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SACW | March 28-29, 2007 | Pakistan: silent majority, media, islamists / India riot victims, Parzania ban; jail for people, roses for capital

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | March 28-29, 2007 | Dispatch No. 2384 - Year 9 [INTERRUPTION NOTICE: Please note that there will be no SACW dispatches between the
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 28, 2007
      South Asia Citizens Wire | March 28-29, 2007 | Dispatch No. 2384 - Year 9

      [INTERRUPTION NOTICE: Please note that there will
      be no SACW dispatches between the period 30 March
      2007 - 5 April 2007]

      [1] Level Playing Field - Historical echoes (Mike Marqusee)
      [2] Pakistan's Silent Majority Is Not to Be Feared (Mohsin Hamid)
      [3] In Pakistan, a media group cries foul over government advertising (CPJ)
      [4] Pakistan: The rise of the 'new media' (Omar R. Quraishi)
      [5] Pakistan: Islamist Students raid Islamabad 'brothel'
      [6] India: 23 years too late - Will all '84
      riots victims ever get justice?(edit, The Tribune)
      [7] India: A Christian Testimony at the Peoples
      tribunal on Fascisms rise . . .
      [8] Gujarat: unofficial ban on film Parzania
      - 'Screen Parzania' chorus gets louder
      - Gujarat's theatre of the absurd (Pawan Khera)
      [9] India: Guns, Jail for People and Roses for
      Corporates Press Release ACTION 2007
      [10] An International Non-violence day, but when? (Purushottam Agrawal)
      [11] Public Events:
      (i) Seminar on Bhutan Refugees (New Delhi, March 31, 2007)
      (ii) Discussion - Ethnic and Religious Militancy
      and the New World Order: Hindu Nationalism,
      Islamism, and Regionalism (Washington DC, April
      4, 2007)
      (iii) Discussion: Prostitutes and Politics: the
      Tolerated Brothels Debate in Colonial India (New
      Delhi, 12 April 2007)



      The Hindu,
      25 March 2007


      Historical echoes

      by Mike Marqusee

      THE more I travel, read and study the history of
      peoples and societies, the more analogies I
      discover, and at the same time the warier I
      become of all analogies. History does not repeat
      itself exactly, but it is full of echoes.

      Some analogies are routinely abused, while some
      are bitterly resisted. Today, the prime example
      of the latter must be the angry clamour that
      arises whenever Israel's treatment of the
      Palestinians is compared to white South Africa's
      treatment of black people under apartheid. In the
      U.S., uttering the "A-word" in relation to Israel
      elicits a surfeit of outrage, inevitably
      accompanied by accusations of anti-Semitism. As
      Jimmy Carter has found out, even being a widely
      respected former President of the United States
      does not shield one from the backlash.

      It is true that people throw the word apartheid
      around incautiously. I was guilty of this when I
      referred in an article to the segregation of
      business from economy class passengers at
      airports as a form of "social apartheid". But
      when it comes to Israel, the analogy is apt and
      unavoidable. Crucially, it is a spontaneous
      response from those black South Africans who have
      visited the Occupied Territories. What they see
      there — the Jews-only roads, the "security
      fence", the confinement in camps and villages,
      the checkpoints, the daily harassment — reminds
      them graphically of the system they once suffered

      There is, however, at least one major difference,
      though it's not one that favours Israel. Under
      apartheid, the dominant whites used the black
      population as a source of cheap labour; they
      denied that population basic human rights, but
      they needed it. In contrast, Zionism has aimed to
      remove the Palestinian population, to replace
      Palestinians with Jews. That was the meaning of
      what Zionists called "the conquest of labour"
      (when Jewish settlers campaigned for the
      non-employment of Palestinians) and it is the
      ultimate source of the current calls within
      Israel for "transfer", the final expulsion of the
      bulk of the Palestinian population.

      In an article I published on the fifth
      anniversary of the Gujarat pogrom, I referred to
      the role played by "the stormtroopers of the
      Hindu right" — and was rebuked by a correspondent
      who said that he never trusted writers who
      invoked the Nazi analogy, because it tended to
      close rather than open debate. I have some
      sympathy for his argument. The Nazi analogy is
      indeed indiscriminately used, as is the word
      "fascist", applied too readily to anyone who is
      authoritarian and racist. It becomes a form of
      name-calling, a substitute for analysis.

      By the way, the prime culprit here is not the
      left. In my lifetime, every U.S. military action,
      from Vietnam to Iraq (and now the threat against
      Iran), has been justified with analogies drawn
      from World War II. Every enemy is a new Hitler
      (Nasser, Qadaffi, Noriega, Milosevic, Saddam
      Hussein, Ahmadinejad) and every call for peace is
      Munich-style appeasement.

      Nonetheless, I stand by my use of "stormtroopers"
      in the Gujarat context. The Sturmabteilung or SA
      (German for "Storm division", always translated
      as "stormtroopers" ) was the paramilitary,
      street-fighting wing of the Nazi movement, also
      known as "brownshirts" because of the colour of
      their uniforms. Claiming to be the guardians of
      German national pride, they mounted aggressive
      public actions whose aim was to spread terror
      among minorities and political opponents. In
      November 1938, they played a key role in
      Kristallnacht, ransacking Jewish homes, beating
      Jews to death, burning down synagogues,
      destroying Jewish-owned shopfronts with
      sledgehammers, leaving the streets covered in
      broken glass from smashed windows (hence the
      name). Given the similarities with what happened
      in Gujarat in 2002, it takes an effort to avoid
      the analogy, and the effect of that effort is to
      downplay the horror of the Gujarat pogrom.

      Of course, the Nazis and the holocaust represent
      an acme of inhumanity, an evil so enormous that
      any comparison seems dubious. Yet if we remove
      them from history and treat them as sui generis,
      we debar ourselves from learning and applying the
      broader lessons. When the world discovered the
      extent of Nazi barbarism in the wake of World War
      II, the cry was "Never again!" We cannot turn
      that cry into a reality; we cannot ensure that
      nothing even remotely like this happens again,
      unless we are permitted to draw appropriate
      analogies from the experience.

      League tables of atrocities serve no purpose, or
      rather, the only purpose they serve is to allow
      scope for the apologists for atrocities. The
      holocaust, the enslavement of Africans, the
      genocide of Native Americans and Australians, the
      centuries of `untouchability' in south Asia, the
      Belgian Congo (where, according to Adam
      Hochschild's revelatory book King Leopold's
      Ghost, some 10 million Africans may have perished
      in little more than a decade), Stalin's Gulag.
      All these are distinct historical phenomena, but
      share in common an institutionalised inhumanity
      on a mass scale. All are unspeakably,
      irredeemably horrific; they exemplify that which
      every human being has an absolute obligation to
      resist and not to aid, in any way, even by

      Which brings me back to the Palestinians. Their
      suffering is not only analogous to black
      suffering under apartheid but also to Jewish
      suffering, and specifically the experience of
      exile and diaspora. "We travel like everyone
      else, but we return to nothing," writes the
      marvellous Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, "We
      travel in the chariots of the Psalms, sleep in
      the tents of the prophets, and are born again in
      the language of Gypsies... Ours is a country of
      words. Talk. Talk. Let me see an end to this



      The New York Times
      March 27, 2007


      by Mohsin Hamid

      I WAS one of the few Pakistanis who actually
      voted for Gen. Pervez Musharraf in the rigged
      referendum of 2002. I recall walking into a
      polling station in Islamabad and not seeing any
      other voter. When I took the time required to
      read the convoluted ballot, I was accosted by a
      man who had the overbearing attitude of a soldier
      although he was in civilian clothes. He insisted
      that I hurry, which I refused to do. He then
      hovered close by, watching my every action, in
      complete defiance of electoral rules.

      Despite this intimidation, I still voted in favor
      of the proposition that General Musharraf, who
      had seized power in a coup in 1999, should
      continue as Pakistan's president for five more
      years. I believed his rule had brought us
      much-needed stability, respite from the venal and
      self-serving elected politicians who had
      misgoverned Pakistan in the 1990s, and a more
      free and vibrant press than at any time in the
      country's history.

      The outcome of the referendum - 98 percent
      support for General Musharraf from an astonishing
      50 percent turnout - was so obviously false that
      even he felt compelled to disown the exercise.

      Rigged elections rankle, of course. But since
      then, secular, liberal Pakistanis like myself
      have seen many benefits from General Musharraf's
      rule. My wife was an actress in "Jutt and Bond,"
      a popular Pakistani sitcom about a Punjabi folk
      hero and a debonair British agent. Her show was
      on one of the many private television channels
      that have been permitted to operate in the
      country, featuring everything from local rock
      music to a talk show whose host is a transvestite.

      My sister, a journalism lecturer in Lahore, loves
      to tell me about the enormous growth in recent
      years in university financing, academic salaries
      and undergraduate enrollment. And my father, now
      retired but for much of his career a professor of
      economics, says he has never seen such a dynamic
      and exciting time in Pakistani higher education.

      But there have been significant problems under
      General Musharraf, too. Pakistan has grown
      increasingly divided between the relatively urban
      and prosperous regions that border India and the
      relatively rural, conservative and violent
      regions that border Afghanistan. The two
      mainstream political parties have historically
      bridged that divide and vastly outperformed
      religious extremists in free elections, but under
      General Musharraf they have been marginalized in
      a system that looks to one man for leadership.

      What many of us hoped was that General Musharraf
      would build up the country's neglected
      institutions before eventually handing over power
      to a democratically elected successor. Those
      hopes were dealt a serious blow two weeks ago,
      when he suspended the chief justice of Pakistan's
      Supreme Court, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.

      For General Musharraf, Justice Chaudhry had
      become a major irritant. He had opened
      investigations into government "disappearances"
      of suspects in the war on terrorism. He had
      blocked the showcase privatization of the
      national steel mill. He had, in other words,
      demonstrated that he would not do General
      Musharraf's bidding. With elections due later
      this year, and challenges to irregularities like
      the rigging that took place in 2002 likely to end
      up in the Supreme Court, an independent chief
      justice could jeopardize General Musharraf's
      continued rule.

      Like many Pakistanis, I knew little about Justice
      Chaudhry except that he had a reputation for
      being honest, and that under his leadership, the
      Supreme Court had reduced its case backlog by 60
      percent. His suspension seemed a throwback to the
      worst excesses of the government that General
      Musharraf's coup had replaced, and it galvanized
      protests by the nation's lawyers and opposition
      parties, including rallies of thousands in
      several of Pakistan's major cities yesterday.

      More troubling still was the phone call I
      received recently from a friend who works for
      Geo, one of Pakistan's leading independent
      television channels. The government had placed
      enormous pressure on Geo to stop showing the
      demonstrations in support of Justice Chaudhry,
      and the channel had refused to comply. When my
      friend told me that policemen had broken into
      Geo's offices, smashed its equipment and beaten
      up the staff, I felt utterly betrayed by the man
      I had voted for.

      Despite his subsequent apology for the Geo
      incident, General Musharraf now appears to be
      more concerned with perpetuating his rule than
      with furthering the cause of "enlightened
      moderation" that he had claimed to champion. He
      has never been particularly popular, but he is
      now estranging the liberals who previously
      supported his progressive ends if not his
      autocratic means. People like me are realizing
      that the short-term gains from even a
      well-intentioned dictator's policies can be
      easily reversed.

      General Musharraf must recognize that his
      popularity is dwindling fast and that the need to
      move toward greater democracy is overwhelming.
      The idea that a president in an army uniform will
      be acceptable to Pakistanis after this year's
      elections is becoming more and more implausible.

      The United States has provided enormous financial
      and political support to General Musharraf's
      government, but it has focused on his short-term
      performance in the war on terror. America must
      now take a long-term view and press General
      Musharraf to reverse his suspension of the chief
      justice and of Pakistan's press freedoms. He
      should be encouraged to see that he cannot cling
      to power forever.

      Pakistan is both more complicated and less
      dangerous than America has been led to believe.
      General Musharraf has portrayed himself as
      America's last line of defense in an angry and
      dangerous land. In reality, the vast majority of
      Pakistanis want nothing to do with violence. When
      thousands of cricket fans from our archenemy,
      India, wandered about Pakistan unprotected for
      days in 2004, not one was abducted or killed. At
      my own wedding two years ago, a dozen Americans
      came, disregarding State Department warnings.
      They, too, spent their time in Pakistan without

      Yes, there are militants in Pakistan. But they
      are a small minority in a country with a
      population of 165 million. Religious extremists
      have never done well in elections when the
      mainstream parties have been allowed to compete
      fairly. Nor does the Pakistan Army appear to be
      in any great danger of falling into radical
      hands: by all accounts the commanders below
      General Musharraf broadly agree with his policies.

      An exaggerated fear of Pakistan's people must not
      prevent America from realizing that Pakistanis
      are turning away from General Musharraf. By
      prolonging his rule, the general risks taking
      Pakistan backward and undermining much of the
      considerable good that he has been able to
      achieve. The time has come for him to begin
      thinking of a transition, and for Americans to
      realize that, scare stories notwithstanding, a
      more democratic Pakistan might be better not just
      for Pakistanis but for Americans as well.

      Mohsin Hamid is the author of "Moth Smoke" and
      the forthcoming novel "The Reluctant
      Fundamentalist". This article was originally
      written for the New York Times



      Committee to Protect Journalists
      330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA
      Phone: (212) 465-1004 Fax: (212) 465-9568
      Web: www.cpj.org E-Mail: media@...


      New York, March 27, 2007- The Committee to
      Protect Journalists is concerned about a
      deteriorating media environment in Pakistan that
      includes both business retaliation and outright
      attacks on media companies.

      Pakistan's largest independent English-language
      media group, the Dawn Group of Newspapers,
      distributed a letter on Friday from Publisher
      Haroon Hamid, who said President Pervez Musharraf
      "has become increasingly intolerant toward
      criticism in the press and toward the publishing
      of news that reflects poorly on the performance
      of his government on security matters."

      In the letter, Hamid said authorities have
      punished his company by withholding government
      advertising, a revenue source on which Pakistani
      papers rely heavily. "Since December 2006, the
      Dawn Group is facing massive advertising cuts
      equivalent to two-thirds of total government
      advertising," he said.

      Hamid said the government has also withheld a
      television broadcast license from the Dawn Group,
      even though the application has gotten requisite
      approvals from the Pakistan Electronic Media
      Regulatory Authority and the Ministry of

      "We are very concerned by threats to the
      independent Pakistani press," said CPJ Executive
      Director Joel Simon. "When the government pulls
      advertising and holds up licenses, it sends the
      unmistakable signal that it wants critical
      coverage to be toned down."
      At least one other media group has come under
      attack this month. On March
      riot police fired tear gas and roughed up staff
      inside the Islamabad office of the Jang Group,
      which houses Geo TV, the Urdu-language Daily
      Jang, and English daily The News. The raid came a
      day after authorities ordered Geo to stop airing
      its daily news program, "Aaj Kamran Khan Ke
      Saath" (Today with Kamran Khan).
      Minister for Information and Broadcasting
      Mohammad Ali Durrani announced today that
      Pakistani authorities will work with media groups
      to form a press council to address numerous
      complaints from local media houses hit with
      reprisals after critical coverage of the
      CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit
      organization that works to safeguard press
      freedom worldwide. For more information, visit



      The News
      March 25, 2007


      by Omar R. Quraishi

      The events of the past couple of weeks suggest
      that the so-called 'new media' has well and truly
      arrived with a bang in Pakistan, and that's
      perhaps the positive thing to have emerged out of
      the current crisis. By new media, one obviously
      is referring to the electronic media, to cable
      television and more importantly to the Internet
      and the various ways in which it allows users to
      provide and access information.

      The rise of the new media is important because it
      provided a platform for the many disparate
      segments of civil society who all came together
      through experiencing it (either in the form of
      watching live coverage of the police
      lathi-charging unarmed defenceless lawyers or
      plainclothes intelligence sleuths posted at the
      gate of Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry's residence
      stopping visitors). Perhaps the best example of
      this (and one doesn't want to come across as
      blowing one's trumpet) was the live coverage
      shown by various TV channels, particularly GEO
      and followed closely by AAJ TV and others of the
      happenings in Islamabad in and around the Supreme
      Court building on March 16. This of course led to
      the unbridled assault on the offices of the TV
      channel and of this newspaper in a building that
      couldn't be a few hundred yards away from the
      seat of government and parliament. All this was
      shown live on television -- and one can imagine
      the impact that it would have made if it were not
      own live in real time.

      A lot has already been written on the attack and
      on the possible motives -- the president has
      apologised and the prime minister even visited
      the offices of the TV channel and the newspaper
      but the question still remains: how could the
      police have done this on their own, and who were
      they receiving orders from on their
      walkie-talkies, as reported by many eyewitnesses,
      and if they didn't do it on their own, who are
      the people behind the attack? Also, will a
      tribunal formed at the additional sessions judge
      level have the requisite courage and authority to
      come to a fair assessment as to the possible
      identities of those who ordered the attacker.

      One thing that I would like to say here is that
      some people in cyberspace and in online web
      forums have actually tried to justify the attack
      by saying that the channel should have known
      better than to be broadcasting what it did. This
      is probably the view of the government and its
      apologists as well. The fact of the matter is
      they should know that the job of the media --
      anywhere and not just in Pakistan -- is to try
      and show events and incidents, and clearly the
      police engaged in a street battle with civilian
      protesters qualifies as extremely newsworthy
      footage. After all, the footage showed policemen
      picking up stones and throwing them at random at
      the protesters -- so the people of this country
      finally got to see for themselves their conduct
      for themselves (perhaps the attack on GEO showed
      this in more stark fashion).

      Of course, in all of this, one shouldn't forget
      the blogging world, which though still small
      seems to have matured in Pakistan. There are
      several sites -- my personal favourites have been
      www.pakistaniat.com and www.karachi.metblogs.com
      -- which have been carrying lively discussions
      and exchanges regarding the current crises. Both
      these have also been carrying footage of the
      lathi-charges, of the attack on GEO and The News
      and also the now famous (or should one say
      infamous) exchange between Ansar Abbasi and Law
      Minister Wasi Zafar on a Voice of America radio
      show where the minister proceeded to tell the
      journalist what he would do with his (the
      minister's) 'big arm'. There is the medium of the
      SMS (short message service) as well, which has
      now become a handy means of communication in most
      Pakistani cities and used by people regardless of
      financial standing.

      It can't be said that the advent of the new media
      was the reason for the near unanimity that has
      been seen in the response by Pakistanis in
      general to the 'suspension' of the chief justice
      and the attack on the press and media, but it has
      certainly helped crystallise it. Clearly, from
      the point of view of those in the government and
      the establishment who would like to see the media
      be put in its place (read submissive and
      deferential to the government's wishes) had not
      envisaged that new technology brings with it its
      own democratising possibilities and
      opportunities. That has been particularly true in
      the case of the Internet since it isn't known as
      the Great Leveller for nothing -- a truly
      democratic way for people to communicate and to
      provide and access information.

      And the best part of this all is that the new
      media is very much here to stay. Perhaps,
      newspapers and TV channels (though none have done
      this so far in Pakistan) need to begin their own
      blogs soon.

      The writer is Op-ed Pages Editor of The News.



      BBC News
      28 March 2007

      Female students at the Jamia Hafsa religious
      school beside a banner reading "Enforce Islamic
      law "
      The girls also demand that video owners close their stores
      Dozens of young women from a religious school in
      the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, have broken
      into an alleged brothel and kidnapped the manager.

      The students from the Jamia Hafsa madrassa burst
      into the building late on Tuesday, demanding it
      be shut down.

      The students say they have a right to end immoral activity under Islamic law.

      The BBC's Navdip Dhariwal in Islamabad says it is
      the first time such bold Taleban-style activity
      seen elsewhere in Pakistan has occurred in the

      Police have not stepped in to rescue the alleged
      madam, who was taken by the women back to the
      madrassa after refusing to close her premises.

      She is still being held against her will.

      The girls have also demanded that video owners close their stores.

      Our correspondent says it appears the
      administration is reluctant or helpless to take
      action against the students.

      Taleban-style activity has been seen in
      Pakistan's tribal areas and in North West
      Frontier Province, where religious groups have
      tried to clamp down and impose Islamic law on
      local people.



      The Tribune
      28 March 200è


      Will all '84 riots victims ever get justice?

      THE phrase "better late than never" becomes a
      meaningless jumble of words when the woman who
      saw her husband, son and son-in-law murdered
      brutally in the 1984 riots has to wait for 23
      years to see three of the killers convicted.
      Harminder Kaur has relived the horror of that
      lynching all these years. The consolation that
      she has at least been alive to see this day is
      too meagre to be of much value. In this long long
      time, a whole generation has come and gone. Her
      daughter Harjinder had become a widow on that
      dark day during the holocaust at the age of 23.
      She had a daughter only two years old who became
      an orphan. The child has grown into a woman who
      has never known her father. We know that justice
      is not dispensed in a hurry in India. But this
      case went much further than that. After all, it
      took Harminder Kaur all of 12 years just to get
      an FIR registered. What a fight against the
      irresponsive system it has been for the
      traumatised widow!

      It is not only a classic example of too late, but
      also of too little. Imagine nearly 3,000 persons
      being killed and conviction coming in only a
      handful of cases, like this one and the earlier
      life sentence passed on five persons in May 2005
      for killing Baba Singh. And it is only the foot
      soldiers who are being served just desserts.
      Politicians who masterminded the horror have as
      good as escaped punishment. Everyone knows their
      role but they have managed to ensure that the
      trail goes cold and there is not "sufficient
      evidence" against them.

      The 1984 riots were among the worst nightmares
      that Independent India has had to suffer, the
      others being the Babri mosque demolition and the
      Gujarat riots. Till all the guilty are accounted
      for, such incidents will continue fostering
      disillusionment, embarrassment and misgivings.
      The sooner the shame-faced country comes clean,
      the better.



      Communalism Watch
      March 27, 2007

      Justice Rare for Victims of Christian Persecution in India

      New Delhi, March 26 (International Christian
      Concern) - Victims of Christian persecution from
      across India shared their horrific stories and
      highlighted the denial of justice to them before
      an independent people's jury.
      The depositions were part of "The Independent
      People's Tribunal against the Rise of Fascist
      Forces in India and the Attack on the Secular
      State," a three-day program which concluded here
      on March 22.
      The independent jury was organized by non-profit
      organizations Anhad and Human Rights Law Network,
      and supported and attended by a plethora of
      rights groups, including Christian organizations,
      like the All India Christian Council (AICC) and
      the Christian Legal Association. Of the 100
      victims who submitted their statements, about 40
      were Christian. The rest were mainly were from
      Gujarat state, which witnessed a wide-scale
      killing of members of the Muslim minority
      community in 2002.
      [. . .]




      Ahmedabad Newsline
      March 27, 2007

      People speak out against unofficial ban on film in contest held by NGO
      Express News Service

      Vadodara, March 26: AFTER a Delhi-based NGO ANHAD
      recently carried out an SMS/E-mail contest on
      'Screen Parzania in Gujarat', the chorus against
      the 'unofficial' ban on the film in the state, is
      getting clearer and louder. ANHAD's contest had
      99.5% respondents demanding that the film be
      screened in the state, and those who sent the 10
      best entries condemning the 'unofficial' ban on
      Parzania, had a chance to meet the film's cast.
      Seven of 10 winners from across the state met
      Parzania lead actors Naseeruddin Shah and Sarika
      in Mumbai on March 25 and interacted with them at

      The 'Screen ParzaniaŠ' contest received a total
      437 responses from across the state, of which two
      were in support of the ban. The contest was
      declared open for 15 days after advertisements in
      local newspapers.

      Shabnam Hasmi from ANHAD said, "Gujarat is
      showing signs of growing dictatorship, which is
      taking away citizens' basic rights of
      expression." A contest winner, Nayan Patel, a Jan
      Vikas activist, said, "It is not just an issue of
      freedom of speech but there is much more at stake
      and we need to fight it out before it gets too
      late." He said Parzania is a movie which will
      make sensitive people realise their guilt.

      He said, "Who are they to decide what I should
      watch or not? Gujarat is a part of democratic
      India and it is the Censor Board that decides."
      He said it was sad that the Modi establishment
      did not make a single statement publicly on
      providing security cover to those who wanted to
      watch the movie.

      Another winner, Sanita Xalxo, a second-year LLB
      student at Gujarat University, said, "When films
      related to riots and other communal issues can be
      screened in Mumbai then why not Gujarat."

      Govind Desai from Rajkot, again a contest winner,
      said, "We had enriching interaction with Sarika
      and Shah. It was all about how the 2002 riots
      affected one community and how basic human rights
      are being violated on a day-to-day basis across
      the nation." He said politicians should not use
      muscle power against any film, which are a strong
      medium to take any issue to the peoples. He said
      that Parzania has the capability of shaking
      Gujarat's conscience.

      Another winner from Vadodara, Szar, said, "It was
      good to see that youngsters really went out of
      their way to try to get the film screend. We live
      in a democratic state and cannot see fascism
      coming back." He questioned as to why people
      should obey a ban which was called by Babu
      Bajrangi, an expelled member of a political
      group. However, Szar said while he had lost some
      friends when he wrote against the ban.


      The Asian Age
      (26 March 2007


      by Pawan Khera

      Another move by Bajrang Dal to assert themselves,
      another meek acceptance by the people of Gujarat.
      And yet another, hopefully the last, question
      mark added to Narendra Modi's much-touted Gujarat
      ka gaurav.

      The ban on the screening of Parzania by the
      multiplex association of the state, reportedly
      under pressure from the Bajrang Dal, raises
      serious doubts about the fragility of the gaurav
      of the state - especially so when this pride
      seems to be under threat from every free
      expression of speech or opinion in various forms
      of popular culture.

      Parzania is an emotionally powerful film with a
      potential to shake if not stir and thus
      depolarise the Gujarati society ahead of
      elections this year. That is the worst fear of
      the Bajrang parivar.

      The bullies of the Bajrang Dal shall do what is
      their wont, only some have the suicidal courage
      to fly in the face of history asking it to repeat
      itself. But the docile acceptance of the decision
      by the people may not be healthy for the people
      themselves in the long run. It is bound to
      further embolden such elements in our society
      that use fear to suspend the fundamental right to

      Fear as an instrument to get institutional
      legitimacy is not new to Gujarat, or to any part
      of the country where submission to such tactics
      has been found easy. But Gujarat has the gaurav
      of being one of the states with the largest
      number of NGOs and activists. Then why does its
      civil society repeatedly fails, and only
      sporadically succeeds, in showing the way how to
      win these crucial conflicts?

      On the face of it, the villains of the piece are
      the Bajrang Dal and the Multiplex Association of
      Gujarat. Not on the face of it, however, not in
      the same order. By now, even the most uninitiated
      would not be surprised at the Bajrang Dal and its
      various country cousins following their brief. As
      theatres are meant to be vehicles of expression,
      outfits like the Bajrang Dal must find it irksome
      to let them do their job unhindered. The fact
      that they hinder the job so often, and so
      successfully, should worry everyone interested in
      freedom as a concept. We must believe that
      democracy as a dream is close to being lost when
      fear, coercion and perhaps even political
      pressure take precedence over free voice. The
      threat to democracy appears fatal when one finds
      the elected chief minister of Gujarat totally
      helpless to the diktat of the Bajrang Dal et al.

      Surely this isn't good news for the kind of
      no-nonsense image the CM has so carefully
      cultivated, nor also for the kind of confidence
      he would want investors to have in the
      institutional stability of the state. Not many
      interpretations are possible for his silence over
      the matter. The only one which is evident does a
      serious damage to the pride of the state he
      heads. His silence certainly lends sanctity to
      the bullies.

      There have, however, been other silences which
      are more difficult to fathom. For instance, the
      silence of the other stakeholders of the system,
      particularly the media, on this issue is
      deafening. Those loud votaries of "freedom of
      expression" ought to know there is buried
      somewhere in this entire din, the right of people
      to be able to see cinematic expressions that have
      been duly cleared by the Censor Board. Will any
      of these so-called "fearless" television channels
      show the courage to air the film across the
      state? This would be the most befitting riposte
      to both the Bajrang Dal and the Multiplex
      Association. At best the channel would be forced
      off the air from the state for a while. Imagine
      what such a ban can do to the TRP of the daring

      When all other institutions, including the worst
      critics of political institutions, fail to
      deliver, the onus of restoring the rights of the
      people comes back on a political party. Recently,
      the Gujarat unit of the Congress party has
      decided to hold special screenings across the
      state. For those of us who can afford the
      commonplace luxury of cynicism, we may dismiss it
      as a political stunt. But what else is a
      political party there for, if not to lend
      legitimate political muscle to those who are held
      to ransom by anti-Constitutional and anti-social
      ideologies and organisations? Unlike other
      institutions, including the otherwise vocal civil
      society, that abdicated their responsibility in
      this case, the Congress showed the sensitivity
      towards the cause of the people.

      And what are the MPs from the film industry
      doing? Will Ms Hema Malini, Mr Dharmendra, Mr
      Navjot Sidhu, Ms Jaya Bachchan, Mr Vinod Khanna,
      Mr Govinda, Ms Jaya Prada and Mr Shatrughan Sinha
      rise up to the occasion and speak for the
      industry which has given them all that they
      deserve, and much more?

      It was the same multiplex association of the same
      Gujarat which had refused to screen Fanaa last
      year fearing attacks by angry groups reacting to
      Aamir Khan's support to Medha Patkar on the
      Narmada issue. By failing to protect the freedom
      of speech and expression, the state government
      has supported the culture of intolerance towards
      voices of dissent.

      Even the most illiberal societies like Saudi
      Arabia do not disallow broadcast of the Radio
      Sawa or the Al-Hurra TV - both supposed to be
      vehicles of American propaganda targeted towards
      Arab youth.

      The aggressive media campaign by the United
      States in West Asia in the form of the Hi
      magazine in response to the anti-American
      sentiment following its Armageddon in Afghanistan
      and Iraq, has not been blocked by local
      governments, even if it is offensive to the
      cultural and also political sensibilities of West
      Asian societies. The Hi Magazine is sponsored by
      the US state department.

      There have been powerful depictions of emotive
      issues. Fearing their disruptive potential the
      state often banned them. Sergei Eisenstein's
      Battleship Potemkin, although banned in Nazi
      Germany for fear of evoking revolutionary zeal,
      was considered by Joseph Goebbels as "a
      marvellous film without equal in the cinemaŠ
      Anyone who had no firm political conviction could
      become a Bolshevik after seeing the film."

      At the end of this debate, unlike other such
      similar ends and similar debates, one needs to
      look for the reason for the insecurity that
      forces films like Parzania off the screens. It
      must be to make sure that the issues the film
      raises, the emotions it kindles, the humanity it
      questions are kept beyond the realm of a common
      Gujarati, so that he or she can continue to feel
      the gaurav they have been promised.

      An entire state's political thought, manoeuvred
      into position of power after an infamous
      bloodbath, cannot be allowed to delve into the
      cinematic expression of a true story of pathos of
      a Parsi family that lost its child in the riots.
      For those who deal in numbers, what is one
      missing child? Parsis are a dwindling race in any
      case. After all, the rioters did not have time to
      find out whether Azhar was a Parsi or a Muslim.
      Will be more careful next time around, with the
      religious census in place nowŠ

      Until then it is Bajrang bully ki jai in Gujarat:
      Victory to the bullies of Bajrang Dal.

      Pawan Khera is political secretary to the chief minister of Delhi



      Action 2007, Jantar Mantar, New Delhi

      Press Release - 27th March 2007

      Guns, Jail for People and Roses for Corporates;
      Policies like SEZ Can Only Be Implemented By Resorting to State Repression

      A collective of people's movements and
      organisations from all across the country, under
      the banner of Sangharsh 2007 has been sitting in
      protest at Jantar Mantar since the 19th of March.
      Planned as an indefinite struggle in Delhi, till
      UPA government listens to the concerns of the
      majority of India's population, Action 2007 has
      conducted a Jan Sansad on a number of key issues
      that the Parliament of India does not deem fit to
      engage in serious discussion about. Wide range of
      issues, largely placed under 11 categories were
      discussed in the Jan Sansad. However,
      unfortunately any of the ministers of or many of
      the bureaucrats did not feel necessary to attend
      the People's Parliament or to take account of the
      concerns raised °V after repeated invitations.
      The Jan Sansad organized detailed discussions on
      many issues as every major and minor policy and
      projects cause large scale displacement,
      dispossession, dis-employment and de-humanisation
      in India and the political establishment and
      ruling classes refuse to even recognize these as

      State Repression & Shrinking Democratic Space

      As many of those invited from ministries and
      other constitutional authorities did not dare to
      be present with people to discuss issues, women
      from Action 2007 had approached the planning
      commission on 22nd March 2007 (World Water Day)
      to demand a meeting with the planning authority
      of the country. However, the brutal state
      repressions that was carried out through the
      Rapid Action Force and Delhi Police only proved
      the apprehensions about state intent to implement
      anti-people policies with police protection.
      Including Medha Patkar, Gautam Bandopadhyay,
      Simpreet Singh, Sanjeev and Sr. Celia, as many as
      62 people were given 15 days of judicial remand
      in Tihar Jail for demonstrating outside a
      government office.

      Due to an intervention from higher judiciary, all
      those accused have been granted bail by the 26th
      March 2007. However, the government has shown no
      willingness to withdraw the false cases charged
      on peaceful demonstrators.

      It is now crystal clear that people across the
      country, both affected and those concerned about
      public policy, are rising in revolt be it the SEZ
      Policy & Act, the JNURM, the issue of slum
      demolitions, or of hawkers' dis-employment. The
      Dalits, Adivasis and other marginalised sections
      are on the verge of boycotting the state, which
      has only been an oppressor. In face of such
      strong opposition the Government can only push
      these policies only by recourse to violent
      repression as witnessed in Delhi on 22nd March
      with ACTION 2007 activists, and with the Kuki
      students on 23rd March'07. Given the State &
      Police attitude to people's resistance Nandigram
      is only a logical culmination, no matter how much
      blood flows. When the State and its other arms
      resort to violence the issue is not only the
      overt repression but also the constant effort to
      prevent people from expressing themselves, and
      shrinking democratic space. It will have to be
      concern of every conscientious citizen and
      particularly peoples' movements to challenge and
      prevent that.

      SEZ & Issues

      Representatives from people's organizations and
      communities across the country marched from
      Jantar Mantar yesterday, 26th March to protest
      against the Special Economic Zones being set up
      in the country.

      - The large scale forced acquisition of
      land (for the 'public purpose' of promoting
      private profit), the loss of agricultural land
      for real estate speculation which is an assault
      on the nation's farmers as well as food security
      has been the most critical concern
      - The SEZ Act compromises severely on
      sovereignty of the country by making thousands of
      hectares of land 'foreign territory'.
      - Fishworkers movements from Maharashtra,
      Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh have raised
      issues of destruction of the coastline by SEZ
      - Unprecedent Environmental destruction and
      usurpation of natural resources by SEZ projects.
      For instance, 33 projects are coming up in Konkan
      region alone leading to a complete destruction of
      the Western Ghats forests.
      - Scarcity of water and power, especially
      due to SEZs coming up close to Urban Centres has
      been raised as an issue.
      - The problem of unregulated labour
      exploitation has been seen in existing SEZs and
      will worsen further with the dilution of labour
      - The Ministry of Finance itself has raised
      the issue of huge revenue losses to the state

      A veritable double faced policy
      On the one hand people are told that the market
      and the invisible hand will determine this and on
      the other, the State acquires land for
      corporates. Since the past one year communities
      have issued memorandums and appeals consistently
      raising these concerns about the establishment of
      SEZs. But instead of having a dialogue the state
      machinery has resorted to violently suppressing
      people's protests, as the entire world witnessed
      through the media coverage of the merciless
      killings of the peasants in places like
      Nandigram. This will remain a shameful scar
      imprinted on the memory of the public.

      We are aware that the Empowered Group of
      Ministers under the chairmanship of Shri Pranab
      Mukherjee is reviewing the SEZ policy and
      legislation. However, we do not see any of the
      issues being raised by the people's groups
      addressed in the government's review process. In
      this dismal scenario, the consensus emerging is
      for a country-wide intensification of the
      struggle against SEZs and scrapping of the SEZ
      Act 2005.

      Action °V Next Phase
      As part of our efforts to hold the state
      accountable for its policies and to make
      transparency in governance, different delegations
      from the movements represented in Sangharsh will
      meet with different ministries, concerned
      citizens and political parties in the coming
      days. The political dialogues will focus on
      issues relating to land acquisitions, SEZ,
      unorganised sector legislation and issues, Dalit,
      Adivasi and women's rights issues, issues of
      urban poor, hawkers, etc.

      Co-ordination Committee ACTION 2007
      For further details please visit-www.action2007.net
      Delhi Office: Action 2007, 1-A, Goela Lane, Under
      Hill Road Civil Lines, Delhi °V 54 Tel.:
      Rajendra Ravi (0-9868200316), Vijayan MJ
      (0-9868165471) E-Mail: action2007@...
      Mumbai Office: Action 2007, C/0 Chemical Mazdoor
      Sabha, 28-29, First Floor 'A wing' Haji Habib
      Naigaon Cross Road, Dadar (East), Mumbai-400014



      March 2007


      by Purushottam Agrawal

      The idea of Satyagraha, non-violent civil
      disobedience, is now a hundred years old. The
      centenary was celebrated with gusto a few days
      ago in Delhi. This is the century that historian
      Eric Hobsbawm calls the Age of Extremes. In this
      age, humanity dreamt the loftiest
      of dreams and faced the most terrible realities.
      Dreams of radically transforming societies, of
      eradicating violence, exploitation and injustice
      forever. And the reality of dream projects
      turning into the worst nightmares. Social systems
      claiming to have freed men from chains turned
      entire societies into prisons. It was an age of
      wars, each claiming to be the war to end all
      wars, a cause that justified its own mass
      violence and cruelty. The violence was on a scale
      that made
      epic wars of different traditions seem like the
      bickering of naughty children.

      The same century witnessed the unprecedented
      accomplishments of science - rooting out several
      killer diseases, but afflicted by the rise of
      new maladies, notably the modern "lifestyle"

      But what if the lifestyle itself were the malady?
      A socially institutionalised disease which
      ensures that once you are in its grip, you are
      condemned to succumb to its poison. What then
      calls for
      a cure, the lifestyle or its pathological symptoms?


      [11] EVENTS:


      N-1/2, MLA Rest House, Bhopal 462003 (M.P.)
      A-124/6, Katwaria Sarai, New Delhi 110016

      Dear friend,

      You might be aware with the plight of Bhutanese
      refugees who are languishing in 7 camps in Jhapa
      and Morang districts of Nepal since 1991. They
      are more than 1 lakh in numbers. Apart from this
      some were forced to live in insecure hideouts
      across the Indo-Bhutanese borders. They don't
      enjoy even the refugee status.Their only crime is
      that they launched a peaceful movement in favour
      of human rights and against monarchy. In response
      the king of Bhutan showered bullets on these
      Bhutanese citizens, put them behind the bar and
      depriving a large chunk of Bhutanese population
      of their citizenship expelled them from the
      country. Having been expelled from Bhutan, these
      hapless people reached the Indian territory, from
      where they were dumped in trucks by the Indian
      security forces and were dropped in Nepal. Since
      then they are living in refugee camps and UNHCR,
      the UN organisation, is taking care of these

      But the Indian Government had shown utter cruelty
      by calling the problem as a bilateral one between
      Bhutan and Nepal and washed its hands off from
      the problem.Not only that, the Indian Government
      has consistently developed its good relations
      with Bhutanese Government.

      Though 17 round ministerial level talks have been
      organised between Nepal and Bhutan in last 16
      years, without any fruitful outcome. In the
      context of geo-political power balance within
      South Asia and in the context of inability of
      Nepal and Bhutan to resolve the issue it is
      acknowledged that this problem is not a bilateral
      one, but tripartite involving Nepal, Bhutan and
      India and as long as India won't take interest in
      it, no solution could be possible.

      There is a demand that India should take
      initiative in solving this problem, and to raise
      this demand effectively and efficiently we have
      decided to organise a convention, which will be
      attended by all the political parties, human
      right organisations, peoples' organisations,
      intellectuals and prominent individuals of India.
      We have also invited the representatives from
      refugee camps as well as the the representatives
      of SPA (Seven Parties' Alliance) and Maoists from

      We hope that you will be present and participate
      in this convention and pressurise Indian
      Government to take an initiative in this regard.

      Date: March 31, 2007
      Time: 10 A.M. onwards
      Venue: Gandhi Peace Foundation,
      Deendayal Uppadhyay Marg, New Delhi-110001

      Dr. Sunilam (MLA, Madhya Pradesh)
      l N-1/2, MLA Rest House, Bhopal 462003 (M.P.)l
      A-124/6, Katwaria Sarai, New Delhi 110016

      o o o


      Time: 3:30-5:30 pm
      Date: April 4, 2007
      Location: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
      Speakers: Arvind Rajagopal, Woodrow Wilson Center
      and New York University; David Ludden, New York
      University; Fasial Devji, The New School
      University; Engseng Ho, Harvard University

      Woodrow Wilson Center
      One Woodrow Wilson Plaza
      1300 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
      Washington, D.C. 20004-3027

      o o o


      The South and Southeast Asia Resource Centre on
      Sexuality is hosting a discussion on


      12 April 2007 (Thursday), 3:00 - 4:30 pm

      TARSHI, 11, Mathura Road, First Floor, Jangpura B, New Delhi

      In 19th century colonial India the reaction to
      the threat (both social and biological) of the
      prostitute was to forcibly confine infected women
      in "lock hospitals". An international backlash
      against these measures left the government in
      need of a method of regulating prostitutes
      without seeming to impinge upon their liberty.

      Steve Legg, PhD will make a presentation for 45
      minutes, tracing the 20th century evolution of
      the legislative machinery that allowed the state
      to exert some authority over female prostitutes.
      This involved a shift from initial policies of
      segregating women into certain quarters of a
      town, to the later targeting of brothels under
      the Suppression of Immoral Traffic Acts, both of
      which the prostitutes resisted and challenged in
      various ways.

      Steve attained BA and PhD from the University of
      Cambridge and spent three following years as a
      Research Fellow. He is now a Lecturer in
      cultural and historical geography at the
      University of Nottingham and has a book out in
      March/April entitled Spaces of Colonialism:
      Delhi's Urban Governmentalities to be published
      by Blackwells (in the UK, America and Australia)
      and Rawat Publishers (in India). He is currently
      expanding this work on urban politics to look at
      the regulatory policies applied to prostitutes in
      20th century colonial India. This entails
      situating the local history of Delhi's
      prostitutes in the national politics of the
      Suppression of Immoral Traffic Acts and the
      international politics of social hygiene
      campaigners and the League of Nations.

      The presentation will be followed by an open discussion.

      Please stay for tea /coffee and biscuits from 4:30 - 5:00pm.

      Sumit Baudh
      Senior Programme Associate
      The South and Southeast Asia Resource Centre on Sexuality
      TARSHI, 11 Mathura Road, 1st Floor, Jangpura B, New Delhi-110014
      tel: +91 11 2437 9070, +91 11 2437 9071
      fax: +91 11 2437 4022
      eml: sumit@...


      Buzz for secularism, on the dangers of fundamentalism(s), on
      matters of peace and democratisation in South
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