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SACW | 2 Sep 2004

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    South Asia Citizens Wire | 2 September, 2004 via: www.sacw.net [ Announcement to SACW readers: (i) Many of you have written in to say that they cant open
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      South Asia Citizens Wire | 2 September, 2004
      via: www.sacw.net

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      [1] Pakistan - India: For detente from below (Praful Bidwai)
      [2] Bangladesh: Women's organisations urge
      progressive, pro-liberation forces - Unite to
      fight fanatics
      [3] Pakistan: Taliban-like policies in NWFP loom large
      [4] India: BJP Back On Aggressive Hindutva Track (Asghar Ali Engineer)
      [5] India - Uttar-Pradesh: Living on the Edge (V.B.Rawat)



      The News International - September 02, 2004

      Praful Bidwai

      Exactly ten years ago, on this very day
      (September 2), about 20 Pakistanis and Indians
      got together and did something unusual. They met
      in Lahore and launched a Pakistan-India
      People-to-People Dialogue on Peace and Democracy.
      They were a motley group of academics, social
      activists, peace campaigners and human rights
      defenders, many of whom barely knew one another.

      What united them was their total and complete
      exhaustion, even disgust, with the relentless
      hostility between their two states and the hope
      that it is necessary and possible to counter
      "threats to peace and democracy in the
      subcontinent [from] growing militarisation,
      nuclearisation, religious fanaticism, communal
      violence and policies of intolerance" practised
      by governments and major political parties in the
      two countries.

      Five months later, this effort at a citizen-level
      dialogue on "critical issues of peace and
      democracy" culminated in a joint convention in
      Delhi of what has come to be known as the
      Pakistan-India People's Forum for Peace and
      Democracy (PIPFPD). The convention, attended by
      about a hundred delegates from each country, met
      either with hostility or with amused derision
      from much of the Pakistani and Indian media.

      The Urdu press in Pakistan charged that some
      delegates had come to Delhi with the nefarious
      motive of selling their country's interests in
      Kashmir down the river. (How they could do so
      through meeting Indian citizens, as distinct from
      high officials, remains a mystery.) Some Indian
      commentators poured scorn on the "do-gooders" and
      expressed pity for the "jholawallahs"-as all
      social activists are contemptuously branded by
      the chattering classes-for their ignorance of
      "harsh realities".

      Suspicions and apprehensions raised by this bad
      press cast a shadow over the convention in Delhi.
      Discussion papers written by individual delegates
      on various subjects, including Kashmir, were
      quietly stashed away out of fear that these would
      fall into the hands of intelligence agencies and
      lead to harassment of key participants.

      Yet, the damned thing worked! There was a robust
      debate and a good deal of agreement. The PIPFPD
      has since held five more joint conventions-in
      Lahore, Calcutta, Peshawar, Bangalore and
      Karachi. It continues to be in business. Another
      initiative, also launched ten years ago, has
      survived and flourished. This is the Hind-Pak
      Dosti Manch, comprised largely of Indians living
      close to the Wagah border, who light candles
      every year at the midnight of August 14/15
      celebrating India-Pakistan people's solidarity.
      Citizens' groups from Lahore join them across the

      Even more important, efforts at a people's
      dÈtente and citizen-to-citizen interactions have
      been continually replicated at other levels and
      by other groups, whether parliamentarians or
      soldiers, scholars or schoolchildren, and
      activists or diplomats (including former foreign
      secretaries). Nobody but dyed-in-the-wool cynics,
      for whom peaceful coexistence between Pakistan
      and India is a total impossibility, laughs at
      such exchanges any longer.

      The more organised among the joint initiatives
      include the Pakistan-India Parliamentarians'
      Forum, Women's Initiative for Peace in South Asia
      (WIPSA), Association of the Peoples of South
      Asia, South Asians for Human Rights, South Asia
      Free Media Association, and Soldiers for Peace.
      The fact that such initiatives were set up, and
      that they survived and grew during the darkest
      phase of Pakistan-India hostility, including its
      heightening thanks to nuclearisation, is itself a
      tribute to their worth and relevance.

      The Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Peace
      and Understanding recently granted to Admiral
      L.Ramdas and I.A.Rehman-who have both been joint
      chairpersons of the PIPFPD-is recognition of the
      relevance of such citizens' campaigns.

      Although neither the Indian nor the Pakistan
      government acknowledges this, it is indisputable
      that the activities of citizens' groups and the
      strength of their ideas have contributed to the
      thaw in official-level bilateral relations. The
      PIPFPD, for instance, has consistently-if
      somewhat repetitively-addressed major issues such
      as Kashmir, nuclear weapons, demilitarisation,
      containment of the forces of bigotry, communalism
      and religious fundamentalism, human rights, and
      promoting responsible, democratic governance,
      besides economic and cultural cooperation.

      WIPSA has stressed commonalities in women's
      situation and sexual oppression in both our
      patriarchal and horrendously male chauvinist
      societies. The joint efforts of the Pakistan
      Peace Coalition-formed in February 1999 in
      Karachi-, and the Coalition for Nuclear
      Disarmament and Peace-established in New Delhi in
      November 2000-have put flesh on proposals for
      nuclear restraint, risk-reduction and disarmament
      in South Asia. (Interestingly, delegates attended
      the founding conferences of both Coalitions from
      the two countries).

      It is the cumulative development and circulation,
      and growing currency and acceptability of the
      idea of peace and the desirability of
      India-Pakistan reconciliation, along with
      specific proposals on discrete subjects, that
      finally led to the breaking down of psychological
      barriers that we have been witnessing over the
      past year or so. There have been some 140
      exchange visits across the India-Pakistan border
      by people belonging to an incredibly wide range
      of social constituencies, and from different
      walks of life and of varying persuasion.

      Indeed, the idea that peace is possible and
      necessary has now slowly entered the mainstream
      public discourse in both India and Pakistan.
      Nothing proves this more convincingly than
      changes in Bollywood film formulas-from the
      viscerally anti-Pakistan, anti-terrorism,
      anti-Muslim stereotype, to themes like
      cross-border romances and reunification of
      divided soul mates.

      One of the greatest gains of this "detente from
      below" lies in personal visits by citizens to
      each other's countries, where they interact with
      flesh-and-blood human beings. These visits have
      helped ordinary people realise just how
      misleading are the stereotypes of hostility, of
      the "inimical" Indian/Pakistani "personality",
      etc. Some friendly sentiments have percolated
      upwards too to the policy-maker's level-although
      here, change is excruciatingly slow, so viscous
      is the fluid of suspicion and state-driven
      thinking based upon cynical realpolik, through
      which ideas must pass.

      Celebratory as this discussion is of "detente
      from below", it does not argue that
      citizen-to-citizen interaction is a substitute
      for state-level reconciliation and peace. Nor
      that the present thaw between Islamabad and New
      Delhi is irreversible. Nor even that this
      state-level dialogue can carry on indefinitely
      without producing tangible results on important
      issues like Kashmir and terrorism.

      However, that circumstance only heightens, it
      does not diminish, the importance of a
      citizen-level detente and civil society dialogue
      for peace. This process must be deepened and
      broadened so that it becomes a major source of
      moral and political pressure on policy-makers
      through effective advocacy and lobbying. Many
      issues cry out for civil society attention,
      including nuclear risk-reduction, Kashmir,
      pruning of arms spending, cooperative monitoring
      and patrolling of borders, economic cooperation
      and trade, and joint undertakings in scientific
      research and technology development, etc.

      To address these issues effectively, civil
      society groups must make specific short-term
      proposals, which appear doable. For example, they
      should advocate the suspension for, say, two to
      three years, of all missile test-flights. They
      should propose a limited, extendable, moratorium
      on nuclear weapons deployment. Equally worthy
      would be proposals for cooperation in fields such
      as energy, trade and transit (including transit
      to other countries), and in agriculture and

      The time for taking forward the
      dialogue-for-process through such ideas is NOW,
      while cross-border visits are still easy to
      organise and the general climate is friendlier
      than at any time in the past 40 years.






      Daily Times - August 30, 2004

      Taliban-like policies in NWFP loom large

      PESHAWAR: Cinemas are barred from hoisting movie
      billboards and shopkeepers are afraid to display
      posters featuring women in Peshawar.
      The city's only state-run theatre long ago closed
      its doors to singers, dancers and musicians, who
      are banned from holding public concerts because
      the ruling religious alliance in the North West
      Frontier Province (NWFP) considers it against
      Undeterred by allegations it is following in the
      footsteps of the ousted Afghan Taliban militia,
      the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) coalition
      government is bolstering efforts to enforce Islam
      in every sphere of public life.
      Government employees are being "encouraged" to go
      to mosques to pray, and shopkeepers have been
      persuaded to keep businesses closed during prayer
      time, the latest edicts say. "It's our goal to
      mould the society according to Islam," said Asif
      Iqbal Daudzai, the provincial information
      minister. "But we do not use force. We only
      persuade and motivate the people."
      The province has also made it mandatory for new
      public and private buildings to allocate space
      for a mosque. But human rights activists and
      political opponents complain that the religious
      alliance is trying to "Talibanise" the province.
      "This is the Pakistani edition of
      Talibanisation," said Afrasiab Khattak, a
      prominent human rights activist. Malik Zafar
      Azam, a senior MMA minister, said promoting
      virtue and curbing vice was the government's
      responsibility. The MMA's agenda includes the
      segregation of women and curbing what it calls
      vices of dance and music, as well as obscenity
      and vulgarity. Gulzar Alam, a Pashto-language
      singer, said he was beaten and thrown in prison
      for singing in a public programme. "I can't hold
      concerts now. Music and poetry is part of our
      culture, but they are too narrow-minded to
      appreciate it. Hundreds of artists and their
      families have been hit," he added. reuters



      Secular Perspective, September 1-15, 2004


      by Asghar Ali Engineer

      The BJP was so sure of its victory in the last
      Lok Sabha election that it feigned to have given
      up its Hindutva card and even tried to appeal
      'appease') to minorities for votes. In Bihar the
      then Prime Minister Shri. Atal Bihari Vajpayee
      even promised in his speech at Kishenganj that he
      will appoint 200,000 Urdu teachers, if elected to
      power. However, the Indian electorate inflicted
      crushing defeat on the BJP-led NDA and elected
      the UPA Government instead.

      However, the Sangh Parivar overconfident of BJP's
      victory could not accept the defeat in true
      democratic spirit and is feeling highly
      frustrated. The NDA members, particularly those
      of BJP are even refusing to behave as a
      responsible opposition in the Parliament. They
      have been obstructing the procedure and refusing
      to allow the parliament to function on one
      pretext or the other. They raised the issue of
      'tainted ministers' and stalled parliament for
      days. They did not even allow debate on budget
      and it has to be passed without any discussion.
      They thus made history of sorts. Thus the NDA
      leaders are responsible for waste of public money
      and answerable to the electorate. If they do not
      follow the norms of democratic behaviour they do
      not deserve to be elected.

      What is worse is that they are now adopting quite
      aggressively their old Hindutva course which,
      they had assured Indian people, they had
      abandoned. In 1980 also they had assured people
      of India that they have adopted ‘secularism and
      Gandhian socialism' but abandoned it in favour of
      aggressive communalism the moment they faced
      crushing defeat in Parliamentary elections of
      1984 when they got only two seats.

      Again facing defeat in Lok Sabha elections of
      2004 they have gone back to Hindutva politics
      with vengeance. Thus communal forces can hardly
      be relied. While in power and sure of their
      continued hold on it they feign to be secular and
      adopt aggressive communalism the moment they
      loose power. They have played the same game this
      time around. Now they are going back to
      aggressive Hindutva in view of state elections in
      Maharashtra and in Bihar after a few months.

      One such issue is of Veer Savarkar. Mani Shankar
      Aiyer ordered removal of poems of Veer Savarkar
      from the cellular jail of Andaman. The BJP is
      raising hue and cry over the issue. In
      Maharashtra of course they have left it to Shiv
      Sena as Savarkar's issue is highly emotive in
      Maharashtra. Thus the BJP who is part of alliance
      with Shiv Sena wants the Sena to provoke
      electorate on this issue while it would take up
      another issues. This itself shows that the BJP is
      not genuinely concerned with Savarkar issue but
      wants to exploit it for election purposes through
      Shiv Sena.

      Veer Savarkar's grand niece Uttara Sahasrabuddhe
      who teaches political science in the Bombay
      University, has alleged that both the Congress
      and BJP-Shiv Sena
      are trying to turn Veer Savarkar into an election
      issue. According to her this was hardly a good
      reason for the Sena and the BJP to boycott
      Parliament when the budget was being passed, she

      She also said that if the Sangh Parivar was
      sincere in its protest against what the Congress
      had done, it should ask the lieutenant governor
      of the Andamans to put the plaque back. The
      lieutenant governor Mr. Ram Kapse, was a BJP
      appointee and belongs to that party. She also
      said in her statement to The Asian Age that
      Savarkar was a rationalist. He never thought cow
      was so sacred and not be killed. He specifically
      wrote in one of the articles, she noted that "the
      cow was a useful animal once upon a time when we
      were dependent on agriculture. But don't make it
      a sacred animal. If you believe that God resides
      in a cow it's foolish."

      Savarkar also maintained, according to her that
      if you want to differentiate between Western
      civilisation and Indian civilisation, then you
      must know that after the Renaissance movement the
      West took to rationalism as its basis and made
      tremendous progress. We still stick to what is
      written in Vedas and Puranas, and because of this
      tendency we are stuck in the past.

      Of course she rightly points out that "The Sangh
      Parivar cannot eschew or digest these essays. The
      Sangh Parivar considers cow as sacred and VHP and
      Bajrang Dal harass even those who take old oxen
      or buffaloes for slaughter. One of the main
      agendas of the BJP is to ban cow slaughter
      throughout India. The BJP even justified killing
      of Dalits in Haryana who were skinning dead cows
      a few years ago?

      Thus it is clear that the BJP wants to exploit
      Veer Savarkar's issue for its own political
      purposes while totally rejecting Savarkar's
      rational thoughts. It would hardly convince
      anyone of its sincerity.

      Another issue BJP is preoccupied with is that of
      arrest of Uma Bharati, former Chief Minister of
      M.P. In fact there are indications that the BJP
      wanted to get rid of Uma Bharati as Chief
      Minister of M.P. and her arrest warrant came as a
      relief to the BJP central leadership. She may be
      an aggressive agitator but she was a failure as a
      chief minister and had created complex problems
      for the Party.

      However, now the BJP is making her arrest as a
      national issue and flying tricolour is being
      projected as a national mission. Of course
      tricolour is our national flag and we are all
      proud of that but one cannot take pride by making
      it as a anti-Muslim measure. Uma Bharati went to
      hoist tricolour on an Idgah, which is a disputed
      site. The Sangh Parivar had planned to convert
      the Hubli Idgah issue as a Babri Masjid of the
      South at that time though the matter was resolved
      amicably by persuading the Hubli Muslims to hoist
      the national flag on the Idgah.

      Now the Sangh Parivar is thinking of taking out
      her Yatra flying tricolour. It is an old trick,
      which the Parivar plays repeatedly. In fact the
      RSS refuses to fly tricolour in its own Shakhas
      and flies Bhagwa flag. Let Uma Bharati fly
      tricolour on the RSS offices if she is so
      enthusiastic about flying tricolour. Let her fly
      it on temples as well. She is trying to earn
      electoral advantage in coming elections by
      raising these controversies. But now there is
      news that the Government of Karnataka may
      petition the Court to withdraw all cases against
      her thus depriving her the opportunity to be a
      martyr. The Congress is trying to defeat her
      game. The BJP has never been comfortable with
      secular issues or issues of development. It
      adopted Sadak-Bijli-Pani issue in M.P. election
      as it was agitating the minds of electorate in
      the state then. But as it was not sure whether
      this will click Uma Bharati was repeatedly
      raising the issue of Saraswati temple and Kamal
      Maula Masjid in Dhar, M.P. The other members of
      Sangh Parivar were playing up this issue to
      entice the voters for Sangh Parivar.

      And now since the BJP is not in power at the
      Centre it has no compulsions or restraints of
      being in power and can try to go whole hog with
      Hindutva politics. BJP can never be secularised
      as long as it is tied firmly to the communal
      apron of the RSS. The RSS keeps on pressurising
      it to adopt aggressive Hindutva. And the BJP has
      to repeatedly assure the RSS that it will never
      offload the ideology of Hindutva without which it
      cannot get help of dedicated RSS cadre in the

      When the Jan Sangh had merged with the Janata
      Party and had taken pledge for secularism at the
      Gandhi Samadhi under the leadership of Jai
      Prakash Narain in 1977, it had refused to resign
      from the RSS membership though the dual
      membership controversy (both membership of the
      Janta Party and the RSS) had brought down the
      Morarji Desai Government in 1979. Thus it will be
      seen that it is firmly tied to the apron strings
      of RSS and its strident anti-minorities stance
      will never be diluted. Those so called NDA
      secular partners are deceiving themselves or
      fooling the people, if they pretend that the BJP
      will ever give up its Hindutva plank.

      Also, in view of the upcoming elections in
      Maharashtra in October the Shiv Sena-BJP are
      trying to stir communal passions. The bombs
      thrown by unknown motor cycle riders at the
      mosques during Friday prayers in Prabhani and
      Jalna is an obvious attempt in that direction.
      The winning of election in Maharashtra by the
      Sangh Parivar is of great significance. It thinks
      it is an opportunity to shake the UPA Government
      at the Centre. Defeat of the Congress NCP
      alliance in Maharashtra can have long term
      consequences. If the BJP-Shiv Sena combination
      can win in Maharashtra they can try to win over
      Sharad Pawar and persuade him to join NDA. Sharad
      Pawar is known to have soft corner for the
      BJP-Shiv Sena alliance. Also, the Mumbai
      Municipal Corporation under Shiv Sena has passed
      a resolution making singing Vande Mataram
      compulsory in municipal schools. They remember
      Vande Mataram at the time of elections only.

      The Sena is also very eager to come back to power
      and will go to any extent in playing up Hindutva
      card. It is very unfortunate that the Election
      Commission is satisfied with these parties
      signing pledge of secularism although their
      propaganda machinery aggressively works to
      propagate communal issues during the elections.
      What a contradiction. How can a party taking
      pledge for secularism as required by the election
      commission openly and aggressively propagate
      Hindutva? Can they not be disqualified on grounds
      of breaking their secular pledge? Is it not
      against the Constitution to propagate Hindutva
      during the election campaign? It is for the
      authorities to decide.

      It seems secularism is becoming a distant dream
      in view of increasing communalisation of our
      politics. Forget about Nehruvian secularism even
      Gandhian concept of religious harmony is becoming
      a dream rather than reality. Every religious
      group, every religious community, wants to bring
      in sectarian issues in political arena. Those who
      strive for inter-religious harmony will have to
      face increasing challenges in coming days. And
      yet inter-religious harmony is so vital for our
      multi-religious society.

      ( Centre for Study of Society and Secularism
      Mumbai. Website:- <http://www.csss-isla.com>www.csss-isla.com)




      By V.B.Rawat

      [September 1, 204]

      Sonebhadra is famous for five power plants in
      eastern Uttar-Pradesh. River Sone provides
      lifeline to the area though people in the town
      neither get electricity nor water regularly. None
      of the outsiders can realize the pain of
      Sonebhadra if (s)he travels by car from Varanasi.
      The beautiful wide roads that link to Sonebhadra
      and later equally marvelous Sone Valley creates
      an illusion about Sonebhadra and its people. It
      is one of the poorest areas of the country and
      yet its natural resources are being plundered by
      not only state owned and private corporations but
      also by the so-called Naxalites.

      Interestingly, Sonebhadra has also become a
      hunting ground for the 'NGOs' working for the
      'rights' of the marginalized. And as one enters
      the town, the virtual NGOisation is visible with
      big hoardings and banners greetings 'great'
      people from Delhi to visit the town and raise
      their issues. And therefore after 'press' and
      'political connections' the third important
      connections have become 'manavadhikar' or human
      rights. So if you say that you are from the human
      rights, the implications and meanings are that
      you belong to 'National Human Rights Commission',
      and that is why so many organizations have
      cropped up with name 'Rastriya' and
      'Manavadhikar' with them. But despite all these
      Sonebhadra remains volatile and tense, its
      Adivasis remains powerless as usual. Their
      problems have become 'fashionable' to discuss.
      People raise issue, print their photographs, get
      funds or awards but the situation remains the
      same. This apathy of the social action groups
      comes handy to the Naxalite groups who have
      virtually won over the Adivasis and Dalits of the
      area. Local police, CRPF and BSF have been active
      in the area and it is alleged that the special
      anti naxal drive has over Rupees 200 crore budget
      is futile as police dare not to go in the deep
      forests because they fear the naxals have better
      equipments with them. However, in the name of
      anti naxal drive, Sonebhadra witnessed
      highhandedness against the common man. The
      atrocious Prevention of Anti Terrorism Act (
      POTA) had the highest number of casualties from
      this place. About 27 of them were arrested
      against whom the charges could never been
      finalized alleged M.A.Khan, who heads 'Chaupal' a
      mass organization of the local people for the
      right to information.

      Waiting for Death: Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav is
      concentrating on the development of Uttar-Pradesh
      and his officials are much ahead of him. At the
      district headquarter of Sonebhadra in
      Robertsganj, about 40 tribals have come to
      narrate their plight. Travelling for over 40
      kilometer in which more than _ of the journey was
      done on foot and took about five hours, these
      Adivasis came to meet the district magistrate and
      show him his condition. They wanted to handover
      a report done by 'Chaupal' regarding the
      corruption on the Survey being done by the UP
      government under the instruction of a ten year
      old judgment given by justice P.N.Bhagwati and
      justice Rangnath Mishra. Both the judges are
      living their retired life. One is internationally
      known for his human rights activism while the
      other became chairman of the National Human
      Rights Commission and later Member of Parliament.
      But the survey completed by the UP government's
      Kaimur Survey Agency has done more harm to the
      Adivasis then relocating them as would have been
      the intention of the Supreme Court judgment. The
      Survey done by 'Chaupal' was a survey on the
      government survey and it revealed startling facts
      about the corruption in the revenue department. A
      prominent novelist Shivendra, who heads the
      Chaupal intellectual Forum says that about 4
      judges were suspended on the charges of
      corruption in this survey but still we don't have
      the information as why were they suspended and
      what were the charges. M.A.Khan, who himself is a
      'mobile information center' said that the
      officials asked for heavy ransom from the poor
      tribals failing which their names were withdrawn
      from the list. Hence nearly 40 tribal men and
      women travel for over 5 hours on foot to the
      district headquarter. It has been raining for the
      past three days and made it impossible for other
      villagers to move out of their huts.
      Nevertheless, they reach the district headquarter
      around 1 pm. Outside the collectorate, the men
      and women sit in a circle and display the forest
      leaves and herbs that they have been eating in
      the absence of daily diet. Kalawati, who is
      about 30 years of age, looks older then her age
      says : "I have a son and we live in a hut. For
      the last two months we have nothing to eat. We
      are eating the forest produce. What can we eat?"
      Phoolwati and her husband work as farm labours
      but due to drought they could do nothing. They
      have six children. They were given one bigha land
      entitlement but could not get the possession.
      Sukhdev has 11 children. He works as a carpenter
      in the village. They have one bigha of concrete
      land. Instead of getting cash he gets 2-1/2 kg of
      rice from the farmers whose work he does. Satya
      Narayan says that they eat 'Namak roti', if they
      get the flour otherwise have to survive on the
      green leaves, roots in the forests.

      It is difficult to give the biological names of
      the products they have been eating but the local
      names of the products these Adivasis mostly
      Ghasias have been eating are : Suren ( root),
      Mahua ( fruit), Nakwa( Kanna), Dhuru Kanna, Tenu,
      Kena, Surwari, Chaurawi, Koilar, khukhari,
      Laltamica, Arwath, Kheksa ( all last seven are
      green vegetables). The total number of these
      kinds of products are 32 on which the tribal

      It is a fact that officially nothing can be
      declared as a hunger death unless a person is
      hungry for 42 days and it is easier to project
      that the death was not due to hunger. It is
      unfortunate thing that all these cases are of
      malnutrition. This is a slow poison and the
      person does not die all of a sudden. This will
      ultimately ruin their immune system and finally
      they will succumb to the pressure. It is a case
      worst than hunger, for civil society just make
      case of hunger deaths to get big headlines but
      does nothing to stop it. Can it not do such case
      works and enlighten the authorities that people
      are facing malnutrition and must act on it.

      Reports of Hunger and Malnutrition are obstacles
      in UP Shining: Hence the hungry people were
      waiting in rain that some body from the district
      headquarter will come and listen to them. The
      district magistrate was not available hence the
      activist could get the Sub District Magistrate
      who happened to be a Dalit. With his two gunmen
      the SDM arrived at the ground outside the
      Collectorate and started speaking to the
      Adivasis. " Why have you come here? ' Sir we
      don't have anything to eat. We don't have any
      work. We are eating these roots.' "Okey, we will
      take care of you. We will not allow you to die,
      said the officer." As Khan was narrating him the
      incident, the officer got angry. You NGOwallahs
      are inciting the Adivasis. You get loads of funds
      and do nothing. Suddenly we saw Khan was almost
      surrounded by many 'Sarkari' people and abuses
      being hurled on him for allegedly inciting the
      Adivasis of 'Darma ' village which has become
      focus of some of the 'international'
      organizations for the dispute between the forest
      department and Adivasi land. As Khan intervened
      and asked me to see the officer. He said that:
      Rawat is an activist and a film maker', the
      officer got furious. You make films for foreign
      people, sale India's poverty, eat money meant for
      the poor. I intervened: Sir, if you the Sarkari
      officers, were kind enough to the people and were
      doing your duties well, things could not have
      reached to this stage. If I am writing on this
      issue, it is not meant to harm the interest of UP
      state but to help the poor people. Are we waiting
      for people to die and then shed the crocodile's
      tears? Why are the officials unhappy with
      people's peaceful protest at the secretariat?
      Should we snatch their right of meeting with the
      official? And fortunately, this meeting was not a
      meeting of that sort where people protest to get
      photographs at the media, more for a mark of show
      and less for the real work to be done. The way
      official treated the Adivasis and asked them to
      leave the place immediately show the pathetic
      state of Indian civil services. ' We all have to
      work hard, he preached and added that not all can
      have the same amount of work and money. " I get
      around Rs 20,000 and you get around Rs 20 a day
      but all have to work. You cannot depend on me for
      your problems. Still we will try to help you out.
      I am sure when this officer will retire, he will
      become a champion ' Ambekarite'.

      As far as the people are concern, there is no
      school for them to study. They have so-called
      ration card but ration is not available to them
      regularly. There is no hospital in and around the
      village and they will have to come to Robertsganj
      in case of any eventuality. By the time they
      reach the hospital everything is gone.

      Raup's Adivasis are still waiting for action:
      Last year a petition was filed with the National
      Human Rights Commission by a Varanasi based
      organization PVCHR alleging the deaths of 19
      children due to hunger in village Raup. The NHRC
      had issued notices to the state government and
      for the next few days the officials started
      coming up and taking notice of the area. They
      were given 5 kilogram of wheat, 2 liter kerosene,
      2.5kg rice and 2.5 kg potato for survival. These
      Ghasia tribes have relocated themselves from a
      far away village Cheruhi. Now two points are
      important from these things. One, what happened
      after highlighting the event last year? Some
      people allege that NGOs raise their issue and
      disappear. Secondly, how are we going to address
      the situation? Can we resolve the starvation
      deaths due to this uncharitably charitable
      approach? Secondly, not all 18 children died in a
      day period. They died over a period of a month
      and definitely these were malnutrition deaths.
      Now after delivering their charitable items the
      government felt it has done its duty.

      As I visit the village, a large number of people
      come. We see the condition of the village and a
      repetition can happen. The fact of the matter is
      that there are many 'Raups' in not only
      Sonebhadra but other eastern district of
      Uttar-Pradesh but then we wait for people to die
      and then cry, a cry that does not help the people
      but the organizations that raises the issue.
      Surely, we could have done more to help the
      people rather than just crying in pain and
      expecting a 'heartless' bureaucracy to help them.

      So what is the problem of Raup and its Ghasia
      tribes? Surely, people here are happy that their
      issue has been raised internationally and at the
      National Human Rights Commission. They thank Dr
      Lenin for giving them an opportunity to
      participate in the World Social Forum, in Mumbai
      and explain it to the fellow activists about
      their plight. They are equally hopeful that
      something will happen. But how is that going to
      happen if we are unable to raise the issue of
      right over productive resources.

      There are around 54 families in this village who
      migrated from a village called Markudi which is
      about 10 kilometer away. Most of them had land
      there but it was a concrete land. Villagers
      complain that it was not possible for them to
      survive in those difficult circumstances. As far
      as work is concern, some of these people work as
      farm labour, others work as cleaner as well as
      drivers. Interestingly, the entire ration cards
      issued to them is from village Markudi and they
      are legally not recognized as part of Raup
      Village. Gram Panchayat of Raup is not willing to
      accept them. Hence after some time, when this
      issue receded into the background, they will have
      to vacate the place. The area where these
      Adivasis are living at the moment is expensive
      area and many big companies and corporations are
      in the look out for such an area. So it would be
      easier for them with the help of an unwilling
      Village Panchayat to displace them. None of the
      Adivasis have any house. No Indira Awas for them.
      Gajadhar, an Adivasis of the area said that first
      the government officials rebuked them for having
      informed about the events to the 'outsiders'.
      Naturally, pressure from Delhi and Lucknow does
      not make the officials happy and they use this
      'anger' at a later stage when the Adivasis goes
      for smaller mercies from them. It is not that the
      Adivasis have got everything in Raup. They have
      to walk around 1 kilometer for water. School is
      similarly placed in about _ kilometer from their
      place. No mid day meal. For the last three months
      no ration has been distributed by the schools.
      There are about six to seven widows but none of
      them get a widow pension.

      Hansu's two children died of malnutrition. One
      was one year old and the other around 4 years
      old. They suffered from fever. There was no help.
      Before reaching the hospital they died.

      A look on the face of the children at Raup
      village would confirm the level of Malnutrition
      there. The resisting power is finished. With no
      help and a civil society that wait for deaths, I
      wonder, how many times are we killing these
      children of forest before they actually die? This
      is a question to civil society that how can you
      think of teaching about fundamental right to a
      community that does not have basic things to
      survive. After all rights are the talk of those
      who are powerful and atleast ability to fetch
      themselves. In Sonebhadra, the resisting power of
      the Adivasis is over. If the government betrays
      them and NGOs use them for their own purposes,
      then what should they do? And interestingly, the
      Naxalites jump as a robbin hood for them.

      Hit and Run Case: As we were watching interesting
      altercation at the Collectorate between the
      tribal and the officials, some forest officials
      also cropped in along with their 'public' support
      and a few gun men. The 'Public' cried against the
      NGOs and human rights activists that they are
      misguiding the poor people of Darma, a village
      which has gained international fame as activists
      after activists are descending from Delhi to
      'liberate' the people of this village which the
      forest officials claim falls under the Sections V
      of the forest department. ' You people are
      collecting Rs 50/- from the poor tribal and have
      so far amassed over one and a half lakh rupees,
      said one of the official. Why are you cheating
      the Adivasis in the name of land, which is not
      theirs? They have no objections and yet you
      people come in and become leader of the
      Adivasis'. As the officials were clubbing all the
      NGOs and civil society together, the lawyers got
      angry with them and threatened unrest if they
      don't stop. Some revolutionaries also intervened
      and the matter was calmed down. As every official
      is not corrupt so is the case with NGOs and by
      the way why should we just blame NGOs when the
      entire society face degradation. Why don't we
      talk about the media, judiciary and academics? So
      there are good people and bad people everywhere
      and the matter ended.

      The story of Darma village is an interesting one
      which also tells us that we should desist from
      'hit and run' theory. If we are raising an issue,
      we must stand before the people all the time. We
      must ensure that they get support. But what is
      happening here is that every event is organized
      for a different audience sitting outside India
      and that makes people vary of the good
      organizations also because despite so much of
      reports, ultimately, things have not changed. As
      I said, the NGOs or the right based groups or the
      government or the media still look for the
      'hunger deaths' that makes 'masala' headlines. We
      flash stories and do not even make any effort to
      do a little bit. Let me share this detail which
      has become the bone of contention. While the
      local court has rejected the claim of the
      Adivasis over land and handed it to the forest
      department, Adivasis who participated in the
      movement on 22nd July 2004 to capture land or
      desist the forest department officials are facing
      charges. It is a difficult situation and must be
      fought with a more caring way. What happens in
      this entire exercise is that those who intrude
      from outside are saved and people who face
      tyranny of the forest department have to pay the
      price of their revolt.

      Darma and the new Zamindars : Forest department :

      Darma village comes under Vikas khand Chotara and
      the Gram Panchayat is Karondia. It is a entirely
      Adivasi village with Gond and Dhangar communities
      living there. Even the Pradhan at the moment
      belong to the Gond tribe. Before 1959, the people
      used to plough this land but how it went to
      Section V of the forest is still unknown. May be
      the Panchayats were not powerful that time or
      still the revenue department has no strategy to
      repudiate the 'forest department' which has
      become the biggest Zamindar today. In 1960,
      according to M.A.Khan, of Chaupal, about 42
      families filed a petition to FSO Ramnagar. This
      case went till 1972 and nobody touched the
      Adivasis. They were allowed to work on their
      respective fields. In 1985 when the Chakbandi was
      done by the state government, strangely, this
      land went to the forest department. Again people
      wrote to the authorities and in 1990, it is
      alleged that the district magistrate asked for
      the files that had gone to Chakia, about 40
      kilometer from Robertsganj. Nothing happened.
      Nobody knew where the files have disappeared. It
      was actually a land of to Sections V of the
      forest act, which means it is a private forest.
      Not many people knew about it. Finally on 2nd May
      2001, it was converted to Sections IV of the
      forest act, which means that it is a forest land.

      Darma comes under thana Pannu ganj and hence when
      the forest officials forced their visit to this
      village on July 22nd 2004, obviously, the
      adivasis were well prepared for the same. The
      situation became tensed and police had to fire.
      Now the forest officials blames certain NGOs for
      inciting the people. According to them, this
      movement was initially launched by the local
      people but the NGOs, in their effort to look more
      radical hijacked this. This is unfortunately the
      story that many other activists whom we were able
      to meet in Sonebhadra.

      It is not fare to raise finger against any
      particular person as the forest department is
      saying because such atrocious behavior on forest
      department is visible everywhere. The
      'sarkari'people always pretend to be in the
      'right' side of the law and wrong every one. Nor
      it is ethical for them to say that the NGOs have
      no business to come and 'incite' the people. The
      matter of the fact is that there is growing
      awareness among the people and one must give a
      little of its contribution to civil society which
      not every one is ready to accept doing the
      fantastic work. Unfortunately, such a situation
      is not just in Sonebhadra but all over India
      where the tribals face a threat to extinction. We
      have information, facts and stories how the big
      industrial houses have been given permission to
      'rape' the forest under political protection in
      most of the states while the Adivasis are being
      asked to vacate without providing space for them.
      An enormous human catostrophe is therefore
      waiting to happen not only in Sonebhadra but
      different parts of Madhya Pradesh, Maharastra,
      Chhatisgarh and Orissa.

      Enter the dragons: While the civil society boast
      of its 'success' in Sonebhadra, the fact of the
      matter is that the Naxal groups have made their
      presence felt in this region. At the Pannuganj
      police station, we can watch the vehicles of the
      PAC, CRPF and BSF to counter the Naxalites,
      however, it is another question whether the
      'real' naxalites are caught or the villagers and
      poor adivasis are facing the hardship. The
      horrific event of 19 people killed in an
      'encounter', three years back is not forgotten.
      In the name of anti naxal operation, the police
      raided the house of a person where people were
      watching video after the marriage celeberations,
      and killed as many as 19 people. One does not
      presume that every body was innocent but will the
      police and the authorities allow a legal course
      of action or just kill every one and claim that
      they have got rid of this menace. Therefore, it
      is important to understand the influence of the
      Naxalites in the region and a wide support that
      people have given to them. And it is not a
      coincident that all the Naxalite prone areas in
      India have rich natural resources where
      oppression level has been high and justice to the
      poor almost naught. Interestingly, these areas
      have now become heaven for the bigger
      corporations. The connecting road to Sonebhadra
      from Varanasi is so beautiful that one may not
      even think that this town has a history of feudal
      relations. That this area still have bonded
      labours, child labours and huge money lending by
      the moneylenders. That for even Rs200/-, many
      adivasis have given their land to these
      bloodsuckers. That the Adivasis are the true
      children of soil and if nothing is done to rescue
      them then the things are going to be difficult
      even for the so-called civil society in these


      Sonebhadra is sitting on the time bomb of
      history. The lesson is clear that if the civil
      society, political leadership as well as the
      feudal structure remain the same, the poor
      Adivasis will go to that side which looks more
      attractive. And what could be more attractive
      then working for your honour and self-respect.
      Ironically, they feel they get these tools from
      the Naxalites and hence despite heavy policing in
      the area, things have gone from bad to worst. It
      is a wake up call for all those who harp on
      development as the only answer to every kind of
      oppression and injustice. They say that
      development brings awareness but then what kind
      of development we want. Is it nature friendly and
      pro people or it is meant to create another
      hunting ground for the rich and wealthy in Delhi
      and Lucknow to visit and appreciate its 'beauty'.
      It is equally necessary for the forest department
      to introspect about itself. The department cannot
      gain credibility by keeping its eyes closed on
      the massive corruption that they are involved in.
      It is not the tribals who sale the trucks loads
      of wood and forest produce? You cannot term the
      Adivasis as anti forest. In fact their services
      need to be taken in the Joint Forest Management
      to save not only environment but also the nature.
      Forest feel threatened not from the Adivasis but
      from the forest Mafias, its officials and
      political class which has betrayed the cause of
      the Adivasis. If there is a dispute between the
      forest department and revenue department anywhere
      in India, why has it not been resolved but we
      have seen cases where the department are using
      'righteous' language like using the term
      'encroachers' for the tribals. There is a dire
      need to approach the political leadership on the
      issue because every good 'environmentalist' is
      seeking refuse in the active judiciary without
      understanding the human miseries these things are
      bringing in the regions. There is a need for
      clear cut policy from the government side which
      unfortunately it is not doing. There is a need to
      include more areas under the special tribal areas
      act of Schedule IV of the constitution.
      Tragically, the Aryan raiders have become the
      'law abiding' citizens of the country while those
      who were the rulers of the forest have become
      virtually beggars with 'intellectuals' and
      'activists' jumping in to provide 'healing' touch
      which has not reached them. Let us not make these
      peaceful region fertile ground for arms struggle
      and police butcheries which has never helped the
      poor Adivasis but which will explode like a time
      bomb if things are not handled properly.


      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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