South Asia Citizens Wire | 2 August, 2005
 Becoming in Diaspora (Angana Chatterji)
- The Hasba network (Asma Jahangir)
- The Hasba Bill and what it portends (M B Naqvi)
- Taliban-Style Law, Another Blow for Liberals (Zofeen Ebrahim)
 Indo-US Defence Accord: Sanctifying Atomic Apartheid (Praful Bidwai)
Editorial, SAMAR Issue 19
BECOMING IN DIASPORA
Are we Rushdie's "bastard children" of history, hybridity, and
violence, from which transformation and tomorrows can generate?
By Angana Chatterji
At the junction of East-West and South-North, modern and postmodern
citizenship, past and future collide in diaspora. In the United
States, for those of and from India, those newly arrived, and those
who have made this new and strange land theirs, dreams carry the
promise and poison of history. In this nation become Empire, built on
theft of Native American lands, genocide, slavery and immigration,
discourses of freedom link capital with alienated labor, and memory
with assimilation. This becoming is violent, its taxonomies are
gendered and racialized, hierarchal in ways that cheerfully
collaborate with the patriarchal cultures of "home."
Such becoming produces complex, often-convenient, politics and
morality that vitiate against a self-reflexive gaze. Caste, religion,
gender, ethnicity still nuance the markers of association and
segregation, as we are reshaped at the intersections of the local,
governmental and transnational. Our experiences of race and racism
allow a scripting of injustice but not necessarily reflection on our
interactions with privilege and power mediated by class, gender,
nation, sexuality, state and statelessness. We are perhaps more
invested in claiming affinity with the margins of history than
challenging the landscape of inequities that affect and implicate us
differently. In between the coming-from and going-to, the interstices
of "non-resident Indian/resident alien," "American Born Indian," the
pan-ethnic "Asian-American," many are on a fast track to acquiring
the brown version of "white." The democratizing power of capital and
the forgetting necessitated by New World assimilation furthers our
distance from each other, as, in private life, in increasing
isolation, we seek our re-birth. Alienation is the superglue that
holds us, as familial and social ties are reconstituted, under duress
or in liberation, through surrogate kinships.
British imperialism, and internal discriminations of caste, religion,
gender and class have compelled desire, chosen exiles and forced
evictions, in colonial and postcolonial times, from India to the
Caribbean, the Middle East, to Malaysia, Mauritius, Trinidad, Guyana,
South Africa, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Europe, Australia, and the Americas.
Punjabis, primarily Sikhs, were among the first within the Indian
diaspora to arrive on the West Coast about a hundred years ago, to
work the fields of California and lumber mills of Washington. In
1907, Asian-Indians were targeted in the Bellingham race riot. In
1913, the Hindustan Gadar (revolutionary) Party was formed in San
Francisco. The Immigration Act of 1917 in effect banned Asians from
the United States and naturalized citizenship was conferred on
"whites" exclusively. People from India attempted to identify
themselves as Aryan, Indo-Aryan, bearing testimony to ethnocentrism.
Immigrant groups in the United States have not formed "black" as a
strategic political identity in opposition to white racism (contrary
to Britain where the framing of black identity is not to appropriate
"blackness" but to create alliance), and attempt to establish
themselves as "white/Caucasian," "almost-white," seeking to pass
rather than construct solidarities against a racist aristocracy.
Subcontinental politics resonates on the cricket fields and within
diasporic political movements, some emancipatory, some malicious.
Among the latter is Hindu nationalism. Animosities travel the oceans.
Even here, in other worlds, Muslims and Hindus, Hindus and Sikhs,
feminists and patriarchs, first and third generations frequently do
not speak with each other, do not know each other, and often mistrust
each other. After all, the memories of place and remembrances of
history cannot be reconciled in displacement, they demand
confrontation and engagement, which, when denied, remain weapons that
can wound. Alliance and association are predicated on the
politicization of identity. Inconsistencies thrive. In a moment of
celebration as Rumi, a second generation Indo-American lesbian, and
Yolanda, her African-American partner, and Irfan, their Pakistani
friend, stroll Gay Pride in the Castro in San Francisco, in
Sunnyvale, the Hindu temple hosts a fundraiser for Ekal Vidyalayas,
schools that indoctrinate adivasis (tribals) into Hinduism. As we
debate the idea of an independent Kashmir, or discuss the genocide in
Gujarat of 2002 at an university event, Hindu nationalists mobilize
to honor Narendra Modi, its architect.
In the United States, the fervor and funding of long distance
Hindutva nationalism is intense. In dominant narrative, Hindu =
India, Hindutva = Patriotism. Hindu extremist groups dedicated to
promoting a Hindu theocracy in India advocate Hindu "Tatva" or
principles, Nazi inspired. There is little space from which to combat
its misogynist and strident insistence. Supporters have registered
counterparts of major Sangh Parivar (Hindu nationalist) organizations
in the United States, of varied denominations. Sangh: Overseas
Friends of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which unlike the Congress, has
widespread backing in the United States, Vishwa Hindu
Parishad-America; Sangh affiliated: India Development Relief Fund,
Hindu University of America; Sangh endorsing: Indian American Forum
for Political Education.
Deriving consent from Hindu cultural dominance in India, Hindutva
hierarchicalizes difference, making Hinduism canonical and
monolithic, posing as indigenous to nation keeping. Discourses of
sexualized and structural violence are disguised in history/fiction
of retributive justice. Culture is fixed, made stable. Commoditized,
made artifact. Long-distance, its myths produce comfort. The
arrogance of "First World" privilege and disconnection from what is
meaningful compounds the intensity and power of becoming in this new
world, amidst vast differences, contradictions, forces of
homogenization. The greater the alienation, the more intense is
nostalgia, and the reach for fiction, of impossible returns, as myths
originate of an India that never was or should be, nurturing dreams
where the Hindu prabashi (ex-patriot) can return to purge the
motherland from impurities, restore honor, and claim victory. Those
affiliated with Hindutva in the United States fashion an India of
their imagination. Dangerous stories circulate: Muslims as polygamous
terrorists whose deliberate identification and massacre in Gujarat is
justifiable, even necessary; the demolition of the Babri Masjid as
defensible expression of cultural justice; Christian conversions as
profuse, threatening the majority status of Hindus in India; Hindu
nationalism as emblematic of democracy. In the chasm of proxy
nationalism, support for a Hindu India expresses pride in the glory
of its past toward realizing its future. To dissent, as so many do,
the persistence of structural inequities, of the politics of caste
and cows in the present, is only to bear incriminating evidence of
one's own bastardization, loss of purity, lack of faith and pride in
"Indianness." What is this Indianness? Indic culture, chaste,
beautiful, Hindu, despoiled by conquest and colonization?
The "nation" survives cross-nation, and with it, a toxic and hyper
nationalism. What are its effects? On the bodies of women? On the
imaginations of children? There are about 1.67 million
"Asian-Indians" and 2 million non-resident Indians in the United
States today. Non-resident Indians record the highest per capita
income among immigrant groups and are a part of the intellectual and
business elite, even as, in the last decade, poverty among
Indo-Americans has increased from 2 to 10 percent, most impacting
single mothers and the elderly. Sexual and physical violence against
women continues across class lines, and is strengthened as women fear
reprisal under immigration laws. In April 2002, the Journal of the
American Medical Women's Association cited that of 160 South Asian
women questioned in the Boston area in 1998, forty percent reported
victimization by "male-perpetrated intimate partner violence."
Are we the "bastard children" (Rushdie) of history, hybridity, and
violence, from which transformation and tomorrows can generate? What
profusion of action and activism are necessary? What projects in
recompense of history? Youth Solidarity Summer programs engage in
anti-oppression work, Association for India's Development in
livelihood and education. The Campaign To Stop Funding Hate
formulates allied struggles to disrupt the predominance of the Hindu
Right in diaspora. Faith and inter-faith organizations rethink
religion for the present. Trikone, Saheli, Narika, Manavi inform
conversations on gender, rights, and citizenship. The Forum of
Inquilabi Leftists create openings for vibrant politicization,
building and intervening upon family, community, cultural
arrangements, education, in ways that support change and confront
history. Prolific commitments and contributions abound-"Third World"
feminisms, Indian-English, labor organizing, Nobel prizes, Silicon
Valley successes. What incongruities proliferate? As Students for
Bhopal organize against DOW; as the Coalition Against Genocide
challenges Narendra Modi's visit to the United States; as feminists
of/from South Asia protest Lakireddy Bali Reddy and Vijay Kumar
Lakireddy and the trafficking of women for profit through bondage,
immigrant servants cower in the laundry rooms of homes in suburban
Albany; male youth are made bi-polar in the confines of patrilineage;
matrimonial ads match upper-caste males with "fair" virgins as women
seek to violate normalizing gendered roles. Where to, from here?
Angana Chatterji is associate professor of Anthropology at California
Institute of Integral Studies.
July 13, 2005
THE HASBA NETWORK
by Asma Jahangir
If the Act is passed, the Hasba force will act as chief prosecutor
and enjoy wide powers, without any accountability. They will punish,
admonish, watch, monitor, and even persecute
Pakistan's rulers are extremely touchy about the image of the
country. If only they were this focused on improving their governance
skills. Forcibly stopping Mukhtar Mai from proceeding abroad and
using brutal force against journalists and human rights activists is
not likely to give them the progressive image they aspire for.
On one hand, the government wants to present a soft face - at least
to the world outside - but on the other, they have been caught
napping while the Hasba Act issue has once again raised its head in
the Frontier. Is it because the military government has lost its
effectiveness? Or are there indeed parallel forces at play? Or is it
simply to draw the attention of the West to the "evil" that they
alone can counter?
In all eventualities, the sad conclusion is that Pakistan is rapidly
moving towards militancy of all sorts and forms. The Hasba force will
only add its own weight to the falling structures of the state.
The sponsors of the Hasba Bill have defended it on several grounds
and assured the public that it will not be as menacing as it appears.
Similarly did the Taliban, in Afghanistan, justify their Ministry of
Vice and Virtue. The outcome was oppressive.
In Nigeria, 12 northern states have Hasba set-ups and continue to
justify them on religious grounds. Human rights organisations report
that Hasba members deliver rough justice. They have been responsible
for flogging and beating up people for being "un-Islamic". They have
gone from house to house to ensure that people are not indulging in
"un-Islamic" behaviour. Men and women have been prohibited from
travelling together. According to reports published by Human Rights
Watch, Hasba forces have stopped vehicles carrying men and women and
forced the latter to disembark. Senior officials of the federal
government describe them as "parasites" that are impossible to shake
We can easily understand this. Haven't we also had a taste of laws
based on religion? And who knows better than us that once a
structure, institution, or law has been made in the name of Islam,
even the most "progressive" of rulers has not been able to undo it?
The Hasba Bill is as hypocritical as it is tyrannical. It vows to
protect religious minorities and the rights of women in the face of
traditional practices like honour killings. The mohtasib will ensure
that all women get their Islamic share of inheritance. Not long ago,
sponsors and authors of the Hasba Act had opposed amendments (weak as
they were) in the Pakistan Penal Code that might have brought the
perpetrators of honour killings to justice.
Many of them have been the complainants in a number of blasphemy
cases filed against religious minorities. They have threatened and
even killed those accused of blasphemy. To this day, they have never
raised a finger against those who usurp women's right to inheritance.
No law has been proposed that protects either women or children from
social and economic isolation. After having exploited children from
marginalised sections of the society in madrassas and used them to
carry out jihad, the Hasba group is now promising to eradicate child
labour. Such double talk will not fool anyone. It is a deliberate
provocation for all democratic forces.
The mullahs have spared the armed forces from this inquisition. The
Bill prohibits the Hasba network from snooping around the business of
the armed forces. If their Islam is good for the country, surely it
will also serve the armed forces. But the mullahs know their
limitations. Their wrath, anger, and venom is reserved for the
vulnerable. Women, children, and religious minorities are easy
victims. In fact, these sections of society have already been victims
of informal Hasba gangs.
A woman activist and her teenage daughter were killed in the Frontier
simply because the mother was working for women's empowerment. The
government of Pakistan neither denounced the act nor take any
measures to protect women activists.
Instead, human rights activists are visited daily by intelligence
agencies. They are grilled about their work, and their families are
harassed. An admission by an NGO that it works for women rights is
treated like a confession of guilt.
The vigilante groups of the MMA already enjoy a free hand. They turn
women away from university campuses for not covering their heads or
other "immoral" behaviour. These vigilantes have even taken to
visiting the "food street" in Lahore to check if "morality" is being
observed. When these people threaten to beat up women athletes or
those running in mixed-marathons, they are appeased.
Apart from rhetoric, which is only meant for the outside world, the
government has taken no measures, adopted no policy, or given any
indication that the orthodoxy will not be allowed to take law into
their own hands.
The enforcement of Hasba law in the Frontier will further strengthen
these people. The Hasba force will be institutionalised. They will
cover the province through a network of mullahs ready to pounce on
their prey. The Hasba Bill gives the provincial, district and tehsil
mohtasibs wide powers and open-ended authority to enforce virtue and
"whip" out evil. They can interfere with the media, education,
bureaucracy, and in family matters. The Bill allows them to ensure
that parents are respected, people are not extravagant, and beggary
is not practised. All public places can be inspected to ensure that
"true" Islam is being practised.
Authors of the Bill have been clever. The mohatsibs will have a
council, which will include lawyers, civil servants, and SHOs of
police stations, allowing them to pull strings. This will boost their
ability to do mischief.
The Hasba mohtasib will have the freedom to design procedures. A
police force will assist him in carrying out investigation,
reconciliation, and administrating punishments. Any criticism of the
Hasba force will be treated as contempt of court. No court can
prohibit the Hasba force from carrying out any act. Superior courts
cannot pass interim orders against their workings. The authority of
the Hasba mohtasib cannot be challenged in any court and only the
chief minister can hear an appeal against his recommendations.
In short, if the Act is passed, the Hasba force will act as chief
prosecutor of the province and enjoy wide powers, without any
accountability. It will punish, admonish, watch, monitor, and even
persecute. It will be accountable only to the chief minister.
The Act makes an advanced degree from a madrassa a mandatory
requirement for the Hasba mohtasib. They are expected to supervise
Islamic "akhlaq" and "adab". This is no different from any past
political bid to usurp all power in the name of Islam. Once the Hasba
Bill is passed in the Frontier, other provinces will not lag behind
o o o
The News International
July 20, 2005
THE HASBA BILL AND WHAT IT PORTENDS
M B Naqvi
The Hasba Bill illustrates two causally-related problems of this
country. First there is a wide sway of a certain interpretations of
Islam that involve political activism. The second concerns the power
of religious leaders and their parties that made an unexpectedly a
good showing in the 2002 polls. I will not comment on whether or not,
or to what extent, the military's intelligence agencies helped the
MMA. All I can say is that virtually no one, outside the charmed
circle of power, thinks that the mullahs captured two provinces and
got hold of a third of the National Assembly simply by virtue of
their popularity. Not unexpectedly, their political sights have been
rising ever since. What is for certain is that the MMA's current rise
is a political victory for a rather new interpretation of Islam.
While one does not know why the Army has been supporting the MMA so
much, as most say, the latter is certainly playing an astute game. It
has been in an unavowed alliance with Musharraf, and probably also
the Army, but it projects itself as an opposition party to gain
credibility. What it bodes for the future is to be assessed because
the military-mullah alliance is in complete working order.
Amongst the MMA's achievements, what stands out is its astute move of
getting the Hasba Bill passed through the Provincial Assembly. This
poses a dilemma for the Musharraf regime: it is damned if it takes
strong action against the MMA ministry. In that case, the MMA will
claim that it is a victim of non-Islamic forces that are in power.
Its leaders will call for popular support. The expectation is they
will get a lot of votes in the local government elections next month
as well as position themselves for a better showing in the 2007
general election. The regime would also be damned if it does not take
any strong action against MMA government. Musharraf's supporters
abroad will blame him and may withhold some of their cooperation and
acceptance for not having taken any firm action. Meantime, the MMA
will claim victory and can be expected to go from strength to
strength. That too will not please the friends of the regime, both at
home and abroad. There is little doubt that the MMA will project
itself as a doughty fighter for Islam. More importantly many people
are likely to believe this.
The Musharraf regime is skating on thin ice. Look at some of recent
developments: (i) the US already views Islamabad's cooperation over
Taliban to be partial. True, Pakistan does what America tells it to
do without reservations. But, on its own part, it does not move
strongly against the Taliban. The Taliban have regrouped in Pakistan
and seem to have a whole network of support. (ii) The Indians are
threatening to delay the peace process because they say the
infiltration of terrorists in the Indian-controlled Kashmir has not
stopped completely; they claim the infrastructure that trains and
dispatches Jihadis is still intact. (iii) The London bombers have
turned out to be Britons of Pakistani origin, some of whom came
recently to Pakistan and seem to have been indoctrinated and trained
here; the British experts seem to think that their wanted mastermind
might be either in Pakistan, or have a strong Pakistani connection.
(iv) India has just claimed that the six terrorists who stormed
Ayodhya's makeshift temple were Pakistanis and were in all likelihood
members of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba. That also seems to point to a network
of Pakistani terror-promoting organisations. (v) Everyone knows of
the relationship between President Pervez Musharraf and those who are
in fact the Taliban's godfathers. (vi) A Pakistani news magazine has
given a lowdown on terrorist camps and on what is being described as
an infrastructure for promoting terror.
Drawing conclusions from these facts is not difficult. It is true
Pakistan is teaming with Islamists who sympathise with the likes of
the Taliban, Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda and others of the kind. There
is a definite advance in these ideas' acceptability in recent years
as a result of what the US and the UK are doing in Middle East. There
are also genuine Jihadist-producing organisations, most of which are
grounded in a Deobandi school type orthodoxy, enumerated in the
magazine article mentioned above. Too many now preach Jihad against a
sinful West. That is the real problem: implications need to be seen
of the fact that Pakistan is one of the places where vague ideas of
an international Islamic revolution were first floated.
Originally, the authentic Sunni Hanafi orthodoxy, represented by the
Deoband school, produced an organisation in pre-independence India
that believed that its goal was liberation from Imperialism; Islam
was compatible with secular Indian nationalism; and the more noted
Ulema of Deoband openly stood for the victory of secular Indian
nationalism that was expected to be realised in a democratic India.
Today, the Ulema of the same School in Pakistan have new political
ambitions of ruling their country alone. They have used various front
organisations, most of which have their own militias. They find no
difficulty in sympathising with the beliefs that the Taliban had
displayed in action in Afghanistan. Indeed, the actions of the
Taliban in Afghanistan were fully approved by most religious leaders
of Pakistan belonging to the Deobandi school as well as the
The point is that the bulk of opinion in Pakistan seems to favour
this particular interpretation of Islam. For the first time in
history a large section of the Ulema has demanded a uniquely Islamic
state that would enforce what the Hasba Bill seeks to achieve. The
model is that of the Medieval Caliphate; a leader who by definition
would be the top religious leader, autocratic ruler and top economic
decision maker. His would also be the ultimate voice over matters of
One makes the point that this interpretation of Islam is new. Before
the 20th Century, Islam was seen as being complete everywhere,
including historical India. No one needed any uniquely Islamic kind
of statecraft that is supposedly implicit in the Quran and Sunnah.
All kinds of kingdoms have existed in the Muslim world and they were
good, bad and indifferent. But they were all, more importantly,
accepted as being fully compatible with Islam. Ideas of democracy had
not been heard of in Muslim countries; even today democracy is a
foreign import that many Muslim leaders do not agree with.
As the Hasba Bill shows, it is obvious that this proposed uniquely
Islamic state would look to establish an autocracy on a grand scale
that would take away all the fundamental human rights enunciated in
the Pakistan Constitution and the UN Human Rights Charters. Also,
they would do as Medieval Caliphs of the past did: pass whimsical
orders dictated by political expediency. That has been happening
throughout Islamic history. Muslim leaders, wherever they were
ruling, were ruling as absolutist monarchs, and in practice were
secular without actually being democratic. This shows that the idea
of re-establishing the Taliban-like Caliphate is retrograde. The
peoplewill not accept a Pakistani version of Mullah Omar.
The fact of the matter is that in the twenty-first century,
Pakistanis want all the human rights that have been promulgated in
the UN Human Rights Charters or in the Constitution of Pakistan
today. Aware Pakistanis will continue to oppose the pseudo
religiosity of scheming politicians. The aware citizenry may be a
minority today, but it includes a vast majority of social elites and
the intellectual community, which are also known as the opinion
makers. It is the business of this community to ensure that the
darkness of medievalism does not descend on Pakistan.
o o o
Inter Press Service
July 20, 2005
TALIBAN-STYLE LAW, ANOTHER BLOW FOR LIBERALS
KARACHI, Jul 20 (IPS) - Liberal-minded people in this country are
concerned at the 'Hasba Bill' passed in the North West Frontier
Province (NWFP) assembly that seeks to severely restrict women's
rights and institute a 'moral police' in the territory that borders
What is particularly worrisome is that the Bill, described variously
by liberals as 'talibanisation' and the 'martial law of the mullahs'
gained an overwhelming 68 votes to 34 in the NWFP assembly that is
dominated by the ruling, Islamist, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA)
party, when put to vote on Jul 15.
However, the Bill - that provides for the appointment of a 'mohtasib'
or ombudsman whose staff will police implementation of Islamic values
and codes - remains invalid until signed by the President Pervez
The federal government, for its part, has challenged the Bill and
instructed the Attorney General of Pakistan to seek the opinion of
the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Hasba Law in
general and specifically on whether it violates fundamental rights
guaranteed under the constitution.
The other silver lining is that NWFP governor Khalilur Rehman has
opposed it openly saying that he will not allow the province to be
Even the Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao has said that
''laws based on hate will not be allowed to be enacted.''
A battle of words has begun with Secretary General of the
Jammat-Ulema- Islam (JUI) party, Maulana Fazlur Rehman warning that
Musharraf's decision to seek a reference would create problems for
The MMA has threatened to initiate countrywide protests if hurdles
are put in the way of the Bill's implementation. The MMA president
and Jamaat- e-Islami (JI) leader Qazi Hussain Ahmed has accused
''foreign-funded NGOs'' of resorting to propaganda opposing the Bill.
A five-member Supreme Court bench will commence hearings on the
presidential reference in Islamabad on Jul 25.
Meanwhile, the Bill, reminiscent of all that the former Taliban
rulers of neighbouring Afghanistan upheld, has been severely
criticised by human rights groups, women organisations and political
parties, except of course the MMA and its alliance of religious
If passed into law, say its opponents, matters can only worsen a
climate that is already hostile for women, minorities and non-
governmental organizations (NGOs).
Women in Pakistan are already at the receiving end of laws like the
Hudood Ordinance while a law against blasphemy has been used to
attack members of religious minorities
According to Akram Khan Durrani, Chief Minister of NWFP, he and his
associates have a mandate to Islamise governance and society after
the 2002 electoral victory of his MMA party.
Various Taliban-style activites have begun in the province such as
the defacing of billboards with pictures of women on them, banning
music on public transport, theatre, barring male journalists from
covering women's sporting events, and a ban on men coaching female
Reacting to the Bill, Asma Jehangir, chairperson of the Human Rights
Commission of Pakistan, said she feared NGOs would now become the
targets of fundamentalists. Already workers with voluntary
organisations have been attacked and even shot at.
In Muslim writings Hasba (or hisba) refers to an inspectorate whose
business it was to see that conduct in the public realm conformed to
Terming it a ''full frontal attack on Pakistan'', Sherry Rehman,
chair of Central Policy Planning in the Pakistan People's Party (PPP)
said the Bill was a ''concerted political confrontation by orthodox
forces to challenge the essence of the Pakistani state.''
Politics apart, the most disquieting aspect of the bill, for most
concerned citizens, is the appointment of a mohtasib, an ombudsman,
who will have complete authority to issue directives to ''reform
society in accordance with the teachings of Islam'' through his
''The mohtasib is more powerful than even the judiciary,'' says
Nighat Kamdar of AWARD, an NGO working with women on HIV/AIDS, in
Peshawar. Kamdar said the legislation would serve to make women
According to the text of the Hasba Bill the mohtasib will also be
above law as any action taken ''in good faith and in public
interest'' by him cannot be challenged.
He will have the authority to make enquiries into alleged
maladministration against any government office, his staff can get
any documents from any government office if the mohtasib deems it
necessary to watch and protect Islamic values and etiquettes and also
watch the media.
However, very conveniently, he will not ''interfere in any matter''
that ''relates to or is connected with the defence of Pakistan or any
part thereof, the Military, Naval and Air Forces of Pakistan or the
matters covered by laws relating to these forces''.
On this Rehman said: ''About 27 special powers have been given to the
mohtasib in order to regulate the powers and lives of citizens that
would violate directly the right of the individual. If the MMA was so
committed to its version of intolerant Islam it would have
uniformally enforced it on the military as well''.
''Since the Hasba is clearly a political move to gain control over
the lives and minds of people, and to divert attention from real
issues, its backers have not even attempted to bring it up at the
Centre where it will be challenged and soundly defeated,'' said
In Rehman's view, given such an arrangement, Islamist rightists would
''gain ascendancy, and enforce an intolerant version of Islam where
pious statements would mask a naked greed for power and arbitrary
interference in the fundamental human rights of the individual and
justice system of the state.''
''The creation of a Hasba police is not about enforcing Islam, as
Pakistan is not just home to Sunnis, but Shias as well as minorities.
It is about assuming wide-ranging, controversial powers that are
directly in contradiction not only with the spirit of Islam but also
the practice of democracy as well as fundamental human rights
enshrined in the Constitution,'' she added.
According to the bill, the policing force will ensure observance of
Islamic values like decorum at prayer times, check indecent behaviour
(according to their own definition) at public places, discourage
entertainment and business at the time of Friday prayers around
mosques and remove causes of dereliction in performance of prayers.
Critics say the force is designed on the lines of the Taliban's 'Vice
and Virtue force' or even the 'muttawa' in Saudi Arabia.
To be fair, the bill also seeks to curb the killing of women in the
name of honour, discourages dowry, extravagance in weddings, beggary
and child labour. (END/2005)
Volume 22 - Issue 16, Jul 30- AUG 12, 2005
SANCTIFYING ATOMIC APARTHEID
By signing the nuclear cooperation deal with Washington, India has
set its face firmly against nuclear disarmament and become America's
junior partner - for dubious gains. This betrays the UPA's solemn
promise to work for global nuclear weapons abolition.
THE idea that you could snuff life out of millions of innocent
civilians at the touch of a button is so terrifying and awe-inspiring
that it typically creates moral doubt, fear and deep anguish even
among the more cynical inventors, minders and potential users of
Thus, as he witnessed a blinding flash from the world's first nuclear
explosion, of the Trinity device, exactly 60 years ago, J. Robert
Oppenheimer, the Father of the Bomb, famously recited from the
Bhagavad Gita: "Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds ... "
In the preceding weeks, Oppenheimer had taken to reading
mystical-spiritual literature, from which came the Trinity image. The
choice of the Trinity site, prophetically named "Journey of Death",
was equally telling.
Years later, Oppenheimer recalled his fellow-scientists' reactions to
the test's success, at which they were at once relieved and
horrified: "A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people
were silent". Fellow-physicist Kenneth Bainbridge said, bluntly but
reflectively: "Now, we are all sons of bitches." Many soldiers and
political leaders who have had their finger on the nuclear trigger in
the past have similar responses, barring individuals like Paul
Tibbetts, who to this day expresses no regrets over dropping the Bomb
on Hiroshima. Psychologists like Robert Jay Lifton have analysed the
onerous guilt such people carry and the suicidal-level anxiety they
create in their potential victims.
One distressing characteristic of the Indian bomb lobby is that it
has never had any moral dilemmas about nuclear weapons. None of its
numerous members has even said the Bomb is evil, although a necessary
evil. Pride in being "hard-nosed" and uncompassionate has driven many
of them to be contemptuous of all ethics. They "normalised" the Bomb
in their souls long before it came into being.
Manmohan Singh, then a Congress Member of Parliament, stood in sharp
contrast to that lobby in the Rajya Sabha on May 28, 1998. Along with
S.R. Bommai and S. Ramachandran Pillai, Manmohan Singh unrelentingly
pilloried the Vajpayee government for the Pokhran-II tests, and
passionately pleaded for disarmament. He accused the government of
violating India's three-pillared nuclear policy "consensus". The
first pillar is that "nuclear weapons [are] weapons of mass
destruction and their use [is] a crime against humanity". So "India
should be in the forefront of international efforts to work for a
non-discriminatory, multilateral arrangement to have these weapons
outlawed ... After ... the declaration that India is now a nuclear
weapons-state, ... this consensus has been sought to be disrupted."
Manmohan Singh charged the government with violating the transparency
criterion, and with failure "to explain to our people as to what were
the compelling circumstances" which necessitated the tests. He cited
the National Democratic Alliance's betrayal of its promise to
"undertake India's first-ever strategic defence review .... " He said
there are "valid reasons" to believe "this is an attempt for
political consolidation through the bomb ... on the part of a
government which was tottering, which was far from cohesive and which
did not know how to work cohesively."
Manmohan Singh warned: "The Prime Minister has said that we are not
going to enter into an arms race. But history is a witness to a large
number of regimes, with good intentions, but being sucked in by
circumstances beyond their control and ... piling up military
budgets, which, ultimately, proved their undoing... National security
has several other dimensions. There are military dimensions; ...
economic dimensions; and ... social dimensions. And a single-minded
pursuit of military objectives at the cost of all other national
objectives is not necessarily conducive to the development of a
balanced, sober, doctrine of national security. Therefore ... I have
fears that this country will be sucked into an arms race and all
these promises of health for all, education for all, employment for
all ... would remain ... empty rhetoric... "
On no-first-use, Manmohan Singh said: "[T]he archives of the Soviet
Union and other countries ... show that even when [they said] they
would not be the first to use nuclear weapons, their opponents never
took that seriously. Therefore... people were sucked into large
uncontrollable increase in expenditure on these armaments and I do
not want this thing to happen to our country ... where 36 per cent of
our people are still living below the poverty line ... .
"So I urge the government to spell out their [security] doctrine ...
which takes care of military threat but at the same time... of the
threats to ... social cohesion, and the economic equilibrium arising
out of ill health, illiteracy, ignorance and disease. If we do not
attend to these threats, you will have weapons of mass destruction
like the Soviet Union had but the Soviet Union still withered away.
Therefore, think before you act, think before you weaponise ... India
must use its diplomatic skills to minimise the damage that has been
Manmohan Singh concluded: "I think the impression will go round that
the government has used these tests as a political lever to
strengthen its hold on the people ... I, therefore, conclude by
appealing to the government not to play politics with our ... Nuclear
Policy. [T]he nuclear issue is ... not a partisan issue and any
attempt to derive partisan benefits out of these tests would ... be
an act of ... great disservice to our nation."
Yet, Manmohan Singh has departed from the logic he himself advanced
in opposition to Vajpayee's boast that by weaponising its nuclear
option, "India will take its rightful place in the international
community." By signing the nuclear cooperation deal with President
George W. Bush, he has signalled India's descent into utter and
complete cynicism. His government threw transparency to the winds.
There was reportedly no discussion of the agreement's rationale and
content in the Cabinet, its Committee on Security, or the National
Security Advisory Board. Even the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE),
which will execute the agreement, was apparently not consulted about
its feasibility and likely costs.
The government did not establish the necessity of nuclear trade with
the United States, or the wisdom of relying on nuclear power for
"energy security". All it can cite is the judgment (discussed below)
in the Mid-Term Appraisal of the Tenth Plan that nuclear power can be
"an important tool for de-carbonising the Indian energy sector" - an
issue that has never been properly debated. Above all, the government
has legitimised and sanctified the present discriminatory global
For decades, India campaigned against "atomic apartheid" - the
world's division between a handful of (literally, eight) states with
nuclear weapons, and the majority (180-plus) that do not or, have
chosen not to, have them. Now, India has joined apartheid's rulers.
That is the fundamental significance of India's admission into the
nuclear club by its most powerful, arrogant and nuclear-addicted
nation. That is why there is not even a token reference to nuclear
disarmament in the Manmohan Singh-George Bush joint declaration.
THIS was expected given the U.S.' post-September 11 nuclear posture,
which relies heavily on nuclear weapons and recommends the
development of new uses for them such as "bunker-buster" munitions,
in addition to "Star Wars"-style ballistic missile defence.
As the Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said:
For decades, India "was ... committed to nuclear disarmament... . The
Rajiv Gandhi plan for disarmament was the last major initiative taken
in this regard. The BJP-led government had begun the journey of
accepting junior partnership of the U.S. in return for a de facto
recognition as a nuclear weapon-state.... The current agreement marks
an end to India's nuclear disarmament policy." This is a serious
The Washington agreement is a consummate expression of Bush's
unilateralism - in restructuring ("adjusting") the global nuclear
regime to accommodate India's nuclear ambitions for U.S.-specific
reasons. These centre on containment of China - a point repeatedly
stressed in closed-door briefings by U.S. officials, and in documents
such as `The Indo-U.S. Military Relationship: Expectations and
Perceptions, an October 2002 Pentagon-commissioned study, and a
recent Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report by Ashley J.
This inspired the new policy disclosed on March 25 by senior Bush
administration officials, who said the U.S. has decided "to help
India become a major world power in the 21st century". This was
reflected in the "New Framework" for defence, which aims to recruit
India into a subordinate partnership to help the U.S. "embed" itself
in Asia. India will probably be drafted into "low-end" operations and
into the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative, which aims to
intercept "suspect" shipments.
For the U.S., the deal's importance is essentially geopolitical. So
it has offered to accommodate India's ambitions: recognition as a de
facto nuclear weapons-state (NWS) and access to civilian nuclear
materials. This is a trade-off. But the bargain is asymmetrical. Its
structure and text was written by Washington, into which India was
fitted with minor alterations.
India has undertaken several obligations, including "identifying and
separating civilian and military nuclear facilities"; declaring
"civilians facilities" to the International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA)" and "voluntarily" placing them under safeguards; continuing
its nuclear-testing moratorium; and "working with the U.S." for a
"Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty". It will abide by Missile
Technology Control Regime and Nuclear Suppliers' Group Guidelines,
although it belongs to neither. The U.S. accepts no similar
obligations, like safeguarding more facilities, or continuing its
nuclear-testing moratorium. It plans to conduct tests.
The agreement, admittedly, does not require safeguards on all Indian
civilian nuclear facilities. India will presumably be elevated to NWS
status in the IAEA regime, which imposes stringent safeguards only on
non-NWSs, not NWSs. For instance, only four of the U.S.' 200-plus
civilian facilities are safeguarded. The function of these, as well
as Washington's signature of the IAEA's Additional Protocol is
political, not physical. In practice, India will have to bargain over
which facilities to declare. That is a function of distribution of
power, itself unequal.
The BJP's criticism that the agreement will cap India's
fissile-material production and interfere with the working of
civilian reactors is misplaced. IAEA safeguards need not affect
spent-fuel reprocessing from power reactors. IAEA inspectors cannot
visit unsafeguarded facilities. All the same, India will become a
party to lopsided and discriminatory nuclear control arrangements.
India's second objective was to get access to civilian nuclear
technology and material, especially from the U.S. However, A.
Gopalakrishnan, former Atomic Energy Regulatory Board Chairman,
argues (Economic & Political Weekly, July 2-8) that the U.S. is not
an attractive or appropriate nuclear source: it "has no worthwhile
current expertise in the design, construction, operation, maintenance
or safety of any of the type of reactors ... in the Indian nuclear
India's main line of reactors uses natural uranium, whereas all U.S.
commercial reactors burn enriched uranium. India produces very little
of this and most will go into the submarine reactor under
development. The Tarapur reactors do need enriched fuel and spares.
But no spares are available for these anywhere. Besides, they are
nearly 40 years old and unlikely to run safely for long.
If India wants to expand nuclear power substantially, it will
certainly need natural uranium, which is becoming scarce as old mines
get depleted and new mining projects face popular opposition.
However, there is no broad national consensus on substantially
boosting nuclear power generation. Besides missed targets,
under-performance and high costs, nuclear power is fraught with
occupational health and safety problems.
There is no solution anywhere to the serious problem of high-level
wastes, which remain active for thousands of years. Fast-breeder
reactors have not proved successful anywhere. France, which made the
world's highest investments in these, has abandoned the 1200 MW
Superphenix after numerous accidents. The thorium cycle is still
experimental. Environmentalists are as fiercely opposed to nuclear
power as its proponents support it.
LEAVING these issues aside for the moment, can nuclear power
genuinely contribute to "de-carbonising" the energy sector, as
claimed? There is little evidence for this. Electricity generation
accounts for only nine per cent of global carbon-dioxide (CO2)
emissions. And nuclear energy accounts for just 16 per cent of global
electricity - in India, for a paltry 3 per cent. So the scope for
cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the nuclear route is
meagre. India must concentrate on other sectors, especially
Each step in the nuclear fuel cycle, from mining to reprocessing,
emits GHGs. There are far superior renewable alternatives (including
co-generation and mini-hydel). In India, wind generation (3595 MW)
has overtaken nuclear power capacity (3310 MW). Emissions from wind
are estimated at one-half to one-third of those from nuclear
electricity, per kilowatt-hour. While nuclear plants do not directly
produce CO2, they produce a lot of heat.
Nuclear expert Jinzaburo Takagi shows that between 1965 and 1995,
Japan's nuclear capacity rose by 40,000 MW. But carbon-dioxide
emissions tripled. France has long derived 70 per cent-plus of its
electricity from nuclear plants. But in 2000, its GHG emissions were
still rising. Real GHG reductions can only happen through a change in
Western patterns of energy consumption, which India is emulating.
Physicist-energy expert M.V. Ramana argues: "Nuclear power tends to
require and promote a supply-oriented energy policy and an
energy-intensive development pattern. Its high cost also means that
any potential decreases in carbon emissions due to its adoption are
expensive, certainly higher than energy-efficiency improvements and
other means to lower thermal power-plant emissions."
The Washington agreement's benefits are thus modest, if not flimsy,
and do not represent progress towards "energy security". India would
be mistaken to place all its eggs in the "nuclear cooperation"
basket. For, it is unclear if Bush can sell the deal to his Congress
and the NSG. A House committee has just approved a measure preventing
exports of nuclear technology to India. "This is a way ... to send a
signal on this particular treaty," says a Republican member.
The U.S. establishment is divided over loosening the global nuclear
order to accommodate India. People like Tellis advocate
accommodation. Others like George Perkovich oppose it: "The costs of
breaking faith with non-nuclear weapons states such as Japan, South
Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Sweden and others who forswore nuclear
weapons [are] too high .... " Robert Einhorn, a non-proliferation
aide under Clinton argues that the Manmohan Singh-George Bush deal
"sends the signal that bilateral relations and other strategic
interests will trump non-proliferation... And that will reduce the
perceived penalties associated with going nuclear."
The 44-member NSG has countries that are likely to oppose dilution of
its tough "Guidelines" - including Brazil, Argentina and South Africa
(which renounced their nuclear capability) and possibly Japan,
Germany and Sweden. In India, many DAE scientists are unhappy with
the deal; they were excluded them from consultation.
A final word. Bush has declared India a "responsible" nuclear power,
like all "other such states" "with advanced nuclear technology". We
must ask if this is a contradiction in terms. States, which build
weapons that can kill millions of innocent people, and are willing to
use them, cannot be "responsible". On their 60th anniversary, we must
remember that Hiroshima and Nagasaki remain history's worst terrorist
acts, far surpassing the Twin Towers attacks.
India must not further compound the horrific blunder of Pokhran-II.
It must take, as the UPA's Common Minimum Programme promised, "a
leadership role in ... working for a nuclear weapons-free world."
India Pakistan Arms Race and Militarisation Watch Compilation # 155
(2 August, 2005)
Buzz on the perils of fundamentalist politics, on matters of peace
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