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SACW | 2 April 03

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | 2 April, 2003 #1. Bangladesh: (Dis) Appearing Women in Nationalist Narratives Interview with Dr. Geoffrey Davis (Bina D Costa)
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2003
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      South Asia Citizens Wire | 2 April, 2003

      #1. Bangladesh: (Dis) Appearing Women in Nationalist Narratives
      Interview with Dr. Geoffrey Davis (Bina D'Costa)
      #2. Pakistan: A new foreign policy? (M B Naqvi)
      #3. India: Interview with Khushwant Singh (Sachidananda Murthy)
      + Book Extract - The menace of fascism
      #4. India: Resisting regimentation : Githa Hariharan re her new book
      In Times of Siege (Anuradha Roy)
      #5. India: Hindutva and Dalits (Ram Puniyani)
      #6. Symposium at Michigan State University "Hindu Nationalism and the
      Future of Indian Polity" - MSU
      (April 5, 2003)
      #7. Sri Lankan and other South Asian Women Protest Against War in Iraq



      [June 1, 2002]

      (Dis) Appearing Women in Nationalist Narratives
      Interview with Dr. Geoffrey Davis

      Conducted by Bina D'Costa , the Australian National University

      Historically the use of rape in war as a genocide strategy that aimed
      at destroying the racial distinctiveness of a community is located in
      many other regional examples, including the Bangladesh case. Women
      (and their bodies) had been occupied as the medium through which men
      concretised the pact of violence, but, because they were not simply
      the things to be looted and plundered, but also subjects, they
      retained the memory of this rape and depredation. In this sense, the
      meaning of Birangona emerges through a very significant shift (but
      not new) as the object of, as well as the witness to violence. A
      complex combination of religion, culture, identity, manipulation of
      history and memory play a significant part in exploiting the
      powerless, in this instance, marginalised women. Even with women's
      obvious importance in the national image-making, women's exclusion
      from the official history is apparent. They also allegorise the
      necessity of a new critical approach within the gendered analysis of
      nation-building discourse.

      With this in mind, I started my interviews, collecting stories: of
      muktijodhya (freedom-fighters), social workers and Birangona (rape
      survivors) themselves. Documents pointed to a certain physician, Dr.
      Geoffrey Davis who had been working in the war-torn Bangladesh in
      1972. The following is his interview which I conducted in Sydney
      partly at his residence and later on in a Portuguese restaurant
      nearby on June 1, 2002. This interview demonstrates the need to
      document micro-narratives, the stories of men and women who had been
      involved in our nation-building project. While many of us are
      immersed in petty politics our national narrative is being affected
      by the historical amnesia.

      The readers should bear in mind that Dr. Davis has been remembering
      with my inquiries what happened almost 32 years ago. Therefore, in
      some places the responses may seem blurred.

      Dr. Geoffrey Davis, a Medical Graduate from Sydney, NSW, Australia
      worked in Bangladesh from March, for about six months in 1972. He
      worked under the auspices of International Planned Parenthood, the
      UNFPA and the WHO. He begins by remembering that no particular
      organization wanted to claim him as one of their own due to the
      extremely sensitive nature of his work.

      Dr. Davis remembers, 'I was trying to save of what have survived of
      the children born during the time that the West Pakistani army had
      Bengali women incarcerated in their commissariats. And all of the
      ones who had not come to term, our brief was to endeavor them to
      abort the fetuses so that they didn't bear children as diseased and
      undernourished as was the case. And that we succeeded in doing. The
      numbers of everything in Bangladesh were huge of course but by the
      time we got there a lot of them had been killed or they have been
      repatriated to their families. That horrified everybody. We had to do
      something. And tried to sort it out. There was one other guy from
      England. I've lost track of him since. It was grotesque.'

      B: Did you volunteer to go?

      GD: Yes, I did.

      B: What made you interested to volunteer for this service?

      GD: I had a technique for terminating advanced pregnancy. I received
      training mainly from the UK. However, I usually terminated under 30
      weeks pregnancy.

      B: Where in Dhaka did you work?

      GD: I worked at the clinic in Dhanmondi. I also worked in most of the
      other towns in what was left of hospitals. What I was doing
      mainlyŠthe numbers were so hugeŠI set out to train people in those
      towns to do what I was doing and as soon as they got the hang of it,
      I will move on to the next place.

      B: For the purpose of the record will you please specify what exactly
      were you doing over there?

      GD: The women's rehabilitation organization had just been formed
      before I was there and Justice Sobhan was in charge of that. They
      were endeavoring to keep all the pregnant women together somewhere
      safe and all those who were feasible we were to abort and the others
      who had delivered we were to get their children to International
      Social Services (ISS)Š

      B: Do you remember the others who worked with you at that time?

      GD: Justice Sobhan headed the War Rehabilitation Organization and the
      main active person was Von SchuckŠI can't remember his first name. I
      think his wife's name was Mary. They helped with finances. The names
      of the Bengali officials I don't rememberŠbesides, nobody wanted to
      know about this historyŠ

      B: What makes you say that?

      GD: Oh, because it involved abortion and adoption of babies. And one
      aspect was that West Pakistan was a commonwealth country and all the
      officers were trained in England. It was hideously embarrassing for
      the British government. The West Pakistani officials didn't get why
      there was so much fuss about that. I interviewed a lot of them.
      They were in a prison in Comilla and in pretty miserable
      circumstances (laughterŠwhich served them right). And they were
      saying, 'What are they going on about? What were we supposed to have
      done? It was a war!'

      B: How did they justify raping the women?

      GD: Urghh! They had orders of a kind or instruction from Tikka Khan
      to the effect that a good Muslim will fight anybody except his
      father. So what they had to do was to impregnate as many Bengali
      women as they could. That was the theory behind it.

      B: Why did they have to impregnate the women? Did they tell you?

      GD: Yes, so there would be a whole generation of children in East
      Pakistan that would be born with the blood from the West. That's
      what they said.

      B: Numerous documents from Pakistan still suggest that the numbers of
      rapes had been grossly exaggerated. Do you think that's true?

      GD: No, noŠthey did. Probably the numbers are very conservative
      compared with what they did. The descriptions of how they captured
      towns were very interesting. They'd keep the infantry back and put
      artillery ahead and they would shell the hospitals and the schools.
      And that caused absolute chaos in the town. And then the infantry
      would go in and begin to segregate the women. Apart from little
      children, all those were sexually matured would be segregated while
      the rest of the infantry tiedŠ the rest of the town, which would
      involve shooting everybody who was involved with the East Pakistani
      government or the Awami League. And then the women would be put in
      the compound under guard and made available to the troops. It was
      most hideous. I know of no precedent anywhere in the world ever.
      Nonetheless, that's how it had happened.

      B: Did you have any conversation with the men and women or the social
      workers at the Clinic about their experiences of the war? Especially
      to the women about rape camps in particular?

      GD: Yes, we used to hear about it all the time. Some of the stories
      they told us were appalling. Being raped again and again and again.
      By large Pathan soldiers. You couldn't believe that anybody would do
      All the rich and pretty ones were kept for the officers and all the
      other ones were distributed among the other ranks. And the women had
      it really rough. They didn't get enough to eat. When they got sick,
      they got no treatment. Lot of them died in those camps. There was an
      air of disbelief about the whole thing. That no body could credit
      that it really happened! But the evidence clearly showed that it did

      B: Yes, I see what you mean. Because you know I myself over the last
      four years have tried to locate the women. The numbers were huge and
      one would expect to find a lot of them. But I myself could only find
      a very limited number of women.

      GD: Yes, there had been lot of denial. And they just blocked it out.
      That happens.

      B: Was it different at that time, immediately after the war? Did
      anyone share their experiences?

      GD: No, no body wanted to talk about it. You could ask questions and
      get an answer. Quite often it would be that they couldn't remember.
      And the men didn't want to talk about it at all! Because according to
      them the women had been defiled (my emphasis). And women's status in
      Bangladesh was pretty low anyway. If they had been defiled they had
      no status at all. They might as well be dead. And men killed them.
      I couldn't believe it. That is so alien to a western society! It's so

      B: You couldn't obviously speak Bengali. Was it difficult to communicate?

      GD: No, I had an interpreter. A man. They got fairly organized very
      quickly. They provided me with a Landrover, a driver and a field
      officer who was also my interpreter. The driver was Mumtaz. But I
      can't remember the FO's name... a government official. An amazing
      number of them speak English. I didn't have any difficulty that I
      faced in Tunisia (Dr. Davis also worked extensively with the Tunisian
      population policy program).

      B: In your opinion, why do you think the women remained silent?

      GD: Horror, you see. They all had nightmares. You never get over it!
      A lot of them had tremendous anxiety. Because we were foreign and
      they didn't trust anybody who was foreign. They didn't know what we
      were going to do to themŠ

      B: Did you visit any areas where the rape camps were situated?

      GD: Rape camps had been disbanded and the Rehabilitation Organization
      was trying to get the women back to their village or town. But what
      was happening in a lot of instances was that they'd get a wife back
      to the husband and he would kill her. Because she had been defiled.
      And in some cases they didn't want to know about what happened. And
      there were bodies in Jamuna right up to the distant parts of the
      country. And it was that what got people excited in Europe in what
      was going on.

      B: Do you remember the women? How many you were performing abortion on?

      GD: It's hard to recall the exact statistics. But about hundred a day.

      B: In Dhaka or in other parts of Bangladesh?

      GD: It is difficult to put a figure in it. About 100 a day in Dhaka
      and in variable numbers in lot of other towns. And some would go to

      B: Do you recall the percentage? For example, class wise, religion
      wise how many women you saw?

      GD: It was right across the classes. We didn't care what they were
      religion-wiseŠwe had to get them out of the trouble.
      In general, of course the rich ones were able to leave the country as
      soon as there was an armistice and go to Calcutta to get abortion and
      they did thatŠ

      B: Were the women asked if they wanted to have abortion? Were they
      given the choice?

      GD: Yes. Certainly. All the women we received wanted to have
      abortions. Anybody who didn't want to have it we didn't see. On the
      other hand, the women, who had delivered, handed the newborn babies
      over to the rehabilitation organization. And that's how they got to
      the ISS and other countries. How many, I have no idea.

      B: I apologize for probing further into this. But I am really
      interested in the choice or consent involved in the rehabilitation
      program. Do you recall women crying or being visibly upset during
      the abortion procedure?

      GD: No, none of them cried. They were very impressive. They didn't
      cry at all. They just stayed very quiet. Oh, thank God! That made it
      easier for us!

      B: You mentioned that you only provided treatment to the women who
      chose to abort their babies. I just want to return to that point.
      Who did the women give their consent to: the involved doctors, nurses
      or social workers about terminating their pregnancies?

      GD: Oh, Yes.

      B: Did they have to sign a paper?

      GD: I think they had to sign a document of consent. I am not sure
      though. The government indirectly organized that. It was organized
      largely by the Rehabilitation Organization. And the women who were
      helping with that. No body got near the clinic who haven't agreed to
      have an abortion, that's for sure. So, that was not an issue.

      B: Did you perform abortion till the very end? Wouldn't that be at a
      stage of advanced pregnancy?

      GD: Yes, I terminated pregnancy for all six months I had been there.
      They had such a degree of malnutrition that a term fetus of forty
      weeks was about the same size as 18 weeks anywhere else.

      B: Do you recollect the women or the children receiving any kind of counseling?

      GD: Counseling, yes with the rehabilitation organization. There were
      women social workers who talked to them. I don't think it helped
      them. Because they were all malnourished, had horrible deficiency
      diseasesŠand they all had venereal diseases of one kind or another.
      It was pretty dreadful. The country had very little resources,
      medicines and facilities to deal with this problem. And the limited
      resources were kept for the war veterans, etc. There was not much
      left for the women. We had to bring our own stuff in.

      B: Where did you get your supplies? Was it enough?

      GD: From England. I was told to bring my own supply. I also took two
      sets of instruments and the antibiotics.

      B: Have you used only these two sets of instruments for six months to
      terminate pregnancy?

      GD: Yes. The instruments in the local hospitals were destroyed and
      there wasn't much. And medicinal stuff was only for the wounded men.

      B: Was it medically safe?

      GD: Yes. It was lot less dangerous then going into term with all
      those diseases, particularly the younger ones.

      B: So you were involved in both the abortion program and the adoption?

      GD: Yes. But with regard to the adoption program, only in handing
      the babies over to the ISS. Any little ones, even up to toddlersŠ
      That was all a bit much. But the numbers involved having abortion or
      newborns were huge. The compound where the women had been kept during
      the war must have been enormous. But they all had been disbanded by
      the time I got there.

      B: What about outside of Dhaka city, in the areas where you had been?
      What kinds of facilities were made available?

      GD: Hospitals and the Rehabilitation organizationŠI can't remember
      what it was called! The Bangladesh National Women's Rehabilitation
      Organization or something like that. That was operating in most of
      the large centers. And the numbers being done prior to me going there
      was negligible because no body wanted to do that. Most of the
      medical staff in the hospital thought it was illegal. However, I had
      a letter from the Secretary of the State, Rob Chowdhury authorizing
      my work there. It mentioned that anything I wanted to do was
      perfectly legal and they wee to give me all assistance. I can't find
      the letter now. It is probably somewhereŠLots of papers from
      BangladeshŠI thought it was important since I was never going to see
      anything like that ever again as long as I lived. So, I better keep
      It was very hard, horrific at that time.

      B: Did all the women generally agree to have abortion or give up
      their babies for adoption? Were any of them interested to keep the

      GD: WellŠa few of them didŠ

      B: Do you know what happened to them?

      GD: I have no idea. ISS was there to get as many babies as they
      could. Because there were less and less babies available for adoption
      in America and Western Europe and they wanted to get as many babies
      as they could get.

      B: International Social Services?

      GD: Yes. It's based in Washington DC. A major organization involved
      for adoption.

      B: What happened to the mothers?

      GD: After abortion or delivery they stayed for a little while and
      then went off to the accommodation provided by the Relief and
      Rehabilitation Center. They could stay there for as long as they
      liked. And then the women went into training programs. I saw a few of
      those. People making clothes on a promotional basis. In Dhaka,
      Dinajpur, Rangpur, Noakhali.

      My sincere thanks to Dr. Davis for sharing his account. Before I
      left, we had an extensive discussion about his revisiting Bangladesh.
      Our discussion naturally led to future possibilities of a war-crime
      tribunal. Geoff held my hand tightly and placed it on his chest. He
      had tears in his eyes. He said he'd do anything in his power to help
      Bangladesh in its effort to seek justice. As a preliminary step, I
      genuinely hope that this interview will inspire interested groups to
      organize for an official documentation of his story.

      ( I gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Mr. Roger Kilham who
      located Dr. Davis. Sincere thanks to Dr. Hameeda Hossain for her
      comments on the draft.)



      The News International (Pakistan)
      April 02, 2003

      A new foreign policy?

      M B Naqvi

      Fears of Pakistan becoming the next target in the Terror war
      notwithstanding, the fierce missiles race between India and Pakistan
      has gone on, with one missile testified by each recently. The context
      was yet another incident of grisly murder of 24 Hindu men, women and
      children in Doda district, with familiar mutual accusations.
      Independently, religious parties are demanding a new foreign policy.
      Their case is simple: it was wrong to dump Taliban and actively side
      with the US. That apparently made the Iraq War possible. Ergo, let's
      stop pro-US policy and get the four air bases, now in US use,
      vacated. On Iraq, Pakistan must take a more forthright stance and
      denounce the War. Details of the desired change are not clear.

      This Musharraf-Jamali government is, on the contrary, proud of what
      it has achieved with its 'Pakistan First' notion: Americans are
      constructively engaged in restraining India from an adventurist
      course; they have arranged for nearly $1.6 billion grants or
      concessional aid and have been helpful in persuading the Paris Club
      and IFIs (international financial institutions) to be far more
      forthcoming in debt rescheduling, acceptance of new aid programmes
      from IMF and other poverty reduction loans from ADP and WB. The
      economy is, as usual, ready to takeoff. Meantime, Pakistan has built
      up $ 10 billion in Monetary Reserves -- an all time record.

      Few outsiders agree that the economy has actually turned the corner
      or that America's remaining engaged can be relied upon to produce the
      results that the government fondly imagines. While carrying on an
      anti-American campaign based on the hoary pan-Islamist sentiment, the
      divines remain paranoid that one-day the Bush, or his successor's,
      Administration will turn on Pakistan. They know the basis: Pakistan
      has WMDs with means of delivering them; it is intensely pan-Islamist;
      it is equally anti-Israel; it is veritably the world headquarters of
      Taliban-al-Qaeda kind of Islamic Revolution; all the al Qaeda boys
      arrested anywhere display Pakistan Pakistan; and its militant
      Islamists mean to bleed India white by their Jihad. The US will not
      like all that. Ergo, it will move against them.

      Well, Islamists are not alone in this fear. The government too can
      see these facts. Observers with no rightwing sympathies who realise
      that grounds for such a fear do exist. They also realise that the
      government's eyes and ears might have been vitiated by less than
      wholly objective perceptions. At any rate, it has to depend on its
      own machinery and agencies for implementing changes, with possible
      risks of distortion or even failure. Moreover, it is also not free
      from all illusions and tendencies that had led to the policies of
      nurturing and supporting Taliban. Its ability to shed all those
      illusions can be doubted. But a change has certainly become necessary
      because the present policy is going nowhere.

      What precisely is the government doing today? It goes along as much
      with the US as it dares, does not say too harsh things about its War
      on Iraq and is carrying on a high trapeze balancing act in PR terms:
      firm declarations of not participating in the War while soothing
      American nerves. And yet Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali had had to
      postpone his US and UK visits. He has however rushed to Beijing where
      he was sure to be received warmly. He has promises of eternal Chinese
      friendship. Less than a $ 100 million aid for Gwadar Port development
      and many big promises besides the description of Sino-Pak
      relationship being strategic in nature, with clear dimensions of
      continued military cooperation. Pretty solid it seems. But aren't
      there any limits to this friendship?

      Sino-Pakistan friendship has especially helpful features. It is one
      sided; China does not expect much in exchange, not even doing as
      Beijing may desire. Pakistan has regularly ignored the Chinese advice
      in every major crisis -- the Chinese usually advise against
      adventurism and political means -- but that has neither impacted on
      economic or military aid that Beijing gives. Pakistanis get this aid
      for being who they are and where they are. It is for balance of power
      in South Asia and even the Americans do not look askance at it. But
      for all that, the Chinese will never fight Pakistan's wars on its
      presumptions and purposes. It advises against Jihad in Kashmir and a
      resolution of Kashmir problem by amicable negotiations. We have seen
      that in 1971. Pakistanis can certainly have some aid; but cannot hope
      to seriously influence the extra-prudent Chinese policies. Thus if it
      helps the Pakistani rulers' morale, such visits are useful.

      Pakistan is really engaged today with three powers: the US (to which
      it has given all it wanted), India and China. Look closely.
      Pakistan's basic business is with India. The latter holds Kashmir in
      its military grip while Pakistan wants Kashmiris' accession to
      Pakistan, if possible. Otherwise -- what? It is wholly unclear. Maybe
      Pakistan might settle for the third option as once or twice
      indicated. Maybe it will even accept Kashmiris' Azadi whatever is
      meant by Kashmiris or Azadi.

      Since Kashmir's Jihad has lasted 12 years and more, India has
      repeatedly threatened war; it had in fact served notice even in
      1986-87 (Brass Tacks) because of Pakistan's nuclear programme and its
      implications for Kashmir. Since Jan 1, 2002 India has refused to talk
      altogether and has cut off all communications as in actual war. It is
      a total deadlock and a flare up is still possible, though it remains
      rather unlikely. Why? Because the reasons that made India desist in
      2002 will continue to operate in 2003 and perhaps subsequently also.
      Nevertheless, a near war situation does obtain and the possibility of
      an almighty clash remains.

      Why war has to be avoided at all costs need not to be argued at
      length. Wars are fought for a purpose; they are politics by military
      means. In this case, nuclear weapons' mischief is that they destroy
      trust and peace and in a possible nuclear war would lead to what
      would in fact be defeat for both sides. It has become totally
      senseless. No cause is worth a nuclear war, not even Kashmir. The
      fact is that military means can achieve nothing positive for either
      country -- except to lead to each other's devastation.

      A hint recently dropped by Shaikh Rashid Ahmed, the Information
      Minister, that a solution of the Kashmir problem looks likely within
      two to three years but it will satisfy the wishes of neither India
      nor Pakistan assumes some significance. The ferment in the Pakistani
      mind is shown by the recent advice of Jamaat-e-Islami's Qazi Hussain
      Ahmed to Pakistan's Foreign Office. He correctly assumed that America
      is benefiting from the Indo-Pak hostility and that the best way to
      tackle the US now is for Pakistan to talk to India -- implicitly by
      doing what it takes. What will it take is clear: Jihad has to be
      ended for good; only then Indo-Pak talks would proceed. Remember
      Hizbul Mujahideen, the main Jihadi group in Kashmir associated with
      Qazi Hussain Ahmed's Jamaat-e-Islami. It once offered a unilateral
      cease-fire to India. Talks were to follow. That the talks did not
      come through was because of Indian politics. Qazi did tour major
      capitals of the world and was received at the highest levels; he was
      obviously lobbying for something definite. Good that he has revived
      the idea.

      To think that India would not negotiate is silly. It has to. There
      are issues that require discussion and give and take. War is not an
      option for India too. But it also wants a price; it looks it has to
      be paid for various reasons: The Jihad is going nowhere; Kashmiris,
      after sacrificing 70,000 young men and 14 years of penury, are not an
      inch nearer to their Azadi. Pakistan also remains helplessly caught
      in the coils of international crises because of that fruitless Jihad,
      with no initiative. These are too good reasons for change.

      Let's admit Pakistan is not in a position to force a desired Kashmir
      solution on India. Nor can India make Pakistan forget its stand,
      though it can deny a reasonable solution of the problem because war
      is not an option. Therefore, it is much better to accept the advice
      given to non-official Pakistanis -- though perhaps intended for
      Islamabad -- by India's former Naval Chief Admiral Ramu Ramdas two
      weeks ago. It is an opening.

      What he said was that both countries are still committed to the
      Lahore Process and documents exist that bear the signatures of two
      elected Prime Ministers. India cannot, in reason, refuse to talk on
      the basis of those documents. Why not use this opening -- of course
      with a flexible mind that is free from adventurism -- and Islamabad
      will probably see that both Beijing and Washington, not to mention
      others, would support and may ensure that the dice is not
      unnecessarily loaded against Pakistan in the ensuing talks. India too
      needs to get off the hook just as much as Pakistan does.

      Pakistan-India relations need not only normalisation but also
      improvement, if we all have to grow up into adult citizens of free
      countries living cheek by jowl in a rich natural region. There is no
      reason why the region cannot be normalised and harmonised to make
      economic progress and achieve some political harmonisation. Let's
      anchor the originally-visualised Indo-Pak friendship, based on a true
      people-to-people rapprochement, in the integration of a freely and
      preferentially trading region -- Saarc.



      The Week (India)
      Apr 6, 2003

      The menace of fascism


      Interview/Khushwant Singh
      I am not going to be silent

      By Sachidananda Murthy

      Contrary to his image as a jolly old sardar, Khushwant Singh, 88, is
      a writer who feels deeply about the growing communalism in India. As
      a young man, he witnessed the horrors of Partition, an experience he
      distilled into his famous novel Train to Pakistan. As a much mellowed
      man, he returned his Padma Bhushan award, aghast at the Sikh genocide
      of 1984. His anguish over the Godhra carnage and the anti-Muslim
      riots in Gujarat last year has now resulted in a collection of
      essays, The End of India. He feels thae India of his dreams is dead
      and gone. In an exclusive interview with The Week, Singh spells out
      his diagnosis of a fascist India and why the Indian Muslim has
      remained an outsider. Excerpts:

      Do you have no hope for India?
      India will not break up physically, but it is growing fascist and
      intolerant. I see no reversal of this fall into the abyss of hate.
      Hatred is being ingrained into the psyche of a majority of our
      people. Even those who are not hateful are resigned to this politics
      of hate. "Mera kya hai" (what is it to me) is their response, as one
      by one our institutions are overrun by fundamentalists.

      The good are becoming cynical, even as the bad are growing in
      numbers. The fundamentalists, or fundoos, as writer Githa Hariharan
      has called them, are on the up and up. This is not an image of India
      that is acceptable to me. So I put my thoughts together on the way
      this country is being lost to the fascists. I know I will get flak
      from them.

      You have received a lot of hatemail.
      I keep them as mementoes. They call me a Pakistani kutta (dog) and
      say I am born to a Pakistani randi ki aulad (son of a whore). They
      abuse me because they have no answer to my exposing their humbug and
      hate. But I am not going to be silent.

      Interestingly, I got similar mail when I wrote against the hate
      preached by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. The only difference is the
      postcards were written in Gurmukhi script then, and now they are in

      You said the Gujarat events culminating in the landslide victory for
      the BJP is the end of India. But now the BJP has lost in Himachal
      Pradesh and done badly in byelections.
      Himachal is too small. Secularism, where religion is kept away from
      the state, ended with the death of Jawaharlal Nehru. Ever since then,
      every Prime Minister has been wooing the Hindu as well as the Muslim
      vote banks.

      The Congress and other parties allowed the build-up of private
      armies, over whom the state has no control. These private armies
      decide things for the country. Whether India should play cricket with
      Pakistan, Bal Thackeray decides. He created a private army called
      Shiv Sena, who wanted to choose who should reside in Mumbai. Then you
      have the RSS, which I call the biggest private army in India. The RSS
      decides what the budget should be, what the school curriculum should

      But there are states which are well governed....
      Governments have no right to be there if they cannot enforce law and
      order. The Godhra carnage was used as an excuse for vengeance, while
      the police looked on. In 1984, when Hindu mobs went on a rampage
      against Sikhs in Delhi, the police did not lift a finger. I witnessed
      a large number of policemen watching as goondas burnt Sikh shops in
      the market in front of my house. What kind of hope can you have in a
      country where the police are not only silent witnesses to genocide,
      but even participate in them on orders.

      There is no accountability enforced. Fundamentalists burn M.F.
      Husain's paintings and the police don't do a thing. They block Deepa
      Mehta's film in Varanasi and the police do nothing. Earlier, the
      government was weak. Now comes the dangerous phase. The governments
      at the Centre and the states are collaborating in the hate campaign
      against Muslims and Christians.

      Do you blame the Centre, too?
      Instead of leading the country, the government is led by private
      armies of fundoos. In Punjab, too, the Congress collaborated with
      Bhindranwale so it could bring down the Akalis. He controlled the
      destiny of Punjab till he was killed.

      Punjab is now back in the mainstream. Similarly, India can get over Hindutva.
      Punjab is different. Bhindranwale tried to create a rift between
      Hindus and Sikhs. But they have no mutual antagonism.

      It is not the same with Islam or Christianity, which have no common
      feature with Hinduism. Muslims are seen as outsiders. Nobody bothers
      how much blood Muslims have shed for India. This hatred, which is
      centuries old, is attracting more and more knickerwallahs.

      Don't you think religion can play a positive role?
      If it stays within the house. We don't need microphones blaring
      religious speeches and hate. We don't want television sets spewing
      religious propaganda. Religious discourses have no connection with
      our social conditions. Secularism means the freedom to practise one's
      religion in one's own house. Outside the house, there is no religion.
      I have coined a phrase for my bookÑwork is worship, but worship is
      not work.

      In the book you have said Indian Muslims have a national problem, not
      a religious one.
      Their very nationality and allegiance have been questioned for so
      long. Even during British rule, Muslims were seen as separate. Many
      opted for a Muslim India when the idea was put across. But those who
      stayed back cannot be wished away. Now they are being pushed into
      ghettos by treating them as second class citizens. Every Muslim in
      India is treated as a Pakistani sympathiser. They don't trust anyone,
      because whenever they reach out they are spurned.

      Do you have a wishlist for India?
      We must separate religion from politics. We must ban religious
      parties like the BJP, Akali Dal and the Muslim League. We must ban
      hate speeches like Praveen Togadia's.

      The menace of fascism

      Until a few years ago I used to think that I could dismiss the menace
      of fascism erupting in my own country as a figment of my sick mind. I
      can no longer do so. The Indian brand of fascism is at our doorstep.
      The chief apologist for Indian fascism is Deputy Prime Minister L.K.
      Advani, who read Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf while in jail during the
      Emergency. Bharatiya fascism has its crudest protagonists in Bal
      Thackeray, the Shiv

      Sena supremo who openly praises Hitler as a superman. Its chief
      executioner is Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat. And of
      course, there is the rag-tag of the Singhals, Giriraj Kishores,
      Togadias and other tuppenny-ha'penny rabble-rousers.

      Distort facts, inject dollops of pride in your own race and religion,
      and prejudice and contempt for others, and you have a witches' brew
      of hate which can be easily brought to a boil....

      We talk about the Taliban using

      religion to stifle the social and cultural lives of the people of
      Afghanistan. The same thing has been happening in our very homeland
      and we see it in every aspect of our daily life. It is not only the
      Shiv Sena that foams at the mouth about 'Western influence', Minister
      of State for Tourism and Cultural Affairs Bhavnaben Chikalia was
      recently considering banning discotheques in all government hotels.
      She felt it was 'against our culture' and a 'bad influence on our
      Bharatiya sanskriti'. Some years ago, Sushma Swaraj made a hue and
      cry about Fashion Television, and the Sangh Parivar agitated all over
      the country against Deepa Mehta's Fire and even succeeded in stopping
      Water, her next film about widows of Varanasi.

      These moral police have problems with books, with plays, with music
      and with art. In their effort to create a Hindu rashtra, they have
      played up the Shah Bano case, using the Congress's appeasement of the
      Muslim orthodoxy as their trump card. They have attempted to
      'rectify' Muslim 'wrongs' in history by rewriting it. They have
      tampered with textbooks in their efforts to 'amend' Leftist readings
      and tried to reconstruct in the twenty-first century an imagined
      Hindu golden age.

      Every fascist regime needs communities and groups it can demonise in
      order to thrive. It starts with one group or two. But it never ends
      there. A movement built on hate can only sustain itself by
      continually creating fear and strife. Those of us today who feel
      secure because we are not Muslims or Christians are living in a
      fool's paradise.

      The Sangh is already targeting Leftist historians and 'westernised'
      youth. Tomorrow it will turn its hate on women who wear skirts,
      people who eat meat, drink liquor, watch foreign films, don't go on
      annual pilgrimages to temples, use toothpaste instead of danth
      manjan, prefer allopathic doctors to vaids, kiss or shake hands in
      greeting instead of shouting 'Jai Shri Ram.' No one is safe. We must
      realise this if we hope to keep India alive.
      (From The End of India by Khushwant Singh. Rs 200. Excerpted with
      permission from Penguin Books India).



      The Hindu / Literary Review
      Sunday, Mar 02, 2003

      Resisting regimentation

      GITHA HARIHARAN'S new book, In Times of Siege (Viking, Rs. 295), is
      about a history academic whose text on the medieval saint Basava
      attracts the unexpectedly violent attention of Hindu fundamentalist
      groups. ANURADHA ROY talks to her about the book.

      Your book captures the common man thrown unwittingly into political
      troubles and forced into taking a position: is the novel a cautionary
      tale for placid "liberals"?

      YES, to the extent that it is possible for many people to be
      "liberal" because they are not directly, painfully affected by the
      oppression of the authorities they are critical of. Recent
      experiences - Gujarat for example - show that the times of siege we
      are talking about have stripped the cushioning of even this usually
      comfortably placed class. The liberal in the novel, Shiv, says in
      some desperation when he sees the "opposition" is not as united as
      they need to be: "Forget your little arguments, the enemy is almost
      at our heels! If this can happen to an ordinary, cautious man like
      me, what about you ideologywallas?" But the novel is also saying that
      when pushed to a point where a choice has to be made, many of those
      we think of as "just ordinary, decent people" will speak up for the
      fundamental values that hold their world in place - peace and harmony
      so that everyone in society can go about their business, as well as
      the basic freedom to think, speak, and ask questions. This is what
      happened during the Emergency, after the demolition of Babri Masjid,
      and after the Gujarat carnage.

      When making fiction out of contemporary upheaval, did you have any
      literary models, like Coetzee's Disgrace, for example, in mind?

      There was almost too much from real life threatening to push its way
      into the novel as I wrote it. The challenge was to contain the times
      we are living through into an individual, human story. But you are
      asking about literary models. I am not consciously aware of models as
      I write; but certainly I am, like all writers, deeply indebted to the
      writing I admire. In this sense Coetzee's writing has always been a
      model for me - and this is true as much of Age of Iron as of
      Disgrace. There are chilling, heartbreaking parallels between
      apartheid and communalism, just as there are between Hitler's fascism
      and Hindutva.

      Could you say something about your use of the Basava story?

      I came across A.K. Ramanujan's translation of medieval Kannada
      vachanas when I was a college student. I am still amazed by the
      contemporary voice of these poems - they are ruthless in their
      commitment to social equality and in their questioning of formal
      religion. Basava was a poet and politician who asked dangerous
      questions, about caste for instance. He was also a reformer - what we
      would today call an activist. A deeply religious man, he mocked
      pious, caste-obsessed chauvinists. He wrote, for example: "there are
      so many gods there's no place for a foot." Or he taunted them that
      they used the same thing - water - in their temples as well as their
      lavatories. Basava is just the sort of complex man who cannot be
      interpreted in just one, "official" way as we are being bullied into
      doing with so many icons. If we are regimented into seeing the past,
      and figures from the past, in the way our present history-rewriters
      want us to see them, we are going to lose the richness of those
      lives, times and ideas. The next step, of course, is that we will
      have to judge the present too with this impoverished worldview: say
      these are "saints" or those are "foreigners".

      For a man much given to reflection, Shiv, the 50-something professor,
      goes unquestioningly by his instincts in his passion for the young
      student. What was your intention in depicting this relationship?

      Reflection and instinct are more or less balanced in Shiv - as much
      as they are in many men of his age and position! His response to
      Meena is understandable, not just because he is a cautious, rather
      unglamorous middle-aged man and she is a passionate, outspoken young
      woman - but because he is being challenged for the first time on both
      personal and political fronts. In his life before the crisis brought
      on by the fundamentalists - what Meena calls the fundoos - Shiv
      sidestepped commitment in every way. Personally, this meant a
      halfhearted little affair with a colleague if his marriage was not
      quite what it should be. But his obsession with Meena is not just
      physical - it's also his fearful fascination for everything her world
      stands for: risk and danger, choice and commitment.

      The novel demonstrates the oppressiveness of reducing "multitudinous
      mysteries" to oversimplified opposites. Have you, living on a
      university campus, found things oppressive at times from this point
      of view?

      You don't need to live on a campus to see either the past, or the
      modern Indian experiment of a multi-cultural nation, reduced to crude
      dichotomies. Our world is pervaded by the "us and them" mindset as
      never before.



      Indian Currents April 6, 2003

      Hindutva and Dalits

      Ram Puniyani

      Post Gujarat riots, many moves have been made by the Hindutva
      organizations vis a vis dalits. The latest one being a threatening
      letter by Vishwa Hindu Parishad addressed to dalit organizations in
      Gujarat to adopt Hindutva. This letter published by VHP, from Paldi,
      Ahmadabad, states that, ìLet the Ambedkarite Harijans who oppose the
      Hindutva ideology understand. We will not let them mix with even the
      soil of Hindustan; today time is in our hands. Hindutva is the
      ideology of true Hindus (and) it never accepts the Harijans who are
      the off springs of the untouchable Ambedkar.

      The Ambedkarite Harijans, Bhangis, tribals and the untouchable Shudra
      castes who believe in (respect) Ambedkar do not have any right to
      give speeches or criticize the Hindutva ideology in Hindustan,ŠNow
      Hindutva has become aware and it is time to teach these Ambedkarites,
      untouchable Harijans a lesson. Not even the miyans (Muslims) can come
      to their aid now.î (Extract from the letter received by Banaskantha
      Dalit Sanghthan)

      This is a sort of open threat to Dalilts to toe the VHP line and to
      politically subordinate to Sangh Parivar (SP). One has witnessed in
      the recent Gujarat carnage that number of Dalits and Adiviasis were
      used as foot soldiers of Hindutva to undertake the anti-Minority
      violence. Also it was BJP ally Mayawati who came to campaign for
      Narendra Modi. What are the portents of this new move on the part of
      VHP, a component of Sangh Parivar and a progeny of RSS? As such Dalit
      leadership is totally fragmented in Gujarat and the assertion of
      Dalit aspirations has been totally weak. Gujarat has witnessed
      massive anti-Dalit riots around the issue of reservations (1980 and
      1985). After these riots the politics of S P changed the track and
      manipulated and unleashed the Dalits against the Muslim minorities.
      The Hindutvaisation of Dalits has been a very complex process. It
      broadly has aimed to bring the ëUnityí of all the Hindus without
      disturbing the caste equations, social hierarchies. To achieve this
      these has gone on several processes.

      On one hand there has been an urge to move upwards on the part of
      section of dalits who have partly benefited from the process of
      development, reservations etc. This layer has been looking for the
      channels of upward mobility, Sanskritisation, and Hidnutva has
      provided them this in abundance. This has come at cultural level by
      providing newer community symbols, which have been popularized and
      accepted by the section of Dalits. At another level Asaram Bapu,
      Pandurang Shashrti and company have been spreading the neutral
      sounding sermons, but in depth they do hide the refined version of
      Manu Smiriti. This has been one of the major platforms, which has won
      over sections of Dalits to the Hindutva. Another factor has been the
      floating of Samajik Samrasata Manch, (Social Assimilation Platform)
      which aims to bring together all the Hindus, sidetracking the
      challenges of the caste system. Projecting the unity of Hindu society
      as it is, meaning that the present inequalities are all right and
      they are not to be questioned. This added on to the availability of
      thousands of dalits who have lost jobs due to closure of textile
      mills has provided Hindutva with a vast army of Dalits whom it could
      use as the oneís to be the executioners of the anti-Muslim pogrom
      witnessed in Gujarat.

      So why this new threat to the Dalit organizations. This letter has
      been received by many an organizations, particularly those holding
      out against the Hindutva onslaught. The message is clear and loud. In
      the stage so far Hindutva has been able to assimilate large sections
      under its ideology and tutelage. How come some are still holding back
      from getting assimilated? The ësuccessí of Moditva (blatantly
      aggressive Hindutva) has emboldened them to lead an assault on the
      sections, which have not been assimilated. In this type of scenario,
      which exists in Gujarat where Hindutva organizations have a free
      hand. The attempt is to combine all the strategies, to lure them by
      inducements, and to indoctrinate them through the Asarams Bapus and
      Pandurang Shastris. And now to threaten them as a last resort.

      Hindutva had a complex relationship with Dalit question. With the
      rise of Dalit consciousness in the elementary form in the middle of
      19th century the reaction came in the form of vague articulation of
      Hindutva, which expressed itself in Shuddhi campaign and also in the
      programs parties like Punjab Hindu Sabha. The upper caste reaction to
      Dalitís coming to social space, education and industry was to be
      opposed it in a subtle way. This opposition was manifested in the
      attacks on Mahtma Jotiba Phule who led this process. The same stream
      of Landlord-Clergy was also opposed to the emerging politics of
      Indian National Congress and the accompanying values of Liberty,
      Equality and Fraternity. During early part of Twentieth century the
      anti-Landlord-Brahmin movement picked up a great deal along with the
      social and political changes, which aimed to change the status of
      Dalits. This period saw the consolidation of the of upper caste
      revivalist ideology in the form of Hindu Mahasabha and later RSS.
      Both these organizations kept the clear goal of Hindu Rashtra. Their
      major agenda was to ensure that caste equations donít change; the
      hegemony of Landlord-Brahmin persists.

      The challenge for these organizations was to preserve the status quo
      while using the language, which is modern and sounding to be of
      equality. We are same because we are Hindus! We are Hindus so lets
      not talk of our internal matters, caste etc. lets fight against the
      external enemy Muslims and Christians! So during this period on one
      hand one sees the rise of Ambedkar and burning of Manu Smriti, on the
      other hand we witness the rise of Hindutva as a clear ideology. We
      see the coming up of the concept of Hindu Rashtra as the goal of
      Hindus as the alternative to the freedom movement, which was movement
      for free democratic India. The language and projection of Hindutva
      sound as if it has deep anti-Muslim and Anti Christian overtones. In
      a way these are incidental and these are there to hide the deeper
      project of maintaining hegemony of Brahminical values in the new
      garb. So Ambedkar is not opposed directly, some of his agenda against
      untouchability is also accepted but his deeper goal of democracy,
      which is the only system, which can be libratory to Dalits and women,
      is countered in the language of Hindutva and Hindu Rashtra.

      The third major consolidation of this politics of Hindutva occurs in
      the wake of Mandal commission implementation in 1990. While the upper
      caste crystallization around Ram Temple and other religiosity based
      Yatra continues the Mandal commission threatens the status quo in a
      serious way. It is at this time that ongoing processes of
      crystallization of upper caste-Brahminical values of caste and gender
      hierarchy get more fillips to assert themselves as a severe threat to
      Indian constitution. Mr. Vajpayee of BJP formulated the raison de tre
      of Ram temple movement by saying that ëthey brought in Mandal so we
      had to resort to Kamandal (religiosity). The rest is too well known
      to be recounted. The use of religion in politics, Babri demolition,
      Mumbai riots etc. resulted in rise of BJP in electoral arena as the
      big player in the political field. Gujarat has come as a big lesson
      to us all. The declining fortunes of BJP could be reversed by this
      party resorting to the rivers of blood in the form of state sponsored
      anti Muslim carnage. All this has given big space to the politics of
      Hindutva, which is now aiming to manipulate the society from the top.
      This manipulation is at cultural, social and political level.

      The incident like this letter to recalcitrant Dalit organisations is
      an attempt to browbeat the Dalits into submission. Sangh Parivar
      cannot afford to let the intra Hindu identities be the fly in the
      ointment of Hindu Rashtra. While on one hand it is merrily getting
      social and political certification from its alliance with Dalit
      leadership like Mayawati-Kanshiram, the odd onesí opposing this
      politics and the Hindutva hegemony have to be shown occasional stick
      if necessary. If not in Modiís Gujarat where else can they use
      intimidation to the Dalits, or for that matter to other layer of

      (Writer works for EKTA, Committee for Communal Amity,



      "Hindu Nationalism and the Future of Indian Polity" - Symposium at MSU

      Saturday April 5, 2003
      9:00 am - 12:00 pm
      Event Location: Erickson Kiva, Michigan State University
      Notes: http://www.isp.msu.edu/AsianStudies/spring03Events/Hindu_nationalism.htm

      Organized by Dr. Mohammed Ayoob. (ayoob@...). Speakers include:
      1. Professor Christopher Jaffrelot, Director of the Centre dEtudes et
      de Recherches Internationales (CERI), Paris, will speak on The
      Origins and Evolution of Hindu Nationalism in India.
      2. Professor Sunil Khilnani, Director of the Center for South Asian
      Studies, Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies,



      The Island (Sri Lanka)
      2 April 2003

      Extract from Cats Eye

      South Asian Women Protest

      In Sri Lanka over 15 women's organizations have joined to strongly
      condemn the war as illegal and to express concern for the people of
      Iraq. The protest is endorsed by the leading women's organizations -
      Centre for Women's Research (CENWOR), Women's Education and Research
      Centre (WERC), the Women's NGO Forum, Women and Media, Voice of
      Women, Kantha Shakti, the Women's Development Foundation (Kurunegala)
      and the Women's Development Centre (Kandy).

      Similarly women's groups in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have
      denounced the war and are participating in street demonstrations
      protesting the holocaust being inflicted on the Iraqi people. Last
      Sunday, masses of women joined the protest in Calcutta on the war.


      SACW is an informal, independent & non-profit citizens wire service run by
      South Asia Citizens Web (www.mnet.fr/aiindex).

      DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed in materials carried in the posts do not
      necessarily reflect the views of SACW compilers.
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