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SACW | 28 July - Aug 3, 2006 | Lebanon / Pakistan: Perils of militarism / Nepal Women / India Violence / UK: Book burners and Brick Lane

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | 28 July - August 3, 2006 | Dispatch No. 2278 (This issue of SACW is dedicated to the memory of the American libertarian socialist
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 2, 2006
      South Asia Citizens Wire | 28 July - August 3, 2006 | Dispatch No. 2278

      (This issue of SACW is dedicated to the memory of
      the American libertarian socialist Murray
      Bookchin. Born on January 14, 1921, Murray died
      July 30, 2006 at his home in Burlington, Vermont)

      [1] Lebanon: Two Parallel Wars (Faisal Devji)
      + Empire comes to Lebanon (Aijaz Ahmad)
      [2] Pakistan: Perils of militarised politics (Kaiser Bengali)
      [3] Nepal: 'Women made anti-king protests successful' (Sudeshna Sarkar)
      + People's War . . . Women's War? - Two texts by Comrade Parvati
      [4] India: Hashimpura : Not Just the Name of a Massacre (Subhash Gatade)
      [5] India: When is violence 'terror' and when is it not? (M R Narayan Swamy)
      + Finding our common ground (Amartya Sen)
      [6] UK: The book burners do not speak for all of Brick Lane (Natasha Walter)
      [7] Film Review: No More Tears, Sister - film
      based in Sri Lanka (Nirmal Trivedi)
      [8] Upcoming Events:
      (i) conversations with women writers, 'Words of Women'. (New Delhi, 4 August.)
      (ii) A Public Meeting on Sri Lanka, Peace, Human
      Rights and the Diaspora (London, 5 August)



      The Times of India
      August 3, 2006

      by Faisal Devji

      For all their horror at its brutality,
      commentators have approached the war in Israel
      and Lebanon with sighs of relief. Whatever their
      political inclinations, observers and analysts
      around the world recognise in this war the return
      of traditional politics to the Middle East.

      Unlike the violence that marks large portions of
      the insurgency in Iraq, or the acts of Al-Qaida
      style suicide bombers elsewhere, all the parties
      to this conflict are political actors of an
      almost classical kind.

      Whether states or militant groups, these parties
      are organised along traditional political lines,
      each possessing a centralised and hierarchical
      command structure. This is why we can talk about
      negotiations, ceasefires and deployment of
      peacekeeping forces between them.

      None of these interventions are possible when
      dealing with the decentralised, non-hierarchical
      and highly individualistic networks of today's
      jehad movements.

      But the spectacular return of traditional
      politics to the Middle East is in fact a
      compulsive repetition of the past. Hasn't all
      this happened before?

      Didn't Israel invade Lebanon to deal with the
      Palestinian militants who were Hezbollah's
      predecessors? What did that attempt to stamp out
      terrorist attacks on Israel and change the
      political geography of the region result in, but
      more of the same despite enormous costs on all

      After the transformations wrought by Al-Qaida and
      the global war on terror, the latest Middle
      Eastern battles seem dated, like the actions of
      people who have run out of ideas.

      If the war in Israel and Lebanon is not a repeat
      performance, this is because it is occurring in
      the wake of the global war on terror. The latter
      has transformed conceptions of rationality and
      interest that had characterised international
      politics until the end of the Cold War.

      The United States, for instance, cannot play its
      traditional role as interlocutor, mediator or
      even party to the current conflict because it is
      unable to communicate with Hezbollah or Hamas,
      Iran or Syria.

      America's position is unprecedented, its role in
      maintaining a global security regime having
      forced it to abdicate regional obligations.
      Attributing this unusual behaviour to some
      neoconservative or evangelical ideology is not
      enough to explain it, given the propensity of the
      Bush administration and its ideological
      predecessors to deal with the most incongruous

      Instead its war on terror is a manifestation of
      the way in which American power has gradually
      been fragmenting the very definition of political
      rationality and interest that had marked the Cold
      War order.

      The global war on terror provides more than just
      a background for the fighting in Israel and
      Lebanon, by permitting certain actions and
      forbidding others in quite novel ways.

      And this is as true for the Islamists as it is of
      the US or Israel. However insignificant their
      numbers, militants of the Al-Qaida variety have
      pushed Islamists of the old school from the
      cutting edge of Muslim radicalism.

      Products of the Cold War who are organised along
      traditional lines, the Islamists have by and
      large denounced these jehadi interlopers.

      Like other Islamist groups, Hamas and Hezbollah
      have accommodated themselves to the new situation
      by forsaking a communist model of the party as
      vanguard and participating in electoral politics.

      Without renouncing violence, both have become
      increasingly moderate as political actors,
      concerned with using force in the short term to
      secure long-term advantages in the ceasefires and
      negotiations they routinely call for.

      While Hamas and Hezbollah both serve as bulwarks
      against militancy of an Al-Qaida sort, the latter
      is also part of the so-called Shiite crescent
      that stretches from Lebanon through Iraq to Iran.

      Together with the fall of Baathist Iraq and
      Iran's nuclear brinkmanship, the current crisis
      in Lebanon represents the second great moment of
      Shiite resurgence in the Muslim world, the first
      being Khomeini's revolution in 1979.

      Having for the moment snatched the torch of
      radicalism from the largely Sunni advocates of
      global jehad, these Shiite groups have instated
      another kind of politics at the heart of Muslim

      Unlike the ferociously sectarian battles of
      militants in Iraq or Pakistan, Hezbollah and its
      allies fight an explicitly ecumenical war,
      ostentatiously supporting the Palestinians among
      other mostly Sunni populations.

      In this they have been so successful as to
      receive the unwanted imprimatur of Al-Qaida,
      whose leaders were not so long ago reluctantly
      bending in the direction of Zarqawi's
      sectarianism. There are two wars being fought in
      the Levant today.

      One is the compulsive reiteration of an exhausted
      politics that involves Israel, Hezbollah and
      Hamas, with Syria, Iran and the US as indirect

      This regional war, waged by states, their proxies
      and militias in the most traditional of ways, is
      made possible by the very different kind of
      battles being fought at the global level in the
      war on terror.

      The second war is that being waged within the
      Muslim world between jehadi networks and their
      opponents, who comprise increasingly moderate
      Islamists as well as sections of the traditional
      clerical class.

      This is essentially a war to protect inherited
      forms of authority from sectarian and jehadi
      networks. What is extraordinary is that it has
      taken a minority form like resurgent Shiism to
      give force to this politics in the world of Sunni

      However the first war plays out, it is the second
      that will have the most important consequences.

      The writer teaches history at The New School, New
      York, and is the author of a book on jehad.

      o o o

      Frontline, August 11, 2006

      Empire comes to Lebanon

      by Aijaz Ahmad

      The U.S.-Israel axis goes all out to remove the
      last impediments to building a "New Middle East".



      The Times of India
      July 17, 2006

      by Sudeshna Sarkar

      Women, despite playing a major role in the
      democracy movement in Nepal, have been excluded
      from all decision-making proces-ses.

      Vidya Bhandari , 46, senior member of the
      Communist Party of Nepal (Unified
      Marxist-Leninist), pushed for and recently got
      parliament approval for two controversial rights
      33 per cent reservation for women in parliament
      and citizenship on the basis of the mother's
      nationality. Bhandari spoke to Sudeshna Sarkar :

      Why are women still protesting on the streets?

      It was the overwhelming participation of women
      that made the anti-king protests successful.
      During the 'people's movement' in April, women
      comprised 45 per cent to 70 per cent of the

      In remote districts like Dang and Chitwan, and
      towns like Pokhara, there were all-women rallies
      with 10,000 to 50,000 women. But this government
      has given no representation to women. There is
      just one woman minister in a cabinet of 20

      There are no women in the six-member committee
      formed to draft an interim constitution. There
      are no women in the teams formed by either the
      government or the Maoists to hold peace

      In a country where women comprise 52 per cent of
      the population, this means repression of the
      majority by the minority.

      What are your demands?

      We want proportional representation in the
      constituent assembly on the basis of population.
      This is imperative because, if you look at the
      current constitution, you will see it has several
      provisions that go against women and violate the
      fundamental right to equality.

      That is because the constitution of 1990 was
      written without the participation of women. That
      should not recur. We also want 33 per cent
      reservation for women in all government sectors.
      Nepal is a feudal society where women are treated
      as second class citizens.

      To change this, there need to be special efforts
      towards women's education, health and employment.
      For this, we need women in local development
      organisations, parliament and, finally, the
      cons-tituent assembly itself.

      In theory, even men recognise this, and on May
      30, parliament unanimously approved 33 per cent
      reservation for women. But the approval has to be
      put into practice.

      How would you ensure that?

      The women's wings of the major parties are
      unanimous about minimum representa-tion for
      women. We have been pressuring our own parties,
      parliament and the ministries to ensure this, as
      also to annul discriminatory laws.

      After parliament approved of 33 per cent
      reservation, we have been pressuring the ministry
      of law and the ministry of women, children and
      social welfare to introduce new laws, with a
      focus on education, health services and
      employment opportunities.

      (Courtesy: Women's Feature Service )

      o o o

      A new title from Kersplebedeb which some people on this list may find of


      Two texts by Comrade Parvati of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) with
      commentary by Butch Lee. A look at women's role in the Nepalese Revolution,
      and the relationship of women to Maoism and revolution in general. The two
      main texts in this pamphlet are reprints of essays by Comrade Parvati, one
      of the few women in the central committee of the Communist Party of Nepal

      Parvati is refreshingly critical and honest in her appraisal of the role of
      women in the CPN(M)'s peasant guerilla army, drawing conclusions regarding
      the connections between patriarchy and the defeat and degeneration of past
      communist revolutions, and the centrality of women to any successful
      communist revolution.

      Commenting on these texts, North American theorist Butch Lee examines the
      mixed record of Marxism-Leninism and Maoism in regards to women's
      liberation, the role of women in armed
      struggle, and the role of armed struggle in winning and defending
      freedom and autonomy for women and children.

      70 pages
      ISBN 1-894946-21-9
      $4.00 US / $4.50 Cdn

      The introduction to this pamphlet can be read online at

      for ordering details email info@...



      August 03, 2006

      by Kaiser Bengali

      THE letter by a group of men and a woman calling
      for the disengagement of the military from
      politics is a significant development. The
      significance of the move does not arise from the
      contents of the letter, which are fairly mundane.
      Rather, it arises from the fact that most of the
      signatories to the letter have earned their
      distinction by having served on important
      political positions in military governments.

      Understandably, their concerns are not born out
      of principled angst regarding the violation of
      the sanctity of the Constitution or of ensuring
      rule of law based government and polity. Rather,
      their apprehensions appear to be driven by
      increasing signs even to those who are close to
      the corridors of power that the
      politico-institutional edifice holding the
      country together is under serious stress.

      Unfortunately, the letter is not likely to cause
      anyone in the President House or in GHQ to sit up
      and take notice; partly because the group of
      signatories does not command the required moral
      stature and, partly, on account of the hackneyed
      contents of the letter. The fact is that General
      Musharraf's occupancy of the positions of
      president as well as Army Chief of Staff is
      merely the facade of a set of symptoms and not
      the cause of the myriad of political problems
      that Pakistan faces.

      The fact is that the country, having freed itself
      from British colonialism in 1947, has now fallen
      into the chasm of cantonment colonialism. The
      fact is that Pakistan has become a praetorian
      state. This is the fundamental problem that needs
      to be addressed.

      The military's first foray into politics
      commenced in 1954 with the appointment of General
      Ayub Khan as defence minister in the unelected
      government of Mohammed Ali (Bogra). Since then
      there has been no turning back. The military has
      mounted coups and subverted the constitutional
      process on four occasions in less than 50 years.
      Its penchant for political power is not without a
      purpose. When the British colonised South Asia,
      their objective was to extract surpluses from the
      local economies to support the development of the
      metropolis - Great Britain.

      As part of the strategy of colonial control, the
      British acquired - by fiat - large tracts of land
      running into several hundred square miles for
      setting up cantonments, establishing military
      farms, laying railway lines, etc. The
      governmental machinery and governing institutions
      were organised with the twin aims of control and
      revenue extraction.

      Even when elected governments were allowed in the
      provinces, the viceroy reigned supreme. He was
      only answerable to London and he ensured that the
      provincial governments, even though elected, did
      not function in any way contrary to the agenda of
      the British government. The colonising British
      prospered to 'First World' standards and the
      colonised South Asians sank into 'Third World'
      penury. The exceptions among the latter were
      those who chose to betray their people and
      collaborate with the colonisers. They emerged as
      the native elite.

      Today, the military has emerged as the new
      coloniser and the colonial framework is back in
      place. The cantonment is the new metropolis and
      the civilians have been pushed back to the status
      of the 'natives'. The army chief has emerged as
      the viceroy, reigns supreme and is answerable
      only to Washington. An elected parliament and
      government has been allowed, but is constrained
      to ensure that they do not function in any way
      contrary to the agenda of the cantonment.

      Governance decisions are made according to the
      will of the military rather than the will of the
      people. Once again, there are elements among the
      native civilian elite who chose to betray their
      people and collaborate with the new colonisers.
      The colonising military metropolis and the
      collaborating civilian elite have prospered to
      'First World' standards and the remaining
      'natives' have remained in 'Third World' penury.

      Over the half century since 1954 - except the
      five and a half years from December end 1971 to
      early July 1977 - the military has dominated the
      political and economic decision-making process in
      the country. New modes of surplus extraction have
      been developed. An exclusive military corporate
      empire, with a vast outreach in the economy, has

      The army is the largest land owner in the
      country. To the vast landholdings has been added
      a range of industries, trading houses, banking,
      leasing and insurance companies, transport
      entities, and housing estates that are epitomes
      of luxury. Military foundations, a la Fauji
      Foundation and Army Welfare Trust, run about 55
      industrial and commercial enterprises. The
      National Logistics Cell commands a near monopoly
      in bulk road transport cargo movements.

      Highway construction and highway toll collection
      are among the many commercial activities that are
      now largely the domain of the military. Military
      officers now head organisations in sectors like
      power generation, communications, highway
      construction, steel production, etc. There is
      even a conglomerate of military colleges and
      universities and hospitals and medical centres.
      Other universities are often headed by military
      officers. Retired military officers have emerged
      in private businesses ranging from urban
      transport to home security. Private firms too
      employ retired military officers as public
      relations officers to benefit from the military's
      clout in government.

      The Defence Housing Authorities are the largest
      real estate enterprises in the country, headed by
      the local corps commanders. That even one minute
      of the corps commanders' professional time, paid
      for by taxpayers money, is devoted to anything
      other than matters relating to the defence of the
      country is absolutely unacceptable. And peddling
      real estate certainly does not in the remotest
      sense form part of the country's defence.

      The emergence of the praetorian state has been
      accompanied by a 'softening' of the national
      state apparatus. There has appeared an interface
      between the military and private interests, with
      the latter comprising local business houses, some
      of which are now owned by military families, and
      multinational corporations, including
      international financial institutions. Recent
      events point to the dangerous fact that the state
      has become increasingly subservient to private

      During the last six months alone, there have been
      three major scandals. The sugar scandal prompted
      the National Accountability Bureau to launch an
      investigation, but it was abandoned on the
      grounds that 'it is likely to destabilise the
      industry!' The government demand that foreign oil
      firms return excess profits worth billions of
      rupees on account of failure to pass on the
      benefits of international oil price reductions to
      consumers fell silent after the companies
      threatened to withdraw from operations in the
      country. And the investigation into stock market
      manipulations has turned into a hounding exercise
      against the very individuals who are supposed to
      reveal the truth.

      Under the circumstances, the military's close
      involvement in the domain of commerce, industry
      and finance should ring alarm bells. Herewith,
      there are lessons from history. Between 150 to
      200 years ago, when the British were making
      inroads into the realm of the crumbling Mughal
      empire, royal dignitaries, princes and palace
      officials - charged with the protection of the
      empire - tended instead to negotiate with the
      British for the protection of their individual
      jagirs, allowances and other privileges. A
      similar situation was witnessed when the British
      were attempting to take over Sindh.

      In Pakistan today, a situation exists whereby
      military officials have constitutionally assigned
      responsibility for unconditionally defending the
      country, have forcibly taken over responsibility
      for political decision-making, and have developed
      significant and extensive business interests as
      well - institutionally through military-owned
      companies as well as privately. The conflicts of
      interest are multi-layered and, in addition to
      causing allocational inefficiencies, could also
      pose an element of risk to national interests.

      Allocational inefficiencies can occur if military
      corporate entities are able to corner markets on
      the strength of their preferential access to
      decision-making forums rather than on the
      strength of their cost efficiency. This practice
      is actually widespread and the economic costs to
      the country are certainly not insignificant. Even
      the now pervasive practice of appointing military
      personnel on civilian positions constitutes a
      contribution to economic inefficiency.

      When military officers, trained in the arts of
      war through an expensive training process, are
      put to managing real estate, water supply
      systems, steel mills, fertiliser factories, etc.,
      the result is waste of military resources.
      Whether those trained in the arts of war are
      efficient industrial or commercial managers is
      also a moot point. Clearly, a praetorian state is
      a contradiction in terms of the objectives of
      developing a modern state, competing in a
      globalised economy.

      The element of risk to national interests is more
      subtle. The opening up of the economy has led to
      several Pakistani companies teaming up with
      foreign firms to acquire or set up operations in
      the country. This is true of military corporate
      entities as well. For example, Defence Housing
      Authority has set up joint ventures with foreign
      firms in the realm of real estate development.
      Other deals could be in more strategic sectors.
      It is quite likely that a situation may arise
      where a venture may be problematic with respect
      to the country's national economic or political
      interests. A conflict of interest may arise if
      the military officials manning the corporate
      entity command preferential access to military
      colleagues in the ministries vetting the venture.

      The experience of the scandals of the last six
      months indicates that the state agenda can be
      compromised. And national interests demand that
      conflicting commercial considerations do not in
      any way encumber the military's ability to
      maintain a strong defence for the country. The
      imperative of a strong defence stands heightened
      today, given the strains on the eastern as well
      as the western fronts and threats of hot pursuit
      from across the borders.

      The subject about whether the president should be
      a man in uniform is basic from a constitutional
      point of view and of paramount importance in the
      context of a rule of law-based polity. Also
      vitally important are issues of an independent
      election commission and free and fair elections.
      However, these matters now follow from the
      determination of the fundamental question as to
      whether Pakistan is to be a praetorian or a
      democratic state. If it is to be the latter, then
      the military corporate empire will have to be
      done away with as a necessary condition for a
      national interest-based democratic order to



      SACW - August 3, 2006


      by Subhash Gatade

      (As of now the court of Additional Sessions
      Judge, Delhi has finally framed charges of
      murder, attempt to murder, criminal conspiracy,
      abduction, unlawful confinement, assault and
      unlawful compulsory labour against these PAC men
      charged with killing Muslims during curfew in
      Meerut on May 22, 1987. And the trial has started
      on 15 th July after an agonising wait for 19

      In any modern, multicultural society, conflicts
      between different communities always bear a
      possibility of taking a violent turn. But the
      important thing to remember is that effective
      steps are taken by the state for the maintenance
      of rule of law & order, so that any such untoward
      incident does not get reduced to a riot like
      situation. It is also incumbent upon the civil
      society that it plays a positive role by being
      inclusive so that none of its members, whatever
      may be the caste or creed or nationality does not
      feel marginalised or left out in the unfolding
      dynamic. And if at all there are any fissures at
      local level, they do not attain national

      Coming to India , with its billion plus people ,
      the track record of the state as well as the
      civil society vis-a-vis management of such
      inter-communal conflicts has been rather
      pathetic. While the 1984 carnage of Sikhs or the
      post Babri Mosque demolition riots which engulfed
      the nation or the Gujarat genocide 2002 provide
      the macro-picture in such cases, the massacre of
      42 innocent Muslims by a horde of PAC (
      Provincial Armed Constabulary) personnel from UP
      way back in 1987 and the long winding process of
      justice denial is symptomatic of the the deeper
      malaise which afflict the body politic.

      As of now the court of Additional Sessions Judge,
      Delhi has finally framed charges of murder,
      attempt to murder, criminal conspiracy,
      abduction, unlawful confinement, assault and
      unlawful compulsory labour against these PAC men
      charged with killing Muslims during curfew in
      Meerut on May 22, 1987. And the trial has started
      on 15 th July . And as rightly pointed out in a
      perceptive writeup it could be said to be a
      'major landmark in the arduous journey of pursuit
      of elusive and uncertain justice in the case' (
      The Milli Gazette, 16-30 June 2006)

      But before proceeding further it would be
      opportune to have a recap of the events to get an
      overall picture. There was a communal
      conflagration at Meerut there 19 years ago when
      the Congress ruled both in the State and the
      centre. Both Police and PAC pickets were posted
      there to bring the situation under control. The
      1994 Confidential report of the CBI throws light
      on the sordid saga. "On 22nd May 1987 around 8.0
      pm. they herded 40-42 'rioters' in PAC Truck
      No. UR 1493 at Hashimpura overtly for taking them
      to Meerut Civil Lines or Police Lines. However,
      the Platoon Commander S.P.Singh drove to the
      Upper Ganga Canal Muradnagar(Ghaziabad) ignoring
      their protests. On reaching there they started to
      unceremoniously shooting them down. When a few
      tried to escape they were shot down on the spot
      and their bodies were cast into the Canal. Rest
      of them were taken to the Hindon canal and there
      the sordid show was reenacted . ''

      Inquiry reports by reputed journalists like
      Nikhil Chakravarty and, Kuldip Nayar, and
      organisations like the People's Union For Civil
      Liberties (PUCL) and the People's Union For
      Democratic Rights (PUDR) revealed that it was a
      case of barbaric cold-blooded murder by the PAC
      personnel. Nikhil Chakravartty compared the event
      with "Nazi Pogrom against the Jews, to strike
      terror and nothing but terror in a whole minority
      Community". The Amnesty International's inquiry
      report observed, "There is evidence to suggest
      that members of the PAC have been responsible for
      dozens of extra judicial killings and
      disappearances".(AI Index: ASA 20/06/87).

      The State Govt. had also the incident looked into
      by the CID. But this internal investigation were
      completed only in 1993 -six years later.Its
      Findings came one year later. As if this delay
      was not enough it was further compounded by
      procrastination in implementing the action
      recommended. Orders in the matter were issued
      only in 1995 and 1997.Even in this Order action
      was recommended only against 19 officials as
      against 66 recommended in the CID Report.
      Interestingly there was no compliance of the
      court's summoning order followed by bailable
      warrants six times and non-bailable warrants 17
      times between January 1997 and April 2000.
      Although all of them were in active service then,
      they were declared as 'absconders' by the
      government.It was not for nothing that senior
      journalist Siddarth Varadarajan, in his writeup
      on the incident said “Even by the lethargic and
      Kafkaesque standards of the Indian judicial
      system, the Hashimpura case is in a class of its
      own” (Times of India, 17 May 2000).

      According to Mr Iqbal A. Ansari, an Aligarh
      lawyer and founding member of the Minority
      Council, who made all out efforts so that justice
      be rendered to the victims of the Hashimpura
      Massacre' " ..The U.P. government says that the
      amount of Rs. 40,000/- it paid for each of those
      killed is enough. It needs to be kept in mind
      that Hashimpura’s is a case of custodial killings
      by PAC, not that of killings during riots because
      of failure of governance as in 1984 in Delhi for
      which the Delhi High Court awarded compensation
      of Rs. 2 lakhs." ( Ref . Forgotten Massacre by Mr
      Iqbal Ansari ' Human Rights Today')

      A close look at the trajectory of the case makes
      it clear about the connivance of the state and
      the police machinery in denying justice to the
      innocent victims.It is clear that if the Supreme
      Court had not intervened the process of justice
      delivery would have been indefinitely postponed
      further. An appeal by the Hashimpura Advisory
      Committee to the Supreme Court seeking transfer
      of the case to Delhi since the accused were
      allegedly "exerting pressure and influence" to
      stall the proceedings in Ghaziabad, prompted the
      highest court to transfer the same to Tees Hazari
      court in Delhi in 2002. Ofcourse despite transfer
      it took four more years for framing of charges
      since there was lack of will on the part of the
      UP government to promptly appoint competent
      Special Public Prosecutor in transferred cases.
      Even now nobody can claim authoritatively that
      the guilty will be punished or the yearning of
      the affected people for justice will fulfilled
      and the next of kin of those killed will get
      adequate compensation. This is because of the
      fact that many eyewitnesses of the whole incident
      are long dead and while the killers of the
      Muslims are openly moving about, the few
      surviving witnesses live constantly in danger to
      their life.

      It is indeed galling to find that , even more
      than fifty years after the formation of Indian
      Republic Hashimpura is not an exception.It is not
      just a synonym for massacre.It is a tendency.
      There is nothing new in such massacres which are
      well thought-out handiwork of those at the
      helm of power and capital for their political
      and economic objectives .In the event the
      Constitution becomes a Parody. The rules made
      under the Constitution only subserve their

      Hashimpura reminds us about a rhetorical query by
      second century Roman Satirist Decimus Junius
      Juvenals wherein he asked 'Quis Custodiet Ipsos
      Custodes' ? ( Who will guard the guards
      themselves ?) Amen !



      Deccan Herald
      August 2, 2006


      By M R Narayan Swamy

      (There was nothing 'natural' about the slaughter
      of Sikhs in 1984, and nothing 'natural' about
      Gujarat 2002.)


      o o o

      The New Statesman,
      31st July 2006

      by Amartya Sen



      The Guardian
      August 1, 2006


      Supporting marginalised communities in their
      fight for social justice should not mean aligning
      with reactionary forces

      by Natasha Walter

      Monica Ali's Brick Lane is a fine novel. As I
      wrote in a review when it was first published, it
      is a novel that will last - although now it seems
      that it may last for the wrong reasons. After
      Bengalis in Tower Hamlets succeeded in moving the
      filming of the book away from their back yard
      because they object to the picture it paints of
      their neighbourhood, Brick Lane joined a
      depressing roll call of books famous as much as
      for the negative as the positive reaction they

      Yet the book never claimed to be a thinktank
      report on a community; its plot is so neatly
      patterned that even the laziest reader will see
      that it is not aiming for pure realism. I admired
      it partly because of the way its characters, who
      at first seem so isolated, gradually grow towards
      one another. Far from patronising or damning her
      characters, Ali gives them the greatest gift a
      novelist can give: imaginative life.

      Some readers may think less of a novel because it
      has a more tenuous relationship to reality than
      they would like. Those readers like novels to
      bring them "news"; the imaginative, playful
      aspect of the novel that has sustained it from
      its beginnings in folk tales is a mystery to
      them. This is a matter of taste, and it may be
      your taste to wish Ali had used more research and
      less imagination in creating her Bengali family.
      But there can be no justification for trying to
      suppress fiction because it has not measured up
      against some irrelevant yardstick. What Germaine
      Greer meant when she said that, because of the
      novel's supposed inaccuracies, "the community has
      the moral right to keep the film-makers out" is a
      mystery. Some people may have the power to do so,
      but nobody has the moral right to stamp on the
      cinematic recreation of this humane tale.

      We had almost got used to regular threats against
      blasphemous art - from James Kirkup's poem about
      Christ in the 1970s to The Satanic Verses in the
      1980s and in recent years Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti's
      play Behzti and Jerry Springer the Opera - by
      Christian, Muslim and Sikh fundamentalists. But
      this ugly trend has widened with the latest
      controversy, which takes the objection from
      religious grounds to grounds of cultural
      accuracy, or a nebulous "respect".

      The bad thing about this controversy is not only
      that one side is barking up the wrong tree, but
      also that the media have followed the barking of
      certain voices to the exclusion of other voices
      in this community. I'm not saying that the
      troublemakers are purely created by the media.
      Obviously, and regrettably, Abdus Salique, who
      threatened to burn the book at a protest, is real
      enough, as are others who want to suppress the
      film. But these are not the only voices worth
      listening to as representatives of the community.
      Journalists and commentators have to think again
      about why we choose whom we do to represent a

      Pola Uddin, the only Bengali woman in the House
      of Lords, was indignant when I asked her why we
      weren't hearing more women's voices in this
      debate: "Our voices aren't sought! The media are
      not interested in in us." Uddin has told
      agitators in the community to stop wasting their
      time getting so worked up about a piece of
      fiction. "I attended one public meeting a few
      years ago when the book first came out and told
      everyone present to be more productive with their
      anger," she said. "This book should be treated
      like the fiction it is. Let's put our energy into
      challenging real injustices. It is unacceptable
      that we should be asking for a book to be banned."

      Rabina Khan is another woman whose family are
      from Bangladesh and who has lived for a long time
      in Tower Hamlets. There she is involved in
      community projects, and she has also written a
      novel, originally self-published, which has now
      found an independent publisher. She is no fan of
      Ali's work. "I was disappointed in it. It didn't
      seem to relate to anything I've experienced. It's
      very old-fashioned." She sympathises with the
      protesters, but not to the exclusion of freedom
      of expression. "People have the right to protest
      and criticise. But she has the right to write her
      own experience."

      Khadija Rahman, a teacher at Waltham Forest
      College, attends a book group of Bengali women at
      an arts centre off Brick Lane. When Ali's book
      was discussed there, she found that women's
      reactions were mixed. "Some liked it and some
      didn't, but we all saw it as fiction. I was
      surprised when this controversy erupted. I
      thought people would be pleased for her, that her
      book did so well." Khadija also doesn't feel the
      protests have represented the whole community.
      "The men in the community are more uneasy than
      the women. Brick Lane is famous for its
      restaurants, which are mainly run by men, and
      they don't like the fact that Monica Ali, who
      doesn't live there and doesn't care about their
      opinions, has had such a success."

      The opinions of people like Rabina Khan, Khadija
      Rahman and Pola Uddin are not inflammatory enough
      to make the news. Yet the danger is that if the
      media identify the community only with its most
      reactionary spokespeople, people outside the
      community who sympathise with its other
      grievances - lack of political representation,
      say, or poor housing, or unemployment - may feel
      they have to line up beside the reactionaries in
      the cause of social justice.

      But let's not forget that Ali, like Salman
      Rushdie and Bhatti, is just as much a part of
      immigrant communities as the would-be book
      burners, and that if we listen out we can catch a
      great range of voices from every community. From
      the Bengali community, those include women who
      can see the irreducible value of freedom of
      expression alongside their commitment to social
      justice. As Uddin told me: "The fact is that this
      community has limited political representation
      and very little is being done to eradicate
      unemployment and poverty in the community. There
      are hundreds of women working on these issues
      throughout the country but no one is interested
      in that kind of daily grind." People on the left
      should not feel that in order to support
      marginalised communities in their fight for more
      social justice we have to align ourselves with
      their most reactionary elements.

      That's why we need not get caught up in the
      rhetoric of a clash of civilisations to go on
      supporting core values of tolerance and freedom
      of expression. These values are supported by
      people within every community, as well as by
      people who understandably feel they have no
      community that can speak for them, and so would
      rather speak for themselves.



      [7] FILM REVIEW

      India New England
      Issue Date: July 15 to 31, 2006, Posted On: 7/20/2006


      By Nirmal Trivedi

      Sharika Thiranagama, a student at Brown
      University, portrays her slain activist mother in
      the film, "No More Tears Sister." The film
      included intense scenes and personal scenes such
      as the ones above and below.
      PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Why do victims of war produce
      more victims? How does one understand those who
      take revenge on people displaced by war after
      having been displaced themselves?

      Such questions interest Sharika Thiranagama.
      Currently the Nancy L. Buc postdoctoral fellow at
      the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on
      Women at Brown University, Thiranagama is the
      daughter of Dr. Rajani Thiranagama, a doctor and
      human rights activist who was killed in 1989 in
      Sri Lanka after criticizing the militarized
      nationalism of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
      Eelam (LTTE) or "Tamil Tigers," only a few years
      after she worked with the Tigers to advocate for
      Tamil equality with the Sinhalese majority.

      To connect with her mother and to help portray
      her story accurately, the younger Thiranagama
      decided to take on a difficult task - that of
      donning the role of her mother in a film about

      The film, titled "No More Tears Sister," was
      recently aired on PBS in its series "POV." The
      film tells the story of Thiranagama's activism
      and struggle for social justice by incorporating
      documentary film clippings, interviews with
      Thiranagama's family and reenactments of her life
      where she is portrayed by her daughter. Narrated
      by Canadian Sri Lankan novelist Michael Ondaatje,
      the author of "Anil's Ghost" and "The English
      Patient," the film portrays Thiranagama's journey
      from militancy to disenchantment with the LTTE.

      The film, directed by veteran documentary
      filmmaker Helene Klodawski is told as a romance
      with her activist-husband Dayapala Thiranagama as
      well with her own revolutionary ideals. It
      focuses on how Thiranagama's commitment to human
      rights and feminism drove her desire for equality
      and yet was not able to prevent her from being
      killed. Featuring prominently in the film are
      letters she wrote to her husband and family
      testifying to this heartfelt commitment thus:
      "One day some gun will silence me. And it will
      not be held by an outsider - but by a son - born
      in the womb of this very society - from a woman
      with whom my history is shared."

      Because of the continued taboo on speaking about
      the nationalist struggle and in particular the
      role of the LTTE, the film had to be made in
      secret. As Klodawski relates, "many people on
      both sides of the ethnic divide have been
      kidnapped or killed. They are all living with the
      grief of lost family members, worried that they
      might be next."

      Those affected by conflicts of this nature are
      typically unable to convey their own stories.
      This perhaps explains why the film board of
      Canada approached her in the first place to make
      a film on the subject of women and war, broadly

      The conflict in Sri Lanka was of particular
      interest to her because it "seemed like one of
      these wars that had been going on for such a long
      time and there didn't seem to be a great
      understanding about was going on. The recent
      truce provided an opportunity to think about how
      from the point of view of women, a peace process
      is initiated."

      Klodawski explains that this film was waiting to
      be made. "When reaching her [Thiranagama's]
      family to explain what I had in mind, her older
      sister Nirmala said, 'We've been waiting for you
      for 15 years.' They seemed all very frightened to
      talk about it," says Klodawski.

      Understanding the concern that anyone playing the
      role of Thiranagama in the film might be
      subjected to attack, her daughter Sharika
      Thiranagama decided to play the role herself.
      "Because the danger in making this film was very
      high, it was very difficult to get actresses to
      play my mother. It would be a political statement
      to speak out," she says.

      Being only 10 years old when her mother was
      killed, Thiranagama's decision created challenges
      she did not anticipate. "It was very emotional
      for me but I found myself wanting to say
      something about my mother, what kind of person
      she was, to talk about all the other women who
      experience violence." As she became more involved
      with the film, she realized that her mother was
      very much a beloved person even outside her
      family. "I started to understand much more how
      she had affected lots of people's lives,"
      Thiranagama relates in an interview with POV. "It
      made me really look at her and think more about
      what she left behind. And see her as someone who
      was not just a mother to her children but her own
      person who was very passionate about politics."

      She holds her doctorate in social anthropology
      from the University of Edinburgh, Thiranagama
      says her research has allowed her to rethink her
      identity as a Tamil as a people who choose to
      create new conditions for excluding others
      despite their own troubled past. "Academics
      working on Sri Lanka don't write about what has
      happened to the Muslim community. The right of
      Muslims to return to the North is not a part of
      the peace process. They are very much forgotten.
      I went and did a lot of my research in refugee
      camps with the Muslims who had been expelled, and
      I learned a lot. That was a really big moment for
      me, because it made me think about what it means
      to be an ethnic majority of some kind. Tamils are
      a minority in Sri Lanka, and we've been
      discriminated against. But then to face what we
      Tamils, as a majority in the North, do to our own
      minorities, is a difficult thing," Thiranagama

      Klodawski hopes the film continues to allow those
      silenced by history to open a dialogue. Having
      already traveled the world, the film is being
      screened at Human Rights festivals. "If it can
      play on television, people who were afraid to see
      it in theaters may be able to hear an
      interpretation of events that they haven't been
      able to discuss freely in their context," she

      For more information about the film and further
      screenings, please visit


      [8] Upcoming Events


      28 July 2006

      Dear Friend,

      Zubaan and the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi
      will be continuing its programme of conversations
      with women writers, 'Words of Women'. This month
      we have Maya Sharma on Friday, 4th of August.
      Nivedita Menon, academic and activist will be in
      conversation with Maya. Maya Sharma, a feminist,
      is an activist in the Indian Women's Movement.
      She is working with a grassroots women's
      organization, Vikalp, in Baroda. Maya's latest
      publication with Yoda Press Loving Women: Being
      Lesbian in Unprivileged India will be launched at
      the event. She has earlier co-authored with Abha
      Bhayia and Shanti a book on single women's lives
      - Women's Labour Rights.

      Yoda Press is an independent publishing house,
      based in New Delhi established by Arpita Das and
      Parul Nayyar. Yoda Press is developing dynamic
      non-fiction lists, both academic as well as
      popular, which can make available interactive
      spaces for further discussion, scholarship, and
      writing. It is currently focusing on areas like
      urban studies, sexuality and the body, gender,
      sports studies, contemporary art and popular
      culture, and new perspectives in history.

      Started in 2003, this programme, entitled Words
      of Women, has so far featured Mahashweta Devi,
      Indira Goswami, Githa Hariharan, Mridula Garg,
      Manjula Padmanabhan, Mrinal Pande, Mitra Phukan,
      Kamila Shamsie, Kunzang Choden, Bulbul Sharma,
      Manju Dalmia, C.S. Lakshmi (Ambai), Namita
      Gokhale, Paro Anand, Shauna Singh Baldwin,
      Shobhaa De, Arupa Kalita Patangia, Anita Nair and
      Baby Halder and we hope to include many more
      other women writers in the months to come.

      Weíd be delighted to welcome you to this
      discussion. The venue is Casurina at the Habitat
      Centre, Lodi Road at 7 pm on Friday, 4th August
      2006. The programme usually lasts just over an
      hour. Please join us for tea at 6:30pm.

      We look forward to seeing you there.

      Jaya Bhattacharji
      For ZUBAAN

      An imprint of Kali for Women,
      K-92, First Floor,
      Hauz Khas Enclave,
      New Delhi - 110016
      Tel: +91-11-26521008, 26864497 and 26514772
      Email: contact@... and zubaanwbooks@...
      Website: www.zubaanbooks.com

      o o o


      A Public Meeting on
      Sri Lanka, Peace, Human Rights and the Diaspora

      Amnesty International
      Human Rights Watch

      Invite you to a public meeting with

      Professor Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial,Summary or
      Arbitrary Executions

      and speakers from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch

      on Saturday 5 August 2006 from 2 to 5 pm at the

      Amnesty International Human Rights Action Centre
      17 - 25 New Inn Yard
      London EC2A 3EA

      Following presentations by Professor Philip Alston, Amnesty International
      and Human Rights Watch an open plenary discussion will be held to address
      the grave human rights situation in Sri Lanka and the constructive role
      that could be played by the diaspora to achieve peace in Sri Lanka with
      democracy and human rights


      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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