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SACW | 1-2 May 2006 | Nepal; India: A fury building, Narmada Andolan, Sati, Rape, Politics of violence

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | 1-2 May, 2006 | Dispatch No. 2245 Interruption Notice: Please Note. There will be no SACW posts between May 3 - 11. [1] For Nepal &
    Message 1 of 1 , May 1, 2006
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      South Asia Citizens Wire | 1-2 May, 2006 | Dispatch No. 2245

      Interruption Notice: Please Note. There will be no SACW posts between
      May 3 - 11.

      [1] For Nepal & India, the road ahead is difficult (Siddharth Varadarajan)
      [2] India: 'There is a fury building in India' (Arundhati Roy)
      [3] India: NBA to intensify the Campaign . . . (Medha Patkar Clifton Rosario)
      [4] India: Trial by Fire (Editorial, The Times of India)
      [5] India: Rape of justice (Rakesh Shukla)
      [6] India: Book Review: Politicisation of violence (C. T. Kurien)
      [7] Upcoming events:
      (i) Lecture: Of Women, Work and Public Spaces: Some Thoughts on Karachi's Poor
      by Kamran Asdar Ali (Los Angeles, May 2)
      (ii) Amrit Wilson will talk about Race, Gender and New Labour (London, May 16)
      (iii) Public Meeting on Iraq: Anthony Arnove, Tariq Ali and Glen
      Rangwala (London, June 16)
      ___


      [1]


      The Hindu
      May 2, 2006

      FOR NEPAL & INDIA, THE ROAD AHEAD IS DIFFICULT

      Siddharth Varadarajan

      Among the hurdles: the parties' lack of confidence, as well as New
      Delhi's anxiety over the U.N. involvement in the disarmament of the
      Maoists and elections to a constituent assembly.

      MOMENTOUS THOUGH the events and accomplishments of the past few weeks
      have been, the struggle for democracy in Nepal is perhaps entering
      its most difficult phase only now. As the country moves towards
      elections to a constituent assembly, the ingenuity and wisdom of not
      just the Nepalese political forces but also of India will be put to
      the test. The choices each makes will help to determine whether the
      `April Revolution' reaches its final destination or disappears in the
      quicksand of palace intrigue and political cowardice.

      Amidst the exhilaration and excitement of the people's movement in
      Nepal, India's momentary suspension of disbelief following Karan
      Singh's fatal meeting with King Gyanendra stands out as the one
      discordant note. Whatever New Delhi intended, people in Kathmandu saw
      in both the choice of the special envoy and the subsequent Indian
      endorsement of the monarch's cunning first proclamation a sign that
      India cast its lot with the palace. To make matters worse, this
      syndrome of mixed signals - of `tough' messages delivered, sometimes
      in private, to an intractable monarch by envoys enamoured of
      kingship, or petrified of the Maoists - continued right up to the
      bitter end.

      At a time when lakhs of people were on the streets protesting King
      Gyanendra's ploy of asking the Seven-Party Alliance to nominate its
      Prime Minister and take executive power, Prime Minister Manmohan
      Singh told journalists accompanying him to Hanover that the king was
      acting in the "right direction." He also needlessly endorsed the
      discredited two-pillar theory of constitutional monarchy being as
      indispensable to stability in Nepal as multi-party democracy. In the
      same unhelpful vein, National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan chipped
      in from Germany that India might resume arms supplies to the Royal
      Nepal Army if the situation in the country continued to deteriorate.

      Mr. Saran's eleventh-hour intervention - at a press conference last
      Saturday - that India stood with the people of Nepal and not with any
      royal pillar retrieved India's standing on the streets of Kathmandu.
      But unless the underlying problem which plagues India's Nepal policy
      is tackled, ambiguity is bound to crop up again.

      India's Nepal problem has two dimensions, which are interlinked.
      First, New Delhi does not fully appreciate that a thoroughgoing
      democracy including a republic, if that is what the Nepalese want,
      will be good for India. Secondly, subsequent governments have allowed
      multiple channels of communication which amplify the existing policy
      dissonance in Delhi and create maximum confusion.

      Instead of the Indian embassy and ambassador, acting on the
      instructions of the Ministry of External Affairs, being the sole
      conduit for messages between India and the Nepalese establishment and
      political parties, a large number of interlocutors and busybodies
      have involved themselves in the process. There are the special envoys
      with their one-on-one meetings with King Gyanendra, where nobody else
      knows what is discussed. There are the Ministry of Defence and the
      Chief of the Army Staff, who believe in running their own lines of
      communication with the RNA. Then there are tantric interlopers and
      Hindutva fanatics who further contribute to the radio clutter. More
      noise also comes from our legion of ex-rajas, rajvadas and `cadets'
      who have family ties with the Narayanhiti Palace and who intercede at
      crucial moments with the ruling party to ensure that India does not
      side with the people of Nepal.

      Somewhere in the middle of this unholy mess are the intelligence
      agencies, which also appear not to know what India should be doing.
      For example, their agents turned a blind eye to meetings between the
      Nepal Maoists and the SPA, which were crucial to the mass
      mobilisation witnessed on the streets of Kathmandu in April. But
      their boss, India's intelligence czar, worries endlessly about the
      security threat posed by the Maoists and is reportedly keen on
      turning the RNA's weapons tap back on again.

      Misplaced anxiety

      India might have muddled its way through the thicket of policy
      dissonance to emerge, finally, on the side of the people, but there
      is one major obstacle still to be overcome. This is the official
      anxiety about allowing the United Nations to play a role in the
      implementation of the SPA-Maoist road map for peace.

      Now that Nepal's Parliament has unanimously passed a resolution
      calling for elections to a constituent assembly, it is time for both
      Kathmandu and New Delhi to get serious about how those elections are
      to be conducted. Since the Maoists are unlikely to surrender their
      arms until after the palace's military powers are neutralised, some
      kind of international supervision will be needed to provide
      assurances of a level playing field to all during elections to the
      constituent assembly and even while the body meets. The Maoists say
      they are prepared to confine their armed fighters to the barracks
      under U.N. supervision pending elections and their eventual
      integration into a new national army along with elements of the RNA.
      Such a formula provides the only viable option for insurgency to end
      peacefully. But without international oversight, this is impossible
      to implement. For obvious reasons, India cannot involve itself in
      this process and would not want the South Asian Association for
      Regional Cooperation (SAARC) there either. Nor would India want the
      task executed by a `contact group' led, inevitably, by European
      countries which are part of Nato's overall command structure. Are
      there countries, then, that New Delhi can trust? Whose involvement in
      supervising the sequestering of the Maoists would not compromise
      India's sense of national interest? These are questions the South
      Block needs to start asking with a sense of urgency.

      In many ways, the U.N. would be the best vehicle. But some sections
      of the Indian establishment are paranoid about the implications the
      U.N. involvement in a South Asian election process might have for
      Kashmir. Such anxieties are completely misplaced. Apart from climate,
      Nepal and Kashmir have nothing in common. And if the peace process
      were to falter for want of a via media to manage the entry of the
      Maoists into competitive politics, it would be King Gyanendra, who
      ultimately stands to benefit.

      Dangers ahead

      So momentous have the changes of the past few weeks been that it is
      tempting to conclude that the king is already history. This would be
      a serious mistake. King Gyanendra may not be able to utilise his
      constitutional powers to dismiss Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala
      or Parliament - if he did, he would have to contend with a full-blown
      insurrection that would end with either his flight or execution. But
      he has managed to buy time for himself, a commodity that is
      infinitely more useful today than are legal provisions. In the most
      optimistic scenario, elections to a constituent assembly are surely
      more than a year away. That provides plenty of time for intrigue
      behind the scenes. The king also knows he is dealing with political
      parties which lack confidence in their ability to carry the people's
      movement forward. Ideally, the SPA should have announced the
      restoration of Parliament itself. But it didn't have the gumption to
      do so. Mr. Koirala did well to refuse to take the oath to the
      Rajparishad but there are many in Nepal who would have found his
      being sworn in Prime Minister by King Gyanendra a distasteful event.

      Mr. Koirala has also failed immediately to operationalise the promise
      he held out last week of a military ceasefire to reciprocate the
      three-month ceasefire declared by the Maoists. To make matters worse,
      an RNA helicopter on Saturday opened fire on a public meeting
      organised by the Maoists in the Sunwal area of Nawalparasi district.
      Was this the last act of defiance by an army, which knows it will
      soon have to change course, or a warning shot to the SPA, of which it
      is still the boss?

      One mistake Mr. Koirala, the SPA and India should avoid making is to
      disregard the role played by the Maoists in last week's peaceful
      revolution on the streets. The Maoist slogan of a constituent
      assembly is what fired the imagination of the people, both as an end
      in itself and as a way of bringing the insurgents into the mainstream
      and ending the decade-long armed conflict. The Maoists also mobilised
      their cadres and sympathisers, in Kathmandu, Dang and elsewhere.
      True, Maoist leaders Prachanda and Baburam Bhattarai lashed out at
      the SPA for welcoming the king's second proclamation restoring
      Parliament. But they quickly followed this up with two conciliatory
      gestures: the lifting of their blockade and a three-month ceasefire.

      Mr. Koirala must move swiftly to capitalise on this opening and
      immediately order the RNA to declare a ceasefire too. Along with
      removing the terrorist tag from the Maoists and releasing all
      political prisoners, a ceasefire is necessary to start the dialogue
      process. He also needs to signal, right from the outset, that the RNA
      is fully subordinate to Parliament. On its part, India should impress
      upon the Koirala Government the need for a ceasefire and undertake
      not to resume arms supplies until it is clear that the RNA reports to
      Parliament and not the palace.



      ___


      [2]


      Tehelka
      May 6, 2006

      'THERE IS A FURY BUILDING IN INDIA'

      Over several days of conversation with Shoma Chaudhury, followed up
      with written responses, Arundhati Roy clarifies the complex, vexed
      questions surrounding the Narmada and Maoists

      War Zone: Arundhati Roy in Kashmir, a place she has been visiting
      obsessively recently

      The real issue is not how ordinary farmers in Gujarat will benefit
      from the Sardar Sarovar, but how they will eventually suffer because
      of it
      The media has been playing the Supreme Court Verdict on the dam as a
      victory for all sides. How do you read it? What does this verdict
      really mean?

      It may well be a victory for the Gujarat Government but it's by no
      means a victory for the NBA. What it does do is signal formal entry
      by the Supreme Court as well as the Prime Minister into treacherous
      new territory. The Prime Minister has washed his hands off an
      unequivocal report by members of his own cabinet. The Minister for
      Water Resources Saifuddin Soz had the rare courage to put down on
      paper what he actually found - the fact that rehabilitation in Madhya
      Pradesh has been disastrous. It's true that on a one-day visit,
      ministers cannot possibly come away with an exhaustive survey, but
      you don't need to spend more than a day in the Narmada valley to see
      that there is a massive problem on the ground. There is a huge
      disjunct between the paperwork and the reality on the ground. What
      will be submitted to the court - what has always been submitted to
      the court is more paperwork. Two years ago, when I went to Harsud
      which was being submerged by the Narmada Sagar Dam, I also went to
      the so-called New Harsud, which the government claimed was a fully
      functioning new city. There was absolutely nothing there - no houses,
      no water, no toilets, no sewage. Just a few neon street lights and a
      huge expanse of land. But officials produced photographs taken at
      night with star filters making it look like Paris! At the last
      hearing on April 17, the logical thing for the Supreme Court to do
      would have been to say, stop construction of the dam. We know there's
      a problem, let's assess the problem before we go ahead. It did the
      opposite. It said we have a problem, let's magnify the problem. Every
      meter the dam goes up, an additional 1500 families come under the
      threat of submergence. This interim order is clearly in contempt of
      its own October 2000 and March 2005 Narmada judgements as well as the
      Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal Award, which state in no uncertain
      terms that displaced people must be resettled six months before
      submergence. What do you do when Prime Ministers, Chief Ministers and
      Supreme Court judges commit contempt of court?

      Water for Gujarat is obviously an urgent issue. How does one
      reconcile these polarities?

      The urgency is a bit of a red herring. Gujarat has managed to
      irrigate only 10% of the land it could have irrigated and provide
      only a fraction of the drinking water that it could have provided at
      the current dam height. This is because the canals and delivery
      systems are not in place. In other words, it has not been able to use
      the water at even the current dam height. This is an old story with
      the Narmada Dams. The Bargi dam completed in 1990, at huge cost to
      the public exchequer and to thousands of displaced people, today
      irrigates less land than it submerged because canals haven't been
      built. In the case of the Sardar Sarovar, in fact, raising the dam
      height immediately is just hubris. It has no practical urgency. The
      fair thing to do would be to stop the construction of the dam and ask
      the Gujarat government to construct the canals to use the water it
      already has. That will buy time to do a decent job of rehabilitation.

      'I was drawn to the Narmada issue because I believe it contains a
      microcosm of the universe. It contains a profound argument about
      everything - power, powerlessness, deceit, greed, politics, ethics,
      rights and entitlements. It's the key to understanding how the world
      works'
      If we could go back to the beginning of your involvement - why were
      you drawn to the Narmada issue? Why has this become such a powerful
      symbol?

      Because I believe that it contains a microcosm of the universe. I
      think it contains a profound argument about everything - power,
      powerlessness, deceit, greed, politics, ethics, rights and
      entitlements. For example - is it right to divert rivers and grow
      water-intensive crops like sugar cane and wheat in a desert ecology?
      Look at the disaster the Indira Gandhi canal is wreaking in
      Rajasthan. To me, understanding the Narmada issue is the key to
      understanding how the world works. The beauty of the argument is that
      it isn't human-centric. It's also about things that most political
      ideologies leave out. Vital issues - rivers, estuaries, earth,
      mountains, deserts, crops, forests, fish. And about human things that
      most environmental ideologies leave out. It touches a raw nerve, so
      you have people who know very little about it, people who admit that
      they know very little and don't care to find out, coming out with
      passionate opinions. The battle in the Narmada Valley has raised
      radical questions about the top heavy model of development India has
      opted for. But it also raises very specific questions about specific
      dams. And to my mind, though much of the noise now is centered around
      the issue of displacement and resettlement, the really vital
      questions that have not been answered are the ones that question the
      benefits of dams. Huge irrigation schemes that end up causing
      waterlogging, salinisation and eventual desertification have
      historically been among the major reasons for the collapse of
      societies, beginning with the Mesopotamian civilisation. I recommend
      Jared Diamond's wonderful book Collapse to all those who wish to take
      a slightly longer, and less panicked view of 'development'. India
      already has thousands of acres of waterlogged land. We've already
      destroyed most of our rivers. We have unsustainable cropping patterns
      and a huge crisis in our agricultural economy. Even vast parts of the
      command area of our favourite dam - the Bhakra - is water-logged and
      in deep trouble. So the real issue is not how ordinary farmers in
      Gujarat will benefit from the Sardar Sarovar, but how they will
      eventually suffer because of it.


      ____


      [3]



      NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN

      1 May 2006
      Non-suspension of dam work TODAY is risking people's lives, irreversibly!
      NBA to intensify the Campaign when 'Democracy' is shying away!!

      The Narmada case of 35 000 families, already affected and to be
      affected if the dam is built to 122m, pleaded before the Supreme
      Court of India today, by the 48 representative oustees from Madhya
      Pradesh, has met with a stalemate once again. This is neither
      technical nor financial, but a political stalemate. When all the
      parties, including the state governments, the Union of India and
      the aggrieved affected Adivasis, farmers have already put forth all
      their views, facts and analysis, including the legal violations.
      After our submissions, what only remains is the decision to be
      made. This, as it was made clear today, will have to wait till
      Monday, i.e. 08.05.2006, with no justifiable reason for this
      delay.

      As at today's hearing Shri Shanti Bhushan, Council for the
      Petitioners, demonstrated that the official documents including
      submissions themselves, vindicate NBA's position that Resettlement
      and Rehabilitation (R&R) is incomplete and the decision to raise
      the dam is illegal. Moreover, the game of numbers exposed clearly
      shows the deliberate attempt to underestimate the number of PAFs
      while drum beating the benefits especially to Gujurat, which can't
      be ignored. It was, therefore, clear that no one can argue
      completion of R&R and compliance with the law; which implies an
      immediate suspension of the work at the damsite. It is unfortunate
      but also indicative of the democratic mockery that the irreversible
      damage to life and livelihood of thousands of families that is being
      done by the construction is still not stalled - neither by the PM,
      who is authorized, nor by the Apex Court of India.

      We feel aghast to know the great and unacceptable risk to human life
      that the highest echelons of power have decided to take by postponing
      the judgement to Monday, May 8th. We will have to wait, watch and
      test the powers that are to take responsibility for justice but we
      don't think everything that is happening is just. We, on the other
      hand, have to intensify the voice raised and actions taken by the
      development victims all over, which will question callous politics
      with all strength and conviction.

      Medha Patkar Clifton Rosario



      ____


      [4]


      The Times of India
      April 28, 2006

      TRIAL BY FIRE

      Editorial

      One hundred and seventy five years after it was abolished by William
      Bentinck, sati continues to be a reality in parts of rural India.
      While Deorala - where a 19-year-old childless widow Roop Kanwar
      immolated herself on the funeral pyre of her husband - remains the
      most talked-about instance of sati in recent times, it was certainly
      not the last.

      Kuttu Bai, 65, in Madhya Pradesh's Panna district, Rekia Devi, 65, in
      Bastipur, Bihar and Sita Devi, 77, in Gaya district, have met a
      similar fate since. For every case that comes to light there are
      scores of others that go unreported.

      There are more than 250 sati temples in the country with a steady
      flow of devotees and donations. Clearly, Bentinck's decree and its
      modern avatar - the Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987, have failed to deter
      people from this "ritualistic suicide/murder".

      It is in realisation of this that the government has decided to amend
      the law putting the onus of preventing sati on the family and
      village. A Bill incorporating new clauses will be introduced in the
      coming session of Parliament.

      Under the new law, a woman attempting sati will no longer be charged
      for attempted suicide. It will be presumed that the sati was
      attempted under duress and that the immediate family was in a
      position to stop her but did not.

      The proposed law makes no distinction between passive observers and
      abettors. Holding them equally culpable it prescribes death or life
      imprisonment or both.

      A progressive piece of legislation, it views things from a widow's
      perspective. Nothing short of this would be able to plug the
      legal-theological loopholes that allow self-immolation of this nature
      to exist in 21st century India.

      Let's accept it, sati is never voluntary. There is always an element
      of coercion - physical, psychological or social. More often than not,
      it is engineered by the widow's family to grab her deceased husband's
      property.

      Why would a widow want to kill herself if she is assured a life free
      of hassles and humiliation? And isn't it the community's
      responsibility to ensure that? The law should make sure it does.


      ____


      [5]


      The Times of India
      April 28, 2006

      RAPE OF JUSTICE
      by Rakesh Shukla

      In a rare case of sensitivity, the Alwar court in Rajasthan convicted
      B H Mohanty for rape of a German woman within 22 days of the
      incident. The attitude of Judge Maheshwari played a major role in the
      case.

      Many a judge in the country would have taken the view that since the
      victim went with Mohanty to the hotel and had drinks and dinner, it
      implied consent and was not a case of rape.

      The perceived immoral character of a rape survivor has led to
      acquittal of many a rapist. The conviction of constable Sunil More in
      Mumbai was all the more surprising, even though the law with regard
      to custodial rape is stringent.

      It is difficult to recollect the last time one heard of a policeman
      convicted for rape in custody. It is not that custodial rapes do not
      occur. They are not reported due to vulnerability of victims from a
      poor socio-economic background.

      A combination of lax investigation, tampering of witnesses and a
      gender-insensitive judge results in acquittal. Last year, the
      sessions court in Delhi acquitted sub-inspectors Sharma and Singh of
      custodial rape on grounds of lack of evidence.

      The incident took place within the precincts of the police station at
      Tilak Marg, a stone's throw from the Supreme Court. A maidservant who
      rebuffed advances of the employer, was falsely accused of theft and
      taken to the first floor room of sub-inspector Sharma and raped in
      1995.

      No medical tests were conducted. Neither was any test identification
      parade held. More than two decades ago, a public campaign over
      Supreme Court acquitting constables Tukaram and Ganpat in 1979 of
      custodial rape charges, after disbelieving the testimony of the
      victim, finally led to the Criminal Law Amendment in 1983.

      Section 114-A, introduced in the Indian Evidence Act by the
      amendment, says the court shall presume lack of consent in cases of
      custodial rape, where sexual intercourse by the accused is proved and
      the woman states that she did not consent.

      Rape by police officers, public servants, jail, hospital, remand home
      staff and gang rape are included in the section. Contrary to popular
      impression, the legal position is not that the burden of proof lies
      with the accused.

      The prosecution has to first establish that sexual intercourse took
      place. The entire gamut of lodging the first information report,
      medical examination, recording of statements by the police,
      depositions in court has to be gone through.

      Delay in lodging the FIR, delay in medical examination,
      inconsistencies in the FIR, contradictions in statements before
      police and testimony in court remain prime factors in the accused's
      defence.

      Courts do not adequately recognise that the trauma of a rape
      survivor, feelings of shame, fear of abandonment by husband and
      family and social ostracism contribute to silence and delays.

      The prosecution has to prove that it was the accused who committed
      sexual intercourse with the victim. The victim has to go through the
      trauma of test identification parades.

      Circumstantial and medical evidence to establish the identity of the
      perpetrator has to be adduced. It is only after establishing these
      facts that presumption as to lack of consent arises.

      Sadly, despite the amendment, the accused can challenge lack of
      consent at this stage. Presence or absence of injury on the body of
      the rape survivor remains a vital factor to decide whether the act of
      sexual intercourse was committed with or without consent - regardless
      of the element of threat, fear and paralysis inhibiting resistance.

      Reluctant judicial recognition of the amendment is best illustrated
      by high court judge S K Chawla in a 1992 case: "In conclusion having
      regard to the conduct of the prosecutrix in not making any kind of
      complaint...it is very unsafe to pin faith on her mere word that
      sexual intercourse was committed with her by five persons or any of
      them".

      As V R Krishna Iyer says on the issue: "We feel convinced that a
      socially sensitised judge is a better statutory armour against gender
      outrage than long clauses of a complex section with all the
      protections writ into it".

      The writer is a Supreme Court advocate.




      _____


      [6]

      The Hindu - Book Review
      April 25, 2006

      Politicisation of violence

      C. T. Kurien

      Story of the Godhra carnage which etched deep faults in Gujarat's
      social landscape


      SCARRED - Experiments with Violence in Gujarat: Dionne Bunsha;
      Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park,
      New Delhi-110017. Rs. 295.

      What are your recollections of Gujarat 2002? Images of a burning
      train in which about 60 people were burnt to death? The violence that
      followed for several days killing a thousand people and rendering
      some 150,000 homeless? The picture of Qutubuddin Ansari with his
      hands folded pleading for mercy, flashed across the country and
      beyond over TV and newspapers may be fresh in the minds of many. The
      gruesome incident of a pregnant woman's belly being slit open to pick
      up the unborn child, and mother and child being thrown into the fire
      may be haunting others. The many trials of the notorious Best Bakery
      case and the twists and turns of its chief witness, Zaheera Sheik,
      keep memories alive.

      Were these isolated instances or crazy manifestations of mass fury?
      Neither, says Dionne Bunsha, the award-winning author of this book.
      The happenings in Gujarat in 2002, according to Bunsha were
      experiments with violence in India's Hindutva laboratory. The theme
      is worth pursuing.

      Politicisation

      Gujarat, it will be recalled, became the first State in the country
      to have a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government with a clear
      majority. But soon the BJP's position there appeared to be shaky.
      Shankarsinh Waghela, the BJP's strong man left the party and formed a
      party of his own first, and later merged it with the Congress. In the
      local body elections in 2000, this combined force routed the BJP in
      many parts of the State, especially central Gujarat. The BJP decided
      on a change in leadership, removing Keshubhai Patel and bringing in
      Narendra Modi from the party office in Delhi as the new Chief
      Minister in 2001.

      Modi, the staunch Rashtriya Swayam Sevak (RSS) pracharak, fully
      committed to the Hindutva ideology, was eager to make Gujarat the
      vanguard for converting the country into a `Hindu Rashtra'. Dealing
      with the State's less than 10 per cent Muslim population was crucial
      to the goal, and Modi set out with firm determination, giving active
      support to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal in their
      anti-Muslim campaigns. In mid-February 2002, at a VHP meeting, its
      leaders spoke about the need to remove Muslims from the predominantly
      Hindu villages and swore to `break their necks'.

      The carnage

      Then Godhra happened on February 27, 2002. Till today it is not clear
      how compartment S6 of the Sabarmati Express in which many kar sevaks
      were travelling caught fire just a few minutes after it left Godhra
      station. To be sure, during its four minutes' stay at the station
      there was a fight between the kar sevaks and a Muslim tea vendor.
      That was enough for Chief minister Modi to state within a few hours
      of the tragedy that "it [the burning of the train] was a pre-planned
      act. The culprits will have to pay for it... It was a violent,
      one-sided collective terrorist attack by only one community." The
      Chief Minister instructed the police to "let the Hindus vent their
      frustration" and warned, "the police should not come in the way of
      the Hindu backlash."

      And so started the carnage. It was not only mob violence targeting
      Muslims. The Chief Minister permitted and encouraged it. His
      ministers sat in the police control room overseeing whole scale
      slaughter. It was an organised and institutionalised terror meant to
      complete the well-designed programme of marginalising the minorities.

      Modi went a step further. He decided to convert his victory in the
      `field' to an electoral victory too, and so dissolved the Legislative
      Assembly prematurely to hold elections. His campaign was sharp and
      shrill: "It is not an election for MLAs or choosing a Chief Minister.
      It is an election related to religion." "This is a fight which will
      decide who is the protector of Hindus." "This is a deciding moment...
      Come out in large numbers and kick the jehadis and fundamentalists
      out."

      And the BJP under Modi won the December 2002 state elections
      decisively with 126 of 181 seats, improving on its previous tally of
      117 seats. Its vote percentage increased from 44.8 in 1998 to 49.8.
      In central Gujarat where the worst carnage occurred, the BJP's
      performance was particularly impressive.

      The issues

      So, did the experiments with violence in the Hindutva laboratory
      succeed? What has been happening to the people of Gujarat, especially
      those who were pushed out of their homes and localities? What is the
      nature of politics in Gujarat today? How is it likely to affect the
      rest of the country? What about another experiment which was also
      taking place even during those mad days of violence and murder - of
      Hindus at great personal costs to themselves for protecting their
      Muslims neighbours against the atrocities of the mob; of young people
      standing firm to marry from hostile communities because of love and
      personal commitment that transcended communal barriers? Which of
      these two experiments will prove successful in the days to come?

      If you are interested in these issues it is unlikely that you can get
      anything better than Dionne Bunsha's account which is meticulous,
      moving, sensitive, thought-provoking - and, yes, even disturbing in
      places.

      _____


      [7]

      UPCOMING EVENTS:


      (i)

      Of Women, Work and Public Spaces: Some Thoughts on Karachi's Poor

      Lecture by Kamran Asdar Ali (Univerity of Texas at Austin)

      Date: Tuesday, May 02, 2006
      Time: 12:00 PM - 2:00 PM

      Venue: 10383 Bunche Hall, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095


      Sponsor(s): Center for India and South Asia

      o o o

      (ii)

      Activist and writer Amrit Wilson will talk about Race, Gender and New
      Labour, to mark the publication of her new book, Dreams, questions,
      struggles : South Asian women in Britain (Pluto Press) see attachment.

      All welcome.

      6.30pm Tuesday 16 May

      Bookmarks bookshop,
      1 Bloomsbury Street, London WC1B 3QE.
      Nearest tube Tottenham Court Road, London

      o o o

      (ii)

      16 JUNE, LONDON: PUBLIC MEETING WITH ANTHONY ARNOVE ("Iraq: The Logic
      of Withdrawal"), TARIQ ALI ("Bush in Babylon") and GLEN RANGWALA
      ("Iraq in Fragments").
      7pm, Main Hall, Indian YMCA, 41 Fitzroy Square, London W1 (tubes:
      Warren St., Great Portland St., Euston Square).
      Organised by Iraq Occupation Focus

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

      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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