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SACW | 3 May 2004

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | 3 May, 2004 via: www.sacw.net [1] Pakistan: Rewriting school syllabi (Anwar Syed) [2] SAHR to study minority rights in 5 Asian
    Message 1 of 1 , May 2, 2004
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      South Asia Citizens Wire | 3 May, 2004
      via: www.sacw.net

      [1] Pakistan: Rewriting school syllabi (Anwar Syed)
      [2] SAHR to study minority rights in 5 Asian states
      [3] Fiddling While Bangladesh Burns (Naeem Mohaiemen)
      [4] India: It is good to remember Nehru's legacy
      when revisionism infects India (Ashok Ganguly)
      [5] India: Geography of Hatred (Patwant Singh)
      [6] India: Apportioning the blame of Communal Riots (Ram Puniyani)
      [7] India - Exhibit: Sunil Gupta -- Pictures from Here (New Delhi)
      [8] Publication Announcement: "At the Water's Edge by Pradeep Jeganathan"


      --------------


      [1]

      Dawn [Pakistan]
      02 May 2004

      REWRITING SCHOOL SYLLABI
      By Anwar Syed

      There is a move in the country to revise the
      present school syllabuses, presumably because the
      existing ones do not impart to our children and
      adolescents information and skills at levels
      found in the more progressive societies. Some
      commentators on the subject insist that, in
      addition to information and skills, education
      must also plant certain attitudes and values in
      the student's mind.
      When folks of my generation were children,
      elementary education began with teaching kids the
      three Rs (reading, writing, and arithmetic). By
      the time we got through the third grade, we had
      learned to read simple texts and write them out.
      We had memorized the multiplication table, and
      were able to do simple additions, subtractions,
      multiplications, and divisions. At this stage we
      were also given glimpses of history and local
      geography.
      All of these subjects along with a few others
      (physics, chemistry, algebra, geometry, English,
      a classical language of one's choice) were taught
      at increasingly higher levels of attainment as we
      went from the elementary to the middle and then
      to high school.
      Looking back, I am entirely satisfied with the
      product of public schools before independence. As
      we came out of the high school, most of us were
      able to read, write, and speak fairly well, some
      of us even fluently. We were informed enough to
      understand the workings of the society in which
      we lived. We could venture into discussions of
      politics and issues of war and peace. We were
      ready to go to college and learn to deal with
      even higher levels of complexity.
      There is general agreement among observers that
      the standards of education in the country have
      fallen precipitously during the last thirty years
      or so. In other words, the product of our public
      schools is not as capable as it used to be. A few
      years ago I was astounded to see that the young
      son of a servant at a friend's house in
      Islamabad, a third grader in a public school,
      simply could not read his Urdu textbook.
      It is unlikely that this deterioration has
      resulted mainly from insufficiencies in the
      syllabuses of courses taught in schools. It is
      true that newer concepts and approaches have made
      the old course content in certain subjects - for
      instance, mathematics - obsolete, and
      substantially new syllabuses must therefore be
      devised. But that is not the case across the
      board. Syllabuses do get revised periodically
      everywhere to take account of the relevant
      advances in knowledge. But more often the changes
      made, from one revision to the next, are
      incremental, not radical.
      Want of competence and professional commitment
      among teachers, admitted at all hands, must be
      blamed for the deterioration of our educational
      standards more than any deficiency in the
      syllabuses. Even after we have streamlined our
      syllabuses, the quality of our education will not
      improve unless our teachers begin to take their
      mission more seriously.
      This aspect of the matter should be kept in mind
      even if we cannot discuss it now, because today
      we are concerned with the issue of syllabus
      revisions.
      Given that syllabuses are being changed, it may
      be appropriate to ask which way the undertaking
      should go. If the objective is to bring our
      standards approximately at par with those
      prevalent in modern societies, the task should be
      fairly simple as far as math, hard sciences, and
      value-free subjects such as geography are
      concerned.
      The modernizers should sit down with sets of
      textbooks in these subjects used in American, a
      couple of European, and Japanese schools and, for
      reassurance and to use as points of departure,
      those used in India, Singapore, and Malaysia.
      They can pick and choose from the contents of
      these textbooks and come up with their own
      syllabuses. Difficulties may arise when they deal
      with the humanities and social sciences.
      Under the leadership of the late Ismail al
      Faruqui, an eminent professor of Islamic studies
      at Temple University in Philadelphia, a group of
      Muslim scholars initiated a movement to Islamize
      knowledge and, to begin with, launched The
      American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences in
      1984. Muslim scholars elsewhere, at other times,
      may also have had the same thought, but Professor
      Faruqui's initiative was the one more generally
      known.
      In any case, the ambition to Islamize knowledge
      surfaced in Pakistan too, and it resulted in the
      insertion of Quranic verses and sayings of the
      Prophet (PBUH) in school textbooks and, in some
      cases, expulsion of material from them because of
      its alleged repugnance to Islamic values or its
      incompatibility with Islamic versions of events
      or phenomena.
      It seems that the textbook boards in Punjab and
      Sindh have recently taken some of these Islamic
      insertions out of the books they have prescribed
      and published. In a recent statement (April 8),
      MMA and PML (N) spokesmen have denounced these
      revisions as part of the government's allegedly
      hidden plan (under American dictation) to
      secularize our society. They have threatened to
      launch a mass movement to thwart this design.
      The efforts to Islamize the hard sciences are
      entirely dysfunctional. Jaafar Sheikh Idris
      (professor of Usul al Din at the Islamic
      University of Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud in Saudi
      Arabia), writing on "Islamization of the
      Sciences" in the journal referred to above
      (December 1987), makes the following insightful
      observation:
      "We should not make it a methodological rule to
      look for empirical facts supportive of religious
      statements, or religious texts which support
      empirically established facts. It is a rule which
      it is impossible to apply in practice." He goes
      on to say that the rule would put us in one of
      two equally dangerous positions: "either to give
      scientific statements far-fetched meanings to
      make them suit religious claims or twist
      religious statements to force them to lend
      support to scientific facts."
      Why should we place verses from the Quran in a
      book on physics? Presumably to show that
      something that modern physics has found now was
      known to the Quran 1,400 years ago, and to deduce
      from that coincidence the proposition that the
      Quran is a great and true book. But that is a
      proposition of the validity of which we are
      already convinced.
      To make the greatness of the Quran dependent on
      its compatibility with modern science is to
      insult it. The reverse (conditioning the validity
      of scientific findings on their confirmation by
      the Quran) will leave science in degradation
      since the Quran makes no mention of most of its
      findings.
      I suggest that any scientific assertions we
      encounter in the Quran have been placed there
      either to illustrate some point being made in
      that particular context, or to call attention to
      the creativity and majesty of God. It will bear
      emphasis that the Quran is a book of law and
      morals, a book of guidance in human interaction.
      It is an error to regard it as a book of science
      or a book of sociology, anthropology, or even
      history (notwithstanding its passing references
      to personalities and events).
      The foremost obligation of a writer in the
      humanities and social sciences is to report the
      ground reality in his area of concern, tell us
      what things are like and how they move. If this
      reality has an Islamic content, we should know
      about it. But he cannot "Islamize" the reality he
      encounters if it is not already Islamic. A
      sociologist who has chosen to study Pakistani
      society must tell us how it is actually organized
      (castes and sub-castes and tribes), how its
      various segments interact, what its customs and
      mores are.
      This part of his enterprise must remain untouched
      by his own ideological preferences. Depending
      upon the scope of his inquiry, he may come to
      issues of social policy where value judgments
      become relevant: for instance, abolition or
      curtailment of feudalism, among many others. This
      is the proper place for bringing in Islam 99 -
      verses from the Quran, if you will - as a set of
      guidelines for social change.
      Moves to Islamize the syllabuses are prompted by
      the desire to enable the students to become good,
      practising Muslims, truly moral persons.
      Reflection will show that these moves are based
      on a misunderstanding of how people become good.
      Children learn math, but nor morals, at school.
      In a charming introduction to his article a few
      days ago, Mr Hafizur Rahman recounted our lack of
      receptivity to the good advice that came our way
      in school from Sheikh Sa'adi's "Gulistan" and
      "Bostan" and the writings of other illustrious
      teachers of morality. Nor did the exhortations of
      professional preachers (imam and khatib in the
      neighbourhood mosque) make any impact on our
      choice of value and ways.
      We learned Islam at home and became practising
      Muslims, more or less, to the extent our parents
      and other family members were. We got our
      attitudes, including prejudices, partly from home
      but largely from our peers on the street and
      playground, and in social gatherings. MMA and
      PML(N) spokesmen can be sure that no amount of
      Islam in the school textbooks will make their
      readers good Muslims.
      It is entirely unrealistic to think that
      knowledge of ethics makes a man moral. It should
      not come as a surprise to anyone that most of the
      high-class crooks in the world today are men and
      women of considerable educational attainment. The
      ulema among us are supposed to be well acquainted
      with the Islamic code of morals. But, as we all
      know, the conduct of many of them leaves much to
      be desired in terms of Islamic righteousness.
      The enterprise of Islamizing our government and
      politics, society and economy, culture and
      education has been grounded in hypocrisy, at best
      in superficiality, from day one. This is apparent
      from the fact that none of its proponents are out
      there campaigning against corruption, deceit,
      fraud, falsehood, breaking of covenants,
      humiliation of women, exploitation of the poor,
      and tyranny over the weak. If they do not regard
      the eradication of these vices and atrocities as
      the central part of their mission, what good will
      their Islamization bring us, and what exactly are
      they promising?
      The writer is professor emeritus of political
      science at the University of Massachusetts at
      Amherst, US.

      _____



      [2]

      The Daily Times [Pakistan]
      May 03, 2004

      SAHR TO STUDY MINORITY RIGHTS IN 5 ASIAN STATES

      PESHAWAR A delegation of South Asians for Human
      Rights (SAHR), a non-government organisation led
      by former Indian prime minister IK Gujral and
      renowned Pakistani lawyer Asma Jehangir, will
      compile a report on rights of minorities in five
      South Asian countries.
      The report highlighting the violation of
      minorities' rights in member states - India,
      Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka - will
      be completed by December 2005, Dr Pandey from
      Nepal told journalists on Saturday..
      "Our interest is the development of democracy and
      human rights in member states," said Dr Pandey.
      Dr Pandey said the report would highlight what
      was good for minorities in one country and what
      was not in other countries. He said the report
      would also make recommendations for the
      protection of minority rights in five of the
      countries of South Asia. He said the issue of
      minority rights was a major issue, but the rights
      of ethnic minorities were more important. Dr
      Pandey hoped the thaw in ties between Pakistan
      and India would contribute to the development of
      human rights.
      "Personally speaking, I think we are not living
      in a peaceful environment because of the tension
      between the two countries. But since the two
      states are improving their relations, the region
      will certainly feel the impact," the Nepalese
      human rights activist remarked.
      The report, first of its kind, will be compiled
      under the South Asian People's Commission for
      Rights of Minorities, SAHR General Secretary
      Shirani G de Fontgalland from Sri Lanka told
      Daily Times after speaking at the Guest Hour
      programme of the Peshawar Press Club.
      "Pakistan is the first country we are visiting
      and will visit the other four member states
      later," said Mr Fontgalland. When former Indian
      Express editor George Vergehs was asked as to how
      the SAHR viewed the threat to secularism in the
      fast-growing fundamentalist India, he said, "We
      will look at this threat."
      The delegation has already visited Sindh,
      Balochistan and Punjab to meet people belonging
      to various cross-sections of society and top
      government officials. In Peshawar, the SAHR
      delegation met a team of the Awami National
      Party. "We believe in equality and all
      communities should have equal opportunities and
      rights," Awami National Party (ANP) Provincial
      President Begum Naseem Wali Khan told the SAHR
      delegation. staff report


      _____


      [3]


      Daily Star [Bangladesh]
      April 27, 2004

      FIDDLING WHILE BANGLADESH BURNS
      By Naeem Mohaiemen

      On January 8, the government caved in to religious
      extremists and banned "all books" of the Ahmadiya
      Muslims. Faced with widespread condemnation, the
      government's weak excuse was that the step was taken
      to ensure "safety and security" in Bangladesh. Whose
      security was assured by this was not made clear--
      however, it is clear that the Ahmadiya community's
      safety has worsened after the ban. Emboldened by the
      government decision, the International Khatme Nabuwot
      (Last Prophet Movement) has taken a series of
      escalating steps which may ultimately lead to national
      pogroms against the Ahmadiyas. Meanwhile, the
      secular-liberal intelligentsia continues to respond in
      slow-motion, laboring under the illusion that polite
      statements will be effective against a rabid movement
      that uses violence, intimidation and street mobs to
      carry out their programs.

      Since January, a series of incidents have upped the
      ante in the campaign to declare Ahmadiyas non-Muslim.
      In February, the environment of hate was amplified by
      the publication of the book "Why Qadianis are not
      Muslims?" (Global Publishing) by Jamaat leader Delwar
      Hossain Sayedee. On March 5, Imam Salauddin of
      Ambarnagar village (Noakhali) issued a post-Jumma
      fatwa declaring Ahmadiyas non-Muslim and calling for a
      boycott of the community [Daily Star, March 12]. The
      particular target of the fatwa was the family of
      retired high school principal Morshed Alam Chowdhury.
      Since the declaration, local thugs surrounded the
      house and refused to allow anyone to leave the house.
      No relatives were allowed to visit the family. When a
      servant was sent from the house to shop in the local
      market, he was beaten and threatened with death if he
      continued to work for the family. Thugs cut down the
      trees on Chowdhury's property and stole fish from his
      pond. When asked about the fatwa, Imam Salauddin
      retorted he had done this in accordance with a fatwa
      signed by 117 Maulvis in June 2003 [Prothom Alo, March
      13].

      A week later, a more violent program was launched in
      Kakuka union (Barguna). The program was announced at
      a two-day rally of the International Khatme Nabuwat.
      Inspired by the rally, zealots prepared to attack the
      1,000 Ahmadiyas who had been living in the area for
      the last 50 years. The incident attracted coverage
      from national media including Bhorer Kagoj, Jonokontho
      and Prothom Alo. It was also reported in the Daily
      Star that Madrasa students were being organized with
      the intention of razing down the Ahmadiya neighborhood
      which accommodated 100 Ahmadiyas and their mosque.
      Spurred to action by the media presence, the district
      police administration intervened and prevented the
      takeover of the Ahmadiya mosque. Although the police
      played a positive role in Barguna, a more chilling
      story emerged on April 6 from Shalkiri village
      (Ponchogor). In that village, the leader of the local
      chapter of Khatme Nabuwat Maulana Abdul Karim arrived
      at Ahmadiya houses in a police jeep and conducted
      searches for publications. When contacted by the
      media, Karim admitted that no magistrate had
      accompanied them on the searches [Khoborer Kagoj, 6
      April].

      The progressive Bengali response to this escalating
      chain of events has been slow and reactive. This can
      be best highlighted by a personal experience. On
      April 15, the Dhaka premiere of our documentary
      "Muslims or Heretics?" was held at the Goethe Center.
      Everyone was pleased by the standing-room only event,
      especially the presence of large number of young
      faces. The documentary was followed by a spirited
      discussion and the repeated slogan, "We must do
      something!" Yet, newspaper reports on April 17 only
      highlighted how far behind we are in the battle to
      rescue Bangladesh from the extremists. Alongside
      dutiful reporting of the film screening, Prothom Alo
      carried a much larger headline, "Khatme Nabuwat rally,
      two books seized from Ahmadiya mosque." While we had
      been politely sipping tea on the rooftop of Goethe
      Center and discussing next programs, the zealots were
      ten steps ahead of us, launching a massive rally aimed
      at taking over the Nakalpara mosque.

      This incident is direct evidence of how much the
      Khatme Nabuwat has been emboldened by the government
      ban. In November, when Nabuwat first attacked the
      Nakalpara mosque, police fought pitched battles with
      them and successfully defended the mosque. By
      contrast, on April 17, police escorted five members of
      Khatme Nabuwat into the Ahmadiya mosque. Led by
      Nayebe Amir Nur Hossain Nurani, the Nabuwat leaders
      seized copies of the Quran and Bukhari Sharif. On
      Channel I evening news, a Nabuwat leader was seen
      examining the books, while the police followed him
      obediently. I almost expected the police to salute
      the Khatme Nabuwat leaders! The image leaves no doubt
      that the anti-Ahmadiya campaign is a dress-rehearsal
      for eventually taking over the country!

      I stated before that progressive activists' response
      to the current crisis is too slow and hesitant. After
      the documentary screening, a film forum representative
      asked us about organizing a screening in October. I
      stared at him in disbelief! October is six months
      away-- did he really believe the zealots would be
      moving so slowly? At an April 6 press conference,
      Khatme Nabuwat leaders announced a program to
      "liberate" Ahmadiya mosques throughout the country,
      including Hobiganj, Narayanganj, Brahmanbaria,
      Ponchogor and Munshiganj. According to their
      spokesperson, there were 91 Ahmadiya mosques in
      Bangladesh, several of which had already been
      "liberated." Speaking at the press conference, one
      Nabuwat leader said, "Because we haven't been able to
      create enough pressure on the Prime Minister, we
      haven't been able to extract our main demand [of
      declaring them non-Muslim]. This time, we will
      fulfill our demands through an unstoppable movement."
      They also declared a new deadline to the government of
      June 30 for declaring Ahmadiyas non-Muslim. With
      ruthless efficiency, Khatme Nabuwat, which has a
      33-member executive committee, is rolling out
      sub-committees in upazilas and districts to implement
      these demands.

      Given the speed at which the anti-Ahmadiya movement is
      gathering momentum, progressives need to respond with
      a sense of crisis and urgency. Bangladesh is the land
      of "dofa" and "dabi", but we should have only one
      "dofa"-- and that is the withdrawal of the ban on
      Ahmadiya books. It is also essential that this be a
      non-partisan effort, otherwise the government will
      refuse to cooperate. Sensible members of the ruling
      coalition can be allies in this movement to protect
      religious freedom. Ain Salish Kendra (ASK) has filed
      a "Demand Of Justice" notice with the government,
      asking for explanation of the ban. Similar and
      stronger actions must follow quickly from a wide
      variety of organizations.

      At the risk of repeating myself from an earlier
      article, I quote Safdar Hashmi-- the Indian playwright
      who was beaten to death by government thugs in the
      70s. "Hall Bol (Raise Hell)! And get results."

      I will keep repeating myself until all of us wake up.

      BIO: Naeem Mohaiemen is Assoc. Editor of AltMuslim.com


      [See also:
      Amnesty Alert
      http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engasa130052004 ]


      _____



      [4]

      The Telegraph [India]
      April 24, 2004

      FOUNDATION OF DEVELOPMENT
      - It is good to remember Nehru's legacy when revisionism infects India
      by Ashok ganguly

      Every time elections are announced, I remember my childhood and the years
      when I first started casting my vote in state and general elections. During
      successive elections, I am reminded of the early years of Jawaharlal Nehru
      at the helm of Indian politics. In retrospect, everything appeared to move
      so slowly in India and it seemed that we would remain a developing country
      for ever. When one is young, and also when one is not so young, one wants
      all progress to happen in one's lifetime. It takes a while to appreciate the
      difference in the timespan of nations.

      It is election time and my thoughts, once again, return to Nehru. What helps
      in the process is that every so often, either a foreign or an Indian author
      publishes a scholarly tome on Nehru. This is an extremely valuable service
      the authors render to remind Indians, of the older as well as the younger
      generation, of the abiding values of the foundation of our modern
      nationhood. With the passage of years, the values grow in importance,
      particularly because, periodically, and lately with growing frequency,
      revisionist politicians in our country distort historic personalities and
      events with growing impunity and shrillness.

      It was, therefore, a delight to read Shashi Tharoor's recent book, Nehru:
      The Invention of India. Tharoor justifies yet another book on Nehru by
      stating, "Jawaharlal Nehru’s impact on India is too great not to be
      re-examined periodically. His legacy is ours, whether we agree with
      everything he stood for or not." A distinctive feature of the Nehruvian
      legacy was secularism - his visionary rejection of India's assorted
      bigotries and particularisms. The nation should be more grateful now more
      than ever of the legacy whose fragility as well as resilience have grown
      with the passage of years.

      Tharoor goes on to recall a speech to students of Bombay on May 20, 1928,
      when Nehru declared, "Much is said about the superiority of our religion,
      art, music and philosophy. But what are they today? Your religion has become
      a thing of the kitchen, as to what you can eat and what you cannot eat, as
      to whom you can touch and whom you cannot touch. Religion in India will
      kill that country and its people if it is not subdued."

      Even more true today than it has been since the dawn of independence.
      Tharoor provides another telling quote, "After Partition, his uncompromising
      commitment to Indian secularists made him a symbol of security for India's
      Muslim and other minorities, the assurance that pluralist India would never
      be reduced to Hindu India." Nehru's noble sentiments have been vilified,
      distorted and misshaped beyond their original value into contentious
      political divisiveness, as corrosive as the partitioning of castes,
      communities and cultures across our geography. Thus, the identity of an
      Indian beyond each community and religion is in danger of becoming a
      receding dream. The nightmare that could emerge is beyond contemplation.

      Nehruvian socialism continues to remain a favourite whipping topic. Today,
      not many are ready, even grudgingly, to acknowledge that Nehru laid the
      foundation of modern industrial and scientific development in India and the
      spirit of self-reliance amongst a people who had lost their self-confidence
      and self-esteem through a thousand years of foreign occupation. Immediately
      after independence, the husbanding of the nation's depleted and vestigial
      resources forced the state to occupy the commanding heights of the economy,
      when private industrial enterprise was minuscule at best.

      No matter how retrograde these policies might appear in today's environment,
      the fact remains that the very same policies saw newly independent India
      through those early days of trying to stand on its own feet and reconcile to
      painfully slow economic growth. That the very same policies would eventually
      enable India to embark on a regime of reforms and economic transformation is
      only very grudgingly acknowledged. Thus, although they were not envisioned
      as such, these same policies eventually enabled India to prepare itself to
      face the unfolding challenges of today's market economy.

      India may not have withstood the world energy crisis of the Seventies with
      aplomb and confidence, but withstand it nevertheless it did. It is indeed
      the same Nehruvian policy formulations which will enable India, one day, to
      transform itself from a developing to a developed nation. State institutions
      and economic policies do outlive their utility over time, but they do not
      disappear into oblivion. What they do is to reappear as reincarnations in
      tune with the sentiments and realities of the present.

      The danger, of course, lies with those in India who have not been able to
      reconcile themselves to the fact that socialism has outlived its utility.
      They are not ready to acknowledge that socialism has served its purpose and
      has provided India, in less than forty years, with an economic base to
      pursue reforms and become a key player in the world of free markets and
      trans-border trade. China understood the need to change much earlier, and
      Russia, reluctantly, later on.

      Nehru would have rejoiced to see India progressing rapidly today on a
      foundation he and his contemporaries laid in the years following
      independence, but could not have imagined what they had set in motion.
      Whether it is secularism or economic development, it is worth revisiting
      those founding principles of Indian nationhood from time to time, and there
      is no better way of doing so than revisiting the legacy of Nehru. This is
      particularly important for the growing generation of young Indians and those
      amongst the older with a short memory span, and especially at a time when
      revisionism and spin have infected Indian history.



      ______



      [5]


      The Indian Express [India]
      April 23, 2004

      GEOGRAPHY OF HATRED
      By Patwant Singh

      Twenty years is not sufficient time in which to
      judge nations for their follies, which could
      imperil their very existence. If, however, during
      that period there is no introspection or
      critical evaluation of why the state sanctioned
      genocidal attacks on its own citizens, nor why,
      instead of punishing politicians for their
      criminal conduct they were allowed to get away
      with their crimes and even permitted to stand for
      parliamentary elections, then the sanctity of
      constitutional law and human decencies ‚ an d in
      fact the state¼s very existence ‚ are at peril.
      As they are in India today.

      Twenty years ago, in October 1984, Prime
      Minister, Indira Gandhi was sho t dead by her
      two Sikh bodyguards. The events witnessed in the
      days following October 31 have few parallels,
      even by the standards of this savage
      sub-continent. The ruthless violence unleashed
      against the Sikhs in several cities across the
      country revealed the meticulousness with which
      the pogrom against them had been planned.
      Equally striking was the disinclination of the
      police to intervene until the violence was well
      under way. Not only was a stray act of
      murderous folly seen as sufficient justification
      for violence against the entire Sikh community,
      but a careful propaganda blitzkrieg was also set
      in motion to degrade them and their fait h in
      much the same way as was done to the Muslims in
      Gujarat more recently. S o the danger the nation
      faces at the hands of venomous åleaders,¼
      masqueradin g as men and women who have been
      given the mandate to govern this unfortunate
      country, must be seen in this light.

      I wrote of the shadow these events could cast on
      our country¼s future in The Indian Express in
      December, 1984: „Instead of a careful assessment
      of the long term implications of this planned
      violence against the Sikhs there is evidence of
      ill-advised attempts to justify and gloss over
      it. These attempts are unbecoming and the
      country might have to pay a heavy price for
      ignoring the consequences of this violence¾.

      The time to pay the price ‚ even though the
      Punjab militancy has already taken a heavy toll
      ‚ is drawing near more rapidly than is realized.
      This time around it is not just the Congress
      Party with its morally impaired and inept
      leaders who still call the shots, but an entirely
      new breed of political mobsters whose leadership
      is sanctioned by their parent organizations
      which now occupy center stage in Indian politics.

      The RSS, BJP, VHP and such, with their vision of
      Hindutva, and the mindless blather of their
      Modis, Dalmias and Togadias is the new danger
      facing India. If government services and civil
      society stepped aside to facilitate the killing
      of Sikhs and the destruction of their properties
      in North India and elsewhere in 1984, it was
      inevitable that when the bell tolled for the
      Muslims in Gujarat the blackout of the collective
      conscious of elected officials, administration,
      police, and segments of the media would
      facilitate the extermination of Muslim men, women
      and children throughout that state. Similar
      versions of these despicable deeds are taking
      place all over India, 20 years later. A key
      difference being that instead of the Congress
      the script this time has been written, directed
      and produced by the BJP and its cohorts. The
      other difference is that the whole of India is
      now the happy hunting ground of these predatory
      forces, and those now forced to accept the
      Hindutva concept include Muslims, Christians and
      anyone else who can be bullied or beaten into
      submission by the mobs patronized by a collusive
      state. If the ultimate corruption of a
      nation¼s political system is the sacrifice of
      all ideologies, principals and ethical concerns
      in the pursuit of political power, then both the
      BJP and the Congress Party are equally corrupt.
      Irrespective of how many Indians of different
      religious persuasion s are killed in the process
      it did not matter to the mandarins in power durin
      g Congress rule, nor to the BJP and its allies
      presently in power. The mass killers are no less
      eulogized today, than they were twenty years ago.
      The man who presided over the mass killings of
      Muslims in Gujarat is even mentioned as a future
      Prime Minister! This is the extent to which the
      grotesque and the obscene scarcely cause eyebrows
      to be raised in today¼s India.

      Martin Niemoller, a German clergyman of great
      courage who opposed Nazism and all it stood for,
      directed this message at those who did not raise
      a finger as they watched the Nazis, with their
      hatred for people of other faiths, enact the
      century¼s most bizarre tragedy before them: „When
      Hitler attacked the Jews I was not a Jew,
      therefore, I was not concerned. And when Hitler
      attacked the Catholics, I was not a Catholic, and
      therefore I was no t concerned. And when Hitler
      attacked the Unions and the industrialists, I wa
      s not a member of the Unions and I was not
      concerned. Then, Hitler attacked m e and the
      Protestant church ‚ and there was nobody left to
      be concerned.¾

      Followers of different religious faiths in India
      should take Niemoller¼s words to heart. Because
      if the Sikhs were targeted twenty years ago, the
      Muslims more recently, and Christians are
      tomorrow¼s target then India too, instead of a
      proud, free and republican nation we dreamt of,
      will go the Nazi way. It will, moreover, be
      fragmented and torn apart by its constituents;
      instigated by those whose potential for evil far
      exceeds thei r preoccupation with ethical and
      moral principles. If Sikh feelings are
      mindlessly brushed aside by the Congress Party,
      which has given parliamentary tickets to those
      who colluded in the Sikh genocide of 1984, then
      no Sikh with any sense of self-esteem or pride
      will forget this slight.. The same applies to
      the Muslims and Christians as well. A stage could
      well be reached when the fundamentalists in
      power in New Delhi over- reach themselves and
      put the racially-driven body of India into
      unending wars and conflicts.

      With the general elections now underway, India
      stands at the cross-roads of history. If
      religious-revivalists and hot-heads are allowed
      to dominate national politics, the next twenty
      years will be grim. If their agenda of hate is
      reversed, or at least kept in check by
      right-thinking men and women of this country
      during the next twenty years, then India and its
      people can still find a place under the sun.
      ______



      [6]


      30 April 2004

      Riot Report

      Apportioning the blame of Communal Riots

      by Ram Puniyani

      During the current elections (April-May 2004) many a
      Muslim leaders, or self proclaimed representatives of
      the community, like Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, came
      out with Fatwas to vote for BJP, to give it a chance.
      The argument was that during BJP regime only Gujarat
      riots have taken place while during Congress regimes
      thousands of riots have taken place.

      Riots, communal violence have become a sad reality of
      Indiaís life. There are many an observations
      pertaining to the riots. The major one being that
      after every riot BJP in particular becomes stronger in
      that area. Also that the majority of the victims of
      riots in India are Muslims. The data from1961 to 1992,
      shows that during these four decades 80 percent of
      victims of communal violence have been Muslims. During
      the 1984 Delhi riots nearly 4000 Sikhs were done to
      death. In a similar vein another minority; Christians
      saw the ghastly burning of Pastor Graham Stains along
      with his two minor sons.

      Who is to be blamed for these riots? In case of 1984
      anti Sikh riots the role of Congress was most
      abominable. In addition to overt role of Congress one
      has to see the role of RSS also in this tragedy. In
      one of the articles in a Hindi Monthly, Pratipaksha,
      Nanaji Deshmukh a veteran of RSS wrote around that
      time that there is a threat to the National unity, due
      to Sikh extremism, and so Rajiv Gandhi should be
      supported to the hilt. Needless to say it was Rajiv
      Gandhi who blurted during these riots that when a big
      tree falls the ground shakes. The role of RSS during
      1984 riots is anybodyís guess. It was around this time
      that Bajarang dal, the storm troopers of RSS was
      formed. The rise of Sikh militancy, rise of
      Bhindranwale, attack on Golden temple, operation blue
      star and murder of Indira Gandhi preceded the anti
      Sikh violence. The anti Sikh tragedy had different
      dynamics than the two other minorities (Muslims,
      Christians) who have also been under the chopping
      block.

      The Muslims and Christians have been targeted for
      slightly different reasons. The anti Christian
      violence has also not assumed the form of riot as
      such. While we talk of riot the major phenomenon which
      comes to mind is the so-called Hindu Muslim riot. From
      pre-partition times, this name stuck to such
      skirmishes, which went to assume more and more
      horrendous proportions over a period of time. There
      are calls for bandh, calls for direct action or at
      times an event is given the twist to project as if the
      community is under the threat of an attack so there is
      a need to take up arms.

      This becomes possible to begin with due to the massive
      hatred spread against the ëotherí community. In pre
      partition times Muslim League indulged in spreading
      anti Hindu poison and Hindu Mahadsabha-RSS indulged in
      spreading anti Muslim venom. These sentiments of
      hatred against the ëotherí community are the fertile
      soil in which particular events can be given a
      communal twist, or calls for attacks in a veiled
      language can be given. So many an events can take
      place in the society but unless the inherent hatred
      for the other community is there they cannot be
      translated into violent episodes.

      After the partition process, those from amongst the
      hate spewing machines, Muslim communalism got
      deflated, Hindu Mahasabha got eclipsed and RSS
      proliferated as the time passed by. It went on from
      strength to strength, and from organization to
      organization, manned by the Hate embodiments, the RSS
      swayamsevaks, whose core ideology is based on the Hate
      ëotherí. By now there are over 150 RSS progenies doing
      the job at various levels apart from those
      swayamsevaks who have infiltrated in media, education
      and bureaucracy.

      Grounded on Hate, certain incidents are twisted to
      give it a provocative interpretation, a call for
      action to attack the other community. Sociologist
      Dipanakar Gupta in one of his recent articles in a
      popular newspaper outlined the role of ethno-preneur
      in giving such a twist to the events. This soldier of
      communal politics is on the look out for the chance to
      convert a Human tragedy into a ladder for his
      political enhancement, into enhancement of his
      communal agenda, into converting it into a riot. In
      recent past two such ethno-preneurs can easily be
      discerned. The first one amongst these is Mr.
      Balasaheb Thackeray, who gave an open call to Hindus
      to ëdealí with the rising attacks on them. The
      detailed analysis of the events of Mumbai riots shows
      that the scattered isolated, unrelated events of
      murder of Mathdi workers and the burning of Bane
      family was projected as the onslaught by Muslims on
      Hindus. And so the call that Hindus should become
      aggressive. The call was duly backed up by regular
      instructions. And than one sees over 900 dead bodies.
      One witnesses property worth 10000 crores going up the
      smoke. Most of this is well chronicled and
      investigated in Shirkrishna Commission report. On the
      dead bodies of the riot victimís Hindu community got
      its first Soul Emperor (Hindu Hriday Samrat), none
      other than Balasaheb Thackeray, who was the
      ethno-preneur

      A train is burnt in Godhra. One is not sure how and
      why it has happened. it needs to be investigated and
      the guilty need punished. Here another ethno-preneur
      is lurking in the wings. Without wasting time he
      declares that this is the act of International
      terrorism, in association with the much-hated
      Pakistani ISI and their ënatural associatesí the local
      Muslims. He instructs all those concerned in
      controlling the riot, to sit back and relax. Those
      given these instructions take the cue and duly assist
      the ëprocess of revenge of Godhraí. Two thousand lives
      down the gutters of fire, twenty thousand worth
      property down the drain, another Hindu Soul Emperor
      emerges, Narendra Modi.

      Prior to this many a riots had taken place. In most of
      the investigations of the riots, Madon (Bhivandi),
      Ahamdabad (Jagmohan) Kanyakumari (Vythathil)
      Bhagalpur, Meerut and others the inquiry commissions
      did come to the conclusion that the role of ethno-
      preneur is generally played by some scattered RSS
      organization, especially put together for the purpose
      but drawing from the existing organization already
      being conducted by a swayamsevak. Congress was ruling.
      Within Congress and within administration there are
      elements that have been communalized. Congress did not
      deal with riots in an effective manner, many a times
      it just looked the other way around, when the carnage
      was in progress. Guilty either got promoted
      (Thackeray, Modi) at worst and remains unpunished at
      best.

      To look at riots just as to under whose regime they
      took place is to overlook the bigger reality. The
      truth of riots involves multiple factors and each of
      this contributes at a different level. Pastor Stains
      burning took place under a particular regime, looking
      at that alone does not give us the full picture. We
      have to see as to who is spreading the anti Christian
      venom in villages and Adivasi areas, which
      organization or individual is instigating others to
      join in such inhuman acts a so on. Anti Muslim riots
      took place aplenty under Congress regime. We have to
      see who has been spreading hatred against this
      community, who is instrumental in spreading the myths
      about them, which by now have become a social common
      sense. These myths spread systematically by different
      progeny of RSS, and this is the ground on which the
      events are taken up by ethno preneuers and converted
      into the riots, which benefit their political agenda.

      Shahi imam and othersí observation that more riots
      took place under Congress regime is a very superficial
      and distorted way at looking at things. It does not
      help us in apportioning the blame of riots properly.
      We have to delve deep in order to understand the
      nature of these political formations to come to
      conclusions, especially which are going to have a
      far-reaching effect on our political future. In that
      sense the worst of Congress crimes come nowhere close
      to the machinations of RSS which operate at multiple
      layers and which is making the life of minorities
      miserable in this country. It is this, which is a big
      obstacle to the efforts to get the justice for the
      weak sections of society.

      The RSS like formations, and their progeny are in a
      different league altogether. Since they do not hold to
      the values of democracy, affirmative actions and human
      rights, they should not be compared with potentially
      democratic organizations, which under the grass root
      pressure can become better tailored for democratic
      polity.


      ______



      [7]


      SUNIL GUPTA -- PICTURES FROM HERE
      www.geocities.com/nigahmedia/sunil.html

      A collection of photographs that represent six of the artist's projects over
      20 years, reflecting his desire to create a cultural history for others and
      himself in his position as a gay Indian man living with HIV in the west.

      May 4th-14th, 10am-8pm everyday, Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre.

      In order to make the exhibition a true community space, there are daily tea's
      at 6pm, and an accompanying schedule of talks, films, and, of course,
      cocktail launches. Mark your calenders!

      For a detailed program: www.geocities.com/nigahmedia/sunilprog.html

      Launch Party: 3rd May, 6pm onwards, Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat
      Centre. All are invited!

      Talk: Sunil will be present to talk about his work on the 4th of May, at 6pm.

      Talk: Nigah is organising a discussion with known gay activist, writer, and
      historian Saleem Kidwai (co-author of Same-sex love in India, as well as the
      recent translation of Malika Pukhraj's autobiography). The discussion will
      be held on the 8th of May, at 7pm at the Open Palm Court Conference Room in
      the Habitat.

      Films:
      The Naz Foundation is organising films on the 5th, 6th, and 7th, and Nigah is
      putting together films on the 9th of May. All films are in the Open Palm
      Court Conference Room at the Habitat.

      May 5th
      2-6pm
      Tales of the Night Fairies -- Shohini Ghosh
      Majma - Rahul Roy

      May 6th
      2-6pm
      King of Dreams -- Amar Kanwar
      Love Dance -- Ramesh Venkataraman

      May 7th
      2-6pm
      Manjuben Truckdriver -- Sharna Dastur
      In the Flesh -- Bishaka Datta

      May 8th
      7pm
      Discussion on Owning Gay History by Saleem Kidwai
      Organised by the Nigah Media Collective

      May 9th

      2-3pm
      Love is not just a Straight Thing I and II
      by Nolan Lewis, Rachna Gutka, Shweta Dharia, Siddharth Surana, Nehal Thakakr,
      Thomas Koshy 30min. (2003)

      Tehdi Lakeer (The Crooked Line)
      by Amrit Sharma, Aparna Sanyal, and Arunima Sharma
      21min. (2002)

      3-3:15pm Break

      3:15-3:45pm
      BomGay
      by Riyad Wadia
      12min

      Beauty Parlour
      by Mehreen Jabbar
      20 min (2000)
      Thanks to Friends of Siddharth for providing this film.

      4-5pm
      My Friend Su
      by Neeraj Bhasin
      55min (2001)

      5-5:30pm Tea/Coffee and Snacks

      5:30-6:30pm
      Gulabi Aaina
      by Sridhar Rangayan
      40min (2002)

      6:30-7:30pm
      Films by Riyad Wadia
      Nadia
      A Mermaid called Aida


      ____



      [8]

      [Pradeep Jeganathan's collection of short fiction.]

      o o o

      AT THE WATER'S EDGE
      by Pradeep Jeganathan
      New York: South Focus
      128pp.
      isbn: 0974883905

      URL: www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0974883905/southfocuspre-20



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

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