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SACW #2 | 30 Oct 2004

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    South Asia Citizens Wire #2 | 30 October, 2004 via: www.sacw.net [1] India: Batuk Vora, Voice of the Other Gujarat (Subhash Gatade) [2] India: The
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 29 7:06 PM
      South Asia Citizens Wire #2 | 30 October, 2004
      via: www.sacw.net

      [1] India: Batuk Vora, Voice of the 'Other Gujarat' (Subhash Gatade)
      [2] India: The Civil War On Saffron (Tehelka)
      [3] India: Message From Maharashtra - The tide has turned (Praful Bidwai)
      [4] India: Tiger's whimper - The Shiv Sena today
      stands on the threshold of disintegration
      (Kumar Ketkar)
      + Shiv Sena - Unfit for democracy (Indian Express)
      [5] India: Catch them young (Kushwant Singh)
      [6] India: Minority Rights, Secularism and Civil
      Society (Yamini Aiyar, Meeto Malik)
      [7] Looking for films - for a FILM FESTIVAL at the WORLD SOCIAL FORUM 2005



      Date: 25 Oct 2004 18:34:50 -0000

      Voice of 'Other Gujarat'
      -Subhash Gatade

      ''Badi Shouk se Sun Raha Tha Sara Jamana
      Tumhi So Gaye Dastaan Kahte Kahte'

      It was late 40s when a young lad from a modest
      town Palitana in Saurashtra made a small
      committement to himself and the society
      around him. Little did his near and dear ones
      must have dreamt at the time that it would not
      prove to be a ' passing fad commensurate with his
      age' and would stick on to him throughout his
      life. Hardly anyone realised that this young man
      who had embraced Marxism by then would make
      'history of sorts' to become the first and only
      Communist MLA from a state which continued to
      remain under the influence of conservative
      politics for a long time.
      One does not know why his parents christened him
      'Batuk' ( the small) but even a cursory glance at
      his life, work and other creative endeavours
      would make it amply clear that he rather kept on
      'falsifying' it all his life. Not only did he
      prove himself to be a militant trade union
      activist as well as a famous journalist but he
      also became a well known literary figure in
      Gujarati. This 'small' man who made it 'big' in
      the true sense of the term breathed his last a
      few days ago after fighting a long battle with
      liver cancer ( 19 oct 2004)
      Batuk Vora, ex MLA, journalist and a leading
      voice of the the civil society in Gujarat
      following the communal carnage of 2002 is no
      more. He was 74 years old at the time of his
      death. It appears that many of his close friends
      had an inkling of what was coming, possibly Batuk
      also. But that did not deter him from his
      lifelong committment to a better and humane world
      free from any injustice or oppression. It did not
      stop him from blasting the US for its barbaric
      role in Iraq in one of his last despatches nor
      did he spare Narendra Modi, the ringleader of the
      'modern day Neroes'.
      Very few people who might have read hundreds of
      his despathches from different parts of the world
      would in fact be knowing that he was one of the
      pioneers of the left movement in Gujarat. In
      fact, Batuk alongwith Pravin Shridharani, Niruben
      Patel, Dinkar Mehta and Subodh Mehta worked
      together to launch a communist movement in the
      state. Active in the railway employees union in
      his hometown of Palitana in his young age Vora
      led a number of agitations.Among them one against
      a "betterment levy" imposed on farmers of the
      state in the 1950s received such massive support
      that it nearly brought down the government. He
      had even actively participated in the 'Maha
      Gujarat' agitation in the 1950s demanding a
      separate Gujarat state. In a report in the Indo
      Asian News Service to which Batuk Vora
      contributed regularly it was told that
      "..[w]ithdrawing from active politics, Vora
      returned to his first call, journalism and joined
      the "new Age", the official newspaper of the CPI.
      He drew on his early experiences as a journalist
      in Mumbai in 19499-50, with progressive Gujarati
      journals "Jay Gujarat" and "Mashal".
      This report also reveals another dimension of
      Batuk's personality which is not known outside
      Gujarat. He was famous in Gujarat also for his
      literary masterpieces. His novel " Lok Thok Thok
      ( A lot of Masses) published in 1969 dealt with
      rural life adn the exploitation of have nots. His
      book on his four year stay in US " Aah America"
      was also a commercial success.
      Political activist, writer, journalist and to top
      it all a nice human being who according to the
      famous Gujarati poetess and social activist Ms
      Saroop Dhruv ,"combined in him a vision for a
      just society with a lifestyle which was very very
      In fact, in one of the darkest chapters in the
      history of Gujarat when the state had connived
      with the marauders of the Hindutva brigade
      unleashing a reign of terror against the
      minorities, when many a erstwhile secular
      activists also preferred to remain quiet, Batuks'
      was one of those voices of the 'other Gujarat'
      which could never be intimidated into silence.
      Very few people know that the much discussed
      petition to the Supreme Court in 2002 requesting
      it to intervene in the situation in state was
      moved by four signatories only. Apart from
      Mallika Sarabhai, Teesta Setalvad, veteran
      journalist Digant Oza it had only Batuks name on
      But Batuk did not limit his opposition to only
      writing and signing petitions . He fearlessly
      tried to reach out to people with all the might.
      Critical of the Narendra Modi government handling
      of the situation, he served on a number of
      people's tribunals.In a 'Sadbhavana Sammelan'
      organised in Bhavnagar he in his popular style
      "..[r]idiculed the BJP government’s
      self-righteous postures. He said he had travelled
      around the world but nowhere had he witnessed
      such an exercise of the state itself encouraging
      strife. In Gujarat, peace endeavours were being
      threatened and those who work for peace and
      harmony are considered enemies of the state."
      There is no doubt that all those persons who
      yearn for a better humane world would definitely
      miss him for a long time to come. People will
      miss him despatches, they will miss the deep
      analysis of capitalism or fascism which he could
      do in simple words which even a layperson could
      understand. And everybody would agree that it is
      such a crucial juncture in our country's life
      when the forces of hatred have been put on the
      defensive that we needed him on this part of the
      barricade to deliver them a knock out punch.



      30 October


      Civil society groups played a crucial
      anti-communal role in Maharashtra, reports Aman

      Now that the Maharashtra polls are done and over
      with, and the bjp-Shiv Sena combine sidelined,
      there will surely be much talk of the political
      causes — infighting within the Shiv Sena, etc.
      But it is scarcely realised by the media and the
      political parties that there was another faint,
      small and invisible reason that pushed the
      rightwing forces to the wall.

      Hidden from arc lights, a tiny band of activists
      were quietly prodding the public to vote against
      communal politics. About 40 non-governmental
      organisations rallied in a strong alliance,
      disseminating anti-communalism messages through
      creative leaflets, posters, booklets and stickers
      all over Maharashtra.

      This followed a pattern. A similar 'campaign' was
      organised in the nooks and corners of India
      during the last Lok Sabha elections. Lakhs of
      pamphlets and thousands of documentaries,
      especially on Gujarat, added with concerted
      workshops and door-to-door campaigns,
      consolidated the secular vote. While professors
      marched in the inner lanes of Old Delhi, talking
      to "parents of students", iit students from
      Bombay took a sabbatical and worked in the
      villages of Maharashtra. So did jnu and du
      students, artists, filmmakers and women's groups.
      This was the quiet revolution that helped the upa
      turn the tide.

      Once again in Maharashtra, with Shabnam Hashmi of
      Anhad at the forefront, they targeted railway
      stations and bus stands, reminding ordinary
      people of Gujarat’s deep wounds. "We wanted to
      raise the issues of secularism, the concept of
      India," says Hashmi. "It was important to defeat
      the communal forces in these elections. Their
      victory would have paved the way for their return
      to the Centre in the months to come."

      More than 15 lakh leaflets were distributed
      across the state — from Jalgaon, Dhule in the
      north, Pune, Mumbai in the west, Aurangabad in
      the centre, Amravati, Chandrapur, Nagpur in the
      east, within one week. Hundreds of volunteers
      woke up early in the morning to insert Hindi,
      English and Marathi pamphlets in daily newspapers.

      Poets Javed Akhtar and Gauhar Raza penned the
      text for some of the campaign literature. Other
      leaflets documented a conversation through
      letters between an old woman and her
      granddaughter. Aaji (grandmother in Marathi)
      reminisces the days gone by, when they joined
      Mahatma Gandhi on the banks of the Sabarmati. And
      then she says, "Yesterday Pinku's aaji returned
      from Ahmedabad. She was telling us that they did
      not spare anybody: babies, children, men, women
      and old women. Nobody was spared."

      Surprisingly, as is their normal reaction, the
      Right did not strike back at the activists.
      "Perhaps it was a sign that they were truly down
      and out," Hashmi explains.
      Civil society groups, however, were not the only
      ones trying to tap the power of information. As
      in Gujarat, rightwing forces too distributed hate
      literature in Maharashtra before the polls,
      exhorting Hindus to vote en masse against Muslims
      and Congress. And what was their argument?
      "Muslims have an animalistic tendency to rape
      Hindu women… Muslims are rising in numbers."

      The 40-page leaflet has a photograph of
      Qutubuddin Ansari, the tailor whose
      grief-stricken face came to sum up the story of
      thousands of Muslims in Gujarat. Tears in his
      eyes, hands joined together, Ansari was pleading
      to frenzied vhp/Bajrang Dal mobs to spare his
      family's lives. In the saffron pamphlet, the
      photograph carries the caption: "Hinduon ki aisi
      sthiti na hone de (Don't let the Hindus come to

      If the election results are anything to go by,
      the people of Maharashtra (as the people of India
      earlier) did distinguish what is secular
      information and what is hate politics. One of the
      young campaigners, Sahir Raza, a St. Stephen's
      student in Delhi who distributed pamphlets around
      the state, says, "Loads of people came back and
      said 'you are doing good work'. At one of the
      railway stations, a person working in an icici
      Bank collected 250 leaflets from us.

      He promised he would distribute them to his colleagues."

      There is no data to prove this painstaking
      effort, and so invisibly done, with such intense
      humility. But as Hashmi concludes, "Our campaign
      alone may not have dented anything. But
      everything put together does make a difference."
      As the old slogan goes: The people united will
      always be victorious.

      October 30, 2004



      The Praful Bidwai Column
      October 25, 2004

      Message From Maharashtra - The tide has turned
      By Praful Bidwai

      The victory of the Congress-Nationalist Congress
      Party-led Democratic Front (DF) in the
      Maharashtra Assembly elections will go down as a
      political landmark. The result is all the more
      creditable because the ruling alliance faced
      heavy odds both from the burden of incumbency and
      from a rebellion by dissidents in the two
      parties. The DF admittedly provided a shabby
      government, whose top leader (Chief Minister
      Vilasrao Deshmukh) had to be changed midstream
      and his deputy (Chagan Bhujbal) was dropped
      because of the Telgi stamp-paper scandal.

      Under the DF, India's second most populous
      state-and its most industrialised one-sank under
      a debt mountain of nearly Rs 100,000 crores.
      Hundreds of farmers committed suicide under the
      impact of a drought and the DF's mismanagement of
      relief provision. Even more shamefully, 3,500
      children died of malnutrition.

      This created a fertile ground for an unambiguous
      electoral triumph of the Bharatiya Janata
      Party-Shiv Sena. Yet, that alliance managed to
      snatch defeat from the jaws of victory! The DF
      did reasonably well in all the six regions of
      Maharashtra, although in Western Maharashtra, its
      undisputed fortress, it lost some ground to
      Congress-NCP "rebels". The voter emphatically
      rejected its communal rivals and affirmed the
      secular, inclusive politics centred on livelihood
      issues, on which Ms Sonia Gandhi and Mr Sharad
      Pawar concentrated their campaigns. They were
      rewarded with 141 seats in the 288-member
      Assembly, seven more than their 1999 total. With
      its Left allies, the DF can now sew up a clear

      The Sena-BJP campaign was fettered by the failing
      health of star performers like Mr Atal Behari
      Vajpayee and Mr Bal Thackeray. It was further
      affected by the BJP's demoralisation from the
      loss of power at the national level and by the
      bitter succession battle in the Sena. But this
      only partly explains the defeat suffered by the
      Right-wing alliance. A much weightier factor for
      the debacle was the erosion of the BJP-Sena's
      appeal and social base, even in regions
      considered their strongholds-Mumbai, Vidarbha and

      Clearly, the Congress's traditional
      constituencies like the urban poor, Muslims,
      Dalits and Adivasis are returning to it as the
      party gets revitalised. The Congress-NCP's
      increased attraction seems in no small measure
      attributable to the Left-leaning National Common
      Minimum Programme of the United Progressive
      Alliance government and to the waiving of power
      charges in agriculture and other "populist"
      measures taken by the DF.

      The BJP-Sena further damaged themselves by
      running a highly divisive, vitriolic and negative
      campaign. During his sole public rally in Mumbai,
      with Mr Vajpayee, Mr Thackeray launched a vicious
      attack on Mumbai's immigrant community, which
      forms 60 percent of its population, and he
      brazenly peddled "sons-of-the-soil" Maharashtrian
      chauvinism. Rather than counter this with
      moderation, Mr Vajpayee acquiesced in it. This
      cost the BJP-Sena many non-Marathi votes. Equally
      significantly, even traditional Marathi/Gujarati
      BJP-Sena strongholds in Mumbai like Matunga,
      Khetwadi, Chembur and Vile Parle returned
      Congress candidates. Given the BJP-Sena's
      shrinking social base, and its unconvincing
      programmatic alternative to the DF, its so-called
      "development" agenda didn't sell.

      Nor did its Hindutva appeal. BJP
      "master-strategist" Pramod Mahajan turned out a
      dud in his home state: his much tom-tommed
      "micro-management" didn't work. The BJP's cynical
      calculation, namely that the Bahujan Samaj Party
      would eat into the Congress's votes, enabling
      many easy Sena-BJP victories, went awry. Nor did
      the fiery rhetoric of Ms Uma Bharati, fresh from
      her rather ludicrous Tiranga Yatra, or the
      demagoguery of Ms Sushma Swaraj, back from a
      pro-Savarkar demonstration at Andaman Jail,
      produce results. Supposedly more "sophisticated"
      leaders like Mr L.K. Advani too failed to make an

      The BJP had reckoned that a victory in
      Maharashtra would enable the National Democratic
      Alliance to present its Lok Sabha debacle as an
      aberration, a freak phenomenon, or a flash in the
      pan. The NDA would resume its interrupted victory
      run and reaffirm its claim to being the "natural"
      party of governance, while undermining the UPA's
      credibility and its chances of completing its
      full term.

      The opposite happened. After Maharashtra, the UPA
      has consolidated itself. By-lections in other
      states too showed that the Congress has expanded
      its social support-base. In the UP by-elections,
      it pushed the BJP to the fourth or fifth
      position. The next round, due in February in
      Bihar, Jharkhand and Haryana, could result in a
      further setback to the NDA. That defeated, beaten
      and increasingly fragmented alliance is on the
      ropes in these states.

      In Bihar, Mr Laloo Prasad's RJD and the Congress
      make a formidable combination. In Jharkhand, Mr
      Shibu Soren's "martyrdom" through his resignation
      and arrest will work against the BJP. And in
      Haryana, Mr Bansi Lal's re-entry will help the
      Congress immensely. And in the round that follows
      in 2006, with elections in West Bengal, Tamil
      Nadu and Kerala, the BJP isn't even in the

      To escape harsh realities, the BJP has taken to
      daydreaming. First, its leaders convinced
      themselves, on the basis of astrology, that the
      UPA would disintegrate by September 26. When that
      didn't materialise, they conjured up a scenario
      of a "third front"-to be formed by the DMK, NCP
      and Mr Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party
      quitting the UPA and eventually teaming up with
      the Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal(U), and other
      non-Congress, non-BJP parties. The BJP would
      support such a front from the outside and topple
      the UPA.

      The Rashtriya Swabhiman Manch, recently formed by
      Messrs George Fernandes, Chandrasekhar and
      Subramaniam Swamy and Ms Sushma Swaraj, was to be
      a step in that same direction. Now, these leaders
      have been put out of business at least for a
      while. And it's highly unlikely that Mr Paswan,
      leave alone Mr M. Karunanidhi, will quit the UPA.

      Instead, the NDA will face disarray. Some of its
      constituents (e.g. Trinamool Congress) are
      already in a state of disintegration. The power
      struggle within the BJP isn't going to end with
      Mr L.K. Advani taking over as party president.
      This sudden move to re-induct the man who
      launched the BJP on a belligerent course in the
      1980s betrays desperation and panic. It was meant
      to pre-empt a wholesale RSS takeover of the
      BJP-something the sangh has been pressing for
      since the BJP's Lok Sabha debacle. The move also
      cut Mr Murli Manohar Joshi out of the leadership
      race. It shows that the BJP's "second-generation"
      leaders aren't up to the mark. Indeed, no BJP
      leader, including Mr Advani, has a strategy or
      the imagination for innovative politics. For far
      too long, the BJP flourished on catchy slogans
      and gimmicky formulas. They aren't working

      There is a reason for this. The BJP's rise since
      the mid-1980s wasn't primarily the result of its
      own positive appeal or Hindutva. Rather, the BJP
      gained from circumstances of others' making, such
      as the long-term decline of the Congress system.
      The Left was unable to fill the vacuum this left
      in the political centre. The BJP entered that
      space from the Right. For a period, mobilisation
      on Ayodhya/Babri helped the BJP grow out of the
      confines to which its earlier avatar, the Jana
      Sangh, was restricted: geographically, largely to
      Northwestern states like Rajasthan, Madhya
      Pradesh and Gujarat; and socially, to the
      relatively affluent upper-caste Hindus-in some
      cases, downright reactionary feudals like former
      princes and zamindars.

      Thus, between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s, the
      BJP implanted itself in Uttar Pradesh, through a
      unique combination of mandal (OBC politics) and
      kamandal (Hindutva) personified by Mr Kalyan
      Singh. The Ayodhya mobilisation could help garner
      OBC, and to an extent, even Dalit, support for
      the BJP's pan-Indian "Hindu nation" project. For
      the first time, the party sank roots in the heart
      of North India. But this didn't last long.

      The continuing "Forward March of the Backwards",
      and the rise of the politics of Dalit
      self-representation under the BSP, reversed the
      BJP's ascendancy. Barring Gujarat, and some
      desultory gains in states like Jharkhand and
      Himachal, the BJP couldn't expand beyond the old
      Jana Sangh zone of influence.

      Today, the BJP faces a three-fold crisis-a crisis
      of strategy (it has no coherent counter to the
      Centre-Left); an organisational crisis (its
      leadership structure is dysfunctional and has
      seen four presidents in six years, three of whom
      didn't complete their term); and a crisis of
      leadership succession. It's too heavily invested
      in globalisation and Right-wing neoliberalism to
      be able to pursue an independent policy. It's too
      deeply mired in Hindutva to be able to broaden
      its appeal beyond a small, bigoted Hindu
      minority. It's too cravenly devoted to power to
      be able to rejuvenate itself when out of office.
      Today, the BJP is in danger of becoming too
      dependent on the RSS for coherence, mentorship,
      and votes.

      Mr Advani's very first decision after becoming
      party president was to pay his respects to RSS
      leaders on Vijaya-Dashami Day in Nagpur!
      Over-dependence on the sangh could be suicidal.
      The BJP has tried every trick in the Hindutva
      book, including Savarkar, Tiranga and terrorism.
      It conjured up the spectre of Muslim demographic
      colonialism, and played the anti-Pakistan card.
      Nothing has worked. As Messrs Vajpayee and Advani
      fade out, the party seems set for prolonged



      Indian Express, October 30, 2004

      Kumar Ketkar

      For the Shiv Sena, the moment of reckoning has
      come. If the Sena-BJP alliance had won, perhaps,
      this moment could have been postponed. Power
      would have held the alliance together and the
      Sena could have gained a breather.

      Indeed, it would not have been difficult for the
      outfit to have won. Even a quick glance at the
      Maharashtra results would make it clear that the
      Congress Front won almost by fluke. The elections
      were too close to call. In as many as 31 seats,
      victory could have gone either way. The margins
      were so narrow that even God, forget the
      psephologist, would have got it wrong. Leaders of
      the Congress Front was in a state of shock after
      the results as they had anticipated electoral
      humiliation, notwithstanding the bravado they had
      displayed during the campaign. They knew in their
      heart of their heart that the performance of the
      Democratic Front government for all the five
      years it was in power was dismal, to put it

      During the campaign, they had perceived a very
      strong anti-incumbent current and even the
      Maratha strongman had conceded defeat in private.
      On the morning of the results, he had started an
      arithmetical exercise to somehow reach that
      magical number of 145, with help from the small
      parties and rebels. Today he may be gloating
      about the NCP's two-seat lead over the Congress,
      but on the morning of October 16, he was gasping
      - and it was not because of his indifferent

      Be that as it may, a victory is a victory and a
      defeat, a defeat. Instead of Sharad Pawar and his
      Nationalistic Congress Party facing that moment
      of reckoning, history has handed over that bitter
      experience to Balasaheb Thackeray, who has ridden
      the Shiv Sena tiger for almost 39 years now. The
      Thackerays have virtually enjoyed First Family
      status in Maharashtra for the past 20 years,
      although the Sena was in power for just over four
      years - 1995 to 1999. It is difficult to decide
      whether it was Thackeray's charisma or his terror
      which had inspired large numbers of lumpen
      Marathi youth. Bal, before he became Don
      Balasaheb, was in his forties when he founded the
      Sena. He held sway over his saffron guards for
      close to four decades. He did this, not with any
      ideology or by building a well-knit organisation.
      The Sena was a spontaneous movement and the
      Marathi urban youth felt drawn towards Thackeray
      because he appeared to provide some meaning to
      their utterly purposeless and otherwise hopeless

      Mumbai became the capital of Maharashtra after a
      long drawn movement for Samyukta Maharashtra. But
      industry and trade continued to be controlled by
      the Gujaratis and Marwaris. The white collar jobs
      appeared to be going to the South Indians
      ("Madrasis", as the Sena called them). Small
      businesses, shops and establishments, taxis and
      restaurants, belonged to the Punjabis or the
      Shetty community. In the otherwise cosmopolitan
      and plural social life of Mumbai, the working
      class as well as lower middle-class Marathi youth
      felt lost. Mumbai belonged to him and yet he did
      not belong to Mumbai. The Shiv Sena was born out
      of this frustration and cultural identity crisis.
      It was a collective, and often violent,
      expression of that frustration.

      But this frustration was Mumbai-centric in nature
      and, therefore, the Sena could not really spread
      its tentacles over the rest of Maharashtra -
      apart from the Konkan region because,
      geographically and culturally, Mumbai is a part
      of the Konkan. In the rest of the state, it had
      to recruit its members from disgruntled elements
      within the Congress party. There can be no doubt
      about it, Mumbai was the soul of the Shiv Sena, a
      territory where it could exercise its invisible,
      and sometimes visible, terror. A Shiv Sena
      "bandh" call would evoke a total response. Nobody
      would dare to venture out. Balasaheb's charisma
      grew out of this ability to create terror. The
      Gujarati-Marwari businessmen and industrialists
      sought protection from the Sena, the managements
      of manufacturing units used the Sena to break
      strikes led by the Communists, the leaders of the
      ruling Congress surreptitiously promoted the
      Sena, sometimes to blackmail the central
      government and sometimes to settle scores within
      their own party.

      Consequently the importance of the Sena and
      Balasaheb grew. For the past decade, the
      Thackerays had also become social celebrities.
      Bollywood crawled before Balasaheb, and it was a
      relationship mediated by the mafia. It was in
      everybody's self-interest to pay respects to the
      Sena chief. After the Sena-BJP came to power in
      1995, the icon became much larger than life. The
      BJP Front, although in power in Delhi from 1998,
      had to bow before the Sena! Often this was
      humiliating to the Sangh Parivar, but the
      humiliation was silently swallowed because,
      without the Sena, the BJP was electorally weak.
      Moreover, Thackeray's violent rhetoric against
      the Muslims, against Pakistan or Bangladeshis
      suited the BJP. Balasaheb enjoyed this all-round
      adulation. An artist and cartoonist at his core,
      and kingmaker rather than a formal king, he
      displayed with gusto the power that he now had.
      The Shiv Sena's strength as well as its weakness
      was its living icon - Balasaheb.

      But time was extracting its price. As Thackeray
      grew older he got increasingly isolated even
      within his family and among the top echelons of
      the party. Yet none of them - neither Manohar
      Joshi nor Narayan Rane, neither Uddhav nor Raj
      Thackeray - had any independent existence. If the
      Sena-BJP alliance had won, even marginally, the
      Sena would have got a shot in the arm. Balasaheb
      would have grown in stature and would perhaps
      have even competed with none other than Shivaji
      Maharaj himself. But this defeat has come like a
      body blow and that, too, when the infirmities of
      age had caught up with the man and his image!

      Today the Sena has become a pathetic shadow of
      its supremo. With no ideology or faith to hold on
      to, with no organised set-up apart from the
      undependable network of frustrated and militant
      lumpens; with no second line leadership or
      charismatic successor, the Shiv Sena stands on
      the threshold of disintegration. The internecine
      rivalry between Uddhav Thackeray and Raj
      Thackeray, as well as between Joshi and Rane will
      soon consume the outfit. As for the Icon that has
      presided over the Sena's fortunes, it has become
      a mere Cut-out.

      The writer is editor, 'Loksatta'

      o o o o

      Indian Express - October 25, 2004

      Unfit for democracy

      Bal Thackeray has no business inflicting the
      Sena's identity crisis on the voter

      How does a political party react after an
      electoral setback? Some sulk, some go into a
      huddle, the BJP heads towards Nagpur. But if the
      party is the Shiv Sena, it blames the people, the
      voters, the media. Its supremo warns of a
      horrible backlash. He draws rabid spectres of
      Muslim fundamentalism and a take-over by
      Bangladeshi settlers. Bal Thackeray used his
      annual Dussehra speech to serve up dire images
      that are far too easily dismissed as the
      predictable rants of a sore loser. In fact, they
      amount to something far more worrisome.
      Thackeray's diatribe is an act of disrespect -
      no, insult - to the voter in Maharashtra and to
      all norms and conventions of democracy that he
      and his party are expected to abide by.

      The Shiv Sena has a problem and the recent rout
      has only underlined it. It has been obvious for a
      while that the factors that muscled its rise are
      on the wane and that Thackeray's outfit has
      neither the political substance nor the
      organisational fibre to deal with it. Since it
      was formed in 1966, the Sena has relied on the
      electorate's insecurities, tight discipline of
      its cadres, their complete obedience to Thackeray
      himself. On each of these, the party is on
      shiftier sands today. The last five years or so
      have marked the maturing of a new voter who is
      less willing to do battle with imagined spectres
      and is more immersed in the search for a brighter
      future. The Sena's jingoistic campaigns against
      Gujaratis, South Indians, Dalits, Muslims and
      North Indians preyed upon an erstwhile
      socio-economic setting. Mumbai has grown since.
      It may even hold the Prime Minister to his
      promise of making it another Shanghai.

      Then there is the lack of a single heir apparent,
      the receding of the base and greater
      centralisation. This time, Uddhav Thackeray
      selected the strategy and candidates; the room
      for manoeuvre at lower levels, always limited in
      the Sena, shrank further. There was an
      unprecedented number of rebels. A lot has gone
      wrong with the Sena. But by turning on the
      invective, Bal Thackeray is only giving further
      proof of his outfit's unelectability. Nothing
      short of a reinvention will do.


      [5] [Book Review]

      Deccan Herald, October 30, 2004 | Column - Sweet and Sour


      Catch them young
      [by Kushwant Singh ]

      At times I get very depressed watching channel
      after channel on my TV offloading garbage about
      astrology, Vastu and numerology, and wonder how
      our next generation will be able to face the hard
      realities of life. I am not alone in believing
      that next to sowing seeds of suspicion between
      different religious communities, the Sangh
      Parivar-dominated government has left us a legacy
      of belief in irrationality.

      For this Murli Manohar Joshi, under whose
      patronage it took a new lease of life, will have
      a lot to answer for. So also ex-Prime Minister
      Atal Behari Vajpayee and his Cabinet colleagues
      who not only failed to put an end to Joshi's
      eccentricities but often subscribed to them too.
      Their astrologers and Vastu experts assure them
      that their stars are in the ascendant and they
      should soon be back in power. Let us wait a while
      and see what happens.

      I am heartened to find a kindred spirit in Githa
      Hariharan, who is more concerned about the way
      things are going and is doing her best to reverse
      the trend. She is a more accomplished writer than
      I am, a lot younger and far more gutsy. So far
      she has been writing novels and short stories for
      adults. She felt strongly that if you mean to
      clear the cobwebs of superstition and
      make-believe that are instilled into our minds by
      senile oldies, and immunise them against the
      poison of religious bigotry and belief in the
      irrational, you have to address school-going
      children. So she has turned her facile and gifted
      pen to writing a collection of short stories for
      children using old themes based on anecdotes
      about Tenali Raman, Naseeruddin Hodja, Gopal Bhor
      and Birbal. The Winning Team (Rupa) beautifully
      illustrated by Taposhi Ghosal is her offering. It
      should be translated in all our regional
      languages and made compulsory reading for boys
      and girls in schools across the country. Minister
      Arjun Singhji, please note! You can undo some of
      the harm done by your predecessor.



      The Economic and Political Weekly
      October 23, 2004

      Minority Rights, Secularism and Civil Society

      The Indian state has failed to recognise an
      actively address the issue of the socio-economic
      rights of Muslims. Civil society organisations
      mirror the tendencies of the state to prioritise
      cultural rights over the social and economic
      needs of the community. It is crucial for civil
      society to interrogate its own position and
      develop a platform for concerted advocacy on
      issues related to the socio-economic rights of
      the Muslim community.

      Yamini Aiyar, Meeto Malik

      [Full text at:


      [7] [Call for Entries]

      Looking for films
      for a FILM FESTIVAL at the WORLD SOCIAL FORUM 2005

      The World Social Forum is a movement of movements
      that opposes neo-liberal capitalist
      globalisation. Since its inception in 2001 the
      Forum has provided open spaces for dialogue and
      debate on issues of concern to social movements,
      concerned groups and individuals. According to
      Chico Whitaker, one of the important contribution
      of the Forum has been in its ability to draw on
      the most significant recent political discovery,
      of the power of open, free, horizontal structures.

      @Culture is a coalition of a few organisations
      and artists from India who were a part of the
      cultural committee at the WSF 2004, Mumbai. It
      believes that culture is a key site for
      transformative politics and recognises the
      centrality of culture in all political action.
      Enthused and inspired by the impact of its work
      during WSF 2004 a smaller group has decided to
      pursue its aims at WSF 2005.

      At WSF 2005 @Culture is planning to author five
      self-organised events. One of these will be a
      film festival, curated by Magic Lantern

      The concern that drives the film festival is that
      while the movement extends easily because of its
      opposition to a common destructive force, what it
      aims at is not clearly articulated. We are still
      to visualise the other worlds that are possible.
      And yet they are breathing!

      Hence, thematically, the film festival will
      reflect choices people make to create other kinds
      of worlds: how different communities, countries,
      individuals are re-inventing themselves, their
      lives and livelihoods and by their action
      challenging the homogenising attempts of
      neo-liberal capitalism.

      The film festival is looking for films that
      explore issues of governance, trade,
      technological and farming alternatives,
      livelihood systems, cultural diversity,
      transmission of knowledge, changes in cultural
      terrains, etc.

      If you have a film, or know of a film, that
      resonates any of these themes, please write to
      Gargi and Aurélie at filmsatforums@...

      Deadlines are tight. Do respond urgently.

      The World Social Forum will take place in Porto
      Alegre, Brazil, 26-31 January 2005.

      For more details about the World Social Forum,
      visit http://www.forumsocialmundial.org.br/

      - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
      Gargi Sen / Aurélie de Lalande
      Magic Lantern Foundation


      Buzz on the perils of fundamentalist politics, on
      matters of peace and democratisation in South
      Asia. SACW is an independent & non-profit
      citizens wire service run since 1998 by South
      Asia Citizens Web: www.sacw.net/
      SACW archive is available at: bridget.jatol.com/pipermail/sacw_insaf.net/

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      South Asia Counter Information Project : snipurl.com/sacip
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      DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed in materials carried in the posts do not
      necessarily reflect the views of SACW compilers.
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