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SACW | 02 Jan 2004 | India / Sexuality / US, Ulama / Communalism

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | 02 January, 2004 [Announcement: Please note, SACW dispatches will be interrupted for the period last January 6/7 to February
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 1, 2004
      South Asia Citizens Wire | 02 January, 2004

      [Announcement: Please note, SACW dispatches will
      be interrupted for the period last January 6/7
      to February 22, 2004 ]

      [1] India: Section 377: How natural is normal? (Nivedita Menon)
      [2] Uncle Sam Courting the 'Maulanas' from India (Yoginder Sikand)
      [3] India: Intimidating Trident - Communalism 2003 (Ram Puniyani)
      [4] India: Upcoming event for peace and secularism
      - Programme - Youth 4 Peace Unity Concert and
      Promise of India's conference (Jan 7 and Jan 8,



      South Asia Citizens Web | January 1, 2004

      Section 377: How natural is normal?

      Nivedita Menon

      The recent episode of a lesbian couple in Kerala
      having to seek court intervention to stop police
      persecution initiated by their parents, starkly
      underlines the fearsome question that lies
      unrecognized at the heart of the furore around
      Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code: Is it
      natural to be normal? Introduced into Indian
      statute by the British parliament in 1872, this
      section penalizes sexual activity "against the
      order of nature". So? A handful of perverts
      should worry. At most, the wider body of
      ubiquitous "human rights activists" who hold the
      absurd belief that as long as consenting adults
      are involved, sexual preferences are private
      matters from which the law should keep out.
      Should anyone else care?

      Well, here's bad news for normal society
      -"normal" sexuality is no private matter. The
      assumption is that "normal" sexual behaviour
      springs from nature, and that it has nothing to
      do with culture or history. But if we recognize
      that sexuality is located in culture, we have to
      deal with the uncomfortable idea that sexuality
      is a human construct, and not something that
      happens "naturally." Consider the possibility
      that rules of sexual conduct are as arbitrary as
      traffic rules, created by human societies to
      maintain a certain sort of order, and which could
      differ from place to place - for example, you
      drive on the left in India and on the right in
      the USA. Further, let us say you question the
      sort of social order that traffic rules keep in
      place. Say you believe that traffic rules in
      Delhi are the product of a model of urban
      planning that privileges the rich and penalizes
      the poor, that this order encourages
      petrol-consuming private vehicles and discourages
      forms of transport that are energy-saving -
      cycles, public transport, pedestrians. You would
      then question that model of the city that forces
      large numbers of inhabitants to travel long
      distances every day simply to get to school and
      work. You could debate the merits of traffic
      rules and urban planning on the grounds of
      convenience, equity and sustainability of natural
      resources - at least, nobody could seriously
      argue that any set of traffic rules is natural.

      Let us apply this argument to sexuality. First of
      all, if "normal" behaviour were so natural, it
      would not require such a vast network of controls
      to keep in place. Take some random examples. Item
      one - gendered dress codes. Imagine a bearded man
      in a skirt in a public place: why would this
      shake the very foundations of "normal" society?
      Unless "he" is recognizably a hijra, and that
      puts him on the margins of normal society in a
      different way. Just the wrong kind of cloth on
      the wrong body, and the very foundations of
      natural, normal sexual identity start to quake!
      Two - the disciplining of thought through
      schools, families, the media, education,
      religion. All telling you that desire for someone
      of the same sex is a sin, or insane, or criminal.
      Three, if all else fails - violent coercive
      measures to keep people heterosexual, from
      electric shock therapy to physical abuse to using
      the coercive apparatus of the state, as the
      parents in the Kerala incident did. Four - laws.
      Why would we need laws to maintain something that
      is natural? Are there laws forcing people to eat
      or sleep? But there is a law forcing people to
      have sex in a particular way!

      The point of real interest though, is that human
      beings do not in fact, live particularly
      "natural" lives. The whole purpose of
      civilization seems to be to move as far away from
      nature as possible. We clothe our naked bodies
      (indeed, the same people who condemn
      homosexuality as unnatural would insist that
      natural nudity be covered up). We cook raw food
      derived from nature, we build elaborate shelters
      from the natural elements. We use contraception
      (again, most of those who condemn homosexuality
      on the grounds that sex is only for procreation
      would not question the need for contraception).
      Clearly, equating "unnatural" with
      "immoral/wrong" is simply a way of suffocating

      But the more important question is - what is the
      social order that the rules of "normal" sexual
      behaviour keep in place? Why is it so crucial to
      ensure that men have legitimate sex only with
      women? (Note the word legitimate, because of
      course sex between people of the same sex is as
      old as human civilization). Why the need to
      ensure that women only have sex with the men they
      are married to (because again, everyone knows
      that the rules of chastity and monogamy are
      enforced strictly only for women). Remember the
      scene from the Hindi film Mrityudand in which the
      visibly pregnant Shabana is asked "yeh kiska
      bachha hai?" It is very evident that the baby is
      inside her body, that it is hers, but the absurd
      question makes absolute sense in a patriarchal
      society - who is the father of this child, is
      what the question means. Whose caste does this
      child bear, to whose property can he lay claim?

      This brings us to the institution of the family
      that is at the core of the present extremely
      inequitable social order. A Delhi High Court
      judgement in 1984 ruled that the fundamental
      rights to equality and freedom have no place in
      the family. To bring constitutional law into the
      home, the learned judge ruled, is like "taking a
      bull into a china shop." And of course, he was
      absolutely right. The family in India is indeed
      premised on extreme inequality - beginning with
      the wife changing her surname on marriage, to the
      property to which no sister has equal rights with
      her brother, to the sexual division of labour,
      which legitimizes the unpaid domestic labour of
      women. The rights to equality and freedom would
      certainly destroy the family as we know it.

      If families were only about material and
      emotional support structures, then any such group
      of people would be recognized as a family. Isn't
      it also more likely that humans experience sexual
      desire in a variety of ways, of which the
      heterosexual is only one? But the point precisely
      is that only the heterosexual, patriarchal family
      is permitted to exist. And this family is about
      the passing on of property and lineage through
      men. The "normality" that this requires is
      produced, maintained and rigorously policed by
      the state, laws and social institutions. It is
      far from being natural or private.

      In short, section 377 does not refer to some
      queer people out there, whom normal people can
      gaze upon like anthropologists at a bizarre
      tribe. Section 377 is about the painful creation
      of Mr and Mrs Normal - it is one of the nails
      holding in place the elaborate fiction that
      "normality" springs from nature.

      URL: www.sacw.net/SexualityMinorities/nivedita01Jan2004.html



      31 Dec., 2003
      Yoginder Sikand

      America's image in the Muslim world has never
      been as badly tarnished as it is today, and many
      Muslims are convinced, rightly or wrongly, that
      the American establishment has launched an
      all-out war against Islam. The actual situation
      might be more complex than what conspiracy
      theorists claim, but there can be no doubt that
      the attacks on Afghanistan and now the invasion
      of Iraq have given further legitimacy to the
      arguments of those who see America as leading a
      global war on Islam. The powerful influence that
      the Christian fundamentalist evangelicals as well
      as the Zionist lobby exercise on Bush and his
      administration is held up as further evidence for
      the assertion of Islam being framed as America's
      latest global enemy.
      Bush's several statements denying that his
      country sees Islam as the enemy seem to have had
      little impact on popular Muslim opinion, for
      America's aggression against Iraq and
      Afghanistan and its continued support for Israel
      have been taken by Muslims as belying Bush's
      claims. Not surprisingly, then, Muslims all over
      the world see America's protestations of
      innocence as simply hypocritical.
      In a bid to improve America's image among the
      Indian Muslims, the American Centre in New Delhi
      recently launched an ambitious programme of
      reaching out to the 'ulama of the traditional
      madrasas, who exercise an important influence on
      Muslim opinion both within India as well as
      elsewhere. I first heard about the programme from
      a friend, who was involved in launching it.
      Curious to learn more, I fixed an interview with
      Robert Schmidt, Counselor for Cultural Affairs at
      the American Embassy in Delhi. Mr. Schmidt is
      also the chairman of the board of the United
      States Educational Foundation in India (USEFI).
      Since I am presently working on a book on the
      Indian madrasas, Mr. Schmidt was willing to meet
      me and invited me to his office.
      Mr. Schmidt explained that so far under the
      programme that he has launched four batches of
      ulama, a total of 27 people, from various Indian
      madrasas have been sent to America on a
      three-week visit, all expenses taken care of. The
      participants were first taken to Washington,
      where they met with State Department officials,
      and discussed various issues of mutual concern.
      Thereafter, they were taken to various American
      cities, where they interacted with Christian,
      Jewish and Muslim educationists and visited
      schools run by different religious groups. Mr.
      Schmidt said that he hopes to expand the
      programme in future and is contacting 'ulama at
      other madrasas in this regard.
      I stepped out of the office wondering at the
      Americans' sudden interest in the Indian
      madrasas. In the days that followed my meeting
      with Mr. Schmidt I met several Muslim leaders as
      well as 'ulama to ask them what they thought
      about the programme. Predictably, their response
      was mixed. Some saw it as a ploy to 'purchase'
      the 'ulama by showing them the glamorous side of
      America. Some 'ulama, they said, would be more
      than willing to speak out in favour of America if
      they were suitably rewarded for their services.
      They argued that the programme had nothing to do
      with any philanthropic motives such as helping to
      improve the functioning of the madrasas, and was
      aimed simply at cultivating a group of 'ulama who
      would work to promote American interests, such as
      by issuing statements in America's favour or
      speaking out against anti-American Islamist
      groups. If the programme was motivated to help
      reform the system of education, they argued, why
      take the 'ulama all the way to America, instead
      of to modern schools and universities within
      India itself? If the Americans were genuinely
      concerned about the pathetic state of education
      in India, they asked, why pick on the madrasas
      alone? Why, they asked, have the Americans not
      thought about reforming the RSS-schools, for
      instance, where venom against Muslims and
      Christians is so openly preached?

      On the other hand, several other 'ulama I met saw
      the programme as a positive development. One
      'alim argued that by affording an opportunity to
      the 'ulama to travel abroad and observe the
      functioning of religious schools in America
      the programme might help promote reforms in the
      madrasas that they run. Another 'alim asserted
      that the dialogue that the programme was intended
      to promote was indeed a welcome thing, for it
      might help remove misunderstandings and alleviate
      conflicts between America and the Muslim world.
      'There is no alternative to dialogue', he said.
      'America and the Muslims have to learn to live
      together and dialogue is the only way out'.

      Going by past precedent, it is likely that the
      programme would not be entirely free of political
      implications and consequences. America's role in
      supporting radical Islamic groups to counter
      leftist forces in the Arab world and in
      Afghanistan clearly suggests that it is not
      undying hatred for Islam as such, but, rather,
      what are seen as America's strategic interests,
      that underly America's policies vis-a-vis
      Islamic groups and the 'ulama. As to the actual
      agenda of the 'ulama programme that the Americans
      have launched in India there seems to be no
      general consensus, but there can be no doubt that
      it is stirring considerable debate in 'ulama



      SACW, January 1, 2003

      Intimidating Trident
      Communalism 2003

      Ram Puniyani

      The year 2003 had many a disturbing events. These are
      portents for the polity of India as a secular
      democracy. The backdrop of Gujarat carnage was too
      heavy in the social conscience to be overcome. The
      tragedy of Gujarat violence was followed by the
      massive victory of the 'butcher of Gujarat', due to
      whose acts of commission and omission the carnage took
      the honorific scale unprecedented in the post
      independence India. The nation was stunned to watch
      the gross abuse of the human and democratic values,
      with the active connivance of the state machinery. The
      connivance of state apparatus was so gross that it
      will be better to call it a state sponsored anti
      Muslim pogrom. Apart from its many firsts, the
      violation of the women of minority community, the
      state hostility to those who tried to provide some
      relief to the riot victims was unimaginable in any
      society in the current times. The face of a frightened
      Muslim pleading for mercy stated the nature of
      violence and the state of mind of minorities in
      Gujarat. The slitting open the womb of Kausar Bano to
      burn her unborn baby underlined the scale of hatred,
      which by now has become the part of social psyche all
      over and more so in Gujarat.

      Muslims in Godhra were presented as the culprits and
      the whole genocide was presented as a reaction to the
      burning of the train. Interestingly the Godhra tragedy
      again highlights the state of the affairs and the
      manipulation of events. There was no room to question
      the Modiís spot investigation that Muslims have burnt
      the train, there was no place for introspecting the
      reasons for the train burning, who did it, as the
      aggressive propaganda dished out the theory that
      ëtheyí have burnt the train in collaboration with the
      ISI and international terrorism, ëweí the Hindus are
      under threat and so lets retaliate. By a sleight of
      hand the active violence was presented as a reaction
      of the unfortunate event, which could have been
      investigated properly and guilty of the crime punished
      in an impartial manner. This bogus theory exposed
      itself, but not in the popular psyche, and the
      well-planned pogrom unleashed itself. The question was
      that if it was a reaction, than why the neighboring
      Hindu of Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan are not taking
      revenge? The questions it raised were innumerable. But
      the popular psyche did accept the Modi thesis and a
      section of people unleashed the first major
      anti-Minority pogrom of 21st century, well coordinated
      by different wings of RSS and its affiliates, Sangh
      Parivar (SP).

      How come that the one who presided over the biggest
      genocide, of course with due protection from the
      fellow swaymsevaks in the central govt., the Prime
      minister and Home minister, could come back to power
      in such a massive majority? This was simple enough to
      explain as the polarization brought about due to
      pogrom was highlighted continuously and majority
      community was given the signal that defeat of Mr. Modi
      is equivalent to victory of Pakistan, the country with
      our permanent enemy status, and of international
      terrorism. Also the inroads which BJPs affiliate,
      Vanvasi Kalyan Ashsram (VKA) has made in the adivisi
      areas did the rest, by winning over a large to section
      of Adiviais to the politics of Hate.

      Emerging as a Hero from the electoral battles, Mr.
      Modiís arrogance reached sky high. The process of
      giving justice to the Gujarat victims is being
      obstructed in all possible ways. To begin with Justice
      Shah-Nanvati commission, which has been appointed to
      investigate the Gujarat riots, has been giving the
      signals that it is going to play to the tunes of RSS
      and its affiliates. Mr. Shah is a known RSS
      sympathizer. Supreme Court had quashed his judgments
      in TADA cases against Muslims. Mr. Nanavati also once
      a while drops a line, which shows as do where do his
      sympathies lie. The FIRís have not been filed in
      innumerable cases and in few cases, which have come
      up, the witnesses have been intimidated by the state
      authorities and the sundry politicians who were
      involved in the riots. The case of Best Bakery said it
      all. Zahira Sheikh, whose twelve relatives were burnt
      alive, initially gave the evidence against the
      culprits. Later under the threats and pressures, most
      of the witnesses along with her turned hostile and
      retracted their statements and in the court denied
      that she had seen any of the accused. Many a civil
      liberties groups helped her and in the case filed in
      the Supreme court, the court reprimanded Modi for his
      governments failure to book the culprits of the riots
      and to provide due protection to the victims and those
      deposing in the courts. Since it is perceived that
      situation in Gujarat is totally hostile to the
      minorities and those seeking justice, it is being
      argued that hearing of riot related cases be shifted
      out of Gujarat since the atmosphere there is not
      conducive to the proper conduct of the riot related
      cases so they should be shifted out.

      Many a social activists have started perceiving that
      the menacing grip of the state is strangulating the
      civil liberties in general and those of minorities in
      particular. the same is exemplified times and over
      again. Mallika Sarabhai, one of the most respected
      names in Gujarat is being hounded for raising her
      voice against the atrocities of the state. She has
      been one of petitioners in the public interest
      litigation in the case file in the Supreme Court. She
      had also raised her voice against the carnage in
      Gujarat. The state Govt. managed to put up one of the
      ex-applicants to Sarabhaiís dance troupe, and cooked
      up a false case. The matter went to the extent of
      putting hear behind bars, for trafficking, violation
      of visa laws and for fraud. Sarabhaiís Darshana
      Academy had duly returned the deposit to the
      applicant, there was no violation of any of the norms
      of the land. She had to appeal to courts to avoid her
      arrest and to ensure that the Modi Govt. does not
      victimize her. After the genocide, it is a different
      Gujarat, one feel the Big Brother Modi breathing down
      oneís neck all the time. A prelude to a Fascist state?

      In one of the other ongoing court cases, Dara Singh
      the culprit involved in the murder of Pastor Graham
      Stains was sentenced to death. One recalls here that
      Dara Singh has nebulous links with different wings of
      Sangh Parivar. After he committed this crime, the Home
      minister, Advani, went on to exonerate his links with
      Bajrang Dal. M.M.Joshi and others went into assert
      that the murder of Pastor stains is part of an
      international conspiracy to destabilize the BJP led
      coalition. Also Dilp Sing Judeo who is the champion of
      Gharvapasi, reconversion of Adivasis to Hinduism,
      vowed to fight Dara Singhís case in the courts. On
      having been reprimanded by the RSS-BJP top brass for
      this, he retracted. Incidentally, Judeoís brother took
      the brief for Dara Singh.

      The NRI funding of RSS and its progeny has been
      brought to the surface by the human rights groups
      based in US. The web site SACW and Sabrang prepared a
      report on this expose. RSS sympathizers have set up
      IDRF, and have been projecting it as a charity
      organization supporting the work in India. The report
      points out that most of its funds go to the RSS
      affiliates and a large chunk of this is used in the
      hate propaganda and in Hindutvasing the Adivasis.
      Those NRIís looking for an avenue to do charity are
      presented with IDRF as a non-sectarian charity
      organization. These funds have played a major role in
      doctoring the psyche of the masses leading to various
      acts of violence against minorities.

      As per the order of Allahabad High Court,
      Archeological Survey of India (ASI) undertook the
      excavation at the site where Babri mosque was
      demolished. The report goes on to say that a massive
      structure of 10 century, the one like the temple
      existed at the site. This conclusion of ASI totally
      goes against its own findings. It has conveniently
      ignored uncomfortable findings in order to forcibly
      prove the existence of temple. While the Sangh Parivar
      has quietly picked up on this and is going around
      saying that a massive Ram Temple existed and was
      demolished, the discerning archeologists have quashed
      the ASI thesis in a very convincing manner.
      The report has not "taken into account" certain
      features of the western -wall of the pre-Babri Masjid
      chamber. The burnt brick wall of the pre-Babri Masjid
      structure had a carved stone laid in the foundation.
      If this finding is analyzed it precluded the
      possibility of the structure being associated with
      Hindus, since they never used carved stone in
      foundation. Many an outstanding
      archeologists-historians have refuted the possibility
      of the temple being there on the ground of the same
      The project undertaken by the MHRD to saffronise the
      school textbooks reached it culmination in the release
      of new textbooks. These new lots are a blot on the
      academic standards so far achieved by Indian
      historiography. Not only is there a heavy Hindutva
      slant in these, they are also blatant in their
      anti-Minorityism, anti-weaker sections of society and
      these books eulogize the fascist type of Nationalism.
      What shows the caliber of the writers of the books is
      that have lifted paragraphs and pages from the US
      books in the matters of World affairs. And on the top
      of this, the naked plagiarism is being defended by the
      MHRD minister. One is sure that these books will
      create a havoc in the times to come as the central
      core of these is paying blind obeisance to the
      traditions, glorification of all the obscurantist
      values and to spread hate against the Muslims and
      Christians in blatant and subtle way.

      The fact that communalization process is not just
      restricted to North Indian states became clear in
      various incidents in other states. In Madhya Pardesh
      Uma Bharati tried to kick start her election campaign
      with by making an issue around Bhojshala/mosque issue.
      Fortunately her ploy did not work. The Baba Budan giri
      dargah in Karnatkak has been repeatedly brought to
      fore and the Sangh brigade aims to convert it into
      Ayodhya of South. Every year they are holding a rally
      to declare that it is Datta Pitham, which has been
      converted by Muslims rulers into a Dargahg. In current
      yearís function, the peace protesters were arrested in
      large number while the state Govt. silently watched
      the rally by Sangh Parivar, which spewed poison
      against minorities. Kerala is another state giving the
      danger signals. This state has large number of RSS
      shakhas. The Marad incident of clash between two
      groups of fishermen was communalized and the Muslim
      residents of the village had to flee and take shelter
      in a refugee camp. The subtle undercurrents of RSS
      work are getting visible in most of the states. With
      BJP led coalition coming to power at the center this
      has got a boost and lot of official patronage is being
      showered on the organizations related to RSS, which
      primarily aim at its usual agenda, which spread myths
      against minorities which in turn form a fertile ground
      for the riots and other processes in due course of
      time. Also the flood of dollars in the RSS affiliates
      is another worrisome problem, adding grist to the
      already existing threats posed by their activities.

      The results of the assembly elections (MP, Rajasthan,
      Chattisgargh) are the major worrisome factor. Every
      victory of BJP leads it further to its tightening grip
      on the civil and democratic institutions. By now the
      other opportunist political formations have started
      lending a ladder to the BJPís rise to power. The ilk
      of George Fernandez, who is a symbol of the
      opportunist politics to the core, is rising and BJP is
      able to use such people to the hilt for its agenda and
      the dirty work. In order to retain their privileges
      and power this type of leaders are the oneís to defend
      the rape of women in Gujarat or to put a cover to the
      acts like ghastly burning of Pastor Stains. This
      victory of BJP gives another signal and that pertains
      to its ësuccessí in social engineering. By now the
      affiliates of BJP have infiltrated in the remote areas
      through Vanvasi kalyan Ahsrams which are not only
      Hinduisng Adivasis but also Hidnutvaising them.
      Gujarat showed as to how cleverly RSS can use Dalits
      and Adivasis as its foot soldiers in conducting the
      anti minority pogroms. These elections are showing
      that RSS grip on Adivasi areas is risesing and now
      through the medium of identity politics it can draw
      the adivasis to its electoral fold. In a way BJP seems
      to be emerging as a core pole in the electoral arena.
      One, it is able to negotiate coalitions, taking
      advantage of the power hunger of the opportunist
      electoral formations. Two, it is able to give them the
      RSS-Hindu identity through VKA etc. Three, by
      providing upwardly mobile channels to a section of
      them they are able to increase their base. And lastly,
      the Sanskritisation process, which ensures that this
      semi affluent section of Adiviasis falls in the lap of
      SP, also grips a very small section of Adivasis.

      The policies in external affairs are leading the
      country in the lap of the US imperialism. One knows
      during the colonial period of our country, RSS was not
      opposed to the British rule as such but was focusing
      its energies on opposing the political stream, which
      trying to build India as a modern Indian Nation state,
      the national stream under the leadership of Gandhi.
      Even during Americaís aggression against Vietnam, RSS
      might have been one of the few organizations in the
      world to blatantly support the American policies.
      India, which was the leader of Non Aligned movement
      has been gradually shifting its stance to become the
      client state of Unites states. This became very
      obvious when India offered all the support to US in
      its aggression against Afghanistan. The same
      wavelength is continuing and US is recognizing that
      India under the BJP can become another reliable ally
      for its global ambitions of imposing Globalization on
      his terms.

      The impact of this Modi type intimidation on the
      Muslim minorities is in the adverse direction. The
      ghettoization of Muslim minorities, which increased in
      the mid eighties, is rising further. This in turn is
      leading to the further growth of Muslim fundamentalism
      in the pockets of population.

      Overall the scene is quiet dismal, especially after
      the results of three state assemblies. If one analyses
      the electoral percentage, one is clear that the total
      votes polled by BJP are not significant except in
      parts of the country. But combined with the different
      strategies and with the coalitions, it is able to walk
      away with the cake. It is a clever Machiavellian move,
      which is keeping it in the center of power. Since BJP
      is tied to the apron strings of RSS and is electoral
      wing of Sangh Parivar, the danger becomes all the
      more. If the trajectory is not checked it will aim at
      a majority on its own, then subduing the allies it
      will manipulate the social and political processes in
      such a way that over a period of time it brings in the
      agenda of Hindu Rashtra.

      The response of the communities has been very divers.
      A sign of hope has emerged from the Human rights
      groups who have undertaken the work of spreading the
      values of pluralism and harmony in the communities.
      This being done through various channels, though most
      welcome is too little too late. Amongst the Muslim
      communities while on one hand there is rise of
      obscurantist values, on the other various groups and
      trusts working amongst them have been taking up the
      issues related to education and self-employment in a
      serious way. Again the efforts are miniscule compared
      to the problem on hand.

      The efforts at political level will fructify only if
      the society gets a respite at electoral level and at
      social level. The need is to ensure that under no
      circumstance the communal powers come to power. Every
      stint in power leads them to strengthening their grip
      at the social level. This further erodes the
      pluralistic values and its impact is on all aspects of
      National life. The Nation is at the crossroads once
      again. The threat of communal fascism is rising by the
      day and the efforts to deal with this should aim at
      forming a sort of platform for egalitarian society,
      addressing the issues of people at day-to-day level.
      The positive alternative of a society where the values
      emerging from our freedom struggle and those enshrined
      in our constitution is strengthened has to be our
      priority. The fragmentation of secularists at
      political and social level is most detrimental. One
      can say with some degree of confidence that even now
      the overall majority of society is fed up with the
      impact of communal politics, the adverse effects of
      the politics of Hindutva. The majority of Nation wants
      the issues to be brought back to the oneís related to
      bread, butter, shelter and employment. The tragedy is,
      the center of gravity of our polity is gradually
      shifting. The challenge is not only to hold it but
      also to put forth a positive alternative of secular
      democracy, the one committed to not only to the people
      of one or other religion but to all Indian citizens.
      The issue is that we all deserve the status of equal
      citizens irrespective of our caste creed and gender.
      The issue at stake is that the choice of those who
      struggled for our freedom has to be brought back as
      the major concern of the nation, the concerns related
      to a decent social and political existence.
      Communalism is rising by default, it is as much the
      success of the long work of RSS and its progeny as
      much it is due to the failure of the progressive
      people to understand the multiple dimensions of
      social, economic and cultural life of the people in
      all its rich complexity.




      JANUARY 7, 2004

      Promise of India & Youth 4 Peace Unity Concert

      VENUE: Shringar Theatre, Pragati Maidan , New Delhi

      ( we have shifted the venue from Lal Chowk to Shringar due to cold weather)

      Time: 5.30 pm onwards

      Safdar Rangmanch- Street Play

      Mannu Kohli, Zohra Segal, Gauhar Raza, Shakti-
      Dalit Women Percussionist and Dance troupe from
      Tamil Nadu, Usha Uthup


      Queries: Youth 4 Peace, Anhad- 4, Windsor Place,
      New Delhi-110001. Tel- 23327367/ 66/ 9811807558

      Info on Artists:

      Safdar Rangmanch- Safdar Rangmanch was formed a
      year after Safdar Hashmi’s murder. Safdar
      Rangmanch has performed over 1000 performances of
      over 20 street plays. Safdar Rangmanch would
      perform its new play on January 7, 2004. The
      following actors would be performing: Sanjay
      Sharma, Saqlain Shahidi, Sudhir , Harish Kumar,
      Chandan Kumar, Laxmi Sharma, Dorothy, Mansa
      Patnam, Anuj, Mohit Rewal.

      Shakti- Dalit percussionist, dance group

      Sakthi Cultural Group is a Dalit women
      percussionist and dance group from Tamil
      Nadu.Shakti has completed 10 years and so far
      1000 performances have been staged. Shakti
      systematized the adavus of dances, worked
      creatively to compose different choreography,
      modernized the dances with attractive costumes
      and above all they have tried to effectively
      bring out a social message through these art

      Today Shakti is equipped to perform cultural
      programs for more than 2 hours . Shakti would be
      performing on the theme of communal harmony for
      about 40 mnts at the concert.

      Zohra Segal- Zohra Segal’s first major role was
      in Merchant-Ivory's The Courtesans of Bombay (d.
      James Ivory, 1982). This led to a major role as
      Lady Chatterjee in the television adaptation The
      Jewel in the Crown (ITV, 1984).

      Many of the roles Segal has played since the mid
      1980s could be categorized as 'the elderly south
      Asian woman', as in the comedy drama series
      Tandoori Nights (Channel 4, 1987) and Never Say
      Die (Channel 4, 1987) and the east-meets-west
      drama Firm Friends (ITV, 1992-94), about the fast
      food business. Segal has also worked on many
      independent British features including Caravaggio
      (d. Derek Jarman, 1986), Partition (d. Ken
      McMullen, 1987) and Bhaji on the Beach (d.
      Gurinder Chadha, 1993).

      Since the mid-1990s most of Segal's work has been
      for the Bollywood film industry, in films such as
      in Dil Se (India, d. Mani Ratnam, 1998) and
      Dillagi (India, d. Sunny Deol, 2000), though she
      has continued to make films in Britain, recently
      The Mystic Masseur (d. Ismail Merchant, 2001) and
      Bend It Like Beckham (d. Gurinder Chadha, 2002).

      To date, her acting career has spanned over 6
      decades internationally and almost 4 decades in
      the UK alone, bringing to the screen many
      different representations of a south Asian woman
      of the Diaspora.

      Zohra Segal would recite poetry at the concert.

      Usha Uthup- Usha Uthup or Didi as she is
      fondly referred to, was born in independent India
      of parents who came from the traditionally rich
      states of Madras and Kerala and was raised in the
      bustling metropolis of Mumbai. Although Usha had
      never learnt music formally, her passion for
      music was present right from the moment she
      uttered her first words!

      With her gifted, velvet, smooth voice she was the
      only artist to have recorded six albums in
      English with HMV/EMI. Today she sings in more
      than thirteen Indian and eight foreign languages.
      This is an achievement by itself.

      If there is a legend bridging the East and the
      West, it is Usha. With her music and charm, she
      has transcended the barriers of caste, creed,
      language and nationality. Accolades have come
      from all over the world and she has sung for
      Prime Ministers and Presidents alike. Indira
      Gandhi, Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Arap Moi and more
      recently Nelson Mandela have all been her ardent

      Usha Uthup will sing songs of peace and harmony at the concert.

      Gauhar Raza- Gauhar Raza did his M. Tech as an
      electrical engineer from IIT, Delhi, worked as an
      engineer for a few years and then joined Council
      of Scientific and Industrial Research as a
      scientist, where he continues to work. Gauhar
      Raza is a documentary maker, playwright and a
      poet. His documentary films have been widely used
      by groups all over India and abroad. He has made
      over 15 documentaries which include: Zulmaton ke
      Daur Main, Ek Khoobsurat Jahaz, Junoon Ke Badhte
      Qadam, Bahon ka Qila , The Glacier and others.
      Gauhar’s first book of poetry ‘Jazbon ke Lau’ was
      published by Rajkamal Prakashan and was given the
      Hindi Academy Award for creative writing. He has
      also been awarded by the Urdu Academy for
      promoting Science in Urdu. His songs have been
      widely used by the literacy movement all over
      India.. Gauhar Raza would be reciting his
      anti-communal poetry at the concert.

      Mannu Kohli- Mannu Kohli, a young singer, has
      been singing in public from very early age. BBC,
      London recorded her concert at Bush House, London
      and broadcast it internationally several times in
      1992. Under the patronage of Mrs. Shubha Mudgal
      she sang for Music Today's 'Wedding Songs of
      U.P.". She has also sung for English musicals
      like Jesus Christ Superstar and Irma La Douce.

      Ghazal and Nazm are Mannu's forte though she has
      no formal training in Ghazal singing. Her
      diction in Urdu is impeccable. Mannu has worked
      as a journalist for Delhi Midday and is currently
      working for Music Today (India Today's music

      She would be singing ghazals by Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Ghalib and a few other poets.



      JANUARY 8, 2004

      Promise of India

      cordially invites you to its conference

      'Linking Peace and Development'

      Organized by a Global Community of Indians
      Reaffirming their Faith in a Democratic, Secular,
      Pluralistic, and United India

      Venue: India Habitat Center, Lodhi Road, New Delhi

      Thursday, January 8, 2004, 9:00 AM to 6:30 PM

      Time: 8:00 AM breakfast; 9:00 AM to 6:30 PM, with lunch and tea breaks

      Registration: There is no registration fee;
      however, priority will be given to pre-registered
      attendees. On-site registration will be open
      subject to availability of space. You may
      register at:

      Theme: To make strong linkages between peace,
      communal harmony, and India’s social and economic

      Approach: Keynote and panel presentations by
      distinguished speakers with known commitment to
      peace, development, and justice issues. Panelists
      are drawn from diverse spheres such as grass
      roots development, business, justice and
      governance, the media, and activists working to
      promote communal harmony.

      Each panelist will introduce his/her
      organization’s (or personal) area of work,
      placing it in the overall context of linking
      development to peace and justice. They will share
      their views on recent events in India, and will
      suggest concrete ideas for long term partnerships
      between Indian civil society and the Indian
      diaspora in support of communal harmony,
      development, and governance issues. Each panel
      presentation will be followed by at least fifteen
      minutes of Q & A.

      9:00 Welcome by Host for the day: Farooque
      Shaikh*, Television Host and Actor

      9:10 Introduction to Promise of India: Raju
      Rajagopal, Chair, Promise of India

      9:25 Introduction to India Development Trust, UK: Dr. Prem Sharma, Chair IDT

      9:30 Inauguration and Keynote Address: Shri
      I.K. Gujral, Former Prime Minister of India

      10:00 Prof. Amartya Sen’s and Shabana Azmi’s message to Promise of India

      10:15 **Tea Break**


      (15 minutes per speaker, followed by Q & A; *
      indicates speaker to be confirmed)

      10:30 Panel #1: Peace and Social Development

      Will feature NGO leaders, who have dedicated
      themselves to serving marginalized communities,
      and who are in a position to speak about the
      severe impact of communal/caste violence upon
      grass roots developmental work.

      Moderator: Dr. Anita Deshmukh, India Development Service (IDS), Chicago, IL1.

      · Aruna Roy IAS, Magsasay award winner;
      Founder, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathana (MKSS),

      · Sushma Iyengar, Managing Trustee, Kutch
      Mahila Vikas Sangathan (KMVS), Bhuj, Gujarat

      · Sandeep Pandey, Magsasay Award winner;
      Co-founder, Asha for Education and Activist,
      Lucknow, UP

      11:45 Panel #2: Peace and Economic Development

      Will feature business and community leaders, who
      will juxtapose upbeat views of India’s economic
      future, and the increasingly positive outlook of
      India as a business destination, with the urgent
      need to create an environment of peace and
      harmony essential to reaching all sections of

      Moderator: Kailash Joshi, Global Vice-Chair,
      The IndUS Entrepreneurs (TiE) and Co-President,
      India Community Center (ICC), Milpitas, CA

      Anu Aga--Chairperson, Thermax India Ltd, Pune
      Prof. S.K. Thorat--Director, Institute for Dalit Studies; Professor, JNU
      Admiral Ramdas, former Chief of Naval Staff, India
      1:00 PM **Lunch Break**

      2:00 Panel #3: Justice and Governance

      Will feature legal and constitutional experts,
      and activists who have been working on
      transparency and governance issues, who will be
      able to speak about the inherent strengths of
      India’s democratic institutions, especially in
      the context of some of the recent events.

      Moderator: Gagan Sethi, Managing Trustee, Janvikas, Ahmedabad, Gujarat1.

      Justice J.S. Verma, former Chief Justice of
      Supreme Court and former Chairman of
      NHRC-National Human Rights Commission

      Julio Francis Ribeiro, former Commissioner of Police, Mumbai
      Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan, National Coordinator, Lok Satta, Hyderabad
      3:15 Panel #4: Role of the Media

      Will feature leading journalists from the print,
      visual, and internet media, who will be able to
      speak about India’s press freedoms and the role
      and responsibilities of the media as a watchdog
      over democratic institutions, and the media’s
      role in preserving and promoting communal harmony.

      Moderator: Tarun Tejpal, Tehelka

      Prabhash Joshi, Consulting Editor, Jan Satta (Hindi)

      Paul Zacharia, Writer and Columnist in Malayalam
      Sukumar Muralidharan, Bureau Chief, The Frontline
      4:30 **Tea Break**

      4:45 Panel #5: Communal Harmony

      Will feature leading figures from different
      religious traditions and activists who have been
      working on communal harmony projects.

      Moderator: Prof. Raka Ray, Dept of Sociology and
      Chair, Center for South Asian Studies, University
      of California at Berkeley

      Nirmala Deshpande, Senior Gandhian, Association of Peoples of Asia
      Swami Agnivesh, Adyathma Jagran Manch & World Council of Arya Samaj
      Prof. Imtiaz Ahmed, Professor, JNU
      Fr. Cedric Prakash, Prashant, Ahmedabad, Gujarat
      Closing Address:

      ‘Linking Development to Peace and Justice:
      Highlights, Thoughts, and Actions’

      Harsh Mander--former IAS officer; Anhad; Writer and Activist

      Promise of India is a global initiative from
      people of Indian origin across the world, and
      from the people of India, who wish to reaffirm
      their faith in a Democratic, Secular, and
      Pluralistic India at this critical juncture in
      our nation’s history. It is a coalition of
      individuals and organizations who wish to speak
      with one voice against communal violence and to
      offer their support for efforts to promote
      harmony among communities. POI seeks to encourage
      those who are working on the ground for peace,
      justice, and transparency in governance, as well
      as those working to redirect the nation's
      energies towards development and educational
      opportunities for all Indians. POI envisions the
      creation of a sustainable global movement towards
      these objectives.

      Please RSVP: Promise of India, c/o ANHAD, 4
      Windsor Place, New Delhi Tel: 2332-7367/ 66/
      9811807558 or 098401-73650; Lunch and Tea will be
      served; For more details, please log on to:


      JANUARY 9, 2004

      Anhad ( Act Now for Harmony and Democracy)

      Invites you to the Premiere of the documentary


      at 4pm by

      Rakesh Sharma

      on January 9, 2004

      at the Speaker's Hall, Constitution Club, Rafi Marg, New Delhi

      Rakesh Sharma would be present at the screening.

      Final Solution is a study of the politics of
      hate. Set in Gujarat during the period Feb 2002-
      July 2003, the film examines the aftermath of the
      genocidal violence that followed the burning of
      59 Hindus in the Sabarmati Express at Godhra on
      Feb 27, 2002. Over 2500 Moslems were brutally
      killed in 'reaction', over 200,000 families
      displaced; it left an impact on the entire
      population of over 4 million Moslems in Gujarat.
      The film is in four parts:

      Part one - Pride and Genocide (57 minutes
      approx.) – deals with the carnage and its
      immediate aftermath. It examines the exploitation
      of the Godhra train incident by the right-wing
      propaganda machinery to drive a deep wedge in the
      Gujarat society and polarize its populace. It
      documents in graphic detail various acts of
      brutality that marked the violence. It records
      the pattern of pre-planned violence across towns
      and villages and in various muslim settlements in
      the state capital - Ahmedabad.

      Part two - The Terror Trail (56 minutes approx) -
      We hear voices from Gulberg society Sultana
      narrates her own story and expresses her shock
      about the venue chosen for the Gaurav Yatra
      speech at Kalol - the very spot where the men
      were killed and women chased into the fields
      before being raped! In the Eral rape-murder case,
      we hear Medina's eyewitness account We speak to
      family members of the Hindu victims of the
      terrorist attack on the Akshardham temple.

      Part three - The Hate Mandate (58 minutes approx)
      – travels on the election campaign during the
      Assembly elections in Gujarat in late 2002. It is
      an attempt to study 'from below' the spread of
      fascism among the Hindus in Gujarat.

      Part four - Hope and Despair ( 54 mins approx)–
      brings out the voices of the hapless victims
      whose universes have been damaged or destroyed
      forever. It traces the process of ghettoisation -
      350-400 Moslem students from Don Bosco school are
      forced to join a new school within the Moslem
      area; at the Juhapura-Vejalpur 'border', adults
      speak of the fragile nature of the 'calm/peace' .

      Rakesh Sharma began his film/TV career in 1986 as
      an assistant director on Shyam Benegal's
      Discovery of India. His broadcast industry
      experience includes the set up/ launch of 3
      broadcast channels in India : Channel [V], Star
      Plus and Vijay TV (Tamil) and consultancy
      assignments with several TV channels/production
      companies in India He has now gone back to
      independent documentary film-making. His previous
      film Aftershocks : The Rough Guide to Democracy
      won the best documentary award at Fribourg, Big
      Mini-DV and at Big Muddy and won 7 other awards
      at various festivals in USA and Europe during
      2002-03. It has been screened at over 80
      international film festivals and won the Robert
      Flaherty prize in 2002.


      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.sacw.net/
      The complete SACW archive is available at:

      South Asia Counter Information Project a sister
      initiative, provides a partial back -up and
      archive for SACW: snipurl.com/sacip
      See also associated site: www.s-asians-against-nukes.org

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

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