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SACW | Jan.31- Feb 2, 2007

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | January 31- February 2, 2007 | Dispatch No. 2356 - Year 8 [1] Sri Lanka: Towards a bilingual administration (Ayesha Zuhair) [2]
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2007
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      South Asia Citizens Wire | January 31- February
      2, 2007 | Dispatch No. 2356 - Year 8

      [1] Sri Lanka: Towards a bilingual administration (Ayesha Zuhair)
      [2] India: Remembering P.C. Joshi and The
      Culture of Communal Harmony (Daya Varma)
      [3] India: When bigotry blocks the truth (Editorial, The Hindu)
      [4] India: A letter to To the Peace loving
      People of Faizabad (Manjulrani Tripathi,
      Raghuvanshmani)
      [5] India: An Affront to Secularism - Why
      bhoomi puja in Singur is such a great let-down
      (Ashok Mitra)
      [6] India: Gujarat's 2002 riot victims still
      living as refugees (Syed Khalique Ahmed)
      [7] Making hindutva and eating samosas in America (Gautam Bhatia)
      [8] Upcoming Events:
      (i) National Strategy Meeting On SEZ and
      Displacement Due To Large Projects (Wardha, 9
      Feb)
      (ii) Exploring Masculinities: A South Asian
      Travelling Seminar (New Delhi, 13-14 February
      2007)
      (iii) Conference "Religion in Security
      Politics", (?, Denmark, 29 - 30th March, 2007)

      _____


      [1]

      Daily Mirror
      1 February 2007

      TOWARDS A BILINGUAL ADMINISTRATION

      The state bureaucracy is essential for the proper
      enforcement of the Official Language Act

      By Ayesha Zuhair

      Language is a fundamental element of identity for
      communities the world over. It is a tool that is
      central to the expression of culture.The loss of
      language is equated with the loss of culture and
      thereby, the loss of identity. That is why it has
      been argued that the preservation of the
      languages of the various ethnic groups in a
      multi-cultural society is critical for the
      preservation of cultural heritage and identity.
      Repudiating cultural expression, on the other
      hand, limits the expression of inimitable
      perspectives on life and stifles diversity, the
      essential component of creative, dynamic and
      progressive societies.
      The Official Language Act of 1952
      When the Sinhala Only Act was passed in the Sri
      Lankan Parliament in 1956, making Sinhala the
      sole official language of the country, it served
      as a catalyst for simmering tensions between the
      Sinhalese majority and the Tamils who make up the
      single largest minority. The populist move was
      seen as a deliberate attempt to suppress the
      expression of Tamil culture, leading to riots
      later that year.
      In many discussions, historians and conflict
      analysts have cited the Sinhala Only Act as one
      of the factors which contributed to the build-up
      of ethnic hostilities and have described it as a
      myopic move produced by wave of nationalistic
      sentiments and capitalised upon by political
      leaders of that era.
      As Bertram Bastiampillai, Emeritus Senior
      Professor of the University of Colombo noted,
      language has been a thorny issue and the Sinhala
      Only Act was viewed as a direct attempt to
      disenfranchise Tamils in the fields of education
      and employment while inhibiting the expression of
      Tamil culture.
      The Act was not followed by subsidiary
      legislation in the form of regulations, but its
      implementation was based on policy statements and
      cabinet directives. When Sinhala became the
      official state language, Tamil-speaking employees
      in the public sector who were not conversant in
      Sinhala were rendered unemployed.
      The Official Languages Act of 1987
      The 1978 Constitution declared Sinhala and Tamil
      as official languages but Sinhala was retained
      the sole official language. This indicated a
      slight shift from the 1956 Act that declared
      explicitly that the Sinhala language shall be the
      one official language of the state. "The Act was
      ambiguous and did not grant parity of status to
      the Tamil language. Even though Tamil was
      declared a national language, it reiterated that
      the official language of Sri Lanka shall be
      Sinhala," Professor Bastiampillai observed.
      Later, through the 13th Amendment to the
      Constitution in 1987, the Official Language Act
      declared both Sinhala and Tamil as official
      languages of Sri Lanka. This followed the
      Indo-Lanka Accord of July 1987. In terms of
      Article 18.1 "The official language of Sri Lanka
      shall be Sinhala" and Article 18.2 avers that,
      "Tamil shall also be an official language."

      But despite its enactment, the Act was which
      recognised the parity of status between Sinhala
      and Tamil has been long ignored; its centrality
      to resolving the country's protracted armed
      conflict all but forgotten. Undoubtedly, the
      proper implementation of the Act can play a
      pivotal role in creating a conducive atmosphere
      for promoting co-existence and building peace.

      Telling figures and facts

      Sri Lankan Tamils (13%), Tamils of recent Indian
      origin (6%) and Muslims (7%) form the
      Tamil-speaking population of the country.
      Chairman of the Official Languages Commission,
      Raja Collure quoting statistics released by the
      Department of Census and Statitics in 2000, said
      that even though Tamil-speaking people comprise
      26% of the island's population, they make up just
      8.31% of the public service.

      Expressing his disgruntlement on the state of
      affairs, Dr. Hilary Cooray, President of the
      Organisation of Professional Associations (OPA)
      stated that even though Tamil was recognised as
      an official language, it was unfortunate that
      Tamil-speaking people continue to face
      discrimination and harassment in public
      departments.

      "If you take the Wellawatte Police Station as a
      simple example, Tamil citizens are not able to
      make a complaint in their language. This is
      despite Wellawatte being a predominantly Tamil
      area.
      To give another example, most of the signposts in
      the city which signal the uniflow traffic
      directions are in Sinhalese," Dr. Cooray said.The
      OPA which recently met the Minister of
      Constitutional Affairs and National Integration
      D.E.W. Gunesekera, urged him to take steps to
      fully implement the country's language policy.
      They also requested him to consider making Tamil
      a compulsory subject for Sinhala medium students,
      and Sinhala a compulsory subject for Tamil medium
      students.

      "Even though the Act is adequate, its
      implementation is far from satisfactory. We
      strongly feel that the will and cooperation of
      the state bureaucracy is essential for the proper
      enforcement of legislation," Dr. Cooray said.
      Moreover, just as Tamils faced linguistic
      problems in South, the same is true of Sinhalese
      living in the North and East who are minorities
      in those regions. Since all official business is
      conducted in the Tamil language, the Sinhala
      community is encountering numerous difficulties.

      Stifling a vital institution
      Mr. Raja Collure blamed treasury officials for
      slashing funds allotted to the Commission for
      2007 despite the increasing costs incurred by
      them. The Commission had requested Rs. 13 mn for
      the current year out of a serious necessity for
      funding, but will receive only Rs. 10.4 mn
      instead, which is a reduction of Rs. 400,000 from
      the Rs. 10.8 mn received last year, Mr. Collure
      said. While acknowledging that the Treasury too
      had to cope with mounting expenses, Mr. Collure
      insisted that it was inapt to slash funding for
      the Commission, as it is an important instrument
      for national integration. "This is not an item
      that should have been cut by those handling
      budget preparations. It goes to show that the
      officials concerned do not appreciate the
      importance of implementing and monitoring the
      Official Languages Act," he said.

      The Commission chairman said that the government
      bureaucracy has not treated the implementation of
      the Act as a serious matter, even though
      political authorities have issued several
      circulars calling for its enforcement.

      Incentives for bilinguals
      On a more positive note, Mr. Collure disclosed
      that a circular will be issued by early February
      to increase the incentives given to all members
      of the public service who meet the stipulated
      bilingual (Sinhala and Tamil) competence
      requirements in accordance with three identified
      grades.
      This follows a Cabinet Memo tabled and approved
      in August 2006 on the recommendations of the
      Commission.

      The grades have been divided thus: managerial or
      executive level service, management assistance
      service and comparable grades, and clerical
      service. Rs. 25,000, Rs. 20,000 and Rs. 15,000
      will be offered for the three grades respectively
      in addition to an allowance, where applicable.
      Mr. Collure explained that the general
      requirement was to meet the G.C.E. standard in
      addition to sitting for an exam conducted by the
      Official Languages Department. State sector
      employees will have to sit for this exam every
      five years in order to refresh their language
      competencies.
      In 1956, an incentive of Rs. 500 was offered for
      those competent in Sinhalese and the sum was
      sufficient to purchase to block of land in
      Colombo then. However, since the same amount is
      insignificant today, the Commission had proposed
      a substantive incremnt.

      "We are happy that this recommendation is going
      to be implemented very soon," the Commission
      chairman stated. He added that even though there
      is a slight advancement in the implementation of
      the Official Languages Act, much more remains to
      be done.

      Addressing a root cause
      Statesmen (if there are any remaining, that is)
      ought to study the linguistic problem of Sri
      Lanka in an objective manner so that minorities
      will not have to seek extreme methods to realise
      their legitimate aspirations. As Dr. Hillary
      Cooray noted, "Since the seeds of the ethnic
      conflict were sown by the language policy of
      1956, language will have to act as a launching
      pad for all attempts to bridge the divisions."

      Understanding and valuing cultural diversity –
      which includes the critical component of language
      – are the keys to countering racism and promoting
      tolerant societies. Based on this understanding,
      Sri Lanka should work towards establishing a
      bilingual administration that is not just
      restricted to the statute books, but is
      applicable for the lives of her citizens.


      _____


      [2]

      INSAF Bulletin 58
      February 2007
      www.insaf.net


      REMEMBERING P.C. JOSHI AND THE CULTURE OF COMMUNAL HARMONY

      by Daya Varma

      In the 1940's the Communist Party of India (CPI)
      was not very big but its influence was far beyond
      its size (see note 1). Until 1942, CPI was with
      the Congress and Puran Chand Joshi, the General
      Secretary of CPI directly interacted with
      Congress leaders including Gandhi and Nehru. CPI
      membership comprised of both progressive Muslims
      and Hindus without even a hint of who was what.
      Women were attracted to the party, not just
      symbolically but in large numbers, so much so
      that the enemies of the party ran the propaganda
      that this was why men joined the party. The
      intellectual caliber of a large number of its
      members was second to none.

      Such was the cultural life of India that even the
      ugly communal carnage of the partition was unable
      to affect the vibrant and composite culture of
      India, so much so that the Sangh Parivar, not yet
      fully developed, targeted all its attacks on
      communists. Could that atmosphere again become
      the norm of India? I think and hope so. But who
      will pioneer that movement? Communists are still
      the most
      non-compromising secular force, and while the
      various communist formations are not friends of
      each other on most other issues, their position
      regarding the scourge of religious fundamentalism
      is similar. Whether they do something about it
      is quite another matter.

      Reading the journals and pamphlets and listening
      to speeches of the leaders, and paying attention
      to their priorities, the Communist Party of India
      (CPI) still is much more conscious of this legacy
      than any other formation. Their official organ
      New Age still has at least one column against
      Hindutva fascism in practically each issue. So
      when I saw the article "P.C. Joshi and cultural
      renaissance in India" by Anil Rajimwale in the
      CPI publication New Age, Dec 31, 2006, I was very
      moved. This was also because even the CPI does
      not accord due importance to PC Joshi's
      contributions. May be some day, CPI will take
      honest stock of its history and give due
      importance to PC Joshi's contribution. Whenever I
      pass by Comrade Indrajit Gupta Marg in Delhi, I
      see all kinds of names on the signboards but not
      his name, not even in CPI Office.

      Some comrades of Joshi have established a
      Joshi-Adhikari Foundation, but it receives little
      encouragement. Puran Chand Joshi, M.A., LL.B. was
      born in 1907 in Almora, then in UP but now in
      Uttaranchal, and died on Nov 9, 1980 in Delhi.
      His wife and comrade Kalpana Dutt, whose
      revolutionary career predated the founding of the
      Party, died on Feb.8, 1995 in Calcutta. PC Joshi,
      popularly known as just PC, was drawn to the
      ideals of communism while a student at Allahabad
      University, just like so many giants of
      yesteryears were drawn to the British Communist
      Party while at Cambridge.

      PC organized the UP branch of CPI in 1928, within
      three years of the founding of the Party. He was
      convicted in the Meerut Conspiracy case and
      remained in jail till 1933 (he passed his LLB
      exam from jail). He was elected General Secretary
      of CPI in 1935 and disgracefully removed in 1948
      during the ascendancy of BT Ranadive (BTR). Soon
      after, he was expelled from the Party.
      Fortunately he was in India and not in the Soviet
      Union of Stalin and did not meet the fate of
      Bukharin and other dedicated communists. He was
      readmitted in the Party again in 1951 (Bukharin
      was, posthumously, after the 20th Congress of
      CPSU) and again elected to the Central Committee
      in 1956. PC Joshi was a dynamic leader of the
      Communist Party of India (CPI) and a great
      organizer. I do not intend to describe various
      contributions of PC Joshi - only the area covered
      in the New Age article, which records his
      contribution to the cultural renaissance.

      It was during PC Joshi's leadership and at his
      initiative, that two important institutions came
      into being - PWA (Progressive Writer's
      Association) and IPTA (Indian People's Theatre
      Association). Every sensitive and talented artist
      or writer in undivided India (later India and
      Pakistan) was either a member or a friend of PWA
      and IPTA. I would rather say that any artist who
      was not part of or a friend of PWA or IPTA was
      not an artist of any stature.

      Some of the luminaries of PWA and IPTA were
      Munshi Prem Chand, Sajjad Zaheer, Faiz Ahmad
      Faiz, Josh Malihabadi, Kaifi Azami, Sahir
      Ludhianvi, Israr-ul-Haq Majaz Lucknawi, Balraj
      Sahni, Ghulam Ahmad Mahjoor and Dina Nath Nadim
      (from Kashmir), Mukhdoom Mohiuddin, Majrooh
      Sultanpuri, Ali Sardar Jafri, Rajendra Singh
      Bedi, Krishna Chand, Onkar Nath Thakur, Saadat
      Hasan Manto, Krishan Chander, Khwaja Ahmad
      Abbas, Hasrat Jaipuri, Shailendra,, Ram Lal
      (storywriter), Ismat Chughtai, Ehtesham Husain,
      Mudra Rakshas, Akhtar Husain Raipuri, Ahmad
      Nadeem Qasmi, Salil Chaudhury, Mukri, Jan Nisar
      Akhtar, Viqar Ambalavi, Firaq Gorakhpuri, Sarosh
      Kashmiri, Jameel Manzari, Masood Akhtar Jamal,
      Ahmad Faraz (now in Pakistan, N.A. Qasimi and
      many more. As well, there were many Hindi writers
      like Munshi Premchand, Rahul Sankrityayana,
      Nirala (Suryakant Tripathi), Ram Vilas Sharma,
      Shivdan Singh Chauhan, Vijay Chauhan, Shiv Mangal
      Singh Suman, Rangeya Raghav, Prabhakar, Machwe,
      Sheel, Brajendra Gaur,Yashpal, Amrit Rai, Bhairav
      Prasad Gupt, Bhawani Prasad Mishra, Muktibodh,
      Nagarjun (Vaidyanath Mishra) Ram Asrey, etc.

      A 13-episode documentary (Mamoo Jaan ki diary)
      narrated by Syed Mohammed Mehdi of Aligarh, the
      only surviving member of the trio of Kaifi,
      Makhdoom, and himself, and produced by his son
      Feroz Mehdi of Montreal is to be aired on Door
      Darshan (it can be made available here). The
      documentary gives a nostalgic portrayal of
      those days and those lives; not every one is
      mentioned but the spirit is collective. As I.K.
      Shukla (LA, California) wrote to me, art and
      literature in India never saw anything like it
      before or after, unless it be the medieval Mughal
      period of the sufi-bhakti poets.

      One of the key features of PWA and IPTA was that
      their contribution to the cause of Indian
      revolution and composite culture was through
      their talents as writers or performers and not
      just as agitators for the Communist Party.
      Perhaps the major exception was when Sajjad
      Zaheer was sent to Pakistan to organize the
      Communist Party there, which did not prove very
      helpful (incidentally Nehru appealed to the Party
      to persuade Sajjad Zaheer and Josh to stay in
      India). As well, Mukhdoom was a brilliant trade
      union organizer and a leader of the Telangana
      movement.

      The current CPI does not have such vibrant
      organizations. CPM in many ways tries to abide by
      this principle through its support to the role of
      organizations like Sahmat of which a talented
      member, Safdar Hashmi, was murdered by
      reactionaries several years ago. Other Communist
      formations also have cultural or women's wings
      but they are more of direct propaganda wing of
      their respective parties and unfortunately not as
      messengers of revolution through their
      professional talents and many believe that not
      much can change until socialism prevails.

      I had the privilege of working under PC Joshi for
      just a few weeks as a courier during the Textile
      Worker's Strike in Kanpur in 1954. PC Joshi was
      underground at that time. The last I saw him was
      addressing a cultural gathering in Ghalib
      Academy, Delhi, on the occasion of Kaifi Azami's
      birth anniversary in which the great Begum Akhtar
      recited some of Kaifi's poems. This was a
      gathering of admirers of Joshi and Kaifi, a
      gathering of condemned revisionists.

      (I wish to express my heartfelt thanks to I.K.
      Shukla, Zafar Iqbal, Vinod Mubayi and feroz Mehdi
      who supplied many of the names of members and
      sympathizers of PWA and IPTA with encouraging and
      helpful comments. I will not be misrepresenting
      them if I say that all of them see the importance
      of rejuvenating progressive culture. Zafar also
      sent the link given below. Daya Varma)
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Writers'_Movement

      ______



      [3]


      The Hindu
      February 02, 2007

      Editorial

      WHEN BIGOTRY BLOCKS THE TRUTH

      There is something deeply wrong in Gujarat, an
      advanced State in terms of conventional
      development indicators. For the second time in a
      year, a film duly cleared by the Central Board of
      Film Certification for public exhibition is not
      being shown there because movie hall owners are
      scared of incurring the wrath of lumpen foot
      soldiers of the Hindu Right. If the first film,
      Fanaa, was blacked out to punish Aamir Khan for
      the support the actor provided to those being
      displaced by the Narmada dam, the second case is
      even worse. Parzania is the true story of a young
      Parsi boy, Azhar Mody. On February 28, 2002, he
      sought refuge along with his family in the house
      of Ehsan Jafri, the former Congress Member of
      Parliament, at the Gulbarg housing society in
      Ahmedabad. Jafri was murdered along with about 60
      other Muslims that evening, despite making
      repeated calls to the police for help. Not so
      well known is the fate that befell the Mody
      family. As the communal killers attacked the
      Jafri residence, Azhar got separated from his
      mother and sister and has not been seen since. He
      was 13 at the time. Parzania is the gut-wrenching
      story of one boy, but it is also the story of
      close to 2,000 people who were killed or went
      missing in the terror that consumed Gujarat under
      the stewardship of Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
      Five years later, his regime shows neither
      remorse nor respect for the rule of law - which
      is a good part of the reason why cinema owners in
      Gujarat are terrified of showing Parzania.

      There are those who will argue that Parzania is
      `biased' and does not present `both sides' of the
      story; they may even contend it is
      `inflammatory.' Ever since the Supreme Court's
      1989 decision in the Ore Oru Gramathile case, it
      is settled law that the yardstick for determining
      whether a film is inflammatory or not is the
      perception of an ordinary person "with common
      sense and prudence and not that of an out of the
      ordinary or hypersensitive" person.
      Hypersensitive individuals are free not to see
      the film - or to criticise it using democratic
      means. But to allow threats by bigoted goons to
      block the exhibition of a film that has won the
      necessary certification is to defy the
      Constitution and the law, as interpreted by the
      highest court in the land. There is another
      fundamental principle at stake here. Gujarat
      underwent a terrible trauma in which the communal
      killers not only targeted and victimised an
      entire section of the State's population but also
      turned hundreds of thousands of ordinary people
      into silent bystanders or even accessories. It is
      these mute witnesses of genocidal evil who need
      to see Parzania. Only if the truth is brought out
      into the open can reconciliation take place in a
      polarised society.

      ______


      [4]

      Date: Tue, 30 Jan 2007 09:29:22 +0530 (IST)

      Dr. Ramashankar Tiwari Tribhuwan Trust
      Gandhmadan, Laxmanpuri, Faizabad, UP, India.

      TO THE PEACE LOVING PEOPLE OF FAIZABAD

      Friends,

      Recent shocking and unfortunate communal riots in
      Gorakhpur and neighboring area has disrupted
      peace and communal harmony in the general walk.
      The killings, lootings and arson at various
      places has caused terror and created restlessness
      in the life of general public. The communal riots
      are a slur on the face of any civil society. They
      bring about loss of life and property and create
      rifts in the society. The wounds caused by these
      incidents are not healed easily.

      We, the writers and cultural activists associated
      with Dr. Ramashankar Tiwari Tribhuwan Trust,
      strongly condemn the communal forces trying to
      disrupt the communal harmony and peace in the
      life of our civil society. We are of the view
      that such problems are created keeping in mind
      the gain in the coming election, and they are
      therefore more condemnable. We appeal the peace
      loving people to abstain from provoking
      activities of the communal forces and maintain
      communal harmony and peace in the area.

      Manjulrani
      Tripathi
      Raghuvanshmani

      Managing Director
      Secretary for Literature


      _____


      [5]


      The Telegraph
      February 02, 2007

      A SENSE OF HUMILIATION
      - Why the bhoomi puja in Singur is such a great let-down
      by Ashok Mitra

      This piece is being written not from anger. It is
      occasioned by sorrow, despondency and, one must
      add, a sense of humiliation.

      Like a bad coin, the Tata small car project in
      Singur, in the district of Hooghly in West
      Bengal, keeps turning up in the news.
      Controversies continue to rage over the procedure
      of acquiring land for the purpose of setting up
      the plant, the justness or otherwise of the
      amount of compensation paid for the individual
      holdings taken over, the terms negotiated by the
      state government with the Tatas concerning the
      fate of those displaced from the land and,
      finally, whether the re-industrialization of West
      Bengal would have to be entirely dependent on the
      magnanimity of those who had de-industrialized it
      in the first place, the state filling the role of
      only a complaisant spectator.

      These controversies need not detain us at this
      moment. What however does is a curious event that
      took place in Singur on January 21 last. On that
      day, a bhoomi puja was arranged there to signal
      the start of the small car project. It is not
      altogether clear who sponsored the ceremony. The
      corporate group of the Tatas is dominated by
      members of the Parsi community; it would be
      somewhat extraordinary on their part to organize
      a Hindu ritual as an integral part of any of
      their enterprises. Research concerning the matter
      has not progressed very far; what would be
      interesting to know is whether, in the course of
      the past one century of their being around, the
      Tatas ever commenced the operations of a project
      with the observation of the quintessentially
      Hindu religious observance, bhoomi puja.

      There is something of more serious import.
      According to statements made by spokesmen of the
      state government, the 997 acres of land on which
      the project is supposed to come up have been
      acquired by the state on behalf of the West
      Bengal Industrial Development Corporation. The
      entire land is supposed to continue to be in the
      possession of the corporation; the Tatas are
      merely being offered the privilege of
      establishing the factory on its expanse. Were the
      Tatas keen to have a bhoomi puja, it should
      therefore have been obligatory on their part to
      seek the formal approval of the WBIDC. Was such
      permission sought and granted? Assuming the
      response to the query to be in the affirmative,
      did the state industrial corporation seek the
      views of the Left Front government in the matter?
      The corporation, after all, is wholly owned by
      the state government.

      The question of permission apart, a number of
      other facts too deserve to be taken note of in
      this connection. The puja ceremony on January 21
      was reportedly attended by top-ranking
      representatives of the state administration,
      including the district magistrate and the
      district superintendent of police; the managing
      director of the WBIDC was also present. The
      entire ceremony was evidently conducted under
      their patronage, and the state administration,
      one cannot abandon the feeling, took a leading
      part in organizing the puja, including taking
      care of such details as renting the services of a
      pujari or fetching from the market the coconut
      shell which was split into two as part of the
      religiosity. The Tata officials in attendance
      were from outside the state and would not have
      been in a position to take charge of these things.

      Whatever manner the issues involved are analysed,
      one particular conclusion is inescapable. It was
      bhoomi puja performed on what is claimed to be
      still government property; it was organized by
      government officials qua government officials.
      And this is precisely where anguish begins to
      seize the mind. The multitude of its supporters
      and admirers look up to the Left Front government
      in West Bengal as the repository of secular
      ideals; they pin their faith on it to act as
      vanguard in the relentless fight against the
      fundamentalists and religious obscurantists. They
      consider the left as the only effective
      countervailing force to crush the conspiracy
      launched in the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled
      states, like Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, to
      Hinduize secular India. As they view it, India is
      a secular republic; the country's Constitution
      says so. The commitment of the Constitution must
      be honoured and, where necessary, defended till
      the last drop of blood is shed; only the left,
      millions across the country have been accustomed
      to think, could be trusted with this assignment.
      Now they will be in a state of shell shock.

      Secularism does not imply, as leaders of the
      Indian National Congress have trained themselves
      to assume, embracing all religions with the same
      fervour. It should, on the other hand, mean that
      the state maintains equal distance from, and
      shows equal indifference to, the different
      religions. The secular-minded in the nation
      cannot but be devastated by the tidings of the
      bhoomi puja at Singur sponsored by the Left Front
      government. It would be of little use for
      higher-ups in the state government to pretend
      that they are not supposed to know of happenings
      at the base of the system. Singur has been a
      sensitive political issue for months; the
      suggestion that important officers belonging to
      the state government could have participated in
      the ritual without the knowledge of their
      political superiors is beyond belief. Nor is
      there any report that any disciplinary
      proceedings have been started against these
      officers for the outrageous breach of secular
      principles they have committed.

      Put on the defensive, the West Bengal ministers
      may admit, sheepishly, that what took place was
      because of an oversight. That would hardly wash.
      For the BJP government in Gujarat, presided over
      by Narendra Modi, could similarly claim that it
      was not possible for them to keep track of the
      genocide in Baroda, Ahmedabad and elsewhere in
      their state during those grisly days in 2002.

      No point in beating about the bush, it is a great
      let-down. India is currently a battlefield where
      religious fundamentalists are making every
      attempt to capture positions of vantage so that
      they could drag the country back to the Dark
      Ages. Those confronting them in different parts
      of the country and in different spheres used to
      refer to the Left Front regime in West Bengal as
      the guardian angel, protecting the ramparts of
      secularism founded on the bedrock of rationality.
      The Left Front will henceforth be diminished in
      their eyes. In the process, it itself will feel
      diminished. More than a quarter of the population
      of West Bengal belongs to denominations other
      than Hindu. Some of the land taken over in Singur
      belonged to members of such denominations. What
      frame of mind would these people be in once they
      are told of the Hindu ritual observed on the land
      they once owned and has since been taken over by
      a government which avows to follow secular
      principles?

      Finally, there is the issue of right to
      information. Is it a part of the formal or
      informal arrangements the state government has
      entered into with the Tata group that the latter
      should be allowed to do a bhoomi puja on the land
      temporarily transferred to them? Or is it the
      state government's point of view that, unless the
      Tatas were permitted to do the puja, they would
      have refused to invest in West Bengal and moved
      to some other state? If the latter be the case,
      would that not be a bit like, say, the government
      of India arguing that if Goa was not converted
      into the snakepit of a sex resort, no foreign
      direct investment would come to the country and
      travel elsewhere?

      ______


      [6]


      Ahmedabad Newsline
      February 02, 2007

      STILL STAYING IN COLONIES, DISPLACED VICTIMS SAY
      THEY CAN'T RETURN TO THEIR VILLAGES BECAUSE
      SITUATION OUT THERE IS STILL 'HOSTILE'

      Are we not among 5 crore Gujaratis, ask riot victims

      by Syed Khalique Ahmed

      Ahmedabad, February 1: Mohammedshah Maqboolshah
      Diwan loved communal harmony to the hilt. To such
      an extent that he even took part in every Hindu
      festivity, raised money for construction of
      temples, for one of which he even worked as chief
      trustee and had the responsibility of paying the
      monthly Rs 1,200 as salary to the priest. But he
      never thought that he would be asked, one day, to
      change his religion to continue living in his own
      village.

      The 68-year-old retired government school
      teacher, who was forced to leave his ancestral
      Khadana village in Petlad taluka of Anand
      district during the 2002 post-Godhra riots, is
      now being asked by his villagers to "embrace
      Hinduism" if he wants to return to his village.
      The villlagers, according to him, say he has to
      pay a "price" if wants to return to the village.

      An anguished Diwan gave this emotional narration
      before a panel at a public hearing held at
      Gujarat Vidyapith here on Thursday. The public
      hearing was organised by Aantarik Visthapit Hak
      Rakshak Samiti (Committee for Protection of
      Rights of Displaced Persons) to highlight its
      demand that those living in colonies be declared
      as "internally displaced people" and a
      compensation of Rs 4 lakh be paid to each family.

      Like Diwan, several others gave their accounts of
      they had been forcibly displaced in the aftermath
      of the riots and were now facing tremendous
      difficulty in returning, especially in the face
      of "hostile" situations still prevailing in their
      native villages.

      Diwan, who had taken shelter in a relief camp,
      was subsequently rehabilitated in a small house
      with his family in Detral village of Bharuch
      district, about 100 km away from his village. All
      this while, his native village temple's fixed
      deposit of Rs 10,000 continues to be in his
      account at Petlad Nagarik Cooperative Bank.

      Like Diwan, there were Mohiuddin Khokhar and 25
      other Muslim families of Asa Dungiri village in
      Kwant taluka of Vadodara district. They had been
      driven out of their village to take shelter in
      Munsif Nagar colony in nearby Chhotaudepur town.
      Their shops, houses and land have been grabbed by
      local adivasis, they say.

      "We made an attempt to return to our village but
      were threatened by the locals,'' Khokhar told the
      panelists and alleged that the police were not
      taking any action. "In our village, we used to
      employ people. And now we work at others'
      places...Are we not among five crore Gujaratis?''
      he asked.

      There was also an emotional Niyazben Sheikh from
      Ogdaj village, now accommodated in Yash Complex
      in Juhapura in the city. She said she was asked
      to change her religion or withdraw the
      riot-related cases if she wanted to return to the
      village. "Is it a crime to be a Muslim?'' shouted
      the women at the hearing.

      On Thursady, 50 of 3,500 displaced persons, who
      had come to the hearing, narrated their stories.
      There are about 5,000 such people living in 66
      colonies in seven districts across the State.

      The accounts covered several aspects _ their
      failed attempts to return to their native place,
      the experience of women, the situation of
      livelihood, the absence of civic amenities in the
      colonies, the continued intimidation by the
      police, and their experience of exclusion and
      discrimination. And to top it all, the effect of
      all this on the young generation!

      The panelists who heard the grievances included
      Planning Commission member Syeda Hamid, National
      Commission for Minorities member Dileep
      Padgaonkar, former acting chief justice of
      Gujarat High Court R A Mehta, NHRC member PGJ
      Namboodiri, and Gujarat Vidyapith Vice Chancellor
      Sudarshan Iyengar. Activists Gagan Sethi and
      Farah Naqvi, besides Shabnam Hashmi, who played
      an important role in organising the displaced
      persons were also present.

      Later, in a statement the panelists said: "What
      we witnessed today must be just a glimpse of the
      condition of internal displacement in the Gujarat
      due to shameful 2002 violence. We, as a panel,
      collectively say that there can be no denying
      that these people have been internally displaced
      as a direct result of the communal riots of 2002.
      The position taken by the State government that
      all affected people were rehabilitated is clearly
      not borne out. And this public hearing is proof
      that the State government has not fulfilled its
      responsibility. For five years, the rights of
      these internally displaced people have been
      denied to them. We endorse the Charter of
      Demands, issued by the Aantarik Visthapit Hak
      Rakshak Samiti, from both the State and the
      Central governments for recognition,
      rehabilitation and reparations for all the harm
      done to them. As citizens of India they are
      entitled to no less.''

      However, the State government has maintained that
      there are no displaced people and those staying
      in the colonies are doing that on their own.

      ______


      [7]


      sacw.net | 27 January 2007
      http://www.sacw.net/DC/CommunalismCollection/ArticlesArchive/bhatiaJan07.html

      MAKING HINDUTVA AND EATING SAMOSAS IN AMERICA

      by Gautam Bhatia

      (hindustantimes.com)

      Some of my best friends are Muslim. At the height
      of the American struggle for racial equality it
      became a badge of honour for whites to proclaim
      that some of their best friends were black. An
      unequivocal denial of racism, however
      stereotypical, rang a public message that
      eventually crept into American consciousness. No
      such badge of honour resounds in the Hindu's
      contentious relationship with his 'second class'
      Muslim friend. If anything, the reverse seems to
      be true. I am Hindu, and some of my best friends
      are Hindus, is the new social yardstick, an
      indefensible position of honour.

      According to the RSS, the grand shakhas - the
      madrassas of Hinduism - will restore 'first
      class' status, and make Hindus proud of their
      ancient heritage. New curriculums can be set to
      'correct' history under the guise of Indian
      culture. When the legacy of Hindu Rashtra has no
      direct lineage, a host of tertiary probables can
      be drawn into the picture: India had metallurgy
      and astrophysics long before the Nobel Committee
      in Stockholm decided on its awards; it was an
      advanced and settled society while the Europeans
      were barbarians. India was shining while the
      world was in darknessŠIn undoing historical fact,
      the idea is not to give you details of the
      metallurgical science of the time, or to state
      specifics of prevailing astrophysics, but only to
      record that they existed. Pride is in the mere
      statement of their existence.

      Ironically, the reasoning of racial and religious
      purity is decidedly misplaced in a world
      increasingly without borders. The idea of
      asserting a Hindu identity in Hindu India is all
      the more ironic, or moronic, given that a
      majority population of 82 per cent should feel
      'threatened' and 'second class'. It matters
      little that the other 18 per cent are dispersed
      unevenly across a country of continental size and
      that none among them is united enough to form a
      cohesive political force. But nevertheless, for
      the sake of Hindu pride, they pose a threat.

      It is easy to sense the hokey nationalism that
      fans this unease and paranoia in India. Yet,
      amongst the staunchest supporters of the Hindu
      Rashtra are Indian Americans - a strange breed of
      Indian whose allegiance to the motherland seems
      to get strengthened by distance. The greater the
      time spent abroad and the more the money earned,
      fills the departed with a sense of acute longing.
      In suburban Ohio, and downtown Milwaukee,
      self-styled saviours gather every week in local
      community centers and high school auditoria to
      express their love for Hindu India.

      To look beyond their adopted home for a grander
      agenda: Save India. Nehru's definition of
      secularism as an equality of religions in which
      the state plays no part is anathema to them. They
      are more at ease with the RSS idea that Hinduism
      incorporates all faiths, and so, all Indians are
      Hindus. Whether the Muslims, Sikhs and Christians
      like it or not, they are just another kind of
      Hindu.

      To be part of the wealthy Diaspora in the US
      means that you can assert your Hindu identity
      without fear of repraisal. After all, your
      neighbour Fred is a white Anglo Saxon Protestant,
      whose bigotry can hardly be directed towards
      someone he can't understand, nor cares to.

      The nearest Muslim is in Cheltenham, 12 miles
      away and he is probably busy organising his own
      hate group. So, Hindus can meet regularly over a
      vegetarian Sunday barbeque and discuss Hindu
      rights and way of life, (polish their trishuls)
      over mushroom pakoras, even watch a new Bachchan
      flick on the DVD.

      I chanced upon a meeting of the Boston branch of
      the HSS, the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, at the
      Framingham Community Center, while on a recent
      visit. It was a Saturday morning and I saw the
      devout arriving in their Chevys and Hondas. Brown
      Americans in a relaxed weekend mood.

      But once they had walked into the hall, something
      changed. Like middle- aged boy scouts, they
      became possessed; their tan Bermudas began to
      resemble RSS' khaki shorts. They were now Hindus
      addressing the crisis of religion far away. The
      main function of the American shakhas I was told,
      was to unite the Hindus of America and create a
      brotherhood of saffron.

      "Length of residence is the only measure of
      belonging," the leader explained. "Hindus are the
      natural sons of Hindustan". Home was a birthright
      by ancestory. By that reasoning, the man claiming
      to be the rightful owner of India, would never
      have rights in his adopted country, not even in
      the county elections. The wooden floor of the
      basketball court had begun to resound with
      recrimination and fear: factors that united these
      and other HSS members spread in 24 states across
      America.

      I sat behind my host, Bimal Dasgupta, a
      researcher at the Harvard Medical School, and
      wondered what drew self-respecting people like
      him - teachers, bankers, businessmen - into such
      mindless baby talk. Was it merely a weekend
      distraction, or something more sinister? Was
      there really a grand design, like Hitler's, or
      was this just another way of grasping at a
      homeland that they had themselves spurned.

      My own friend, before he left for the US, was
      only mildly religious, and a liberal who had
      spoken out, if only in private, against the Babri
      Masjid demolition and the Sikh riots. But 12
      years in America had changed him. A life confined
      to suburban comfort needed an intellectual
      outlet. The Iraq war, the US support of Israel,
      were of little consequence to someone who still
      sent part of his pay to his mother in Kolkata.

      Hindu activism was a better bet. Getting together
      every week in a gym or community centre, with a
      group of similarly inclined men in baggy shorts,
      was a form of communion, a reason to exist. By
      making it all happen in a suburban setting, ten
      thousand miles away, the issues could be
      discussed in their fullness, and happily resolved
      to perfection, away from the messy overlapping
      reality of India. An ideal country was being
      created every weekend in suburban America.

      The meeting lasted two hours. Its moderator Anand
      Paranjpe, a youth member of the RSS in Mumbai
      before he got his green card and moved his family
      to Boston: "The shakhas also help second
      generation Indian Americans connect with their
      traditions". I was hard pressed to find anyone
      younger than 50 among the 22 paunchy men. The
      second generation was probably on the baseball
      field or doing drugs.

      The meeting proceeded. Rajesh Desai of Cambridge
      brought up the issue of slander. Baltimore Sun
      had raised doubts on the Indian claim on Kashmir.
      The group felt that questioning the ownership of
      Kashmir wasn't only un-American, but also
      un-Hindu. Karan Rastogi of Wellesley suggested
      they sue the paper. A member said that the
      Milwaukee shakha had just elected a Punjabi
      motel chain owner to head it: His son, apparently
      was a cause of family distress having married a
      white American. They talked of the Muslim riots
      in MeerutŠ

      In all the talk, the continual barbs against the
      minorities, and the perpetual references to Hindu
      tradition, all I could sense was the abject
      loneliness of the naturally gregarious Indian
      living the American suburban life. Hatred of the
      Muslims was a unifying condition; outside the
      trimmed lawns and manicured hedges, it gave
      meaning to life. As much meaning as Neo-Nazism,
      and the Ku Klux Klan.

      Midway through the discussions, the wives
      appeared with samosas, chutney and paper plates
      and set up the table along the sidelines of the
      basketball court. One of them, set a saffron flag
      on the table along the samosa plates, something
      her husband forgot to take for the military-like
      initiation of the meeting. As the circle broke
      and everyone rushed to the food, the picture
      focused and the HSS revealed its true self: just
      a bunch of kranky old farts in baggy shorts with
      nothing better to do than change the world every
      weekend.

      (The writer is a renowned architect and a published author)

      ______


      [8]

      (i)

      NATIONAL PLANNING MEETING OF ACTION 2007: FEB 10-11, 2007.

      NATIONAL STRATEGY MEETING ON SEZ AND DISPLACEMENT
      DUE TO LARGE PROJECTS ON FEB 9TH 2007

      At Gandhi Ashram, Sewagram, Wardha, Maharashtra.

      Dear friends,

      HOPE YOU HAVE RECEIVED OUR INVITATION FOR
      NATIONAL PLANNING MEETING OF ACTION 2007 ON FEB
      10-11TH PRECEDED BY NATIONAL STRATEGY MEETING ON
      SEZ AND DISPLACEMENT DUE TO LARGE PROJECTS ON FEB
      9TH.

      Hope you have also informed other relevant
      networks and organisations to participate in the
      above two meetings towards Action 2007.

      Please confirm your participation in the meeting
      and your arrival plan at Sewagram, Wardha.

      We would welcome your comments and any
      suggestions on issues as well as programme
      planning in Action 2007.

      Looking forward to your participation and proactive contribution...

      Sincerely yours,

      Medha Patkar Ulka Mahajan Ajit Jha Prafulla Samantara
      Sandeep Pandey Geeta Ramakrishnan Shaktiman Ghosh Rakesh Rafiq

      o o o

      (ii)

      EXPLORING MASCULINITIES: A SOUTH ASIAN TRAVELLING SEMINAR

      Date: 13-14 February 2007
      Time: 9:30 to 6:00
      Venue: Department Of Sociology, University of Delhi
      (North Campus)

      The concept of 'masculinities', informed by recent
      feminist thought and the women's movement, has emerged
      as a means of renewing feminist discourse by
      encouraging a more relational approach to
      masculinities and femininities. This also allows for
      the investigation, problematisation and interrogation
      of masculinity equally with femininity. Not
      withstanding these enabling possibilities, however,
      "gender" is still essentially deployed in contemporary
      social science discourse as a synonym for women, its
      relational aspect obscured and the invitation to
      interrogate masculinities largely ignored. This is
      unfortunate because a textured understanding of the
      diversity of South Asian men's experiences, attitudes,
      beliefs, practices, situations, sexualities and
      institutions is essential to not only challenging the
      social dominance of men over women but for building a
      more humane world.

      The travelling seminar on masculinities has been
      conceived from the position that the study of
      masculinities is important in that it is
      'simultaneously a place in gender relations, the
      practices through which men and women engage that
      place in gender, and the affects of these practices in
      bodily experiences, personality and culture.' (Connell
      R.W, 1994:71). The seminar is both an academic
      exercise in generating interest for further research
      on masculinities as well as a campaign to form a
      network of university communities that are willing to
      take up issues of gender equality.

      Organised by Aakar (www.southasianmasculinities.org),
      the seminar, as the title suggests, will travel to ten
      universities across south Asia. Conceived as a cross
      disciplinary event, the seminar comprises of academic
      papers; personal and activist narratives and;
      films/theatre/art on the theme of masculinities. The
      seminar at each location is held in collaboration with
      a university department. In Delhi, the Department of
      Sociology, University of Delhi is the co-organiser of
      the seminar. Dr. Deepak Mehta from the Department is
      co-ordinating the seminar.

      The speakers and discussants at the seminar to be held
      on 13/14 Feb 2007 in Delhi include:
      Dr. Jani De Silva, International Centre For Ethnic
      Studies, Colombo: Naradha's narrative: constructing
      subjectivity and masculinity through student politics.

      Dr. Rubina Saigol, Lahore Pakistan: Nation and
      Masculinity Superman Imagery in Muslim Nationalist
      Poetry
      Imtiaz Saikh, Department of Women and Gender Studies,
      University of Dhaka: Learning By Doing: Masculinities,
      Healthy Behaviour and Young Men’s sexual
      practices in Dhaka
      Rubina Khilji, Department of Gender Studies,
      University of Peshawar, Peshawar: Discussant
      Dr. Patricia Uberoi, Institute of Economic Growth,
      Delhi: Discussant
      Dr. Mary E John, Centre For Women’s Development
      Studies, New Delhi: Discussant
      Dr. Shail Mayaram, CSDS, Delhi: Discussant
      Dr. Sanjay Srivastava, Deakin University, Melbourne:
      Pedestrian Desires: ‘Footpath
      Pornography’, Masculinities cultures, and the
      Aesthetic of fluid species
      Dr. Nivedita Menon, Department of Political Science,
      University of Delhi: Discussant
      Dr. Radhika Chopra, Department of Sociology,
      University of Delhi: Title Awaited
      Dr. Deepak Mehta, Department of Sociology, University
      of Delhi: Words that wound: Affects publics and the
      production of Hate in Bombay.
      Shudhabrata Sengupta, Sarai, Delhi: Discussant
      Shankar Ramaswamy, University of Chicago: Togethering
      Contra Othering: Male Hindu-Muslim Inter-Relations In
      Proletarian Delhi

      For more information contact:
      Dr. Deepak Mehta
      Email: Deepak.em@...
      Rahul Roy: khel@...
      www.southasianmasculinities.org
      9810395589


      o o o

      (iii)

      This is to announce a forthcoming conference on "Religion in Security
      Politics: New Themes and Challenges", 29-30th March, 2007 organised by
      Institute for Society and Globalisation, RUC and Danish Institute for
      International Studies. See attachment for details.
      The conference envisages a limited number of workshop presentations besides
      the key lectures by the invited speakers. It invites original papers based
      on ongoing research - both fieldwork based and/or theoretically oriented -
      across disciplines of history, sociology, political science, anthropology
      and area studies. The written papers must not be longer than 6000 words and
      the oral presentations must be limited to 20 min followed by comments and
      discussions. The proposals may be sent in by Feb 1, 2007 while the written
      papers must be submitted by March 1, 2007 to either Ravinder Kaur
      (rkaur@...) or Dietrich Jung (dju@...).

      Ravinder Kaur, PhD
      Assistant Professor,
      Institute for Society and Globalisation,
      Building 9.2, Roskilde University,
      4000 Denmark.
      Phone 0045-46743161 (direct)
      Email: rkaur@...


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

      Buzz for secularism, on the dangers of fundamentalism(s), on
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