plenty. I could not help thinking of the 5
star meals and air conditioned halls where `Peace' Conferences are
usually held and compare their desolateness with this vibrancy.
Students from Delhi who had arrived at the venue directly were
directed to the langar, well past midnight. They had lit the candles
and placed them at the outer gate of the checkpost as thousands of
little reminders that as far as India and Pakistan is concerned it is
the people and not the governments who will make the difference. That
time has come, has been proved by the Peoples Solidarity Conference,
the Hind Pak Dosti Manch and many other efforts all over India and
As we have read in the histories of civilisations, it is the people
with Junoon (madness) in their heads, who dare to dream in times when
cynicism, suspicion, dejection and pessimism is the order of the day,
it is always they who, despite tyrants, despots and oppressors, have
brought in a new order.
(Syeda Saiyidain Hameed is a writer)
Asia Times Online (atimes.com)
September 5, 2001
India's saffron sums don't add up
By Sultan Shahin
NEW DELHI -- If demolishing just one Babri mosque required 600,000
karsevaks, (religious zealots) how many karsevaks would be needed to
demolish two mosques?
This question was asked recently in a mathematics examination paper
for junior students in the western Indian state of Gujarat, which is
governed by the Hindu fundamentalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).
Perpetuating communal differences through mathematics must indeed be
rated as one of the unique distinctions of the Indian education
system. Tampering with school textbooks, giving them a communal,
sectarian color, depicting Muslims and Christians as foreigners and
promoting communal differences has been going on in Gujarat for the
past four years since the BJP came to power.
Up to now this has not raised much concern across the country, even
when Gujarat's capital of Ahmedabad recently experienced communal
violence, set off on a flimsy pretext. But now that the BJP-led
central coalition government has asked all states to bring their
curricula in line with BJP thinking, all opposition-ruled state
governments, and even some governments ruled by BJP allies, have
joined forces to oppose the move.
Chief ministers and education ministers of these states met in New
Delhi at the weekend and passed a resolution that the central
government must seek Parliament's approval before making any changes
in school curricula. The meeting included representatives from
different shades of the opposition, and significantly, two state
governments run by members of the ruling National Democratic Alliance
(NDA) - Jammu and Kashmir's National Conference and Meghalaya's
United Democratic Front. Another important coalition partner, the
Telugu Desam Party of the state of Andhra Pradesh, has also
criticized the move, but did not attend the conclave.
The meeting's resolution also expressed concern over what is called
"communalization and saffronization of education" - saffron being the
color of Hindu fundamentalism.
Convened by the Marxist Chief Minister of West Bengal, Buddhadev
Bhattacharya, the meeting protested against the central authorities'
"formulation" of school curricula through directives without
consultation with the states.
Asked to justify his presence at an opposition gathering, while his
National Conference was part of India's ruling coalition, Mohammad
Shafi said he was protesting against the fact that the NDA agenda
included not "tinkering" with education policy.
Jammu and Kashmir Education Minister Mohammad Shafi said the changes
being made in education were not acceptable to three-quarters of
India. "After this meeting the NDA leadership should take note of our
concerns, we are not ready to accept this because education is a
state subject," Shafi said.
Congress-ruled Delhi's Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said that by not
seeking parliament's approval of changes to the existing education
policy, the central government had attempted to "surreptitiously
inject a particular religious ideology".
The resolution, passed unanimously, said that changes at different
stages of education had been made, ignoring the Central Advisory
Board of Education. It disapproved of the recent introduction of
subjects such as jyotirvigyan (the science of astrology) and
pourohitya (priestly rituals for Hindu religious ceremonies),
observing that they could hardly be treated as disciplines worth
studying at university level.
In his over 90-minute reply during a two-day debate on
"Saffronization of Education" in parliament, Human Resource
Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi said the BJP-led government
was bound by national education policy and that the latest NCERT
document calling for changes "had been prepared in the most
democratic manner after wide consultations". The National Council for
Educational Research and Training (NCERT) is involved in coordinating
state efforts to revise education curricula.
The document was without any religious bias, Joshi asserted amid
frequent interruptions by opposition members whom Joshi accused of
conspiring to give an impression that the government was attempting
to change the education system in a clandestine manner and whom he
asked to rise above political considerations.
In a related development, India's apex court on Monday issued notices
to the Human Resource Development Ministry and the University Grants
Commission (UGC) of a petition seeking to quash the controversial
government decision to start degree and post-graduate courses in
astrology - jyotirvigyan - in various universities from this year.
The petitioners are scientists P M Bhargava, K Subhash Chandra Reddy
and Chandana Chakrabarti. Counsel for the petitioners, Prashant
Bhushan, said the decision of the UGC to start jyotirvigyan on the
grounds that astrology was a science had not been tested or proved
and to introduce such a course in universities was "illogical and
"The scientific community considered the action in starting the
course as a giant leap backwards, undermining whatever scientific
credibility the country has achieved so far," the petitioners said.
The petition is still before the court.
The UGC at its October 16, 2000 meeting considered the proposal for
setting up of departments of Vedic (based on Hindu scriptures known
as the Vedas) astrology in universities and decided to approve in
principle the setting up of several departments in this course. The
name jyotirvigyan was given by the UGC to the astrology course on
January 25, 2001.
Communalization of education is, however, the chief cause of concern
for most of the secular intelligentsia A cross-section of concerned
people, including the education ministers of nine states and leading
academics was brought together in New Delhi by the non-governmental
Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust for a three-day convention last month.
This meeting, too, demanded in a memorandum (1) the withdrawal of the
controversial document designed by NCERT. Ministers from the states
of West Bengal, Pondicherry, Nagaland, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh,
Chattisgarh, Bihar, Karnataka and Rajasthan rejected the document,
which, they said, was prepared without consulting state governments.
The convention condemned the Human Resource Development Ministry's
attempts to "steamroll the educational system and fill research
institutions with persons of a certain ideological background".
Similar attempts have been made in the past by extremist Hindu
ideologues, but they were not done so blatantly, the convention
observed. The participants pointed out with concern the "stifling
silence" of some of the BJP's partners in power. They reiterated the
need to preserve the federal polity and the secular character of the
Indian republic by resisting communal onslaughts on education and
culture. Perhaps the most disturbing element, they said, is the
attempt to teach history by placing the entire Muslim period of 1,200
years out of the syllabus.
Historian Irfan Habib, former chairman of the Indian Council of
Historical Research, condemned the rewriting of history being
attempted. This included introducing Vedic nomenclature wherever
possible and tampering with the dates of historical texts in order to
emphasize their antiquity, he said. Official agencies promoted "new
discoveries" of Indian history in an attempt to establish the
antiquity of the Aryan civilization and its superiority over other
civilizations, especially the Harappan civilization.
Many of these "discoveries" lacked historical evidence, he explained.
For instance, it is claimed that humankind originally evolved in the
upper Saraswati region, that is, northern Haryana, neighboring Delhi,
and that India was the original home of the Aryans and other
Indo-Europeans. In order to support these claims it was necessary
that everything "Aryan" had to be dated to antiquity; therefore,
according to Professor Habib, the Rig Veda is said to have been
composed before 5000 BC and not circa 1500 BC. It is claimed that
bronze was "cast" in India by 3700 BC and writing originated in
India. The Indus culture, which was officially named the Harappan
culture, is referred to as the Saraswati-Sindhu culture, a Vedic
K N Panikkar provides an explanation for the obsession to prove the
Aryans' Indian origins in an essay that he wrote recently, "According
to this view [Hindu communal view], all those who migrated to India
and their descendants are foreigners and therefore not a part of the
nation. Thus the Muslims, Christians and Parsis, who are not
indigenous to India and hence outsiders, should either 'Indianize'
themselves or live like second class citizens without any rights or
As an example for biased history writing, Panikkar cited K S Lal's
book, The Growth of the Muslim Population in Medieval India (1973) in
which the author presents a picture of continuous decline of the
Indian population owing to massacres of Hindus by Muslims. Lal does
not give any statistical evidence in support of his claim. In The
Mughal Harem (1988), Lal talks about the "immoral" ways of Muslims,
ignoring the fact that Hindu rulers and nobles, too, were polygamous.
Habib also cited P N Oak's claim in the early 1960s that the Taj
Mahal and the Red Fort were originally built by Hindus and were
misappropriated by Muslims later. There was a deliberate denial of
Muslim culture, he said.
Another distinguished historian, Suraj Bhan expressed concern over
the attempts at the "Aryanization" of the Indus civilization. He said
chauvinistic nationalism and regionalism had caused a perceptible
decline in archaeological perspectives and methods and institutional
health, and these posed a real threat to the discipline of history.
One of the reasons for the attempt to identify the Vedic culture with
the Indus civilization was to prove that the former was one of the
oldest civilizations in the world, at least as old as the
Mesopotamian civilization. The Vedic culture was glorified because
the Vedas were considered the "source of Hindu social, political and
economic institutions" and Hindu culture was equated with Indian
culture, he said.
K N Panikkar explained that a major compulsion behind the attempt to
change the content of education was to realize the communal objective
of creating a Hindu national identity and a sense of national pride.
In this context, Panikkar quoted an article written by NCERT Director
J S Rajput in the Journal of Value Education, which says, "A sense of
belonging must be developed in every individual learner by focusing
on India's contribution to world civilization. It is high time that
India's contribution in areas like mathematics, sciences, maritime,
medicine, trade, architecture, sculpture, establishment of
institutions of learning was emphasized and made known to the
learners in order to develop a sense of belonging to the nation with
respect and an attachment to the past."
Pointing out that training in citizenship was an integral part of
value education in all countries, Panikkar said such education in the
Indian context should be rooted in secularism and democracy. However,
the NCERT prescription was totally devoid of such political content,
he said, and argued that it was a deliberate attempt to foster a
national identity derived from religious consciousness and not a
secular and composite consciousness. The UGC's Hinduism-oriented
courses and the kind of value education the NCERT sought to promote
were both part of the wider political project of the BJP-RSS combine,
he said. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is a an extremist
nationalist Hindu party that espouses a return to Hindu values and
cultural norms. The BJP is an off-shoot of it.
The changes in the content of education, Panikkar said, were planned
in the context of the unfettered entry of transnational capital. He
warned that there were grand plans to privatize education and make it
serve the needs of capital. According to Panikkar, industrialists
Mukesh Ambani and Kumarmangalam Birla have prepared a report on
educational reforms (called the Birla-Ambani report), prescribing a
market-led and knowledge-driven economy. The state's role, if any,
was minimal in the industrialists' scheme of things, he said. He
noted that there was essentially a convergence of interests of
globalization and communalization in that both were opposed to
Romila Thapar warned that those who refused to understand the past
ended up misunderstanding the present. She criticized the NDA
government for setting aside significant events in its obsession with
the "Vedic capsule". Absence of rational critical enquiry
characterized the policymakers in education today, she said. There
was no pedagogical relevance for either yogic consciousness or the
spiritual quotient. "These are frills and cannot form the core of
knowledge," she said. By giving a single definition to Indian culture
and society and by projecting it through the educational system, the
RSS went fundamentally against the experience of both the past and
the present, she argued. She felt that secularists and others had
probably treated the term "secularism" casually, but today there was
a need to be constantly alert because Indian society could survive
only by practicing secularism. The education policy could not be held
to ransom by politicians and bureaucrats, she said, and demanded that
the names of those who had drafted the NCERT document be made public.
The opinion of intellectuals such as these, however, is not likely to
deter the BJP-led government from going ahead with its saffronization
project. In fact, in its 80-year-old history, Hindu fundamentalism
has heard such opinions many a time before, though perhaps not
expressed with such fervor, for it was too far from the seat of power
and was merely considered an aberration.
However, what may force it to stop from moving ahead is the fear of
losing its control of the central government. Thus the criticism
mounted by some of its allies is the greatest setback to its
saffronization of education project.
The saffronization project may not be implemented if it appears to be
leading to the fall of the government of Prime Minister Atal Bihari
Vajpayee. But it does need to be understood that it is a project very
close to the heart of BJP stalwarts such as Vajpayee himself and Home
Minister L K Advani.
Neena Vyas of the Hindu newspaper quoted one of the leaders in the
RSS, H V Seshadri, as saying recently that "secularism was a
millstone around the nation's neck". She adds, "The problem with the
Sangh Parivar [extreme Hindu group ] members is that they believe
that fundamentally Muslims and Christians cannot be loyal to this
The direct or subdued attacks on them spring from this idea that they
can remain here only as foreigners whose loyalty will remain
questionable." In the context of attacks on Christians, for instance,
the prime minister made a reference recently to their indulging in
"forcible conversions", and on an earlier occasion he asked for a
national debate on the subject of conversions.
(1) Among the signatories were Congress working committee member
Arjun Singh, Communist Party of India general secretary A B Bardhan,
Communist Party of India (Marxist) politbureau member Sitaram
Yechury, All India Democratic Women's Association general secretary
Brinda Karat and prominent parliamentarians Eduardo Faleiro, Mani
Shankar Aiyar and Shabana Azmi. The participants included historians
Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, K N Panikkar, Satish Chandra, K M
Shrimali, Mushirul Hasan, D N Jha and Suraj Bhan, economists Prabhat
Patnaik and C T Kurien, former vice- chancellor of the Manonmaniam
Sundaranar University, Tirunelveli, V Vasanthi Devi, commentator and
lawyer A G Noorani, editor of Communalism Combat Teesta Setalvad, and
Anil Sadgopal of the Central Institute of Education.
(c)2001 Asia Times Online Co, Ltd. All rights reserved.
05 Sep 2001
Fascists poison young minds
This Teachers Day, it will be appropriate to think in terms of
preventing the indoctrination of the saffron agenda that threatens to
vitiate the atmosphere in educational institutions, writes HUMRA
GONE are the days when pupils were happy to greet their teachers on 5
September without nagging suspicions and distrust. There was no
dispute over the syllabus either as students reposed faith in
politicians and bureaucrats as architects of their future.
Today, there is an atmosphere of unease. In the open are facts that
Union human resource development minister Murli Manohar Joshi and his
team of loyal mandarins have been working at dividing communities.
In August, at a SAHMAT-organised convention on saffronisation in
education, it was disturbing to hear what scientists and academics
from across the country had to say about Dr Joshis strategy for
long-term indoctrination of his saffron agenda.
Nalini Taneja, teacher at the department of history, Delhi
University, cited texts being taught in 20,000 shishu mandirs and
Vidya Bharati schools with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh links.
And a sampling of the "poisonous" text revealed how young minds were
being distorted by twisted facts and communally worded texts. She
said: "The history texts are nothing but a bald and unadulterated
illustration of the RSS view of history and use of history for its
sectarian agenda. Aryans are the original inhabitants of India,
Indian civilisation is essentially Aryan civilisation, the ancient
period of history when Hindu kings ruled was golden and India had
enormous advantages during this period. The coming of Mughals brought
darkness, cruelty...Hedgewar, Gowalkar and Savarkar are among the
greatest freedom fighters, Muslims as a community are traitors,
Hinduism is synonymous with nationalism ...caste and child marriage
and sati are defended. Muslims, Christians and Parsees are called
"Urdu is referred to as a foreign language and it is claimed that the
first man on earth was born in India and that human beings are
referred to as manushya or manav after Manu....
"The range of backward notions expressed, and the lies concocted
could go on, as they do so relentlessly through the texts in
question, poisoning young minds, celebrating violence and vengeance
against the minorities for imagined wrongs ...."
From Teesta Setalvads account of the Gujarat governments efforts at
bringing in total saffronisation in education, it seems all is lost
and that we are set to confront a communally biased generation.
She reveals: On January 19, 2000 the Gujarat state education
department sent out a GR directing all schools to subscribe to the
RSS magazine Sadhana
another circular brought out in December 2000
insisted on principals of all schools compulsorily sending their
teachers to Sanskrit training camps.
"In the Social Studies text books of the Gujarat State Board, Indian
culture is portrayed as Hindu culture
There are numerous instances to prove that Keshubhai Patels
two-year-old BJP government is trying to communalise minds.
In this three-day forum, each speaker gave a stark account of what is
transpiring on the education front.
Worse followed on 24 August. Distinguished professors Romilla Thapar,
Arjun Dev, Anil Sadgopal, Zoya Hassan and Prabhat Patnaik took Dr
Joshi to task, raising eight points wherein they stated: "Dr Murli
Manohar Joshi ,Union Minister of Human Resource Development, misled
Parliament with the statements he made in the reply that he gave to
the Lok Sabha on 20 August 2001
the debate, which had been initiated
by Somnath Chatterjee four days earlier on 16 August, on
saffronisation of education concluded with Joshi 's reply.
"Space constraints come in the way of including all the eight points
but just for your sampling The HRD minister said, Prof. Yashpal ,
Prof. M Mukhopadhyay , Prof. JN Kapoor, Dr Arvind Kumar, Dr Aniruddha
Rajan, Dr Sagat Mitra , Dr Ravinder Kumar, Prof. Yogendra Singh, Dr
Kapila Vatsyayan etc. discussed the preparatory material for the
National Curriculum Framework.
"The fact is that in all, 11 experts were invited, most of them to
give lectures to the Curriculum Group and not to discuss the issues
of curriculum ...according to our information Prof. Yashpal, Dr
Kapila Vatsyayan and Prof. Yogendra Singh have denied being a party
to the formulation of the NCF in its present form.
"The late Prof. Ravinder Kumar was invited to give a talk on the
Freedom Movement from 1857 to 1947 and not to discuss the problems
of the history curriculum
Seven other points were raised whereby these experts proved that the
minister was equipped with half-baked facts and there could not be a
more damaging charge than this.
"The HRD minister reeled out a list of universities where astrology
is already being taught both at home and abroad
the case of foreign
universities is really revealing.
"The HRD minister has gone to the website FindAstrologer.com and
clicked on it , deleted the correspondence courses from it and taken
the entire nation for a ride as far as the universities of
Plymouth, London and Manchester in the UK are concerned we have
visited their websites and found no match for astrology!"
The irony is that even whilst writing these lines I can visualise Dr
Joshi reading out a well-worded speech on Teachers Day and the
applause that will follow.
At least some teachers should wake up to the disaster waiting to
happen. For then, in addition to the emergence of a communally-biased
generation, with the introduction of astrology in the syllabuses, we
will probably have star-gazing bureaucrats waiting for days or months
for that auspicious moment to arrive before they can clear the files.
Instead of showering eulogies this Teachers Day, it would be
appropriate to introspect and try and stop Dr Joshi and his loyalists
from spreading poison.
If Hitler used poisonous gas, the HRD minister is slow-poisoning us
with toxic texts. Fascism all the way.
(The author is a New Delhi-based freelance writer.)
Condemn the Police Atrocities on the Muslim Minorities
in the Old City of Hyderabad
The police raids, harassment, arrests, and torture have become the
order of the day in the old city of Hyderabad. The police officials
suspect every Muslim as an ISI agent. A Moulana who goes to give a
traditional sermon in a Masque is equated with a religious fanatic
who is going to be a threat to the national unity and integrity.
Only a few know outside the old city that the whole Muslim community
here lives in a perpetual concentration camp. The darkest secrets of
the police administration under the secular regime Chandrababu Naidu
do not come out!
Reading of Quran is a crime. This act is not less than ISI activity
in the old city. What type of religious freedom is this!
A bunch of intelligence officers watch out the Quran reading sessions
in the old city. For example, a study circle of Quran of 50 old and
young people used to meet in late K.M.Subanis house. The
intelligence officers always followed all 50 individuals, besides
some of them used to sit in the reading sessions to check what is
being preached. The women of the house were threatened that they
should not let their house for this study circle. They were forced to
shift the venue. However, the present house-owner is now again
threatened. Various management committees of the Masques in the old
city too were threatened.
There are many examples to cite. Moulana Md. Naseeruddin used to take
special traditional sermon sessions in the Masjid Saleema-Khatun, in
Himayatnagar. The police threatened the managing committee of the
Masjid and stopped his sermons. Same is the case with another Masjid,
Shah Mauzzam. All the sermons were forcefully stopped by the police
in the famous Masques in the old city like Jama Masjid and Daru Shafa.
On the midnight of 18 August, 50 people were watching a
videocassette on the demolition of Babri masjid in Saidabad. These
people are the members of Darsgah-E-Jihad-O-Shahadath. The cassette
they were watching was not of any secret one. It is a Newstrack Video
Cassette watched by every democrat in the country. However, in the
case of Saidabad watchers, the police raided on the show and arrested
14 people. Now they are languishing in the Moul Ali Central Prison.
Abdul Aziz and Nissar, along with 10 more Muslim youth, were arrested
a week ago. The police now want all the Muslims old or young, man or
woman whom these two youth met earlier. A gentle man, Muneeruddin
Mujahid was ordered by the area DCP to go and meet him.
Mr. Athar Qureshi, City President of Students Islamic Movement of
India was arrested on 30th night at 12.30 am and was taken to Santosh
Nagar police station. The CI C. Rajeswar Reddy beat him most brutally
along with his four constables. Later on, he was released after
Ganesh Immersion was over, but the police never told his family that
his was a preventive arrest! However, one wonders, why the leaders of
a student organization be arrested and beaten up most brutally
without giving a reason or were taken into custody for weird reasons.
Earlier on 11 August some students went to attend a student
conference in Delhi organized by SIMI. Athar Qureshi, being the SIMI
President of the city led the team. When they were attending the
meeting in Delhi, back at home in the old city, Athars younger
brother Akbar Qureshi was illegally whisked away by the police on
15th August from his house and detained illegally for 3 days and
tortured cruelly. Adding insult to injuries literally, a big batch of
police visited the hospital where their mother works, and they
scolded, and abused her in front of every one at her work place. They
insulted her by saying that she gave birth to anti-nationals. Now,
the mother says that there could be nothing more hurting than this.
These are only a few incidents of harassment, illegal arrests and
torture in custody meted out to the Muslim in the old city. There are
hundreds and thousands of such incidents from every Muhalla of the
The old city reels under the grip of fear when a Republic Day or
Independence Day and any Day of national importance comes. A hunt
for ISI agents starts on such nationalist days.
Every Muslim in the old city is an ISI agent, supposedly working for Pakistan.
There will be no change in this pitiable situation, unless the
democrats in the state intervene.
We strongly condemn the undemocratic arrests of Moulana Md.
Naseeruddin (50), a local religious leader, Ahtar Qureshi Shahid
(22), Hyderabad city President of Student Islamic Movement of India
(SIMI), and Yasir (19), its General Secretary, on the night of August
30, 2000, from their houses.
There is a news item in some sections of press that they were already
being implicated in ISI-related case which was foisted on some other
people a week before.
Moulana Md. Naseeruddins family members informed our organization,
that the Hyderabad police arrested him earlier on 6 December 2000 and
while in custody he was given poison by the local police. As a
result, he became ill and his body suffers from pains. His hair
became stiff and he developed problems in his ears. It seems,
according to his family members, there was lead in the poison, which
incapacitated many functions of his body. We demand that these
allegations be investigated and justice to be done to him.
The Central Government has announced recently that it is
contemplating on banning the Students Islamic Movement of India
(SIMI). AIPRF condemns any such undemocratic move. The Hindu Communal
forces have been threatening the very existence of our Muslim
brethren in our country. Such a move will further increase the sense
of insecurity in the community.
We hope that these arrests are not part of such sinister design as
banning of SIMI. We also appeal to all democratic minded and secular
people and intellectuals to condemn the arrests of the SIMI leaders
and the Moulana.
G N Saibaba, General secretary, All India Peoples Resistance Forum (AIPRF)
Leo Augustine, Telangana Rastra Samithi
KVK Subrahmaniam, APCLC
Dr. Quyyam Khan, Convenor, Majlis Bachavo Tehrik
Giriyadav, President, Praja Party
D.Punna Rao, AIPRF
Bhaskar Banni, RPI
6 Sep 2001 17:26:19 +0530 (IST)
Dr. Ram Puniyani
Sec.EKTA(Committee for Communal Amity)
B-64, IIT Qutrs ,Powai,Mumbai 400076
The recent dictat by Lashkar-e-Jabbar that Kashmiri women should
compulsorily cover themselves with the veil is one of the most condemnable
threat to Kashmiri women. Earlier Dukhtaran-e-Millat had also played
havoc by playing similar role. It should be noted here that in the wake of
this dictat some acid attacks have also taken place on girls. Kashmiri
women traditionally don't wear Burqua and this dictat of the less known
terrorist group has been condemned and opposed by different Muslim
organizations and prominent individuals.
The fundamentalist groups generally target women in the attempt to control
the ethos of society and controlling dictating their dress code is on top
of their list. We have seen such dictats in action earlier in
Khoemini's Iran and currently in Taliban controoled Afghanistan. Even
various groups basing themselves on Hindu Fundamentalist tendency have
also on occasion dictated the dress code for women, they should put on
bindi, they should not wear jeans etc. Coming from whichever
fundamentalist groups, such fatwas and dictates have to be
condemned and opposed in no uncertain terms. Kashmiri women more than even
the Kashmiri men have been the worst victim of the present impasse where
the cross border terrorism, violation of Human rights by state forces and
the actions of local militant groups have compounded the situation. It is
long overdue that a serious attempt to resolve the issue is made in all
the seriousness. It is long overdue that the alienation of Kashmiri people
is recognized and steps taken to ensure that their democratic aspirations
are taken care of more than any other consideration in 'solving' the
Ammu Abraham(Women's Center)
Anand Patwardhan(Film maker)
Asghar Ali Engineer(CSSS)
M.Nauhad Ansari M.A.LLB, Banglore
The September issue, together with a special anniversary issue, of
the-south-asian is now on the net -
[URL www.the-south-asian.com ] and carries David Barsamian's
interview with Arundhati Roy, and articles on the WW II SOE Agent
Noor Inayat Khan killed by the Nazis in Dachau; the Indo-African
diaspora ; the architectural sites of south Asia that should be
defined as World heritage sites; Delhi's First Ladies; Beyond the
arclights - the second careers of Indian film heroines; and Phoolan
Devi. The Anniversary issue carries selected articles from the past
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