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SACW | 2 Sept. 2003

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | 2 September, 2003 [1.] Pakistan - India: Barriers to knowledge (Edit., Dawn) [2.] Pakistan - India: Mirror Images [3.] India:
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 1, 2003
      South Asia Citizens Wire | 2 September, 2003

      [1.] Pakistan - India: Barriers to knowledge (Edit., Dawn)
      [2.] Pakistan - India: Mirror Images
      [3.] India: Manipulating People's Minds: BJP's Media Offensive in
      Rajasthan (Kavita Srivastava)
      [4.] India: Anxiety Rises in a Muslim Enclave Near Bombay (Amy Waldman)



      Dawn [Pakistan], Sept 1, 2003 | Editorial

      Barriers to knowledge

      It was refreshing to see a photograph in this newspaper the other day
      of visitors at a New Delhi book fair showing keen interest in a stall
      exhibiting books from Pakistan.
      Around 40 Pakistani publishers have made the trip to the Indian
      capital to take part in the book fair. Unfortunately, a trade fair is
      about the only place in India where an Indian will be able to find
      books by Pakistani writers - and the converse is true for Pakistan.
      Indian newspapers and magazines are a cheap alternative for Pakistani
      readers and could satisfy the ever-present demand here for literature
      on Indian and South Asian topics. However, unless one has the right
      connections or if one does not mind purchasing expensive pirated
      material, it is next to impossible, at least for an ordinary person,
      to get hold of Indian publications.
      The benefits to each other's reading public from a greater flow of
      such material are not only that they will be considerably cheaper
      than publications from Britain or America, but also that both sides
      will have the opportunity to know more about each other.
      Notwithstanding the flurry of people-to-people exchanges, of mostly
      businessmen and parliamentarians, between the two countries, not
      every Pakistani who wishes to travel to India can do so.
      The next best thing would be if books, newspapers and magazines from
      India could come to Pakistan and vice versa. This would go a long way
      towards removing some of the mistrust and misconceptions that many
      ordinary Indians and Pakistanis continue to harbour about one
      another. That is probably why there are elements on both sides of the
      border who wish to keep such a tight control over the flow of
      The Internet does provide many possibilities of overcoming such
      restrictions, but then again not every Indian or Pakistani has access
      to a computer. Making books, newspapers and periodicals freely
      available between the two countries should form an essential part of
      the Indo-Pakistan normalization agenda.
      Barriers to the flow of knowledge and artificial impediments in the
      way of cultural and social exchanges are in any case retrogressive
      and lead to entirely avoidable angularities.



      The Daily Times [Pakistan] September 01, 2003 | Op-ed.

      Mirror images


      When the BJP assumed power in Delhi, it was remarked that a window of
      opportunity had opened for Indo-Pak relations. Just as only Nixon, a
      rather rabid Republican of the day, could have normalised relations
      with China, only a hardline Hindu fundamentalist regime could take
      serious steps towards making peace with Pakistan. The rationale
      behind such an argument is that a 'soft' political party is always
      vulnerable to attack by the chauvinist elements if it tries to make
      any overtures with the historical enemy, but if the extreme jingoists
      themselves begin the process of normalisation, then there is no one
      further to their right who can oppose them.

      The argument was only superficially appealing. For one thing, no one
      was able to come up with an example of such a process other than the
      Nixon one. Secondly, it is good to be sceptical of any theory that
      tries to predict the future on the basis of what has happened in the
      past. Even if a million examples illustrating an assertion were
      offered, there would be no guarantee that the same thing would happen
      the next time. It was the realisation of this truth that led David
      Hume to create the kind of philosophical scepticism that awoke Kant
      from 'his dogmatic slumber' and spend the next ten years writing the
      Critique of Pure Reason without being able to discover any solid
      basis for rational belief. Philosophy apart, however, the rise of BJP
      to power has not brought about any diminution of tension between the
      two estranged neighbours except sporadically and fleetingly.

      The governments on both sides, it seems, have the firm belief that a
      degree of tension is in their interest - in their interests as
      political parties, that is. Noisy accusations of perfidy will
      contribute to unity within the nation and even if this does not lead
      anywhere, it might bring votes and enable the party to win the next
      election. Even if the coterie in power is not dependent on elections
      for the perpetuation of its rule, it does enable it to get more for
      its source of strength, like guns and other expensive toys
      manufactured abroad; expensive and profitable for arms dealers and
      those who will approve their bids.
      While occasional scandals provide a glimpse of what goes on behind
      the scenes and who really profits from carefully nurtured tensions,
      the people at large are kept in the right frame of mind by a constant
      barrage of propaganda. As a consequence, the people are quite
      convinced that not only the government of the other side, but also
      the people are their enemies.

      While a state of hostility remains the norm in Indo-Pak relations,
      there are also occasions when peace and goodwill are in the air. In
      moments such as these a great deal is said about our two people being
      the same, of our shared culture and history and all the other
      nonsense that is regarded as compulsory in that kind of mood. It is
      conveniently forgotten that any two people share a lot of history,
      provided you go back far enough, because they share an overwhelming
      number of genes. They are all human, and this common humanity makes
      for commonalities that override the differences between them.
      In the case of India and Pakistan, this is accepted as
      incontrovertibly true by the peacemakers. But the theory is regarded
      as perfidious by the fundamentalists of both the Islamic and Hindu
      persuasion. According to them, religious differences have wiped out
      anything that the two peoples had in common. Thus, our history does
      not start before Mohammad bin Qasim. For the champions of Hindutva,
      we slipped out of Indian history the moment our ancestors accepted

      Perhaps these differences serve to explain the real nature of our
      relationship. We are neither the same, as the liberals seeking better
      relations maintain, nor are we radically different as the
      fundamentalists proclaim. We are merely mirror images of each other.
      Let me clarify.
      During the days of the Soviet Union, it was interesting, and
      frightening, to hear Moscow and Washington berate each other for
      things that each side considered wrong in the other. Neither side
      realised, however, that what it criticised in the other existed in
      itself. Thus, taking what may be regarded as trivial examples, the
      leadership of the Communist state was ridiculed for going about in
      'gas-guzzling Zils', while the political and economic leadership of
      the United States did not find anything wrong with riding in block
      long stretch limousines.

      Moscow may have been host to the admirable Bolshoi but people could
      not get to see its productions because the tickets, though nominally
      priced (and theoretically within the range of everyone), were
      available only to important functionaries, the 'nomenklatura'.
      Ironically, however, theatre tickets in the United States, which were
      theoretically available to anyone who wanted to buy them, could only
      be obtained by the rich because of their price.

      The Soviets were accused of having built a police state because the
      law enforcement agencies held enormous powers. But this criticism
      ignored the wide-ranging powers of police officers in the United
      States. The Soviet state was controlled, it was alleged, by a small
      coterie of party bosses. It was never admitted that in the American
      system, the elections could not be won by anyone other than a
      candidate handpicked by a small inner circle from either party,
      supported by fabulous sums from big business.
      To return to India and Pakistan. It was not all that long ago when
      Pakistan refused to have any sporting relations with India which
      prompted the latter to accuse us of mixing sports and politics. Now
      India is doing that same thing. One would have been flattered that
      they were copying us were it not for the fact that they could have
      made a better choice of what to emulate.

      It used to be India's position that both sides should encourage
      contacts between the peoples and the more intractable problems would
      then become easier to resolve. Pakistan rejected this because it felt
      that the big issues should be tackled first. Now India discourages
      such contacts (except for high profile exchanges such as those
      between Track II diplomats) or occasional propagandist exercises.
      Instead, it wants the big issue (the big issue not being the same as
      the one so identified by Pakistan) to be resolved first. It goes even
      further and maintains that there can be no talks unless the
      objectives of such talks have already been achieved.

      Pakistan used to be chary of establishing communication links between
      the two countries lest these encourage contacts and lead to a
      dilution of Pakistan's purity of nationalism. Now India is afraid of
      these and would rather give up its manifest self-interest in
      restoring air links and overflights unless it can maintain a
      permanent advantage through the ability to halt overflights by
      Pakistan whenever it likes.

      There was a time when Pakistani diplomats were under instructions not
      to 'socialise' with their Indian counterparts. In recent experience
      Indian diplomats have avoided their Pakistani colleagues. Indian
      diplomats are pursued and harassed by our agencies. Pakistani
      diplomats receive the same treatment from Indian spooks. Both sides
      get on their respective moral high horses and condemn the other for
      uncivilised behaviour and then continue to do what they condemn in
      the other.

      We Pakistanis look into the mirror across Wagah and see our own
      distorted face there. Indians look into the same mirror and see an
      unrecognisable self staring back. We glare at each other, fascinated
      and repelled by what meets our eyes. No wonder we cannot make peace.



      [Sept.,1 2003]

      The BJP's Media Offensive in Rajasthan

      As the elections are approaching the BJP offensive at controlling the
      print and the electronic media in Rajasthan has taken off. Their
      efforts are as follows:

      management of existing media

      - prevention of publishing and telecasting of news/stories that puts
      them in bad light by managing the top management, editors and owners
      of newspapers and TV channel.

      This was blatantly carried out during Vajpayee's visit to Jaipur on
      the 10th of August, 2003 and during Vasundhara Raje's Parivartan
      yatra. One TV channel took of the news from its channel at prime time
      as the TV journalists had called the rally a flop show and had shown
      visuals of disruption of the rally by Social Justice front members.
      One newspapers changed the copy of its reporter as the latter had
      reported objectively on the rally stating that it was nothing much.

      - complaining about correspondents when their copies do not suit them
      and also getting reporters off the rolls of the paper .

      One reporter was removed from his job as he wrote objectively and
      critically and his stories went against BJP communal politics.
      Complaints were made against a couple of reporters who took the BJP
      and Vasundhara to task in their stories, their seniors received
      phone calls that the beat of the reporters should be changed.

      - intervening at the top management and editorial levels resulting in
      harassment of the journalists as they are expected to give
      explanations to their editors/owners.

      One TV channel reporter and one news paper reporter had to write long
      explanation for his story that showed the BJP in bad light.

      setting up of a news agency and a local TV channel

      - a hindi news agency called the News Network of India, with a
      network of stringers in towns and kasbas is being set up in
      Rajasthan. Some coorporate agents have made contact with hindi
      journalists to set up this news agency. They will be paying a
      handsome sum to the person who will look after the State office
      located in Jaipur. The news agency is being mainly set up to feed
      local papers in Rajasthan and not for the metro / national papers.

      According to sources the financial support to this news agency will
      come from the News Network of India's other projects. One of which
      consists of formulating media plans for public sector undertakings.
      This news agency is being promoted by the office of Mr. Pramod
      Mahajan and Vasundhara's press Secretary.

      This new venture is apart from the many newspapers that they already
      control. The RSS already has another media group called the Vishwa
      Samvaad Kendra established in most districts of the state of

      - a news channel

      ( still exploring more information about this channel )

      Infiltration in the Pink City Press Club

      It has been observed by members of the press club that in the last
      few weeks a bunch of RSS and ABVP members have started visiting the
      club regularly with the agenda to gauge the mind of the press
      persons, gather information and plant stories. Some members of the
      press club have decided to increase the attendance of the secular
      people in the press club in order to counter this infiltration.

      Apart from all this the pro BJP papers have raised the tenor in
      defense of the BJP ideology and its leaders.

      setting up of media watch groups with senior media persons

      This has been set up at Delhi level to build a certain image of the
      BJP. Its role is monitoring and creating news that helps the BJP.

      Response of Journalists Unions

      There are two journalists union, one affiliated to the national union
      of journalists of India and the other National Working Journalists
      Union, both have ceased to be active on the front of ethics, rights
      of journalists and debating such issues which their members have
      tried putting forward to them. No press note has been issued despite
      requests by members.

      Response of other parties including the Congress party

      There has been no public statement or strategy against this
      dimension. The BJP has the field completely to itself.

      Basically the battle is being fought by secular, individual
      journalists on their own. Social groups are yet to get their act
      together and strategise effectively.

      Kavita Srivastava



      The New York Times, September 1, 2003

      Anxiety Rises in a Muslim Enclave Near Bombay

      MUMBRA, India, Aug. 26 — The teeming streets of this suburb of Bombay
      are notable for two things: that most of the people are Muslim, and
      that a decade ago the streets were not teeming at all.

      Since then, as if in a small replay of the 1947 partition of India
      and Pakistan, Muslims have migrated to Mumbra by the hundreds of
      thousands, creating a stark segregation.

      They came seeking safety — comfort in numbers — after riots with
      Hindus left more than 1,000 Muslims dead in 1992 and 1993, many of
      them in Bombay. The riots were quickly followed by bombings for which
      Muslim underworld figures were blamed. That further heated up the
      anxiety, and the exodus.

      Now the atmosphere is heightened once again, because of two bombings
      in downtown Bombay that killed 52 people last Monday. No one has
      taken responsibility or been arrested, but many believe that Muslim
      militants are to blame.

      India's Muslims — about 14 percent of the population of more than one
      billion — are often characterized as a breed apart from Muslims
      elsewhere. They did not join Al Qaeda; they did not surface in
      terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. They live in secular India,
      as opposed to its Islamic neighbor Pakistan, and most see India's
      democracy and Constitution as providing them sufficient rights and

      Moreover, Muslims in India have evinced little passion about the
      Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has so animated Islamists across
      the globe, although a scheduled visit by Israeli prime minister Ariel
      Sharon on Sept. 9 is generating opposition.

      Indian Muslims have even stayed away from the insurgency in Kashmir,
      India's only Muslim majority state, other than the Muslims living in
      the state. Many Muslims say the hard-line sentiments found in their
      religion, especially in marginalized areas like this one, are a
      reaction to the growing strength of fundamentalism among India's
      Hindu majority, a strength that is both social and political.

      A decade ago, Hindu nationalist leaders set out on a national
      pilgrimage that many Muslim youths saw as a provocation and a threat.
      In 1992, Hindu nationalists demolished a 16th-century mosque that
      they said had been built on the birthplace of Lord Ram, and the
      Bombay riots and carnage followed soon after.

      A few years later, a Hindu nationalist-led central government was
      formed. And early last year, riots in Gujarat state left at least
      1,000 Muslims dead — carnage that many Muslims believed reflected
      governmental indifference, if not connivance.

      "After Gujarat, the sentiment in Mumbra was very high," said Moazzam
      Naik, an official with Jamaat-e-Islami, a decades-old Islamic
      political movement. He did not agree with Muslim extremists, but saw
      the sentiment growing.

      Among those extremists are the now-banned Students Islamic Movement
      of India, which the police have blamed for five smaller bombings on
      buses, trains and in markets between December 2002 and July of this
      year. Some officials have suggested the movement could be responsible
      for Monday's blasts as well, though they have not offered evidence.

      The student movement was founded in 1977 as a sort of youth wing of
      Jamaat-e-Islami, to encourage young people to follow Islamic
      principles, like avoiding alcohol. By the 1980's, its radical nature
      became clear, and Jamaat began distancing itself from the offspring.

      The student movement's true believers, many of them highly educated
      people in professions, grew beards, urged women to cover up and said
      idol worship should be banned, an implicit attack on Hinduism. They
      rejected conciliation, and some believed violence was justified.

      "They wanted agitation, not dialogue," said Abdul Ruaf Khan, an imam
      in Mumbra, who opposes the use of violence.

      Mr. Naik, of Jamaat, broke from the hard-liners in the student
      movement in 1991. He said he came to believe that some of the
      students were working with Pakistan's intelligence service, long
      accused of sponsoring terrorism in India.

      Mumbra is now about 80 percent Muslim. The hills against which it
      banks are green and clean, but its streets are dirty, its odors
      noxious. For many residents, regular jobs are hard to come by, and
      there has been "a boon in illegal activity," said Ashraf Mulani, 39,
      a former municipal councilor from Mumbra.

      In Mumbra and places like it, Mr. Naik said, talk of "nationalism,
      democracy, secularism, being in the national mainstream" have come to
      be seen as "anti-Islam."

      A senior law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity
      said he believed that Mumbra and similar pockets provided shelter for
      militants. "For Muslims, there is a feeling of being persecuted," he

      Many Muslims say that a Prevention of Terrorism Act passed in 2002
      has been used with particular force against them, resulting in
      arbitrary arrests, harsh interrogations, and detention without charge.

      So even as Mumbra residents profess not to support the student
      movement, they do not condemn it. They are helping to support the
      defense of 22 men — most members of the group at one time — arrested
      in connection with the earlier bomb blasts. It is less a question of
      supporting the group than opposing police tactics, they say.


      Buzz on the perils of fundamentalist politics, on matters of peace
      and democratisation in South Asia. SACW is an independent &
      non-profit citizens wire service run since 1998 by South Asia
      Citizens Web (www.mnet.fr/aiindex).
      The complete SACW archive is available at: http://sacw.insaf.net

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

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