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SACW | 7-8 Dec. 2005

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | 7-8 Dec, 2005 | Dispatch No. 2185 [1] Pakistan: Editorials from Daily Times (i) Our backward politicians and Zina Ordinance (ii)
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 7, 2005
      South Asia Citizens Wire | 7-8 Dec, 2005 | Dispatch No. 2185


      [1] Pakistan: Editorials from Daily Times
      (i) Our backward politicians and Zina Ordinance
      (ii) Failure to tackle Gilgit violence is unforgivable
      [2] India-Tamilnadu: Politics of Culture, Sexuality and Freedom of
      Expression
      (i) Can one 'cultural nationalism' counter another? (J. Sri Raman)
      (ii) Tamil Nadu: Burdens of Culture (Editorial, EPW)
      [3] US - India: RSS Now Targets California Textbooks (Nalini Taneja)
      [4] LETTERS / APPEALS:
      (i) Karbi Anglong Appeal (Peoples’ Committee for Peace ... in Assam)
      (ii)Letter To Chairperson WIPSA (IK Shukla)
      [5] ANNOUNCEMENTS: Upcoming Events and Publications
      (i) Eqbal Ahmad Distinguished Lecture 2005 (Lahore, Dec 11 /
      Islamabad, Dec 12)
      (ii) Citizens Peace March to the Sindh - Rajasthan Border (Dec 17-23)
      (iii) Champa Foundation's annual memorial meeting (New Delhi, Dec 12)
      (iv) Zubaan diary 2006 with posters from the Women's Movement
      (v) India Pakistan Arms Race and Militarisation Watch No. 159 / Dec,2005

      ___


      [1]

      Daily Times
      December 08, 2005

      EDITORIAL: Our backward politicians and Zina Ordinance

      On Tuesday, the National Assembly rejected a bill proposing amendments
      to the Offence of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance 1979, which
      requires a rape victim to present four male witnesses to substantiate
      her claim or be convicted of fornication or adultery and/or face
      punishment for lying. The bill — The Offence of Zina (Enforcement of
      Hudood) Bill, 2005 (Amendment to Section 8) — was presented by MNA
      Kunwar Khalid Yunus of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). The treasury
      benches, which boast a strong pro-women lobby, joined the clerics and
      other conservative MNAs to reject the proposed amendment. It is tragic
      that an elected house has an all-parties majority that doesn’t want to
      get rid of a bad law.

      MNA Yunus of the MQM said that a clause in the offending Ordinance
      should be repealed because it discriminated against women: “The Hudood
      Ordinance was introduced by Gen Zia ul Haq to court Saudi Arabia’s
      support for his rule. Of the 57 Muslim countries worldwide, the Hudood
      law was enforced only in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The ordinance had
      been enforced in 1979 without being incorporated in the Constitution by
      the then parliament”. When the speaker put the bill to vote, it was
      easily defeated. Predictably, MMA member Dr Sahibzada Abu Alkhair
      Muhammad Zubair called the Hudood Ordinance “part of the divine law”
      that could not be amended. Now take a look at the most platitudinous
      lies in Muslim history, and it comes from the lips of the federal law
      minister, Mr Wasi Zafar: “Women in Pakistan enjoy complete liberty and
      respect, especially compared to those in Western countries”.

      This is nothing new, however. An earlier bill by the PPPP on
      honour-killing was watered down to include a mitigating clause. This
      meant that honour-killing could go on and the victims would be the women
      of Pakistan who otherwise enjoy “complete liberty and respect” compared
      to what women get in the Western countries. The fact that no other
      Islamic state except Saudi Arabia has the same kind of cruel legislation
      as ours should mean that the “divine law” is not universal even among
      the Islamic community. The argument here is not that zina is not
      mentioned in the Quran but that a misinterpretation has been allowed,
      and Pakistani women demeaned. Most of the women rotting in jails are
      being punished for pointing to men who had raped them. In the current
      practice of opposing “love marriages”, the Zina Ordinance is used by
      vengeful parents, exposing the married couple to the punishment of
      stoning to death.

      Had our National Assembly been endowed with any moral will or intellect
      it could have found ways and means to tinker with the law in force to
      alleviate the suffering of women. The first point to consider was that
      the Ordinance confused rape with fornication. No sensible person in the
      world can believe that a woman forcibly subjected to sex can be guilty
      or that she should be required to bring four pious witnesses to prove
      the crime. If a rape scene has four witnesses it would be recognised as
      some kind of theatrical performance rather than crime. More enlightened
      Islamic scholars have already opined on the difficulties introduced into
      the subject by the Arabic word zina which subsumes both rape and
      fornication. It is on the ground of this scholarly opinion that the
      Islamic world has not incorporated the clause that our law has.

      Zina takes us to the next step in our purblindness when it comes to
      legislating Islamic laws. Those found guilty of adultery are to be
      sentenced to stoning to death (rajm) which is not mentioned in the
      Quran. (Rajm is a part of the hudood although hudood have to be proved
      to have been ordained clearly in the Quran.) The Quran prescribes only a
      hundred lashes for the offence and the exegetes are not in agreement on
      the force applied to lashing. The criterion in judging a bad law is in
      the possibility of its enforcement. The truth is that in Pakistan half
      the Islamic laws in force have not been enforced, like the cutting of
      hands and blood-money for manslaughter, to name just two. The ones that
      are enforced are used only as unfair means of punishing women and the
      unprotected minorities. It is sad that our legislators so easily set
      aside an effort to improve a bad law. *


      o o o

      The Daily Times
      December 07, 2005


      EDITORIAL: Failure to tackle Gilgit violence is unforgivable

      The latest news is that the intelligence agencies have unearthed a plot
      by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah Sahaba to use suicide bombers to kill
      Shia members of the legislative council of the Northern Areas. The
      suicide bombers are said to include women and children to be sent from
      outside Gilgit. There is a rumour that the extremist clerics in the
      Punjab are trying to recruit potential terrorists from the quake-hit
      areas of Azad Kashmir and the NWFP, distributing publications like
      Zarb-e-Momin among them for this purpose. It is said that Maulana Ghulam
      Kibriya of Rahim Yar Khan has been assigned to arrange for these
      children’s admission to seminaries in southern Punjab.

      It is clear that preparations are being made for another bout of
      sectarian attacks. On Monday, a Sunni cleric from Multan was gunned down
      in Karachi to avenge the murder of a Shia cleric in Balochistan a day
      earlier. The entire country has become linked in a network of terrorism
      which now boasts Al Qaeda-style suicide-bombing. If you look at the map
      of the country, the territories under challenge comprise the Northern
      Areas, the North and South Waziristan Agencies in the Federally
      Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and all of Balochistan, the largest
      province comprising 40 percent of Pakistan’s territory. One can easily
      say that half of Pakistan is in the grip of people whose way of life is
      violence. And who is responsible for this if not the government which
      has been unable to tackle the problems that give rise to this violence?

      The biggest mess is in Gilgit, the administrative centre of the Northern
      Areas. And the mess dates back to the army’s decision to deploy an
      extremist anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Tayba during the Kargil Operation of 1999
      in tandem with regular troops. The administration in Gilgit has shown a
      criminal lack of understanding of the majority population (60 percent)
      of the city, the Shia, while deciding matters such as the content of
      school textbooks. Thus it would shock the world to know that Gilgit and
      the surrounding areas have seen a consistent pressure from the Shia
      community demanding changes in the textbooks for the last half decade
      and that the government, with all its intellectual resources, was not
      able to satisfy it. Nor was it able to prevent the target-killing of
      prominent Shia leaders, which enlisted the sectarian emotion of the
      entire community in the country.

      One glaring example of Islamabad’s lack of sensitivity came to the fore
      this year when the new chief commissioner of Gilgit was appointed. The
      ministry concerned appointed a fundamentalist Sunni as chief
      commissioner despite its awareness that the Shias of Gilgit panic at the
      appointment of officers holding extreme Sunni views. What it ignored was
      the message contained in the earlier murder of a retired Sunni IG. Chief
      Commissioner Major (retd) Nadeem Manzur, a strict practising Sunni
      officer and a son-in-law of General (retd) KM Arif, carries no blot but
      his almost fanatic observance of Sunni faith should have alerted the
      ministry to his unsuitability. In the event, he proved ineffective and
      has recently been recalled. Why was he sent to Gilgit in the first
      place? One fears that the ministry itself could be infected with
      sectarian passions.

      To get a perspective on how the Gilgit unrest affects the rest of the
      country, let us go over this year’s toll of terrorist casualties. On
      January 8, Shia leader Agha Ziauddin Rizvi was killed in Gilgit. On
      January 31, a leader of Sipah Sahaba Maulana Haroon ul Qasimi was killed
      in Karachi. On March 23, former Northern Areas IG Sakhiullah Tareen, a
      Sunni hardliner, was ambushed and killed in the Northern Areas. On April
      1, Allama Najafi, head of a major Shia seminary in Lahore, was murdered.
      On May 27, a suicide bombing killed 20 at the Barri Imam shrine near
      Islamabad. On May 30, the Shia seminary Jaamiat ul Ulum in Karachi was
      attacked by a suicide-bomber. On June 24, Mufti Rehman and Maulana
      Irshad, leaders of the Deoband-Sunni headquarters, Banuri Mosque in
      Karachi, were target-killed. The government should not wait helplessly
      for what the suicide-bombers of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba
      have in store for the nation in the coming days.

      Islamic states tend to be sectarian. Iran is overtly a Shia state where
      the Sunnis may find themselves discriminated against. The Sunni utopia
      created by the Taliban in Afghanistan was intensely sectarian and
      anti-Shia. After 20 years of jihad and Talibanisation, Pakistan too is
      showing clear signs of being a sectarian state. Saudi influence,
      spearheaded by Saudi funds to hardline Sunni seminaries, has changed
      Pakistan’s traditionally non-sectarian character. Its conduct in
      Shia-majority localities has been extremely violent. Gilgit is a case in
      point where in 1988 the state began its cycle of violence together with
      Parachinar in Kurram Agency. The pattern is that Sunni extremists will
      focus on areas where there is a concentration of Shias.

      The year 1988 was crucial to these Shia populations. That year General
      Zia allowed the mujahideen to attack Parachinar to break the Shia
      resistance to their operations inside Afghanistan. The same year he
      allowed Sunni lashkars of Sipah Sahaba to attack Gilgit, resulting in
      high Shia casualties. The same year the chief of the Shia party in
      Pakistan, Allama Arif ul Hussaini, was murdered in Peshawar. Thousands
      of people have died since then in this sectarian war. The future of
      Pakistan has been rendered uncertain by a group of powerful clerics who
      are now able to deploy suicide-bombers. If their violence against the
      minority communities is not stopped, they will turn on new, more
      high-profile, targets after they are done with the minorities. No one is
      safe. *



      ____



      [2]


      The Tribune
      December 7, 2005

      Khushboo: a larger question
      Can one 'cultural nationalism' counter another?
      by J. Sri Raman

      AFTER Ms. Jayalalithaa, no actress of Tamil cinema has
      provoked so much political discussion as Khushboo has
      done. And, strangely, it is the lesser of the two
      stars, who raises a larger political question, though
      it has not figured so far in the furore over her
      observations in a media interview.

      A whole range of issues, of course, have featured in
      the furious debates over the Khushboo-speak in
      newspaper columns and television channels, on
      political platforms and in less public places, in
      Tamil Nadu and at the national level. From pre-marital
      sex to popular AIDS awareness, from marriage and
      morals to culture and commodification, terms big
      enough for academic seminars have been bandied about
      in tirades following street slogans shouted to the
      waving of brooms and shoes. As the dust settles down,
      however, we have a near-consensus on the subject.

      It appears to be agreed on all hands that the ugly and
      uncivilised attacks on Khushboo and her "Kollywood"
      colleague Suhasini Maniratnam constituted assaults on
      the freedom of expression, a fundamental value of any
      democratic and even decent society. Many critics of
      Khushboo‚s views, as voiced in the ill-fated
      interview, have made it a point to disapprove of the
      demonstrations of intolerance staged in place of a
      peaceful protest or a decorous debate. So much so that
      even the political parties behind the unseemly
      protests have been at pains to disown them. The
      matter, however, does not, and should not, end here.

      The end of this episode should mark the beginning of a
      debate in greater depth about what led to it anyway.
      From where did the cultural and moral police,
      associated with regions under the sway of outfits like
      the Shiv Sena and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, spring up
      suddenly in a state where the dominant politics of
      regionalism claims "rationalism" as its defining
      feature?

      The simple answer is yes that this self-appointed
      special task force, stalking two women, instead of a
      Veerappan, did not spring up suddenly. The cultural
      and moral police is a natural corollary to a kind of
      politics, which had led earlier to alliances between
      parties with "rationalist" pretensions and the
      "Parivar" outfits. It is time to take a clearer look
      at this politics, erroneously perceived and projected
      so far only as either an arrangement of electoral
      convenience or a power-sharing ploy.

      The arrangement itself raised an obvious, but largely
      unasked question. Not long ago, Tamil Nadu was one
      state where the advent of the "Parivar" was considered
      unthinkable. An impregnable ideological barrier was
      presumed to encounter the Hindutva brigade here. The
      supposedly deep roots struck by the Dravidian ideology
      in the Tamil territory, it was taken for granted,
      would not let the alien plant, even a grafted version,
      grow. The fond hope was to prove little more than a
      facile presumption.

      The fact, which needs to be faced, is that no section
      of the Dravidian spectrum has ever resisted the
      temptation of a profitable tie-up with the BJP. None
      of them has found ideology an embarrassment while
      offering partnership to the Sangh Parivar. It was Ms.
      Jayalalithaa‚s AIADMK that gave the BJP a toehold in
      Tamil Nadu. To the DMK, in the period of its
      power-sharing with the BJP at the Centre, went the
      dubious credit for further legitimisation of the far
      right in the state. When Mr M. Karunanidhi scoffed at
      the anti-BJP camp‚s talk of "communalism" in the wake
      of the Gujarat carnage, he sounded quite the same as a
      Hindutva hardliner castigating "pseudo-secularism".
      Similar was the stance of other Dravidian parties in
      the Atal Bihari Vajpayee coalition - Mr. V.
      Gopalasamy‚s MDMK and, yes, the PMK.

      The ideological commonality, which made this compact
      possible, consisted in the basis upon which both the
      Parivar and the Dravidian camp envisage popular
      mobilisation. The Hindutva camp seeks to mobilise its
      constituency on communal or majoritarian lines.
      Dravidianism aims to do so on caste lines. Neither of
      them is for mobilising the people on either a
      compositely national basis or on class lines, as
      either Indians or a socio-economic interest group.

      The commonality goes far beyond this fundamental
      level. The more important point to be made in the
      current context is that the two ideologies wear a
      common veneer as well - that of "cultural
      nationalism". It is well known by now that this pet
      phrase of the Parivar means a cult of intolerance.
      What the Khushboo episode illustrates is that the
      cultural sub-nationalism of the Dravidian kind, if it
      may be called that, has the same connotation and
      consequences.

      An ethnic chauvinism, swearing by a "Tamil culture",
      has ever been part of the Dravidian platform despite
      the early claim of the anti-Aryan camp to talk for all
      the four southern states. Like the "cultural
      nationalism" of the Parivar, its Tamil counterpart,
      too, was bound to produce its cultural-moral police
      and storm-troopers.

      Talk of the moral superiority of the "Tamil culture"
      over its mortal Aryan adversary, in fact, became a
      defining feature of Dravidian propaganda even its
      early years. Dravidian ideologues espied, for example,
      outrageously obscene passages in Aryan epics, with
      their share of erotic poetry. The Ramayana, in
      particular, invited literary criticism from a loftily
      moral angle. Even the Kamba Ramayanam, considered a
      glory of Tamil literature, was trashed on grounds of a
      Tamil "morality". The pristine eroticism of Sangam
      works, which included (as some have pointed out) poems
      on premarital affairs, was not seen as running counter
      to a re-invented "Tamil culture".

      This notion of moral superiority has found a
      particularly noxious expression now in the repeated
      assertion by the anti-Khushboo brigade that "Tamil
      brides are virgins".

      Like the "cultural nationalism" of the Parivar, the
      Dravidian version, too, was bound to turn against
      women, and to make them bear the brunt of its
      moralising missions. True, Tamil Nadu has thus far
      been spared Rajasthan-type attempts at revival of
      "Sati" and Shiv Sena-style acid attacks on
      "improperly" clad girls. But the macho-sounding boast
      about Tamil women‚s chastity ("karpu" in equally
      chaste Tamil), combined with tolerance for bigamous
      males, shows that Dravidianism did not exactly banish
      the danger. The crusade against Khushboo shows how
      close the danger has always been.

      The entire episode underlines the political lesson of
      the Parivar-Dravidian partnerships of the past decade,
      especially for the liberal-Left sections. More fully
      exposed now is the folly of the hope that the
      Dravidian ideology, which at best represented a false
      consciousness, can bar the road to the far Right in
      Tamil Nadu.

      The danger illustrated by the episode is increased by
      the social description of the anti-Khushboo agitators.
      It is the "educated people" whom the actress has
      enlisted in her support, while the plebeian character
      of the protests against her is evident. This heightens
      the threat to democratic freedoms as much as the Dalit
      participation in the Hindutva pogrom in Gujarat did.

      o o o

      Economic and Political Weekly
      November 26, 2005

      Editorial

      Tamil Nadu: Burdens of Culture

      Last week, the actor Khushboo "surrendered" before the judicial
      magistrate in Mettur, Tamil Nadu for her "objectionable" comments on
      pre-marital sex, after the Madras High Court refused to stay a
      non-bailable arrest warrant against her. She was subsequently granted
      conditional bail and released. Khushboo committed the offence of
      uttering, in an interview on television, that pre-marital sex was
      acceptable, as long as women protected themselves from unwanted
      pregnancies and venereal disease, and that educated men could not expect
      their prospective wives to be virgins. The unmitigated harassment meted
      out to the actor since then, as well as to Suhasini Mani Ratnam who
      spoke publicly in her support, was re-enacted by activists of the
      Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and Dalit Panthers of India (DPI) with full
      fervour outside the court. The incident is disturbing not only for the
      curbs that are being placed violently and publicly on women's sexual
      conduct and freedom of expression, but also because of the political
      degeneration that underpins it and the nature as well as limited form of
      support the actor has received. Together they highlight, perhaps, the
      degree to which the conflation of women's bodies with nation and culture
      is current and how the legal construction of the marital space is itself
      an ambiguous affair.

      The leading lights of this enterprise, the PMK and DPI, though they have
      officially disclaimed responsibility for the actions of their cadre,
      have an obvious eye on the upcoming assembly elections next year. Since
      both parties have a distinct caste base, with the PMK being primarily a
      party of the backward caste vanniyars, it is important to expand their
      appeal and espouse a "pan-Tamil" cause. The two launched the Tamil
      Protection Movement earlier this year for the protection of Tamil
      language and culture, deploying tactics such as tarring shops that did
      not use Tamil signage, a technique used by the Dravidar Kazhagam during
      the anti-Hindi protests in 1965. The travesty of the situation though is
      that Tamil nationalism has become entirely shorn of its original
      liberatory underpinnings – as articulated through the Self-Respect
      movement beginning in 1944 – and has morphed into a shrill chauvinistic
      discourse resulting from years of distortion for electoral ends. The
      "Tamilness" espoused by the founder of the movement, Periyar E V
      Ramaswamy Naicker, was iconoclastic and thus able to articulate ideas
      that by any measure could be termed as radical: the nation cannot be
      free unless women are liberated from the slavery of marriage and that
      women's chastity signifies their unfreedom. The version of Tamil
      nationalism we see today tends to be revivalist, harking back to a
      golden past, and espouses a static and morally conservative culture.

      But it would be a mistake to view the unfolding events simply as the
      machinations of particular political parties, for their views appear to
      have wide currency. The police have reportedly slapped no less than 20
      cases on Khushboo and Suhasini based on a cocktail of charges ranging
      from defamation of Tamils, provocation to cause riots, promoting enmity
      between groups, malicious acts to outrage religious feelings, breaching
      peace, etc. Moreover, the qualified and belated support for Khushboo
      betrays in many ways public ambiguity about the issue as well as fears
      of a backlash, marking parallels with the protests that emerged when
      screenings of the film Fire were disrupted and vandalised in some of the
      northern states in 1998. The Nadigar Sangam (actors' association) has
      finally objected to the way Khushboo was treated but cautioned actors
      about expressing "certain" views in public; the CPI and CPM have taken
      exception to the violence of the protests; and a journalists' forum has
      focused on defending freedom of expression "without going into the
      merits of the statement". A similar disinclination to deal with the
      lesbian presence in the film Fire was apparent when nationwide protests
      were organised solely around the issue of freedom of expression, leading
      some groups to come together to form the Campaign for Lesbian Rights to
      politicise this invisibility and carve out a space for political action.
      Unfortunately, this time, no groups have visibly joined the fray to
      protest against these incursions on women's sexuality, autonomy and
      right to choose. Khushboo's remarks on the right to decide on one's
      sexual partner, as well as the right to health and reproductive choice,
      are entirely legitimate and that is precisely what makes them so
      dangerous for her critics and supporters.

      While considerable zeal is being expended on women's "dishonour", it
      would be worthwhile to point out that the simple act of marriage
      disqualifies a woman from filing a charge of rape against her
      perpetrator, if he happens to be her husband. The law then sits quite
      comfortably with the tenor of the protests: if pre-marital sex, with a
      woman's consent is wrong, why should sex after marriage without a
      woman's consent be an offence?


      ____


      [3]

      People's Democracy
      December 04, 2005

      RSS Now Targets California Textbooks

      by Nalini Taneja

      THE battle over secular texts on Indian history for schools and a
      rational view of the past is not confined to the matter of NCERT
      textbooks in India. More recently the RSS inspired organisations and the
      Hindutva lobbyists in the US have been over-active in attempting to
      change school textbooks in the state of California. That they have not
      had a walk-over is thanks to the vigilance and commitment of the many
      academics involved in Indian studies all over the world, who have
      solidly opposed these moves.

      The proposed changes in favour of the Hindutva view of Indian history
      and culture in the school texts became known only on November 5, 2005.
      Some of the individuals who had been asked to sign a memorandum,
      prepared by The Vedic Foundation, got alarmed and were alert enough to
      write to Professor Witzel of Harvard University, who has been
      consistently and publicly writing against the Hindutva concoctions of
      history. Thereafter the matter snowballed into a controversy at November
      9 public hearing when a letter from Professor Michael Witzel was
      submitted to the Board of Education informing them of the motivations of
      the Hindutva efforts and requesting them to reject the
      Hindutva-recommended changes.

      The State of California is now in the final stages of approving the
      history/social science textbooks for grade 6-8 in schools. This exercise
      takes place periodically and a number of publishers submit their books
      for approval and selection on these occasions to the Department of
      Education. It is at this stage this year that two Hindutva organisations
      based in the US, the Hindu Education Foundation and the Vedic
      Foundation, submitted what they argued were necessary “corrections” to
      be made in the textbooks approved, and Shiva Bajpai, a Hindutva-leaning
      advisor to the California Board of Education, succeeded in getting
      virtually all the changes requested by them approved by an ad hoc
      committee of the State Board of education.

      RENOWNED HISTORIANS REJECT HINDUTVA LOBBY CORRECTIONS

      Professor Witzel and Professor Steve Farmer, along with fifty other
      academics, including renowned Indian historians Romila Thapar, DN Jha
      and Shereen Ratnagar, have written to Ruth Green, president, State Board
      of Education, California, on behalf of “world specialists on ancient
      India”, reflecting “mainstream academic opinion in India, Pakistan, the
      United States, Europe, Australia, Taiwan and Japan”, to “reject the
      demands by nationalist Hindu (Hindutva) groups” that California
      textbooks be altered to conform to their religious-political views.”
      They have pointed out that “the proposed revisions are not of a
      scholarly, but of a religious-political nature and are primarily
      promoted by Hindutva supporters and non-specialist academics writing
      about issues far outside their areas of expertise”, and that “these
      views not reflect the views of majority of the specialists on ancient
      Indian history, nor of majority of the Hindus.”

      Their letter also says that these proposed ‘corrections’ are motivated
      by political agendas discriminatory to millions of people in India,
      especially the minorities, lower castes, and women, and that they have
      been debated thoroughly and rejected in India as well by academics and
      secular political forces. They have clearly warned that the endorsement
      of the views of these Hindutva so-called scholars by the California
      State Board of Education would cause a virtual international scandal.

      They have referred in their letter to the US State Department
      “International Religious Freedom Report 2003” and the one for 2004,
      which gave considerable space to the social and political tensions that
      arose (mentioning Gujarat as example), and were likely to exacerbate, in
      India through textbooks that vilified minorities. Given this, the letter
      argued, the acceptance of the pro- Hindutva changes by the State Board
      of Education in California amounted to going against the wisdom of US
      State policy as well.

      The Board has now, since the November 9 public hearing, come to accept
      the perspective of these eminent scholars, and has since been working
      with them to allow only such changes as meet the standards of objective
      scholarship. Yet the battle is not over. The next public hearing is
      scheduled for December 1, after which the State Board on Education will
      take its decision to finally reject/include the changes it initially
      approved at the behest of their Hindutva leaning advisor, Shiv Bajpai.
      The final step in the process is the adoption of the recommendation of
      the Board of Education by the Curriculum Commission also on December
      1-2, 2005.

      STRENGTHENING THE SECULAR POSITION

      To strengthen the secular position a petition has also been circulated
      on the internet and signatures are pouring in every day. They have also
      appealed to the public at large that “If you believe in teaching
      California's children true history and culture of India, it is very
      important for you to attend the public hearing on December 1 and 2 in
      Sacramento and voice your opinion rejecting the Hindutva-recommended
      changes.” The major demand is that no changes should be made in
      textbooks at the behest of any organisation/individual other than the
      distinguished panel of scholars the Board has been working with since
      November 9.

      On the other side, Pranawa C Deshmukh, a professor of physics at Indian
      Institute of Technology is mobilising Hindutva forces in support of the
      changes suggested by the Vedic Foundation and the RSS-inspired Hindu
      Education Foundation. A large number of their cronies are likely to
      either write to the Curriculum Commission or show up at the public
      hearing. Among such members is the notorious David Frawley!

      A look at the specific changes demanded by the Hindutva organisations
      would show them to be integral to the Sangh Parivar political agenda,
      and very similar to what the BJP government was trying to do here with
      the NCERT syllabus and the NCERT textbooks in social sciences,
      particularly history.


      CORRECTION SUGGESTED BY HINDUTVA FORCES

      For example, among the ‘corrections’ suggested is a clear attempt to
      deny the integrality, in fact the very mention of the caste system in
      ancient India. On women, they are anxious to present their gender bias
      in the form of ‘difference’, a very fashionable and now sanctioned
      social science category pushed through by post modernists.

      In one textbook the changes included a specific addition that “the
      recent archaeological proofs are negating the Aryan invasion theory. The
      new theory suggests that Aryans were not the outsiders.” The lines
      saying “Men had many more rights than women” was to be replaced by “Men
      had different duties (dharma) and rights than women. Many women were
      among the sages to whom the Vedas were revealed.”

      In another textbook the entire paragraph on the caste system was to be
      deleted, and the picture of an untouchable removed. Other corrections
      pertained to putting back the dates for the Rig Veda, confusing the
      dates of the Indus and Harappa city-based civilisations with the Vedic
      civilization to show the antiquity/indigenous origin of the Aryans in
      India, conflating Brahmanical beliefs with Hinduism, denying the
      plurality of gods worshipped through history in favour of one God in
      different forms, depicting shudras as “serving all classes” and doing
      “labour intensive work” rather than serving the three upper castes and
      so on. The sentences dealing with the sacredness of the cows, diet, were
      also suitably amended.

      Tolerance was presented as “usual” for the time of Ashoka in ancient
      India, and references to science and mathematics in ancient India were
      modified so as to present it as the earliest and greatest civilisation,
      while references to the negative aspects of society in ancient India
      were sought to be deleted or presented as cultural specificities rather
      than oppression. They also wanted to insert long sections written out by
      themselves, which were not allowed as they over- stepped the brief for
      updating of texts and “corrections”.

      This entire effort is part of the RSS’s larger goal to “educate” the
      Hindu children brought up in the US to be “good Hindus” and to “learn
      the truth about Indian history and culture”, no doubt assisting in the
      search for “roots” and “anchor” that the Hindu youth —like the other
      immigrants—hanker for! That these children could become Hindutva’s
      international support one day is one thing; they could well become its
      victims right now if the powerful Hindutva organisations in the US are
      allowed to have their way.


      ____


      [4] LETTERS / APPEALS:

      (i)

      Karbi Anglong Appeal

      The Peoples’ Committee for Peace Initiative in Assam would like to draw
      your attention to the tragedy unfolding in the autonomous district of
      Karbi Anglong in Assam. For the last four weeks, ethnic Dimasa and Karbi
      peoples have suffered immensely in a conflict that has disrupted the
      age-old fraternal ties between the two communities. Both the government
      of Assam and the autonomous district council authorities have failed to
      provide relief and security to the affected peoples of the district. As
      of now, there are more than 30,000 internally displaced persons living
      in abysmal conditions in camps scattered around the districts of Karbi
      Anglong, Nagaon and the North Cachar Hills. Women in advanced stages of
      pregnancy, children suffering from water-borne diseases, and elderly
      persons with no access to health and civic amenities are stuck in these
      camps, where food, shelter and medical attention are desperately scarce.

      Seeing that the administration has failed in its duties either to
      control the violence or to offer relief, we appeal to all sections of
      society, including civil society organisations and NGOs – particularly
      those capable of offering relief and medical aid – to offer their
      services to the victims. Please contact us at:
      karbi-anglong.relief@...

      o o o

      (ii)


      Letter To Chairperson WIPSA:

      It is with anguish and pain that I have to place on record my
      remonstrance against the blatantly anti-national misconduct of two
      members of WIPSA in Lucknow: Meera Khanna and Monisha Banerji-Gill.
      Unless they are expelled, WIPSA as a whole would be deemed complicit in
      their perfidy.

      I will not detail the litany of subversive and treasonous crimes these
      pro-war and pro-division, anti-India and anti-Pakistan members of WIPSA
      committed not just against Tehrik-e-Niswan and Sh[eem]a Kirmani, our
      invited guests and socially committed thespians of repute, but also
      against civility and cultural norns traditionally honored and practiced
      in the entire sub-continent over millenna past. They injured and
      insulted far more than a visiting theatre group from Pakistan.

      At a time when people to people contact is steadily generating a climate
      of bonhomie and peace between two neighbors, the misconduct of
      Meera-Monisha duo cannot be an ill-advised aberration.
      They would be suspected of acting out a plan designed beforehand. They
      have thus made WIPSA look suspect as an anti-national outfit fronting
      for foreign interests that are contemptuous and dismissive of India's
      sovereigny and security.

      By their miscondut they have alerted neighboring South Asian nations
      that Big Brother India can be a menace, vulgarly brutal and
      untrustworthy even in matters civil, artistic, and cultural. How far
      this is conducive to our drive for better relations and genuine
      camaraderie between nations of the subcontinent, only these redoubtable
      ladies can answer.

      Meera-Monisha have thus aggressively, venomously, and boorishly asserted
      that India as a society is wedded to communal fascism, that it is an
      unabashed surrogate of and subservient to imperial interests of foreign
      origin, and that it would betray our national interests and besmirch our
      culture of mezbani (hospitality) with wanton recklessness.

      They deem their right to insult others and injure many as freedom of
      expression, of a diabolic kind. As to their understanding of art and its
      function or culture and its multiverse richness of creative imagination,
      the leat said the better.

      They did not stint in their abuse of Lucknow known for its multichrome
      heritage. They must be unaware or derisive of this city's culture. Let
      me give just a few examples. Malik Muhammad Jayasi
      (Jayas, near Lucknow) wrote his Sufi epic with a Hindu theme, Padmawat,
      in Awadhi, predating Tulasidas. Munshi Nawal Kishore published from his
      famous press numerous books in Persian. Pahari Sanyal, the well-known
      thespian of Calcutta, came to Lucknow to learn Kathak when he was 60
      years old. And, that incorrigible connoisseur, Ghalib, sang his paean to
      Lucknow in his inimitable style thus: Maqta-e-silsila-e-shauq naheen hai
      yeh shahar/Azme-saire-najfo-taufe-haram hai hum ko/ Liye jaatee hai
      kaheen ek tawaqqo, Ghalib/Jaad-e-rah kashishe-kaafe-karam hai hum ko.
      This Lucknow, the magnet of magnanimity, was destroyed by one fell blow
      from Khanna-Banerji-Gill. May we ask, at whose behest, for whose benefit?

      These twin pathetic females have only enhanced the pristine stature of
      both Sh[eem]a Kirmani, the Kathak pioneer in Pakistan, and
      Tehrik-e-Niswan, the celebrated theatre, known for its socially relevant
      presentations. To them we as a nation owe apology and amends and pray
      that they gracefully, large-heartedly accept it as our national shame.

      But, at home, we would have WIPSA probed, its Ford-connection
      scrutinized. What national threat NGOs pose, WIPSA has proved best.

      I.K.Shukla

      05.12.04

      ____


      [5]


      ANNOUNCEMENTS: Upcoming Events and Publications


      (i)

      You are cordially invited by SAFMA-Punjab & Eqbal Ahmed Foundation to the
      Eqbal Ahmad Distinguished Lecture 2005 by:

      SHRI KULDIP NAYYAR, leading journalist, peace activist & former member
      of the Rajya Sabha on: POSSIBLE OPTIONS ON KASHMIR.

      LAHORE: 2:45pm on Sunday, 11 December 2005 at Khurshed Mahal, Avari Hotel.
      The discussants will be Sardar Assef Ahmad Ali (former foreign minister)
      and Mr Najam Sethi (editor Daily Times).

      ISLAMABAD: 2:30pm on Monday, 12 December 2005 at National Library
      Auditorium. The discussants will be Major General Jamshed Ayaz Khan
      (president, Institute of Regional Studies) and Mr. Imtiaz Alam (Secretary
      General, SAFMA).

      o o o o

      (ii)


      Citizens Peace march to the Pak India (Sindh - Rajasthan) Border Dec
      17-23,2005 and festive
      event and vigil on 23 Dec by Pakistan India Peoples Forum for Peace and
      Democracy.

      (Posted below is an invitation by the organisers from the Indian Side /
      Similar preparations are underway by Pakistani organisers)

      --

      28th November 2005


      Invitation to the Shanti Yatra and Aman Mela of PIPFPD (from
      Jodhpur to Munabao border checkpost - Rajasthan)

      Dear Colleague,

      You are aware that PIPFPD is holding a Peace March (Shanti Yatra) in
      Rajasthan between the 17th and the 23rd of December 2005. The Shanti
      Yatra will start from Jodhpur in Rajasthan to Munabao which is on the
      border between Pakistan (Sindh) and India (Rajasthan). The Yatra will
      culminate into a Peace Fair (Aman Mela) on the 23rd December evening. As
      you know, the Shanti Yatra and the Aman Mela have been declared as Joint
      programmes of PIPFPD India and Pakistan Chapters, as both chapters will
      be mobilising for the mega event. Many prominent artists, eminent
      personalities from India and Pakistan will be participating in the
      Shanti Yatra and especially at the Aman Mela.

      Pakistan Chapter is organising a parallel Yatra from Hyderabad (Sindh)
      to Kokhrapar (Eastern Border check-post of Sindh) that will also
      culminate in a similar Aman Mela on that side of the border on 23rd
      evening. PIPFPD intends to hold a Joint Candle-light vigil of citizens
      from both sides at the zero point after the border. It is intended that
      Indians and Pakistanis from the Forum will meet at the border, exchange
      greetings and get a chance to light the symbolic candles of Peace. It is
      in this context that we seek your active cooperation, support and
      physical presence during these events organised by PIPFPD.

      The State chapters have been requested to inform all members and
      finalise list of volunteers who would like to participate in the Shanti
      Yatra. National committee through earlier communications had also
      requested the State Chapters to mobilise contributions for the Shanti
      Yatra. I am sorry that we have received rather poor response from the
      State Chapters in this regard. I hope and look forward to a more
      enthusiastic response to this final communication. Please note that your
      participation and contributions are necessary to make this Shanti Yatra
      a success. I am sure that you will understand the emotions and
      sympathies attached to this kind of an event, involving thousands of
      separated families, friends and and well wishers of Pakistan-India peace
      efforts.

      Information about the Yatra, schedule, places and persons to be
      contacted are attached. Jodhpur and Barmer are well connected by
      railways and road transport with the rest of the country. Kindly inform
      the Rajasthan Chapter secretariat at Udaipur. (Contact information
      enclosed). Kindly make sure that you inform the Convener, Mr. Munawwar
      Rahi, your confirmed participation dates. For those members who cannot
      participate throughout the Shanti Yatra, we will prefer to have your
      availability in either the inaugural programme at Jodhpur or the Aman
      Mela at Munabao. Also please note that it will be quite cold in the
      desert. Adequate warm clothing are necessary.

      With regards,

      Tapan K Bose
      General Secretary
      PIPFPD India

      Encl. Pls find a detail schedule and itinerary of the Shanti Yatra and
      the Aman Mela.

      TRAINS RUNNING FROM JODHPR-MUNABAO-BARMER

      JODHPUR - BARMER : MALANI EXPRESS (DAILY)

      DEP. JODHPUR 6.40 A.M.
      ARR BARMER 11 A..M.

      DEP. BARMER 6. P.M.
      ARR. JODHPUR 10 P.M.

      BARMER-MUNABAO (PASSENGER TRAIN)

      DEP. BARMER 7 A.M.
      ARR. MUNBAO 10 A.M.

      DEP. MUNABAO 10.50 A.M.
      ARR. BARMER 2 P.M.


      Note: Trains from all metro cities come to Jodhpur

      Barmer-Munabao., Jodhpur to Barmer - buses leaves at every one hour.
      Contact Rajasthan roadways.


      (iii)

      CHAMPA-
      The Amiya & B.G.Rao Foundation,
      25, Nizamuddin East, New Delhi-110013.


      The last decade or so has witnessed major changes in the economic,
      social and political structures of Indian society leading to the loss of
      livelihood as well as the erosion of the people's democratic rights.
      Struggles of the marginalised people are taking place in many parts of
      the country but they are not being reported in the media and are being
      ignored by the political establishment. The Champa Foundation's annual
      memorial meeting will be held on the theme :-

      Privatisation, MNCs and People's Struggles

      On December 12, 2005 at 4 p.m.
      At Dy.Chairman‚s Hall, Constitution Club,
      Rafi Marg, New Delhi-110001

      The meeting will be chaired by Dr. Navin Chandra, Former Director of the
      National Labour Institute

      Speakers:

      Nagaraj Adve
      Nandlal Master
      Ranjana Padhi

      Worker s from the Honda factory, Gurgaon will join the discussion.

      We request your participation in the meeting to lend your support to the
      struggles of our people.

      T.K. John
      N.D. Pancholi
      Uma Chakravarti


      (iv)


      ZUBAAN DIARY 2006

      The Zubaan diary features posters from the Women's Movement since the
      1970s. Poster Women, is a Zubaan project that is a visual mapping of the
      womenís movement in India and will culminate in a travelling exhibition
      in 2006. In case you wish to order a copy(s), please do so by sending an
      email to:

      contact@... and zubaan@...


      Zubaan,
      An imprint of Kali for Women,
      K-92, FF,
      Hauz Khas Enclave,
      New Delhi - 110016
      Tel: +91-11-26521008, 26864497 and 26514772
      Website: www.zubaanbooks.com


      (v)

      India Pakistan Arms Race and Militarisation Watch No. 159
      (04 December, 2005)
      URL: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/IPARMW/message/170


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

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

      DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed in materials carried in the posts do not
      necessarily reflect the views of SACW compilers.
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