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.
ABDUL BASIT HAQQANI
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
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.
MANIPULATING PEOPLE'S MINDS
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.
The New York Times, September 1, 2003
Anxiety Rises in a Muslim Enclave Near Bombay
By AMY WALDMAN
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).
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