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SACW | 2 Dec. 02

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | 2 December 2002 INTERRUPTION NOTICE: Please note, there will be no SACW dispatches on 3 and 4 December 2002.
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 2, 2002
      South Asia Citizens Wire | 2 December 2002

      INTERRUPTION NOTICE: Please note, there will be no SACW dispatches on
      3 and 4 December 2002.


      #1. Pakistan Govt's. political concessions to the mullahs making
      Friday once again as the weekday off instead of Sunday (Editorial
      Daily Times)
      #2. Fascination with force: The iron in our souls (Praful Bidwai)
      #3. Poor in India Starve as Surplus Wheat Rots (Amy Waldman)
      #4. Reports on Meeting on the Danger of War in South Asia and the
      Politics of Communal Violence and a Concert for Peace in California
      #5. Sexual Violence in the South Asian Youth Community
      #6. Abhigam Collective's 2003 Calender against Hate
      #7. "Communal Rage in Secular India" by Rafiq Zakaria (Reviewed by:
      Yoginder Sikand)
      #8. Book Announcement: Rabindranath Tagore¹s The Home And The World -
      A Critical Companion
      Edited By P.K. Datta



      The Daily Times (Lahore)
      December 02, 2002

      Not Friday again

      Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali has announced that the Friday will
      once again be the weekday off instead of Sunday. He is reported as
      saying that he intends to review the executive orders passed by Nawaz
      Sharif and soon announce Friday as the weekly holiday on the demand
      of the MMA [Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal].
      It may be recalled that when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto declared Friday as
      the weekly holiday in 1977 instead of Sunday, he did so at the height
      of the Nizam-e-Mustafa movement against him when he was under
      pressure to make political concessions to the mullahs. Thus it was an
      opportunist political decision. But the decision to revert to Sunday
      by Nawaz Sharif in 1997 was taken on the demands of the business
      community. It was widely welcomed because it was the logical and
      rational thing to do from the point of view of the economy.
      The importance of zuhr prayers aside, Friday is not prescribed as a
      day of rest by Islam as is Sabbath in Christianity. Islam does not
      make ³rest² mandatory and consequently does not preclude work-related
      activity taking place on Fridays. Indeed, as the Saying goes, ³Pray
      on Fridays but disperse after prayers to work and trade for your
      material well-being². Regrettably, Mr Jamali¹s pending decision
      appears to disregard such good advice.
      It makes no sense at all to revert to the Friday holiday. The world
      takes Saturday and Sunday off because it can afford to do so. We
      can¹t afford to take even one day off ‹ as it is, the work ethic
      hardly comes naturally to us. But if we must, why should it be
      Friday? If we were to shut shop on Fridays we would effectively
      reduce our working days vis-à-vis the rest of the world to four.
      Needless to say, the loss would be ours entirely for we are dependent
      on the West for trade and business and not the other way round.
      This decision also runs counter to the desperately rational decisions
      taken so far by General Pervez Musharraf and his Finance Minister
      Shaukat Aziz to set the economy right and align its priorities with
      those of our critical trade and aid partners in the West. In fact it
      will lend credence to the fears of the domestic business and
      international community that the assurances held out by General
      Musharraf of a continuity of economic policies under Mir Zafarullah
      Jamali are about to go up in a puff of smoke.
      Why make such a political concession in such a critical area of the
      economy? If General Musharraf could resist this sort of irrational
      pressure after he took over, why should Mr Jamali trip over himself
      to butter up the irrational sections of society so readily? He should
      realise that this not a small price to pay in exchange for the
      dubious support of the MMA. It is capitulation from Day-One. If he
      yields ground now, he will not be able to stand firm in the future on
      his promise to stay the course on the economy. *
      Inside or outside?
      This issue also compels us to take another look at the broader
      context of the MMA¹s future role. A powerful section of the military
      junta and the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-QA) leadership thinks
      that there is merit in having the religious parties ³spitting inside
      the tent rather than outside². This is based on the argument that the
      MMA can be bribed and cajoled and threatened to be a ³reasonable²
      partner sharing in the spoils of power and patronage ³inside the
      tent² rather be left outside the tent in a sullen and hostile mood
      that could lead to a unstable polity. As insiders, apparently the
      burden of governance will soften the mullahs¹ stance and make them
      more flexible. This sort of thinking has nudged the PML-QA to once
      again approach the MMA for its support in parliament after the MQM¹s
      threat to pull out of its alliance with the PML-QA in Islamabad.
      But this reasoning flies against the evidence of history. When the
      mullahs have been sitting inside the tent, their influence has been
      felt outside the tent. In fact, that is exactly how they have made
      insidious encroachments on the organs of the state and bound civil
      society into a cultural straightjacket. Whenever they have been
      conceded inches, they have turned around and demanded yards. They
      asked Bhutto to yield on Friday and the Ahmedis and alcohol. He did.
      But they still demanded his head and got it. Then they sat with
      General Zia and Islamised state and society. Later they joined hands
      with Nawaz in 1990 and forced him to pass the Shariah constitutional
      amendment and followed it up by having ³riba² declared as un-Islamic.
      The concessions that the MMA will demand if it is allowed inside the
      tent will play havoc with the domestic and international policies of
      the Musharraf regime. But if these are denied to them, they will
      threaten to walk out and destabilise the government. Far better,
      therefore, to fight with them in opposition, keep them at bay and
      show the acceptable and moderate face of Pakistan to the rest of the
      world. *



      The Daily Star (Dhaka)
      2 December 2002

      Fascination with force: The iron in our souls

      Praful Bidwai, writes from New Delhi

      They are fundamentally mistaken in looking for military shortcuts,
      technical quick-fixes or draconian laws. This betrays a deeply
      cynical mindset fascinated or smitten by force. Much human progress
      has been achieved through democratic engagement with different groups
      and institutions, not through brute force. We now rely excessively on
      coercion for everything -- from border security to domestic safety.
      This is counterproductive. Ultimately, force-based approaches damage
      the very object they are meant to protect.

      No recent incident of sexual assault has shocked the Indian
      public and Parliament as powerfully as the rape of a Delhi medical

      The media has commendably highlighted the larger issue of sexual
      harassment and growing insecurity among women. The debate also
      underscores the gender-insensitivity of the police and the need to
      amend sexual harassment laws. This should provoke deep reflection.
      However, a shrill note has crept into the discussion, with
      several women MPs demanding capital punishment for rapists. In the
      past, only Hindutva arch-conservatives like Mr L.K. Advani used to
      call for this.

      The sentiment favouring tighter rape laws has spread. A recent
      Hindustan Times survey of 311 Delhi women finds that 29 percent want
      rape to be punished with life imprisonment, 43 percent with
      castration, and a frightful 71 percent with death.

      Growing numbers of people are indisputably losing confidence in the
      efficacy of the legal system as regards punishing sexual assault.
      Sixtyeight percent believe the police "aren't doing enough".

      Such sentiments contrast with the smugness of Delhi's police
      commissioner who says, terrible as rapes are, "in a large city, they
      happen". The VHP-RSS line, advocated from Jaipur, that only a
      conservative "dress code" can protect women, also stands discredited.

      However, capital punishment for rape may be a cure worse than the
      disease. Rape is a serious violation of a woman's body and her
      fundamental right to her person. But it is not as vile as murder.

      Murder involves the extinction of human life -- with a terrible
      finality. Yet, even murder should not be punished with death. For
      nobody has the right to take away what they didn't create. Human life
      is too precious to be snuffed out. Capital punishment doesn't deter
      murder. Executing an innocent person causes irreversible harm.

      That's why the European Union has abolished the death penalty. And
      there is a strong movement for scrapping it in the otherwise
      punishment-obsessed US.

      Capital punishment for rape violates the ethical principle of
      proportionality, accepted even in the conduct of war. Just punishment
      must not be disproportionate to the severity of the offence.

      Many of those who demand capital punishment for rape draw not on
      ethics, but on mystical notions about the "sacred" feminine body --
      like a mother-goddess' or sati's. Its "desecration" is equated with

      The same concept operated in Jhajjar, where VHP mahants put a cow's
      life higher than a man's.

      This proposition reeks of hypocrisy, especially when advanced by
      Hindutva supporters who falsely claim that tradition treats women on
      a par with, if not higher than, men.

      A cursory glance at the Manusmriti shows this is untrue. Women in
      ancient societies were typically treated as objects and adjuncts of
      men -- mothers, wives, daughters --, not independent individuals in
      their own right.

      India is no exception to this. It remains one of the most
      male-supremacist and patriarchal societies anywhere.

      What's left of the argument for stronger, tougher, punishment for
      rape is the idea of deterrence -- the view that stiff penalties will
      deter people from committing crimes. Experience shows tough laws
      don't deter nearly enough. The Narcotics Act (minimum penalty, 10
      years imprisonment) is a case in point. So is TADA.

      Rape, feminists rightly argue, is a "structural crime" originating in
      complex social phenomena. Hanging one or ten convicts will not end
      it. There is also another complication: the acquittal rate will
      sharply rise if penalties get extreme.

      The central issue is how to bring rapists to book and reduce the
      rates of acquittal (currently about 75 percent). Three reforms are
      vital. First, the definition of "sexual intercourse" in Section 375
      of IPC must be amended to include all forms of penetration as well as
      marital rape.

      Second, the status of the rape victim's statement must be
      significantly raised within the evidence law. She need not prove that
      the sexual act lacked her consent -- by, for instance, showing marks
      of physical resistance. Nor should her antecedents be open to

      Questioning antecedents is a nasty way of casting suspicion on her
      character and humiliating her. The victim must be encouraged to
      report the offence: after all, over 90 percent of rapists are not
      strangers, but known to the victim -- often, her relatives.

      Third, as far as possible, women judges should hear rape cases, and
      policewomen should investigate them. This will reduce the victim's
      trauma and help her speak up. The victim should be allowed to record
      her testimony in a judge's chamber, without having to appear in a
      full courtroom. Counselling should be mandatory.

      These measures must be supplemented by gender-sensitisation
      programmes for the police. Women's groups and counsellors must be
      involved to encourage the victim to overcome the stigma of rape.

      Today, going to a police station and facing hostile and wolfish
      glances or remarks from policemen is a soul-killing experience even
      for self-confident professional women.

      All this must change. Such reforms will greatly improve the
      investigation, trial, and conviction for rape. They have far fewer
      pitfalls than drastic measures which prescribe extreme penalties. The
      changes are part of the general charter of reform of our crime
      control and justice delivery systems -- themselves part of our larger
      democratic agenda.

      However, many people don't seem to believe in systemic reform, even
      the possibility of reform. They prefer harsh, draconian, coercive
      solutions, maximising the repressive power of the state while
      disempowering the ordinary citizen.

      They are fundamentally mistaken in looking for military shortcuts,
      technical quick-fixes or draconian laws. This betrays a deeply
      cynical mindset fascinated or smitten by force.

      Much human progress has been achieved through democratic engagement
      with different groups and institutions, not through brute force. We
      now rely excessively on coercion for everything -- from border
      security to domestic safety.

      This is counterproductive. Ultimately, force-based approaches damage
      the very object they are meant to protect.

      Praful Bidwai is an eminent Indian columnist.



      The New York Times
      December 2, 2002

      Poor in India Starve as Surplus Wheat Rots

      HANNA, India ‹ Surplus from this year's wheat harvest, bought by the
      government from farmers, sits moldering in muddy fields here in
      Punjab State. Some of the previous year's wheat surplus sits
      untouched, too, and the year's before that, and the year's before

      To the south, in the neighboring state of Rajasthan, villagers ate
      boiled leaves or discs of bread made from grass seeds in late summer
      and autumn because they could not afford to buy wheat. One by one,
      children and adults ‹ as many as 47 in all ‹ wilted away from
      hunger-related causes, often clutching pained stomachs.

      "Sometimes, we ate half a bread," said Phoolchand, a laborer whose
      2-year-old daughter died during that period. "Sometimes, a whole

      More than two decades after a "green" revolution made India, the
      world's second-most-populous country, self-sufficient in grain
      production, half of India's children are malnourished. About 350
      million Indians go to bed hungry every night. Pockets of starvation
      deaths, like those in the Baran district of Rajasthan, have surfaced
      regularly in recent years.

      Yet the government is sitting on wheat surpluses ‹ now at about 53
      million metric tons ‹ that would stretch to the moon and back at
      least twice if all the bags were lined up. Persistent scarcity
      surrounded by such bounty has become a source of shame for a nation
      that has taken pride in feeding itself.

      Advocates for the poor and those pushing for economic reforms ask how
      a country can justify hoarding so much excess when so many of its
      people regularly go hungry.

      "It's scandalous," said Jean Drèze, an economist who has been helping
      to document starvation deaths for a Supreme Court case brought by the
      People's Union for Civil Liberties, an advocacy group, to compel the
      government to use the surplus to relieve hunger.

      The reason, experts and officials agree, is the economics ‹ and
      particularly the politics ‹ of food in India, a country that has
      modernized on many fronts but that remains desperately poor.

      Critics say the central government, led for the last four years by
      the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, has catered to
      political allies and powerful farm lobbies in a few key states by
      buying more and more grain from farmers at higher and higher prices.
      At the same time, it has been responding to pressure from
      international lenders by curbing food subsidies to consumers.

      One result has been huge stockpiles going to waste, while higher
      prices for food and inefficient distribution leave basic items like
      bread, a staple of the rural poor diet, out of reach for many. Even
      though the surplus is supposed to be distributed to the poor,
      politics and corruption often limit their access.

      "It's not an economic issue anymore ‹ it's a straightforward
      political issue," said Jairam Ramesh, the senior economic adviser to
      the Congress Party, the country's main opposition party.

      Answering such criticism, Asok Kumar Mohapatra, who was until
      recently a joint secretary with the Department of Food and Public
      Distribution, said any system trying to feed a billion people was apt
      to have inefficiencies. "It's easy to find fault with this kind of
      organization," he said. But he, too, acknowledged the politics
      involved. "The simple thing is they have lobbies," he said of the
      farmers, "and lobbies work everywhere."

      Both the glut in Punjab and the deprivation in Rajasthan reflect a
      government in transition between a quasi-socialist past and a
      free-market future, and one that at the local level especially seems
      deeply ambivalent about its obligations to its poorest citizens.

      After a devastating famine in 1943 that killed three million people
      and humbling food scarcities in the 1960's, Indian central
      governments have been determined to ensure that the country could
      feed itself.

      A nationwide system was set up to distribute subsidized food via a
      network of "ration shops" that today number 454,000. At the same
      time, India made great advances in increasing its productivity, by
      developing high-yield seeds and investing in infrastructure, like

      The green agricultural revolution quadrupled staple food production,
      from 50 million metric tons in 1950 to 209 million metric tons by
      The fruits of those efforts can be witnessed nowhere more vividly
      than in Punjab. Today it is India's only state (along, perhaps, with
      neighboring Haryana, which was carved from Punjab), that derives more
      than 40 percent of its income from agriculture; until recently it had
      the highest per capita income in India. It has some of the country's
      best roads and, with only 2 percent of the country's land, grows 55
      percent of its food.

      While farmers in poorer states have either no grain surplus or no
      mechanism by which to sell it to the government, Punjab has 1,600
      wholesale grain markets, including the one here in Khanna, the
      largest in Asia.

      But the same system that has built up Punjab has also run into
      trouble on almost every front, and even the farmers here know it
      cannot last.

      Over the past four years, even as advisory committees recommended
      stabilizing or lowering the support prices paid to farmers, prices
      instead went up, and up ‹ to about $129 a metric ton, 2,200 pounds,
      for wheat this year from about $99 in 1997.

      Punjab farmers, eager to cash in, are farming so much rice and wheat
      that they are depleting the state's water and soil, creating a
      long-term threat to the country's agricultural self-sufficiency.

      "We know every year we take the water level down," said Bachittar
      Singh, 67, a farmer with 125 acres near here. "But what alternative
      do we have?"

      Then there is the effect of such policies on the price of grain
      itself. The high prices paid to farmers by the government have
      inflated consumer prices, making it harder for the poor to buy grain.
      In some cases, the government, wanting to keep market prices in India
      high, has exported grain at lower prices than it was selling it to
      its citizens.

      By the mid-1990's, India was spending close to 1 percent of its gross
      domestic product on food subsidies, with much of that lost to waste
      and theft. Under strong pressure from the World Bank and other
      international lenders to curb spending, the government decided in
      1997 that only those below the poverty line would be able to buy
      heavily subsidized food. Everyone else would have to buy it only
      slightly below market price.

      But with politics, indifference and corruption conspiring to limit
      the number of those identified as poor, the amount of food being
      bought from ration shops dropped significantly and stockpiles soared.
      The problem is compounded by the fact that even many of those
      classified as poor are unable to buy the subsidized grain because of
      inaccessible ration shops or dealers who steal the grain for sale on
      the black market.

      Today the government has run out of warehouse space and has taken to
      storing the grain in fields rented from farmers. A recent report
      found that it was spending more on storage than on agriculture, rural
      development, irrigation and flood control combined.

      Some of the wheat, often protected only by porous jute bags and black
      plastic tarpaulins, is rotten; even official estimates concede that
      200,000 tons are "damaged," with the real total probably far higher.
      Inspectors have found worm-infested wheat at schools where the state
      is supposed to provide free lunch.

      It is about 400 miles from the abundance here to the barren, scrubby
      landscape of Baran, in the southeast corner of Rajasthan. This year
      was the third year of drought, and the most brutal, with rainfall
      down by 70 percent.

      In the village of Swaans, isolated by jolting dirt roads and dry
      riverbeds, one man, Gobrilal, lost an 8-year-old son to hunger this
      fall. He sat recently beneath the shade of a thatched shelter,
      surrounded by children who were all rib cages and swollen bellies,
      and recounted two months of agony.

      On good days they ate once a day, but many days they ate nothing.
      Gobrilal's son began vomiting, even while asking for food, and died
      two days later. "If we had money," his father said listlessly, "we
      would have bought him wheat so he wouldn't have died."



      [Reports on Meeting on the Danger of War in South Asia and the
      Politics of Communal Violence and a Concert for Peace in California
      on November 2.]

      o o o

      A Successful Meeting on the Danger of War in South Asia and the
      Politics of Communal Violence

      On the occasion of the 18th anniversary of state-organized massacres
      of the Sikhs in Delhi in 1984, Indian Progressive Study Group, Los
      Angeles organized a discussion meeting titled "War Clouds and
      Communal Violence: What Role must People Play?" The meeting took
      place in the University of Southern California, Los Angeles on
      November 2. It brought together a large number of students,
      professionals, and activists form different organizations to
      deliberate on the politics of communal violence and war. Against the
      backdrop of ongoing violence and intrigues in Gujarat and within the
      context of the rising war fever in South Asia, the meeting focused on
      the sources of these dangers, and how people can seize initiatives on
      the questions of peace, security and rights.

      The meeting was followed with an equally successful concert for peace
      in South Asia that featured Ustad Shujaat Khan, an eminent sitarist
      from India and Ustad Tari Khan, a distinguished tabla player from
      Pakistan. Under the banner titled "War is not an option", the
      peace-concert was organized by a number of organizations including
      the Indian Progressive Study Group, Los Angeles, the Pakistan Student
      Association (USC), South Asia Forum (USC), Southern California Indian
      Americans (USC), 2B Productions and South Asia Network.

      The discussion meeting began with two presentations providing
      information on the massacres in Delhi 18 years ago, and the ongoing
      violence and intrigues in Gujarat today. The presentations by the
      researchers with IPSG, LA sketched out the disquieting trend of the
      politics of riots. They showed that these were organized crimes
      carried out with full complicity of the highest echelons of state and
      political parties, that the alleged perpetrators have never been
      brought to justice despite governmental changes, and that the victims
      are yet to receive justice, compensation and rehabilitation. The
      presentation on Gujarat concluded with a call for stepping up the
      struggle for justice when the election mania is threatening to
      sideline the concerns of justice and rehabilitation of the victims.

      In her presentation, Sonali Kolhatkar, the host of the morning show
      at KPFK, a Pacifica Radio station, spoke on the danger implied by the
      pre-emptive strike and notions such as regime change. She explained
      how these notions are at variance with the established norms in
      international relations, and elaborated on the US plans to emerge as
      the sole global power by exercising its supremacy over Asia.

      The concluding presentation focused on the role people can play to
      assure security and rights for themselves. Explaining how the
      politics of communal violence has served to legitimize the existence
      of successive governments, it highlighted the urgency of organizing
      and uniting around the demand for open investigation and punishment
      of the guilty. Speaking on the danger of war, the speaker pointed out
      that the danger of war in South Asia is intricately tied up with the
      rivalry over the conquest of Asia - a rivalry that has drawn all big
      powers as well as the regional powers such as India, Pakistan etc.
      into a complex series of collusions and collisions amongst
      themselves. With war becoming an active part of governmental agenda,
      the presentation underscored the necessity for people to fight for
      the creation of anti-war governments. By ending people¹s
      marginalization from the political affairs of their own countries and
      of the world, such endeavors hold the key to ushering in peace and
      security, he concluded.

      The presentations were followed by a vigorous discussion on these
      topics that also brought out the inadequacy of the existing political
      process that prevents people from having control over their elected
      representatives or in setting and carrying out an agenda that is
      beneficial to them. The meeting ended with a discussion on how the
      projects of documentation, open investigation and truth commissions
      can be pushed forward, and the need for drawing lessons from similar
      activities across the globe.

      o o o

      Concert for Peace in South-Asia held in Univ. of Southern California,
      Los Angeles
      Taking a Firm Stand Against War

      The South-Asian classical music concert on November 2 was not just
      another concert. A tastefully decorated banner right at the entrance
      to the Bing Theater, University of Southern California made sure
      nobody could escape the fact that it was a cultural gathering with a
      purpose ­ to emphatically reject the path of war.

      The concert was organized within the context of unabated war tensions
      in South Asia, and against the backdrop of the rising threat of war
      in Asia. With war becoming an active part of the agenda of every
      government, this overwhelmingly successful cultural evening was a
      bold declaration: PEACE is NOT a MERE OPTION ­ IT IS A NECESSITY!
      This was yet another celebration of the collective desire of people
      for peace, and their initiatives to secure it.

      The organizers of the concert were drawn from a cross-section of
      groups involved in South Asian matters. These included the Indian
      Progressive Study Group (Los Angeles), the Pakistan Student
      Association (USC), South Asia Forum (USC), Southern California Indian
      Americans (USC), 2B Productions, Inc. (based in New York), South Asia
      Network, and others. The organizers plan to hold similar concerts in
      other cities as well.

      The evening¹s concert was a recital by Ustad Shujaat Husain Khan, an
      eminent sitarist from India, and by Ustad Tari Khan, a distinguished
      tabla player from Pakistan. Both musicians delighted the audience for
      over three hours with a variety of compositions, punctuated by Ustad
      Shujaat Khan¹s melodious singing. Despite their stylistic
      differences, it was sublime to hear the finesse of sitar playing
      blend with the vigor of tabla drumming, and rise to a crescendo in
      unison. It was a musical reminder that our unity transcends our many

      The mood of the participants was amply captured in the tumultuous
      response they gave to the passionate call by one of the organizers
      rejecting war as an option. Refusing to take sides on the
      self-serving clash of ambitions of the ruling circle in South-Asia
      and worldwide, it was a call for strengthening the bonds of unity,
      goodwill, friendship, and mutual assistance between peoples.

      There are many who benefit from waging war and form war preparations.
      It is not a coincidence that attacks on people¹s rights, social
      cutbacks and privatization have gone hand in hand with military
      preparations everywhere. Those who benefit from war will lead the
      world down that path, unless those who benefit from peace take charge
      and change the course of events. This peace concert was a small
      contribution to the rising tide of such endeavors.



      Sexual Violence in the South Asian Youth Community
      A Study Initiated at the University of California at Berkeley, Spring 2002



      Date: Mon, 2 Dec 2002 16:40:51 +0530

      Dear friends,

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      tirelessly to light the lamp of love.

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      Book Review
      Name of the Book: Communal Rage in Secular India
      Author: Rafiq Zakaria
      Publisher: Popular Prakashan, Mumbai
      Year: 2002
      Pages: 248
      ISBN: 81-7991-070-9
      Price: Rs. 350
      Reviewed by: Yoginder Sikand

      As home to a bewildering variety of religions, castes and ethnic
      groups, India has no choice but to be secular, the alternative being
      interminable civil war and uncontrollable destruction. In recent
      years the marked rise of communal and fascist movements in the
      country have wrought unimaginable havoc in the country, causing the
      deaths of tens of thousands of innocents and threatening to set India
      against itself. At a time when the logic of communalism has won
      millions of adherents, the need to state the obvious—that India
      cannot survive without secularism—is particularly urgent.
      In this book, veteran scholar-activist Rafiq Zakaria provides
      a grim picture of the way India is heading, driven by communal
      passions and hatreds, down the path of doom. He begins with a chapter
      on the recent macabre events in Gujarat, which has witnessed one of
      the most brutal pogroms in recent history. He puts together various
      reports to trace the sequence of events. He writes that for years now
      Hindutva groups have being spreading hatred against Christians and
      Muslims in Gujarat, creating an environment conducive to
      inter-communal conflict. He refers to conflicting reports about the
      burning of the train compartment at Godhra, which lit the spark that
      set off a trail of killings in the state that took well over a
      thousand lives. He discusses the various theories put forward, that
      the train was set ablaze by local Muslims after a Muslim girl was
      kidnapped by VHP goons or that it was actually done by VHP men
      themselves, as suggested by a former Gujarat Chief Minister, but says
      that the truth might actually never be known. He describes in great
      detail the killings of Muslims that followed in the wake of Godhra,
      led by Hindutva mobs in league with sections of the police, the
      administration and with the connivance of the state government. He
      suggests that if the advocates of Hindutva fascism are not stopped in
      their tracks, and if Gujarat is allowed to repeat itself, India might
      soon be up in flames.
      The remainder of the book consists of a discussion of the
      logic of fascism, in all the various guises that it comes in India
      today. Hindu and Muslim fascists, Zakaria argues, are both impelled
      by the same anti-democratic impulse. They claim to speak on behalf of
      their own communities, while, in actual fact, they are their worst
      enemies, causing murder and mayhem in the name of religion. He
      convincingly argues that just as the Muslim League in pre-Partition
      India, Hindutva fascists also subscribe to the pernicious two-nation
      theory and to the thesis of Hindus and Muslims being two separate
      nations, forever unable and unwilling to live together, doomed to
      perpetual conflict. Zakaria issues a grim reminder of the chilling
      horrors of religious fascism, such as in Afghanistan, Pakistan and
      Kashmir, and argues that Indians must learn from these lessons before
      it is too late.
      Zakaria urges us to a reconsideration of our own histories in
      order to challenge the logic of communalism. He appeals to us to
      recall aspects of our pasts that both Hindu as well as Muslim
      communalists would have us conveniently forget—a tradition of
      synthesis and harmony, represented by people like Nanak and Kabir,
      who strove to bring Hindus and Muslims and others to recognize each
      other’s worth as fellow human beings. He insists on the urgent need
      for us to recover liberal and liberative elements in each of our
      religious traditions that can be used as resources against religious
      fascism, both Hindu and Muslim, and thereby deny Hindu and Islamist
      militants the right to claim to speak on behalf of their religions
      and communities. No longer can secularists continue to deny the
      importance of religion, he insists. The task before all concerned
      Indians, he suggests, is to reclaim religion from the hands of the
      merchants of religious terror, and to articulate new visions of each
      religion that, rooted in an authentic spirituality, can help bring
      people of different faiths to work together against inter-communal
      Not everyone would agree with everything that Zakaria has to say. For
      instance, his uncritical use of the terms ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’
      suggests an understanding of Hindus and Muslims as two well-defined,
      homogenous and monolithic communities, devoid of internal class,
      caste, regional or sectarian divisions, which is hardly the case.
      Then again, in his understanding of communalism Zakaria seems to give
      little attention to the complex caste-class underpinnings of
      inter-communal conflict, thus tending to place the phenomenon in a
      sociological vacuum. Dalits, for their part, might take issue with
      his glorification of Gandhi. Radicals might see his prescription—true
      religion to counter religious fascism—as only further compounding the
      malaise. But, all said and done, this book is a pointed reminder of
      the grave threats that we are faced with today, and in that it well
      serves its purpose.



      Distributed by Orient Longman <http://www.orientlongman.com>

      Edited by P.K. Datta

      Hardback / 210pp / ISBN 81-7824-046-7 / Rs 395 / South Asia Rights /
      Copublished with Anthem Press, London

      The ten critical essays in this book examine Tagore¹s best-known
      novel in relation to the complex nature of colonial modernity. Taking
      into account Tagore¹s critique of religious nationalism as well as
      the historical context of his novel, the essayists show how The Home
      and the World throws up questions about gender, nationalism, and the
      novel as a form.

      Gender-related issues are elaborated in terms of the creation of
      modern selfhood, the problems in representing the Œwoman-as-nation¹,
      and crises of masculinity. At the same time, there are analyses of
      the many implications and ramifications of Tagore¹s critique of Hindu
      nationalism, specifically its relation to his anti-colonial vision.

      This ŒCompanion¹ will interest all those who study the Indian novel,
      post-coloniality, gender representations, and nationalism. Written by
      highly reputed bilingual scholars in the disciplines of history and
      literary criticism, this book is an important contribution to
      interdisciplinary cultural studies of the Indian subcontinent.

      P.K.Datta, Tanika Sarkar, Supriya Chaudhuri, Tapobrata Ghosh, Shohini
      Ghosh, Michael Sprinker, Malini Bhattacharya, Sumit Sarkar, Jasodhara
      Bagchi, Jayanti Chattopadhyay


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