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SACW | 2 Nov. 2003

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    SOUTH ASIA CITIZENS WIRE | 2 November, 2003 Notice: The new redesigned South Asia Citizens Web web site is now definitively located at http://www.sacw.net/
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 1, 2003
      SOUTH ASIA CITIZENS WIRE | 2 November, 2003

      The new redesigned South Asia Citizens Web web
      site is now definitively located at
      The earlier URL for the South Asia Citizens Web
      web site <www.mnet.fr/aiindex> is no longer
      valid; Google cache may be used to trace pages
      held at the old location.


      [1] India -Pakistan: Press Release (Action group of Physicians of South Asia)
      [2] India -Pakistan: Provocation and ignorance (Kuldip Nayar)
      [3] Pakistan: ...and jehad goes on (Zulfiqar Shah)
      [4] Sri Lanka: Dangers of Sinhala extremism :
      Hiru vs. Hela Urumaya: a draw for now?
      (Lakshman Gunasekera)
      [5] India: On The JP In The BJP (Kuldip Nayar)
      [6] India: Press Statement on Mallika Sarabhai
      [7] Book Review - India:' Small Orange Flags by
      Amit Chaudhuri' (Praful Bidwai)
      [8] Film Review - India: 'Mr and Mrs Iyer' (Renuka Viswanathan)



      [ DiP (Develop in Peace), U.S. based
      non-profit focussing on Peace and
      development in South Asia.

      APSA (Action group of Physicians
      of South Asia) is one of the chapters
      of DiP. A group of 40 Indian and Pakistani
      physicians are working towards Peace and
      Prosperity in South Asia. ]

      o o o

      DiP (Develop in Peace)


      October 31,2003

      Action group of Physicians of South Asia sincerely welcomes
      recent resumption of peace process aimed at
      normalizing relations between India and Pakistan.
      Relaxation of the restrictive visa regime and the
      restoration of
      air, road and rail links will facilitate
      people-to-people contacts and ease the hardships
      suffered by the peoples of the two countries.

      The far-reaching initiatives include
      a new bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad,
      a ferry between Mumbai and Karachi, the restoration of
      Khokhrapar - Munabao link by rail or road, free (by-foot)
      crossing of the Wagah border by senior citizens, resumption
      of sporting-contacts, a 'hotline between the two coast guards,
      non-arrest of fishermen at sea, etc. In addition, willingness
      to restart the 'Samjhauta Express' and
      to increase the capacity of the Delhi-Lahore Bus
      services are also important steps.

      While welcoming these fresh proposals, APSA would
      like to emphasize that peace and cooperative relations
      between the two countries require that both
      governments sincerely engage to settle the Kashmir
      dispute keeping in mind the wishes of the people of
      Jammu and Kashmir as declared on several forums since 1948.
      It is obvious that neither Pakistan can force
      the solution by supporting terrorism nor India can
      keep peace in Kashmir with any force. The Kashmir dispute
      has held hostage peace in the subcontinent and
      without a substantive political dialogue that
      addresses the Kashmir dispute no sustainable
      peace can be built.

      APSA also believe that strengthening democracy and curtailing
      religious extremism is important for long lasting peace and
      prosperity in South Asia.


      Amit Shah, MD <developinpeace@...>
      Zaffar Iqbal, MD <ziqbal@...>
      Gautam Desai <Developinpeace@...>
      Rizwan Naeem <rnaeem@...>



      Dawn, November 1, 2003


      By Kuldip Nayar

      Unfortunately, the people-to-people contact of
      the Indians and the Pakistanis has got caught
      between the Scylla of provocation and Charybdis
      of arrogance. The military rulers at Islamabad
      believe that the more they rub India on the wrong
      side, the better it would go down with the
      fundamentalists and the chauvinists whose support
      they seek.
      The BJP-led government at New Delhi labours under
      the impression that India has the size and
      strength to talk at Pakistan whenever it feels
      The governments in both the countries have never
      allowed a free contact because they are not sure
      whether they can handle the fallout. Pakistan is
      afraid that its creation may come to be
      questioned if its Muslims realize that the
      Muslims in India are more in number and
      articulate their identity openly despite the
      Hindutva onslaught.
      India is scared lest its parochial policy behind
      the propaganda of pluralism be exposed or diluted
      by frequent contacts with the Pakistanis, meaning
      thereby the Muslims. The BJP's allies, the Vishwa
      Hindu Parishad and the Shiv Sena, are reflecting
      such a thinking when they are opposing any
      opening with Pakistan.
      This does not, however, take away anything from
      Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's courage to
      announce the series of steps to improve relations
      with Pakistan. Islamabad may consider them a
      rehash of what its prime minister Jamali said
      some time back. It may run down Delhi otherwise.
      But Vajpayee has caught the imagination of
      foreign countries without conceding anything on
      Kashmir which India is obliged to settle under
      the Shimla agreement. In other words, he has
      differentiated between normalization and
      In the face of this, I have not been able to make
      out the logic behind New Delhi's
      switch-on-and-switch-off policy. Vajpayee makes a
      statement on April 16 at Srinagar to offer
      Pakistan talks. Delegations of parliamentarians
      and teams of businessmen from both sides try to
      take Vajpayee's initiative further. There is an
      outpouring of emotions. An effusive atmosphere of
      friendship comes to prevail in the two countries.
      Then New Delhi goes to sleep. Nothing happens
      except a measly bus service between Delhi and
      Lahore once a week.
      Nearly six months later, New Delhi wakes up in
      late October, this time to spell out steps for
      better contacts. Even then there is no relaxation
      in terms of visa; it will still be confined to
      three cities with a call on to the nearby police
      station within 24 hours of arrival.
      Yet there is no explanation why New Delhi allowed
      the feel-good atmosphere to dissipate between the
      middle of April and the third week of October.
      During the six months when the two are indulging
      in usual rhetoric, Vajpayee does not respond to
      even individual or private effort to sustain the
      momentum of his initiative. It is as if the
      speech at Srinagar was a passing itch. Perhaps he
      wanted the drama enacted by the VHP at Ayodhya on
      the temple's 'darshan' to be over.
      Or was there a fresh advice by the Americans who
      never stop saying that they are "in touch" with
      both sides to sustain peace as if India and
      Pakistan would have gone to war but for
      Washington? I do not think that the US has the
      kind of influence it claims to wield. The two
      countries have not gone to war because both of
      them do not know how it will end. That gives all
      the more importance to people-to-people contact.
      It will keep hostilities at bay and normalize the
      situation gradually.
      My worry is about the mindset of the bureaucracy
      in both the countries. Take New Delhi first. Only
      a few days ago did its retiring foreign secretary
      Kanwal Sibal pour cold water over the
      conciliatory efforts. At a Rotary meeting in
      Punjab he said that people-to-people contact was
      futile and, as usual, scoffed at those who
      lighted candles on the night of August 14-15 to
      celebrate the birth of the two countries. His
      tone was contemptuous and his approach to any
      rapprochement negative. How do we change the
      attitude of such officials because they
      constitute the implementing machinery?
      Not surprisingly the foreign office refused Asma
      Jehangir, a distinguished human rights activist
      and the UN rapporteur, a visa twice within a
      short period. New Delhi was at its worst when it
      recently rejected the visa applications of
      Pakistanis to participate in a workshop on South
      Asian Security in Goa.
      The foreign office at Islamabad is a bit better
      in strategy but not in mindset. It stopped the
      retired judges and leading lawyers from crossing
      the Wagah border. Its stand on overflights is
      ridiculous. How can a sovereign country forgo its
      rights to overflights at crucial times?
      The bureaucracy which has planted only nettles in
      the way of better relations between India and
      Pakistan cannot be expected to change overnight.
      Pakistan is an obsession for Indian foreign
      office and vice-versa.
      This is understandable in a state administered by
      the military for more than four decades. But it
      cannot be defended in India where the foreign
      service officers should have imbibed democratic,
      liberal traditions fostered by Jawaharlal Nehru,
      India's first prime minister. Vajpayee should
      realize that his entire initiative will come a
      cropper unless he opens non-official channels
      away from the bureaucrats.
      The biggest disappointment is Pakistan's foreign
      minister Khurshid Kasuri who once worked with
      some of us for people-to-people contact. I did
      not expect him to speak the language of hawks in
      Pakistan. I was amused to hear him saying that
      people-to-people contact had its limitations and
      that the governments on both sides should take
      over things in their own hands.
      I wish governments in both countries had allowed
      people-to-people contact a free play. The entire
      atmosphere of mistrust would have disappeared by
      now. So much goodwill would have been generated
      that it would have been easier to tackle even
      Kashmir. Vajpayee has done well to announce the
      talks with the Hurriyat leaders on Kashmir.
      I do not know how much deputy prime minister L K
      Advani has changed in his hard line. He has
      already queered the pitch by his statement that
      the talks would be confined to decentralization
      of power. When the state had integrated to India,
      it had given only three subjects to the centre:
      foreign affairs, defence and communications. The
      talks with the Kashmiris should begin from there.
      The writer is a freelance columnist based in New Delhi.



      The News on Sunday, November 2, 2003


      If known exponents of jehad are able to preach
      their beliefs openly, there must be something
      lacking in the government's commitment to curb

      By Zulfiqar Shah

      Maulana Masood Azhar's recent countrywide tour to
      address a number of widely publicised 'jehad
      conferences' surprised many. Particularly those
      who thought that the days of propagating jehad
      were over after General Musharraf had declared a
      ban on militant and jehadi organisations last
      year, are now having second thoughts.

      The ban was seen as a major shift in Pakistan's
      decades old policy of supporting jehad in Kashmir
      and Afghanistan. But the recent resurgence of
      jehadi outfits -- even those which were banned --
      and sudden spurt in their activities has created
      doubts about the Musharraf regime's seriousness
      in taking on the jehadis.

      Masood Azhar's tour -- widely considered as a
      major proof of the resurgence of jehadi activity
      -- not only defies President Pervez Musharraf's
      claims made in his speech on January 12, 2002,
      but also raises questions as to whether it could
      have taken place without the government's consent.

      "The tour has established that he enjoys the
      state support," says an analyst who wanted not to
      be named.

      "It's astonishing that on one hand Musharraf says
      he is against jehadis and on the other hand he
      has given Masood Azhar free hand to hold jehad
      congregations throughout Pakistan," says Iqbal
      Hyder, former minister for law and parliamentary
      affairs and executive council member of Human
      rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). "Masood has
      been operating under complete patronage of
      government agencies," he claims.

      Maulana Azhar, freed from an Indian jail in
      exchange for a hijacked Indian passenger plane
      and the chief of now banned Jaish-e-Muhammad, is
      still considered the most wanted person in India.
      In his home country, he is treated as a jehadi
      hero by a section of the society, particularly by
      those who support jehad in Kashmir and elsewhere
      in the world.

      In Karachi, his jehad conference was held on
      October 18, 2003. Followed by wide publicity
      though pamphlets, posters and banners all around
      the city, the conference was able to attract
      thousands of people to come and listen to him.

      Even the city government headed by Jamaat
      Islami's Naimatullah Khan, which otherwise is
      very quick in removing unauthorised advertisement
      banners and hoardings, gave the organisers free
      hand for the publicity of the conference.

      Though the banners were removed after the
      conference ended, the pamphlets and the posters
      are still there, occupying a large space on the
      walls of private and public buildings in Karachi.
      These pamphlets and posters describe Masood Azhar
      as a jehadi hero and the 'conqueror of Indian

      Contrary to past practice when Jaish's functions
      were closed for many people especially media,
      Masood Azhar's jehad conference in Karachi was an
      open event. The way it was publicised clearly
      showed that the organisers wanted to draw as many
      people as they could.

      Masood Azhar, who has renamed his organisation as
      Pyam-e-Islam, has addressed similar conferences
      attended by thousands of people in Hyderabad and
      Nawab Shah in Sindh and Lahore and other cities
      in Punjab. The focus of his speech at all these
      conferences was the 'noble notions of jehad' in

      Besides addressing the conferences, Masood Azhar
      also held closed door meetings with his party
      cadre on how to make the organisation more
      effective, says a source.

      Analysts believe the tour was aimed at
      strengthening Masood Azhar's relationship with
      the Jaish cadre split in two groups some time
      ago. The other group being headed by Abdullah
      Shah Mazhar.

      Those who believe that allowing Masood Azhar's
      tour is a manifestation of the government's
      reaffirmation of its undeclared support to jehad
      in Kashmir, also fear that this policy of 'one
      step forward, two steps backwards' will harm
      Pakistan's interest locally as well as globally.

      "Free hand to jehadis will damage Pakistan's
      credibility at the international level," says
      Iqbal Hyder. "Pakistan can only succeed in
      establishing its credibility at the international
      level if it changes its policy towards jehad in
      Kashmir," he adds. Iqbal Hyder also asserts that
      Pakistan's claim to being a leading partner in
      the war against terrorism cannot be taken
      seriously unless the country "changes its policy
      of jehad in Kashmir policy."

      There are others who think that the government is
      serious in restricting the activities of the
      jehadis but at the same time they point out the
      enormity of the task. "It is not going to be an
      easy task," says Dr Muttahir Ahmed, professor at
      the department of International Relations at
      University of Karachi. "These people (the
      jehadis) have roots in the society. They have
      been active for the last 15-20 years. So it's not
      easy to root them out immediately," he adds.

      Muttahir also says that holding of the conference
      by Masood Azhar did not mean that the government
      supported his activities. "Because a section of
      the society supports jehad and the jehadis, the
      holding of a jehad conference should not come as
      a surprise."

      Government consent or not, in an international
      scenario which puts Pakistan in a difficult
      position vis-a-vis jehad and the jehadis, the
      resurgence of the jehadi activities is sure to
      create more problems for the country.

      It is necessary for the government to come clean
      on the issue. If it is serious in not allowing
      militancy, it has to implement its writ
      throughout the country without sparing anyone.
      It's also important that President Pervez
      Musharraf cannot portray Pakistan as a liberal
      and modern state until public expression of
      jehadi sentiment and honouring of jehadi leaders
      is not checked.



      Sunday Observer, 2 November 2003


      Observations by LAKSHMAN GUNASEKERA

      As Sri Lanka moves closer to a re-structuring of
      the State in order to resolve the ethnic
      conflict, the more that Sinhala ultra-nationalist
      blood will begin to boil. In their desperate bid
      to prevent what they perceive to be a complete
      disaster for the Sinhala community and
      nation-state, Sinhala ultra-nationalist groups
      may begin to go beyond civil agitation and resort
      to physical violence.

      What happened at the New Town Hall, Colombo, last
      Wednesday is, in my view, symptomatic of such a
      trend. This is a danger that I have warned
      against several times in these columns over the
      past few years - see, for example, my column in
      the Sunday Observer of 16th January, 2000,
      headlined 'Are the Sinhala ultra-nationalists

      On Wednesday and Thursday last, a Sinhala-Tamil
      Arts Festival was conducted by the Colombo-based
      'Hiru' Group. The attack came within an hour of
      the start of the festival, just after the keynote
      addresses, including one by that doyen of Sinhala
      literary scholars and lexicographers, Professor
      Sucharitha Gamalath.

      A small crowd of people rose up inside the hall
      and began yelling anti-Tamil, anti-LTTE and other
      hate slogans including accusations that the
      Festival organisers, being Sinhalas, were
      'traitors' to their race, bent on undermining the
      Sri Lankan State in treacherous collaboration
      with the LTTE. According to eyewitnesses, the
      agitators included several known journalists of
      the Divaina newspaper as well as personalities of
      the Sihala Urumaya political party.

      The Hiru Group, which organised the Sinhala-Tamil
      Arts Festival, is the name adopted by the circle
      of largely Sinhala social activists, writers,
      poets and other cultural workers gravitated
      around the Hiru Sinhala language fortnightly.
      Hiru is well known for its avant-garde Sinhala
      cultural output and stringent, social-critical
      journalism that focuses on and develops
      fearlessly incisive news coverage of burning
      social and political issues.

      Just like many other similar but less creative
      Sinhala and Tamil journals that articulate the
      needs, concerns and aspirations of social sectors
      often left out by the big media, Hiru is a 'poor'
      journal. That is, a low budget one, struggling to
      survive on a low income because it has little
      advertising income given the limited spending
      capacity of its audience and also the probable
      reluctance of conventional commercial advertisers
      to be featured in what is clearly a 'radical' and
      controversial journal.

      Its originators and its staff are from the
      Sinhala middle and lower-middle class
      intelligentsia known for their social activism as
      well as their professionalism. Many of its
      leadership would consider themselves as Marxian
      or socialist, while some may have post-modernist

      In fact it is this identity of a 'poor' Sinhala
      journal, for years, actively working for the
      Sinhala poor, in a fearless manner with much
      sacrifice and commitment, that gives Hiru the
      credibility and ethno-national legitimacy that
      enables it to link up with social groups like
      non-Sinhala ethnic communities without the risk
      of being perceived as 'betraying' the Sinhala
      community. In this, Hiru parallels the JVP, but
      the Hiru Group vigorously distances itself from
      the Sinhala hegemonism inherent in the JVP's
      current campaign against a negotiated settlement
      of the ethnic conflict.

      Indeed it is the Hiru Group's active support for
      a negotiated settlement, on the basis of its
      acknowledgment of equality of all ethnic and
      social sectors, that prompted it to organise the
      Sinhala-Tamil Arts Festival last week. In its
      stance in support of the peace effort, the Hiru
      Group is no different from numerous small
      Left-wing or social activist groups arising from
      among the less Westernised middle and
      lower-middle class intelligentsia.

      There are many such groups, some of them human
      rights groups, others being social action groups
      (many in rural and semi-rural areas) dedicated to
      mobilising specific, marginalised social sectors
      such a rural poor, farmers, village communities
      affected by threats to their ecology, women,
      gays, ethnic minorities etc. There are also
      groups focusing on issues such as environment,
      cultural marginalisation (e.g. Veddahs) as well
      as avant=garde cultural groups.

      Most of these groups are unlike the more middle
      class and upper middle class-led urban 'NGOs'
      which, while often doing much good work for
      'beneficiary' sectors or 'target' social sectors,
      are not socially linked to these sectors and are
      not accountable to them directly for their
      credibility or continuity.

      However, for those who wish to belittle the
      significance of the radical social action or
      cultural groups, such as the Hiru, it is easy to
      brand them as 'NGOs" and thereby dilute their
      credibility in the eyes of the larger society
      which would not be familiar with their history or
      performance. In the case of a well known critical
      newspaper like Hiru that will not be easy,
      though. Too many Sinhalas, especially those who
      have been following national politics through the
      mass media, know of Hiru's critical and
      democratic journalism to feel immediately
      suspicious of Hiru's intentions.

      Indeed, the Hiru Group must be finding it quite
      strange today to be held as heroes by much of the
      mainstream 'elite' or big media which previously
      either ignored it or tended to brand it as either
      'fringe' or as an insincere, 'goody-goody' and
      misled NGO. Of course, the attack by Hela Urumaya
      elements on the Arts Festival was not a surprise
      to Hiru (or, to anyone familiar with the politics
      of the Urumaya constituency).

      While the crude propaganda by Urumaya elements as
      well as certain big media newspapers, that the
      Arts Fest was merely an LTTE 'Pongu Thamil' held
      in Colombo, will certainly confuse some Sinhalas,
      there are significant sections who know Hiru well
      enough not to immediately doubt its intentions.

      After all, an increasing number of Sinhalas,
      easily a majority, are (a) supportive of a
      negotiated political settlement, (b) impressed
      enough by the militancy and success of the Tamil
      nationalist enterprise to give the Tamil
      community due recognition as a community with
      credentials similar to the Sinhalas and, (c)
      anxious to make amends for past sins (of
      anti-Tamil pogroms) and see the need for
      inter-communal bridge-building.

      In fact, it is this very legitimacy of Hiru in
      the eyes of the mass of the people that enables
      it to be upheld today by the mainstream media and
      even receive generous police protection from a
      Government, which is normally cautious of, if not
      hostile to, such radical activist groups.

      Furthermore, the action of the Urumaya supporters
      in attacking the Arts Fest could be seen as
      having complex results.

      At face value, the Urumaya, prevented from
      completely disrupting the Festival, may claim a
      'draw' and some of them have been heard to mutter
      dark threats hinting at even worse violence
      against all "Sinhala Koti' and 'traitors' to the
      Race (Master Race?).

      But the action by Urumaya elements and related
      groups may also be seen as a kind of unconscious
      marginalising of themselves from the 'confused'
      and 'unheroic' mainstream of Sinhala society.
      They are already being branded as 'extremist' not
      just by such esoteric columns as mine or by
      radical critics, but by the staid mainstream
      media and top politicians who, at one time, would
      calmly go along with similar Sinhala hegemonic
      politics and, have indeed done so to the degree
      that they have prolonged and worsened the ethnic

      The more they are branded as extremist, the more
      such irrationally behaving elements will feel
      justified in practising extreme behaviour. While
      some actions of political violence (whether by
      State or non-State entities) have some logic and
      justification based on the interests and concerns
      of very large sectors of humanity (e.g. wars of
      independence, social revolutions, wars for
      'regime-change'), there are other instances of
      political violence that may not have that logic
      or justification (e.g. Hitler's Third Reich, the
      Aum sect's gassing of a Tokyo subway station). In
      terms of the ethnic conflict, then, we may see
      normally marginalised radical social activist
      groups being drawn into the mainstream, but
      unfortunately, one time 'mainstream'
      ultra-nationalist elements may now be driven to
      the extremities.

      This is dangerous. Last week some of these
      elements engaged in fisticuffs. More extreme
      violence could mean the resort to underground
      armed actions such as the bombing of homes and
      institutions of people they target as 'traitors'
      and even assassinations.

      It should be recalled that such armed violence
      has already taken place at a similar significant
      moment when the PA regime was engaged in peace
      talks with Norwegian help. There were two
      instances of hand grenades thrown at offices of
      Western agencies close to or working parallel
      with the peace effort. 'Extremism' can go all the



      Outlook Magazine | Nov 10, 2003

      JP gave the BJP legitimacy, and lived to rue it.
      But, even now, they can't let him be.
      I wasn't surprised to hear the BJP was
      celebrating the birth centenary of Jayaprakash
      Narayan at its Delhi HQ. During the Emergency,
      the RSS, the party's mentor, had even included
      Mahatma Gandhi's name in its prayers. It was
      probably embarrassed that the person whom JP
      literally worshipped didn't figure in its morning
      and evening invocations. Even otherwise, the
      organisation had by then realised that Gandhi
      went down so well with the masses it could ill
      afford to skip him. The RSS move was born out of
      necessity, not conviction. (Till today,
      Gandhiji's portrait finds no place among the
      array of photos displayed at the RSS headquarters
      in Nagpur.)

      By now, it's evident the BJP is desperate to
      widen its base as it enters an election year.
      Hence the appropriation of JP, who fits well into
      the RSS line of thought-a tall Hindu enshrined in
      the pantheon of the Sangh parivar. The BJP's
      problem is

      that its own icons have lessened in appeal,
      attracting only a particular category of voters.
      Vir Savarkar and Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, the
      BJP's two heroes, don't bring much to the table
      other than the party sentiments of Hindu
      nationalism. This is of little help while
      entering unchartered, yet-to-be-saffronised
      territory. They needed someone whom the liberals
      could relate to. Hence JP. There's also an added
      bonus: the BJP has the vicarious satisfaction of
      rubbing shoulders with those whom it respects in
      its heart of hearts.
      JP's clothes of secularism, though, will not fit
      the party. It will look ill-suited on them, as it
      did in the '70s. Then the party was called the
      Jana Sangh. JP had admitted it into the
      Opposition combination fighting the authoritarian
      rule of the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi.
      JP was conscious that the Jana Sangh was a
      political arm of the RSS, but he was given to
      understand that the two would part company. It
      was an undertaking of sorts.
      After the birth of the Janata Party, which JP
      constituted, he insisted that the Jana Sangh
      members, who occupied positions in the Janata
      Party and in government, sever links with the
      RSS. He knew the role it had played in Gandhiji's
      assassination. Nathuram Godse, who shot the
      Mahatma, had been an RSS worker. The plot had
      been proved, the RSS banned. In fact, its chief
      M.S. Golwalkar had also been arrested. He was
      released after a year or so on the assurance that
      the RSS would not get into electoral politics.
      (Fifty years on, it's busy selecting BJP
      candidates for the state assembly elections in
      MP, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi.)
      The undertaking on the RSS turned out to be just
      a ruse to join the ruling combine. JP's reminders
      to Jana Sangh leaders to make good on the promise
      had no effect. How could they have when the Jana
      Sangh itself was an RSS creation, with the avowed
      aim of creating a Hindu rashtra?
      Initially, the Jana Sangh members tried to
      explain to JP that the RSS wasn't what it was
      made out to be. When it came to the crunch, they
      refused point-blank to break ties with the RSS.
      JP felt cheated. But by then he was too sick, and
      could hardly go to the people to expose the Jana
      Sangh. He did make it public, though, that he had
      been let down.
      When the Janata Party finally did rake up the
      dual membership issue, the Jana Sangh members
      preferred to walk out. They later morphed into
      the Bharatiya Janata Party. Curiously, by that
      time, they had also acquired the credibility
      which the Jana Sangh, now the BJP, had not
      managed even after 30 years of Gandhi's
      The two-year stay in the Janata Party and the
      portfolios they held in the central ministry
      helped the BJP immensely. On the one hand, it got
      an opportunity to saffronise the staff there. The
      information and broadcasting ministry is a prime
      example, with RSS-honed people still running
      it.The BJP also inherited a positive tinge which
      confused the Hindu intelligentsia-what with its
      tallest leader, Atal Behari Vajpayee, doing a
      balancing act riding two horses at the same time.
      Ayodhya, plus all these factors, percolated down
      to the BJP's winning 181 seats in the last
      general elections against the party's usual
      single digit tally. After that, even JP's
      followers found alibis to join hands with the BJP
      in the NDA so as to stay in the driving seat.
      Deputy prime minister L.K. Advani, who presided
      over JP's birth centenary celebrations, now rubs
      out the differences between the political BJP and
      the ideological RSS with thoughts like "the
      ideology of the BJP or the RSS has been a
      unifying factor for the nation". Yes, he's done
      everything to "unify" the nation, the most
      significant of which was the rath yatra he led
      through northern India, dividing in its wake
      Hindus and Muslims who had lived together for
      centuries. He is so satisfied with the
      results-never since Partition has there been such
      large-scale rioting as was witnessed then-that he
      equates the rath yatra with Gandhi's Dandi Salt
      march, truly a comparison of the ridiculous with
      the sublime.
      Some day, Advani's real role in the destruction
      of the Babri Masjid-a structure which came to
      bear the weight of India's credo of
      coexistence-will come out as clear as daylight. A
      woman Indian Police Service officer, deputed to
      protect Advani those days, has deposed before the
      Liberhan Commission on how he instigated the kar
      sevaks. More would have come out at the Rae
      Bareli court if the CBI had not withdrawn the
      conspiracy charge against him.
      It's true the BJP today 'needs' JP's name. But in
      the bargain, is it right for it to-unwittingly or
      not-crucify the person who willy-nilly gave them
      credibility? He had realised even then that he
      had made the biggest mistake of his life in
      trusting them. The least the Sangh parivar can do
      is not drag his name into its communal vitriol
      which is sure to sharpen as the polls approach.



      Date: Sat, 1 Nov 2003 11:54:50 +0000 (GMT)
      From: Shabnam Hashmi <anhadinfo@...>

      In a meeting held at IIC annexe the following
      statement was adopted. It was also decided to
      form an Alliance for the Defence of Democracy and
      to organize a Peace Concert in Ahmedabad where
      Mallika Sarabhai, Nafisa Ali and Habib Tanveer ,
      ( all three of them have been targeted lately)
      would be invited as the Chief Guests.

      Released to the press by

      Shabnam Hashmi
      4, Windsor Place, New Delhi-110001
      Tel- 23327367/ 66

      Press Statement on Mallika Sarabhai

      In the world's largest democracy, Freedom of
      Expression, Freedom of Press and Freedom of
      Speech come at a heavy price.

      Relentless harassment of tehelka.com that led to
      its closure, Income Tax raids on Outlook and its
      editor, physical assaults on journalists for
      "making attempts to project Gujarat as a violent
      and disturbed State", cases against
      social-activist Nafisa Ali, The Indian Express
      and Divya Bhaskar for allegedly fomenting
      communal passion and now a fraudulent case
      against Mallika Sarabhai.

      The powers-that-be are increasingly using law as
      an instrument of oppression of voices of dissent
      putting at stake the very essence of democracy.
      The harassment of accomplished classical dancer
      Mallika by a regime in Gujarat which has
      committed horrendous crimes of genocide and has
      tried to use every means to prevent justice to
      prevail is yet another incident.

      She is being hounded, and also "framed" in
      criminal cases, because she had initiated a
      Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court
      of India against Gujarat government for the
      genocide it had committed last year; and has
      persisted in not withdrawing the case.

      After the state sponsored carnage in Gujarat in
      February and March 2002 one of the first voices
      to be raised in protest was that of the
      accomplished classical dancer. With rare
      eloquences, courage and passion, she express her
      anguish at the massacre and her words stirred the
      conscience of the nation.

      The recent slew of cases that have been filed
      against here are blatant political vendetta by
      the Government of Gujarat. The attempt clearly is
      to try to crush her spirit and silence her voice.

      We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the
      partisan and malicious use of state authority
      against Mallika Sarabhai and to express strong
      solidarity and admiration for her fearless
      espousal of the truth.

      Abhilasha Kumari, Prof, Delhi
      Admiral Ramdas, Retd Admiral Indian Navy, Mumbai
      Amit Sengupta, Senior Journalist, Delhi
      Anand Patwardhan , Filmmaker, Mumbai
      Aniket Alam, Journalist, Hyderabad
      Anil Nauriya, Supreme Court Advocate, Delhi
      Aniz Azmi, Theatre Director, Delhi
      Anjum Rajabali, Journalist, Bombay
      Arun Gandhi , Founder and President, M.K.Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence , USA
      Arvind Koshal
      Ashok Lal, Playwright/Poet
      Asad Zaidi, Poet, Delhi
      BG Verghese
      Bela Bhatia
      Bhinish Shakeel
      Cedric Prakash, Director, Prashant, Ahmedabad
      Deb Mukerji, Ambassador
      Digant Oza, Senior Journalist, Ahmadabad
      Dilip D'Souza.
      Ela Gandhi, Member of Parliament, South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi’s Grand Daughter
      George Verghese, Senior Journalist, Delhi
      Gita Bharali, Research Associate,North Eastern Social Research Centre, Guwahati
      Githa Hariharan Writer, Delhi
      Gulammohammed Sheikh, Artist, Baroda
      Harsh Mander, Social Activist, Writer, Delhi
      Hiren Gandhi, Samvedan Cultural Programme, Ahmedabad
      Javed Mir, ActionAid, Kutch
      Jerry Almeida, ActionAid, Delhi
      Kamal Mitra Chenoy Prof., Delhi
      KN Panikkar ,
      Historian, Kerala
      Kuldeep Nayyar, Senior Journalist, Delhi
      Lolita Ramdas, Activist, Mumbai
      Loveleen Misra- TV Actress, Mumbai
      Madhu Kishwar, Activist, Delhi
      Mahesh Bhatt, Filmmaker, Mumbai
      Mohd.Azam, Kova, Hyderabad
      MK Venu, Senior Editor, Economic Times
      MS Sreelekha
      Mustafa Qureshi, Photo Journalist
      Nafisa Ali, Actress, Activist
      Neelabh, Journalist, Delhi
      Nilima Sheikh , Artists, Baroda
      PC Sen
      Poornima Joshi, Journalist, Delhi
      Praful Bidwai, Senior Journalist
      Prashant Bhushan, Senior Advocate
      Prashant Sen
      Rajkumar Hans, Professor History, Baroda
      Rajneesh Verma
      Ranjani Mazumdar, Filmmaker, Delhi
      Rasna Bhushan, Artist, Hyderabad
      Rev. Valson Thampu, Delhi
      Sabeena Gadihoke , Filmmaker, Delhi
      Sabina Kidwai, Filmmaker, Delhi
      Sanjay Barbora, Research Associate,North Eastern
      Social Research Centre, Guwahati
      Saroop Dhruv, DARSHAN, Ahmedabad
      Seema Nayyar, Activist, Delhi
      Shabnam Hashmi, Activist, Delhi
      Shakeel Ahmad, Sadbhawna ke Sipahi
      Shohini Ghosh, Filmmaker, Delhi
      Shubha Mudgal, Singer, Delhi
      SP Udaykumar, Activist, Chennai
      Sudhir Chandra, Europe
      Suma Josson , Filmmaker, Mumbai
      Sunil Dutt, MP
      Syeda Hamid, Women Activist, Delhi
      T. Jayaraman, Scientist, Chennai
      Tarun Tejpal, Senior Journalist, Delhi
      Vagish Jha, Sadbhawna ke Sipahi
      Vidya Bhushan Rawat, Social Activist
      Walter Fernandes , Director, North Eastern Social Research Centre, Guwahati
      Wilfred D'Costa, INSAF, Ahmedabad

      o o o

      Petition USA


      Hon’ble Atal Bihari Vajpayee
      Prime Minister of India

      Dear Hon’ble Shri Vajpayee

      You are urged to take immediate steps to stop the
      harassment and intimidation of Dr Mallika
      Sarabhai,who is the Pride of Gujarat. Times of
      India of Tuesday, October 28th 2003 has headlined
      a story entitled “Mallika Sarabhai Is Being
      Framed” and it has put the Government of India
      and the State Government of Gujarat in a very bad

      As you very well know that Dr. Mallika Sarabhai has been very
      outspoken in condemning the massacre of innocent
      human beings in the State of Gujarat after the
      Godhra incident of February 2002.

      Dr. Sarabhai has refused to withdraw her case
      against the State Government of Gujarat for lack
      of failure to prosecute the perpetrators of the
      senseless violence and also the failure of the
      State to provide adequate relief and
      rehabilitation of the survivors in the Supreme

      Dr. Sarabhai has categorically denied any
      wrongdoing and the charges of human trafficking
      against a person of her stature is absurd.
      Despite this she did co-operate fully with all
      the inquiries of the

      Efforts of Gujarat Government to deny her bail is
      gross miscarriage of justice. Many prominent
      citizens of India such as Rajmohan Gandhi ,
      Kuldeep Nair, Shabana Azmi, Asghar Ali Engineer,
      J B D’souza, Dolly
      Thakore Alyque Padamsee B G Verghese have already
      protested this outrageous effort to silence one
      of the few voices of sanity in the State of

      We respectfully ask you to take immediate steps
      to reverse the misguided effort to force Dr
      Mallika Sarabhai to withdraw her public interest
      litigation, otherwise irreparable harm will be
      done to
      reputation that got tarnished in all parts of the world.

      We the undersigned Non-Resident Indians both
      individuals and organizations are awaiting your
      confirmation that the right steps have been taken
      to set the wrong that has been done to Dr Mallika

      Sincerely yours,

      Poddar, USA
      Dr K S Sripada Raju, USA
      Uma Balakrishnan, USA
      Kaleem Kawaja, USA
      S.M.Bhagat, USA
      Hari Sharma, Canada
      Rasheed Ahmed, USA
      Ruchira Gupta, USA
      Imtiazuddin, USA
      Gautam & Urvi Desai, USA
      Amit Shah, USA
      Zubair Patel, USA
      Rajesh Veeraraghavan, USA
      Sami Uddin.
      Dr. Chander Balakrishnan, USA
      Srividhya Venkataraman ,USA
      Dr. Jawaid Quddus, USA
      Mayurika Poddar, USA
      Dr. Satinath Choudhary
      Zafar Iqbal, PhD

      International Service Society, USA
      Vaishnava Centre for Enlightenment, USA
      India Development Society, USA
      India Foundation, USA
      Seva International, USA
      Bharatiya Educational Foundation, USA
      Assn of Indian Muslims of America,, USA
      Develop in Peace, USA
      Gujarati Muslim Assn of America, USA
      International South Asia Forum, Canada
      Am Fed of Muslims from India, USA
      S.Asian Network for Secularism & Democracy, Canada
      NRIs for Secular and Harmonious India

      The President of India
      The Deputy Prime Minister of India
      The Chief Minister of Gujarat
      The Speaker of Indian Parliament



      Outlook Magazine, Nov 10, 2003

      Stir It Up
      Chaudhuri has grasped Hindutva's pathology, seen
      the iron in India's pseudo-spiritual soul. And
      he's saddened and disturbed

      by Amit Chaudhuri
      RS 150; PAGES: 79

      The "'state of emergency' in which we live",
      wrote Walter Benjamin, "is not the exception, but
      the rule". Amit Chaudhuri quotes Benjamin
      approvingly as he reflects on the Holocaust
      during a recent visit to Berlin's old Jewish
      quarter. That state, he recognises, is integral
      to today's India too: in governance, public life,
      people's private worlds, and the middle class'
      coarsening sensibilities.

      In this slender volume, Chaudhuri makes forays
      into many spaces: Manto, a Birla temple, a
      Greyhound bus, 1993 violence-devastated Mumbai,
      and issues of (diverse) identities. His style is
      easy, observant, never declamatory. The prose has
      insights which fiction-writers don't always share.

      The booklet should make some of the so-called
      educated minds think, stir up what's left of
      their liberal conscience. It might have been more
      effective had Chaudhuri revisited certain
      familiar social-science debates and developed
      themes outside a strong Bengal-dominated context
      (he reduces the complex foundations of Indian
      secularism to the "liberal humanism of the Bengal
      Renaissance"!). But beyond a point, one can't
      quarrel. Chaudhuri has grasped Hindutva's
      pathology, seen the iron in India's
      pseudo-spiritual soul. And he's saddened and



      Economic and Political Weekly [Bombay, India]
      October 25, 2003

      'Mr and Mrs Iyer'
      Such a Long Journey

      'Mr and Mrs Iyer' successfully depicts
      stereotyping and prejudice by playing up a
      stereotyped environment and the use of typecast
      characters. Equally important, it is a growing-up
      tale. It traces the movement of a woman's
      consciousness in the course of a single journey,
      the consequences of one decisive and unexpected

      Renuka Viswanathan

      The impact of Aparna Sen's award winning film,
      'Mr and Mrs Iyer', on the emotions is direct,
      deep and lasting. Images from the movie dance
      before the eyes for days after the first viewing,
      creating fresh patterns and meanings - an
      experience associated only with early movies seen
      in distant childhood. And this magic web has been
      woven using a stereotyped environment and
      typecast characters. For stereotyping and
      prejudice, which govern social interaction in our
      multireligious, multicultural nation, are in fact
      the core issues around which the entire emotional
      edifice of the movie is built.

      The significance of stereotypes is underlined
      from the very beginning of the movie, in its
      title as well as setting. Mr and Mrs Iyer are
      clearly generic names. They indicate that the
      main protagonists should be seen merely as
      representatives of a typical larger national
      group. Hence the choice of a very common south
      Indian family (caste) name that could apply to
      millions of Indians.

      The same insistence on stereotyping is seen in
      the setting of the movie. As it opens, a
      narrator's voice sets the stage: we are reminded
      that we are looking at a typical Indian
      experience that every person in the audience has
      undergone. We are about to embark on a longish
      bus journey with travelling companions from
      different regions, religions and cultures,
      speaking different languages. And characters are
      sketched very much in the Bollywoodian tradition
      (remember the erstwhile popular movie - the
      Amitabh Bachchhan-Aruna Irani starrer 'Bombay to

      We meet many of the expected stereotypes-college
      students going home on vacation singing and
      playing 'antakshari', a casual foursome sitting
      down to a game of cards, the disapproving prim
      matron, an aged Muslim couple. Familiar figures,
      often encountered on screen as well as in real
      life. Among them, the typical young, middle
      class, educated, conservative south Indian
      housewife - Meenakshi Iyer - making the usual
      journey with her son, Santhanam, back to her
      father-in-law's house after a visit to her
      parents. And Raja Choudhry, the helpful, rather
      colourless, Bengali photographer (who will later
      turn out to be somewhat atypical).

      Emphasis on the ordinariness and typicality of
      her characters and setting helps Aparna Sen to
      achieve at least one major objective. Viewers are
      lulled into complacence and the director succeeds
      in creating the state of 'willing suspension of
      disbelief' essential for successful
      story telling. It also becomes easier to
      introduce the incident relating to the attack on
      the bus by a menacing group of communal rioters.

      Such stoppages are, of course, no longer part of
      fictional life alone. Given the prevalence of
      violent agitations on all kinds of divisive
      issues throughout the country today, most viewers
      will already have direct or hearsay experience of
      similar interruptions to bus journeys. What
      happens to Meenakshi Iyer and her travelling
      companions is just as likely to happen to anyone
      in the theatrical audience. Which is why their
      reactions almost become our reactions, as we too
      search for solutions to the same dilemmas.

      Events move inexorably towards the imminent
      unmasking of Raja Choudhry as a Muslim, marking
      him out as the next likely victim of the
      mobsters. At this point of the screenplay, the
      director must have considered a number of
      options. Why not focus on the collective guilt of
      the passengers, who have failed so miserably in
      protecting the innocent old Muslim couple? Or
      play it as an adventure by inventing stratagms
      for Raja Choudhry to avoid discovery and sure
      death. Or, of course, look at how a traditional
      conservative middle class woman copes with the
      possibility of a fellow traveller being lynched
      by a ravaging mob. The third storyline is what
      draws Aparna Sen in the movie. With very moving
      and disturbing results.

      In the midst of all the deliberately stereotyped
      characters, there is one jarring note, which
      cannot be ignored - the constant reference to Mrs
      Iyer's son Santhanam by his full 'given' name. It
      is not a typical name in any sense. What is even
      more surprising, however, is her insistence on
      always using it without another endearment or
      nickname. This is certainly unusual. Children are
      everywhere referred to by pet names. A
      traditional Tamilian family would have called the
      child 'Raja', 'Mani,' 'Kuzhanthai', 'Kanne'. But
      not Meenakshi Iyer. For her and for the director
      he is always only 'Santhanam'. The name is used
      ad nauseam as if to drive home its significance.
      And it is significant. For 'santhanam' means
      literally 'child' - in Sanskrit and in all the
      Indian languages derived from it. The centrality
      of the child to the story is evident in the scene
      set in the beautiful forest glade where Meenakshi
      and Raja Choudhry frolic with the mischievous
      boy. In cinematic parlance, we are here looking
      at the typical child - the child of the country,
      the inheritor of India's difficult and disturbing
      heritage. The heritage of diversity in which
      languages, religions, regions, cultures and races
      lie tangled in hopeless confusion. A heritage
      that demands from an Indian citizen a much higher
      degree of tolerance and understanding than from
      citizens of most other countries. The terrible
      heritage too of violent confrontation and rioting
      that has become inseparable from recent history.
      And we are shown how, in the light of this
      heritage, Meenakshi Iyer confronts every Indian's
      dilemma - how far each of us is responsible for
      the life of a fellow Indian, victimised for
      belonging to a different religious, regional or
      cultural group.

      Aparna Sen's handling of the scene is masterly in
      its understatement and effectiveness. It comes
      upon us in total unexpectedness. The camera does
      not linger on Raja Choudhry's fear and
      desperation, although we know that he is
      expecting trouble. There is no background music,
      imagery or symbolism of any sort, heralding
      Meenakshi Iyer's impulsive action. We do not know
      (and are not even told at a later date) how and
      why she reached the decision to step out of line
      as a traditional housewife and do the most
      stunning, subversive action possible for a Hindu
      woman - lift up her 'mangalyasutra' and introduce
      her companion and herself with total confidence
      as 'Mr and Mrs Iyer'. And yet her intelligent but
      extremely dangerous action succeeds in saving a
      life, when foolhardy direct, non-violent
      intervention had not saved the lives of the
      innocent old Muslim couple. Meenakshi's dilemma
      belongs to all Indians. And it would be
      interesting to know how acceptable her dramatic
      and shocking solution is to most of us. I suspect
      that even very traditional and conservative
      persons would find it difficult to condemn her
      action. Despite the virulent divisive propaganda
      that is so current today, few of us will betray
      our duty as true Indians to protect fellow
      citizens of different religions. And it is this
      Indianness that the director brings into focus so
      sharply and clearly.

      Symbolism of a Journey

      From the moment that Meenakshi takes the
      momentous step, her life is transformed. The
      movie is about this transformation too, something
      that the director traces with remarkable finesse
      and delicacy. And it is here that I would like to
      set Aparna Sen off against another favourite
      director - Satyajit Ray. Ray's movies too treat
      women with rare delicacy - my favourites are the
      women of the Apu trilogy - the grandmother and
      sister of 'Pather Panchali', the mother of
      'Aparajito' and the wife of 'Apur Sansar'. All
      seen lovingly - but always through the eyes of
      the man Apu. Aparna Sen, however, sees the world
      through a woman's eyes. In many earlier films and
      once again in 'Mr and Mrs Iyer'.

      Which is why I do not see 'Mr and Mrs Iyer' as a
      love story of the 'Brief Encounter' type. It is
      instead a growing up tale, the story of a woman
      waking into adulthood. It could as well have been
      called 'Meenakshi Iyer Grows Up' or 'The
      Education of Mrs Iyer'. It traces the movement of
      a woman's consciousness in the course of a single
      journey, the consequences of one decisive and
      unexpected action. Adulthood does not come easily
      to women in Indian middle class homes even when
      they are married. For marriages are conducted
      within an overwhelming ambience of parental
      involvement that takes much of the autonomy of
      choice of a life partner out of the woman's
      hands. And this is followed by performance of a
      host of traditional roles - as wife, mother,
      daughter-in-law and the rest. But adulthood is
      about making choices and taking the consequences.
      The choices open to a traditional middle class
      woman are limited and so is her experience of
      life within a sheltered household. Meenakshi is
      educated (an MSc in physics) and intelligent (her
      stratagem has saved a life). She makes a choice
      to tell a shocking lie to save a fellow traveller
      and is forced to pick up the pieces - she must
      play out the lie throughout the entire journey.
      And the events that intervene bring her to
      disturbed maturity as an Indian and as a woman.

      And so Meenakshi gets her education about the
      hollowness of the stereotypes ingrained in her
      from childhood. With what confidence and facility
      she had concluded at the beginning of the journey
      that by sharing food and drink with Muslims you
      get polluted! But the education extends not only
      to Muslims; it is also about men in general.
      Advice about men has been drilled into her as it
      has been into the minds of all Indian women. You
      don't share a room with men for they take
      advantage of you. Strange men need few comforts;
      they can sleep anywhere and manage anyhow. Events
      at the forest guest house open her eyes to real
      life. They teach her that people are not
      stereotypes. They are not just Muslims and
      Hindus; they are not even just men and women. We
      are all persons; not stereotypes but human
      beings, creative, supporting, helpful and
      protective. Meenakshi learns to look beyond the
      rules and prejudices of her upbringing and
      background. And is left standing on the station
      platform with the new knowledge and value systems
      that her decision has brought her. Her
      transformation is apparent even to others. Raja
      Choudhry has seen it dawning on her face, but he
      is already a mature adult, capable of pursuing
      his profession, travelling around and looking
      after himself and aware of dangers. He has no
      growing up to do. Meenakshi's husband looks at
      her with a new awareness, sensing the change. And
      we wonder how the new woman will cope with her
      autonomy and her experiences (that she cannot
      share with anyone but that we hope will influence
      the manner in which she brings up Santhanam, the
      future Indian citizen).

      And with delicate irony, we find that the message
      against stereotyping has been crafted from
      stereotypes themselves - stereotypes lifted out
      of their setting to become individuals in their
      own right. 'Mr and Mrs Iyer' appeals to the
      emotions because it focuses on what it means to
      be an Indian woman today.


      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 (http://www.sacw.net/).
      The complete SACW archive is available at:
      [The earlier URL for SACW web site
      <www.mnet.fr/aiindex>, is now longer operational,
      you can search google cache for materials on the
      old location]
      South Asia Counter Information Project a sister
      initiative provides a partial back -up and
      archive for SACW. http://perso.wanadoo.fr/sacw/

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

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