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SACW | 2 April 2004

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | 2 April, 2004 via: www.sacw.net [1] Is there hope for South Asia? (Zulfiqar Bhutta, Samiran Nundy, Kamran Abbasi) [2] Pakistan:
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2004
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      South Asia Citizens Wire | 2 April, 2004
      via: www.sacw.net

      [1] Is there hope for South Asia? (Zulfiqar
      Bhutta, Samiran Nundy, Kamran Abbasi)
      [2] Pakistan:
      - Women's commission recommends Qisas law be amended (Waqar Gillani)
      - Religious fervour blocking moves against gender discrimination (Raja Asghar)
      - Pakistan: Islamic scholars have failed to cope with modern times: Asma
      [3] India: Secularism Alerts by Sahmat
      Alert 1: Huntington's New Thesis and India (Girish Mishra)
      Alert 2: Can a BJP Government Make Tribal India Shine? (Archana Prasad)
      [4] South Asia: Often a voice in a snatch of
      poetry can reach places where no politician can go
      (Syeda Hameed)
      [5] India: Joining hands against communalism
      [6] India: Interview - Camera Conscience (Anand Patwardhan)
      [7] USA: Upcoming Talks in April by Ram Puniyani
      in California (LA, San Diego and Laguna Niguel)
      [8] India: Important Correction re letter to the
      editor carried in SACW 22-23 March 2004 (Mukul



      British Medical Journal [Theme Issue 'Health in South Asia']
      (3 April) 2004; 328:777-778



      Two years turned the Indian subcontinent into
      South Asia. Between 14 August 1947 and 4 February
      1948, India, Pakistan (its eastern part would
      later become Bangladesh), and Sri Lanka all
      gained independence from the British Empire. Amid
      the optimism of independence, the new states were
      comparable in population health and development
      indicators. Their progress since has been

      This issue of the BMJ maps out the extent of the
      region's myriad difficulties. Non-communicable
      and communicable diseases ravage South Asia (see
      pp 781, 794, 807, 811). Tobacco and
      pharmaceutical industries are exploiting weak
      legislation to nurture new markets (pp 778, 780,
      801). There is little pride in the progress of
      surgery (p 782), health research (p 826), or
      postgraduate education (p 779). Yet one challenge
      dwarfs all these: the desperate state of maternal
      and child health. Several articles reinforce the
      message that the scale of morbidity and mortality
      caused by neglect of mothers and children is
      driving the region to disaster (pp 791, 816, 820,
      823). And unless regional priorities switch from
      nuclear weapons to maternal and child health the
      progress that is being made in community
      development (p 830), by integrating care in
      refugee camps (p 834), by the creators of the
      Jaipur foot (p 789) and the Karachi ambulance
      service (p 790), and on cricket fields (pp 800,
      843) will count for nothing.

      The answers to the region's problems may already
      be with us. Despite a civil war, Sri Lanka has
      the best health indicators in the region (also
      beating those of most other countries with
      comparable incomes), with average life expectancy
      at 73 years, infant mortality at 16 per 1000, and
      maternal mortality at 30 per 100 000 live
      births.1 India's Kerala state has achieved health
      and demographic indicators far ahead of Indian
      national averages, with similar levels to Sri
      Lanka2; over 80% of infants receive all routine
      vaccines by 1 year, use of family planning
      services is high, and population growth is steady
      at replacement levels.3 4

      The genesis of this success is an object lesson
      for the entire region. Soon after independence
      Sri Lanka decided to invest heavily in education
      and health as a cornerstone of socioeconomic
      development. Gains in education have been
      impressive, with literacy rates for both sexes
      exceeding 90%.5 Similarly, Kerala has the highest
      literacy rates among all Indian states.3 Both
      have maintained policies to achieve gender and
      social equity, reflected in outstanding health
      and economic indicators for women.6 In Sri Lanka,
      women constitute over half the work force.7

      Political will and grassroots support have
      stimulated development, underpinning largely
      consistent health and investment strategies. Soon
      after independence, both governments introduced
      agrarian reform that ended feudal land holdings,
      thus alleviating poverty and promoting equity. An
      important policy plank has been a focus on
      primary care-especially maternal and child
      health-through a multilayered health system with
      adequate provision of basic services at community
      level. Sri Lanka does not have a single magnetic
      resonance scanner in the public sector,
      epitomising a deliberate public focus on primary
      and secondary care. By contrast, many other
      countries in South Asia boast expensive tertiary
      care institutions (where sophisticated imaging is
      to be found), with low funding of primary and
      rural care.

      This progress has not gone unchecked.
      Improvements in socioeconomic conditions prompted
      growth of the private sector in Kerala, as public
      institutions failed to keep up with the
      population's demand for quality care. A recent
      review of community health workers found gaps in
      their ability to adapt from implementing vertical
      national programmes to problem solving at local
      level.8 Others have criticised health in Kerala
      as "low mortality high morbidity," with little
      attention paid to diseases of transition.9 Local
      communities, in typical fashion, have assumed the
      responsibility for resolving these issues.10

      What can the rest of South Asia learn from Kerala
      and Sri Lanka? Firstly, given leadership,
      investments in education and primary care can
      provide a framework for human development.
      Secondly, gains have been achieved against a
      background of participatory democracy; indeed,
      social consciousness is crucial in overcoming the
      menace of corruption.11 Thirdly, maternal and
      child health is critical to development.

      Can the rest of South Asia follow this lead? Yes,
      but doing so requires setting aside political
      differences, resolving regional conflicts, and
      creating an atmosphere that reduces spending on
      defence and nuclear arsenals. This may sound like
      wishful thinking but how else will we create hope
      from the despair of untold child death, wanton
      neglect of girls and women, and a rich elite
      feasting on the misery of millions in poverty?
      Health professionals in the region have an
      opportunity to join hands across national
      boundaries, cast aside historic divisions that
      suffocate progress, and begin to realise this
      vision of something better-a vision crystal clear
      in the heady days of independence, since lost in
      the intervening years of poverty, conflict, and

      We hope this issue of the BMJ will stimulate
      similar intiatives, promoting a dialogue about
      health throughout the region.

      Zulfiqar Bhutta, Husein Lalji Dewraj professor of paediatrics and child health
      Aga Khan University, Karachi 74800, Pakistan (zulfiqar.bhutta@...)
      Samiran Nundy, consultant gastrointestinal surgeon
      Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi 110016, India (snundy@...)
      Kamran Abbasi, deputy editor BMJ, London WC1H 9JR (kabbasi@...)


      1. The World Bank. Sri Lanka's health
      sector: achievements and challenges. Washington,
      DC: World Bank, 1998.
      2. Rani M, Shah S. Worlds apart: why are
      Kerala and Uttar Pradesh so different in their
      human development outcomes? World development
      report 2004. Washington, DC: World Bank, 2004.
      (accessed 18 Mar 2004).
      3. Zachariab KC. Models of development and
      demographic change: a case study of Kerala.
      Demography India 1998;27: 71-89.
      4. Demographic and Health Survey 2000.
      Colombo: Sri Lanka, Department of Census and
      Statistics, Ministry of Finance and Planning,
      5. Rannan-Eliya RP, Berman P, Eltigani EE,
      de Silva I, Somanathan A, Sumathiratne V.
      Expenditures for reproductive health and family
      planning services in Egypt and Sri Lanka.
      Washington, DC: Policy Project, 2000.
      6. Pathmanathan I, Liljestrand J, Martins
      JM. Rajapaksa LC, Lissner C, Silva AD, et al.
      Investing in maternal health: learning from
      Malaysia and Sri Lanka. Health Nutrition and
      Population Series. Washington, DC: World Bank,
      7. Sustainable Development Department, Food
      and Agriculture Organization of the United
      Nations. Asia's women in agriculture, environment
      and rural production. Sri Lanka.
      www.fao.org/sd/wpdirect/WPre0112.htm (accessed 18
      Mar 2004).
      8. Nair VM, Thankappan KR, Sarma PS, Vasan
      RS. Changing role of grassroot health workers in
      Kerala, India. Health Policy Plann 2001;16: 171-9.
      9. Panikar PGK, Soman CR. Health status of
      Kerala. Trivandrum: Center for Development
      Studies, 1984.
      10. Franke RF, Chasin BH. The Kerala
      decentralisation experiment: achievements,
      origins, and implications. May 23-28, 2000.
      International Conference on Democratic
      Decentralisation, May 2000.
      (accessed 30 Mar 2004).
      11. Bhutta ZA. Beyond Bellagio: addressing
      the issue of sustainable child health in
      developing countries. Arch Dis Child 2004 (in



      The Daily Times [Pakistan]
      April 01, 2004


      By Waqar Gillani
      LAHORE: The National Commission on the Status of
      Women (NCSW), at its three-day final consultation
      reviewing the Qisas and Diyat Ordinance (Act II
      of 1997) and the concept of justice in Islam,
      declared that honour killings and all other sorts
      of victimisation of women have no link with Islam.
      A consultative workshop, concluded a day ago,
      also stressed the need to change the Islamic
      definition of a 'wali' and asked the government
      to properly compensate women victims of domestic
      violence, who were not being treated well by the
      government. The workshop suggested the government
      try the accused for violence against women under
      the Islamic term 'Tazeer'.
      According to NCSW officials, the workshop
      participants urged the government to take strict
      measures to end violence against women. They also
      suggested the government stop the application and
      misuse of the Qisas and Diyat laws and declare
      the offence "non-compoundable". "In such cases
      the offenders must be given exemplary
      punishments," the participants said.
      It was noted that "there is no provision in the
      Quran and Sunnah that a killer of his wife be
      exempted from Qisas in cases where minor children
      are left behind as legal heirs. As such the
      prevalent law must be amended accordingly," the
      workshop recommended.
      The participants said that 'vani/swara' and
      'watta satta' (exchange marriages) are
      pre-Islamic traditions and have no scope in
      Islam. "They must be condemned and strict
      punishment must be awarded to the accused," they
      said. They also said the term 'not valid' in the
      proviso to Section 310 of the Pakistan Penal Code
      (PPC) - giving of women in marriage shall not be
      a valid badl-e-sulh (a compounding agreement) -
      is not enough and that the term 'void ab initio'
      or 'illegal' should be used instead. They
      recommended a punitive clause be provided in this
      The participants also agreed that offences under
      the Qisas and Diyat laws were directed against
      the legal order of the state, because the state
      is responsible for the lives and property of its
      people. "However, the legal heirs of a victim are
      vested with the right to demand Qisas or compound
      the offence by accepting Diyat. But this does not
      stop the state from trying the offence and
      punishing the offender," they said.
      They suggested that no offence under Qisas and
      Diyat be compounded until and unless the trial is
      completed, after which the legal heirs of the
      victim might demand Qisas or compound the
      offence. "However, the state retains its right to
      punish the offender even if the offence is
      compounded," they said.
      The participants argued that circumstantial
      evidence must not be rejected even if the
      witnesses turns hostile. "The Qanoon-e-Shahadat
      Ordinance 1984 (Law of Evidence) provides clear
      provisions to this effect, but unfortunately the
      law has not been enforced in its true spirit,"
      said former chief justice Abdul Karim Kundi.
      Others said that provision 313 of the PPC was
      "discriminatory" and required amendment. Dr
      Farooq Khan and Dr Aslam Khaki said this
      provision has "no justification" in Islam.
      The participants also recommended Section 304 of
      the PPC be amended. The participants stressed
      that the Diyat amount should be treated as
      "compensation and not inheritance". Mr Khaki and
      SA Rehman quoted Verse 92 of Surah Nisa in which
      the word 'Ahl' is used for the right to Diyat.
      According to them, 'Ahl' means dependant and not
      necessarily the legal heirs.
      They said that the definition of 'wali', as given
      in the prevalent law, should be re-defined in the
      true spirit of Islamic injunctions. The majority
      were of the view that the parameters should be
      prescribed in Section 338 of the PPC and that the
      judiciary must be trained in Sharia law.
      NCSW Chairperson former justice Majida Rizvi, who
      chaired all the sessions, gave a detailed
      briefing of the objectives, functions and
      activities of the commission. She also
      highlighted an extensive review of the Hudood
      Ordinance of 1979.
      Syeda Viquarun Nisa Hashmi, a research associate
      of the NCSW, gave a presentation of her research
      on the topic.
      Ms Hashmi, highlighting salient features of her
      research, spoke about the impact of loopholes in
      the Qisas and Diyat Ordinance (Act II of 1997)
      and leniency of the judiciary in dealing with
      such social evils, citing provisions of the
      prevalent laws in the light of the Quran and
      Sunnah. She explained the gravity of crimes being
      committed for honour, substantiating her
      contention by presenting statistics of honour
      killings in Pakistan from 1997 to May 30 2003.
      The acquittal ratio for people accused in honour
      killing cases, according to Ms Hashmi, is 43.13
      percent in Balochistan, 71.97 percent in Punjab,
      91.4 percent in Sindh and 92.9 percent in the
      North West Frontier Province. She also presented
      a detailed analysis of the judgments on the
      subject from 1977 to date.
      The meeting was held from March 25 to 27 at
      Islamabad. The participants were religious
      scholars, political leaders, former judges,
      prominent lawyers and the heads of religious
      institutions. They included Professor Dr Khaled
      Masud, Dr Murtuza from the Council of Islamic
      Ideology, Safwanullah, Member of the National
      Assembly MP Bhandara, MNA Dr Farid Ahmed Piracha,
      MNA Yaqoot Jamilur Rehman, Shehla Zia, Professor
      Dr Iftikhar N Hassan, Farzana Bari, Muhammad
      Bilal, Sardar Muhammad Ghazi and others.
      Similar consultation meetings have already been
      conducted in the Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and
      the NWFP. The NCSW will formulate its report and
      recommendations after the completion of the
      consultative process.

      o o o o

      The Daily Times [Pakistan]
      April 01, 2004

      Daily Times Monitor

      LONDON: Islamic scholars in Pakistan don't know
      what they're talking about and cannot relate
      their religion to the country's changing society,
      award-winning human rights campaigner, said Asma
      Jehangir on BBC World's Hardtalk on Wednesday.
      "They were the ones who said that television is
      banned and now they come on television. They
      don't know what they are talking about. They
      don't know how they have to relate religion to
      the growing times of society," she said.
      Ms Jehangir who opposes laws against blasphemy
      and also the Hudood Ordinance, said adultery
      should not be punishable in this way.
      When Mahreen Khan, the presenter of HARDtalk, put
      it to her that many scholars insist that Islamic
      law required adultery to be punishable, the
      lawyer replied: "Well, many scholars would have
      to see what the effects have been. Thousands of
      women have gone to jail and thousands of women
      that have gone to jail have been exploited, they
      have been raped in police stations. Would Islamic
      scholars want these women raped in police
      stations and then, after four years, the court
      decides mercifully that they are acquitted? What
      would they [say] about that? They are living in a
      very different system." [...].

      o o o o

      Dawn [ Pakistan]
      31 March 2004

      By Raja Asghar

      ISLAMABAD, March 30: Religious fervour broke
      through political alliances in the National
      Assembly on Tuesday to confront moves for more
      rights for women and protection from customs such
      as honour killings.
      Scenes like opposition clerics cheering a
      government move to dismiss an honour killing
      complaint from its own coalition members or PML-N
      conservatives defending the Hudood laws seemed
      ominous as regards the fate of a bill moved by
      the People's Party Parliamentarians (PPP) to
      eliminate gender discrimination.
      Tuesday's developments in the lower house made it
      clear that the PPP's Protection and Empowerment
      of Women Bill, which seeks more rights for women
      and repeal of the Hudood ordinances, will meet a
      stiff - and possibly overwhelming - resistance
      from both friends and foes.
      A further discussion over the admissibility of
      the bill was put off until the next private
      members' day after support for the move by two
      PPP women members was countered by strong
      opposition by one speaker each from the Muttahida
      Majlis-i-Amal and the Pakistan Muslim
      Parliamentary sources said opposition from the
      ruling coalition as well as two major opposition
      parties seemed to seal the fate of the bill to be
      rendered as a mere publicity exercise for women's
      rights rather than standing any chance of its
      passage, which needed a simple majority in the
      342-seat house.
      The bill moved by PPP MNA Sherry Rehman and eight
      co-sponsors on March 24 also seeks compulsory
      primary education for children under 10 years'
      age, equal participation of women in all walks of
      life, equal pay for equal work, prohibition of
      violence against women and honour killings,
      freedom for every woman to marry a man of her
      choice and one-third representation for women at
      the Council of Islamic Ideology and boards of
      autonomous bodies.



      8, Vithalbhai Patel House, Rafi Marg,New Delhi-110001
      Telephone- 3711276/ 3351424
      E-mail: sahmat@vs vsnl.com, sahmat8@...

      1. 4. 2004

      Secularism Alert-1


      by Girish Mishra

      Once again Samuel Huntington, professor and
      chairman of the Harvard Academy for International
      and Area Studies has come out with a new thesis,
      which underlines the danger posed to the unity,
      identity and culture of the United States of
      America by the continuing immigration of Hispanic
      people. The basic contours of this thesis have
      been presented in a longish article "The Hispanic
      Challenge" (Foreign Policy, March-April 2004),
      though its full elaboration will be available in
      his forthcoming book Who Are We to be published
      by Simon & Schuster.

      He thinks America is facing a grave challenge to
      its traditional identity, culture and unity. It
      comes from migrants from Latin America in general
      and Mexico in particular. In his own words: "The
      persistent inflow of Hispanic immigrants
      threatens to divide the United States into two
      peoples, two cultures, and two languages. Unlike
      past immigrant groups, Mexicans and Latinos have
      not assimilated into mainstream U.S. culture,
      forming instead their own political and
      linguistic enclavesófrom Los Angeles to Miamióand
      rejecting the Anglo-Protestant values that built
      the American dream. The United States ignores
      this challenge at its peril."The fertility rates
      of these

      immigrants are much higher. Thus if preventive
      measures are not taken forthwith, the Hispanic
      immigrants may, in the course of time, tilt the
      demographic balance in their favour. He obviously
      wants the country to rethink its policy of
      welcoming foreigners, especially the Hispanic
      people. To quote: "Americans like to boast of
      their past success in assimilating millions of
      immigrants into their society, culture, and
      politics. But Americans have tended to generalize
      about immigrants without distinguishing among
      them and focused on the economic costs and
      benefits of immigration, ignoring its social and
      cultural consequences.

      As a result they have overlooked the unique
      characteristics and problems posed by
      contemporary Hispanic immigration. The extent and
      nature of this immigration differ fundamentally
      from those of previous immigration and
      assimilation successes of the past are unlikely
      to be duplicated with the contemporary flood of
      immigrants from Latin America. The reality poses
      a fundamental question: Will the United States
      remain a country with a single national language
      and a core Anglo-Protestant culture? By ignoring
      this question, Americans acquiesce to their
      eventual transformation into two peoples with two
      cultures (Anglo and Hispanic) and two languages
      (English and Spanish)."

      Another point of concern for Huntington is that
      Hispanic immigrants are concentrated in the
      southwest areas of the USA, which are in
      geographical proximity of the country of their
      origin, Mexico. It may, in the future, pose a
      threat to Americaís security. Unlike them, the
      early waves of immigrants came from far off lands
      and once they reached the shores of America, they
      tried their best to adopt the language, culture
      and way of living of their host country. The
      overwhelming majority of them belonged to the
      Anglican Church and the Protestant sect of
      Christianity. Even those whose mother tongue was
      not English learnt it very quickly. They got
      scattered throughout the country, depending on
      the availability of economic
      opportunities.Factually, Huntington is wrong on
      several counts. First, like the 17th-19th century
      immigrants from Germany, Italy and the countries
      of Southern and Eastern Europe, Hispanic
      immigrants from Mexico have also been fast
      learners of English. The first generation
      Hispanic immigrants may not be fluent in English,
      but the same cannot be said of their descendants.
      Richard Alba and Victor Nee in their study
      Remaking the American Mainstream have pointed out
      that as many as 60 per cent of third-generation
      Mexican-American children speak only English at
      home. Other researchers have also corroborated
      this. Thus every succeeding generation adopts
      English as its first language.

      On the question of regional concentration too,
      Huntington is wrong. Data reveal that during the
      last decade of the 20th century Hispanic
      immigrants moved out of their traditional
      enclaves and went to other places mainly in
      search of better opportunities. As far as
      retaining ties with countries of origin is
      concerned, there is nothing unusual. History
      testifies that every ethnic group continues to
      have some sort of affinity with the place, region
      or country of its origin, but this does not mean
      that it is not loyal to the country where it is
      settled. One may refer to Indian-Americans in
      this regard. Their love for India and Indian
      culture does not come in their way of performing
      their duties as American citizens. In the recent
      war in Iraq, people of Hispanic origin have not
      lagged behind others in doing their duties as
      both combatants and non-combatants. One of the
      topmost commanders of the American forces in Iraq
      is a Latino.

      Let us turn our attention to India. Among the
      Hindu communalists, there is quite a sizable
      section that has been influenced by the ideas of
      Samuel Huntington from the time he came out with
      The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of
      World Order. Its influence could be easily
      discerned in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Even a
      person like our Prime Minister Vajpayee who is
      supposed to be a liberal could not keep himself
      immune from the virus spread by Huntington. It
      was obvious from his speech as at a BJP conclave
      in Goa soon after the Gujarat massacres. There
      has been a systematic campaign against the
      illegal immigrants from Bangladesh has been going
      for decades. They have been blamed for all sorts
      of ills from growing incidence of crimes and
      higher rates of fertility to mushrooming of slums
      and smuggling. They

      are supposed to snatch away jobs from the poor
      inhabitants of our country. They are regarded as
      a big threat to India's security because their
      loyalty to India is always in doubt. It is
      whispered but broadcast loudly by the VHP and
      others that they may tilt the demographic balance
      against the Hindus in the long run.

      The present dispensation in India, led by the NDA
      has been trying to identify and deport these
      Bangladeshi immigrants. It is an open secret that
      this has led to harassment and extortion by the
      police.It needs to be noted that there is a big
      element of communalism involved in this exercise
      being carried out at the behest of the Home
      Ministry. The ire is directed only against Muslim
      immigrants from Bangladesh. The Hindus coming
      from Bangladesh are given sympathy

      and succour because they are supposed to be
      fleeing from oppression from their country. The
      immigrants from Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and
      Burma are not frowned upon because they are
      Hindus. The recent thesis of Huntington may not
      cut much ice in the United States because as the

      indicate it has not be taken seriously by
      intellectuals, policy makers and public at large.
      Nor has it become an issue in the ongoing
      presidential election campaign. The New Republic
      in a recent article has dismissed it as a sign of
      muddled thinking. In India, however, communal
      elements may use it prop up their pernicious

      o o o o

      Secularism Alert-2


      by Archana Prasad
      (Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library)

      The release of the NDA government's Draft
      National Tribal Policy on the eve of the
      announcement of elections is not a coincident.
      With tribal Central India going the BJP way in
      the assembly elections of 2003, the BJP has only
      seized the moment to consolidate its tribal base.
      The outfits of the Sangh Parivar have been active
      in these regions since the 1930s and have built
      up an infrastructure that largely consist of
      shishu mandirs and vanvasi kalyan ashrams, the
      vehicles of Hindutva ideology in these areas. The
      Sangh Parivar has also been stressing that the
      tribals or ëadivasis were always a part of the
      Hindu society and were therefore to be protected
      from the conversion activities of the Christian
      Missions in these areas. In this regard it is
      particularly important to note that the first
      anti-conversion laws were enacted by Dilip Singh
      Judeoís ancestors in the state of Jashpur in the
      early 1930s. Thus the BJPís effort in pushing its
      Hindutva agenda amongst the tribals is not a new
      one, but has acquired a fresh thrust in the last
      five years since the BJP has come into power at
      the Centre. The Ministry of Tribal Affairs and
      Khadi and Village Industries Commission have been
      used by the government to dole out grants to
      those NGOs and voluntary sector organisations
      that are steadily implementing the BJP agenda in
      these regions. More than 85% of the funds of the
      Schedule Castes and Tribes Commission was given
      to NGOs associated with the Sangh Parivar in
      Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand. Thus it is not
      surprising to note that Draft Tribal Policy has
      identified the NGOs as major partners in
      implementing government programmes for tribal

      The BJP's draft policy attempts to underline its
      differences with the Congress policy of the post
      independence era. The Congressís vision of tribal
      development was guided by Nehruvian principles
      that were embedded in a respect for cultural
      pluralism and a commitment to solve the problems
      of exploitation and underdevelopment in tribal
      areas. The Draft policy attacks this framework as
      being "long on generalities and short on
      specifics". In order to solve this problem the
      NDA government set up the Ministry of tribal
      affairs in 1999 with the flag bearer of the
      recoversion campaign, Dilip Sigh Judeo at its
      helm. But the creation of this ministry hardly
      solved any problems of the tribal people and they
      continued "to live below the poverty line and
      have poor literacy rates, suffer from
      malnutrition and disease and are vulnerable to
      displacement" as underscored by the policy
      itself. That the ministry and more specifically
      the minister himself was more interested in
      funding Hindutva activities and less in solving
      the real problems of the tribal India, was seen
      in the tape that showed him taking money for
      giving mining leases to a foreign company in
      tribal areas. The row that followed forced the
      minister to resign, but was significant as it
      reflected the real character of the BJP policy
      and politics in tribal dominated areas.

      The aggressive Hindu nationalism of the Sangh
      Parivar is quite compatible with the BJPís policy
      of opening up the tribal economy. In the last
      five years most of this opening up has taken
      place for the benefit of the traders, big
      companies and foreign money who fund the
      activities of the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and
      Saraswati Shiksha Sansthan (an umbrella
      organization of all Parivar educational
      institutions). It is no coincidence then that the
      Shishu Mandir Trust is headed by one of the
      largest Marwari traders of Calcutta and its local
      branches are patronized by influential
      landholders and traders. Thus the activities of
      the Sangh Parivar have ended up strengthening,
      rather than dismantling the very forces that have
      been exploiting the tribal people since the
      advent of the British rulers in these areas. The
      policies of the NDA government in the last five
      years have only strengthened and aided this
      process. Disinvestment of industries like BALCO
      and the privatization of land, water and forest
      resources as in the case of the Sheonath River,
      will only lead to the further deprivation, and
      unemployment of tribal people. The withdrawal of
      the state from key sectors has led to the
      reduction of state investment in infrastructure
      development. In this context, all attempts at the
      decentralized management of forests and forest
      produce collection have only strengthened the
      traders, industrialists and multi national
      companies who are appropriating the knowledge,
      labour and resources of tribal people for their
      own profits. The Draft Tribal Policy not only
      ignores these developments but is also an attempt
      to hide the real BJP agenda in tribal areas. A
      vote for the BJP is thus a vote against the
      interests of the tribal people, whereas a vote in
      favour of the secular forces will strengthen
      their ongoing struggles and movements.



      Indian Express
      March 31, 2004

      by Syeda Hameed

      Thirty writers, five countries, three days, six
      sessions. Last week, the Women's Initiative for
      Peace in South Asia (WIPSA) had organised a
      Dialogue of South Asian Women Writers. What did
      it mean? What difference did 30 women sitting
      together on the outskirts of Delhi, make? Will
      their voices ever reach places where decisions on
      war and peace are made? My contention as one of
      the organisers of this dialogue is that they
      will; it's a matter of time.

      Zehra Nigah of Pakistan, who really belongs to
      all of South Asia, inaugurated the event with her
      poem, 'The Story of Gul Badshah', about a
      13-year-old boy caught in the war against terror
      in Afghanistan and 'Suna Hai' (I have heard about
      the law of the jungle which is more humane than
      the law of human civilisation). The words of her
      poem surprisingly became the thread on which all
      the sessions were strung. The sessions ranged
      from "women writing peace" to "women writing
      identities" to "women writing freedom". The
      concluding theme posed the question: Can women
      make another world possible?

      Clearly, the idea of the writer as an activist
      was the predominant one. Take Pratibha Ray from
      Orissa. Her story, 'Is the colour of religion
      Black?', is a protest against the ban on
      light-skinned people entering the Jagannath
      temple on suspicion that they are not Hindus. Or
      Mari Marcel Thekakara of Karnataka, on the
      subject of 'Endless Filth', which is also the
      title of her book about manual scavenging. Or
      Faustina Bama of Tamil Nadu, talking of the
      'peace of the graveyard' when it comes to the
      subalterns of society.

      There were writers against war, with Niaz Zaman
      of Bangladesh tracing women's activism against
      war to the Aristophanes' play Lysistrata. Writers
      like Naseem Shafai from Kashmir, Mitra Phukan
      from Assam, Sugatha Kumari from Kerala, all
      wanted to know why their "beautiful land" has
      been rendered unrecognisable. Zahida Hina of
      Pakistan in her story, 'Kumkum bahut aaraam se
      hai' (Kumkum is very well), sketched the horrors
      of the Afghan war, linking it to Tagore's
      Kabuliwalla. Manjushree Thapa of Nepal spoke of
      young girls conscripted by the Maoists, high up
      in the mountains of her country.

      Atiya Dawood of Pakistan spoke about her fear of
      the Mohajirs during the deadly Sindhi-Mohajir
      conflict in Karachi. Sumathy Sivamohan, Tamil
      writer from Sri Lanka, read her poems on her
      conflict-torn land. Gujarat was recalled through
      the voices of Sarup Dhruv and Gitanjali Shree,
      while young writers from Pakistan - Uzma Aslam
      Khan and Kamila Shamsie - reminded listeners of
      the police lathis being wielded on the streets of
      Lahore against women protesting the Hudood

      All these voices from South Asia were part of a
      far larger community of women writers from the
      world over who have together decided to deploy
      their pen for peace in their times and in their



      The Hindu, April 1, 2004

      By Our Staff Reporter

      NEW DELHI, MARCH 31. In an attempt to reach out
      to the "hearts and minds of people" to fight the
      forces of communalism and hatred, ANHAD (Act Now
      For Harmony and Democracy), a non-government
      organisation released a series of docu-lectures
      titled "In Defence of Our Dreams" in the Capital
      today. Bringing together experts, artists and
      activists on a common platform to talk about the
      various aspects of communalism, "In Defence of
      Our Dreams" is a result of 18 five-day political
      training camps held in different parts of the

      Releasing the docu-lecture series, eminent
      film-maker Saeed Mirza stated: "This particular
      phrase "In Defence of Our Dreams" means a lot to
      me. Just after the Gujarat carnage, Harsh Mander
      asked me to travel around India to find out what
      ordinary Indian feels. I travelled 35,000 km
      around the country to film "Unheard Voices". What
      I saw was that the ordinary citizens have the
      same beliefs as these scholars sitting in the
      cities. They had the same dreams of a just,
      compassionate, humane and equitable India. These
      scholars have put historicity, but they both
      voice the same beliefs."

      While "In Defence of Our Dreams" is aimed to
      multiply the positive effects of the political
      training camps organised by ANHAD last year, it
      is also hoped that this series will serve as an
      important resource material for training
      activists, political workers and politicians. "We
      hope that this series will be an ally for
      organisations involved in fighting against
      communalism. The kit also includes the short
      films made by Saeed Mirza . A battle is being
      fought in the minds and hearts of people and I
      think we need to engage with this space. Since
      the last 20 years the movement of Ayodhya has
      created an alternate vision for India and has
      succeeded in demonising Islam. These beliefs have
      taken root in the minds of the middle class as
      also with the disadvantaged groups of Dalits,
      tribals and even women, which is even more
      worrying," said activist Harsh Mander.

      "In Defence of Our Dreams" includes lectures by
      eminent historians Bipan Chandra, Mriduala
      Mukherjee, K.N. Panikkar as well as a lecture by
      senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai among others.



      Times of India
      Wednesday, March 31, 2004 | INTERVIEW

      Anand Patwardhan' s documentary, Father, Son and
      Holy War, which explores the relationship between
      communal violence and patriarchy, won national
      awards for Best Investigative Film and Best Film
      on Social Issues almost a decade ago. Yet, like
      his previous award-winning films, it needed a
      long-drawn-out legal battle, which ended a few
      days ago, to force Doordarshan to telecast it.
      Jyoti Punwani spoke to the activist-filmmaker
      about the value of such victories and censorship
      under different governments :

      When do you expect your film to be screened?

      The court gave Doordarshan three months time, so
      DD will probably avoid the elections as our film
      does not favour those who use religion for
      political gain.

      Can you recount your previous victories against DD?

      All five cases involved the broadcast of national
      award-winning documentaries. The first was Bombay
      Our City , on the plight of slum-dwellers. The
      case went all the way to the Supreme Court and
      after we won, DD broadcast the film at midnight!
      So the next few times we went to court, my lawyer
      P A Sebastian made the judges aware of this
      travesty and we won the right to be broadcast at
      prime time. This time, however, because part II
      of Father, Son and Holy War has an 'A'
      certificate, the judges gave DD some leeway in
      terms of time slots.

      Advani's present rath yatra has a new theme. Does it make your film outdated?

      Unfortunately not. Communal appeals are still
      being made, sometimes subtly, often blatantly.
      The Narendra Modi model has not been discarded.
      Women and minorities are still the targets of

      In your experience, does "India's shining"
      reflect the general mood among the
      English-speaking classes?

      Paying lip service to the needs of the poor is no
      longer necessary. Conspicuous consumption is no
      longer embarrassing and the elite flaunts its
      incredible wealth. Even Bollywood has stopped
      making films that speak of economic and social
      justice. Who cares if farmers commit suicide and
      slum-dwellers and adivasis are thrown out from
      their homes? We are told ad nauseum that our
      economy is in great shape and all we have to do
      is wait for the trickle down. Many are still in
      this credulous stage but sooner or later the
      penny will drop. People will realise that their
      sacrifice did not buy them a future but went to
      pay for somebody's Rolex or Ferrari. In a world
      where basic resources like water, air and land
      are limited, when a small class uses these
      resources purely for recreation, it can only be
      at the expense of others. The one effective way
      of keeping the poor from understanding all this
      is to occupy their minds with religion and other
      forms of identity politics. My films are an
      attempt to cut through this propaganda.

      As an activist-filmmaker, do you see any role for
      yourself in the forthcoming elections?

      If there was a way to get millions to watch films
      like mine, I would say yes. A Doordarshan
      broadcast would be one way. Running documentaries
      like these in cinema halls could be another. The
      next best thing is to do what we are already
      trying, which is to show the films in classrooms,
      community centres.

      From 1985, every film of yours has faced
      censorship regardless of the party in power.

      Unfortunately, no government has been genuinely
      secular or supportive of the underclass. And
      Doordarshan has always been subservient to the
      party in power. But it should be understood that
      opposition to my films has increased with the
      coming of the BJP to power. The Censor Board in
      2003, for instance, wanted me to cut 21 scenes
      from War and Peace , including reference to the
      fact that Nathuram Godse killed Gandhiji! State
      interventionism was seen again when censorship
      was introduced for the first time at the Mumbai
      International Film Festival, 2004.

      Does that make you cynical ?

      No. Repression breeds resistance and we
      filmmakers organised Vikalp, an alternate,
      uncensored festival. Fighting incessantly in
      court does become exhausting, but the fact that
      we have won consistently speaks well of the
      safeguards provided by our Constitution.

      Given your experience, is the judiciary our only hope?

      In the US, the right-wing under Ronald Reagan and
      George Bush Sr were in power when the time came
      to appoint Supreme Court judges. These very
      judges then went on to anoint George Bush Jr when
      he lacked sufficient votes to become president.
      Given that precedent, the longer the religious
      right stays in power, the worse it will be for
      our democratic system.

      You are active in the Indo-Pak friendship forum.
      Beyond the bonhomie, is there not the reality of
      a generation brought up in both countries who
      view the other country as the enemy?

      When we visited Pakistan, I was surprised at the
      warmth that came from ordinary people we met by
      accident. There seems to be a genuine desire for
      peace and a skepticism about the military and
      politicians in general. The reason is that in a
      military dictatorship people learn to distrust
      propaganda while in democracies with
      fundamentalists in power, consent can be
      manufactured in the short run. Pakistanis do envy
      us for our democratic advantage; they see us as
      an example worth emulating.




      Monday, April 5, 2004

      7:00 PM

      University Hall, Room 1000
      Loyola Marymount University
      1 LMU Drive, Los Angeles, California 90045

      Speaker: Dr. RAM PUNIYANI

      Social Activist & Author

      Dr. RAM PUNIYANI is a well-known social activist,
      author and crusader for secularism and justice.
      He is a member of EKTA - Committee for Communal
      Amity, Mumbai and has worked directly among
      people affected by communal extremism. He has
      contributed articles in different magazines and
      journals and written books on themes around this.
      Some of his written works include, 'Post-Gujarat
      Reflections on Tasks for the Human Rights
      Movement', 'The Other Cheek' and ' Communal
      Politics-An Illustrated Primer'. He has traveled
      extensively in Gujarat and written a number of
      books on the conditions there.

      Dr. Puniyani teaches at the Indian Institute of
      Technology, Mumbai, and is currently engaged in
      conducting workshops for social activists,
      teachers and students. With his experience in
      thought, ACTION and teaching, his talk is bound
      to bring a unique perspective to the challenges
      of the upcoming general election and longer-term
      challenges to democracy in India.

      Sponsors: South Asia Forum, South Asian Network &
      Coalition for an Egalitarian & Pluralistic India
      This event is free to the public and plenty of parking is available.
      From Valley: Take San Diego (405) Freeway south.
      Exit on Manchester Blvd (W) and turn right
      towards the beach.
      From Orange County: Take San Diego (405) Freeway
      North. Exit on Manchester Blvd (W) and turn left
      towards the beach.
      From Downtown: Take I-10 West Freeway north and
      merge on to the San Diego (405) south. Exit on
      Manchester Blvd (W) and turn right towards the
      After following the above, turn right on Lincoln
      Blvd and make another right on LMU Drive.
      University Hall will be the first Bldg on the
      right, enter the underground parking structure
      from the second entrance and take the elevator to
      Room 1000.

      For more information please contact:
      Robin Khundkar (714) 895-5048; Asha Shahed
      310-377-8472; John Ishvaradas-Abdallah (310)
      748-9369 ; Asad Zaidi (714) 313-2703

      April 7th Venues
      Expert on Human Rights in India to Speak at Joan
      B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice

      Dr. Ram Puniyani, author, social activist, and
      professor at the Indian Institute of Technology,
      Mumbai in Mumbai, India, will speak on
      "Religion-Based Nationalism and Human Rights" at
      the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice at
      the University of San Diego on Wednesday, April 7
      from 12:00 noon to 2:00 p.m. The lecture is
      cosponsored by the Joan B. Kroc Institute for
      Peace & Justice, Amnesty International, and the
      University of San Diego's Department of Theology
      and Religious Studies.

      Dr. Puniyani will address the connections between
      religious fundamentalism and communal violence,
      the myth and reality of communal propaganda, and
      the impact of religion-based nationalism on human
      rights. He will discuss the causes for increasing
      communal violence, such as the massacre of over
      2000 Muslims in Gujarat, India in February and
      March, 2002, and violence against targeted
      segments of society, including women. The Scripps
      Ranch Amnesty International Group 461 has been
      working on the Gujarat case action file for last
      6 years.

      The brown-bag lecture is free and open to the
      public. For more information or directions, call
      the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice at
      (619) 260-7509 or see http://peace.sandiego.edu

      Justice Crusader Talk Open to the Public

      WHO: Dr. Ram Puniyani is a well-known
      social activist, author and crusader for
      secularism and justice.
      He is a member of EKTA - Committee for
      communal amity, teaches at the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai
      And conducts workshops for social activists, teachers and students.

      WHAT: Puniyani lecture and group
      discussion on how Indian democracy can
      effect global peace and
      economic conditions. Talk sponsored by
      Shepherd of the Hills in
      Laguna Niguel, The South Asia Forum and
      The Coalition for an Egalitarian and Pluralistic India.

      WHERE: Shepherd of the Hills (SOTH), 30121
      Niguel Rd., Laguna Niguel, CA 92677. (949)
      495-1310 www.shepherdofthehills.net

      WHEN: Wednesday, April 7, 2004, 7:00 p.m.




      A friend has drawn my attention to the fact that
      in my letter (see SACW 22-23 March 2004) about
      Mr. Vajpayee's statement that the central
      government could take action against the "foreign
      author" of a "controversial book", I failed to
      point out that the same Mr. Vajpayee had earlier
      spoken out against the attack on the Bhandarkar
      Institute by the Sambhaji Brigade. Here is what
      the *Telegraph* of Monday, 19 January 2004 said:

      "On a visit to Mumbai on Friday, Prime Minister
      Atal Bihari Vajpayee condemned the attack and the
      ban on the book announced by the Congress-led
      coalition of Maharashtra."

      Truly, the only kind of consistency we can expect
      from these people is that of porridge.

      Mukul Dube
      D-504 Purvasha Anand Lok .. Mayur Vihar 1 .. Delhi 110091


      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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