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SACW | 23 Jul 2004

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | 23 July, 2004 via: www.sacw.net [1] Sri Lanka: July still black after twenty one years? (Eric Fernando) + some readings on
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 22, 2004
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      South Asia Citizens Wire | 23 July, 2004
      via: www.sacw.net

      [1] Sri Lanka: July still black after twenty one years? (Eric Fernando)
      + some readings on the 1983 riots
      [2] India: Kashmir should be at the top of the left's agenda (Ashok Mitra)
      [3] India retries pivotal Hindu-Muslim hate crime (Scott Baldauf)
      [4] India: How to desaffronise education (Kancha Ilaiah)
      [5] India: 1984 riots and Gujarat: Sashikumar' film Kaya Taran
      [6] Upcoming Seminar: Rebuilding Justice and
      Hope in Gujarat (New Delhi, 29 July)
      [7] India: Meeting to remodel 'Defeat BJP Forum' (New Delhi, 23 July)
      [8] India: The Women's Movement and our Troubled
      Relationship with Prostitution: A Dialogue
      (New Delhi, August 7)
      [9] India: Appeal To The President Re The Death Penalty On Dhananjoy



      Daily News [ Sri Lanka]
      23 July 2004

      by Eric Fernando

      Twenty one years down the road, memories of July
      1983 still make Sri Lankans quiver. Most now
      agree it was Sri Lanka's 'week of shame'; it
      began on the 23rd of July and in fact has not yet
      ended. State controlled media of the day
      described the events as an ethnic disturbance.
      But discerning citizens knew what they were
      witnessing was nothing short of a holocaust Sri
      Lankan style.

      The details of the horrors and mayhem after two
      decades remain sketchy; they are not fully
      chronicled for obvious reasons. They will however
      remain etched in the minds of people both
      Sinhalese and Tamils.

      Most politicians to this day use 'Black July' in
      their regular rhetoric but go no further; it is
      clear now politicians of the day crafted this
      program against the Tamil people.

      It is heartening however the proposals of the
      Presidential Truth Commission are being given
      effect to today on the 21st anniversary of the
      pogrom. The President herself is to handover
      compensation to 30 randomly selected victims.

      Mobs armed with iron poles, swords and gasoline
      systematically went about the business of
      killing, looting and burning Tamil establishments
      and homes. A trail of destruction and human
      misery was all that was left at the end, with
      Tamil people being forced to seek refuge with
      their Sinhala friends and even with strangers who
      protected them for months on end, while
      authorities looked the other way, making little
      or not effort to stop the rampage.

      The riots were triggered off by a landmine attack
      in Jaffna, which killed 13 soldiers on July 23,
      1983. No one at the time could have predicted the
      sheer magnitude the riots would reach or that
      this could change the course of history and cause
      Sri Lanka to become what it is today.

      The post Black July period saw a virtual exodus,
      scores of disgruntled Tamils left for the West
      and neighbouring India, others went to the North,
      young men and women joined the militants.

      Black July strengthened militancy and the Tamils'
      resolve to do something about their grievances.
      The Eelam demand began in earnest and a civil war
      raged on for 18 years, over 60,000 lives were
      lost on both sides of the divide. The Sri Lankan
      dream if there was one, was shattered. The
      economy came to a virtual standstill.
      [...] .

      o o o


      Dissanayaka, T D S A. The Agony of Sri Lanka: An
      In-depth Account of the Racial Riots of July
      1983, (Colombo, Swastika Pvt Ltd., 1983).

      Amnesty International. Sri Lanka: Current Human
      Rights Concerns & Evidence of Extrajudicial
      Killings by the Security Forces, July 1983-April
      1984 (NY, 1984).

      Abeysekera, C. & Gunasinghe. N. (eds) - "Facets
      of Ethnicity in Sri Lanka", Social Scientist
      Association, (Colombo: Social Scientists
      Association , 1987).

      Tambiah, Stanley J. Sri Lanka. Ethnic Fratricide
      & the Dismantling of Democracy (Chicago: U.
      Chicago, 1986).

      Sieghart, Paul. Sri Lanka: A Mounting Tragedy of
      Errors (London: International Commission of
      Jurists, 1984).
      Dharmadasa, K.N.O. Language, Religion, & Ethnic
      Assertiveness: The Growth of Sinhalese
      Nationalism in Sri Lanka (Ann Arbor, 1992).

      Sivanandan, Ambalavaner. When Memory Dies (London: Arcadia, 1997)



      The Telegraph [India]
      July 23, 2004

      - Kashmir should be at the top of the left's agenda
      Ashok Mitra

      The excitement, always somewhat ersatz, over the
      Union budget proposals is nearly abated. The
      budget in any case is a bit of a hoax, an
      exercise in public relations on the part of the
      government. It draws attention to what the regime
      considers it worthwhile to draw attention to. The
      new government's supposed anxiety to derive
      appropriate lessons from the poll outcome and
      concentrate on fostering rural welfare was made
      the keynote of this year's exercise. The media
      have responded in the Pavlovian mode: they have
      gone overboard to record the breathtaking rural
      transformation which the budget is seemingly
      determined to usher in.

      In this raucous milieu, one runs the risk of
      being considered a pariah by mentioning, with or
      without temerity, such facts as that while the
      allocation for the ministry of agriculture was Rs
      3,170 crore according to the revised estimates
      for 2003-04, the allocation suggested for 2004-05
      is Rs 4,192 crore, an increase of merely around
      Rs 1,000 crore; or that the position is much
      worse with regard to the ministry of rural
      development, in whose case the revised allocation
      of Rs 19,200 crore in 2003-04 has actually been
      slashed to Rs 1,600 crore in the current year's
      budget. Equally revealing is the comparison
      between the Central plan outlays in the two
      years: these were Rs 12,238 crore and Rs 3,671
      crore respectively for rural development and
      agriculture in 2003-04; and are down to Rs 9,239
      crore and Rs 2,643 crore respectively in 2004-05.

      Given the surcharged atmosphere, ground reality
      has to stand aside and offer homage to vacuous
      hoopla. The media have little time to comment on
      the nearly 30 per cent jump in the allocation for
      the ministry of defence, from around Rs 60,000
      crore last year to roughly Rs 77,000 crore this
      year, and the defence minister has already hinted
      at a further upward revision in the latter figure.

      Unalterable India, unalterable the reign of the
      establishment in New Delhi. The colour of the
      government changes; the defence lobby though goes
      on forever. And rest assured, in the
      parliamentary debates, members of parliament will
      make themselves hoarse praising or condemning
      this or that teeny-weeny bit of allocation for
      the rural sector and split hairs over the merit
      or demerit of a couple of crore of rupees
      marginally allocated for, say, mid-day meal
      schemes. The defence budget, however, for all one
      knows, will be guillotined and passed within a
      space of ten seconds. Even if it is not
      guillotined, an aura of hush-hush will descend on
      Sansad Bhavan: the issue of defence is
      sacrosanct, the very security of the nation is
      involved, therefore tread softly, do not raise
      your voice, and, please, do not stray into
      posting patently unpatriotic questions about this
      or that item of expenditure.

      Any query which challenges, even remotely and
      indirectly, a proposed outlay with a high-import
      content will be dubbed a sensitive matter;
      members will be privately advised to be demure.
      They can only watch from the sidelines even as
      actual allocations for the two ministries that
      are crucially relevant for amelioration of rural
      poverty, those of the ministry of agriculture and
      the ministry of rural development, get reduced in
      the net over the year, while the allocation for
      the ministry of defence is raised heftily. The
      allocation for defence is almost four times the
      amount set aside for the two agriculture-related

      The story does not quite end here. Budgetary
      funds being placed with the ministry of home
      affairs include large chunks of money for
      purposes of security operations. This is really a
      second front for defence outlay. There are a
      number of other secret niches which conceal funds
      allotted for purchase of weaponry and espionage
      operations. On a conservative estimate, the total
      funds currently doled out under several heads to
      the military and security establishments will
      easily amount to a neat Rs100,000, or even more,
      each year.

      It is in this context that one is impelled to
      refer to the daunting, unfinished agenda of
      Kashmir. The valley remains unquiet despite the
      temporary d├ętente worked out with Pakistan and
      despite the fact, tacitly acknowledged by New
      Delhi too, that across-the-border infiltration of
      men and arms has declined considerably in recent
      months. In fact, such infiltration can be said to
      be almost a matter of the past, at least for the
      present. That has not however led to any
      cessation of violence in Jammu and Kashmir.
      Unhappy incidents continue. Fiercely committed
      militants, whom many across the globe will regard
      as devout local patriots, persist with their
      activities; several amongst them embracing what,
      whether we like it or not, most Kashmiris hail as
      a martyr's death.

      The recent Lok Sabha polls have been a sobre
      eye-opener. A change in the complexion of the
      government at the state level 18 months ago has
      not restored the faith of a majority of Kashmiris
      in the Indian polity; votes cast in the
      parliamentary elections this year have been
      barely 35 per cent of the total electorate as
      against 43 per cent in the last assembly
      election. In constituencies such as Srinagar and
      Anantnag, the proportion of votes polled has
      actually been as low as 20 per cent or less.

      Clearly, whatever the nature of reverie indulged
      in in New Delhi, the problem of Kashmir will not
      go away. Should an honourable peace in the valley
      be the key objective, army occupation,
      indefinitely extended, will be of no avail;
      additional appropriations for augmenting defence
      and security measures are also unlikely to strike
      any extra terror in the hearts of the insurgents.

      To ruminate over how the great divide has come
      about is neither here nor there. A meaningful
      first step for bringing peace to the valley is
      recognition, with some humility, of the reality
      of Kashmir being an alienated persona. The need,
      no question, is to start on a clean slate. The
      United Progressive Alliance government, the prime
      minister has gone on record, will be open to
      having free-ranging discussions with Pakistan on
      all issues, including Kashmir. Is there then any
      need, within the domestic contour, to stand on
      ceremony and keep postponing direct parleys with
      the so-called extremists in the Hurriyat

      The Centre can here easily take a leaf from out
      of the Andhra Pradesh government's gesture
      towards the People's War: pre-conditions have
      been shed on either side, accompanied by the
      declaration of a ceasefire. Kashmir is of as much
      grave import to New Delhi as the Naxalite
      rebellion is to Hyderabad. And if Hyderabad can
      afford to take certain risks, why cannot New
      Delhi? If emotions are past, and inhibitions a
      roadblock, they deserve to be at least suspended
      for the present.

      True, there is a further problem beyond
      run-of-the-mill sentiments and prejudices. The
      jacked-up budgetary allocation for purposes of
      defence and security packs into itself a grisly
      datum. Some determined groups are around who
      would like to log on to Kashmir for eternity; the
      persistence of the imbroglio in the valley
      amounts to prolonging the discord with Pakistan
      and thereby encouraging rising defence
      expenditure. Foreign merchants and their local
      agents will not willingly give up Kashmir, one of
      their major lifelines over the past five decades.
      It is not for nothing that scandals such as those
      of Bofors and coffins keep recurring.

      May not an appeal be made, and with some ardour,
      to the country's left? Kashmir is an issue which
      should occupy the top of their agenda. Between
      the end of World War II and the Gorbachev-Yeltsin
      joint act of skulduggery that drew the curtains
      on the Soviet system, the left was in the
      forefront of the battle for global peace. Kashmir
      provides them an opportunity to re-explore the
      source of the idealism. To speak up on behalf of
      the valley and its people is no betrayal of
      patriotism either: a lowering of defence spending
      and the transfer of resources thus saved to
      worthwhile directions such as health, education
      and rural development could be a significant blow
      for accelerated economic development cherished by
      every patriotic Indian.


      The Christian Science Monitor
      July 23, 2004

      On Monday, the notorious Best Bakery case nudged closer to a trial date.
      By Scott Baldauf | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

      MUMBAI, INDIA - When a Hindu mob stormed a bakery
      and killed 14, including two Muslims burnt alive
      in ovens, the gruesome crime became the symbol of
      religious violence that gripped India two years
      ago and left nearly 1,000 dead.

      Now, in what appears to be a second chance for
      justice, the Best Bakery case moved this week one
      step toward retrial.

      The first trial, held in May 2003 in the state of
      Gujarat, where the massacre took place, ended in
      the acquittal of all 21 of the accused rioters
      after the victims changed their testimony. The
      Indian Supreme Court last April ordered a retrial
      out of state, calling state officials "modern-day
      Neros" for ignoring the complaints of witnesses
      that they had been politically harassed and
      pressured to change their testimony by police and
      state officials.

      The opportunity for another trial in this
      cornerstone case is seen here as an important
      chance to resolve a major irritant in Hindu-
      Muslim relations and a chance to chip away at the
      pervasive problem of witness tampering in the
      Indian justice system.

      "This case has been a kind of systematic failure
      of the Indian legal system," says Teesta
      Setalwad, a human rights activist who led the
      effort to get the case a second hearing. "This
      has been a symbol, hopefully, to revive the
      criminal justice system in India."

      In a country where prosecutors win violent
      criminal cases only 4 percent of the time, some
      dramatic reforms are required, Ms. Setalwad says.
      "In India, we have failed (in providing justice.)
      Trials take 10 years to finish. Witnesses turn
      hostile and change their testimony. The whole
      system needs to change."

      The trouble in Gujarat began at a train station
      in Godhra on Feb. 27, 2002, when a train car full
      of Hindu activists was torched, killing 68
      passengers. For more than two months, Hindu
      rioters took their revenge on Muslim neighbors,
      killing nearly 1,000 citizens. Police claimed
      they were unable to contain the rioters, but
      later, senior officials admitted to human rights
      activists that they had been directed by Gujarat
      Chief Minister Narendra Modi to allow the
      "anticipated Hindu reaction" to run its course.

      Mr. Modi, a member of the Hindu-nationalist
      Bharatiya Janata Party, has claimed that his
      state apparatus had done everything it could to
      keep the peace, but has also called the riots a
      "natural reaction" to the Godhra attack.

      The Best Bakery case was once seen as the best
      chance to bring the rioters to justice, some of
      whom included police officials and activists of
      the BJP and other Hindu nationalist groups. The
      star witness, Zahira Shaikh, named 21 of the
      rioters directly involved in the murders of 11
      members of her Muslim family as well as their 3
      Hindu employees. But on May 17, 2003, she changed
      her testimony. Later, Ms. Shaikh told reporters
      that she had been threatened by a BJP state
      legislator, Madhu Srivastava, who had escorted
      her to the courthouse.

      "He told me, 'Think about what you have to do. If
      you don't, you will suffer,'" Ms. Shaikh later
      told India Today magazine. "I knew I had two
      options: to get justice for dead family members,
      or save those who were living."

      Mr. Srivastava denies having threatened Shaikh,
      but admits that he did escort Shaikh to court to
      protect her from the crowd. "She was receiving
      threats," he told reporters at the time.

      On Monday, a judge in Mumbai gave the case one
      more nudge toward a trial date, ordering Gujarat
      to issue warrants against 10 of the 21 accused
      rioters who had not been apprehended.

      Even with a second chance to give testimony, free
      of coercion, the Best Bakery case will not be an
      easy conviction. The Shaikh family has given two
      versions of the story and estranged members of
      the family tell an entirely different story.

      Yet whatever the outcome of the Best Bakery case,
      the very fact that it got a retrial at all - and
      that, out of Gujarat - may have reverberations.
      On Aug. 3, the Indian Supreme Court is scheduled
      to hear arguments from six other heinous cases
      similar to Best Bakery, which are also pushing to
      be tried outside Gujarat.

      The largest of these, the massacre of 89 Muslims
      in the district of Naroda-Patiya, occurred the
      day after the Godhra tragedy. Police waited
      nearly a year to investigate this case or to
      press charges.

      While some activists say Best Bakery will bring
      legal reforms that will guarantee more
      professionalism and less political interference
      in future cases, others like Mr. Jethmalani says
      a deeper reform within human character is needed.

      "Either out of communal motives [of promoting
      hatred toward the Muslim community] or out of
      some political motives by the state leaders, the
      investigation was totally unequal to their task,"
      says Mr. Jethmalani. Yet the problems seen in the
      case go far beyond Gujarat.

      "I must compliment the people of India for
      setting their face against such fundamentalism,
      when they voted against the BJP in the last
      elections," he says. But the decline in human
      character and the rise of fundamentalism "is
      getting worse," he adds, and not "just in India
      but in the West as well."



      Deccan Herald
      July 23, 2004

      Caste and religion
      How to desaffronise education
      India suffers from both religious and caste
      communalism. So education should decasteise
      society as a whole
      By Kancha Ilaiah

      Ever since Arjun Singh took over as Minister for
      Human Resources Development, he started a process
      of desaffronising education. The process of
      saffronisation was deep as Murli Manohar Joshi
      had pushed the Hindutva ideology to all levels of
      the education system. This does not mean that
      during the phase of secularisation of education,
      the education system was made pro- productive
      masses. What the secular educationists did was
      that they tried to mediate between Hindu and
      Muslim historical systems.

      But, however, they too did not realise and work
      out a historiography of the productive mass based
      on multi-culturalism. For nationalist historians
      the national ethos was based on Vedism. For
      Marxist historians it was of class without any
      face of Indianness, which in essence was caste.
      For subaltern historians the nation was of
      peasant or farmer, again unidentifiable in terms
      of the real identity of the productive masses -
      the tanner, the shoe maker, the potter, the
      shepherd, the tiller and so on, who struggle with
      the nature to produce food and other goods and
      commodities for human survival and each one of
      such social group is known by its caste name.

      So desaffronisation of education does not mean
      deleting some sentences and paras from history
      books or deleting sections that deal with
      astrology from the books prepared by the Hindutva
      historians. Indian history does not become
      representative history only if the so called
      Vedic mathematics, Vedic science etc are either
      removed or nuanced with the language of a secular
      historian. The difference between caste
      communalism and secularism has been very thin.
      India does not suffer from only religious
      communalism. It suffers from caste communalism as
      well. Hence education should decasteise society
      as a whole.

      Foundations hit
      The school textbooks brought out by the NCERT
      during the BJP regime really destroyed the social
      foundation of Indian society. The Vedic
      Brahmanism was not only made central to future
      life but it was made binding for people who live
      in future too. The history of Muslim rulers was
      shown as a period of devilishness. There was no
      scientific analysis in any particular form or
      there was no serious examination of the history
      and social sciences. The form and content of the
      books that were brought out under Rajput
      leadership need to be scrapped. The question,
      however, is that what do we replace it with? What
      kind of history are we going to hand down to the
      millions of children? Is it enough to have a
      syllabus that teaches that Hindus, Muslims,
      Christians, Sikhs, Bouddhas and Jains should live
      side by side without involving themselves in
      social conflicts? But it does not resolve the
      historical mindsets, stereotypes and caste
      biases. The whole question of teaching history
      and social sciences does not mean teaching about
      religious institutions alone. History and social
      sciences have to deal with, castes, cultures,
      different modes of customs, conventions and the
      institutional structures that emerged based on
      all these factors. In a caste society like India
      purely class-based analysis does allow the
      student to understand the multi- cultural
      structures India. The future citizens of India
      should know the positive and negative history of
      India. They should know what should be practised
      what should not be practised. They should know
      what is a vehicle to reach the goal of equality
      and what is hindrance for equality. More
      significantly they should know that the caste
      system destroyed dignity of labour.

      Why should dignity of labour be central to our
      school education? The school education all these
      years has remained very vague. The sociological
      explanation, the cultural history, the political
      history, so far, have not treated the caste as a
      negative system. It is amazing that no historian
      has discussed jobs like shoe making, pot making ,
      shepherding and even tilling the land. If the new
      education policy being framed by the Arjun Singh
      ministry does not grapple with castes and the
      kind of indignity of labour that it created once
      again we are in for a system which perpetuates
      caste inequalities, thereby other inequalities as
      No doubt Arjun Singh himself is very sensitive to
      the question of communalism. And the committee
      that he is going to constitute might have people
      who are very sensitive to the communal mode of
      history written by earlier communal authors. But
      there is a general feeling among most historians
      that a discourse on caste is undesirable. But
      such an attitude towards history will show a
      hidden respect for superstition among many of our
      otherwise progressive historians.

      Superstitious beliefs
      There are some social scientists who believe that
      if we discuss caste it will spread more and more.
      It is like believing that if we discuss cancer it
      would spread in the body and if we remain silent
      about it, it would automatically disappear. There
      is also a school of writers who believe that if
      our children are taught about sex education that
      will lead to spreading of AIDS among them.
      Similarly some social scientists think that if
      school children study about caste they would
      become casteist. This is a superstitious belief.
      Cancer can be removed only by operation and AIDS
      can be abolished only by scientific sex education
      among our child population. Similarly caste can
      be abolished only by making our child population
      respect all forms of labour in everyday life.
      They must also discuss the negative influences of
      caste on the social system.



      The Week,
      25 July 2004

      Looking inward

      By V.R. Devika

      When your ethnic identity could be a death
      warrant, would you still preserve it? Director
      Sashikumar (left) tackles this question in Kaya
      Taran (Chrysalis), his debut Hindi film. Taking
      off from the 1984 anti-Sikh riots (after the
      assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi),
      it echoes fear. "Thousands cut their hair to
      survive," says Sashikumar, who is also the
      producer and scriptwriter of the film. "The
      question of retaining one's identity as a [member
      of the] minority population is on even in
      progressive societies where standardisation of
      dress code is thought to be the solution to
      multi-ethnic problems. I don't know if they have
      understood the deeper undercurrent of the
      problem. I decided to look at this in the film."

      Based on a Malayalam short story by IAS officer
      N.S. Madhavan, the film is set in a nunnery in
      Meerut. Despite their isolation, the aged nuns
      have to deal with the assassination and
      subsequent riots when they give refuge to a young
      Sikh mother and her seven-year-old son.

      "When I read the story I wanted to make a movie
      on it, but didn't know how," says Sashikumar.
      "Then the post-Godhra riots made me think about
      contemporising the story. I am not interested in
      the violence, but with the dilemma of nurturing
      one's identity."

      The Minority report: The film does not look back
      in anger, but searches for answers

      The film is crisp with subtle humour. It does not
      use a linear narrative form. "It is not so much
      about storytelling as about the connections that
      lend new meaning to our lives," says Sashikumar.
      The cast includes Seema Biswas and Angad Bedi,
      son of former Indian spinner Bishen Singh Bedi.
      "I knew I had my protagonist the minute he walked
      in to meet me at the India International Centre
      in New Delhi," he says. Angad plays his role as a
      journalist with aplomb. But one of the most
      brilliant performances was given by N.
      Bhattacharya, communist leader E.M.S.
      Namboodiripad's great-grandchild, who plays the
      little boy. "A student of mine suggested him and
      even I was wonderstruck at his natural acting
      talent and total professionalism," says

      Journalists Rahul Bedi, Joseph Malliakken and
      Alok Thomar play themselves in the film. "Rahul
      broke the story of the Trilokpuri carnage. He
      gives real accounts of the inhuman, unthinking
      massacres that took place against Sikhs," he says.

      "The film is not looking back in anger, but
      searching for answers. It seeks to conceptualise
      the violence of 1984 with that in Gujarat in 2002
      and to show them as symptomatic of a deeper and
      more insidious challenge from within to our
      multi-cultureness." Ram Rehman, the spokesperson
      for Sahmat, a Delhi-based anti-communalism group,
      also plays himself.

      A man of varied talents, Sashikumar has what it
      takes to create a seamless film. He has been a
      print and television journalist and started
      India's first regional language television
      channel, Asianet. He also set up the Asian
      College of Journalism in Chennai.

      The film, however, is yet to find a distributor.
      "I have to find someone who believes in the film
      and its relevance," says Sashikumar. With
      disharmony mounting, relevance should not be a




      IIC, Janandolan, Citizen Initiative & Anhad

      Cordially invite you to a seminar

      Rebuilding Justice and Hope in Gujarat: The Agenda Ahead

      Venue :Main Auditorium, India International
      Centre, Max Muller Marg, New Delhi-110003

      Time : 9.30 am to 1.30 pm
      Date: Thursday July 29, 2004

      9.30 - 9.45 am
      Audio - Visual on Gujarat

      9.45 - 10.15 am
      Subversion of Legal Justice
      Indira Jaisingh, Farha Naqvi

      10.15 - 10.45
      Compensation and Rehabilitation
      Gagan Sethi, Prof Ansari

      10.45 - 11.15
      POTA As An Instrument Of State Terror
      Colin Gonsalves, Nitya Ramakrishnan

      11.15 - 11.30
      Tea Break

      11.30 - 12.00
      The Truth About Godhra
      Mukul Sinha, Zafar Saifullah

      12.00 - 12.30
      Economic Boycott
      Zakia, Cedric Prakash

      12.30 - 1.30
      The Unfinished Agenda
      Harsh Mander, Amrish Patel,Chaman Lal, PC Sen

      IIC, Janandolan, Citizen Initiative & Anhad
      4, Windsor Place, New Delhi-110001
      Ph. : 23327367/ 66 E-mail: anhadinfo@...



      Date: Thu, 22 Jul 2004 09:21:11 +0530


      Activists who took part in the activities of the
      DEFEAT BJP FORUM during March-May this year have
      now resolved to use the experience gathered in
      that campaign to widen the scope for the struggle
      for democratic space. Tentatively, the new forum
      will have the following features:

      1. Name: People's Struggle for Democracy. This
      will be an umbrella forum for sharing experience,
      preparing documents, initiating and coordinating
      campaign activities etc. The participants are
      expected to belong to a variety of democratic
      organizations. Hence, the structure of the forum
      will be completely open-ended.

      2. Agenda: (a) To continue the struggle against
      communal-fascist forces at the grass-roots level,
      (b) to oppose the continuing neo-liberal economic
      policies of the state that largely led to the
      rise of the communal-fascist forces in the first

      3. Method: Direct work among the masses in small
      groups in and around Delhi to enable the masses
      to recognize and act on their own on the issues
      listed above. In this, we will use and expand on
      the contacts, resources and experience already
      gathered in the earlier campaign. There will be
      less emphasis on seminars, conventions,
      campaiging in the media etc.

      We will have a meeting on 23 July, Friday, 5.00
      PM at 8, VP House to finalize on the above items
      and to chart some definite course of activities.

      Please attend this meeting so that we have as wide a consensus as possible.

      Nirmalangshu, Madhu, Thomas, Jadav, Nandita, and others.



      The Women's Movement and Our Troubled Relationship
      with Prostitution: A Dialogue

      Dear Friends,
      On 9th August, Saheli will complete twenty-three years of existence. And we
      hope not only to exist for a long time to come, but to meet head-on the
      challenges of understanding and struggling against patriarchy in its myriad
      forms. As always, we look forward to spending this day with our friends and
      supporters trying to consolidate our work and alliances, and also explore
      complex new terrains together.

      We would like to invite you to a dialogue on the rights of women in
      prostitution. Most of the groups working on the issue agree that
      decriminalizing laws around prostitution is a critical step that is urgently
      needed to enable women in prostitution to access their rights and to end
      police violations. Yet we all know that the wide range of experiences that
      women in prostitution encounter has demonstrated the complexity of the
      issue, taking the debate beyond the binaries of legalization/abolition,
      good/bad, moral/immoral, etc. A grey zone exists between these extremes - a
      zone of differences and discomfort, conflict and concern.

      A dialogue encompassing these and other related issues is essential, and
      should be as open as possible. Your presence and participation at this
      meeting will help in exploring together the crucial linkages of issues for a
      deeper understanding. While there may be no direct 'outcomes' from this
      dialogue other than a frank exchange of opinions, we believe that it is part
      of a longer process of engagement by women's groups on this issue.

      Meena Seshu from Sangram, and Shabana from Veshya Anyay Muqabla Parishad
      (VAMP) Sangli, Maharasthra, will be present to share their experiences.

      When: Saturday 7th August, 1-5 pm
      Where: Indian Social Institute, Lodi Road

      Please do come. We look forward to seeing you,

      In solidarity,

      All of us in Saheli
      Saheli Women's Resource Centre
      Above Shop Nos. 105-108
      Under Defence Colony Flyover Market (South Side)
      New Delhi 110 024
      Phone: +91 (011) 2461 6485
      E-mail: saheliwomen@...



      22 Jul 2004 19:12:07 +0500



      As you know, Dhananjoy Chatterjee has been sentenced to death for the rape
      and murder of a school girl in Calcutta. His appeal for clemency has been
      rejected by the Home Ministry and the President is consulting legal opinion
      regarding death penalty in this case. As an urgent, last minute appeal, PUDR
      is urging as many groups, organizations and individuals as possible to
      appeal to the President to commute his sentence. Heinous as Dhananjoy's
      crime is, this appeal is part of our principled opposition to death penalty.
      We have drafted a copy of a letter to the President. It is given below. We
      would urge you to send similar letters to the President as soon as possible
      since a final decision in this case is imminent.

      His address is in the letter and his email is: presidentofindia@...

      In solidarity,

      Sharmila Purkayastha
      People's Union for Democratic Rights


      The President
      Rashtrapati Bhavan
      New Delhi


      Re: Mercy Petition of Dhananjoy Chatterjee

      This is a public plea to you to exercise the power of compassion and mercy
      reposed in you as Head of State, to commute the death sentence of Dhananjoy
      Chatterjee. We do believe that his crime is reprehensible. However, awarding
      him the death sentence is not the answer.

      Dhananjoy was sentenced to death in August 1991 for the rape and murder of a
      16 year old in her apartment in Calcutta on 5 March 1990. After unsuccessful
      appeals to the High Court and the Supreme Court, he was due to be hanged in
      February 1994 after which the date was twice postponed to March 1994, but
      did not take place. Hence, he has already been in jail for over ten years
      under the constant shadow of death penalty, a harsh and torturous
      punishment, and itself a reason for you to exercise compassion.

      Heinous as the crime is, we believe that death penalty is not the answer to
      the crime of rape and murder. For one, capital punishment for rape deflects
      attention from the conditions in society which allow rapes to occur, and
      focuses exclusively instead on the individual. Nor does it deal with other
      issues such as the extremely low conviction rates in rape cases, or the
      delay in filing FIRs and in awarding punishment. These would be far more
      effective deterrents against rape, not meting out death sentence. Extreme
      violence on women has deeper, structural, patriarchal roots that cannot be
      dealt with by even more violence by the State.

      The application of death penalty is extremely subjective as it depends on
      the predilections of the judges. Whether you live or die cannot depend on
      who is in the chair.

      Also, studies globally have shown that it is more likely to be imposed when
      the accused - as in Dhananjoy's case - is from a poor background. This lack
      of resources hampered access to competent legal assistance in the early
      stages of the case, which contributed to his ultimately being sentenced to

      He has had no previous history of crime. His death will not serve any wider
      social purpose. Nor is death penalty in any way a deterrent to crime in
      society as numerous studies in India and abroad have conclusively proved.
      Those who are arguing for his death are simply demanding an eye for an eye.
      Death penalty fulfills a desire for revenge, but this cannot be the
      principle that guides an enlightened jurisprudence or a modern Head of

      We believe that death penalty has no place in a modern democracy such as
      India's. We would draw your attention to the fact that there has been a
      general shift worldwide towards total abolition, or towards the non-use of
      death penalty. The International Criminal Court, constituted in 1998 by 160
      countries and of which India is a signatory, does not allow itself to hand
      down the death sentence even though it oversees large-scale heinous crimes
      including rape, crimes against humanity and genocide. As many as 79
      countries have abolished it completely, 15 have abolished for all but
      exceptional crimes such as wartime crimes, and 23 have it in law but not in
      practice for the last ten years. That makes a total of 117 countries that
      have abolished it in law or in practice. Since 1990, over 35 countries or
      territories have abolished the death penalty entirely, for all crimes. We
      would urge India to take this enlightened path and commuting Dhananjoy's
      sentence is a step in that direction..

      In light of the above, we beseech you as the highest constitutional
      functionary to be generous in the exercise of gentle compassion and commute
      the sentence of death imposed on Dhananjoy Chatterjee.

      Thanking you,

      Yours sincerely,



      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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      necessarily reflect the views of SACW compilers.

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