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SACW | March 1-2, 2007

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | March 1-2, 2007 | Dispatch No. 2369 - Year 9 [1] Pakistan: Contradictions to deal with (Irfan Husain) [2] Pakistan: Quetta blast
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 1, 2007
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      South Asia Citizens Wire | March 1-2, 2007 | Dispatch No. 2369 - Year 9

      [1] Pakistan: Contradictions to deal with (Irfan Husain)
      [2] Pakistan: Quetta blast sends chilling message (Editorial, Gulf News)
      [3] Bangladesh: The ripple effect (Zafar Sobhan)
      [4] India: A blind eye to bigotry (Mike Marqusee)
      [5] India: Women's groups protest on the beach,
      say 'No More Gujarats' (Georgina Maddox)
      [6] India: [Irom Sharmila - the crusader against
      militarised law] Forget her not (Aakshi Magazine)
      [7] India: "Right to Live" sit-in by
      organisations campaigning for justice after the
      Bhopal disaster
      [8] India: [Hindu right win the elections in
      Punjab] - Hitting secularism for a six (J Sri
      Raman)
      [9] India: The Ink Is Soiled (Nayantara Sahgal)
      [10] India - Gujarat: 'No change in State's attitude to minorities, riot-hit'
      [11] Upcoming Events:
      (i) Aman Yuva Convocation [Youth convention for
      peace] (New Delhi, March 2, 2007)
      (ii) Theorizing the Indian State - Lecture by
      Akhil Gupta (Los Angeles, March 13, 2007)

      ____


      [1]

      Dawn
      February 24, 2007

      CONTRADICTIONS TO DEAL WITH

      by Irfan Husain

      I WAS staying with old Turkish friends in their
      house on the Aegean sea when we learned about the
      lethal blast in a Quetta courtroom. My hostess
      was very concerned as she has been to Pakistan
      many times, and has visited the Balochistan
      capital as well.

      But hardened as we Pakistanis have become to such
      daily horrors, I must confess that apart from
      making some perfunctory remarks, I was unable to
      muster much shock and horror. The truth is that
      over the years, terrorism has taken a heavy toll
      not just on human lives, but on our ability to
      share the suffering of the survivors.

      The mind can only react to a certain amount of
      violence; after a limit has been reached, it
      becomes numb to yet more news of death and
      disaster. Everybody from Musharraf downwards goes
      through the motions, and we are promised that the
      perpetrators of the latest carnage will be caught
      and punished. But within a couple of days, it is
      business as usual until the next atrocity.

      After two decades of ethnic and sectarian terror,
      we now face the prospect of endless political
      terrorism in which officials and state
      institutions are targeted for conventional and
      suicide bombing. Needless to say, thousands of
      innocent lives are being lost in this campaign.
      And given the issues involved, as well as the
      uncompromising nature of the foe, it is hard to
      see any light at the end of this particular
      tunnel.

      What drives a person to strap a bomb to his waist
      and kill himself, as well as strangers who have
      not harmed him in any way? Where foreign
      occupation is concerned, and there are few
      weapons available to confront the enemy, it is
      understandable when the oppressed take up this
      extreme means of resistance. But even here, it is
      not justifiable to target innocent civilians.

      While discussing Islamic extremism in the West,
      Musharraf and other Muslim leaders have rightly
      emphasised the need to resolve issues like
      Palestine, Kashmir and Chechnya to deprive the
      terrorists of their appeal. But this does not
      explain the growing phenomenon of
      Muslim-on-Muslim killings. How does the bomb
      blast in Quetta or the daily car bombs in Baghdad
      solve anything? And why is the Islamic world
      silent in the face of this violence?

      A couple of years ago, a Karachi monthly magazine
      ran a cover story on the terrorism in Kashmir.
      One fighter was asked what he would do if a
      political resolution was found for the disputed
      valley. Revealingly, he replied that he would not
      lay down his gun, but turn it on the Pakistani
      leadership, with the aim of installing an Islamic
      government there.

      This is the crux of the entire problem. The
      violence we are experiencing today is entirely
      local, entirely home-grown. The young killers
      hitting targets across the country are neither
      fighting for a homeland, and nor are they seeking
      to evict a foreign occupier. They want nothing
      less than to seize power, and to turn Pakistan
      into their version of the ideal Islamic state. In
      their incoherent, ill-formed vision, this would
      include restoring the caliphate, as well as doing
      away with all western influence and elements of
      modernity, except, perhaps, the Kalashnikov and
      the Internet.

      How, you may ask, has it come to this? The answer
      does not lie far from anybody living in Pakistan.
      Today, well over 20,000 madressahs are imparting
      religious instruction (and precious little else)
      to millions of children across Pakistan. And
      while most of them do not actively encourage
      violent revolution, they do effectively brainwash
      their students into rejecting reason and
      independent thinking.

      Despite repeated promises from Musharraf, these
      seminaries continue to teach their narrow
      syllabus. Religious parties have ignored the
      government's attempts to monitor the source of
      their financing, as well as the subjects they
      teach. A certain number of madressahs are
      indoctrinating young minds in the way of jihad,
      as well as filling them with hatred for
      everything western. Even worse, each sect runs
      seminaries that teach students that only their
      version of the faith will lead them to salvation,
      and that other Muslims are not true believers.

      If readers think I am overstating my case, they
      only have to look to Lal Masjid in Islamabad, the
      scene of the stand-off between the government and
      a group of young female madressah students.
      Despite the provocation offered by these girls
      who occupied a children's library while armed
      with batons the government beat a hasty retreat.
      More chilling than the actions of these students
      was their words: they openly stated that they saw
      their role as being mothers and wives of suicide
      bombers.

      Clearly, the madressah teaching these girls
      should be shut down, and the staff tried for
      brainwashing their wards. I shudder to think of
      the kind of people who send their children to
      such places. But surely, the government has a
      role in ensuring that young Pakistanis are not
      taught noxious matter that harms them and the
      state.

      Instead of regulating and monitoring schools
      established in the country, the government gives
      more and more space to these hate-mongers.
      Incidents like the Quetta suicide bombing are the
      inevitable outcome of the state's inability to
      act. This is especially so when self-styled
      politicians like Ijazul Haq, the dead dictator's
      son, hobnob with the mullahs in charge of Lal
      Masjid openly, and plead their cause. Their cause
      being, of course, the illegal occupation of state
      land.

      But perhaps the contradictions that paralyse
      Musharraf are hard-wired into Pakistan's very
      existence. As religious parties point out, not
      entirely inaccurately, if Pakistan was to be a
      secular state, why was India partitioned?
      Clearly, they insist, Mr Jinnah had desired an
      Islamic state, and therefore it follows that the
      law of the land should be the Shariat, and the
      constitution ought to be the Quran.

      You can quote from any speech of Jinnah's you
      like, but the fact of the matter is that over
      time, the religious right has moved its agenda
      forward, while rationalists have been
      marginalised. Leaders like Musharraf want it both
      ways: to wield power with the support of the
      mullahs, while showing a modern face to the rest
      of the world.

      However, as he might discover soon, straddling
      the fence is uncomfortable work. Meanwhile, the
      mayhem will go on, as the graduates of madressahs
      take their shortcut to the houri-filled paradise
      of their fevered imagination.

      _____


      [2]

      Gulf News
      19 February 2007

      Editorial

      QUETTA BLAST SENDS CHILLING MESSAGE

      The suicide bomb blast that killed a district
      judge and 14 others in Pakistan's south-western
      province of Balochistan matches the pattern of
      six other suicide bomb attacks that have rocked
      the country's cities in recent weeks. It must be
      strongly condemned, not least, because the
      bombers cause grievous harm to innocent
      non-combatants.

      As investigators begin to piece together the
      evidence by reconstructing the face of the
      suicide bomber which, as in the Islamabad hotel
      blast, has curiously been found intact, they will
      find yet again that the trail leads back to the
      pro-Taliban-Al Qaida parties that have taken root
      in the states bordering Afghanistan.

      Indeed, Quetta, the capital of Balochistan,
      rocked by a troubling insurgency and the killing
      by Pakistan's army of one of its leaders in his
      hideout, is ringed by Afghan refugee camps, which
      the international community believes is the
      command and control centre of the resurgent
      Taliban. While Pakistan has stoutly denied the
      accusations, the repeated attacks on its body
      politic point to the widening arc of the
      Taliban's pernicious reach and the militia's
      ability to mount hit and run attacks with
      apparent ease on both sides of the border.

      Clearly, the peace pact with North and South
      Waziristan is fraying and madrassa reform is of
      little use. The time to negotiate with terrorists
      is over, especially when they are imbued with the
      arcane values of ultra-conservative closed
      societies, as demonstrated by the tragic killing
      of a government official offering to inoculate,
      not emasculate, children against polio.

      Pakistan is paying the price for allowing
      xenophobic tribal chiefs to march to a different
      drummer. These men operate beyond the purview of
      the law, their agenda at odds with the norms of
      international society. The international
      community can only applaud Islamabad if it
      abandons its softly-softly tone for an all too
      necessary sledgehammer approach.


      ______


      [3]


      Daily Star
      March 02, 2007

      THE RIPPLE EFFECT
      by Zafar Sobhan

      Ever since Dr. Muhammad Yunus's announcement
      earlier this month that he would be launching his
      own political party with a view to contesting in
      all 300 constituencies in the next general
      election, the entire country (or at least the
      chattering classes) seems to have become
      embroiled in the question of whether this is a
      good idea or not and whether this move by Dr.
      Yunus will be beneficial to the country or not.

      I have to confess that I find the question as to
      whether Dr. Yunus's entry into politics will be
      good for Bangladesh or not to be a little
      puzzling. Honestly speaking, I simply don't get
      it. Why would it be bad for Bangladesh for one of
      our most eminent citizens to aspire to serve the
      nation in a political capacity?

      There appears to be some notion that as a Nobel
      laureate, Dr. Yunus should remain above
      controversy and above the fray. The best response
      to this line of argument comes from a pithy and
      sardonic blog-post by Naeem Mohaiemen: "So we
      should wrap our 'only' Nobel laureate in tin foil
      and put him in the glass cabinet in drawing room,
      so that mehmans can see it and go 'aha aha'?"

      The whole point, surely, is that for years the
      nation has collectively bemoaned the fact that
      good people do not get into politics and that
      politics is filled with crooks and gangsters. At
      the same time, when Dr. Yunus (or anyone else)
      made one of his infrequent critiques of the
      political system, the snide rejoinder was always:
      "Well then, why don't you enter politics, if you
      think you can do better?"

      Well, now Dr. Yunus has entered politics and the
      knives are still out for him. I guess the first
      lesson of politics is that you can never please
      some people.

      I think that the more good people we have in
      politics and the more political parties committed
      to the common good, the better. In Dr. Yunus, I
      see a man who has worked for the common good for
      thirty years, who has engendered a social and
      economic revolution in terms of how the potential
      of the rural poor (specially women) is viewed
      both by themselves and by others, who has not
      enriched himself in the process, and who is of
      unimpeachable personal integrity and
      accomplishment.

      How we could be worse off due to his entry into
      politics, I really don't see. If Md. Zafar Iqbal
      or Prof. Jamal Nazrul Islam or Abdullah Abu
      Sayeed or Fazle Hasan Abed decided to enter
      politics I believe that we would be similarly
      blessed. Why not? These are individuals with
      demonstrated commitment to the public good and
      integrity. How could we be worse off if they
      decided to try their hand in government?

      So far it is unclear exactly what will be the
      platform of Dr. Yunus's new party, but I presume
      it will be something a considerable portion of
      the country will be able to get behind. And if
      they feel that they want to vote for such a
      platform, all well and good. Others might not.
      They may have a difference of opinion on the
      issues or believe that one of the other political
      parties will be able to deliver better
      governance. That's all well and good, too.

      That is what democracy is all about. Choices. One
      of the problems we have faced in the past was
      that too often we were not given much of a
      choice. Take a look at the major party
      nominations for the abrogated January 22
      elections. In constituency after constituency,
      the voters were denied a true alternative, and
      would have had to choose between candidates who
      were corrupt if not criminal.

      Right now we are in a unique period in Bangladesh
      history. The Fourth Republic (1991-2006) has come
      to a close, and as a nation we need to put lots
      of thought into how to formulate the Fifth
      Republic, which will, hopefully, last for a lot
      more than fifteen years.

      We need to go back to the drawing board and start
      over. We need to think very carefully about what
      reforms need to be put in place to make the
      political process more honest and responsive and
      to make sure that in the Fifth Republic our
      democracy is more functional than it was in the
      fourth.

      Frankly, I would even favour a constitutional
      convention to put everything on the table to see
      what would work (as I wrote in a column as far
      back as July 29, 2005). One thing which is clear
      is that the Fourth Republic of caretaker
      government and parliament boycott and hartal and
      non-accountability and court-packing and
      partisanisation of institutions and impunity for
      official wrong-doing was neither sustainable nor
      will it be missed.

      But, of course, reforms by themselves are never
      enough. Reforms only work to the extent that
      there is honesty within the political culture.
      The caretaker government is a good example of how
      even the best intentioned and ingenious of
      reforms can be subverted and compromised if the
      political will is not there.

      What is needed in this country is reform of our
      political culture. Come on. When elected
      representatives import luxury cars duty-free only
      to sell them and pocket the profits, something is
      seriously wrong. When political parties feel free
      to ignore their own political manifestos and
      election pledges once in power, something is
      seriously wrong. When people trying to form a new
      political party have to fear for their lives,
      something is seriously wrong.

      This is not to say that the political system and
      indeed the existing parties are not capable of
      reform. There are many, many people of good
      conscience and integrity in all the political
      parties in Bangladesh. In many instances, it is
      these grassroots workers who have been let down
      and marginalised by their leaders, but the core
      of honesty and integrity is there.

      One thing that Dr. Yunus's entry into politics
      will do will be to empower these people within
      their own party. We are, in fact, already seeing
      this in the aftermath of the recent
      anti-corruption drive, with the politicians left
      standing understanding that the time has come for
      them to clean up their act and no longer tolerate
      criminals within their ranks.

      The existing political parties command the
      respect and loyalty of tens of millions of
      Bangladeshis, and, more than anything else, they
      need to be responsive to the public. They need to
      listen to their voters and their party workers
      and understand that their mission is to represent
      the people.

      This has not happened much in the immediate past,
      but now the political parties realise that they
      have no choice. They were on their way towards
      irrelevance, but now they have the opportunity
      and the compulsion to reform themselves.

      Win or lose, succeed or fail, I believe that Dr.
      Yunus's entry in politics has helped set in
      motion what I hope will be an irreversible push
      towards openness, honesty, and responsiveness in
      the body politic, a push towards creating a
      democracy that is truly functional and
      representative, and that the nation can only be
      the richer because of it.

      Zafar Sobhan is Assistant Editor, The Daily Star.

      ______



      [4] [Five years after one of the bloodiest
      pogroms in India, a wide variety of apolitical
      developmentalist NGO's in Europe and North
      America that are involved with India just sit and
      twiddle their thumbs and remain oblivious to mass
      violence by the hindu right. Its a shame they
      havent woken up to vigourously supporting secular
      activism! -- SACW ]

      o o o

      The Guardian
      March 1, 2007

      A BLIND EYE TO BIGOTRY

      Five years on, those behind the Gujarat
      anti-Muslim pogrom are still running the state

      by Mike Marqusee

      Five years ago this week, across the Indian state
      of Gujarat, the stormtroopers of the Hindu right,
      decked in saffron sashes and armed with swords,
      tridents, sledgehammers and liquid gas cylinders,
      launched a pogrom against the local Muslim
      population. They looted and torched Muslim-owned
      businesses, assaulted and murdered Muslims, and
      gang-raped and mutilated Muslim women. By the
      time the violence spluttered to a halt, about
      2,500 Muslims had been killed and about 200,000
      driven from their homes.

      The pogrom was distinguished not only by its
      ferocity and sadism (foetuses were ripped from
      the bellies of pregnant women, old men bludgeoned
      to death) but also by its meticulous advance
      planning. The leaders used mobile phones to
      coordinate the movement of an army of thousands
      through densely populated areas, targeting Muslim
      properties with the aid of computerised lists and
      electoral rolls provided by state agencies.

      Much of the violence unfolded with the full
      collaboration of the police. In some cases,
      police fired at Muslims seeking to flee the mobs.
      When asked to help a group of girls being raped
      on the roof of a building, police officers
      demurred, explaining: "They have been given 24
      hours to kill you." Subsequent investigations
      confirmed that police knew in advance of the
      pogrom and had been instructed not to interfere
      with it.

      Indian and global human rights organisations have
      singled out Gujarat's chief minister, Narendra
      Modi, of the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), as the
      principal culprit. As a result of his alleged
      complicity in mass murder, he was denied a visa
      to the US and cannot visit Britain for fear of
      arrest.

      Yet Modi remains chief minister and has become
      not only the BJP's most popular figurehead, but
      also a poster boy for big business, foreign and
      domestic. Gujarat, which contains 5% of India's
      population, now boasts 18% of its investment and
      21% of its exports. At this year's Vibrant
      Gujarat conclave, the showpiece of the BJP
      regime, the great names of Indian capitalism -
      Ambani, Birla, Tata - sang Modi's praises, echoed
      by delegations from Singapore, Europe and the US.
      Anxieties about dealing with a politician accused
      of genocide have been allayed by the appeal of
      Gujarat's corporation-friendly environment, not
      least its labour laws, which give employers
      hire-and-fire rights unique in India.

      Five years on, Muslims in Gujarat still live in
      fear. About 50,000 remain in refugee camps. Most
      of the cases filed by victims of the violence
      have never been investigated. Witnesses have been
      intimidated. No more than a dozen low-level
      culprits have been convicted. None of the major
      conspirators has been brought before the courts.

      The events of 2002 did not conform to the
      paradigm of the war on terror, in which India was
      a prize ally, so never achieved the infamy in the
      west they deserved. An array of interests - in
      New Delhi, London and Washington - is dedicated
      to ensuring the atrocity is consigned to
      oblivion. For them, the release of Parzania, a
      feature film centred on the violence, is an
      uncomfortable development. Despite dramatic
      flaws, it accurately depicts the savagery of the
      anti-Muslim violence, its planned, coordinated
      character, and the complicity of the police and
      the state government. Cinemas in Gujarat, under
      pressure from the Hindu right, are refusing to
      screen the film.

      If and when Parzania reaches audiences here and
      in the US, it will offer a necessary counter-tale
      to the fashionable fable of the Indian neoliberal
      miracle, exposing the brutality and bigotry that
      have gone hand in hand with zooming growth rates
      and hi-tech triumphalism.

      ยท Mike Marqusee writes a column for the Hindu;
      his most recent book is Wicked Messenger: Bob
      Dylan and the 1960s.


      _____


      [5]

      Mumbai Newsline
      March 01, 2007

      WOMEN'S GROUPS PROTEST ON THE BEACH, SAY 'NO MORE GUJARATS'
      'The action is intended to send out a message
      that communal riots and massacres affect women
      very deeply, physically and emotionally'

      by Georgina Maddox

      Mumbai, February 28: Women's groups gathered on
      Chowpatty Beach on Wednesday afternoon to stage a
      silent protest against violence. Dressed in
      black, the colour of mourning, they lay down on
      the sand to spell out the words, "No More
      Gujarats".

      "The action is intended to send out a message
      that communal riots and massacres, whether it was
      the Sabarmati Express or the post-Godhra riots,
      affect women very deeply, physically and
      emotionally as well as in the context of
      livelihood," said Nadita Gandhi and Nandita Shah
      of Akshara and Forum Against Oppression of Women
      (FAOW) in their joint statement.

      Other women's groups like Awaaz-E-Niswaan, LABIA,
      Women's Centre, Sahet Janwadi Mahila Sanghtan,
      Stri Mukti Sanghtan and Special Cell for Women
      and Children also issued a joint statement
      against what they called "state sponsored
      violence".

      The statement said: "Five years after the carnage
      in Gujarat in 2002, it bears repeating that this
      was a massacre unprecedented in Independent
      India, openly led by the State against its own
      citizens. It left over 2,000 dead and lakhs
      displaced, terrorised and scarred. At a
      conservative estimate, over 300 women were
      sexually brutalised-raped and killed in full
      public view."

      The women who had gathered at the beach also
      point out that the Gujarat government returned Rs
      19.1 crore to the government saying that there
      were no more refugee camps, while over thousands
      of Muslims still living in makeshift camps around
      the state are unable to return to their homes.

      They hope this action of theirs in Mumbai will
      bring some attention to the issue and not allow
      people to forget about the homeless victims in
      Gujarat.

      ______


      [6]

      HindustanTimes
      February 28, 2007

      FORGET HER NOT

      by Aakshi Magazine

      Go to Room No 8A of the Ram Manohar Lohia
      Hospital in Delhi. You will find three policemen
      guarding the room. They will not let you take
      your bag or phone in. You will be greeted by a
      man who will be genuinely happy to see that you
      have come to show your support to his sister. His
      sister is Irom Sharmila Chanu.

      Sharmila has been on a fast for more than six
      years now protesting against the Armed Forces
      Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Manipur. She began
      when she was 28. She is 34 now. The AFSPA gives
      the armed forces unchallenged powers to arrest,
      search, shoot and kill on suspicion alone.

      It has been grossly misused in Manipur for 49
      years. Women have been raped in front of their
      families by army officials. Many people have
      simply disappeared only to be found later with
      bullets in their bodies. The uncertainty and
      trauma of living in such an atmosphere is
      something that we can't quite understand. In any
      case, how can we understand when we are never
      even told about it.

      Last week, about 20 students from our college
      visited Sharmila in the hospital. We sat there in
      shock as we were told about the situation in
      Manipur. We came back disturbed and shaken by the
      inhuman silence of the government and the media.
      Sharmila began her fast in Manipur but came to
      Delhi in 2006

      in the hope of being heard. She was arrested and
      admitted to hospital. She spends her day reading
      or practising yoga while being force-fed through
      a tube attached to her nose. It has been six
      years and yet she has not lost hope.

      Predictably, the State is indifferent. More
      shockingly, so is the media. One might agree or
      disagree with her politics but to do that, one
      needs to hear her out first. The media,
      meanwhile, continues to celebrate 'Gandhigiri'
      and middle-class 'activism'.

      Aakshi Magazine is a second year History Honours
      student, Lady Sri Ram College, New Delhi.

      ______


      [7]


      "Right to Live" dharna: parents of babies born
      malformed due to Carbide's poisons demand the
      children should receive free medical care

      Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
      Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
      Bhopal Group for Information and Action
      Bhopal Ki Aaawaaz

      February 25, 2007

      PRESS STATEMENT

      At a press conference in Bhopal today, parents of
      14 children born with congenital abnormalities
      attributable to exposure to Union Carbide's
      poisons demanded free medical care for their
      children and monthly pension of at least Rs. 1000
      per month from the state government. 10 of these
      children had been successfully treated by the
      Chingari Trust set up by Rashida Bee and Champa
      Devi Shukla, leaders of survivors organisations
      sitting on dharna for the last five days
      demanding medical care, economic and social
      rehabilitation and protection from Union
      Carbide's poisons from the state government.

      Chromosomal aberrations have been found among the
      people exposed to Union Carbide's toxic gases
      giving rise to apprehensions of birth defects
      among children of gas exposed parents. Several
      scientific studies by government and
      non-government agencies have confirmed the
      presence of several birth defect causing
      pesticides, chemicals and heavy metals in the
      ground water in and around the abandoned Union
      Carbide factory.

      Studies by the MP Pollution Control Board have
      shown that pesticides such as endrin, dieldrin,
      carbaryl, methoxychlor and others that can cause
      birth defects are present in the ground water
      samples collected from the area. International
      environmental organization Greenpeace reported
      finding tetra-, penta- and hexa- chlorobenzene as
      well as lead and mercury in soil and ground water
      samples, all of which can cause birth defects.

      The Chingari Trust was set up with a fund of Rs
      56 lakhs that Rashida Bee and Champa Devi
      received with the Goldman Environment Prize
      awarded to them in 2004 for leading the campaign
      of the survivors of the Union Carbide disaster.
      Last year the Trust identified 100 children with
      different kinds of birth defects in the gas and
      contaminated ground water exposed affected
      communities. 65 of these children were seen by
      medical specialists from New Delhi and Bhopal at
      a health camp in December 2006.

      The specialists found that an unusually large
      number of children suffered from cerebral palsy
      that causes total disability. The doctors also
      found children with cleft lip and missing palate
      and with disabilities related to vision, hearing
      and mental functions. According to them a large
      number of these children could significantly
      benefit from surgical treatment and counseling.

      Rashida Bee and Champa Devi have so far organized
      treatment for 10 children with limb deformities,
      cleft lips and missing palates in New Delhi and
      Bhopal. Last month they apprised the Minister of
      Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation
      about the findings of the health camp and have
      urged the state government to arrange for medical
      treatment of children born with malformations due
      to Union Carbide's poisons.

      The four organisations that are determined to
      continue with their dharna till the state
      government concedes to the demands of their
      "Right to Life" campaign have called for medical
      treatment of children with congenital
      malformations and monthly pensions to their
      families. They are also demanding monthly
      pensions for women who were widowed by the
      disaster, persons who are too sick to earn a
      livelihood, survivor families living below the
      poverty line and those above 60 years with no
      family to depend on.


      Rashida Bi, Champa Devi Shukla
      Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
      94256 88215

      Syed M Irfan,
      Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
      93290 26319

      Shahid Noor
      Bhopal ki Aawaaz
      98261 82226

      Satinath Sarangi, Rachna Dhingra
      Bhopal Group for Information and Action
      98261 67369

      Contact : House No. 60, Near Cold Storage, Union Carbide Road, Chhola, Bhopal

      Please visit www.bhopal.net for more information
      on the campaign for justice in Bhopal

      ______


      [8]

      Daily Times
      March 01, 2007

      HITTING SECULARISM FOR A SIX
      by J Sri Raman

      The more serious and somewhat unexpected factor
      this time, by all accounts, has been a sudden and
      sharp spurt in prices, especially of vegetables,
      on the election eve. This is a factor that has
      led to the fall of governments and governing
      parties in the past. Onion prices, in particular,
      have brought tears to the eyes of ruling parties
      and politicians

      Will Virendra Sehwag return to form? Will Irfan
      Pathan regain his rhythm? Team India has left for
      the World Cup cricket tournament in the West
      Indies, and India is in the midst of intense
      speculation about not just the eleven but the
      performance of individual players as well.

      A retired cricketer, however, has just proved
      himself in a political game. Former Test opener
      Navjot Singh Sidhu even campaigned in the just
      concluded State Assembly election in Punjab as a
      cricketer. He was magnificent, clouting an
      imaginary ball with an invisible bat and clearing
      the top over the mid-off in a televised
      street-corner rally. And he won in the Amritsar
      constituency by a handsome margin.

      The whole country once used to celebrate Sidhu's
      towering, trademark sixers. His election victory,
      however, was no cause for national elation. He
      did not bring joy to everyone by winning a seat
      for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), an ally of
      the regionalist Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) that
      has recaptured power in Punjab. But few would see
      his score in this very different ball game as a
      blow for what India's far right describes as
      'cultural nationalism'.

      That catchphrase, of course, is a camouflage for
      majority communalism, which is not what has won
      in the home-state of India's Sikh minority. Nor
      was 'Hindutva', as the far right calls its
      ideology, responsible for the simultaneous BJP
      victory in the hill-State of Uttarakhand. The
      party managers of the campaigns in the two
      States, Arun Jaitley and Ravi Shankar Prasad,
      admit that it owes the twin trophies to two
      factors of a far more mundane kind.

      They and media pundits alike attribute the poll
      outcomes, primarily, to the 'anti-incumbency
      factor'. In both the states, the people have
      voted out the party in power, the Congress in
      these cases. The assumption - true for a long
      while in all cases except left-ruled West Bengal
      and extreme-right-ruled Gujarat - is that any
      party is liable to get tainted after a term in
      office. Some other time, we will come to the
      question of what the exceptions prove, besides
      the rule.

      The more serious and somewhat unexpected factor
      this time, by all accounts, has been a sudden and
      sharp spurt in prices, especially of vegetables,
      on the election eve. This is a factor that has
      led to the fall of governments and governing
      parties in the past. Onion prices, in particular,
      have brought tears to the eyes of ruling parties
      and politicians. This must have mattered far more
      in Punjab, for example, than the laughter to
      which the famous Sidhuisms may have moved his
      listeners.

      This is a price, say Congress apologists, which
      must be paid for an inevitably inflationary
      growth of the economy. We will keep the question
      of whether there can be growth without tears, or
      with onions, for some other time again. The point
      made by all this is that the BJP is a beneficiary
      of popular discontent on issues that have nothing
      to do with its anti-people ideology.

      Having discovered this silver lining to the dark
      cloud, those who consider themselves secular may
      hasten to close further discussion. They must
      not. The more important point to be made is that
      this makes no case for complacency. The vote may
      be against 'incumbency' and price increases, but
      it can still be a victory for the camp of
      'cultural nationalism'.

      This is not the first time the far-right has won
      an election on people-friendly issues here or
      elsewhere. Nowhere has the fact prevented it from
      exercising democracy-given power in a far-right
      direction. The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government,
      after all, had no popular mandate for enacting
      Pokharan II or presiding over the Gujarat pogrom
      of 2002.

      These election results also come as a repeated
      caution against complacency of another kind. It
      deserves note that the BJP has done repeatedly
      well in elections in the period when it has been
      racked more by internal feuds and factionalism
      than ever in the past. The BJP and its parent,
      the Jan Sangh, were known for discipline when
      power remained its distant dream. It is perceived
      proximity to power that has promoted politicking
      inside the party.

      Forces opposed to the far-right cannot win the
      good fight by merely gloating over its factional
      strife. They can do so only by exposing the
      divisive and destructive agenda that 'cultural
      nationalism', combined with pretended concern
      over the people's problems, conceals. The BJP can
      be fought better by forging an alliance of
      parties that cannot back communalism at least for
      the sake of their constituencies.

      The far-right, above all, needs to be engaged
      frontally. Sidhus of the political playground are
      good players of the googly!

      The writer is a journalist based in Chennai,
      India. A peace activist, he is also the author of
      a sheaf of poems titled 'At Gunpoint'


      ______


      [9]

      Outlook Magazine | March 05, 2007

      The Ink Is Soiled
      WE CAN'T DO WITHOUT THE UNIQUE ANGLE OF VISION
      THAT GEOGRAPHY LENDS TO LITERATURE
      by Nayantara Sahgal

      Many years ago I was in college in America, at a
      time when most Americans were surprisingly
      ignorant about the rest of the world. I remember
      listening to a quiz programme on the radio-there
      was no TV then-where questions were being put to
      an audience, and the first person to raise his
      hand and give the right reply got a money prize.
      At the end came the big $64,000 question: "Is
      there any other Athens besides Athens, Ohio?"
      After a pin-drop silence, one person raised his
      hand and said, "Athens, Greece." He got huge
      applause as well as the big prize.

      I think of that when I hear it said
      nowadays, with great authority, that there is no
      Indian writing of worth except diasporic writing.
      It sounds to me like knowing there is an Athens
      in Ohio, and having to be told there is also an
      Athens in Greece. In more ways than one we are
      living in strange times.
      When I was thinking about what to say to you on
      this occasion, I thought of a wonderful sentence
      of Nirmal Verma's in an interview he gave about
      ten years ago. He said that India had two great
      epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, but that
      its third great epic was the culture we call
      Indian. To this I would add that if any product
      deserves to be labelled Brand India, it is this
      composite, many-faceted culture which has no
      parallel anywhere. If it is alive after 5,000
      years, we know it is because it has remained open
      and assimilative. Yet we take this third epic so
      much for granted, we forget it is something of a
      continuing miracle, when in Europe in recent
      years great multicultural entities have
      disintegrated into fragments, and here, too, we
      are facing the heat of a deliberate onslaught
      directed at destroying our diversity and
      shrinking us into a monoculture. Personally, I
      would not know how to squeeze myself into the
      uniformity of a monoculture. I am a Hindu by
      accident of birth, but half-Muslim by culture,
      not to mention all the Christian, Buddhist, and
      atheist influences that are an integral part of
      my Indianness. We have so far rejected the call
      for a monoculture and chosen to cherish all the
      strands that have gone into the making of our
      modern identity. I like to think that it is an
      aspect of our third epic which the Sahitya
      Akademi celebrates every year through the
      literatures of our many languages.

      Indian writing has spread far and wide. It now
      comes out of several continents, and the
      experience of migration has added an exciting new
      dimension to literature. Art has crossed borders.
      But nothing has yet eliminated borders. Borders
      exist. I keep hearing that this is One World, but
      of course that is one of the fables of our time.
      It is a better connected world, but the
      nation-state is very much with us. Nations drive
      furious bargains with other nations to protect
      their resources and preserve their identities.
      There is fierce competition in the race for
      armaments and there are separate national
      stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.
      Nations think nothing of attacking, invading and
      occupying other nations. And, as always, the
      powerful lay down the agenda that others have to
      follow. So, as long as there are nations, there
      are going to be national literatures, each rising
      out of its own particular soil, and out of the
      subsoil of its collective consciousness. Our own
      collective consciousness has been hauntingly
      expressed by Jawaharlal Nehru, who was a writer
      himself, in these words: "For we are very old,
      and trackless centuries whisper in our ears."

      It is only common sense that where we are located
      on the map is what gives us our particular camera
      angle of vision, along with the insights and
      conclusions that flow from it. It is a different
      matter that we may be using themes and locations
      other than our own, or that what is written on
      Indian, or Turkish, or Hungarian soil may have a
      meaning and a resonance far beyond its borders.

      It should. That is the mark of great literature.
      But it is much too soon to dispense with the
      stamp of geography on literature which makes for
      its unique angle of vision, and for the bond
      between soil and story-no matter that the current
      fashionable theory may tell us that
      cross-cultural connections are more relevant
      today than roots. Relevant to whom, we might ask,
      since most of the world's people still stay put.
      I have always found it useful to cultivate a
      little deafness toward judgements and verdicts
      laid down for us elsewhere, and to come to my own
      conclusions from where I sit. And I believe what
      is relevant is not to be subsumed into the kind
      of globalisation where some of the world's people
      are privileged to keep their distinct identities
      while others are required to surrender theirs.

      We see the diverse effects of soil on story even
      within our own borders where we have no single
      lump called Indian literature. It varies from
      region to region not in language alone, but
      because imagination draws as much on a region's
      history, memory and psychology as on personal
      experience. In the same way, diasporic writing
      occupies different regions and spaces of its own.
      One expatriate writer has unshackled the English
      language and turned it to exhilarating and
      acrobatic uses. Another has made the whole of
      Asia his literary canvas. All writing is
      adventure. But the daily business of living in
      India makes for its own kind of writing. Those
      who live here are joined by the gut to the nitty
      gritty of this particular social and political
      environment, which is only another name for the
      conditions we live under: caste, corruption and
      religious fundamentalism alongside computers and
      satellites and a sexual revolution. To whom can
      all these possibly matter but to the lives that
      are affected by them, the people who enjoy or
      suffer their consequence and those who feel the
      need to join battle against them? The ultimate
      battles for a new world are fought on one's own
      soil, and part of every battle is putting it into
      words. Stories are not about social and political
      conditions, but whatever you are writing
      about-whether it be the mouth-melting flavours of
      your grandmother's cooking, or the sound of rain
      on your roof, or your love for your beloved-it
      would be a very different story if it were
      happening somewhere else, under another sky, in
      the entirely different living conditions of some
      other society.

      Considering the dangers and challenges we face
      within our own borders, and the changes we need
      to bring about in our society, we are fortunate
      that we have politically conscious novelists and
      poets among us, for politics, like everything
      else, is the material of fiction and poetry, as
      it is the material of all art. We would not have
      been stirred by some of the tragedies and traumas
      of the twentieth century but for the plays of
      Bertolt Brecht, Arthur Miller and Samuel Beckett,
      and the art of Picasso, not to mention many other
      works of European, American and Latin American
      fiction. The artist is a political animal, more
      so when the line between public events and
      private life disappears and vast numbers have to
      face the terrible consequences of public events
      in their private lives. Art cannot float in a
      void. It relates to, and is acutely sensitive to
      its environment.

      There are, of course, states of mind and being
      that affect the human condition everywhere. One
      does not have to migrate to feel exiled or alien.
      Take my experience of childhood in British India.
      I was reduced to feeling like a foreigner in my
      own home town because, in the heart of Allahabad,
      there was no reminder of anything Indian. The
      cinema showed English films. The confectioner was
      English and sold English cakes. Every
      establishment catered for an English clientele.
      And there was an iron ceiling above which Indians
      could not hope to rise in their professions
      except with the approval of the British.The
      punishment for rebellion against this scheme of
      things was imprisonment, deportation or death,
      and my father was one of the Indians who, in
      these circumstances, went to his death.

      But why go back as far as childhood in an
      occupied country? To some extent I still feel
      alien in a world whose political arrangements,
      economic priorities and military solutions are
      not of my choosing. A number of us on this planet
      are in a condition of permanent alienness, having
      to live on the terms laid down by those who make
      the rules.

      In reverse, a migrant can feel securely rooted to
      the ground where he has settled. It is a need of
      human nature to put down roots, and it is natural
      to adapt to one's surroundings and be influenced
      by them. This may be why a diplomat, who is a far
      less sensitive creature than a writer, is
      transferred to a new post every three years so
      that he doesn't become too closely identified in
      outlook with any one post. So there are no hard
      and fast categories that define exile, or
      alienness, or roots. And there is no such divide
      in literature. In the end, fiction can only be
      divided into two categories. It is either good or
      bad. But what distinguishes writing here from
      Indian writing elsewhere is simply that the
      home-grown writing of any country comes out of a
      home-grown sensibility. And that is a priceless
      possession, not to be given up, at least so long
      as there are nation-states and national
      literatures.



      (Nayantara Sahgal is a novelist and writer. This
      essay reproduces the speech she gave at the
      Sahitya Akademi Awards function on February 20,
      2007.)


      ______


      [10]


      Ahmedabad Newsline / Indian Express
      February 27, 2007

      'NO CHANGE IN STATE'S ATTITUDE TO MINORITIES, RIOT-HIT'
      Panel discussion, exhibition on Day One of
      six-day event marking Gujarat riots; activists
      lash out at State Govt
      Express News Services

      Ahmedabad, February 26: More than 25 civil
      society organisations have joined hands to
      organise a six-day-long series of programmes to
      commemorate the Gujarat riots of 2002 _ Sach ki
      Yadein Yadon ki Sach _ which got under way here
      at Gujarat Vidyapith on Monday. The first
      programme of the series was a panel discussion by
      various social activists on "revisiting 150 years
      of 1857, 100 years of Satyagrah and 5 years of
      Gujarat Carnage."

      Speaking on the occasion, noted social activist
      Teesta Setalvad observed that there has been no
      perceptible change in the State Government's
      attitude towards minorities in the last five
      years.

      "There is a deliberate attempt to look at the
      burning of train at Godhra and the subsequent
      riots through different glasses," Teesta observed
      adding, "While most of the riot accused are
      roaming freely, as many as 87 people from Godhra
      are incarcerated under POTA and are behind the
      bars for last five years.

      Coming down heavily on the State Government,
      Teesta said that while Chief Minister Narendra
      Modi refuses to comment on the ban of releasing
      the movie Parzania, his indulgent silence on Babu
      Bajrangi's imposition of the ban speaks volumes.
      "Who is running the state? Narendra Modi or
      Bajrangi and people like him?" she asked.

      She also raised an alarm on political apathy
      towards the entire issue. "Why are the protests
      and remembrances so apolitical? Why is the
      opposition silent on the issues of justice and
      rehabilitation of riot victims?" she asked.

      "There have been a lot of talks on the role of
      Gandhian institutions during the riots and post
      riots, but one may also look at the role of the
      premier educational institutions in Ahmedabad and
      Baroda," Teesta observed, adding that in spite of
      being autonomous by nature, their silence only
      indicates that 'fascism' has been deeply
      entrenched in the Gujarat civil society.

      A recent study by "Citizens for Justice and
      Peace," reveals that till date as many as 8,700
      riot-hit people are still living in camps without
      BPL cards or ration cards, Teesta said adding
      that going by that study, only about 15 families
      got a compensation of Rs 40,000 while a majority
      had to do with meager or no compensation. "There
      has been no justice for women who were victims of
      gender violence during the riots," she further
      pointed out.

      "The Nanavati Shah commission has enough evidence
      to ask extremely uncomfortable questions to the
      State Government," Setalvad said adding that as
      the report of the commission is expected by the
      end of this year along with Assembly Election,
      the civil society needs to remain extremely
      vigilant and prepared to take to streets if such
      a need arises.

      Speaking on the occasion, Sophia Khan, Director,
      Safar said that while the state government has
      been making tall claims regarding the state being
      peaceful and investor friendly, the current peace
      is an uneasy calm that is a result of silenced
      justice. "A lot of people ask me why we are
      observing this commemoration programme? Why are
      we reopening the wounds," Sophia said adding that
      the wounds of the riot victims are far from
      healing. "It is only the civil society which is
      trying with their limited means to heal the
      wounds, while at the State's level, the process
      hasn't even started so far," she added.

      Others who spoke on the occasion included Mallika
      Sarabhai from Darpana, Zakia Jawhar from Action
      Aid, Ila Pathak from AWAG and so on.

      Later, an exhibition of paintings in Mithila
      tradition on the context of Gujarat carnage of
      2002 by Santosh Kumar Das was inaugurated at
      Amdavad ni Gufa as a part of the programme.

      ______


      [11] UPCOMING EVENTS

      (i)

      dear friends,

      This is a just to remind you of the Aman Yuva
      Convocation scheduled for tomorrow i.e. March 02
      at 2 pm at the Auditorium of Dept of Social Work,
      D[elhi] U[niversity] (North Campus).

      Its an event to acknowledge the efforts made by
      the young people who have worked as Aman Yuva
      volunteers in different places on the issues of
      communal strife, poverty and urban homelessness,
      and hunger at different points of time in the
      last one year. We all get together to share their
      experiences and observations and the
      transformation that has taken place within their
      perspective and alternative approach towards the
      mentioned issues and concerned effected people.

      An expert panel comprising Prof B B Pandey, NHRC,
      Prof Tanika Sarkar, JNU, Prof Uma Chakravarti and
      Ms Anu Aga will moderate the discussion and
      sharing, and will finally debrief and conclude
      the session.

      Ms Anu Aga, Thermax Industries, has given her
      consent to be our chief guest for the programme.

      I request you again to please block your date for
      tomorrow and be a part of this aspect of sharing
      and reflection within the larger campaign for
      peace, justice and care.

      Please find the attached programme schedule.

      Hope to see you all there tomorrow.

      Regards
      Tanveer
      -------------------------
      Aman Biradari
      R-38/A, Second Floor, South Extension Part II
      New Delhi 110 049
      Telefax: +91-11-41642147
      Phone: +91-11-41645661
      <http://www.amanbiradari.org>www.amanbiradari.org (under construction)


      ---

      (ii)

      Center for India and South Asia
      The University of California, Los Angeles

      THEORIZING THE INDIAN STATE


      Lecture by Akhil Gupta, UCLA
      Tuesday, March 13, 2007
      12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
      10383 Bunche Hall
      Los Angeles, CA 90095

      In this talk, Akhil Gupta will present some of
      the framing arguments from his study of two
      Indian state bureaucracies. From fieldwork
      conducted in the tehsil-level offices of these
      bureaucracies, he will endeavor to construct a
      theory of the state in India. Whereas some of the
      literature has emphasized the strength of the
      Indian state and its seeming centralization,
      ethnographic approaches to the state discover
      something that is far more tentative and
      disorderly. The idea of "the state" is itself
      constructed out of the many everyday practices of
      bureaucracies, and this has profound consequences
      for the legitimacy of politicians and bureaucrats.

      Akhil Gupta is professor in the Department of
      Anthropology at UCLA. He has previously taught at
      Stanford University and at the University of
      Washington. He is the author of several books,
      including Red Tape: Corruption, Inscription and
      Governmentality in Rural India (forthcoming, Duke
      Univ. Press), Postcolonial Developments:
      Agriculture in the Making of Modern India (Duke
      Univ. Press, 1998), and, as editor, of The
      Anthropology of the State (Blackwell, 2006);
      Caste and Outcast (2002); Culture, Power, Place
      (1997); and Anthropological Locations (1997).

      For more information please contact

      Jyoti Gulati Tel: 310-206-2654
      cisa@...
      www.international.ucla.edu/southasia

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

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