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SACW | 13 Apr 2006 | WSF Karachi; Letter to Nepali Democrats; Victims of Bhopal, Damned of Narmada, Goa communal violence, Gujarats adivasis and the hindu right

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | 13 April, 2006 | Dispatch No. 2235 [1] WSF in Pakistan (Tariq Ali) + World Social Forum leaves organisers in upbeat mood (News
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 12, 2006
      South Asia Citizens Wire | 13 April, 2006 | Dispatch No. 2235

      [1] WSF in Pakistan (Tariq Ali)
      + World Social Forum leaves organisers in upbeat mood (News report)
      [2] An Open Letter to Nepali democrats (Dilip Simeon and Madhu Sarin)
      + Beginning of the end? (Editorial, The Hindu)
      [3] India: Forgotten People (Joe Athialy)
      [4] India: Salt, Dams, Nuke Sites: India's Struggle (J. Sri Raman)
      [5] India: Bhopal victims step up agitation
      [6] India - Goa: Sign the Petition Demanding
      Inquiry Committee Into Sanvordem Violence
      [7] India - Gujarat: Adivasis: A Cultural Cooption (Ram Puniyani)
      [8] Upcoming Events:
      (i) Seminar on Shwe Gas Pipeline Project -
      Implications on India and Burma (New Delhi, 17-18
      (ii) "Self Determination Day" (Srinagar, 20 April)



      ZNet - April 01, 2006

      by Tariq Ali

      While we were opening the World Social Forum in
      Karachi last weekend with virtuoso performances
      of sufi music and speeches, the country's rulers
      were marking the centenary of the Muslim League
      [the party that created Pakistan and has ever
      since been passed on from one bunch of rogues to
      another till now it is in the hands of political
      pimps who treat it like a bordello] by gifting
      the organisation to General Pervaiz Musharaf, the
      country's uniformed ruler.

      The secular opposition leaders, Nawaz Sharif and
      Benazir Bhutto, who used to compete with each
      other to see who could amass more funds while in
      power, are both in exile. To return home would
      mean to face arrest for corruption. Neither is in
      the mood for martyrdom or relinquishing control
      of their organizations. Meanwhile, the religious
      parties are happily implementing neo-liberal
      policies in the North-West Frontier province that
      is under their control. Incapable of catering to
      the real needs of the poor they concentrate their
      fire on women and the godless liberals who defend

      The military is so secure in its rule and the
      official politicians so useless that 'civil
      society' is booming. Private TV channels, like
      NGOs, have mushroomed and most views are
      permissible (I was interviewed for an hour by one
      of these on the "fate of the world communist
      movement") except a frontal assault on religion
      or the military and its networks that govern the
      country. If civil society posed any real threat
      to the elite, the plaudits it receives would
      rapidly turn to menace.

      It was, thus, no surprise that the WSF, too, had
      been permitted and facilitated by the local
      administration in Karachi. It is now part of the
      globalized landscape and helps backward rulers
      feel modern. The event itself was no different
      from the others. Present are several thousand
      people, mainly from Pakistan, but with a
      sprinkling of delegates from India, Bangladesh,
      Sri Lanka, South Korea and a few other countries.

      Absent was any representation from China's
      burgeoning peasant and workers movements or its
      critical intelligentsia. Iran, too, was
      unrepresented as was Malaysia. The Israeli
      enforcers who run the Jordanian administration
      harassed a Palestinian delegation. Only a handful
      of delegates managed to get through the
      checkpoints and reach Karachi. The huge
      earthquake in Pakistan last year had disrupted
      many plans and the organizers were not able to
      travel and persuade people elsewhere in the
      continent to come. Otherwise, insisted the
      organisers, the voices of Abu Ghraib and
      Guantanamo and Fallujah would have been heard.

      The fact that it happened at all in Pakistan was
      positive. People here are not used to hearing
      different voices and views. The Forum enabled
      many from repressed social layers and minority
      religions to assemble make their voices heard:
      persecuted Christians from the Punjab, Hindus
      from Sind, women from everywhere told
      heart-rending stories of discrimination and

      Present too was a sizeable class-struggle
      element: peasants fighting against the
      privatization of military farms in Okara, the
      fisher-folk from Sind whose livelihoods are under
      threat and who complained about the great Indus
      river being diverted to deprive the common people
      of water they had enjoyed since the beginning of
      human civilization thousands of years ago,
      workers from Baluchistan complaining about
      military brutalities in the region.

      Teachers who explained how the educational system
      in the country had virtually ceased to exist. The
      common people who spoke were articulate,
      analytical and angry, in polar contrast to the
      stale rhetoric of Pakistan's political class.
      Much of what was said was broadcast on radio and
      television with the main private networks---Geo,
      Hum and Indus--- vying with each other to ensure
      blanket coverage.

      And so the WSF like a big feel-good travelling
      road show came to Pakistan and went. What will it
      leave behind? Very little, apart from goodwill
      and the feeling that it has happened here. For
      the fact remains the elite dominates that
      politics in the country. Little else matters.
      Small radical groups are doing their best, but
      there is no state-wide organisation or movement
      that speaks for the dispossessed. The social
      situation is grim, despite the massaged
      statistics circulated by the World Bank's
      Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

      The NGOs are no substitute for genuine social and
      political movements. They may be NGOs in Pakistan
      but in the global scale they are WGOs (Western
      Governmental Organizations), their cash-flow
      conditioned by restricted agendas. It is not that
      some of them are not doing good work, but the
      overall effect of this has been to atomize the
      tiny layer of left and liberal intellectuals.
      Most of these men and women (those who are not in
      NGOs are embedded in the private media networks)
      struggle for their individual NGOs to keep the
      money coming; petty rivalries assumed exaggerated
      proportions; politics in the sense of grass-roots
      organisation is virtually non-existent. The Latin
      American model as emerging in the victories of
      Chavez and Morales is a far cry from Mumbai or

      Tariq Ali is author of the recently released
      Street Fighting Years (new edition) and, with
      David Barsamian, Speaking of Empires & Resistance.

      o o o

      [March 30, 2006]


      (Gulf News Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Karachi:
      The six-day World Social Forum ended in Karachi

      Thousands of activists attended the concluding
      ceremony and a musical concert in which
      performers sang and danced almost all night to
      the delight of the cheering crowd.

      The forum, with peace, democracy and women and
      workers' rights on its agenda was a huge success,
      said organisers. "The World Social Forum [WSF]
      was a success beyond our expectations," said
      Karamat Ali, one of the main organisers and a
      senior labour leader.

      "We were expecting a modest participation, but
      more than 20,000 delegates participated in the
      WSF, including 3,000 foreigners," he said.
      "Though the forum did not pass any resolutions,
      the organisations and individuals raised several
      key issues."

      Farmers, industrial workers, fishermen, human
      rights and political activists and youngsters
      from all over the world attended the forum which
      included more than 400 events. It gave Pakistani
      leftist groups a platform to air their views.

      "One of the major achievements of the forum was
      that for the first time leaders from both sides
      of Kashmir met and discussed the issue at
      length," Ali said.

      Anti-US sentiment dominated the forum where every
      day participants condemned the American
      occupation of Iraq. Labour rights, environmental
      degeneration, and globalisation attracted the
      most heated debates led mostly by the Indian
      delegation, which was the biggest with about 700

      But the biggest winner was Karachi, which is seen
      as a dangerous place for foreigners because of a
      string of terrorist attacks and its history of
      political and religious violence.

      "My impressions about Karachi have changed," said
      Marjan Lucas, a delegate from Holland. "It is a
      very vibrant city with friendly people. The
      reality is different from whatever is being
      portrayed in the media."

      Organisers said despite its anti-establishment
      agenda, the government went all out to facilitate
      the event, which would go a long way in building
      Karachi's image.



      www.sacw.net - April 5, 2006 > Citizens Action & Ideas for Peace in South Asia


      Dear comrades,

      We are Indians, and supporters of the Nepali
      people's struggle for democracy. Rather than a
      bearer of a national identity, we speak as world
      citizens who believe in the shared values and
      solidarity of all democratic movements. What we
      have to say is urgent, because it is painful to
      observe the agony of the Nepali people,
      especially the most vulnerable, such as children
      and the poor. These humble millions are caught in
      a political storm, whose contenders all claim to
      speak in the name of 'the people' with little
      concern about the consequences of their actions
      on the peoples' lives and livelihood. We are
      living through an important moment, when a step
      back from deeply-held positions can bring about
      far- reaching changes for the better. It is a
      sign of hope that this seems to be occurring at
      the present time.

      Friends, it is clear that the traditional Nepali
      ruling elites have seized absolute power and
      continue to maintain this shamelessly, in the
      face of national and international condemnation.
      It is also clear that the absolutists will not
      understand or act upon globally accepted ideals
      of human liberty, democracy, equality before law
      and constitutional limits to state power. Despite
      their slogans hailing the unity of the monarch
      and the praja, the ruling elite has no concern
      for the welfare of its own citizens, millions of
      whom are obliged to work in degrading conditions
      in India and other countries.

      International Opinion

      Except for the US, the dominant powers of the
      Western alliance and countries such as India,
      have expressed their scepticism about the
      intentions of the Nepali monarch or his potential
      for unifying the polity. Even other autocracies,
      such as China who had previously supported the
      monarchy are distancing themselves from its short
      sighted and politically bankrupt acts. The latest
      statements of the US ambassador express concern
      that a Maoist revolution would be a greater
      danger to the people than an uncaring monarchy,
      although the evidence indicates that the Royal
      Nepal Army has killed more innocent civilians
      than the Maobaadis in the last 10 years. The
      American administration is motivated by
      self-interest rather than principle. They are
      even now in occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq in
      defiance of international law, and have shown no
      love for democracy in South Asia where, over the
      decades they have supported dictators and
      religious fanatics of all colours. They support
      democratic movements when and where this suits
      them, and contemptuously disregard democratic
      values when it doesn't. Hence, while welcoming
      the warm words of certain Western leaders and
      representatives, we should be sceptical of their
      intentions and the stability of their
      commitments. In India, a wide range of Indian
      political opinion supports the cause of democracy
      in Nepal although there is support for the
      monarchy among some sections of the army,
      bureaucracy, the old princely families and the

      However, this letter is not addressed to the
      Nepali rulers, nor is it an analysis of political
      opinion with regard to Nepal. It is primarily an
      appeal to all Nepali democrats, including
      Maobaadis (who say they have a new commitment to
      democracy), to recognise the current moment for
      its great potential. The ruling clique is
      isolated as never before, nationally and
      internationally. And the mainstream Nepali
      democrats have come to an understanding with the
      Maobaadis, who for their part have stated their
      support for an elected Constituent Assembly, and
      the concept of multi-party democracy. The issues
      are becoming simplified, and the enemies of
      democracy are becoming isolated.

      The Opposition

      The problem remains of overcoming mutual distrust
      among all the mainstream democrats, of
      pre-empting the autocratic ambitions of the
      Nepali Army, and of stopping the bloodshed. As
      regards the parliamentary opposition, strong
      political will is needed to maintain a
      self-critical approach to old ways of thinking
      and acting, to overcome old animosities, and to
      maintain a dialogue not only among themselves,
      but with millions of ordinary Nepalis who want a
      democratic republic. A new vision is necessary,
      along with institutional and political
      preparation for a constitutional order, and fresh
      initiatives towards these aims - such as ensuring
      democracy within their own parties, devising a
      plan of action for the Constituent Assembly,
      ensuring neutrality, protecting citizens lives,
      etc. As for the Army generals, one can only hope
      that some of them have the sense to see that
      democracy is good for Nepal. There must be many
      army jawans/soldiers and some officers, who would
      sympathise with democratic ideals. We must
      welcome them and address them politically rather
      than push them away.

      But above all, democrats must develop the
      confidence in their own strength, vision and
      ability to engage with the Maobaadis to ensure
      that they uphold the alliance. There must be a
      continuing dialogue with them to encourage them
      to give up violence. Many Nepalis, while not
      being Maoists themselves, sympathise with them,
      participate in their activities, and have
      ambivalent positions on the question of "people's
      war". This situation has been brought about by
      anger and helplessness in the face of a selfish,
      autocratic and cruel governing authority, with no
      vehicle to express grievance or seek social
      justice through peaceful methods. We can
      understand the origins and force of this anger
      but we must remember that (apart from the moral
      issues), if anger is not restrained and
      harnessed, it becomes a spiral of violent revenge
      and creates a political system that is the mirror
      image of one that is overthrown. The pent up
      emotions and energies of the Nepali people can
      find a more creative and optimistic expression in
      non-violent social movements and activities which
      will serve as the foundation of a democratic
      state structure.

      The creation of democratic party structures, mass
      social and political movements, and democratic
      civil institutions at district and community
      levels, are the only foundations for a stable and
      viable democracy. We may understand Prachanda's
      anger at the callousness of the absolutist
      monarchy but we can also understand the fear and
      scepticism evoked amongst democratic forces in
      Nepal when he says that he expects a people's
      court to execute the king. Nepal has abolished
      the death penalty and has an active and well
      functioning judiciary. Prachanda's statement will
      undermine rather than help consolidate the
      process of democratic unity.

      The Urge for Peaceful Change

      We appeal to all of you to think about the strong
      urge for peace among your fellow Nepalis. People
      want an end to tyranny, but not at the cost of so
      much bloodshed and cruelty. To kill a single
      person, no matter how bad he is, without due
      process of law, violates democratic principles.
      We cannot fight for democracy by using
      anti-democratic procedures, or preaching
      autocratic values. We cannot complain that the
      state indulges in extra-judicial killings and
      then do the same thing ourselves. How can we
      encourage young revolutionaries to kill not only
      the soldiers (who are mostly poor people like
      themselves), but also a taxi-driver who violates
      a 'bandh', a telephone booth operator who was
      forced to allow the Army to use his telephone, or
      ordinary bus passengers, as in Chitwan last year?
      Is it enough to say, sorry, these are 'accidents'
      and then expect the victims' near and dear ones
      to wipe their tears and support the revolution?
      In late January, at Kathmandu airport, we saw a
      young working-class Nepali woman see off her
      husband - maybe he was joining a job in a foreign
      country. She was weeping silently, and we thought
      how much more would be her sorrow if he were to
      be killed in some encounter, some cross-fire,
      some bandh?

      Friends, brutality operates in a cycle. The Army
      and police have been brutal, and the
      revolutionaries have also been brutal. How does
      it make any difference to the victims of cruelty
      that the State has killed 8000 people and the
      revolutionaries only 4000? Is the pain of their
      relatives lessened because they died while
      comrades fought for a good cause? So much
      accumulated tragedy and pain and tears! Do the
      Nepali people deserve so much suffering on top of
      all the tragic consequences of autocratic rule?
      Organised killing develops autocratic modes of
      thought and totalitarian politics. It destroys
      the human conscience, encourages lawlessness and
      disrespect for human life. The people who survive
      such a bloody revolution will be emotionally and
      psychologically damaged people. Precedents will
      have been set that will endanger the future of

      An Appeal to the Comrades

      Many of the Maobaadis are inspired by pure ideals
      and sincere beliefs. But unfortunately the
      politics of violence is a slippery road that can
      change human character, and transform lofty goals
      into current nightmares. Democrats need to start
      a dialogue to bring about lasting democracy in
      Nepal. If they are far-sighted, the Maobaadis can
      make a historic contribution to this dialogue.
      With due respect we must tell Comrade Prachanda
      and all the comrades: your anger is justified,
      but your violence is not. Instead of venting your
      anger in ways that often harm your own citizenry,
      subjecting them to yet more cruelty, it would be
      more fruitful to build democratic structures and
      practices (both within and outside the political
      parties) which will become the foundations for a
      future democratic Nepal.

      Friends, we strongly believe that peace and
      security and freedom from fear is as much of a
      popular aspiration as a democratic constitution
      or improved working conditions. The sooner the
      comrades realise this, the better it will be for
      the socialist cause. Violence and cruelty is the
      language of the exploiters and oppressors - if
      socialists also use this language, what hope
      remains for humanity? All kinds of non-violent
      protests and constructive programmes can be
      organised. Popular committees could be started in
      localities to start democratisation even before
      constitutional change. After all, democracy means
      not just rule with the consent of the governed,
      but the participation of the people in
      governance. We appeal to you to consider this:


      This March 8, let us remember the ordinary
      Russian soldiers of the Tsar's army who refused
      to shoot women demonstrators on International
      Women's Day in St Petersburg in 1917. This single
      incident marked the overthrow of Tsarism and the
      advent of the Russian Revolution. Comrades! The
      greatest victory would be for you to prevail over
      the soldiers and policemen via their conscience
      rather than through fear. Let us experiment with
      the revolutionary potential of non-violence. Let
      us imagine a politics of love, rather than of
      hate. Once people stop fearing for their lives,
      and if the comrades demonstrate their sincerity,
      then fence-sitters (and maybe even elements of
      the armed forces) will join the ranks of
      democracy. The constant tension, fear, and enmity
      will subside and the ordinary people will be
      encouraged to participate in the historic task of
      constructing Nepali democracy.

      With love, best wishes and fraternal regards to all of you

      Dilip Simeon
      Madhu Sarin

      New Delhi
      March 1, 2006

      o o o

      The Hindu
      Apr 12, 2006



      The tsunami of protest in Nepal against the
      brutally unconstitutional rule of King Gyanendra
      is virtually a rerun of the People's Movement of
      1990 - with an important difference. Sixteen
      years ago, the street protests were directed
      against the absolute monarchy of his elder
      brother, King Birendra; they helped usher in a
      multi-party democracy with a constitutional
      monarchy. Then, as now, the King used repressive
      tactics to protect his position, surrendering to
      the demands of the people only when it became
      clear that the protestors would not be
      intimidated into backing off from the palace
      doors. But King Birendra was a much wiser man
      than his business-minded brother. He was astute
      enough to cut his losses by forging a deal with
      the political parties that ensured the monarchy
      would continue in a diluted, constitutional form.
      It helped his case that those spearheading the
      protests also thought it unwise to do away with
      the monarchy. That has changed. After five years
      of King Gyanendra, more and more people in Nepal
      are questioning the wisdom of holding on even to
      a constitutional monarchy. The seven-party
      alliance for the restoration of democracy has
      acquired a distinct republican hue, to the extent
      of forging a loose political understanding with
      the Maoist insurgency whose avowed aim is to
      abolish the monarchy. The proliferating protests
      in Nepal despite a vicious Palace crackdown
      reveal that even those who initially bought the
      King's promise that he would restore democracy
      have completely lost faith.

      King Gyanendra's shenanigans are shown up in
      stark contrast by the actions of other monarchs
      in the region. In Thailand, the people revere
      King Bhumibol Adulyatej; and he protects this
      status by a studied policy of non-interference in
      the day-to-day politics of his country. Leaving
      that to the politicians and steering clear of
      divisive ambitions, he has carved out for himself
      a role of such moral authority that in the recent
      political crisis, all it took was a word from him
      to make the discredited Thaksin Shinawatra resign
      as Prime Minister. In Bhutan, a sagacious King
      Jigme Singye Wangchuk is voluntarily preparing to
      change from an absolute monarch to a
      constitutional one. When Gyanendra ascended the
      Nepal throne on June 4, 2001 after an infamous
      massacre of the royals (with an unpopular Paras
      next in the line of succession), he needed badly
      to establish his credentials. He could have
      fashioned a role that was constructive for the
      country's fledgling democracy but has shown
      himself incapable of anything like that.
      Notwithstanding an international chorus for
      "constitutional forces" - meaning the democratic
      political parties and the monarch - to come
      together to resolve Nepal's political crisis, it
      is unlikely that this King will be acceptable to
      his people even in a constitutionally
      marginalised role. After all, what is the
      guarantee that his crude political ambitions will
      not rise to the top again?



      The Times of India
      11 April, 2006

      by Joe Athialy

      India's two best known struggles are waging a battle for justice under the
      trees of Jantar Mantar in the capital Ð the Narmada dam oustees and Bhopal
      gas victims. Both have a 20-year history, albeit emerging from different
      contexts. Having borne the brunt of state brutality and yet remaining
      non-violent, they have been documented and recognised by the international

      The Bhopal gas tragedy killed more than 7,000 people and injured many within
      two or three days. In the last 21 years, at least another 15,000 have died
      and more than 1,00,000 suffer from chronic illnesses caused by exposure to
      gas. Nobody has been held responsible for the leak till date. The plant site
      has not been cleaned. As a result, toxic wastes continue to pollute the
      environment and contaminate water that surrounding communities rely on.

      In Narmada, the planners considered a geographical area without taking into
      account the people and environment for making a cascade of dams, starting
      with Sardar Sarovar at the west end of the river.

      A considerably good rehabilitation package was prepared and integrated into
      the law, but never implemented by the states in letter and spirit. In spite
      of non-violent protests, the dam continued to go up. Emotions in favour of
      the dam were flared up, sometimes to absurd levels, by the states.

      It put the lives and livelihoods of over 44,000 families (or nearly 2.25
      lakh people) at peril in western parts of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and
      Gujarat, according to official figures. As the World Bank review committee
      noted, another three lakh people still await the magic wand for being
      recognised as project-affected.

      The role of the judiciary in these two issues has been disappointing. It
      dragged proceedings for years, its pronouncements on human rights actually
      yielding little on the ground. Its refusal to hold people responsible for
      violations of law encouraged more violations, and cemented the state's
      conviction that they were not accountable to anyone. Calling Narmada Bachao
      Andolan Publicity Interest Litigation or Private Inquisitiveness Litigation
      was totally uncalled for.

      Bhopal or Narmada, by not being able to translate into significant vote
      banks, failed to find a meaningful mention in common minimum programmes of
      parties or political formations. Till a decade back, the Congress and
      Bharatiya Janata Party lent unstinting support to the dam in their election
      manifestos in Gujarat. In the case of both the struggles, the Centre and
      state governments kept passing the buck, frustrating the people.
      Politicians, once out of power, wholeheartedly supported the struggles. When
      elected to power, they busied themselves with other things and avoided
      taking action.

      In the absence of an active media, these struggles would not have reached
      out to a large multitude. In the initial days of the struggle, when sting
      operations were confined to Bollywood movies and TRP ratings did not decide
      the news, the media had more space and time to report and analyse these
      issues. It helped generate a debate in civil society about development,
      human rights and state's responsibilities.

      But now media would rather devote space and time to details of 'wardrobe
      malfunction', and heap scorn on these struggles as the very height of all
      impediments. Hence, the over one lakh families rendered homeless due to
      demolitions in Mumbai and Delhi, or the hundreds of farmer suicides in many
      states, do not come under 'breaking news'. Two groups of protestors sitting
      at a distance of a few metres from each other at Jantar Mantar do not invite
      much media attention. Nor can they pose any political threat to the
      government, though they are only a couple of kilometres away from
      Parliament. Their presence in Delhi with demands for a just rehabilitation
      speaks volumes for India's human rights record. Unless that record is set
      straight, talk of 10 per cent growth or the Sensex crossing 11K does not
      make India developed or, for that matter, even civilised.

      (The writer is with Amnesty International. Views expressed are personal.)



      06 April 2006

      by J. Sri Raman

      Today, India is witnessing a re-enactment of
      an episode of the country's freedom struggle and
      its most significant and inspiring saga. On this
      day, 76 years ago, Mahatma Gandhi launched his
      Salt Satyagraha, to assert the common Indian's
      right to manufacture his own salt, a right that
      the British colonial rulers sought to deny.
      Gandhi's memory and message have now created and
      catalyzed a movement to protest and resist a
      post-Independence ban on production and sale of
      common salt.

      Today, a 52-year-old woman, social activist
      Medha Patkar, continues her Gandhian fast in New
      Delhi's prestigious hospital, the All-India
      Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), amidst
      administrations of saline water. She is
      protesting against displacement of thousands of
      people by a dam project in Gujarat, no less
      prestigious to the powers-that-be, and to
      reiterate her endlessly repeated demands for
      their dignified rehabilitation.

      Today, it is 18 days since an earthquake of
      undisclosed intensity shook, if only for a few
      seconds, an area in India's deep south that
      harbors a nuclear complex, to which major
      additions are being made shortly. Feeble voices
      have been raised over what this means for the
      people of the region, devastated by the tsunami
      not long ago, but questions from those concerned
      have been dismissed with a contempt that they did
      not deserve.

      The three apparently disjointed events
      together serve to illustrate a development
      strategy that directly threatens the people of
      India and the cause of peace within the country
      and in the sub-continent as a whole.

      The Mahatma's Salt Satyagraha was a conscious
      and a marvelously creative attempt to put the
      poor people at the center of the Independence
      movement. It is a sad irony that, after nearly
      six decades of independence, the poor salt
      farmers and salt consumers of India have to fight
      to protect their right from corporate masters in
      place of the colonial ones. The ban on
      non-iodized salt will spell ruin for salt farmers
      on the shores of Gandhi's Gujarat and elsewhere
      as well as at least a five-fold increase in the
      price of salt for the common man.

      The government and its experts, of course,
      have not cared to answer any of the questions
      from critics of the ban. Such as: why this hurry
      to ban common salt consumed through millennia
      with no disastrous health consequences when
      tobacco products suffer no trade restriction,
      when there is no plan even to consider pleas for
      controlling sale of pesticides found to be
      harmful, if only in cases of heavy use? Does lack
      of iodine alone cause the health disorders that
      non-iodized salt is blamed for? Is not
      over-iodized food, too, known to pose health

      The government and its experts have cared
      even less, over two decades, to answer questions
      over the project to build a network of dams over
      River Narmada flowing through three states of
      India - Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
      The main question here has been about the
      displacement by the dam project of nearly 200,000
      people in all. Mostly aboriginals, tribal people,
      as the mainstream, middle-class India calls them,
      they had no one to speak up for them until Medha
      Patkar made their cause hers.

      Medha's Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save Narmada
      Movement), or the NBA, has seen many ups and
      downs in its struggle. But it has scored two
      major victories. The first was when it succeeded
      in forcing the World Bank, the original funder of
      the project, to withdraw. The second victory was
      the verdict of India's Supreme Court that asked
      the project authorities to rehabilitate the
      oustees, as required under approved guidelines,
      before proceeding with the project by increasing
      the dam's height. The current NBA protest follows
      an alleged violation of the court order.

      The question of dams and development -
      specially the optimum size of dams from the
      viewpoint of environmental and economic viability
      - can be debated endlessly. And it has been.
      Beyond all debate, however, is the imperative
      need to ensure the rehabilitation of the
      displaced, who, in this farm-dependent community,
      are also the dispossessed. As Arundhaty Roy,
      vilified even more for defending the displaced
      than for denouncing India's nuclear bombs, has
      pointed out, all the data about all the dams
      built since 1947 (including their dimensions,
      budgets and envisaged irrigation benefits) are
      available except in one respect. There is no
      record - none - of the number of those displaced
      by the dams, of where these people disappeared to.

      The famished and feverish Medha made the same
      point when she whispered to the media, before
      being whisked away to the hospital: "Perhaps they
      would not have bothered at all about these people
      waiting to be drowned (by the heightened dam), if
      I had not come and sat here (on a fast). It is a
      sad thought."

      It was even less surprising when the
      concerned authorities refused to answer any
      question about an earthquake that shook an area
      including Koodankulam, site of a nuclear complex,
      on March 19. The event was described only as a
      "mild tremor" in English-language newspapers that
      cared to cover it at all. Dailies of the local
      Tamil language described the cracks in houses
      caused by the quake, but this section of the
      media has very little influence in India's
      corridors of power, yet to recover from a
      colonial hangover.

      The tsunami devastated the same region, but
      the disaster was dismissed then as too unusual to
      warrant a concern about nuclear safety. The
      tremor of March should have compelled the
      authorities to wonder if the area could now be
      considered quake-prone. They, however, could not
      even be persuaded to disclose the intensity of
      the tremor. Just as they did not care to allay
      fears caused by the tsunami havoc in the area of
      the better-known Kalpakkam nuclear complex, now
      officially acknowledged as one of "strategic"

      The People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy,
      active in the area, has voiced added concern over
      the plans to build two more nuclear power
      reactors in Koodankulam. It is being ignored,
      however, as an odd group out of sync with the
      times, when India looks forward to a luminous
      nuclear future as a direct result of the deal
      with the USA under the George Bush
      administration. What does a possible nuclear
      calamity matter, when the deal puts no cap on the
      nuclear-weapon program either, and keeps alive
      all those alluring prospects of a deadly arms
      race in the sub-continent?

      The three events together illustrate a
      development strategy that has no place or thought
      for the defenseless people it threatens. The
      re-enactment of the Mahatma's salt march, the
      countrywide response to Medha's fast, and the
      questions that belie claims of a national
      consensus over the nuclear issue illustrate
      something else: determination of the people not
      to stay silent spectators of the unfolding

      A freelance journalist and a peace activist
      of India, J. Sri Raman is the author of
      Flashpoint (Common Courage Press, USA). He is a
      regular contributor to t r u t h o u t.



      The Hindu
      April 11, 2006


      Dance of Death: Bhopal gas victims holding a demonstration on Parliament
      Street in New Delhi on Monday. Photo: S. Subramanium

      NEW DELHI: Over 400 survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster and their
      sympathisers who on Monday organised a huge "die in" here, covering
      themselves in white shrouds and lying on the road while symbolic figures of
      death danced through the "corpses". The gas victims and their sympathisers,
      who have been demonstrating here for the last fifteen days, announced that
      six persons (three survivors and three sympathisers) would go on an
      indefinite hunger strike from Tuesday.

      Demonstrators said that though the Ministry of Chemicals had been
      sympathetic to their demands, it was up to the Prime Minister to clear any
      decision related to the Bhopal victims. They said the Union Cabinet's
      approval for the implementation of the Supreme Court orders of 2004 for
      disbursement of pro-rata additional compensation on a one-to-one basis to
      the victims did not address their present demands. "This money was long due
      and a result of an agreement between the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the
      Central Government that any shortfall in converting the money payable from
      dollars to rupees would be taken care by the Central Government. It has
      nothing to with our present demands," said Nityanand Jayaram, environmental
      activist and writer.

      In a statement issued on Monday, four organisations, Bhopal Gas Peedit
      Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush
      Sangharsh Morcha, Bhopal Group for Information and Action, and Bhopal ki
      Awaaz cited a 2001 study published by the Madhya Pradesh government's Centre
      for Rehabilitation Studies that has attributed at least 350 deaths annually
      to gas-related ailments.




      Despite repeated demands, there has been no action by the government to
      set up an inquiry committee into the violence at Sanvordem and bring the
      perpetrators to book. The government will respond only when there is a
      concerted demand from citizens to do so.

      There is an online petition on the subject at:


      Please go to the URL and sign the petition. Circulate this widely and
      request people to sign.

      For additional background on the communal violence in Goa in the month
      of March 2004, you can download the fact-finding report released by a
      committee headed by Nandita Haksar, Supreme Court advocate and noted
      human rights lawyer, from the following URLs:

      PDF version (with annexures):


      Plain-text version (without annexures)


      It is also available at:




      Issues in Secular Politics
      April 2006


      by Ram Puniyani

      From 1987 Sangh (RSS) has activated its offshoot
      Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (VKA) into higher gear of
      activity. Adivasis, the most neglected part of
      society are being wooed through newly devised
      cultural mechanisms.
      To begin with Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram used the word
      Vanvasi, instead of the correct nomenclature,
      Adivasi. The claim put forward by Hindutva is
      that these are parts of Hindu society who went to
      jungles to escape the conversion by Muslim kings.
      Due to their long stay in jungles they became
      untouchables and drifted away from the fold of
      Hindu society. This assertion kills many birds in
      one stone. On one side it tries to project that
      despite Aryans coming here from outside, Arctic
      zone, are not foreigners like the Muslims and
      Christians. Then aggressiveness of Muslim Kings
      is restated and the inner cruelty of Brahminical
      Hinduism is hidden as Adivasi 'problem' is
      projected to be coming from outside. A shifting
      of the 'blame' of inner ills to outside forces!
      Another aim achieved through this formulation is
      to bring Adivasis to Hindu fold and claim that
      its not a conversion but mere Ghar Vapasi,
      returning home, of these wretched of the earth.
      At the same time for the political project of
      intimidating the Christian missionaries working
      in the villages a ground is prepared to attack
      them as foreigners.

      The forays of Sangh in Adivasi areas intensified
      from mid eighties when it was realized that by
      directly attacking dalits, the way they were
      attacked in 1980 and 1986 in Gujarat through
      caste violence, will be counterproductive at
      electoral level. The strategy evolved was to
      'use' them as foot soldiers against Muslim
      minorities. At the same time electoral arithmetic
      brought to their attention this substantial chunk
      of population of Adivasis trying to come up
      through modern education and thereby disturbing
      the status quo, prevalent in the far off
      villages. Its here that the Christian
      missionaries were perceived as a big threat to
      the project of Sangh, which wants to maintain
      status quo vis a vis Adivasis dalits and women.
      Through the network of schools spread in the far
      off areas these Missionaries, whatever be their
      own motives, were instrumental in getting a
      section of Adivasis empowered and in the process
      the upper caste affluent base of Sangh was
      getting jittery.
      The posting of RSS volunteers into the forest
      work was very systematic. Apart from attacking
      the Christian missionaries as foreigners the Ghar
      vapasi was brought in at a big scale in all the
      Adiviasi areas scattered from Gujarat to MP to
      Orissa. Around this time many a swamis, descended
      in these areas, Lakkhanand in Phulbani area,
      Aseemanand in Dangs, Asaram disciples in Jhabau
      and many other such efforts were unleashed. In
      Adivasi areas they resorted to intimidation, you
      are Hindus, Hindu rituals are like this and so
      these have to part of your life. Dilip Singh
      Judeo, of the 'God is money' fame, of
      Chattisgarhg, had the record number of Adiviasis
      converted in to Hinduism by newly devised
      baptizing techniques.

      At the same time Hanuman was popularized as the
      God in this area and lately Shabri, the destitute
      women who had the privilege of offering wild
      berries to Lord Ram is being projected as the
      Goddess of Adivasis. The cultural symbolism
      cannot be missed in the selection of these
      deities. Hanuman was the unquestioning devotee of
      Lord Ram, with muscular power as the main virtue.
      He is capable of flying while carrying a huge
      mountain. But all the more he is carrying the
      mountain because he cannot identify the herb
      needed for treatment of Laxman, Lord's younger
      brother. This is what is the signal to Adivisis,
      unquestioning loyalty to Lord Ram, no need to
      have education. So what are the Christian
      missionaries doing here? Why should they be
      trying to educate you? They are foreigners. So
      Pastor Stains is picked up for the treatment
      which they want to meted out to the white robed
      priests and nuns.

      Shabri, the embodiment of poverty is being
      glorified on purpose. Your great ancestress had
      the privilege to offer wild berries to the Lord.
      She is your role model, poor, powerless and with
      blind reverence and devotion for the upper caste.
      The recently held festival in Subir, Dangs
      district of Gujarat, celebrated Shabri and lakhs
      of Advasis were brought from neighboring Adivasi
      areas for the festival. The local people were
      scared that Sangh's festival may create the
      trouble and they may try to forcibly do the
      conversions to Hinduism. It was declared that
      Christians and Muslim are foreigners and are a
      threat to Hindu religion. This Kumbh is meant to
      protect the Hindus from the foreigners. In the
      beginning it was announced that conversions are
      the aim of Kumbh and than silence was kept on
      this point once various groups questioned their
      motives. This was boldly stated in the CD
      produced by Shabri Kumbh organizers. By the time
      the court ruling came to ban this CD was given,
      lakhs of its copies were already circulated and
      had the desired effect of threatening the
      Christianity community.
      The Shabri samiti distributed saffron flags to
      the villagers and spread the word that those who
      do not put the flag will be regarded as anti
      Hindu, those who do not visit the Kumbh will also
      be regarded as anti Hindu. In this intimidating
      atmosphere the intervention of Human rights
      groups resulted in the Central government sending
      its observers. Also the Adivasi leaders realized
      the game being played by Sangh and mercifully a
      large section of native adivasis kept away from
      the festival. But Sangh has succeeded in
      spreading the seeds of hate and intimidation far
      and wide.

      During Kumbh the inflammatory speeches were
      delivered by different leaders of Sangh. It
      remains to be seen as to what will be the long
      term impact of this festival. One thing is sure
      that the whole Adivasi area at some level has
      been shaken by this festival in which the major
      organizers were the city based traders,
      contractors and other supporters of Sangh. The
      native Adivasi festivals and gods are being
      undermined in various ways. Adivasis never used
      to have the temple or place of prayer within the
      four walls, most of their Gods were in the open.
      The festivals, dancing and feasting also were
      held in the open. With the new influence things
      are changing. The rift between the 'Hindu' and
      'Christian' Adivasis is widening which surely
      will have adverse impact on the life in the area.
      In pursuance of the same tactics, now summer
      festival and Anjani mahotsav (festival) are being
      planned. Anjani, mother of Hanuman was never the
      object of veneration. Now she will be occupying a
      place amongst the deities.

      During the festival of Shabri (Feb 11-13) in
      Ghubadiya, a place near Subir, the graveyard was
      dug up, the crosses on the graves were burnt. Not
      much notice of this has been taken in the local
      media and administrative circles. The increasing
      influence of Sangh and the religiosity is taking
      deeper turns. One understands that from the
      villages young girls in the age groups of 14-15
      are being picked up to be trained as Sadhvis who
      can give recitation of Ramayana and other Hindu
      scriptures. The whole emphasis is on the cultural
      manipulation and the basic issues of Adivasis
      like land, education and health are being
      cleverly sidetracked through this
      culturo-religious manipulation.
      One can see the social engineering in practice.
      The positive experience is that it seems that
      intervention of Human rights groups can partly
      change the direction of events in a healthy
      direction. Just before the Kumbh, human rights
      teams had investigated and put out a reort, which
      was taken note of by the authorities and local
      leaders. This put the Gujarat Government and
      Hindutva forces on the defensive. THeexpected
      turn out did not materialize and even the Ghar
      Vapasi was muted. The scare amongst the
      minorities was a bit less and the event passed
      off relatively peacefully as Hindutva forces had
      to be restrained. Question is, are the human
      rights groups willing, do they want to bring the
      real Adivasi issues on the social focus? Can we
      ask for social auditing of the activities of the
      religio-cultural groups working in these areas?
      Can we halt the process of spreading hate against
      the minorities in these areas?




      The Other Media
      A- 1 / 125, Safdarjung Enclave
      New Delhi 110029
      E-mail: advocacy@...


      Shwe Gas Pipeline Campaign Committee (India)

      7th April 2006

      Subject: Invitation to Two - Days Seminar on Shwe
      Gas Pipeline Project - Implications on India and

      Dear Sir/ Madam

      Burma has been confronted with brutal military
      regimes and its people have been at the receiving
      end of the most barbaric repression and systemic
      violence by successive military regimes. The
      distress of people of Burma have been compounded
      by the indifference of the international
      Community with most states choosing geo-political
      expediency over human rights and aligning with
      the ruling military junta. The growing bonhomie
      between the military junta and the neighbouring
      governments and giant multinational corporations
      has proved to be a major stumbling block in the
      quest for democracy in Burma.

      Shwe Gas Pipeline Project conceived in August
      2000. India got involved in the project when in
      January 2002, Indian PSUs ONGC Videsh and GAIL,
      Ltd agreed to purchase 20% and 10% respectively
      of the stake. Indian involvement and interest in
      the Shwe Gas project is a reflection of its
      growing clamour for energy.

      However, there is a need to reconcile the
      imperatives of energy with our commitment to
      questions of human rights, democracy,
      participatory decision-making and environmental
      health. The project for pipeline from Burma to
      India is likely to have tremendous
      socio-political ramifications in the region of
      Arakan State in Myanmar and the states of Mizoram
      and Tripura. As experience with two previous
      international Burmese gas pipeline projects --
      the Yadana and the Yetagun -- suggest, the Shwe
      Project is likely to result in increased
      militarization, forced relocation of villagers,
      forced labour, torture, rape and extra judicial
      killings and other forms of human rights

      Delhi based The Other Media and Shwe Gas Pipeline
      Campaign Committee (India) are jointly organizing
      a Two - Days Seminar on "Shwe Gas Pipleline
      Project - Implications on India and Burma" at
      Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi on 17th & 18th
      April 2006 (Mon & Tue) from 9:00 a.m. onwards
      with the aim of analyzing the history of previous
      energy projects in Burma, their impact on the
      military junta and the democratic space in the
      country. The Seminar would examine the impact of
      energy projects on communities and juxtapose
      these stark realities against the imperative of
      international politics of energy and aim to
      create a coalition of activists and
      socio-political actors and a durable platform
      that would set the ball rolling for a sustained
      advocacy and campaign programme against the
      continued Indian involvement in the Shwe Gas
      Pipeline Project.

      We are happy to invite you to the seminar. We
      solicit your participation in view of your vast
      expertise and experience and hope to benefit from
      your valued suggestions and comments.

      Look forward to hearing from you soon.


      Ravi Hemadri
      Executive Director
      The Other Media

      o o o


      J&K Coalition of Civil Society
      Office: The Bund Amira Kadal, Srinagar - 190001
      Jammu and Kashmir

      "Self Determination Day"
      The Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil
      Society is observing April 20th as "Self
      Determination Day" this year. On April 20th 2004
      we lost our colleague Aasia Jeelani in a landmine
      blast. We observe this day each year to remember
      the martyrs and victims who died in the course of
      the struggle to realize our people's inalienable
      right to self-determination. It is also an
      occasion when we reiterate our commitment to
      carry on the struggle for its realization.

      In 2005, the JKCCS observed April 20th as
      "Kashmir Solidarity Day", in which people
      associated with various movements and civil
      society groups from across India and J&K
      participated. Being, first such observance we
      wanted people to reaffirm their commitment to the
      struggle to realize the right of
      self-determination and to invite support from
      outside J&K to our cause. Thirty-nine people from
      India participated then. Amongst the participants
      were poet and writer Varavara Rao from Hyderabad
      (AP), Prof. Babbiya from Bangalore (Karnataka),
      Nawkiran Singh (Punjab) etc. Local representation
      was marked by the presence of Trade union
      leaders, Teacher's union, Members of Bar
      Association and several social organizations from
      different regions of J&K, as well as prominent
      personalities such as Ved Bhasin, were

      This year, however, the focus is on the
      prospects of Indo-Pak 'peace process' from the
      perspective of realizing our right of
      self-determination. Therefore, the theme of the
      seminar this year will be: "Can the Current Peace
      Process Help Realize the Right of
      Self-Determination"? Our intention is that all of
      us who uphold this right of our people, or those
      from outside J&K, who support this demand,
      discuss this subject.

      We expect you/your organization to participate in the daylong seminar.

      Parvez Imroz
      J&K Coalition of Civil Society


      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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