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SACW | 21 April - 5 May 2005

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    South Asia Citizens Wire | 21 April - 5 May, 2005 [This issue of SACW is dedicated to the memory of two world citizens, public intellectuals and activists
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      South Asia Citizens Wire | 21 April - 5 May, 2005

      [This issue of SACW is dedicated to the memory of
      two world citizens, public intellectuals and
      activists Andre Gunder Frank and Jugnu Ramaswamy,
      whose recent deaths are a great loss for many on
      this list. ]

      [1] The State of Sectarianism in Pakistan (International Crisis Group)
      [2] Press Statement re Indo Pak Peace Process
      (Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace,
      India)
      [3] Indo Pak Peace Process - How irreversible is 'irreversible'? (M B Naqvi)
      [4] India Vacillates On Nepal: Don't compromise with despotism (Praful Bidwai)
      [5] India: Secular Spirit (Edit., The Telegraph)
      [6] India: Sangh goes on air, indirect to home (Hemendra Singh Bartwal)
      [7] India: Manipur- An Incendiary Script (Pradip Phanjoubam)
      [8] India: Art can't be supressed by fundamentalists: Punjab artistes
      [9] India: Space science in the lord's hands (G.S. Radhakrishna)
      [10] Announcements:
      Upcoming conference on "Political Hinduism" (Los Angeles - May 6-7, 2005)

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

      [1]

      International Crisis Group - Asia Report No. 95
      18 April 2005

      THE STATE OF SECTARIANISM IN PAKISTAN

      Executive Summary And Recommendations

      Sectarian conflict in Pakistan is the direct
      consequence of state policies of Islamisation and
      marginalisation of secular democratic forces.
      Co-option and patronage of religious parties by
      successive military governments have brought
      Pakistan to a point where religious extremism
      threatens to erode the foundations of the state
      and society. As President Pervez Musharraf is
      praised by the international community for his
      role in the war against terrorism, the frequency
      and viciousness of sectarian terrorism continues
      to increase in his country.

      Instead of empowering liberal, democratic voices,
      the government has co-opted the religious right
      and continues to rely on it to counter civilian
      opposition. By depriving democratic forces of an
      even playing field and continuing to ignore the
      need for state policies that would encourage and
      indeed reflect the country's religious diversity,
      the government has allowed religious extremist
      organisations and jihadi groups, and the madrasas
      that provide them an endless stream of recruits,
      to flourish. It has failed to protect a
      vulnerable judiciary and equip its
      law-enforcement agencies with the tools they need
      to eliminate sectarian terrorism.

      Constitutional provisions to "Islamise" laws,
      education and culture, and official dissemination
      of a particular brand of Islamic ideology, not
      only militate against Pakistan's religious
      diversity but also breed discrimination against
      non-Muslim minorities. The political use of Islam
      by the state promotes an aggressive competition
      for official patronage between and within the
      many variations of Sunni and Shia Islam, with the
      clerical elite of major sects and subsects
      striving to build up their political parties,
      raise jihadi militias, expand madrasa networks
      and, as has happened on Musharraf's watch, become
      part of government. Like all other Pakistani
      military governments, the Musharraf
      administration has also weakened secular and
      democratic political forces.

      Administrative and legal action against militant
      organisations has failed to dismantle a
      well-entrenched and widely spread terror
      infrastructure. All banned extremist groups
      persist with new labels, although old names are
      also still in use. The jihadi media is
      flourishing, and the leading figures of extremist
      Sunni organisations are free to preach their
      jihadi ideologies. Leaders of banned groups such
      as the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, Sipahe Sahaba and
      Jaish-e-Mohammed appear to enjoy virtual immunity
      from the law. They have gained new avenues to
      propagate their militant ideas since the chief
      patrons of jihad, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI)
      and the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), have acquired
      prominent and powerful roles in Musharraf's
      political structure.

      The Islamisation of laws and education, in
      particular, graphically illustrates the Sunni
      sectarian bias of the Pakistani state. General
      Zia-ul-Haq's Islamic penal code, retained by
      General Musharraf, is derived entirely from
      classical Sunni-Hanafi orthodox sources. The same
      is true of "Islamic" textbooks in public schools
      and colleges. The Shia minority -- and, in some
      cases, even the majority Sunni Barelvi sect -- is
      deeply resentful of this orthodox Hanafi Sunni
      bias in state policies. Within Sunnism itself,
      the competition for state patronage and a share
      in power has turned minor theological debates and
      cultural differences into unbridgeable, volatile
      sectarian divisions. After decades of co-option
      by the civil-military establishment, Pakistan's
      puritanical clergy is attempting to turn the
      country into a confessional state where the
      religious creed of a person is the sole marker of
      identity.

      Except for a few showcase "reformed" madrasas, no
      sign of change is visible. Because of the
      mullahs' political utility, the military-led
      government's proposed measures, from curriculum
      changes to a new registration law, have been
      dropped in the face of opposition by the MMA
      (Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal) and its madrasa
      subsidiaries. Instead, financial and political
      incentives to the mullahs have raised their
      public profile and influence. The government's
      approach towards religious extremism is
      epitomised by its deals with extremists in the
      tribal areas, concluded through JUI mediation
      after payment of bribes to militant leaders.

      The anomalous constitutional status and political
      disenfranchisement of regions like the Federally
      Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the Northern
      Areas have turned them into sanctuaries for
      sectarian and international terrorists and
      centres of the arms and drugs trade.

      Parallel legal and judicial systems, which exist
      in many parts of the country with the blessing of
      the state, undermine the rule of law. The reform
      of discriminatory laws and procedures has, at
      best, been cosmetic -- they remain open to abuse
      by religious fanatics. Bereft of independence,
      the judiciary is unable to check the rising
      sectarian violence. Subjected to political
      interference, an inefficient police has become
      even more incapable of dealing with sectarian
      terrorism.

      President Musharraf's lack of domestic legitimacy
      has forced the military to rely on alliances of
      convenience with the religious right, based on
      the politics of patronage. In the absence of
      international support, moderate, secular and
      democratic parties will remain in the political
      cold. The choice that Pakistan faces is not
      between the military and the mullahs, as is
      generally believed in the West; it is between
      genuine democracy and a military-mullah alliance
      that is responsible for producing and sustaining
      religious extremism of many hues.

      Given the intrinsic links between Pakistan-based
      homegrown and transnational terrorists, the one
      cannot be effectively contained and ultimately
      eliminated without acting against the other. The
      government's unwillingness to demonstrate
      political will to deal with the internal jihad
      could cost it international support, much of
      which is contingent upon Pakistan's performance
      in the war against terrorism. The U.S. and other
      influential actors have realised with regard to
      their own societies that terrorism can only be
      eliminated through pluralistic democratic
      structures. Pakistan should not be treated as an
      exception.

      RECOMMENDATIONS

      To the Government of Pakistan:

      1. Recognise the diversity of Islam in Pakistan,
      reaffirm the constitutional principle of equality
      for all citizens regardless of religion or sect,
      and give meaning to this by taking the following
      steps:

      (a) repeal all laws, penal codes and official
      procedures that reinforce sectarian identities
      and cause discrimination on the basis of faith,
      such as the mandatory affirmation of religious
      creed in applications for jobs, passports and
      national identity cards;
      (b) repeal the Hudood laws and the blasphemy laws;
      (c) disband privately-run Sharia courts in the
      North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and take
      action against religious organisations operating
      them;
      (d) do not use zakat or other sources of
      government funding to finance the activities,
      educational or otherwise, of any sect; and
      (e) purge Islamic Studies textbooks of sectarian
      material that promotes or undermines specific
      sects.

      2. Disband, in furtherance of Article 256 of the
      constitution, all private militias, including
      those organised for sectarian and jihadi causes.

      3. Make curbs on sectarian leaders and extremist groups more effective by:

      (a) publicising the evidence for banning jihadi groups;
      (b) implementing the laws against hate-speech and
      incitement of communal violence;
      (c) taking legal action against the
      administration of any mosque or madrasa or
      religious leader responsible for verbal or
      written edicts of apostasy;
      (d) taking legal action against the
      administration of any mosque or madrasa whose
      leader calls for internal or external jihad;
      (e) cancelling the print declarations (licences)
      of jihadi publications and prosecuting the
      publishers;
      (f) closing down madrasas run by sectarian and jihadi organisations; and
      (g) ending registration of new madrasas until a
      new madrasa law is in place, and registering all
      madrasas under this new law, including those
      currently registered under the Societies Act.

      4. Appoint prayer leaders and orators at mosques
      and madrasas run by the Auqaf Department (the
      government department of religious endowments)
      only after verifying that the applicant has no
      record of sectarian extremism, and dismiss those
      sectarian leaders who are employees of the Auqaf
      Department.

      5. Review periodically the activities of all
      government appointed clergy and strictly enforce
      the ban on loudspeakers used in mosques other
      than for permitted religious activities.

      6. Implement police and judiciary reforms, including the following:

      (a) ensure institutional independence and
      guarantees against political interference;
      (b) guarantee the physical security of judges
      presiding over cases of sectarian terrorism; and
      (c) end the political and policing role of
      intelligence agencies and establish parliamentary
      oversight of their activities.

      7. Use federal prerogative to veto the MMA's
      Islamisation agenda, including the Hasba Bill.

      8. Provide constitutional and political rights
      to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)
      and the Northern Areas by:
      (a) doing away with their special status and
      deciding on a final constitutional and legal
      status after negotiations with their directly
      elected representatives;
      (b) granting decision-making powers and local
      administrative and legislative authority to the
      Northern Areas Council;
      (c) setting up and linking courts in these areas
      to Pakistan's mainstream judicial institutions;
      and
      (d) ending the practices of raising tribal
      lashkars and paying bribes to militants.

      9. Regulate the arms industry in FATA to prevent
      the proliferation of weapons countrywide.

      To the United States and the European Union:

      10. Press the Musharraf government to carry out
      its commitment of introducing a madrasa
      registration regime and instituting a regulatory
      authority in conformity with international
      conventions on terrorism and extremism.

      11. Urge the Pakistan government to repeal
      discriminatory legislation that targets women and
      minorities.

      Islamabad/Brussels, 18 April 2005


      _______


      [2]

      21 April 2005

      PRESS RELEASE

      The Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace
      (CNDP), India, warmly endorses the
      establishment of bus links between Srinagar and
      Muzaffarabad, the opening of cross-border trade
      routes between India and Pakistan, and the
      commitment by both sides to a peaceful resolution of
      the hitherto intractable 'Kashmir problem'. The
      peace process however, despite the formal
      declaration, is not "irreversible" but is itself
      hostage to the possible emergence of distrust and
      suspicion between the two countries in the future.
      In this context the CNDP registers its deepest
      disappointment and dismay that the India-Pakistan
      talks completely failed to take note of the
      possibility of a nuclear war which stares both the
      countries in the face, whether by deliberate action
      or unintentional slip. They failed to agree to any
      measures to reduce such risks and to eventually
      eliminate their respective arsenals. Hence, we once
      again urge both governments to take concrete
      measures to reverse the open-ended nuclear arms race
      that consumes scarce resources and sharpens
      animosities and tensions.


      Sukla Sen
      CNDP, India

      _______


      [3]

      The News International
      May 04, 2005

      HOW IRREVERSIBLE IS 'IRREVERSIBLE'?

      M B Naqvi

      The joint statement issued after Delhi's
      Indo-Pakistani summit described improvements in
      their mutual relationship as "irreversible"
      because of the sizeable peace lobbies in both
      countries. War mongering is no longer popular.
      But how irreversible is this peace process?

      Things are often deceptive in politics.
      Entrenched powerful groups in both countries do
      not want friendship between the two countries,
      not even trade and economic cooperation. They
      like freer cultural exchanges even less. The two
      bureaucracies, each excelling the other in rigid
      approaches and in being actually
      backward-looking, do not want to change.
      Bureaucracies are always meant to preserve a
      system. They cannot be expected to take
      significant initiatives "outside the box." It is
      not their job. That is the job of political
      leaderships, and they should make the
      bureaucracies implement their "out of the box"
      thinking which requires change.

      The two governments are a long way from settling
      down as friends and have still to build many
      bridges. Governments can always reverse their
      stances. There is the sudden reversal of India's
      policy over Nepal, for instance. Only a few
      months ago, India angrily condemned King
      Gyanendra's wrapping up the elected system by
      assuming total power himself on Feb. 1 last. It
      stopped military aid to the Nepalese Army. Now
      suddenly it has decided to send him armaments
      against the wishes of India's leftists. One goes
      beyond a mere notice of this instance of a
      reversal for a reason.

      The proffered reason was other countries would
      take advantage of the tiff between India and the
      Nepalese King and would start supplying arms to
      him. The "other country" in this case could
      either be Pakistan or China because America and
      the UK were on India's side against Gyanendra.
      Now China, in its own national interests, would
      never give an excuse to India, the US and the UK
      to unitedly oppose China's help to Gyanendra. As
      for Pakistan, it would never go against US and UK
      advice, all its gestures of independence
      notwithstanding. But even this flimsy threat of
      Pakistan establishing a relationship with
      Gyanendra was enough to unnerve the South Block.

      True, there could be a different reason. Maoist
      inroads in India itself demand that the Indian
      government should enable the Nepalese Army to
      prevent its Maoists from coordinating with their
      Indian friends. Doubtless, the Indian bureaucracy
      is stoutly fighting against Indian Maoists.
      However, this Indian iron fist has not stopped
      Maoists from spreading operations from the
      Indo-Nepalese border down to Andhra Pradesh. The
      logic of fighting the Maoists at home could impel
      India to cooperate with Nepal's anti-Maoists. But
      India's stoppage of military cooperation with
      Nepal had no links with the decades old
      insurgencies in India. Pakistan's fishing in
      Nepal's troubled waters could only be a minor
      threat.

      Another example is military exercises that India
      is about to hold near Jullundhur. Who would be
      the enemy to be vanquished in this exercise? The
      emotional underpinnings of such exercises make
      the enemy known: it is Pakistan. The Indian Army
      is for preserving Indian borders from Pakistan;
      the two are designated adversary states for each
      other. Three wars and many skirmishes have
      stabilised these enemy images. These inveterate
      enemies have recently gone nuclear. Pakistan's
      nuclear stance is India-specific. Thus reversing
      the enemy image is going to take time and much
      more than diplomatic bonhomie and sweet talk;
      something has to be shown to the people before
      they change their inimical attitudes. The feel
      good factor created by the many "permitted"
      cultural exchanges cannot long be sustained on
      sweet words alone. There has to be evidence of
      inter-state free trade, economic cooperation and
      a credible framework of a lot freer travel to
      permit cultural exchanges to do their magic.

      The Army patronises many other forces. Among
      them, two deserve notice: the first is the
      political forces that demonise the enemy. In
      India there is the Sangh Parivar and parties like
      Shiv Sena that are anti-Pakistan and, up to a
      point, anti-Muslim. The Bharatya Janata Party
      represents their political interests. The second
      group associated with the armed forces (and the
      bureaucracies) comprises publicists. Whole
      battalions of them are embedded in the military
      establishments as well as civilian ones.
      Governments need special media persons to be
      properly guided by intelligence agencies;
      arrangements to this effect are in working order
      in both countries.

      This is reality. Despite professed recent
      governmental desires of being friends hard
      progress has been slow and halting. A tribute to
      Americans is due for bringing India and Pakistan
      to the negotiating table. This has had a benign
      effect so far. It is for India and Pakistan to go
      further than the Americans want. They should go
      much beyond a mere normalisation of relations.
      They have tried hard to make the Composite
      Dialogue, agreed in 1997, productive. Despite
      many rounds, it has so far yielded no solution to
      any of the eight propositions.

      The two states have fixed a "normal" relationship
      as their goal, though the Composite Dialogue has
      so far refused to move forward. Both are still at
      the starting point. However, many agreements on
      Confidence Building Measures, some along the LoC
      in Kashmir, may have been agreed upon, there
      needs to be some concrete agreements on disputes.
      These CBMs are welcome. But they are reversible.
      Can the bus between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad not
      be stopped? Can the Munabao-Khokhrapar line not
      be postponed again? The two Consulates General in
      Bombay and Karachi can be made to wait more
      years. The fact is the two bureaucracies are
      micro-managing the relaxation process. Each
      action is under strict control. No state is ready
      to give the citizens of the other the freedom of
      movement in its own country. The Indians in
      Pakistan are supposed to pose unexplained
      security threats. Similarly, Pakistanis loafing
      around Indian cities constitute an equally
      serious threat to India. The two bureaucracies
      remain unreconstructed and unaffected by new
      impulses.

      The two countries are fated to keep going round
      the mulberry bush if their aim is no more than
      normalisation. Normalisation is a vague concept.
      It can mean Peru's relations with Mongolia. It
      can mean, at the other extreme, relations between
      France and Germany. We must know what kind of
      relations we want. There have to be common aims
      before relations can stabilise and start growing
      into a friendship. It is common objectives that
      hold the key. One recommends the goal of peoples'
      reconciliation between India and Pakistan from
      grassroots up. It has to be complete
      reconciliation that should be reinforced with the
      aims of common economic and cultural objectives.

      Today India is desperate for a permanent seat in
      the UN Security Council. Here is Pakistan,
      supposedly working to be friends with India,
      openly campaigning against India being elevated.
      Nothing could be more absurd than the present
      sets of antithetical approaches. Why can't
      Islamabad think holistically whether it wants to
      change or remain in the comfort of old notions:
      India is the enemy. Why cannot a situation be
      visualized in which India and Pakistan would
      invite each other to enrich themselves culturally
      and economically through cooperation and trade?
      Here is an exciting goal: let the two jointly
      undertake to ensure that each Indian and
      Pakistani citizen becomes entitled to social
      security in his or her own state -- a minimal but
      progressive one. And it can be created at the
      cost of their military budgets, if necessary.
      That will deepen the friendship, especially if
      combined with cultural cooperation.


      _______


      [4]

      Praful Bidwai Column
      May 2, 2005

      INDIA VACILLATES ON NEPAL: DON'T COMPROMISE WITH DESPOTISM

      By Praful Bidwai

      Did India lose in two days in Jakarta the
      tremendous goodwill it earned over three months
      in Nepal, by agreeing to meet King Gyanendra and
      resume the arms supply it blocked since the Royal
      usurpation of power of February 1? India is
      certainly in serious danger of doing
      so-notwithstanding the King's reported assurances
      about not extending the state of emergency beyond
      April 30.

      The King quickly publicised the Indian offer and
      gloated that "Š we have got assurances that [the
      arms supplies] will continue." This gave New
      Delhi an opportunity to go public about the
      King's "roadmap" for restoring democracy and thus
      hold his feet to the fire. India squandered that
      chance and revealed utter confusion in its Nepal
      policy. This looks especially stark after the
      arrests of former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur
      Deuba and others.

      Whether or not India's weapons offer is
      conditional, and whether or not it's limited to
      releasing a consignment already in the pipeline,
      a shift has doubtless occurred in New Delhi's
      stance. It has been in the making for many weeks
      and became apparent at the United Nations
      Commission on Human Rights in Geneva last month,
      when India, with the United States and Britain,
      blocked a worthy and tough resolution
      reprimanding Nepal and appointing a Special
      Rapporteur. The "troika" offered the King an
      escape route under a mild procedure only asking
      for "technical cooperation" (Agenda Item 19).

      India seems to have diluted its principled stand
      against the Royal takeover for four reasons.
      First, there is the hyped-up fear in New Delhi
      that Nepali Maoists would infiltrate into India,
      aggravating the Naxalite problem. Second, the
      King pleaded that the Royal Nepal Army (RNA) is
      running out of the ammunition it badly needs to
      control the insurgents. Third, there was the
      fear-especially after the Chinese Foreign
      Minister's recent visit to Kathmandu-that China
      and Pakistan would occupy the space of influence
      vacated by India. And fourth, problems of mutual
      concern like water, environment and economic
      development would persist if India continued with
      its strong stand against the coup.

      Remarkably, none of these considerations has
      anything to do with Nepali realities: most of the
      3,000 prisoners taken under the coup continue to
      be detained; draconian operations remain in
      force, including Tora Bora-style helicopter
      attacks that kill more civilians than insurgents;
      the media remains stifled by censorship. On the
      very day Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met the
      King, the Royal government plucked out from a
      plane three Nepalis, including a former Supreme
      Court justice and the Bar Association president,
      who were leaving Kathmandu to attend a conference
      in New Delhi.

      Fears about the "Maoist factor" are, to put it
      mildly, exaggerated. The Naxalite movement is
      indigenous. Less than a fifth of the 175
      districts affected by it are anywhere near Nepal.
      Indian arms are likely to be used by the RNA to
      grossly repressive ends. Between February 17 and
      23, the RNA conducted a massacre in Kapilavastu
      district and then flogged the dead bodies in
      front of TV cameras in the presence of Nepali
      ministers.

      India should not worry much about China and
      Pakistan becoming Nepal's substitute
      arms-suppliers. Pakistan is playing a small game,
      and has no major influence in Kathmandu. Neither
      Pakistan, nor more importantly China, would like
      to lose the greater benefits of peace with India
      for tiny potential gains in Nepal. India and
      China could well have issued a joint statement
      appealing for Nepal's re-democratisation during
      Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Delhi. This chance
      was missed. Finally, issues of India-Nepal
      bilateral concern would best be resolved if there
      is a representative regime in Kathmandu.

      However, the weightiest reason why India should
      not dilute its stand against the King's
      usurpation of power is the Nepal situation
      itself. The coup has aggravated the crisis of
      governability and the monarchy has discredited
      itself. Nepal's political parties were thrown
      into disarray after the King unleashed a wave of
      repression. But now, they are recouping and
      planning to launch a focused agitation for the
      restitution of multi-party democracy. At a
      convention in Delhi on April 23, all major
      parties but one pledged themselves to a
      Republican order. As a minimum demand, they all
      agreed on a Constituent Assembly.

      The Nepali people have tasted democracy for 15
      years and won't be easily cowed down by the King.
      Nepal's politicians may not be South Asia's most
      competent, coherent or clean leaders. But as
      Nepali editor and commentator Kanak Mani Dixit
      says, "they do shine when compared to the
      monarchy's 30 years of misrule" until 1990.

      Since the RNA's Unified Command took over under
      the monarchy in November 2001, Nepal has
      accelerated its march towards state failure. All
      its institutions, including the judiciary, are in
      trouble. The state's writ doesn't run in 70
      percent of the territory. The law-courts don't
      function in the 19 hill districts. The number of
      police stations has decreased from 1,500 to 350.
      The healthcare system has collapsed. Growth has
      come to a standstill.

      Since the coup, the number of people being killed
      daily has risen almost three-fold. The number of
      "disappeared" persons is now 1,619, according to
      the Human Rights Commission. More than half of
      the budget of the country, 42 percent of whose
      people live below subsistence, is financed by
      external aid.

      The King's takeover had little to do with
      "safeguarding democracy" or even fighting the
      insurgency. Rather, it was a reaction to the
      decentralisation and redistribution of power that
      has occurred under Parliamentary democracy. Power
      has increasingly devolved to regional groups and
      ethnic minorities outside the Kathmandu Valley.
      As Dixit says, a "doubling of the rural roads
      network, spread of telecommunications, and the
      opening up of overseas employment" has made
      Nepalis more "confident in challenging
      authority." The Royal coup was a reaction to this
      momentum towards democratisation-a desperate
      attempt to roll it back. It was profoundly
      reactionary.

      The King has acquired a new instrument of
      coercion through the high-powered Commission on
      Corruption Control, which is being used to
      intimidate and harass political leaders,
      dissidents, even judges. Community radio, in
      which Nepal is a world leader, is being
      destroyed. King Gyanendra's record thoroughly
      falsifies the grandiose promises he has made,
      including that of restoring normalcy in 100 days.
      He has done his utmost to promote the interests
      of a narrow rapacious elite that thrives on the
      peoples' poverty. Just before leaving for
      Jakarta, he passed on his mantle to his dreaded
      son Paras in a special ceremony organised by the
      World Hindu Federation.

      Opposing the King does not amount to
      strengthening the Maoists. Indeed, it can
      encourage long-overdue reform, including land
      reform, and further decentralisation. The
      Maoists' methods can be criticised, but not their
      political platform-a representative, radicalised,
      democracy. Their violence fades into
      insignificance beside the excesses of the RNA,
      which is responsible for a majority of the 11,000
      people killed since 1996.

      India, with the US and Britain, did great harm to
      the cause of Nepali democracy and pluralism a
      year ago, when it sent its ambassador (present
      foreign secretary Shyam Saran) to persuade a
      multi-party "Anti-Regression" initiative to call
      off a major agitation for restoring multi-party
      rule. The agitation might have pre-empted the
      coup. It's India's moral and political
      responsibility to rectify this blunder.

      India must now revise its standard formulation
      emphasising the "twin pillars"- Constitutional
      monarchy, and multi-party democracy. She must
      squarely side with the popular forces fighting
      for democracy. The King is a despot. He has shown
      no intention of reforming his ways. Even if he
      lifts the emergency, he is unlikely to release
      prisoners, bring errant soldiers to book, restore
      media freedom, or install a broad-based
      multi-party government. The issue of lifting the
      emergency is a red herring. It's not good enough
      that Nepal return to the pre-February status quo.
      It must go further. India has been seen as a
      bulwark of support by the Nepali people. It must
      not let them down by legitimising the King's
      authoritarian rule.

      A larger issue arises. What role should India as
      an aspirant to Great Power status and a Security
      Council seat play? This cannot be separated from
      India's potential contribution to making the
      world, especially its neighbourhood, a better
      place. India must help South Asia become a more
      open, democratic, plural, just and equitable
      society at peace with itself.

      Leadership is not only about economic clout,
      military muscle or political power. It's about
      the purposes of power. These will be legitimate
      only if they promote universal principles and
      values. Taking one-fourth of humanity, which
      lives in South Asia, out of poverty and
      backwardness undoubtedly constitutes a universal
      good. India must contribute to it.

      The case for doing so in Nepal is all the greater
      considering India's special relationship with it,
      the 1,700 km-long open border, their citizens'
      right of residence and work in each other's
      countries, as well as historic ties of culture. A
      failing state and a deeply convulsed, troubled
      and disintegrating society in Nepal cannot be in
      India's interest. The King is the surest
      guarantee of disaster. He must be opposed-on
      principle and in practice.-end-

      _______


      [5]

      The Telegraph
      April 25, 2005 | Editorial

      SECULAR SPIRIT

      Other-worldly aspirations never went against
      worldly acquisitions - any well-to-do temple in
      India would stand witness to that. Managing the
      wealth of the houses of worship is a complicated
      job, and the Supreme Court does not think that it
      need be left to believers alone. This is
      suggested by its response to a petition
      challenging a Kerala high court ruling, brought
      by the president of the Guruvayoor temple
      protection committee and a Vishwa Hindu Parishad
      leader. The petition objects to Marxist ministers
      nominating members to the temple committees as
      Marxists are against religious practice. The
      Supreme Court has made two points in its
      judgment. It has said that to be a Hindu a person
      need not go to a temple or follow particular
      rituals. This statement makes an incisive
      distinction between Hinduism and Hindutva. Its
      second, and equally important, point is that
      management of a temple has nothing to do with
      religion, it is a secular task and should be
      conducted in the same manner as the
      administration of any other institution. That is,
      when the state has taken over the job of managing
      the worldly affairs of a temple, as in the case
      of Guruvayoor or of many of the temples in Tamil
      Nadu, the system of ministers nominating members
      to temple managing committees should not be
      affected by the faith or political ideology of
      the government in power.

      The Supreme Court's clarity is in contrast to the
      murky tussles concerning temple management that
      must lie behind the petition. Whatever might have
      been this petitioner's primary concern, it would
      seem that, generally, faith is hardly the core
      issue. The sphere of temple management offers an
      arena for tourneys for power and less
      metaphysical prizes, with the aura of sanctity as
      a useful screen behind which such profane
      struggles can continue undetected. The lurid tale
      of the Kanchi math is a good recent example.

      So while the Supreme Court has made the relevant
      clarifications, it is also necessary to take the
      question further. A secular state can be secular
      only by divorcing itself strictly from the
      functioning of the various religions of its
      people. Its "tolerance" need not be exhibited in
      the organizing and subsidizing of pilgrimages or
      ceremonies for all faiths. Neither should its
      leaders try to curry favour with the electorate
      by displaying their deep respect for the
      spiritual heads and holy men of different
      religions. But such a divorce is impossible if
      the state takes over the administration of places
      of worship. A government in a secular state does
      not provide the places of worship; there is no
      reason why it should look after them. As it is,
      the notion of secularism is a deeply troubled
      one. A secular state administering temples is
      likely to confuse perceptions further.

      ______


      [6]

      Hindustan Times
      May 3, 2005

      SANGH GOES ON AIR, INDIRECT TO HOME
      Hemendra Singh Bartwal
      New Delhi, May 2, 2005

      The Sangh Parivar soon won't be cribbing about
      its leaders being 'misquoted' by 'biased' news
      channels with the launch of 'Sudarshan TV'.

      Floated by a dedicated swayamsewak, the channel
      is expected to project the Sangh's Hindutva
      ideology and viewpoint. And though the Sangh is
      not going to be directly involved in the
      channel's operations or funding, it has certainly
      welcomed it.

      Incidentally, the resemblance of the soon-to-be
      launched channel's name to RSS chief KS Sudarshan
      is purely coincidental, or that's what its
      promoters would like everyone to believe.

      Whatever the case, Sudarshan - who bitterly
      complains about the "biased" Indian media
      dominated by what he calls "Macaulay-putras and
      Marx-putras" - is definitely looking forward to
      not to being 'misquoted' on the channel.

      Sources say the Rs 100-crore project has been
      granted clearance by the I&B Ministry.

      Coming at a time when the Sangh is under heavy
      attack from various quarters, Sudarshan TV is
      expected to come in handy when Sangh leaders want
      to counter what they call "distorted and
      malicious propaganda" with their own 'version' of
      news and views.

      "This will be an aggressive channel... Other
      channels make goats out of the youth while we
      will turn them into roaring tigers," declared its
      chairman Suresh Chavhanke, a Pune-based business
      magnate.

      Admitting he is an active swayamsewak, he denies
      Sudarshan TV will be directly influenced by the
      Sangh, saying that it is a commercial venture
      that will be run on professional lines. "It is a
      patriotic channel whose mission is
      nation-building. It will be guided by the
      objectives of dev, desh and dharma," he said.

      Chavhanke maintains that the channel's name
      refers to the mythical 'Sudarshan chakra' wielded
      by Lord Krishna in the Mahabharata. Besides, in
      Hindi, Sudarshan also means "good viewing", he
      adds.

      ______


      [7]

      Outlook Magazine
      Web | April 26, 2005

      MANIPUR- AN INCENDIARY SCRIPT
      The atrocious act of arson at the Manipur State
      Central Library where all of its more than
      1,45,000 books were destroyed on April 13, 2005
      is just the latest in the storm of revivalism
      blowing across the violence-wracked state.
      Pradip Phanjoubam

      A storm of revivalism is blowing across the
      valley districts of Manipur, spearheaded by an
      organisation that calls itself MEELAL (Meetei
      Erol Eyek Loinshillon Apunba Lup, or the United
      Forum for Safeguarding Manipuri Script and
      Language), and has culminated in the atrocious
      act of arson at the Manipur State Central Library
      where all of its more than 1,45,000 books were
      destroyed on April 13, 2005.

      MEELAL initiated its violent campaign to
      'immediately' have the Bengali script replaced by
      the indigenous Meitei Mayek in written Manipuri,
      and to have all school text books written in this
      script from the current academic session.
      Presently, and for almost the last 300 years, the
      Bengali script has been the medium of written
      Manipuri. MEELAL activists have been going about
      visiting schools, snatching textbooks written in
      Bengali and burning them for almost two months
      now, with the Okram Ibobi led Congress government
      merely 'waiting and watching' - now very much its
      trade mark policy for 'tackling' crises - in the
      hope that the storm will eventually spend itself
      and pass.

      Regardless of numerous appeals from the
      government and a good section of the vocal
      public, MEELAL intensified its campaign and added
      an economic blockade of the state, over and above
      its textbook burning spree. Many freight trucks
      that entered Imphal against the blockade call
      ended up in ashes, in the heart of capital, in
      full public view and under the very nose of the
      government.

      At one stage, MEELAL even issued a diktat that
      all vernacular dailies should begin using Meitei
      Mayek by March 1. The newspapers initially
      refused to do so, provoking MEELAL's ire, with
      activists raiding newspaper distribution centres
      and intimidating hawkers, starting March 11, till
      the newspapers complied with their diktat. In the
      initial sweep, even local English dailies were
      not spared. In protest, newspapers in the state
      stopped publication for three days and
      journalists staged a sit-in protest against the
      intrusion on their freedom, until a settlement
      was negotiated under which MEELAL was to allow
      the distribution of newspapers if the vernacular
      newspapers reserved some space on the front page
      for news written in Meitei Mayek.

      The government continued its watching game. All
      except one daily complied with the agreement, but
      many were extremely compliant and even went the
      whole hog in using the entire front page for news
      written in the Meitei Mayek. However, these
      enthusiasts retracted their extreme gesture of
      support after they found no takers among their
      readers, and their circulations dropped.

      ______


      [8]

      The Hindu, May 4, 2005

      ART CAN'T BE SUPRESSED BY FUNDAMENTALISTS: PUNJAB ARTISTES

      Chandigarh, May 4 (PTI): Expressing concern that
      a handful of "fundamentalists" in the name of
      religion were out to harass them in a bid to curb
      their freedom of expression, theatre and
      television artistes drawn from various parts of
      Punjab and Chandigarh today resolved that they
      will keep highlighting the issues plaguing
      society despite all odds.

      "Nobody can gag our voice. If there are wrongs
      happening in our society we can't shut our eyes
      and look other way. It is our duty to convey to
      the people what is right by staging plays,
      through satire etc," veteran theatre artist from
      Punjab Gursharan Singh said during a press
      conference here. Theatre personality from
      Chandigarh G S Channi said, "No religion imposes
      any kind of censorship and it is only a handful
      of people who exploit religion for their vested
      interests."

      Chandigarh Sangeet Natak Akademi's chairman Kamal
      Tiwari said if an artist's right to highlight the
      social issues was snatched in the name of
      "religion or by fundamentalist elements then it
      will be very unfortunate".

      The artistes had gathered here to express their
      solidarity with famous satirist Jaspal Bhatti,
      who is facing a Court case here over one of his
      street performances in Chandigarh last year.

      Another artist Davinder Daman said that even
      first Sikh Guru, Nanak Dev and Saint Kabir used
      to "encourage people to think on scientific lines
      and shun rituals which did not have any
      scientific backing".

      Theatre and Film Artistes Association President
      Shavinder Mahal urged the artistes to unite on
      one platform. "We will unitedly fight against the
      individuals or organisations who will try to
      divide the artistes' unity and our audiences on
      communal lines," he said.


      ______


      [9]

      The Telegraph - May 05, 2005

      SPACE SCIENCE IN THE LORD'S HANDS

      G.S. Radhakrishna

      Hyderabad, May 4: If the rocket crashes tomorrow, blame Lord Balaji.

      Indian space scientists placed miniature replicas
      of the rocket that is set to blast off tomorrow
      morning from the Sriharikota spaceport and the
      two satellites it would carry at a shrine to the
      god for his blessings.

      The replicas were taken to the sanctum sanctorum
      of the reigning deity of the Tirupati Tirumala
      Dewasthanam and ordained as priests chanted Vedic
      hymns.

      Authorities of the temple in Tirupati in Andhra
      Pradesh, where the spaceport is located,
      confirmed that 15 scientists from the Indian
      Space Research Organisation, led by its chief, Dr
      G. Madhavan Nair, came to the town yesterday to
      seek the deity's blessings.

      A temple spokesman quoted Nair as saying: "I am
      in Tirupati to offer prayers for the success of
      the launch."

      "I cannot believe they actually did this," said
      Prof. Ajay Sood, head of physical sciences at the
      Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.

      "For an individual, going to a temple may be an
      issue of faith, but to mix the space programme
      with religion is very wrong," said Prof. Kasturi
      Lal Chopra, president of India's Society for
      Scientific Values and former director of the
      Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur.

      Tomorrow's launch is aimed at putting every
      Indian household on the map. One of the
      satellites, the 1.5-tonne CARTOSAT-1, mounted
      with two cameras for "stereographic" imaging,
      carries with it the ambitions of India's space
      programme.

      Once lodged into orbit 618 km above earth, the
      satellite can read images smaller than a motorcar
      by identifying features down to 2.5 metres across.

      The satellite will help urban and rural planning,
      land and water management, relief operations and
      environmental assessments.

      CARTOSAT-1, which represents the highest payload
      carried so far by a polar satellite launch
      vehicle, will also carry a 42.5-kg HAMSAT, a
      micro-satellite that provides amateur radio
      services.

      The scientists spent almost half an hour in the
      sanctum sanctorum and later took part in an
      elaborate ritual for another hour when priests
      showered ashirvachanam (blessings) of the deity
      on them.

      "Some of the scientists even put currency notes
      in the temple hundi (container) for the success
      of the launch," said the temple spokesman.
      Sources said the prayers followed astrological
      predictions that the launch could be delayed.

      This is not the first time space scientists have
      turned to god before an expedition into the
      distant heavens. Former Isro chief K.
      Kasturirangan, too, had invoked divine blessings
      before a launch.

      "This practice is in vogue since the days of
      Kasturirangan," said D. Narayana Rao, director of
      the MSP radar station at Tirupati who had
      organised the temple trip.

      Tomorrow's launch is scheduled for 10.19 am when
      the PSLV C-6 (picture on right) will take off
      from the newly-built second launch pad, 1.5 km
      south of the first launch pad in Sriharikota.

      President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who has a
      scientific background, inaugurated the second
      launch pad today.

      ______


      [10] [Announcements: ]


      CONFERENCE ON "POLITICAL HINDUISM"

      The Center for the Study of Religion, with additional
      funding from the Asia Institute and the Center for
      Modern and Contemporary Studies, and the assistance of
      the Department of History and the Colloquium on South
      Asian History and Cultural Studies, presents

      a major conference on "Political Hinduism" at the UCLA
      Campus, 6-7 May 2005.

      Venue: Haines 118 [Central Quad], 9- 6 PM both days
      (Friday, May 6 and Saturday, May 7). The conference
      is free and open to the public.
      Parking is $7 and available at Lots 2 and 3.

      Conference Director: Vinay Lal, Department of
      History, UCLA [vlal@...]

      Brief Description:
      The political ascendancy of the Hindu right in India
      since the mid-1980s has been a subject of much
      scholarly inquiry. This conference is not intended
      to cover terrain that has already been well explored,
      but rather it seeks to open new lines of inquiry and
      bring cultural anthropologists, scholars of Hinduism,
      media and cultural studies practitioners, historians,
      and scholars of Indian culture more broadly into
      conversation with each other. The distinguished
      scholars who will be presenting papers at this
      conference will pose different kinds of questions,
      such as: What is the relationship between Hindu
      militancy and Hindutva to Hinduism on the ground?
      Have Hindu modes of worship and religious practices
      witnessed any dramatic changes? We have all heard
      much about 'Vedic science', but is the Hindi film also
      a barometer of these changes, and not only in the most
      obvious ways (increasing references to
      terrorism in Pakistan, for instance)? Again, we have
      heard (correctly or otherwise) a good deal about the
      elevation of the Ramacaritmanas into an allegedly
      hegemonic text under the aegis of Hindutva, but can we
      entertain broader considerations about how certain
      texts, religious practices, deities, and 'margas' have
      prospered while others have declined, been demoted,
      or have suffered from neglect? is it only the upper
      castes which have mobilized in the name of Hindutva,
      or have the lower castes done so as well? Can there
      be 'political Hinduism' that is something other than
      Hindutva?

      PROGRAM: ALL events will be held in HAINES 118

      Friday, May 6

      9 - 9:30 AM The Politics of Hinduism: Introduction
      to the Conference
      Vinay Lal (History, UCLA)

      9:30 - 11 AM Tilak's Arctic Home Theory: Religion,
      Politics, and the Colonial Context
      Madhav Deshpande (Sanskrit and Linguistics, University
      of Michigan-Ann Arbor)

      11:15 - 12:45 AM Vande Mataram: the Genesis and Power
      of a Song
      Julius Lipner (Divinity, Cambridge University, UK)

      12:45 - 2:15 PM LUNCH

      2:15- 3:45 AM Religious Categories, Translation and
      Everyday Life
      Veena Das (Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University)

      4 - 5:30 PM C. Rajagopalachari and the Cultural Work
      of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
      Paula Richman (Religion, Oberlin College)


      Saturday, May 7

      9 - 10:30 AM Making Hinduism Global: New
      Guru-Oriented Religious Movement as Confluent with or
      Counter to Hindutva?
      Joanne Waghorne (Religion, Syracuse University)

      10:30 - noon Nationalist Nostalgias, Diasporic
      Desires: Identity and Tradition in an Era of
      Transnational Media
      Purnima Mankekar (Cultural and Social Anthropology,
      Stanford)

      Noon - 1:15 PM LUNCH

      1:15 - 2:45 PM Ramdev and Ravidas: How Hinduism
      gets Political for Dalits
      Chris Pinney (Anthropology & Visual Culture,
      University College London)

      2:45 - 4:15 PM Getting a Life: The "Hanumayana" as
      Emerging Epic
      Philip Lutgendorf (Hindi and Indian Studies,
      University of Iowa)

      4:30 - 6 PM Patriotism and the Hindi Film
      Ron Inden (History, and South Asian Languages &
      Civilizations, University of Chicago)


      _/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/

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