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SACW | 1 Nov. 2005

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    South Asia Citizens Wire | 1 Nov, 2005 [1] Worldwide Vigil for the Victims and Survivors of the South Asian Earthquake [2] After the tremors (Kamila Hyat)
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      South Asia Citizens Wire | 1 Nov, 2005

      [1] Worldwide Vigil for the Victims and
      Survivors of the South Asian Earthquake
      [2] After the tremors (Kamila Hyat)
      [3] Update 3 - KERRCC (PIPFPD) - Srinagar, J&K
      [4] Why was there such resounding indifference
      to the earthquake in Kashmir? (Barkha Dutt)
      [5] Bangladesh: Ultimatum by Khatme Nabuwat Fascists
      [6] India: Public Intellectuals - Who are they?
      - Why do we have so few? - Arundhati Roy in
      conversation with Amit Sengupta
      [7] India Pakistan Arms Race and Militarisation
      Watch Compilation # 157 (31 October, 2005)





      To grieve for lives lost, provide hope to those still struggling to survive,
      and draw the world's attention to the work that still needs to be done

      Tuesday, November 8, 2005 @ 6:30 pm
      West Front of Capitol (facing the Mall)
      Metro: Capitol South (Blue/Orange Line)

      On October 8, a 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck South Asia effectively
      destroying entire towns and villages. Due to the severe cold weather,
      lack of shelter, and lack of urgent medical attention, the tragedy
      wreaked by this disaster continues. As of October 28:

      · 79,000 confirmed dead in Pakistan; 1,500 dead in India
      · Over 15,000 are believed to be school children.
      · Over 74,000 injured
      · Over 3 million homeless in Pakistan
      · 10,000 children at risk of dying in the next 2 weeks from hypothermia
      · 100,000 survivors at risk of dying in 4 weeks
      · These numbers will rise significantly in the next weeks as winter sets in

      Join the Washington DC vigil so our individual voices can be one loud
      message of support, hope and action. THEY STILL NEED US -- WE MUST NOT

      For more information go to www.saquake.org



      The News International
      November 01, 2005

      After the tremors

      by Kamila Hyat

      (The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor)

      The aftershocks from the quake early in October
      will eventually die away. But it is already
      obvious that the impact of the tragedy on the
      political scene within the country will be felt
      for a much longer time to come.

      In the first place, the aftermath of the colossal
      disaster has exposed the precarious state of
      relations between civilians and the military. As
      the military has moved into more and more spheres
      of life, it would seem that resentment against
      the institution has grown. The results of these
      often unseen tensions manifest themselves when
      the need to work together arises -- as in the
      traumatic post-quake situation.

      Even though the military has, in many individual
      cases, offered quite invaluable help to the
      thousands of civilians closely involved in the
      relief effort, while the actions of some
      officers, pilots and ordinary soldiers in their
      efforts to save lives have been nothing short of
      heroic, the deep-lying mistrust has handicapped
      the relief effort. Civil-sector organisations
      have repeatedly claimed their consignments of
      relief items have been forcibly seized by the
      military. Other groups have preferred to risk
      being looted rather than to hand over goods to
      the army or have set off on their own for
      quake-hit areas, ignoring advice to consult the
      military. In several cases, civilians who
      vanished into the hills many days ago with trucks
      or loaded vehicles have reportedly not yet

      While in very many cases those who have opted to
      cast aside prejudices and talk with the military
      have found at least some officers to be
      unexpectedly helpful, the deep reluctance to
      cooperate with the army suggests the depth of the
      political crisis in the state. Such a breakdown
      in relations between civilians and the military
      cannot be a good thing.

      The mistrust is the inevitable consequence of the
      army's exit from the barracks, and occupation of
      not only political office but also offices within
      educational institutions, the bureaucracy, the
      business sector and much more. More than anything
      else, the present situation, where the military
      continues to come under fierce criticism -- some
      aspects of it justified and others not --
      underscores the need for the army to turn once
      more to its professional role, rather than
      striding further along the murky track of power
      acquisition in the civilian sector which has
      already cost it dearly in terms of the trust and
      goodwill of the people the force is entrusted to

      For many months and years, the people of the
      nation have been given fervent assurances that
      militants in the country have been crushed, their
      organisations demolished and their leadership
      decimated. Yet, following October 8, more and
      more accounts that sound almost Biblical in their
      description of events state how, in many cases
      within hours of the quake, bands of bearded men
      walked calmly out of the mountains and began
      treating the injured, rescuing those lying under
      debris and then burying the dead.

      Such accounts have emerged from the Mansehra area
      of the NWFP, the Neelum Valley in Kashmir and
      other quake-devastated villages and towns
      scattered across the affected area. The militants
      who descended to help the victims in most cases
      belonged to groups active in jihad. The fact that
      they were on the spot almost immediately, well
      organised in their work, able to move in teams of
      medics to assist the injured and ready to do
      whatever was required -- without waiting for
      orders -- must somewhere contain a message for
      the military high command. So too should the
      testimony of villagers, who say the militants
      generally keep away from the populace, engaging
      only in their own work, but are always on hand to
      help in times of crisis. Perhaps the Pakistan
      Army needs to ask itself why the militant
      brigands it once supported as a part of the
      political realities of past times have now
      surpassed the country's largest institution in
      terms of their ability to organise relief work
      and assist citizens.

      The fact that these militants are being seen as
      heroes in many communities could also have
      important political manifestations in the future.
      After all, winning the battle for hearts is a
      crucial element of victory in any war.

      But even more important is the fact that the
      claims that militants have been totally crushed
      are nothing but a fantasy -- or else a deliberate
      attempt to misguide people. The groups, it is
      quite evident, are still very much present and
      able, despite the dozens of casualties they
      themselves must have suffered, to direct their
      collective efforts as required by any situation.

      It is also obvious that eliminating them will
      take more than mere statements. In the first
      place, it will take genuine will and recognition
      that the militants can only damage Pakistan's
      broader national interests.

      The multiple blasts in New Delhi as the Pakistani
      and Indian governments discussed opening the Line
      of Control (LoC) come as proof of this. And
      militancy cannot be wiped away without adopting a
      broad-ranging policy which focuses on diluting
      the sympathy for militancy that exists within the
      country, rehabilitating the many militants
      trained over past decades and altering the
      intolerance that pervades the air. This hatred is
      perpetuated through school textbooks, the media
      and the narrowness of the mindset created by the
      state that has for decades prevented a growing
      number of people from thinking outside specific
      cramped outlines.

      An example of this comes in the assertion that
      Indian pilots could not be permitted into the
      country. The decision in this respect had the
      backing of many, even those who see themselves as
      holding liberal opinions. But it is obvious that
      the very concept of 'national interest' has
      become distorted.

      Surely, any help possible to the thousands
      stranded without food, without shelter and
      without medical help in areas such as the Neelum
      Valley must take precedence over all else.
      Surely, the plight of mothers watching helplessly
      as children die from cold, hunger and the pain of
      untreated injuries must come ahead of any other
      'sensitivities'. This is especially so as it is
      quite obvious that, in an age of satellite maps,
      little within national boundaries is hidden from
      those physically located outside them.

      In this context, the opening up of points along
      the LoC is an important step forward. President
      Musharraf's bold initiative in this deserves to
      be given credit, as do the efforts of the
      individuals who worked quietly behind the scenes.
      The step brings divided Kashmiri families a
      little closer. It also brings nearer a solution
      to the Kashmir issue -- and like everything else
      that has happened over the past weeks, the
      crossing points on the disputed frontier will
      have a long-term bearing on political
      developments in the region over the years that
      follow the quake.



      Kashmir Earthquake Relief and Rehabilitation
      Coordination Centre
      Pakistan-India Peoples' Forum for Peace and Democracy

      Delhi Office: A-1/125 Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi
      110029, INDIA Tel:+91-11-51652451-452 E-mail:

      Srinagar Office: House No.7, Amar Singh College Lane,
      Gogji Bagh, Srinagar 190008, (J & K) India Tel:
      +91-194-2310586 and 2310244 Mobile: +91-9906755050


      Dated 28th October 2005

      Reporting from the core team:

      The arrival of the PSI team ( Rajesh Tiwari and Rajesh
      Sharma) and Dunu Roy on the 25th Oct followed by a
      discussion and fine tuning of the damage assessment
      survey forms.

      Volunteer orientation program, attended by 25 group
      leaders representing various areas on 26 th Oct.
      Outcome of meeting, - all forms to be available in
      both languages, - English and Urdu, further
      simplification of forms, decision to have a second
      orientation session at the two main base camps (on
      28th at Uri base camp and on 29th at Kupwara). All
      volunteers (except Srinagar based data entry friends)
      to attend this.

      Printing of Volunteer ID Cards, Survey forms,
      instruction sheet for field based volunteers, village
      inventory survey form, etc were done.

      PSI team attended and helped with briefings in the
      volunteer meetings and also travelled to some of the
      areas where immediate temporary shelter construction
      is underway. They are preparing a brief of their
      temporary shelter building and long-term
      reconstruction assessment, which will be part of the
      next update.

      Volunteer team from Pune (Dr. Mukadam, Nirmala and
      Sarah) travelled to some remote areas in Uri block on
      the 25 th and did field based medical relief. They
      also held a medical camp on the 27th Oct, which was
      attended by more than 300 villagers. The team also
      distributed medicines that has been channelised
      through the KERRCC

      Distributed medicines and some other materials like
      woollens, blankets, etc through local relief
      organisations that approached us with specific
      requirements for specific areas

      Mobilized separate Srinagar volunteer teams for
      information entry and computation of data (during and
      post field work). 20 volunteers from Srinagar will be
      helping with these tasks and also the task of reaching
      the survey forms and other field based information,
      enquiries, etc to the Srinagar head office

      Infrastructure - Computer systems, Internal network
      and 24 hour net facility activated. (Total of four
      computers and one laptop). The office has an increased
      capacity to house upto 17 people.

      Consultations with Government and NGOs – Meetings were
      held with govt officers (Divisional Commissioner,
      Kashmir among others) and consultations done with some
      of the NGOs active in R&R activities. KERRCC was
      informed as on the 24 th about two other field based
      surveys that are being held in Kashmir by NGOs;

      1) Action Aid – aims to be involved with village level
      data collection in all affected areas (in
      collaboration with TISS and Kashmir University Depts).
      This study, it was shared, will be more in lines of
      the social sciences survey undertaken by TISS in
      Latur, etc and essentially targets formation of
      alternate (non-state) data bank about these areas and
      affected communities

      2) Save the Children – involved with three villages
      and children related issues

      After consultations with these NGOs, it was decided
      that the KERRCC process of Disaster and Damage
      assessment (house to house damage assessment along
      with scientific village inventory – focussed on
      reconstruction) should be carried on.

      Legal Update

      25th October

      PIL – Public interest litigation forum Vs State and
      others bearing number PLI – 546/05;

      The latest hearing ended with some very negative
      observations made by by Chief Justice and Justice
      Mansoor about the state functionaries: "the state is
      not cooperating in any way with the court nor are they
      clear about their task in the affected area of Karna
      and Uri". The union of India was asked to file the
      affidavits on behalf of BEACON, BSNL and Army about
      the road clearances in the areas under their
      respective commands and BSNL was supposed to file an
      affidavit about the restoration of the official lines
      in the affected areas. The case is listed for further
      orders and responses from the state and the union of
      India 26 th of this month.

      26th of Oct.

      The petition was listed before the division bench of
      the High Court headed by the CJ.

      All the officials and departments have already filed
      their affidavits regarding the implementation of
      directions and their progress in work in the affected

      The Hon'ble court again directed the officials and
      departments to file by 27th, the supplementary
      affidavits about the latest work done and the latest
      progress report regarding the steps taken by them for
      temporary rehabilitation programme. The Court also
      asked Bar Association of Kashmir to constitute a team
      of advocates by 29 th of the month, the team has to go
      and visit the areas for ascertaining the factual


      26th October: Landmine blast in Kashmir lead to the
      killing of a BSF jawan. Almost 20 soldiers are

      27th October: Anti-Army Occupation hartal all over
      Kashmir valley, called by political organisations like
      APHC, JKLF and others and by militant organisations
      like HM. October 27 th was the commemoration day of
      the Indian Army occupation of Kashmir in 1947.

      Plan of action

      1. Short term Tasks

      Collecting information of the nature of the damage
      caused by the earthquake, preparing a data base and
      centralising all information about the impact of the
      earthquake on the lives and livelihood of the affected

      Sharing the data with all national and international
      relief and rehabilitation organisation in order to
      better coordinate the immediate, mid-term and
      long-term rehabilitation efforts.

      Availing all outside help for reconstruction and
      rehabilitation in Kashmir

      Facilitating collection of required materials for
      reconstruction and transporting these to the affected

      Helping local communities and Kashmiri organisations
      in Building earthquake resistant temporary shelters to
      protect the homeless during the coming severe
      Himalayan winter.

      2. Mid-Term Tasks

      As the disaster assessment data collection and
      analysis work continues, it will be shared with all
      non-governmental and governmental organisations in
      Kashmir and with the governments of India and Pakistan
      in order to assist the governments to develop a
      meaningful rehabilitation package.

      Develop design for cost effective winter shelters for
      the earthquake-affected people with available

      Train local people in recovering useable building
      materials from the damaged houses and build adequate
      and quake resistant shelters.

      Build about a hundred winter shelters, one each in
      every earthquake-devastated village in Kupwara and
      Baramula districts.

      3. Long-term Tasks

      Spreading awareness about earthquake resistant houses

      Through posters and handbooks

      Holding training programmes for masons, carpenters and
      construction workers with the help of experts in
      alternative housing construction and local engineers

      Constructing model houses with the help of experts and
      local Kashmiri groups

      Shivani Mohan
      On Behalf of KERRCC Srinagar Team



      Hindustan Times
      October 31 2005

      The Great Divide


      by Barkha Dutt

      FINE, OK, I get it. I'm obsessed with Kashmir.
      Viewers, television critics, policy-makers, col
      leagues and competitors, have all bemoaned my
      insatiable appetite for tracking which way the chinar

      But this fortnight the chinar, quite literally, fell
      to the resounding sound of silence. The emotional
      indifference to the earthquake across much of India
      left me stunned. Almost as if when the earth moved in
      the Valley, the rest of us were unmoved, looking on
      with the same weariness, that same glazed _expression
      that we wear when thousands die in some
      unpronounceable part of China, or Africa. Far away.
      Somewhere else. Not our own.

      As journalists, you often look for the one face that
      captures the hidden depths of a tragedy; that one
      narrative that breaks down the wall of indifference
      between the story and its audience. Usually, it's
      children. Tracking the tsunami, I met a six-monthold
      baby, born blind, to parents who had saved all year to
      have him operated on -- their money and hopes had now
      been swept ashore. But equally overwhelming was the
      tidal wave of help, as people wrote out blank cheques,
      doctors volunteered, hospitals waived fees and
      families wanted to adopt Baby Sukumar. Many just wrote
      to say they had wept.

      This time in Srinagar, I met Ishfaq. A miracle rescue
      of the quake, bright-eyed and precocious, he asked the
      prime minister why he had come visiting without
      chocolates. When the eight-year-old was airlifted into
      the army hospital, his abdomen had been ripped apart,
      his pulse was dead, and worse, there was no sign that
      his parents had survived.

      Doctors battled to drain two litres of blood from his
      tiny frame to save a boy who had caught their
      imagination. The day we met Ishfaq, he had
      serendipitously been reunited with his father, an
      ageing schoolteacher, who came to the hospital after
      burying his other son in the village grave. Ishfaq
      told us, he had always dreamt of being a doctor. It
      was a compelling story, of heartbreak and hope, of
      sadness and succour, one we hoped would register on a
      different kind of Richter scale. It never quite
      happened. Our emotionally seismic ride was essentially
      our own, a lonely one.

      I kept thinking, why was it that the desolation of
      coastal fisherfolk in Tamil Nadu had managed to sear
      through the thick wall of urban indifference, but here
      in Kashmir, we were still struggling?

      Kashmir's relentless violence and tragedy has, in a
      sense, underlined its beauty, adding soul and pathos
      to mere good looks. To make our way to the ravaged
      township of Uri, we would drive down what's arguably
      the most breathtaking stretch of road in the country;
      the same one on which Shammi Kapoor courted Sharmila
      Tagore, and countless other screen romances were

      But there were no film stars to be seen. No Vivek
      Oberoi to adopt a village, no Rahul Bose to raise
      money, no Shah Rukh Khan at the PM's residence. The
      contrast with the reaction after the tsunami could not
      have been more stark.

      And it's a poorly-kept secret that apart from notable
      worthies like Infosys, the PM had to personally nudge
      and elbow Corporate India into action. Ajai Shriram
      astutely pointed out that business houses had
      responded with more alacrity after the Bhuj earthquake
      because, after all, they had a presence in Gujarat,
      unlike Kashmir, where, industry is still negligible.

      I've heard the other theory. Disaster fatigue, said
      most. Indians were simply spent. But was the truth
      just a little more awkward? Is it simply, because it
      was Kashmir?

      Some of it makes sense. First, there's terrorism. Life
      simply isn't worth risking for people who may be ready
      to volunteer otherwise, as hundreds did in Tamil Nadu.

      But there's another unspoken reason. Many people
      privately argue that they just can't be bothered about
      a people whose loyalty to India they question. The
      more bigoted among them may go so far as to whisper,
      "These Muslims..."

      This is exactly the problem. We can't care about a
      people, and fight four wars (counting Kargil) over
      Kashmir. We can't go into a paroxysm of middle-class
      rage over why the state has its own constitution and
      flag, but passively flip the channel to Desperate
      Housewives when we learn that two lakh people in
      Kashmir are without a home and are sleeping out in the
      open; we can't want the land, and disclaim
      responsibility for a scarred relationship with its
      people, and we can't want dividends, without being
      stakeholders in Kashmir's future.

      Equally, the ordinary Kashmiri who points at the
      indifference of the rest of the country needs to look
      inward. The domestic discourse in the Valley is still
      dressed up in much hypocrisy. A people who have always
      seen the army as the enemy now find themselves
      entirely dependent on the military for earthquake
      relief. Sure, extreme circumstances don't erase past
      transgressions and viola tions by men in uniform. But
      rehearsed conspiracy theories and irresponsible local
      editorials against the military's role in earthquake
      relief have a false, distasteful ring to them. Uri
      exists alongside Chittisinghpora, in Kashmir's
      complex, blood-soaked history. The lazy slotting of
      victims and villains just doesn't hold in a shifting
      society; truth lives in shades of grey.

      It's also time for the Valley to be more vocal about
      violence, to rip off the shroud of silence and let the
      men who were beast enough to kill a firsttime
      politician last week know that there is no
      constituency for them.

      The problem is sometimes you need emotional confidence
      and a sense of belonging to speak up. Trapped between
      the battlelines all these years, most Kashmiris have
      been pummelled into a self-defeating passiveness.

      Perhaps it comes from carrying the burden of a grief,
      that is unique and thus isolating. In which other
      state would an archaic rule that forbids direct
      dialling from `our' Kashmir to `theirs' become one
      more element of an unfolding tragedy.

      Before the prime minister intervened to have phone
      lines across the LoC operational, we connected divided
      families via satellite, through a crackly audio line.
      One man discovered on live television that his sister
      in Muzaffarabad had died. I watched the lines on his
      face change -- silent, in shock and, above all, so
      alone. Would the pain of that moment make him more
      assertive for his own future, or simply push him into
      philosophical resignation?

      In the end, fuzzy as it sounds, it really is all about
      dotting the lines on a battered drawing board.
      Connecting people, not just across the LoC, but
      bridging the great divide within.

      With his mop of untidy curls, and his shy, but cheeky
      smile, Qazi Tauqeer, the boy from Srinagar who made
      the giant leap to national iconhood, is one such
      example. Fifteen million Indians voted to make him the
      winner of Sony TV's Fame Gurukul. He now must sing for
      us all.

      The writer is the Managing Editor of NDTV 24x7. This
      is the first of a fortnightly column



      The Daily Star
      October 29

      Staff Correspondent

      Khatme Nabuwat Movement Bangladesh (IKNMB) yesterday threatened to
      oust the BNP-Jamaat government by any means necessary if it fails to
      pass a bill in the parliament declaring the Ahmadiyyas non-Muslims by
      December 23.
      At an agitation rally at Nabisco Intersection in the capital after the
      Jumma prayers, the IKNMB leaders warned that the situation may go out
      of their control on December 23 when they will lay their scheduled
      siege to the Ahmadiyya Mosque at Bakshibazar in the city.
      "We are ready to be martyred for upholding the dignity of our prophet
      Hazrat Mohammad (SM), but shall not compromise with the government
      that assumed power in the name of Islam and now betraying us," said
      IKNMB Joint Secretary Maolana Abu Taher.
      The leaders said political parties like Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami
      Oikya Jote, who always speak for Islam, failed to uphold the dignity
      of Hazrat Mohammad (SM) as they did not demand such a declaration in
      the parliament.
      "If you cannot speak up in the parliament, leave the power," said
      IKNMB's central cabinet member Mufti Abdur Razzak, adding that
      December 23 is the last date and that the Muslims of the country will
      drag down the government from power without wasting any more time.
      Alhajj Noor Hossain, another leader of the organisation, alleged that
      the present government is pretending to sleep on the Ahmadiyya issue.
      The fact is that Britain, Israel and the European Union are backing
      the Ahmadiyyas and threatening the government with suspension of
      funding, he added.
      "But we ask the BNP-Jamaat government whether we the Muslims of the
      country brought them to power or the Western forces did that for
      them," he said.
      Presiding over the rally, IKNMB Ameer Maolana Mahmudul Hasan said the
      Omrah being observed by Prime Minister Khaleda Zia in Saudi Arabia
      could not be valid if she does not declare the Ahmadiyyas non-Muslims.
      "The contradictory policy of respecting our prophet and not paying
      heed to the demands of the Muslims to declare the Ahmadiyyas
      non-Muslims is a betrayal to Islam," Mahmudul Hasan said.
      He conducted an oath where several thousand Muslims pledged to
      continue their movement until December 23 demanding the declaration by
      the government.
      IKNMB's Central Nayebe Ameer Enayetullah Abbasi, central members
      Maolana Ruhul Amin and Mamtazul Karim also spoke.



      Nov 05 , 2005

      Who are they?
      Why do we have so few?

      Arundhati Roy in conversation with Amit Sengupta

      *fame is also a gruesome kind of capitalism, you
      can accumulate it, bank it, live off it. but it
      can suffocate you*

      *I start with an old question: When Tehelka was
      being cornered you had said there should be a
      Noam Chomsky in India. Later you had once told me
      that 'I am not an activist'. What is this idea of
      Noam Chomsky in a context like India?*

      I think essentially that whether it is an issue
      like Tehelka being hounded or all the other
      issues that plague us, much of the critical
      response is an analysis of symptoms; it's not
      radical. Most of the time it does not really
      question how democracy dovetails into
      majoritarianism which edges towards fascism, or
      what the connections are between this kind of
      'new democracy' and corporate globalisation,
      repression, militancy and war. What is the
      connection between corruption and power?

      At one point when the Tehelka expose happened, I
      thought, thank God the BJP is corrupt, thank God
      someone's taken money, imagine if they had been
      incorruptible, only ideological, it would have
      been so much more frightening. To me, pristine
      ideological battles are really more frightening.

      In India we are at the moment witnessing a sort
      of fusion between corporate capitalism and
      feudalism - it's a deadly cocktail. We see it
      unfolding before our eyes. Sometimes it looks as
      though the result of all this will be a twisted
      implementation of the rural employment guarantee
      act. Half the population will become Naxalites
      and the other half will join the security forces
      and what Bush said will come true. Everyone will
      have to choose whether they're with "us" or with
      the "terrorists". We will live in an elaborately
      administered tyranny.

      But look at the reaction to the growing influence
      of the Maoists - even by political analysts it's
      being treated as a law and order problem, not a
      political problem - and like militancy in Kashmir
      and the Northeast, it will be dealt with by
      employing brutal repression by security forces or
      arming local people with weapons that will
      eventually lead to a sort of civil war. That
      seems to be perfectly acceptable to Indian 'civil

      Those who understand and disagree with the
      repressive machinery of the State are more or
      less divided between the Gandhians and the
      Maoists. Sometimes - quite often - the same
      people who are capable of a radical questioning
      of, say, economic neo-liberalism or the role of
      the state, are deeply conservative socially -
      about women, marriage, sexuality, our so-called
      'family values' - sometimes they're so
      doctrinaire that you don't know where the
      establishment stops and the resistance begins.
      For example, how many Gandhian/Maoist/ Marxist
      Brahmins or upper caste Hindus would be happy if
      their children married Dalits or Muslims, or
      declared themselves to be gay? Quite often, the
      people whose side you're on, politically, have
      absolutely no place for a person like you in
      their social, cultural or religious imagination.
      That's a knotty problemŠ politically radical
      people can come at you with the most
      breathtakingly conservative social views and make
      nonsense of the way in which you have ordered
      your world and your way of thinking about itŠ and
      you have to find a way of accommodating these
      contradictions within your worldview.

      *In the Hindi heartland, the same terrain that
      had Munshi Premchand, Muktibodh, Nirala, Kaifi
      Azmi is still one of the most stagnating,
      backward, poverty-stricken terrains of India. But
      in terms of the lilt of the languages here,
      humour, bawdy jokes, hard politics, there is a
      vibrant churning going on; there is Dalit
      churning. This is engagement with reality in a
      very different manner. There are new theatre,
      literary, cinema journals; a vibrant culture.
      There is a lot of excitement in the air and it is
      actually happening here in India, an excitement
      that is in a way absent in the West. If you live
      in America or Europe it is almost impossible to
      really believe that another world is possible.
      Over there, anybody who talks about life beyond
      capitalism is part of a freak show, they're just
      considered nuts and weirdos, going through
      teenage angst.

      But here, it actually still exists, though they
      are being rapidly destroyed. It is very
      important, the anarchy of what you were saying,
      there are magazines, and little pamphlets, all
      over India, which cannot be controlled by the
      corporate establishment, and that's very
      important, the way communication links are kept
      alive. We are in a very striking phase. But how
      powerful are these alternative ways of
      communication? You can see these mighty
      structures of capitalism. Can you fight them with
      these alternatives? The only way you can be
      optimistic is to insist on being irrational,
      unreasonable, magical, stubborn, because what you
      see happening is an inevitable crunching through
      of these structures.

      *There is a lot of excitement in the air and it
      is actually happening here in india, an
      excitement that is in a way absent in the West.
      if you live in america or europe it is almost
      impossible to really believe that another world
      is possible*

      *Is it possible for anyone to stand up against
      these structures, as Chomsky has done again and
      again, or you, and not be hounded out by the
      entire apparatus?
      Until recently, we all hoped that it was the
      question of getting the facts out, getting the
      information out, and that once people understood
      what was going on, things would change. Their
      consciences would kick in and everything would be
      alright. We saw it, rather stupidly, as a
      question of getting the information out. But
      getting the story out is only one small part of
      the battle. For example, before the American
      elections, Michael Moore's film was in every
      smalltown cinema hall everywhere; the film was an
      evidence-based documentary, it was by no means a
      piece of radical political thought, it was just a
      fact-based political scandal about the House of
      Bush, but still, Bush came back with a bigger
      majority than the earlier elections.

      The facts are there in the world today. People
      like Chomsky have made a huge contribution to
      that. But what does information mean? What are
      facts? There is so much information that almost
      all becomes meaningless and disempowering. Where
      has it all gone? What does the World Social Forum
      mean today? They are big questions now.
      Ultimately, millions of people marched against
      the war in Iraq. But the war was prosecuted, the
      occupation is in full stride. I do not for a
      moment want to undermine the fact that unveiling
      the facts has meant a huge swing of public
      opinion against the occupation of Iraq, it has
      meant that America's secret history is now street
      talk, but what next? To expose things is quite
      different from being able to effectively resist

      I am more interested now in whether there are new
      strategies of resistance. The debate between
      strategies of violence and non-violenceŠ

      *somebody like me runs a serious risk of thinking
      i am more important than i am. people petition
      me. they want me to intervene. you think it is in
      your power to do something *

      *One option is to keep digging, keep digging and
      there is always the danger of stagnation,
      becoming self-righteous, dogmatic, moralistic,
      losing your sense of humour, songs, masti. You
      stop laughing. As if the poor or the working
      class don't laughŠ
      You are absolutely right on that one. In India
      particularly, self-righteousness is the bane of
      activists or public thinkers. It's also the
      function of a kind of power that you begin to
      accumulate. Some activists have unreasonable
      power over people in their 'constituencies', they
      have adulation, gratitude, it can turn their
      heads. They begin to behave like mainstream
      politicians. Somebody like me runs a serious risk
      of thinking that I'm more important than I
      actually am - because people petition me all the
      time, with serious issues that they want me to
      intervene inŠ And of course an intervention does
      have some momentary effect, you begin to think
      that it is in your power to do something. Whereas
      actually is it or is it not? It's a difficult

      At the end of the day, fame is also a gruesome
      kind of capitalism, you can accumulate it, bank
      it, live off it. But it can suffocate you, block
      off the blood vessels to the brain, isolate you,
      make you lose touch. It pushes you up to the
      surface and you forget how to keep your ear to
      the ground.

      I think it is important to retreat sometimes.
      Because you can really get caught up in fact and
      detail, fact and detail, and forget how to think
      conceptually, and that's a kind of prison.
      Speaking for myself, I'm ready for a jail-break.

      *You mean even anti-conformism can become a conformist trap?*

      There is the danger, especially for a writer of
      fiction, that you can become somebody who does
      what is expected of you. I could end up boring
      myself to death. In India, the political
      anti-establishment can be socially very
      conservative (Bring on the gay Gandhians!) and
      can put a lot of pressure on you to become
      something which may not necessarily be what you
      want to be: they want you to dress in a
      particular way, be virtuous, be sacrificing, it's
      a sort of imaginary and quite often faulty
      extrapolation of what the middle class assumes
      the 'people', the 'masses' want and expect. It
      can be maddening, and I want to say like Bunty in
      Bunty aur Babli, 'Mujhe yeh izzat aur sharafat ki
      zindagi se bachaoŠ'

      There are all kinds of things that work to dull,
      leaden your soulŠto weigh you downŠ

      *sometimes i want to say like bunty from bunty
      aur babli: 'mujhe yeh izzat aur sharafat ki
      zindagi se BAchao...'*

      *I like Jean Paul Sartre. He used to say money
      must keep circulating. He used to blow his money
      on taxis, without any purpose. Blow it up on
      booze. Money should etherise. That does not take
      away his strange involvement with histories or
      literature: the Spanish civil war, Stalin. I
      don't agree with the term, Intellectual. Anybody
      with skills and intelligence can be intellectual.
      A cobbler is an intellectual.
      I don't really want to work out the definitions.
      It's just the opposite of what novelists do. They
      really try to free their thinking from such

      As for money, I have tried to take it lightly.
      Really, I have tried to give it away, but even
      that is a very difficult thing to do. Money is
      like nuclear waste. What you do with it, where
      you dump it, what problems it creates, what it
      changes, these are incredibly complicated things.
      And eventually, it can all blow up in your face.
      I'd have been happier with Less. Yeh Dil Maange
      Less. Less money, less fame, less pressure, more
      badmashi. I hate the f***ing responsibility that
      is sometimes forced on me. I spent my early years
      making decisions that would allow me to evade
      responsibility; and nowŠ

      People are constantly in search of idols, heroes,
      villains, sirens - in search of individuals, in
      search of noise. Anybody in whom they can invest
      their mediocre aspirations and muddled thinking
      will do. Anyone who is conventionally and
      moderately 'successful' becomes a celebrity. It's
      almost a kind of profession now - we have
      professional celebrities - maybe colleges should
      start offering a course.

      It's indiscriminate - it can be Miss Universe, or
      a writer, or the maker of a ridiculous TV soap,
      the minimum requirement is success. There's a
      particular kind of person who comes up to me with
      this star-struck smile - it doesn't matter who I
      am - they just know I'm famous; whether I'm the
      'BookerPrizeWinner' or the star of the Zee Horror
      Show or whatever is immaterial.

      In this freak show, this celebrity parade,
      there's no place for loss, or failure. Whereas to
      me as a writer, failure interests me. Success is
      so tinny and boring. Everyone is promoting
      themselves so hard.

      *You gave your Booker money to the NBA. Your
      Sydney prize money to aborigine groups. Another
      award money you gave to 50 organisations who are
      doing exemplary work. You trusted them. You gave
      away your money, okay, it's not your money, the
      money came from somewhere; but you gave it away.
      Very few people do that in this world. No one
      does that. So you can't stop the society to look
      at you in a certain way.
      Well, I haven't given it all away. I still have
      more than I need. If I gave it all away I might
      turn into the kind of person that I really dread
      - 'the one who has sacrificed everything' and
      will no doubt, somewhere along the way, extract a
      dreadful price from everybody around them. I've
      learned that giving money away can help, but it
      can also be utterly destructive, however good
      your intentions may have been. It is impossible
      to always know what the right thing to do is. It
      can create conflict in strange and surprising
      places. I am not always comfortable with what I
      do with my money. I do everything. I give it away
      extravagantly. I blow it up, extravagantly. I
      have no fix on it - it comforts me, it bothers
      me, I'm constantly glad that I can afford to pay
      my bills. I'm paranoid about its incredible
      capacity for destruction. But the one thing I'm
      glad about is that it is not inherited. I think
      inherited money is a curse.

      *it is impossible to always know what the right
      thing to do is. it can create conflict in strange
      and surprising places*

      Giving money away is dangerous and complicated
      and in some ways against my political beliefs - I
      do not subscribe to the politics of good
      intentions - but what do I do? Sit on it and
      accumulate more? I'm uncomfortable with lots of
      things that I do, but can't see a better way - I
      just muddle along. It's a peculiar problem, this
      problem of excess, and it's embarrassing to even
      talk about it in a land of so much pain and
      poverty. But there it isŠ
      Last question. There is a conflict within
      oneself. There is a consistency also, of
      positions, commitments, knowledge. And there are
      twilight zones you are grappling with. So why
      can't you jump from this realm to another: there
      is no contradiction in saying, what is that,
      'mujhe izzatŠ'
      I think we all are just messing our way through
      this life. People, ideologues who believe in a
      kind of redemption, a perfect and ultimate
      society, are terrifying. Hitler and Stalin
      believed that with a little social engineering,
      with the mass murder of a few million people,
      they could create a new and perfect world. The
      idea of perfection has often been a precursor to
      genocide. John Gray writes about it at some
      length. But then, on the other hand, we have the
      placid acceptance of Karma which certainly suits
      the privileged classes and castes very well. Some
      of us oscillate in the space between these two
      ugly juggernauts trying to at least occasionally
      locate some pinpoints of light.



      (31 October, 2005)
      URL: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/IPARMW/message/168


      1 Spend money on alleviating human distress and
      not on fuelling arms race (Edit., Daily Times)
      2 Musharraf rules out defence cut
      3 Pakistan - India: Missile test agreement (Edit, The News International)
      4 Pakistan said re-thinking U.S. F-16 deal
      5 Saab Pens Preliminary Deal To Sell AEW Planes
      to Pakistan (Gerard O’Dwyer, Helsinki)
      6 Fiddling as Kashmir burns (Farooq Sulehria)
      7 Army 'spent first days rebuilding border defences'
      8 Pak activist Blames US For Arms Race
      9 Pakistan's war on terror (M B Naqvi)
      10 One step forward, two steps back (Praful Bidwai)
      11 Pakistan's options after Trishul tests (Khalid Hasan)
      12 Russia trips over Indian defense ties (Tara Shankar Sahay)
      13 Army in a relief battle it can't win (Sujan Dutta)
      14 Congressmen Press Rice On US.-India Nuclear Deal (Carol Giacomo)
      15 India mulls acquiring U.S. warship
      16 India Plans To Spend More on Defense if Economy Grows
      17 Will India Ride Counter-Proliferation Waves? (J. Sri Raman)
      18 India and Pakistan: Quake may have shifted Kashmir landmines, group warns
      19 Boeing offers top weapons platforms to India
      20 Farewell To Disarmament? - India in the US 'nuclear tent' (Praful Bidwai)
      21 Why the dispute over Indian army help? (Jill McGivering)
      22 Any Takers For A Nuclear Disaster? (Jawed Naqvi)
      23 India might clinch biggest ever arms deal with Chile
      24 No smile for Google's camera (Siddharth Srivastava)
      25 Taj, temples' security @ Rs 167 mn
      26 More have died of cold than enemy fire on
      Siachen - world's highest battlefield (BBC)
      27 South Africa-India weapons deal 'cancelled'
      28 Delhi faces more air disruption (Rajan Chakravarty)
      29. India test fires surface-to-air missile
      30 Combat aircraft decision may pivot on nuclear co-operation (Huma Siddiqui)
      31 Northeast Echoes (Patricia Mukhim)
      32 India: US Triggers Arms Race In South Asia
      33 Sri Lanka to hike defence budget amid war fears


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