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SACW #1 | 8-9 Oct 2004

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    South Asia Citizens Wire #1 | 8-9 October, 2004 via: www.sacw.net ======= [1] Bangladesh: Bigots out to mine secular space - Women s soccer (Editorial,
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 8, 2004
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      South Asia Citizens Wire #1 | 8-9 October, 2004
      via: www.sacw.net

      =======

      [1] Bangladesh: Bigots out to mine secular space
      - Women's soccer (Editorial, Daily Star)
      - Fanatics, civil society face off today
      [2] Pakistan:
      - Human rights activists march against honour killings
      - NWFP Mullahs wants cinemas and cable TV to be shut down during Ramzaan
      [3] India: Open Letter to the Media by feminists, rights activists &
      organisations
      [4] India: Hindutva Mayhem in Karnataka | secular protest planned
      (Bangalore 9th October)
      [5] India: Hindutvaisation of a Gorakhnath Mutt -The Yogi and The
      Fanatic (Subhash Gatade)
      [6] India: The Squabble that Never Ends - Religion and Fertility (Alaka M Basu)
      [7] India: RSS and Johns Hopkins University (I.K.Shukla)
      [8] India: No ideological lines drawn - The issues Maharashtra
      manifestos don't mention
      (J. Sri Raman)
      [9] India: Remembering Muk Raj Anand: Salute to a Mentor (V.B.Rawat)

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

      [1]

      The Daily Star - October 8, 2004 | Editorial

      WOMEN'S SOCCER
      The threat must be dealt with an iron hand
      An Islamist party, raring to exploit people's religious sentiments,
      has announced a three-day agitation programme to stop an on-going
      women's football tournament in the city. Playing football has somehow
      been viewed by the party as something objectionable. It seems the
      obscurantists' list of objections is getting longer day by day.

      The women's football tournament is being organised by the Bangladesh
      Football Federation with the permission of the government. It is part
      of the activities that the Federation has to undertake as the highest
      regulating body for football in the country and as a member of the
      FIFA. The resistance coming from a party, known for its
      ultra-conservative views, is neither acceptable, nor tenable. Playing
      football cannot have anything indecorous or indecent about it. One
      must take note of the fact that the local girls are using costumes
      that conform to our tradition of not wearing anything bordering on
      indecency or sartorial brevity. So, what do the bigots find in it
      that upset their sensibilities? Second, we are part of a global
      sporting family, each member of which has endorsed the idea of
      bringing more and more women to the sporting arena. Women are playing
      football in most of the countries. So, it doesn't stand to reason
      that we will lag behind others only because some religious fanatics
      don't want women to take part in outdoor sports. We cannot afford to
      remain isolated, nor can we break with our tradition as a
      sports-loving nation. The obscurantists are also planning to prevent
      women from swimming, and it is not known what will be their next
      target.

      It is a clear case of politics and religion being mixed up with
      sports, which is highly undesirable and thoroughly unacceptable.
      Women are supposed to have their due place in sports and games, and
      it would be a meek capitulation to the agitators if the government
      and others concerned do not take a firm position to neutralise the
      threat to women's sports.

      o o o

      The Daily Star- October 8, 2004
      FANATICS, CIVIL SOCIETY FACE OFF TODAY
      Staff Correspondent

      Tension reigns in Narayanganj as religious fanatics and the civil
      society members stand fiercely opposed to each other on the former's
      programme to capture the Ahmadiyya mosque in the city today.

      Anti-Ahmadiyya outfits Khatme Nabuwat Committee Bangladesh and Aamra
      Dhakabashi yesterday reiterated that they will continue with the
      programme.

      They called on their adherents to gather and hold a demonstration at
      DIT Mosque after the Juma prayers and march towards Missionpara
      Ahmadiyya mosque.

      "The Kadianis (Ahmadiyyas) are misleading the 'real Muslims' by
      calling their place of worship mosques," read an Aamra Dhakabashi
      press release yesterday.

      "We don't want to capture anyone's property, but as Muslims, we have
      the religious obligation to save the fellow Muslims from being
      deceived by the Kadiyanis," the press release added referring to the
      prospective capture of the Ahmadiyya mosque.

      Meanwhile, a number of socio-cultural and political organisations and
      professional bodies have declared to resist the capture programme.

      Led by Narayanganj Sangskritik Jote, the South Asian People's Union
      against Fundamentalism and Communalism (SAPUFC), and Ekattorer Ghatak
      Dalal Nirmul Committee, these organisations have asked the people to
      assemble at the mosque in the morning to foil the bigots' capture
      programme.

      Superintendent of Police in Narayanganj Ibrahim Fatemi said yesterday
      they had taken necessary preparations to stop the anti-Ahmadiyya
      zealots.

      Police remained posted at different points of the town yesterday.
      Paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles might also join them today, said
      sources.
      Police picked up two operatives of Khatme Nabuwat while they were
      making announcement in loudspeakers Wednesday noon to let them off an
      hour later.

      ______


      [2]

      The Daily Times - October 09, 2004

      HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS MARCH AGAINST HONOUR KILLINGS

      * Call government bill a 'fraud'
      * Want better legislation, implementation
      Staff Report
      ISLAMABAD: Hundreds of human rights activists and civil society
      representatives marched against honour killings, rejected the
      proposed government bill against honour crimes and demanded that the
      government pass effective legislation.
      Friday's march from China Chowk to Parliament House was organised by
      the Citizen's Action Group. Leading human rights activists including
      Asma Jehangir, Afrasiab Khattak, MNA Chaudhry Aitizaz Ahsan and
      former federal law minister Syed Iqbal Haider led the march. MNA
      Mehnaz Rafi also joined in.
      Protesters carried placards demanding effective legislation against
      honour killings and shouted slogans against what they said was the
      government's inability to respond to the challenge posed by the
      growing number of honour killings.
      "Despite statements of concern for women's rights at home and abroad
      by government leaders, ministers and others in authority, and despite
      tall claims about defending women's rights by parliamentarians, no
      action has been taken to prevent the murder and maiming of thousands
      of women in the name of honour," said a statement distributed by the
      march organisers.
      "The official bill against honour killings passed by the NA Standing
      Committee on Thursday is a fraud, as are the commitments made by
      General Musharraf on the BBC," said Asma Jehangir while addressing
      marchers outside Parliament House. She said human rights activists
      would wait six months for the legislation and enforcement of an
      effective law against honour killings. "If nothing changes at the
      ground level, we will come again after six months," she said.
      Mr Aitzaz Ahsan said that honour killings must be stopped. "We need
      not just legislation, but enforcement," he added.
      He said Friday's protest and march were against the lack of
      legislation, its enforcement and the attitude toward this practice.
      Mr Iqbal Haider told Daily Times that the government was being
      hypocritical. On one hand, it condemned honour killings, and on the
      other its ministers opposed moves to curb honour killings, he said.
      "The speaker of the National Assembly should be dismissed because he
      blocked a resolution in the National Assembly against honour killings
      in November 2003," he said. The president of the Supreme Court Bar
      Association, Justice (r) Tariq Mahmood, said Gen Musharraf had
      promised in 2000 to curb honour killings.
      "Since then, Gen Musharraf has monopolised power, but no law has been
      made so far against honour killings. Gen Musharraf has made an
      alliance with the mullahs and does not seem to be honouring the
      commitment he made against honour killings," he added.
      Protesters observed one minute of silence for all those women who
      have been killed so far in the name of honour.

      o o o o

      BBC News - 7 October, 2004, 18:20 GMT 19:20 UK

      PARTIES SEEK MEDIA BAN AT RAMADAN
      By Haroon Rashid
      BBC correspondent in Peshawar
      The government in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP)
      wants cinemas and cable TV to be shut down during the Muslim holy
      month of Ramadan.
      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/3724904.stm


      ______



      [3]

      www.sacw.net | October 8, 2004

      OPEN LETTER TO THE MEDIA

      [September 30, 2004]

      We are appalled by at the media's (especially television) coverage of
      the 'Gudiya-Taufiq-Arif' case. We strongly resent the growing
      instances of trial by media, the media's self-appointed role as
      resolvers of conflict, and the use of people's personal tragedies to
      increase network ratings. Headlines like 'Kiski Gudiya?'also
      symbolised the regressive image of women as property that informed
      the media's coverage.

      Zee's advertisement for its show said, "A man gets his life
      back....... a family gets its future: A soldier at Kargil spends 5
      years as POW. His newly wed wife waits in futility and then
      re-marries. The soldier returns to find his life turned upside down.
      ... At Zee news we are happy to be the forum where the issue was
      resolved. As India's largest media house, its our duty to the
      nation". This is particularly tasteless and disturbing, but the other
      channels like NDTV and Aaj Tak fared little better. It is bad enough
      having village panchayats and religious representatives enforcing
      particular decisions, without having the media act as an alternative
      court.

      The terms of the 'debate' were backward to say the least. Television
      anchors repeatedly asked Arif and Taufiq what they wanted, while
      Gudiya was rarely given a chance. The 'public' at large, which has no
      locus standi in the case, was asked for their opinion, and again the
      terms of the debate were set as a choice of which of the two men
      should get her. The media thus repeatedly reinforced the idea of a
      woman as an object to be handed around between various men.

      One of the questions concerned the status of the child - i.e. whether
      Arif should keep the child or if Taufiq should take it back once it
      is born. The decision of the Deoband Ulema that Arif should keep the
      child, but Taufiq should pay for its upkeep also reduces parenting to
      a question of money and 'ownership'. But most of all, one got no
      sense in all this, that it is Gudiya's child as well, or rather,
      Gudiya's child most of all. Far from displaying any sense of social
      responsibility, the media have reinforced the idea that women should
      have no control over their fertility, bodies and lives- and that
      these should be controlled by the husband, family, panchayat and now
      the media.

      The media claims in its defense that noone forced the parties to come
      to the media. However, there is a fine line between choice and
      coercion when the media decides to take over an issue like this.
      Besides, in complex situations of this kind, people may use any
      avenue to get their point of view across. Rather than resolving
      conflict, as Zee and others claimed to be doing, the media enhanced
      conflict in this case by forcing relatives to give public statements
      against one another. Gudiya and other family members have since
      complained of the media's violation of their privacy (HT, 26.9.04).

      We also note a communal subtext to the coverage. Even as the media
      reduced Gudiya to silence, they kept focusing on how the decisions
      were being made for her by the Ulema and the village panchayat, the
      underlying message being that Muslim women have no choice and that
      the community is ruled by fatwas. We wish to point out that
      retrogressive caste or religious panchayats are a common feature of
      both Hindu and Muslim life.

      While one may have every sympathy for Arif's trauma as a Kargil POW,
      this does not mean that 'the nation' owes him a wife. Nor does Taufiq
      become a hero because he 'accepted soiled goods' as one interviewee
      graciously informed us on television. If anyone is the real heroine,
      it is Gudiya, who has endured both her village panchayat, clerics and
      Arif's unreasonable demands that she abandon her child.

      We also object to the way in which a woman who is eight months
      pregnant and reportedly ill due to the pressure of decision-making
      was virtually 'kidnapped' and subjected to long hours in the studio.

      Finally, we believe that Gudiya should have been given the space to
      make her decision, away from the media and the contending families,
      village panchayats, clerics etc.

      Many organisations and individuals, some of whom are listed below,
      have endorsed this letter:

      Organisations: PUDR, Saheli, Nirantar, Lok Raj Sanghatan, Sama, CREA,
      Tarshi, Centre for Development and Human Rights, PRISM, Sahrwaru,
      Delhi University GCash, Purogami Mahila Sanghatan, Akshara, Awaz - e-
      Niswan, Vacha, Forum Against Oppression of Women, Ashray Adhikar
      Manch, Rahi, Jagori, Mati Munsiari, Ankur, Anandi, Olakh, Sanlaap,
      Swayam, Gramya Resource Centre, Majlis, Labia

      Plus

      Individuals: Sujata Patel, Prabha Nagaraj, Neha Sood, Nivedita Menon,
      Aditya Nigam, Rakhee Timothy, K. Johnson, Malini Ghose, Farah Naqvi,
      Laxmi Murthy, Ujjwal Singh, Anupama Roy, Vineeta Bal, Paramjeet
      Singh, Prateeksha Baxi, Vikram Vyas, Janaki Abraham, Nandini Sundar,
      Dipta Bhog, Shahana Bhattacharya, Sharmila Purkayastha, Jaya Sharma,
      Mosuhumi Basu, Sucharita, Manjeer, Poornima Gupta, Shalini Joshi,
      Deepika Tandon, Sarojini, Sonal, Nischint, Kumud, Yasmeen, Nandita
      Gandhi, Shivanand Kanvi, Kalyani Menon, Bina Srinivas, Veenu, Malika
      Virdi, Soma KP, Ammu Joseph, Priyanka Trehan, Sunita Menon & Others.

      ______


      [4]


      HINDUTVA MAYHEM IN KARNATAKA

      Now the criminal groups of Sangaparivar VHP and Bajarangdal are using
      the Ganesha festivals for impose their agenda of Hidutva through
      genocide. One of such development took place in outskirts of
      Bangalore city India a week back. The local criminals of Yelahanka
      and surrounding area are in settled in the criminal groups of the
      Sangaparivar. They all joining together organized the Ganesha
      festival in the surrounding villages. The leader of VHP Mr. Promodh
      Muthalik Desai addressed the public in vidyaranya pura on the
      occasion of the Ganesha festival. He openly asked the youth to attach
      on Muslims. The local leaders of the Sangaparivar organized a rally
      on 26th of September 2004 Sunday evening at the end of the Ganesha
      festival. The tragedy is that the procession is planned to pass
      Chikka bettahally a poor Muslim dominated area. Around 600 youth
      belongs to the VHP and Bajarangdal was prepared for create violence.
      Chikka bettahally is a Muslim dominated area with the population of
      4,000. 90% of the population is poor Muslims who workers has daily
      wages.

      Above 600 youths attacked the poor Muslim houses in Chikka
      bettahally. Many people injured. Many feared families migrated with
      their children and valuables. Social action committee and other
      organizations able to prevent a planned genocide by pressurizing the
      state to organize maximum police force in the spot.

      Social action committee has planned to do a fact finding on 3rd October 2004.

      Social action committee with support of many other organizations and
      individuals organizing a huge public gathering to protest the
      genocide plans of the Sangaparivar.

      Date of the protest: 9th October 2004 Saturday.

      Venue: Town hall Bangalore.

      Time: 4 PM.

      Participants:

      Swami Agnivesh, Ms. Teesta setlwad, Dr. U R Anathamurthy, Agni
      Sridhar, Prof. Raviverma Kumar, DSS, KJS, KVR, PVC, SSD, KRRS,
      General and Garment workers union, Sangama, Samvada, Bahumukhi,
      Janamatha, Karnataka komu souhardha vedike, PDF, MRHS and many others.

      With regards,

      Social action committee.

      Bangalore.


      ______


      [5]

      sacw.net | October 8, 2004

      HINDUTVAISATION OF A GORAKHNATH MUTT
      THE YOGI AND THE FANATIC
      by Subhash Gatade

      INTRODUCTION
      The last two decades of the 20 th century have been witness to the
      coming to the fore of the careful and planned unfolding of what one
      sociologist calls 'spatial strategies of Hindutva'. Ranging from the
      then obscure looking Ayodhya focussed place / site based strategy in
      the early 80s to the shameful use of many religious Yatras or the n
      number of Political Yatras it undertook, it has thus taken under its
      ambit places / sites, areas as well as routes to spread the
      homogenising and hegemonic agenda of Hindu Rashtra . No doubt barring
      a few disasters ( like the recent 'India Shining' Yatra) this
      strategy has paid rich dividends to the saffron combine.
      What can be considered the key elements of this strategy. The
      'success' of such a 'place /area / route' centred strategy hinges
      around basically two things : one the particular site / place should
      be 'invested with a unique particularity' and two, the 'other' should
      be implicated in it.
      The movement for the 'liberation of Ram Janam Bhoomi' which
      ultimately led to the demolition of a four century old year mosque
      and the biggest communal conflagaration in postinependent India to
      the periodic raising of tempers at Mathura / 'Krishnajanambhoomi' or
      Kashi Vishwanath Temple / Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi can be called
      the centrepiece of their activities in the 90s. But apart from
      focussing themselves on these 'sacred places' and further staking
      claim to 30,000 more similar shrines / mosques / mazars spread all
      over the country one was also witness to the playing out of the
      another type of 'place centred interventions' by the Hindutva forces
      which apparently had 'secular ' overtones. The controversy over the
      Hubli Idgah Maidan and the attempts to unfurl Tricolour over it had
      been a case in point.
      Another type of such interventions can be categorised by looking at
      the changes wrought in at places / sites which claim a syncretic
      tradition. The homogenising / hegemonising project of Hindutva has
      continued with its feverish attempts to destroy the composite
      character of such places. Baba Buddhan Giri is a case in point. While
      a few such places have really succumbed to the 'hinduisation' drive
      but at many places it has been difficult for them to break the
      communal unity of the broad masses of the people.
      A third category of 'place centred' interventions has involved the
      gradual Brahminisation / Hindutvisation of temples, mutts which had
      remained outside the Brahminical fold and had their genesis in the
      revolts of the subalterns in the medieval times against the
      stranglehold of Brahminism. The way the historic Veershaiva movement
      started by the great Basava as a cultural rebellion is being slowly
      coopted in the Hindutva fold or the way a section of the famous Nath
      movement is being coopted in the overall gameplan of the Hindutva
      forces is for everyone to see.
      Definitely the efforts of the Hindutva brigade which has cleverly
      made plans, provided space, built networks or started agitations
      supposedly to involve them in their grand project have played an
      important stimulating/ catalytic role in their metamorphosis but
      these type of 'external' interventions cannot be said to be solely
      responsible for the ensuing changes. At times one has also been
      witness to the way the 'internal' dynamic also plays a role in their
      transformations. Apart from the rising political ambitions of the
      chief Guru whose influence is widespread, the internal squabbles
      among the mutts have also played a role in their transformations. At
      times the growing 'Sanskritisation' of the followers of a particular
      mutt has also rather forced the chieftains of the mutts to shed a few
      of its overtly nonBrahminical rituals or introduce a few Brahminical
      rituals.
      This brief writeup focusses on the hinduisation / hindutvaisation of
      a famous mutt in Eastern Uttar Pradesh which has the potential of
      impacting the regional politics in a big way.

      Full Text at:
      http://www.sacw.net/DC/CommunalismCollection/ArticlesArchive/gatade07102004.html
      ]

      ______



      [6]


      The Economic and Political Weekly
      Census 2001 and religion data
      September 25, 2004

      THE SQUABBLE THAT NEVER ENDS
      Religion and Fertility

      An impartial examination of the complexities underlying simple
      measures of fertility and population growth will reveal that we are
      all - Hindu, Muslim and Christian - driven by the same basic
      quotidian needs and constraints, and that our reproductive behaviour
      is one important way of reflecting these desires and dilemmas. These
      conclusions are not exciting, but they need to be publicised in the
      same way that the raw religious differences have been. This is the
      joint social responsibility of academia, the press, and political and
      religious 'leaders'. Such personal exercise of responsibility is
      essential because demonising the 'other' is easy, but it is also
      dishonest and it is often brutally consequential for all sides.

      by Alaka M Basu

      Most of the time, I think of my discipline, demography, as too dry to
      be of interest to the kind-hearted friends and relatives who ask me
      what I do. I give them as brief a synopsis as possible and run before
      I can see their yawns. But then, every now and then, someone throws a
      match into this dry tinderbox and suddenly everyone, it turns out,
      has been a closet demographer all his life - the politician, the
      journalist, the fish seller, my uncle, his third cousin and the third
      cousin's wife.

      The fish seller, my uncle, and his cousin and spouse used to be, in
      the past, of little consequence. They could spout demography till the
      cows came home, but all they would enjoy would be the sounds of their
      own voices. Suddenly, in recent years, this is no longer the case.
      Joined and egged on by the politician and the journalist, these
      mini-demographers now have 'agency', a word that is much lauded in
      the current NGO literature, but one that can take ominous form when
      it comes with the misinformation, misunderstanding and moral
      righteousness that seems to drive this new nationalistic agency.

      The uproar over the recently released religion tables from the 2001
      Census illustrates this excellently. After the inexplicable and
      expensive mistake in which the Registrar General's Office press
      release put out all-India growth rates for the different religious
      groups of India without adjusting for the absence of Assam in the
      1981 Census and Jammu and Kashmir in the 1991 Census, the public
      fallout was inevitable and predictable. From each comment, with no
      other knowledge, one could identify the religion as well as the
      ideological leanings of the commentator. The high command of the
      Sangh parivar was as predictable and monotonous as the Imam of
      Fatehpuri Jama Masjid Delhi.

      Basic Misrepresentation

      What one could not so easily anticipate were the garbled journalistic
      reports on the subject, not just in the popular Indian press, but
      even in usually more thoughtful outlets like the BBC and Outlook
      online pages. I am not referring here to all the armchair analysis on
      the 'unacceptably' high Muslim fertility that opinion pages have been
      spewing out. Whether these pieces are antagonistic or sympathetic to
      the Muslim population of India, they often do a kind of analysis that
      would be rejected outright by any scientific review process.

      But, in the first days of reporting, even the very statement of the
      'problem' was framed in meaningless language in the press. Concepts
      of rates, proportions, absolute numbers, were all misinterpreted and
      tossed into the hyped-up reporting on the demographic state of the
      nation. Take the very first sentence from the September 6 report in
      OutlookIndia.com: 'The first-ever census report on religion today
      showed a 'high growth' of Muslims at 36 per cent in sharp contrast to
      the 'decline' in the Hindu population to 23 per cent in the country'.
      What on earth does this sentence mean? It is full of misconceptions.
      In particular, is it is the population growth rate of the Hindus that
      has 'declined', not the population of Hindus. That is, there is
      absolutely no fear of the absolute numbers of Hindus having come down
      a jot regardless of BJP president Venkaiah Naidu's remark that he was
      'disturbed' by the "decline in the Hindu population" (report in
      OutlookIndia.com, September 7). And what does it mean for the Hindu
      population to have declined to "23.0 per cent in the country"? That
      wording implies that Hindus now constitute 23 per cent of Indians, a
      factual distortion of the highest order.

      Such basic misrepresentations (and there are scores more, in the
      press as well as from the mouths of political heavyweights) would be
      amusing if they were not also chilling, leading as they do with
      strident calls for punitive action against a community that must be
      sick to death of these constant demands to demonstrate its
      patriotism. To that extent, we are fortunate that some of the media
      outlets have, in subsequent reports, at least got their definitions
      more correct, even if one wonders who is going to bother to
      understand these clarifications.

      Quite apart from the mass media gymnastics, there are a few other
      lessons that standard demography teaches that are worth repeating to
      place these popular hysterics in context. The first of these is that
      the population growth rate is not simply a synonym for the population
      birth rate. Population growth is the outcome of the net balance of
      births, deaths and migration, with migration, in this case, being
      both territorial as well as religious - that is the Muslim population
      of India can in principle rise or fall due to movements of Muslims
      across Indian borders as well as a rise in conversions to and from
      Islam within India.

      So many sweeping statements have been made about both these kinds of
      migration, and especially about the Bangladeshi migrants flocking to
      India, that addressing them in this paper will take me too far
      outside the word limit that this note has been allotted. The only
      point worth making quickly one more time is that if Bangladesh was
      ever the basket case that Kissinger claimed it was, that epithet can
      only sound silly today. The remarkable social progress made by that
      country can be ignored only by a stubborn Indian nationalism that
      sees only what it wants to see. On all social indicators - birth
      rates, death rates, school enrolments, female labour force
      participation - Bangladesh is today very close to, if not often
      better than, India. And given that the Indian data include 'star'
      performers like Kerala, Punjab and Tamil Nadu, it follows that many
      other parts of the country must often be much worse than Bangladesh;
      hardly a reason for impoverished Bangladeshis to keep coming to our
      benevolent land forever.

      But there is another important determinant of population growth that
      has been completely missing from the popular analyses I have seen.
      The common tendency for those reports that do not rage about
      Bangladeshi migration is to attribute the higher growth rates of
      Indian Muslims to their uncontrolled fertility. But population growth
      is a function of births as well as deaths. So if two populations have
      the same birth rates, the one with a lower death rate will show a
      higher rate of growth. And at least a part of the higher growth rate
      of Muslims in India can be attributed to their lower morality rates.
      We are strangely tightlipped about 'this' particular 'religious'
      difference. Naturally, because acknowledging it would require
      acknowledging that a higher Muslim growth rate doesn't automatically
      imply unbridled Muslim fertility. Worse, it would also require an
      acknowledgement that the Muslims in India seem to be better than the
      Hindus are at ensuring the health and survival of their children in
      general and their daughters in particular.

      The National Family Health Survey of 1998-99 has some readily
      available statistics on this subject. In this survey, infant
      mortality rates (or the IMR - the number of babies per thousand
      births dying within a year of birth) were 58.8 and 77.1 for Muslims
      and Hindus respectively - a difference that is consequential for
      inter-religious population growth rates of course, but is also
      telling given the generally lower socio-economic conditions of
      Muslims. This difference is repeated for children between the ages of
      one and five, so that overall child mortality (the numbers of
      children per thousand births that die before their fifth birthday)
      was 82.7 for Muslims, but 107.0 for Hindus. That is, even today, more
      than 10 per cent of Hindu children die by the age of five.

      It would be as foolish to attribute the higher Hindu infant and child
      mortality entirely to something inherently 'Hindu' as it is to insist
      that the higher birth rates of Muslims primarily represent something
      inherently 'Muslim' and we need much more academic understanding of
      both these differences so that both religious groups can learn from
      one another. That is, if we are into teaching lessons, then perhaps
      we ought to be more amenable to taking lessons as well. And while I
      am at it, I may as well add that the IMR for Christians is 49 per
      thousand births, for Jains it is 47 and for Sikhs it is 53 - all well
      below the figure for Hindus.

      Incidentally, this is not simply a matter of Hindus being less able
      to look after their births. There is a more unpalatable factor
      underlying these mortality differentials as well. According to the
      just released census figures, the juvenile sex ratio (the number of
      females per thousand males in the 0-6 year age group) of Indian
      Muslims is 950 compared to 925 for Hindus; that is Hindu girls are
      paying a disproportionate cost of these religious differences in
      child mortality. Given that there is no reason to believe that little
      Hindu girls are much weaker than their brothers, compared to Muslim
      girls relative to their brothers, one must shamefacedly ask if the
      gap between Hindu and Muslim population growth rates would be smaller
      if Hindu female mortality was a little closer to Hindu male
      mortality. At this stage, it might be only fair to also acknowledge
      the greater gender egalitarianism of Indian Christians (a juvenile
      sex ratio of 964) and bemoan the worse performance of Sikhs and Jains
      (786 and 870 respectively) - the Sikh and Jain success at keeping
      infant mortality low comes at a painfully high cost to its daughters
      it seems. The tone of moral righteousness in the public debates over
      these census results on growth rates compels me to raise these other
      'moral' inter-religious demographic matters.

      Having said all this, it is nevertheless true that Muslim fertility
      is clearly higher than Hindu fertility today. But acknowledging these
      differences is not the same as understanding them and the recent
      politicking on the subject has not even millimetred us towards a
      greater understanding of the matter. Once more, there are several
      theoretical and empirical ways of increasing this understanding. Such
      research would focus on religion naturally, but would also look at
      the religious correlates of socio-economic factors such as income,
      education and minority group status, as well as on more technically
      demographic factors such as age distributions, widow remarriage and
      the like.

      Some of this theory and empirical analysis is already available in
      the academic literature, but much more needs to be done and hopefully
      there are objective researchers who will rise to do this in the
      coming months. Right now, I want to point out something that the
      trends in growth rates in the census hint at but do not specify
      clearly enough.

      Fertility Declines

      The census results suggest that once we have adjusted the absence of
      Assam and Jammu and Kashmir in the Censuses of 1981 and 1991
      respectively, not only have Muslim growth rates in India fallen, they
      have fallen more than have Hindu growth rates. And more direct
      fertility data indeed confirm that there are differential rates of
      fertility decline too in the two communities, leading to a
      convergence in fertility levels. The best way to demonstrate this is
      to look at two different measures of fertility in the 1998-99
      National Family Health Survey. In the report from this survey, if one
      looks at what demographers call 'completed family size', that is, the
      mean number of children ever born to ever-married women aged 40-49
      years (this age group assumes, legitimately enough, that the women in
      it are unlikely to bear any more children), the Hindu-Muslim
      difference is as large as 1.38 births per woman (the completed family
      size being 4.34 for Hindus and 5.72 for Muslims).

      'Completed family size' is a measure of past fertility. But if one
      looks at current fertility (which is captured by what is called the
      TFR or Total Fertility Rate - the mean number of children that a
      woman today will end up with if at each age she has the number of
      births that women who are presently of that age are having), the
      Hindu-Muslim difference collapses to 0.81 (the Muslim TFR being 3.59
      and the Hindu 2.78). In other words, not only is Muslim fertility
      falling in the same way as Hindu fertility (and indeed global
      fertility); it is in fact falling faster than Hindu fertility.

      This finding makes nonsense of those predictions that purport to tell
      us how few decades or centuries it will take for Muslims to outnumber
      Hindus in this country. All those predictions assume unchanging birth
      and population growth rates in the different population groups,
      whereas in fact what is more likely is that universal fertility
      declines coupled with differential rates of decline in the two
      communities will lead to eventual (and by 'eventual' I do not mean in
      a few centuries) fertility levels that are very similar in all
      significant sub-groups groups of the Indian population, so that the
      proportional numbers of these groups also stabilise.

      As for policies to further increase the pace of Indian fertility
      decline, Muslim fertility is of academic and policy interest for
      itself, not for what it is relative to Hindu fertility. If it is
      relative positions that we are interested in, there is no reason to
      treat Hindu reproductive behaviour as the gold standard. Instead,
      given the 'national' goal of population stabilisation, perhaps we
      should be asking why the Hindu TFR of 2.78 in 1998-99 was
      significantly higher than the Christian TFR of 2.44 and the Sikh one
      of 2.26. Any Christian or Sikh group that suggested that this
      difference reflected a sinister Hindu plot to drive Christians or
      Sikhs into oblivion would be dismissed for its impertinence; more
      benign and socio-economic explanations would and should be sought.

      If we apply this same kind of intellectual lens to understanding the
      fertility patterns of Muslims in India, we might come to the
      surprising conclusion that there is much more convergence with other
      groups than the publicised differences project. A more impartial
      examination of the complexities underlying simple measures of
      fertility and population growth will also reveal that finally, we are
      all - Hindu, Muslim and Christian - driven by the same basic
      quotidian needs and constraints, and that our reproductive behaviour
      is one important way of reflecting these desires and dilemmas.

      Such conclusions are not exciting, but when they are thrown up, they
      need to be publicised in the same way that the raw religious
      differences have been. This is the joint social responsibility of
      academia, the press, political and religious 'leaders', and my
      uncle's third cousin's wife. Such personal exercise of responsibility
      is essential because demonising the 'other' is easy, but it is
      also dishonest and it is often brutally consequential for all sides.



      ______


      [7]

      RSS AND JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY
      I.K.Shukla

      Free Speech has suddenly found votaries among those who don't give a
      tinker's damn to others' right to free speech, who have penalised and
      strangled free speech times without number, and who believe in the gagging
      of free speech as a categorical imperative in their totalitarian ideology.

      The sophistry being adduced in favor of Free Speech, so lewdly (not just
      loudly), is farthest from conceding that it is the constitutive element of a
      democratic, modern, pluralistic polity and society within the larger ambit
      of cilvil liberties and human rights.

      That there are vulgar vigilante groups , swathed in saffron, who are the
      loudest and most
      apish in touting the virtues of free speech and their right to it, is no
      surprise.

      What is a surprise is that a university has decided to host the spokesman of
      a fascist party. There are serious ramifications involved, dangerous
      consequences entailed in this decision of a varsity.
      This amounts to conferment of legitimacy and respectability to a mafia
      committed to violence, genocide of minorities and their extirpation, and
      defiant suborning of the constitutional order. The university would seem to
      be endorsing and encouraging a criminal outfit dedicated to disrupting the
      rule of law, demolishing the nation, desecrating its heritage, destroying
      its unity, devastating the lives of millions through assassinations, rapes,
      torching people and properties, looting and thuggery.
      This person is the representative of a party which has Gandhi's blood on its
      hands, besides the blood of over 2000 Gujarat Muslims, to name just two of
      its heinous, anti-national crimes.

      That some of the left believe the right to free speech as an absolute,
      without any context, is worrisome.

      It is useful to recall how some of the left got blinkered about Kosovo and
      Serbia, Afghanistan, and
      Iraq, and became partisans of the empire.

      Let those who oppose the JHU feting the spokesman of a fundamentalist-
      terrorist gang, guilty of innumerable crimes, speak out now. The empire has
      always enlisted such ones in its foreign legions for purposes that it calls
      foreign policy.

      _____


      [8]

      The Tribune - October 9, 2004

      NO IDEOLOGICAL LINES DRAWN
      The issues Maharashtra manifestos don't mention
      by J. Sri Raman

      WHICH has a greater bearing on the forthcoming Maharashtra Assembly
      elections - Mr Bal Thackeray's beard or the Shiv Sena's ideological
      baggage? By all accounts thus far, the answer is unmistakable: the
      former. This may sound frivolously facetious, but it is a serious
      comment on the character of the country's first major political
      contest after the last Lok Sabha polls.

      The two major alliances supposed to be locked in a titanic struggle -
      the Congress-NCP camp and its Shiv Sena-BJP counter - have both come
      out with joint manifestos. This, in theory, should have meant a
      drawing of clear ideological lines on identified issues. It has, in
      fact, meant quite the opposite. To a Martian visitor, the manifestos
      would make no sense at all as political statements of contending
      parties.

      Both promise free power to farmers, both dodge the Vidarbha issue,
      and both speak of a Shivaji memorial. If there are differences on
      important issues, neither of the documents divulges them. Both are
      silent on issues that are supposed to divide them. The silence is
      eloquent, especially on the issues of so-called "Hindutva". It is
      even more so on the Shiv Sena's own issues that combine religious
      chauvinism with the regional variety.

      The two camps are silent on these issues in different ways and for
      different tactical reasons. It is not as if neither of them was going
      to raise these issues. One of them was already raising them and going
      to raise them, away from its manifesto. It is the Congress-NCP
      alliance that has betrayed an unconcealed anxiety to keep them away
      from the entire election campaign, except perhaps in pockets of
      minority predominance. The alliance has adopted a tactical line of
      least resistance to what, far from elections, it denounces as fascism
      deserving of a mortal combat.

      The "saffron" duo would seem to have two reasons for its two-track
      electoral diplomacy. In the first place, it wants no encounter with
      the Election Commission. Mr Thackeray himself has made a public
      promise to comply with the EC's directive to keep religious issues
      out of the campaign (though he has also, in all innocence, asked: "Is
      Ayodhya a religious issue or not? Can someone tell me?"). The coyness
      about some of the Shiv Sena causes, especially regional-chauvinist
      ones like Mee Mumbaikar and virulent opposition to the idea of a
      Vidarbha State, is also the outcome of its alliance with the BJP that
      has to keep up its all-India appearances.

      Neither of these reasons applies to the other side. The Congress and
      the NCP are not going to fall foul of the EC by taking up a campaign
      against communalism. On these issues, they have revealed no
      differences that should restrain such a campaign. Not after Mr Sharad
      Pawar's somersaults have disposed of the once allegedly fundamental
      differences on the issue of "foreign origin". What restrains the
      tricolour team is what restrained the Congress campaigns in the last
      Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in Gujarat.

      What holds the alliance back is the fear of alienating communalised
      constituencies. Little wonder, no one from the alliance has answered
      Mr Thackeray's question. No one has told him and, through him, the
      voters that Ayodhya is not indeed a religious issue, but one of
      pseudo-religious politics. The Congress is certainly not going to
      draft Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar, who once called it a "real-estate
      issue", for the campaign. The party can only disown this as the
      Petroleum Minister's "personal view" like his recent clanger of
      closer relevance on Veer Savarkar. The alliance, in other words, will
      avoid a frontal clash with the "Chhatrapati" of today's Maharashtra
      as the Congress did with the "Chhote Sardar" of Gujarat.

      Little wonder, again, that the rebellions in both the camps and
      inside all the four parties have acquired almost the same relevance
      as the main contest for Maharashtra. The contest between the two
      alliances, to look at it another way, appears not very different from
      the issueless conflicts between the official and rebel candidates of
      the same party.

      The media coverage of the Mahabharata in Maharashtra, too, mirrors
      this situation. Because the contending camps do not talk about these
      issues, much of the media also does not. Reading newspaper reports
      and watching television coverage, you would hardly imagine that the
      elections involve ideological issues of the haziest import.
      Rebellions, caste politics, and personality factors - a combination
      of these would seem to hold the key in constituencies across the
      State. The media is not even asking the contenders for their views on
      subjects of larger social concern.

      A striking illustration is the way the war of succession in the Shiv
      Sena is presented to public view. The rival claimants to Mr
      Thackeray's throne - his son Uddhav Thackeray and nephew Raj
      Thackeray - have both faced barrages of questions from interviewers.
      No one, however, has asked either of them where he stood, for
      instance, on declaring a cut-off date for Mumbai citizenship. Or on
      deporting alleged Bangladeshis or beating up Bihari applicants for
      railway jobs. Or queering the pitch for India-Pakistan cricket or
      censoring out India-Pakistan films and even pure-Indian cinema of
      impermissible themes. And a host of similar other queries on issues
      closer to the Shiv Sena's heart than free power or non-returnable
      loans to farmers.

      The scene is distinctly reminiscent of the days of the last Lok Sabha
      contest. Then, too, we were told that the BJP had decided to stop
      campaigning on divisive issues and start doing so on "developmental"
      ones. Later, it came to light that, even while big leaders were
      talking about "bijli, pani aur sadak", common party cadre
      concentrated on communal issues, like the Bhoj Shala dispute in
      Madhya Pradesh and the conversions scare in Chhattisgarh, for just
      two examples.

      Even then, after the defeat of the National Democratic Alliance in
      the elections, Mr Thackeray went public with his opinion that the
      BJP's soft-pedalling of "Hindutva" was responsible for the result.
      The bland Shiv Sena-BJP manifesto cannot, and does not, mean that the
      alliance has gone miraculously "developmental" at the grassroots.

      The two parties and the rest of the "parivar", in fact, have been on
      the communal offensive for quite some time in "mohallas" away from
      cameras of the high-profile media. Ear-to-the-ground accounts say
      that the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance has resolved, actually, to step up
      this offensive in order to win the support of North Indians alienated
      by the Mee Mumbaikar movement. The Bajrang Dal has chosen this time
      to start a Statewide campaign against cow slaughter (besides one
      against picture of Hindu deities and symbols on the covers of audio -
      and video-cassettes). The Vishwa Hindu Parishad is distributing
      "trishuls" (tridents) and booklets asking Hindus to give the Babri
      Masjid treatment to the Afzal Khan tomb. This is an indicative, not
      an exhaustive, list.

      There is, obviously, more at stake in the Maharashtra elections than
      Mr. Thackeray's beard, which he has reportedly vowed to shave off
      only if his alliance wins. We have not been told what will happen to
      it, if the results spell a hung Assembly as predicted by an opinion
      poll. The more important question, however, is what the verdict will
      be on issues the manifestos do not mention.

      _____


      [9]

      www.sacw.net | October 7, 2004

      SALUTE TO A MENTOR
      by V.B.Rawat

      Dear Uncle Mulk,

      I wanted to write this to greet you on your 100th birthday later this
      year in December but
      sadly I am writing to you when you have departed. Yet, how can a
      person like you depart who has contributed so much to Indian
      literature. How can I forget the nice wonderful moments with you at
      'Lokayat' which has your imprint and your values even today. The
      green trees of deer park, the chirping of birds and your morning walk
      in the Deer Park. How can I forget the sharing of morning tea and
      scanning the morning newspapers and then breaking for the breakfast.
      Therefore, I am still feeling that you are there and we greet you on
      your century.

      Though you have gone after a well-attained life still I moan for your
      incomplete hundred. I wanted to see you either in Mumbai or Delhi to
      greet on your magnificient hundred though I did not meet you after
      our last meeting in early 1994. I don't feel this is right time for
      me to explain to you as what prompted me to see you afterwards even
      when I had left Lokayat in the end of 1992.

      I still remember the days as a student, when I used to write you from
      the hills. Your stories became my favorite narratives. Your letter,
      though small became my ray of hope for a better future at a time when
      I was passing through deep desperations. I was just feeling to get
      out of a hell, which I was put in. I saw a life of miseries, personal
      catastrophes and really impossible. And I wanted an entirely personal
      decision from you- to get me out of the hell I was. And one day, I
      received a letter from you to come to Delhi for an interview. It was
      a great moment of joy and even those who did not like me felt that I
      have done a miracle. For them, being with Mulk Raj Anand was an
      opportunity to learn, though some of them thought that it was a way
      towards success and earn money through favour.

      [...]

      [Full Text at: http://sacw.insaf.net/free/vbrawat07102004.html


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      Buzz on the perils of fundamentalist politics, on matters of peace
      and democratisation in South Asia. SACW is an independent &
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