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[act] sacw dispatch 2 oct.99

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Web Dispatch 2 October 1999 ... #1. RSS website #2. Temple workers turn to Communist party for relief #3. Karnataka woman awarded for
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 1, 1999
      South Asia Citizens Web Dispatch
      2 October 1999
      #1. RSS website
      #2. Temple workers turn to Communist party for relief
      #3. Karnataka woman awarded for battling domestic violence
      #4. Indian Journalists essay on Kashmir
      #5. An Australian report on Arundhati Roy. . .
      #6. 'Earth' offers a snapshot of India's partition
      #7. Dhaka forced to face sex taboos
      Chatroom overflow mars launch of RSS website
      from India Abroad News Service

      New Delhi, Sep 26 - The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the powerful
      ideological parent of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has launched a
      website with the intention of forming a worldwide network of those
      ascribing to their philosophy.

      On the inaugural day, however, the chatroom where people could talk
      directly with RSS chief Rajendra Singh `Rajju Bhayya' did not function
      well since it was "overflowing," making it impossible for the hosts
      themselves to log on, The Hindustan Times reported.

      Though the inaugural turned out to be a fiasco, the organisers said that
      glitches would be sorted out. Singh could not make use of the chatroom even
      though the webmaster in New York tried to boot out many entrants.

      Even as organisers were trying to get the website in order, the rest of
      the gathering at the RSS headquarters in Jhandewalan in New Delhi sang

      The RSS chief used the occasion to issue a warning to the Pope saying that
      his forthcoming visit to India would be opposed if he insisted on saying
      that only Christianity could save mankind. "The Pope must show equal
      respect to all religions," Singh said.

      Pope John Paul II is scheduled to arrive here on November 6 on a two-day
      state visit, which comes at a time when opposition parties have been
      castigating the BJP for attacks on minorities. The RSS is viewed with
      suspicion by parties like the main opposition Congress party which has
      often said that the cultural wing propagates anti-minority sentiments.

      The RSS is considered the spiritual parent of the BJP and is believed to
      have exercised huge control over the ruling party's policies during the
      13-month term of Atal Behari Vajpayee. A section within the RSS is known to
      strongly oppose the opening up of the Indian market giving rise to the
      `desi' (native)-'videshi' (foreign) debate within the ruling party.

      The website is seen as part of an effort to unify the global Indian Hindu

      --India Abroad News Service (credit mandatory)

      Temple workers turn to Communist party for relief
      from India Abroad News Service
      New Delhi, Sep 26 - The functioning of one of India's most popular Hindu
      temples has been threatened by staffers who have joined a Marxist trade

      More than 250 workers of the famous Lord Venkateshwara Temple in
      Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh, considered Hinduism's Vatican, have demanded
      reduction of workload and recruitment of more workers, The Hindusthan Times

      These workers are involved in making 'ladoos' (a popular Indian sweetmeat)
      which are given to more than 30,000 Hindu pilgrims who visit the hilltop
      temple every day. The 'ladoos' are given to devotees as the temple
      'prasadam' (offerings blessed by the deity) is much in demand.

      Over 100,000 'ladoos' are made every day in the temple premises but the
      workers, who have joined the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) backed by
      the Communist party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), have said that only 60,000
      'ladoos' can be made every day by the existing staff.

      The shortage of 'ladoos' has resulted in a thriving black market in and
      around the temple, the paper said. Temple authorities have said that they
      are helpless since the workers have threatened to completely stop
      production of ladoos if their demands are not met.

      The 'ladoos' were supplied to the Tirupathi temple by traditional cooks
      and sweet-makers called 'mirasidars' for whom it was a hereditary trade.
      After the Supreme Court abolished the system the authorities appointed the
      sweet-makers as temple staff.

      Devotees from all over India, neighbouring countries and south-east Asia
      visit the Tirupathi temple to pray to Lord Venkateshwara. Offerings made to
      the temple in cash and kind amount to nearly Rs 3 billion a year.
      Karnataka woman awarded for battling domestic violence
      from India Abroad News Service

      New Delhi, Sep 20 - Hers would have been a story of domestic violence
      common to many an Indian woman, except that she chose to give the tale a
      courageous ending.

      V. Gowramma, a native of the southern state of Karnataka, has just become
      the recipient of the Neerja Bhanot bravery award for battling it out in
      court for 10 years to get her brutal husband suspended from his job and
      translating this victory into one for other women as well. The award
      carries a cash prize of Rs.150,000, apart from a citation and a trophy.

      Gowramma, now 37, began her fight at the young age of 18 when she was
      married off to a police officer, who would "physically and mentally torture
      her," The Indian Express newspaper reported. Two years later Gowramma could
      take no more and walked out of the marriage in spite of having given birth
      to a child.

      That was when the real test of courage began as she vowed that the man
      should not go unpunished even if he belonged to the law-enforcing authority.

      "When I first lodged a complaint against my husband, his department
      shielded him. I had to walk in and out of family courts for 10 years. But I
      persevered and got him suspended from his post," she said.

      Gowramma believed that her personal victory should be of use to others of
      her kind and in 1988, she began to working with a women's organisation in
      the Karnataka capital of Bangalore called 'Vimochana.' A study conducted by
      the organisation found that "every month 60 to 80 women die of 'stove
      bursts' and other such incidents," indicating a high rate of domestic

      "Keeping quiet merely encourages the perpetrators. I decided the latter
      had to pay for their deeds," she says.

      And it was her dedicated campaign against eradicating domestic violence
      which had its roots in personal tragedy that brought her the Neerja Bhanot
      award, given to "women who overcome personal crisis to make a difference in
      other's lives." Gowramma plans to deposit Rs.50,000 from her cash prize in
      a bank so that the interest accruing from it can be used for educating
      deprived children.

      The award is given by the family of Neerja Bhanot, a PanAm flight air
      hostess who was killed by hijackers in 1986 while saving the lives of
      The Washington Post
      Sunday, September 26, 1999; Page B05

      Dry Eyes in India's Valley of Death

      By Muzamil Jaleel
      Muzamil Jaleel is a reporter for Indian Express newspaper in Srinagar.

      SRINAGAR, India--Being a newspaper reporter in Kashmir is undeniably
      adventurous. There is hardly a lean day for a reporter hungry for news in
      this valley of beauty and bloodshed in far northern India, along the
      disputed border with Pakistan. Death and destruction are our staple fare,
      our necessary thrill. We inhabit a veritable pasture of news; we can graze
      at random and unearth fresh horrors.

      The Indian government says 20,000 people have died in Kashmir since 1989,
      when violent conflict broke out between the army and groups of armed
      militants seeking independence. Others say the number is closer to 70,000.
      I feel as if I have witnessed more than my share of those deaths, growing
      more indifferent with each one.

      Aug. 23, 1992, was my first day in journalism. I was 20. My first
      assignment was to go to a police station here in Srinagar, the urban
      center of the Kashmir Valley, and collect information on six dead bodies
      lying there, riddled with bullets. I accompanied several photographers to
      the station. They worked as I stared at the mutilated corpses in their
      blood-soaked clothes. Their entrails were exposed, their faces,
      unrecognizable. That evening, I could not eat. I couldn't sleep for days;
      the corpses haunted my dreams.

      At the time, I didn't realize that this was a prelude to an unending tryst
      with death and mayhem. But as the months passed, and the deadly game
      between security forces and militant groups continued, the violence began
      to seem mundane to me, almost normal, a part of my daily reporting
      routine. There were exceptions of course, days when death was anything but

      Oct. 12, 1996, comes to mind: I'm half asleep, sipping my morning tea. The
      phone rings. It's my police contact. My mind is racing as I begin to
      scribble notes. How many? Where? When? I call my photographer and then I'm
      out of my house, riding my bike like a madman. We arrive to find wailing
      women and unshaven, huddled men. The dead bodies lie scattered, like rag
      dolls discarded by careless children. I feel my legs growing heavy. I feel
      incredibly tired. I want to throw down my notebook and sit silently with
      the mourners. Then I hear the photographer's shutter clicking. The noise
      forces me to remember that I have a story to do. I examine the bodies. I
      take out my notebook and start asking my questions. Who? What time? Any

      For years, there has been nothing to write or think about in the valley
      except the violence. If I manage to avoid doing a news story on that day's
      gory details, I inevitably end up writing a feature about orphans or
      widows of the conflict. When violence rules the day, there is nothing but
      tears to jerk from the reader's soul.

      Nietzsche once compared journalists to crows alighting from a wire one by
      one to swoop down on a hapless victim. If this is what we are, waiting
      with our notebooks and cameras for death to strike again, then the killing
      fields of Kashmir offer a feast, even for the most gluttonous birds of
      prey. In the evening, no journalist here can think of leaving the office
      without scanning the police bulletin on the day's toll of army bunkers
      assaulted, houses destroyed by fire, militants gunned down. If we missed
      something, our editors would be most unhappy.

      As I became more proficient at chronicling this unending cycle of death, I
      felt more satisfaction at the end of the day, rather than revulsion and
      sleeplessness. Killings meant bylines, headlines, good play. Every day, my
      colleagues and I would gather, like vultures on a wire, to await the next
      tragedy, hoping we would make Page 1.

      Finally, the time came when I lost a close school friend in the
      violence--and felt nothing. I wanted to cry, but the tears had dried up.
      My friend's was one of perhaps 20 routine deaths I saw that day in the
      police bulletin. Because I was unmoved, I felt ashamed and afraid of

      What has happened to me? Have I sacrificed normal human feelings to the
      thrill of reporting such violence? I am immune to death. I have lost the
      ability to mourn. I am numb.

      And I watch with horror my own excitement as I launch into the next story:
      Ten killed, 14 wounded . . . that is my tragedy as a reporter in Kashmir.

      Muzamil Jaleel is a reporter for Indian Express newspaper in Srinagar.



      SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, September 30, 1999
      Bombs and dams cop the big stick from Roy

      "Silence in indefensible ... Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy.
      Photo by PETER RAE


      In that great old political tradition, Arundhati Roy speaks softly and
      carries a big stick. The author slipped into town yesterday for a bit of
      rest and relaxation, but plans to renew her fight against big business, the
      bomb and bureaucracy at a lecture to promote her new book, The Cost of
      Living, in Melbourne next week.

      Like that other Booker Prize-winning author from the subcontinent, Salman
      Rushdie, the soft-spoken Roy - whose best-selling debut, The God of Small
      Things, won the Booker in 1997 - has attracted death threats and had copies
      of her novels burnt. In Roy's case, it's due to her stand against the
      Gujarat Government's plans to dam one of India's largest rivers.

      "There've been the usual arguments made that a writer of fiction shouldn't
      be writing non-fiction about social and political issues, but I think that's
      rubbish," Roy said.

      In the western Indian state of Gujarat, where the Government plans to build
      3,200 dams on the Narmada River, sugar cane farmers - the main beneficiaries
      of the massive construction project - have burnt copies of The God of Small

      Although she says she will never return to Gujarat for fear for her life,
      Roy has just completed a six-day protest march in the Narmada Valley in
      solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of villagers who will be displaced
      if the building of the main dam - currently stopped under a Supreme Court
      order - goes ahead. "It was amazing, it really gave me hope to see over 500
      people join me to fight for this river and these people and their way of
      life. I think that's hope; that shows there's a current of activism out
      there to do what's right," she said. Roy said she was similarly reviled by
      the right-wing press and Hindu nationalist political parties for attacking
      the country's nascent nuclear weapons industry. But as she writes in The End
      of Imagination, one of the book's two extended essays, "silence is

      "I believe that as a writer, one's role is to open your eyes and see and to
      speak out against things that you know are wrong."

      The May 1998 nuclear test explosion in the lunar-moonscape vastness of
      Pokhran symbolised the end of India's innocence, she said.

      It was an added travesty that "billions" were being funnelled into nuclear
      weapons development in a country where more than 400 million people were
      illiterate, more than 600 million lacked basic sanitation and 200 million
      had no safe drinking water. "The day after the nuclear tests, there were
      young men in the streets celebrating the bomb as a national triumph while
      condemning Western culture by emptying cans of Coke in the streets," Roy said.

      "Coke is Western culture but the nuclear bomb is an old Indian tradition? We
      have a long way to go."
      Newsweek International
      Sept. 27, 1999

      A Child's View of Chaos

      'Earth' offers a snapshot of India's partition
      By Anjali Arora

      Indo-Canadian director Deepa Mehta isn't one to shy away from tough
      topics. Her controversial 1996 film "Fire" explored the development of a
      lesbian relationship in middle-class India. Her latest work, "Earth,"
      tackles a politically ambitious subject — the 1947 partition of India and
      the birth of Pakistan — but is devoid of the jubilance that marks the
      country's Independence Day celebrations. Rather, "Earth" is a poignant
      reminder that India might have lost as much as it gained in the struggle
      for independence.

      Based on the book "Cracking India," a semiautobiographical account by
      author Bapsi Sidhwa, the film surveys India as the British depart,
      approaching the partisan struggle from a neutral standpoint. Mehta's
      window to the mayhem is Lenny (Maia Sethna), the privileged 8-year-old
      daughter of a Parsee family in Lahore. An only child slowed by a leg
      brace, Lenny is doted upon by her young nanny, Shanta (Nandita Das), and
      friends including Dil Nawaz (Aamir Khan), an affable ice cream vendor, and
      Hasan (Rahul Khanna), a shy masseuse. But something slowly overcomes
      Lenny's circle of caretakers: once close friends despite their religious
      differences, their relationships wither in the growing heat of communal
      tension. Lenny questions the hatred, her naivete disappearing as villages
      burn and friends escape. The country's discrepancies in class and culture
      only lend a cruel irony to events: when a young Muslim refugee tells Lenny
      of his mother's rape and murder, she asks what rape is. When she invites
      him home for birthday cake, he has to ask what cake is.

      "Earth" offers a sadly realistic snapshot of the mixed emotions and
      violent chaos that accompanied India's independence. Though the story is
      underdeveloped in parts (the central love affair between Shanta and Hasan
      feels slightly forced), Mehta's coup is her portrayal of the partition's
      specific horrors, detailed as vividly as an old grandfather's memories.
      Trains filled with corpses are sent back and forth across the border;
      terrified Hindus convert to avoid persecution; neighborhoods of all
      religious persuasions are slowly engulfed in flames. In an excellent
      performance from Khan, Nawaz embodies the metamorphosis from carefree soul
      to hardened warrior, joining the warfare after losing his sisters to
      brutal violence.

      Mehta's sensitive direction is a reflection of her experience. The
      44-year-old director grew up in Amritsar, where "every family has a horror
      story to tell," she says. The conflicts at Kargil this spring lend a sad
      timeliness to her film, but Mehta hopes the movie will offer a glimpse of
      the Subcontinent's history. Indeed, with strong acting and a wonderful mix
      of characters, "Earth" not only captures the nation's lost innocence, but
      leaves the viewer pondering an important irony: how to celebrate the
      freedom of a country that lost half its territory amid mind-numbing
      Tuesday, September 21, 1999
      South China Morning Post: SOUTH ASIA TODAY

      Dhaka forced to face sex taboos


      Homosexuality, in theory, does not even exist. But in reality,
      its practice is creating a dilemma for Bangladeshi authorities,
      social workers and medical professionals.

      They simply do not seem to know how to deal with it.

      The subject has been strictly taboo in this predominantly
      Muslim society.

      So when the daily Manavzamin reported about a police
      clampdown on homosexuals in Dhaka, many readers seem to
      have been jolted by the revelation of their existence.

      The reaction of many, even among the educated, was that
      homosexuality in Bangladesh was an absurd suggestion and
      that gays plying their trade in public was preposterous.

      When police arrested 15 boys and men two weeks ago, they
      did not use the word "homosexual", instead describing them as
      "perverts" on their charge sheets.

      The action, police said, was aimed at curbing "a growing

      It is not difficult to find male "sex workers" in the city. Each
      evening they can be seen loitering at busy intersections and
      parks that are well-known pick-up points.

      But the clampdown caused another headache for police
      because there is no law on the statute books to specifically
      deal with the problem.

      So a Dhaka magistrate charged the "perverts" with causing a
      "public nuisance" and fined them 500 takas (HK$79) each. All
      were released and, as expected, are back in business.

      However, that is not the end of the story. What has caused
      consternation among various professional groups and social
      scientists is the arrest of a worker from a non-government
      organisation. He was accused of pandering to the "business".

      The Bandhu Social Welfare Society is reported to have been
      supplying condoms and providing advice on safe sex to

      "This is an issue which exists in every society and we must not
      pretend that it doesn't exist here. No amount of intimidation or
      arrests is going to solve the problem," said Dr Halida Hanum
      Khandker, president of Confidential Approach to Aids

      "We cannot turn a blind eye to the problem, rather we should
      all try to tackle it in a practical way," said Mushtaque Ali,
      executive director of Incidence, a group that provides medical
      assistance to male sex workers.

      Incidence began its work three years ago after conducting a
      study that revealed young boys, mostly poor and homeless,
      were being increasingly used as sex workers.

      Among male sex workers in Dhaka, two brothers named Kalam
      and Lalu are perhaps the best known. Aged 26 and 24
      respectively, both are dumb.

      An elder brother tried beating them to stop their "horrible
      acts", but now others in the family accept the situation. A
      nephew said: "Every morning my uncles come home with their
      pockets bulging with money. For poor people like us, money is
      South Asia Citizens Web Dispatch is an informal, independent & non-profit
      citizens wire service run by South Asia Citizens Web
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