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SACW | May 1-2, 2008 / Nepal - From Conflict to the Republic / War-torn Sri Lanka / Taking on the Pakistani Taliban / Solidarity For Binayak Sen

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | May 1-2, 2008 | Dispatch No. 2510 - Year 10 running [ Nirmala Deshpande, the noted Gandhian and a member the upper house of the
    Message 1 of 1 , May 1, 2008
      South Asia Citizens Wire | May 1-2, 2008 | Dispatch No. 2510 - Year 10 running

      [ Nirmala Deshpande, the noted Gandhian and a
      member the upper house of the Indian Parliament,
      died on May 1, 2008. She will be remembered by
      many for having spoken up for peace between India
      and Pakistan during the Kargil conflict and for
      her intervention after the anti communal
      slaughter in gujarat (unlike other official
      Gandhians who sat around as silent spectators).
      She had been on the SACW list since the 1990's]

      [1] Nepal:
      (i) Nepal - From Conflict to the Republic (Kamal Mitra Chenoy)
      (ii) The Maobaadi triumph - Seeking explanations (Kanak Mani Dixit)
      (iii) A constitution of convenience (Yubaraj Ghimire)
      [2] War-torn Sri Lanka is the last sick man of the region (Jonathan Steele)
      [3] Pakistan: How to succeed and fail in FATA (Ahmed Rashid)
      [4] India: Judgment on OBC Reservation (Rajindar Sachar)
      [5] International Day of Solidarity Action For Binayak Sen on May 13, 2008
      [6] India: People's Parliament Slams UPA
      government: Demands Non Displacing Development
      [7] Pakistan: A Press Release by Student Action Committee, Lahore


      [1] NEPAL:


      by Kamal Mitra Chenoy

      (Published in: Sahara Time, 22 April 2008)

      [ snip . . . ]

      o o o

      Himal South Asian
      May 2008


      How did the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) win
      so many seats in the Constituent Assembly? More
      importantly, can they now prove to the Nepali
      people and the world that they can be the
      vanguard of pluralism and progress?

      by Kanak Mani Dixit

      For thirty years, modern Nepal was ruled by a
      royal autocracy. Then, starting in 1990, the
      people began to experience inefficient, perhaps,
      but real democracy, through the medium of
      political parties. In 1996, one of these went
      underground, to engage in Maoist revolution,
      picking up the gun against the multiparty system
      of the day. Though gaining momentum and spread
      over the first seven-odd years, by 2005 the
      insurgency had achieved a stalemate with the
      state security. The rebels then decided to
      relinquish the 'people's war' and, along with the
      other parties, helped generate the People's
      Movement of April 2006 against the king,
      Gyanendra - who had in the meantime taken over.
      Two years later, on 10 April 2008, the Communist
      Party of Nepal (Maoist) made a leap into the
      government, winning an astounding 50 percent of
      elected seats in the Constituent Assembly, and
      nearly 30 percent of the
      proportional-representation votes. In so doing,
      they trounced the two main forces of yesteryear,
      the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of
      Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), and gained a
      definitive mandate from the people.

      The win by the former rebels is explained most
      significantly by demographic shifts in Nepali
      society. These delivered a wave of support
      straight into the Maoist hands from the Dalit,
      ethnic/indigenous janajati, youth and
      economically marginalised strata. They also had a
      fine-tuned campaign machine that used populist
      rhetoric to woo the masses, and did not shy away
      from countrywide threats and intimidation. The
      demographic surge and populist campaign gave the
      Maoists the bulk of their votes, but they were
      nervous enough about this first-time outcome to
      feel the need for coercion. In retrospect, they
      might themselves agree that they need not have.

      The decisive evolution in the public's
      self-awareness began with the 1990 People's
      Movement, which did away with the royal Panchayat
      regime, and provided space for ethnic assertion
      and grassroots activism. The radical
      transformations that, over the last decade,
      overtook Nepal's diverse population, are also
      explained by: exposure to the wider world through
      media and first-time road transport, political
      awareness through non-governmental activism, the
      experience of local governance, the arousal
      linked to the 'people's war', and the democratic
      fight against the autocratic royal, Gyanendra. A
      huge spike in the youth population, coupled with
      higher literacy, delivered a voting category that
      was quite different from the one which had
      exercised the ballot the last time, in 1999. All
      of this was carefully utilised by astute
      strategists within the Maoist party, who had
      stayed in continuous touch and engaged with the
      villages when the other political parties had
      been scared off by the insurgency.

      While these and other societal shifts were
      obvious, they had not been studied adequately by
      many analysts in terms of electoral impact. Those
      with lack of foresight and insight included this
      writer, who had suggested a third-place showing
      for the Maoists, after the UML and Nepali
      Congress. Based on the experience in other
      countries, the reading was that the Maoist
      violence was too recent in the public memory for
      the party to exel in its first electoral
      exercise, but that staying the course would
      deliver the support of the underclass and
      marginalised to the Maoists in the long run.
      Indeed, this writer had thought the public would
      not give unqualified support to the Maoists in
      the absence of some kind of apology down the line
      for the excess that was the 'people's war'. As it
      turned out, the populace had no time for any kind
      of further evolution: that the Maoists had called
      off their insurgency and come into the peace
      process and elections was deemed enough to give
      them a resounding mandate.

      Moreover, unencumbered by the hold of upper-caste
      politicos, and without sitting legislators and
      party bosses to cater to, the CPN (Maoist) went
      all out in selecting candidates from marginalised
      groups. They then proceeded to successfully get
      them elected in a manner that the other political
      parties could not expect to achieve over
      successive elections. Besides the Maoists' good
      showing in garnering 120 of the 240 seats in the
      direct-candidate elections, and ensuring
      diversity therein, the representation of the many
      communities of Nepal was also guaranteed by the
      innovation of 335 seats available under the
      'proportional representation' ballot. Under this
      system, parties were allotted seats in proportion
      to the votes they polled, and parties in turn
      selected their Assembly members in proportion to
      the defined national communities, such as women,
      Janajati and Dalit. The presence of the Maoists
      in this election and the use of proportional
      representation have delivered the most
      significant success of the elections of 10 April,
      one that turns Nepali politics on its head and
      guarantees representation and inclusion like
      never before. Along the way, the decades-long
      control of the Bahuns (hill Brahmins) over the
      political process seems to have been has been
      significantly deconstructed.

      kiran panday
      Start of a new day: ballot boxes head out on election day

      Baidhanik kyapcher
      In a country made up of many marginalised groups
      - by ethnicity, caste, faith and region - the
      poor and disfranchised overwhelmingly responded
      as a vote bank for the Maoists. Age, too, played
      a significant part in the recent polls, with
      voters between 18 and 25, making up 30 percent of
      the national roll, casting the ballot for the
      first time. Many new issues cropped up that were
      not present in past general elections, including
      positions and planks raised by the ethnic
      consciousness across the hills, the Madhes
      agitations in the plains of the last two years,
      and the 'people's war'. This turbulence threw up
      the new agenda of secularism, federalism and
      republicanism, and the bulk of young voters, it
      turned out, saw the Maoists as the vanguard on
      all fronts.

      The CPN (Maoist) war chest was full, and money
      was spent liberally. The campaign strategy was to
      make use of smart slogans, aggressive speeches
      and a reliance on unrestrained populism. The key
      slogan, "We've seen the others, now let us try
      the Maobaadi" caught the public's imagination,
      and the Maoists had no compunction about
      utilising ethnic populism for votes - for
      example, by mooting ethnic-based federal
      provinces in a country of widely mixed habitation.

      At the beginning, the Maoists were not confident
      about their showing, and so the matter of 'seat
      adjustments' was raised with the competing
      parties. For long, the Maoists also insisted on a
      full-proportional system of voting rather than
      the mixed system that was ultimately adopted. In
      those initial calculations, the Maoists felt that
      a proportional vote would secure them a base
      level of seats from the underclass and
      marginalised communities, expecting that they
      would not get enough votes for their individual
      candidates to succeed. Having agreed to the mixed
      electoral system, the Maoist leadership
      experienced a panic attack in September 2007, and
      walked out of the interim government so as to
      scuttle the (second scheduled) polls, slated for
      November. As it turned out, it was the well-worn
      faces of the Nepali Congress and the UML that the
      voters rejected, while the CPN (Maoist) made off
      with exactly half of the 240 seats in the
      direct-candidate elections. The proportional
      elections, which were supposed to be the Maoist
      lifeline, in fact turned out to be one for the
      other parties.

      Over the winter, the Maoists were hoping to make
      a strong third place while aiming for second. A
      poll conducted in December found that around 43
      percent of respondents were still undecided, with
      the first two places still reserved for the UML
      and Congress. In retrospect, the undecided seem
      to have gone for the Maoists in toto. According
      to Maoist leaders, they knew that they had turned
      the corner by January, and in a samikshya baithak
      (evaluation meeting) two weeks before 10 April,
      the conclusion was that there was a lahar (wave)
      in their favour. The party suddenly looked headed
      for first place, and the leaders said as much
      publicly but few others were believing.

      Indeed, such was the leadership's confidence
      level that it downplayed the killing of six cadre
      in western Dang District in a skirmish with
      police two days before the elections. Those who
      believed that the Maoists were, yet again,
      itching for an exit from the polls worried that
      the party would use this incident as an excuse;
      they were surprised when Maoist chairman Pushpa
      Kamal Dahal ('Prachanda') urged his followers to
      remain calm and stay the course. In retrospect,
      the controlled response was also an effort not to
      jeopardise the sure win.

      The fact that pressure tactics were used
      countrywide in the immediate lead-up to the polls
      simply extended the Maoist range of victory -
      sometimes to unbelievable proportions, as in the
      district of Gorkha. The real brilliance of the
      Maoist electoral malfeasance, what some of their
      activists called 'baidhanik kyapcher' (legal
      capture), was that it was geared to be invisible
      to the international poll observers, while the
      local poll officials, observers and volunteers of
      other parties could be intimidated as required.
      (It should also be noted that, booth-per-booth,
      election-time malpractice was even more
      pronounced in the Tarai plains, by elements other
      than the Maoists.)

      Threat of violence included the spreading of
      rumours about secret techniques to monitor the
      voting, threats of dire consequences and fines
      for those voting for others, marches by Young
      Communist League and cantonment combatants, and
      so on. Individual candidates were selectively
      thrashed to send a message to the activists and
      voters of other parties: a state which could not
      protect candidates of the prime minister's and
      home minister's own party could hardly shield

      Compared to the expectations of outright
      election-day violence - from the Tarai militants,
      from the royalist right and from Maoist cadre -
      polling day itself was bright, largely peaceful,
      and indeed, celebratory. It was like a nationwide
      festival, and everyone rushed to pronounce the
      elections free and fair. As the results started
      coming in the next morning, it was clear the
      Maoists were on a roll. While there seems little
      doubt that the level of malpractice was not at
      such a level as to negate the Maoist landslide,
      the craftiness of the exercise of intimidation
      and 'booth capture' certainly needs scrutiny.
      Hopefully, one or more of the many
      election-observer groups in Nepal will compile
      reports and study the trends so that future
      elections can be more free and fair.

      Vote for peace
      The transformed nature of the voting populace and
      clever campaigning explain, in large part, the
      Maoist win. But the results of 10 April also
      indicated, in a roundabout way, a 'vote for
      peace'. Over the two years since the People's
      Movement of April 2006, and the peace process
      under which the CPN (Maoist) was gingerly brought
      into the interim government, Nepal has been
      largely without government administration and law
      and order. A large part of the population felt
      insecure, particularly with the Maoists having
      deployed their youth wing, the Young Communist

      In addition, the party's leadership regularly
      provided ominous warnings, carried by Nepal's
      efficient radio, print and television media, that
      they would return to the jungle and restart the
      people's war if the party lost the Constituent
      Assembly elections. They added that
      'revolutionary parties' can never lose elections.
      As such, with the state establishment and civil
      society having neglected the task of
      demobilisation and integration of Maoist
      combatants, the country went to elections with
      two armies, the national force and the Maoist
      force. A rational choice was thus made by the
      public: to vote the Maoist into power, as the
      most effective means of keeping safe. Many voters
      would have hoped that all the strong-arming and
      extortions would end with this one stroke,
      coupled with the responsibility that comes with
      overwhelming power.

      The aging and ailing Prime Minister Girija Prasad
      Koirala had in April 2006 been anointed the
      unquestioned head of state and government, with
      the task of easing the Maoists into the
      mainstream. Unfortunately, emphysema had taken a
      toll on the prime minister's health, which showed
      up in his weakened organisational abilities and
      political leadership. For a man whose strength
      had always been a voracious ability to meet
      people and ingest diverse ideas, Koirala was now
      mostly confined to his bedroom and antechamber at
      the prime ministerial residence. He hardly
      visited Singha Durbar, the central secretariat,
      and did not maintain a prime minister's office
      worth the name, working variously through
      confidantes and relations.

      It was Koirala's choice of Krishna Prasad Sitaula
      as home minister that became an important factor
      in the state's inability to give the people a
      sense of security. A peacemaker who had been the
      key interlocutor in negotiations with the rebels
      in 2005-06, Sitaula seemed out of touch with the
      requirements of his cabinet post: he was lenient
      regarding Maoist misdemeanours to the point of
      appeasement. It could be that Sitaula was fearful
      of a Maoist return to the jungle (which was not
      about to happen) and consequent collapse of the
      peace process. With the Home Ministry unable to
      galvanise the Nepal Police and the district
      administrations, the impunity that had been the
      leitmotif of national polity for a decade and
      more remained firmly in place, even during the
      transitional phase. The populace understood that
      the government was in no position to protect
      them, not the peasant, the teacher, the party
      activist, trader nor administrator. All of this
      was a boon to the Maoists as election time came

      Incumbency factor
      The legitimisation of the Maoists through the
      electoral process was long sought by the Congress
      and UML, and whether by design or by default they
      conducted a low-key election campaign compared to
      the aggressiveness of the former rebels. All the
      same, the two parties were hardly expecting the
      kind of triumph that the Maoists went on to
      achieve. No doubt, both parties were seen as
      Bahun-dominated establishmentarian forces that
      would be slow in delivering change, at a time
      when the people had waited too long in despair.
      The weaknesses of the political parties -
      including influence peddling, nepotism,
      infighting, corruption and lack of an energising
      worldview - were all too evident, and the CPN
      (Maoist) promised something new and exciting even
      if untested.

      The question remains, however, as to whether the
      Congress and UML deserved to be penalised the way
      they were at the ballot. They were being made to
      answer for the lack of economic progress and the
      halt to development over the decade of conflict,
      ironically a situation that was largely created
      by the Maoist 'people's war'. Likewise, over the
      last two years the coalition government was so
      engaged in the peace process, with the Maoists
      having one foot in and one foot out of
      government, that both governance and the economy
      were inevitably impacted. The situation was
      further complicated by the Madhes Movement of the
      winter of 2006-07, and the continuing agitations
      throughout the following year.

      It is important to remember that the Maoists did
      not begin their 'people's war' against the
      monarchy. Rather, the gun was picked up, in 1996,
      against the parliamentary set-up and democratic
      government in Kathmandu. The conditions in Nepal
      at that time certainly required a social
      revolution, and the 'people's war' was the action
      of a smallish political party seeking the path of
      violence to power. The party utilised effective
      war strategy in its fight against the state,
      gaining strength in its central-west stronghold.
      The CPN (Maoist) was eventually awarded a string
      of rewards with which to expand, including the
      suspension of Parliament, the cancellation of
      local government, and the progressive moves by
      the pompous Gyanendra to rule absolutely after
      2002. This last allowed the Maoist propaganda
      machine to claim that all along the fight had
      been against the feudocratic royal regime.

      Six years after the advent of democracy in 1990,
      the political parties had barely begun to learn
      how to govern when the Maoists went underground
      and shook the foundations of the state
      establishment. The mid-1990s were a time when,
      after initial hiccups, the Parliament had finally
      started to function as a place of civil
      discourse, and the economy had begun to grow at
      six percent annually. Nepal's political parties
      tackled the insurgents as best they could, given
      their individual competitive inclinations, the
      subterfuges of the royal palace, and the fact
      that an under-equipped and dispirited civilian
      police was being put up against the highly
      motivated guerrilla army.

      min ratna bajracharya
      Mark of participation

      It was only when the Maoists had achieved a
      stalemate with the state that they became
      agreeable to peace. But first, they needed a
      face-saving way out of the 'people's war'. As
      such, Koirala and the UML's Madhav Kumar Nepal
      agreed to the Maoist demand for the Constituent
      Assembly, provided that the Maoists give up the
      gun. With the Maoists entering the
      peace-and-democracy process, the marginalised
      communities of Nepal took up the Constituent
      Assembly agenda with alacrity, and the process
      took on a life of its own.

      The fact is that elections had not happened for
      nine years, and the economy was in shambles for
      many reasons, but mostly due to the insurgency.
      When the Maoists came up with their effective
      slogans against the 'incumbents', they were
      exploiting the frustrations the populace had with
      the ten years of conflict followed by two years
      of tenuous transition. The Maoists were
      successful in painting the slow-moving UML and
      Congress as failed parties, which represented the
      corruption, poor development, maladministration
      and chaos of both the immediate and long-term
      past. In fact, it was the political parties who
      had worked to bring the Maoists into government,
      making notably magnanimous agreements, including
      giving the rebel force equal berths in the
      interim parliament and interim government.
      Whatever the reasons, the UML and Congress' great
      contribution in bringing the Maoists to the table
      did not seem adequate to the voters.

      Maoist capitalism
      The Constituent Assembly has long been seen as
      the departure point for the making of a 'new
      Nepal' after decades of underdevelopment and a
      dozen years of violent instability. The Maoists
      have now been 'cleansed' by the elections. The
      expectation is that they will indeed rise to the
      responsibilities of high office, shedding
      completely their ferocious streak and publicly
      renouncing violence. One must hope that, having
      won where the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) of
      Peru and so many other 'revolutions' were crushed
      or compromised, the well-honed politico-military
      machinery of the Maoists will have the
      understanding and capability to transform into a
      democratic institution that will tolerate and
      encourage pluralism, representative government
      and the fundamental freedoms.

      Rather than begrudge the former rebels their
      success, the other political parties and broader
      civil society must help the Maoists to run a
      government (in whatever configuration) that is
      accountable, promotes service delivery, rule of
      law and the writing of a democratic constitution
      over the course of the next two years. It could
      even be that the political party that has, in the
      past, been the most violent can itself most
      effectively crush the culture of physical harm
      that has invaded Nepali society in the last
      decade. The people crave to live peacefully and
      without fear, holding different values and
      opinions, and to have political stability that
      will automatically energise economic growth. On
      the other hand, it is unlikely that they would
      want the Chinese model of economic growth without
      personal freedom, which surely would not work
      with the democracy that Nepali society has

      The Maoists have promised peace and stability
      through a multi-party democratic polity, but
      civil society will have to keep alert because the
      rebels are also past masters at tailoring words
      to the audience, be it national or international.
      In his first victory speech, on 12 April,
      bedecked with layers of marigold garlands,
      Chairman Dahal concentrated on addressing the
      fears of the bureaucracy, international
      community, the security agencies and the private
      sector. One disconnect between what the Maoists
      have promised and what they can deliver is the
      fact that they cannot escape Nepal's particular
      geopolitical and developmental straitjacket.
      'Prachanda Path' - the local answer to 'Mao Tse
      Tung Thought' - will have to be rapidly adjusted
      when confronted with these realities. The Maoists
      will realise double-quick the need to drop their
      tried and tested ultra-nationalistic rhetoric;
      and for managing the country's finances and
      carrying out development, they will have to
      cohabitate with the international financial
      institutions and the omnipresent 'donors',
      bilateral and multilateral.

      While the conservatives would smile cynically as
      the Maoists begin their ride down the road of
      realism, there are already signs that would alarm
      the Marxist fellow-traveller. On 16 April, the
      party's very first formal meeting, even as the
      election results came in, was with the pantheon
      of the Federation of Nepali Chamber of Commerce
      and Industry. There, Chairman Dahal promised to
      maintain capitalism, and not to rock any
      commercial boat. In addition, the chief Maoist
      ideologue, Baburam Bhattarai, made haste to claim
      that the party did not expect to introduce
      socialism for another century, and communism for
      an additional century. Rather, this was the time,
      in the Nepali context, when feudalism was being
      jettisoned, and there was nowhere to go but the
      route of bourgeois capitalism.

      While such pronouncements are striking, they do
      beg the larger question: whether the 14,000 dead,
      the disappeared, the destruction of the economy
      since 1996, the devastation of bridges and
      district infrastructure, the traumatising of the
      population, and the deployment of the national
      army (which conducted its own brutalities) in
      response to the insurgency were indeed justified
      to arrive at such a point. Will the CPN (Maoist)
      become just another party espousing the
      social-democratic message of mixed economy and
      state benevolence, dropping its plans on the
      altar of instantaneous pragmatism, even before
      the marker ink has dried on the voter's thumb?
      Whatever the answer, one could hope that now,
      with power achieved, the former rebels will be
      able to provide development and economic advance
      amidst a free society, with the same proficiency
      with which they conducted guerilla warfare and
      the election campaign just ended. For this, the
      Maoists will have to turn into democrats, and
      there is perhaps no reason why Nepal cannot make
      a success of this brand of political

      Loktantrik sambidhaan
      Things may also not be simple for the Maoists
      because, unlike their own rhetoric before the
      election results started coming in, they are not
      going to be in total command of the polity even
      though they are on the driver's seat. There is a
      hung parliament - or, rather, a hung assembly -
      in Kathmandu, with the Maoists needing to muster
      forces and form a coalition government that will
      work consensually to run the administration and
      write the constitution. For this, they will have
      to negotiate with the three main forces, the
      Congress, the UML and the Madhesi Janadhikar
      Forum (MJF) as the powerful new entrant in the
      Nepali polity and representing the sharp edge of
      plains activism. (Indeed, the Maoist success in
      the hills is mirrored by the win of the MJF in
      the Tarai, where it got 30 seats to stand
      shoulder-to-shoulder with the Congress and UML as
      a national party.)

      The hope for now is that the new constitution,
      which will be written and promulgated over the
      next two years, will protect the values to which
      the Nepali people have already become accustomed.
      These include the fundamental freedoms of
      thought, speech and assembly, as well as
      accountability, human rights, free judiciary,
      multiparty governance, periodic elections,
      pluralism and separation of powers. At the same
      time, the Constituent Assembly will be adding
      elements to make Nepali democracy more inclusive
      and representative, addressing the issues of
      secularism, federalism, affirmative action and
      republicanism - ideas that have already been
      agreed upon by the main political players, but
      whose actual fleshing out is bound to prove
      problematic. Simply put, Nepal needs to evolve as
      a liberal, inclusive, democratic society through
      the writing of a democratic constitution, the
      loktantrik sambidhaan.

      The CPN (Maoist) will now be driving Nepal with
      the people's consent, in a position to chaperone
      both the government and the writing of the
      constitution in collaboration with the other
      parties. Having come to power through popular
      will, the party should have the wherewithal to
      deliver three elements that are so desired in
      Nepal at this time: political stability, durable
      peace and inclusive democracy. While the
      neighbours may prioritise the first, and the
      international peacekeepers prioritise the second,
      the Nepali people will be forgiven for wanting
      all three, and simultaneously. When that happens,
      the country's economy will spring to life, as it
      has been waiting to do all these years.
      Simultaneously, the government will have to
      kick-start development, begin the process of
      post-conflict rehabilitation of both
      infrastructure and the citizenry's psyche, and
      launch showcase projects that generate hope and

      The Maoists have arrived at the helm of power
      when the people are tired and want change, and
      have decided to reject the other parties in their
      favour. This is a great opportunity for Chairman
      Dahal, who likes to talk of how Nepal's Maoists
      are innovators who know the weaknesses of
      communist regimes elsewhere, to lead his party
      into a democratic evolution that will surprise
      the world. Indeed, he can try and fashion a
      polity that is economically strong, like the
      neighbour of the north, but fit it into a
      democratic frame, such as that of the neighbour
      of the south. Let it be said that there is a
      party that is Maoist in name, which can and will
      function as a democratic force to protect
      pluralism and promote the economy.

      The CPN (Maoist) must prove to the world within a
      matter of weeks that it can, in one stroke, put
      its violent past behind. No sensible citizen or
      political party will think twice about the
      Maoists continuing to win in future free-and-fair
      elections if they do transform thus, for that
      will also be the start of the Nepali economic
      transformation. At that point, conditions will
      finally be created under which citizens will no
      longer have to migrate to seek menial jobs in
      foreign lands, as they have done for three
      centuries now. With the writing of a people's
      democratic constitution and its effective
      implementation, let the country put an end to
      that chapter, and let Nepalis never again have to
      leave their fields and terraces for remote
      outposts. They need to experience wealth and
      happiness in their own homes and neighbourhoods,
      and perhaps the elections of 10 April is
      harbinger of the turning of the historical tide.

      o o o

      Indian Express
      May 01, 2008


      Nepal's interim constitution has been overtaken
      by the new political reality after the
      constituent assembly polls. The country needs a
      more spacious roadmap

      by Yubaraj Ghimire

      The 'unique' democracy that Nepal's interim
      constitution formalised when it came into
      existence in January 2007 had some dangerous
      provisions. It not only stood for the seven
      parties, including the Maoists, controlling the
      entire political process, but also saw little
      role of the opposition in it. The constitution
      also had no provision for the prime minister
      being removed from the post except when he died,
      or quit voluntarily. A provision to have him
      removed with a two-third majority was inserted a
      few months later following media criticism. In
      the appointment of the new prime minister, it
      favoured a 'consensus' among the seven parties,
      failing which a two-third majority would do.

      During that time, all these parties were united
      against the king, and for them sidelining him was
      the real essence of the new democracy they sought
      to secure in Nepal. All these seven parties which
      together fathered the interim constitution also
      had no objection to G.P. Koirala acting as the
      prime minister as well as the acting head of
      state while continuing as president of the Nepali
      Congress. And so what if in the process, the
      neutrality of position that the head of state
      demanded was grossly compromised.

      But the political context has changed following
      the conclusion of the constituent assembly polls
      recently. A new scenario has emerged. The
      constituent assembly will have altogether 25
      parties, 18 more than the 'monopoly rulers' . Not
      only that, yesterday's rulers are today's
      political rivals since they contested elections
      against each other and are also rival claimants
      for power.

      The smooth selection of the new prime minister
      has become difficult as Koirala hopes to be a
      consensus choice, and Prachanda claims that right
      by virtue of being the leader of the largest
      party in the House with 220 members, still 81
      short of the simple majority in a House of 601.
      Prachanda, who has not yet been assured of the
      support of a two-third majority, asserts that the
      mandate is for him to lead the government.
      Koirala followers bank on the constitutional
      provision that he was appointed by consensus, and
      should continue if Prachanda fails to muster at
      least a two-third majority in his favour. Some
      others in the Koirala camp have come forward with
      a suggestion that a constitutional amendment with
      the provision that a simple majority in the House
      should be able to remove the government be made
      before the hand-over of power to Prachanda.

      While all these things are yet to be settled,
      Koirala has already asked political parties to
      move forward in the spirit of consensus and
      'enforce' republicanism by the first meeting of
      the constituent assembly. He is making this
      shrewd move to appease the Maoists, and with the
      king's exit on the first day, he also hopes to be
      the first 'consensus' acting president if he is
      to make way for Prachanda as prime minister. The
      Maoists and Koirala have made several deals in
      the past, and it will not be a surprise if they
      strike one more on power-sharing.

      But the composition of the constituent assembly
      is very different from the interim parliament
      which always acted like a rubber stamp of the
      three main parties. Of the constituent assembly's
      25 parties, at least one, the Madheshi Janadhikar
      Forum (MJF), with a strength of around 50, has
      moved swiftly to put its own conditions which
      will be the basis of its extending support to the
      new government - first, Koirala should quit, and
      the new government must implement an earlier
      accord that it had signed with the MJF giving the
      entire Terai area the status of one single
      province with the right to self-determination.
      This upsets the Maoists' vision of federalism
      which is in favour of creating 11 provinces - two
      based on geographical remoteness and the rest on
      ethnicity. At the same time, both the Maoists and
      Koirala realise that neither the House procedure
      nor the process of forming the new government can
      move smoothly without MJF support. But the
      interim constitution was so short-sighted that it
      failed to foresee that any other party except the
      ruling seven would be there in the CA.

      A deal between Koirala and the Maoists may help
      the early formation of government, but it does
      not guarantee political stability in Nepal. At
      least for now, Nepal's parliament will have to
      recognise and accept the role of the opposition
      and dissent, a practice that had unfortunately
      been completely done away with in the past.



      The Guardian,
      May 2 2008


      Last weekend's carnage underlines the idiocy of
      pledges to destroy the Tamil Tigers. Peace talks
      now seem a distant hope

      by Jonathan Steele

      Time is running out for the great south Asian
      boast. By the end of this year, according to a
      new year prediction by Sri Lanka's army chief,
      Lieutenant-General Sarath Fonseka, his guerrilla
      opponents - the Tamil Tigers - would be
      "extinct". They and their demands for a homeland
      for the Tamil minority would vanish from the
      field, and after 25 years of war the island and
      its Sinhalese majority could enjoy peace again.

      An end to Sri Lanka's bloodletting is certainly
      overdue. The country has become the last sick man
      of the region. In Nepal an almost equally long
      civil war stopped 18 months ago when intelligent
      compromises produced agreement to reform the
      constitution. In Pakistan, after nearly a decade
      of army rule, elections in the winter produced a
      partial return to civilian control; the country's
      re-empowered politicians have just struck a peace
      deal with militant leaders in the fractious
      border provinces.

      Comparisons are never exact, and Sri Lanka
      differs from Nepal and Pakistan in numerous ways.
      Since gaining independence from Britain it has
      had an uninterrupted history of parliamentary
      rule. Its system of land tenure is not feudal. By
      Asian standards economic inequalities are
      relatively minor, and the benefits of decent
      healthcare have spread to every district, along
      with universal education for girls as well as

      But on the pattern of many other democracies, the
      country's elected politicians have not responded
      well to the legitimate demands of ethnic,
      religious, and regional minorities. Tamils turned
      to violence and terrorism after years of
      frustration. Many went to the extreme of
      advocating secession after becoming convinced
      that a fair share of power was unreachable in a
      unitary state.

      The current government is not the first to
      believe it could defeat the Liberation Tigers of
      Tamil Eelam (LTTE), as the Tigers are properly
      known. Earlier administrations had similar
      ambitions but eventually realised they were
      futile and ruinous. The death toll has already
      reached 70,000, a proportion of the population
      that would amount to 200,000 in Britain. No
      wonder independent observers treated Fonseka's
      victory boast with horror. No wonder, too, that
      India's embassy and western diplomats were
      appalled a few days later when Fonseka's
      political master, President Mahinda Rajapaksa,
      abrogated the internationally brokered ceasefire.
      Its Scandinavian monitors had to leave.

      The government based its military hopes on a
      serious setback for the LTTE in eastern Sri
      Lanka. Colonel Karuna Amman, the guerrillas'
      regional commander, defected to the government
      side four years ago, and his forces received
      logistical and financial support to attack their
      old colleagues. The government dumped Karuna
      after he fell out with other breakaway
      commanders, and he came to Britain on a false
      passport, for which he received a nine-month
      sentence here in January. His forces continue
      under new pro-government leadership, and with
      their help the army captured most of the LTTE's
      eastern strongholds last year.

      But the Tigers' core area is in the north.
      Efforts to break into it since January have cost
      scores of soldiers' lives and made little
      progress. Last weekend the army suffered large
      losses at Muhamalai, south of Jaffna, in the
      biggest battle for years. Journalists were barred
      from local hospitals, but the government admitted
      losing 47 men. Both sides inflate the other's
      losses and minimise their own, but some Sri
      Lankan analysts estimate that casualties on both
      sides could exceed a thousand. The government
      claims to have gained 500 yards of ground. "I
      don't think they really appreciated the tenacity
      and fighting spirit of the LTTE. The Tigers have
      proved they are no pushover," General Gerry de
      Silva, a retired army commander, told local

      Following the logic of asymmetrical warfare, the
      Tigers have responded to the offensives by
      reinforcing their old strategy of sending suicide
      bombers to kill civilians - more than 20 people
      died in an atrocity near Colombo last week. The
      Tigers have persistently used force to conscript
      children into their ranks, and evidence suggests
      this is on the increase again. On the government
      side security forces are said to be linked to the
      abduction and killing of suspected LTTE
      sympathisers. Thiagarajah Maheswaran, a Tamil MP,
      was gunned down in a Hindu temple on New Year's
      Day a few hours after announcing he would give
      parliament details of death squads. Meanwhile,
      Sri Lanka's small but vibrant group of
      independent human rights watchdogs reports a
      tightening of pressures on the media.

      Western governments and other traditional
      aid-givers have repeatedly warned Sri Lanka that
      there can be no military solution. The US
      Congress recently cut off military aid, except
      for air surveillance. The EU has to decide in a
      few months whether to renew Sri Lanka's trade
      preferences. President Rajapaksa is ignoring the
      barrage of criticism and has turned to a new
      range of allies for support, loans and weaponry.
      He has made two trips to China, and this week
      Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president, was in
      Colombo with a promise of £1,000m in soft loans
      and grants. Although the money is intended to
      help Sri Lanka expand its only oil refinery,
      develop an irrigation and hydropower project and
      buy Iranian oil, it will allow the country to
      absorb the pressure from its rising trade deficit.

      It is hard to see any chance of a shift in this
      bleak picture. Many observers believe the LTTE
      leadership has become so battle-hardened that it
      feels more comfortable with war than having to
      prepare for a reasonable discussion of
      constitutional reform. The government, for its
      part, shows no readiness to prepare the Sinhalese
      electorate for the concessions that will
      eventually have to be made. At 28% a year, Sri
      Lanka now has Asia's highest inflation. Prices of
      basics such as rice and coconut have gone up
      particularly sharply. But economic discontent has
      not turned into political pressure for an end to
      a costly war. The Sinhalese opposition is
      divided, and in no mood to press Rajapaksa with a
      demand for a return to the aborted ceasefire
      agreement and peace talks with the LTTE.

      Last weekend's losses have at least forced
      Fonseka to dilute his boasts. On Sunday a defence
      ministry statement quoted him as saying the
      battle will "take a decisive turn before the end
      of this year". That is a long way from predicting
      the Tigers' extinction in 2008. The bad news is
      that it means the government intends to stay on
      the warpath into next year, and perhaps beyond.



      Daily Times
      May 2, 2008


      by Ahmed Rashid

      The present under discussion 'Waziristan Accord'
      which is still to be agreed upon is totally
      inadequate. It was put together by the army
      before the general elections in order to give
      troops a breathing space - although that
      breathing space would also be used by the
      extremists to regroup

      The resumption of attacks by the Pakistani
      Taliban and the withdrawal of the ceasefire offer
      by Baitullah Mehsud point to an early resumption
      of severe violence in FATA and suicide bombings
      in the rest of the country. This follows several
      weeks of relative calm in the aftermath of the
      general elections, even though the extremists had
      mounted their biggest coup earlier on by
      assassinating Benazir Bhutto.

      The PPP-led coalition government at the Centre
      and the ANP government in the NWFP have both made
      it clear that they are keen to adopt a more
      comprehensive strategy towards bringing peace to
      FATA even though they face multiple pressures -
      on the one side from the army for a quick,
      localised peace accord with Mehsud to give troops
      breathing space and on the other by the US and
      NATO forces in Afghanistan, who look suspiciously
      at any accord because it will allow Pakistani
      militants to also focus on the Afghan Taliban's
      summer offensive in Afghanistan.

      What is the way out for the government and the people of FATA ?

      In the many words expressed about peace plans in
      FATA by the PPP and the ANP, one key ingredient
      has been missing. Before the elections, both
      Benazir Bhutto and Afsandyar Wali spoke
      succinctly of the need to carry out political
      reform in FATA.

      Yet today, now that they are in power the PPP and
      ANP are failing to spell out the desperately
      needed strategic vision which should provide the
      framework for all policies towards the extremists
      and the people of FATA.

      At present there is no over-arching strategic
      vision for the future of FATA being articulated
      by the ruling parties. Such a vision should be
      based on direct consultations with the people of
      FATA to bring the region into the fabric of
      Pakistan's constitution and laws, offering them
      the same political, social and educational rights
      and opportunities that are available to all

      (This would include a massive development
      programme for which the US and other Western
      states have already expressed a desire to

      Such a strategy may take several years to
      implement because it has to be done with the
      consent of the tribes in FATA - many of whom have
      to be won over first - but the building blocks
      should be set out now.

      Ultimately the people of FATA must decide through
      a referendum or any other democratic means the
      future political status for FATA. Options could
      include becoming a separate province or joining
      the NWFP.

      In the short term under the framework of future
      political reform the government can open a
      dialogue with all the tribes, Pashtun civil
      society and even the extremists.

      In other words the government talks to everyone
      under the banner, changing the rules of the game
      in FATA.

      But instead the PPP-ANP appear to be backsliding
      from their original commitments, declining to set
      out a strategic vision for FATA and instead
      getting bogged down in local negotiations with
      militant leaders.

      At the moment only the extremists have a clear,
      articulated political vision for FATA - they want
      a sharia state independent of Pakistan, where Al
      Qaeda and a whole host of other foreign groups
      can congregate and undermine the region and the
      world. No patriotic Pakistani can accept such
      terms of abject surrender.

      The present under discussion 'Waziristan Accord'
      which is still to be agreed upon is totally
      inadequate. It was put together by the army
      before the general elections in order to give
      troops breathing space - although that breathing
      space would also be used by the extremists to

      Moreover the so called Accord is almost the same
      as earlier failed accords by the Musharraf
      regime. While the militants pledge to cease
      attacks on the army and free the several hundred
      hostages - soldiers, civilians, government
      officials and the Pakistani ambassador to Kabul -
      that they are holding, the government would
      largely relinquish control of the region to the
      militants and free Taliban extremists it is
      holding. There would be no guarantees that the
      Pakistani Taliban would not join the war in

      The PPP-ANP attempts at modifying this Accord
      have largely rested on a stepped up aid and
      development agenda - good in itself, but
      insufficient to provide the impetus for political
      reform, reduce the grip of the extremists or
      provide the security needed to bring back the
      tens of thousands of FATA tribesmen now living as
      refugees in other parts of Pakistan.

      While the government tinkers with an Accord that
      is politically insufficient and militarily a
      concession, it is also creating major problems
      for itself in its relations with the US,
      Afghanistan and NATO countries who view any such
      short term approach with suspicion.

      However before a strategic plan can materialise
      there are certain realities that need to be

      Even though General Ashfaq Kayani has expressed
      his willingness and already taken several steps
      demonstrating his positive intentions to adhere
      to the wishes of the elected government, the army
      and the ISI remain the most important formulators
      and implementors of policy in FATA. It is
      impossible for the PPP-ANP coalition to come up
      with a plan that does not have army backing.

      General Kayani has also told the political
      leadership that they must take "ownership" of the
      war on extremism, but the army too has to take
      steps to help the civilian government do so. So
      far the army has shown little inclination to back
      a policy of long term political reform in FATA.
      It has tinkered on the edges of reform with
      disastrous results.

      For example since 2004 the army broke down the
      Political Agent system replacing it with military
      officers, then relented and has tried to
      re-establish the former system. There is talk of
      improving upon the draconian FCR - Frontier
      Crimes Regulation - which in fact needs to be
      done away with altogether.

      The army needs to take three strategic decisions
      before it can deal with the problems of FATA -
      much in the same way the army did after the
      Kargil war after which President Musharraf
      decided to open talks with India on Kashmir.

      The first strategic decision pertains to the need
      for the military to wrap up the Afghan Taliban
      leadership who continue to enjoy sanctuary,
      re-supply, recruits and patronage from elements
      within Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban are playing a
      leading role in guiding the Pakistani Taliban in
      FATA. Since 2004 every one of the accords the
      army has struck with the Pakistani Taliban has
      been a result of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed
      Omar sending envoys to FATA to negotiate with the
      military - side by side with the Pakistani
      Taliban leaders.

      As long as sections of the establishment believe
      that there are good Taliban and bad Taliban,
      extremism will flourish in FATA and spread to
      other parts of NWFP.

      The second strategic necessity is to understand
      that there can be no peaceful solution in FATA
      unless it is linked to a similar process in the
      Afghan provinces across the border. The tribes
      have been one and the same for centuries and they
      ignore the border.

      President Hamid Karzai is also trying,
      unsuccessfully, to woo the Afghan Taliban, just
      as the PPP-ANP would like to do. But these two
      processes have to be one joint effort. Social and
      development programmes to FATA have to be linked
      to similar programmes on the other side. This
      obviously requires a far more improved
      relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan
      than has existed since 2001.

      The civilian government is clearly determined to
      strike a more harmonious relationship with Kabul,
      but the army needs to give it public backing and
      express a willingness to deal with the Pashtun
      tribes of Pakistan and Afghanistan in a common
      fashion. The Afghan side must reciprocate by
      starting a serious debate about and ultimately
      recognising the border and the Durand Line.

      The third strategic decision relates to the need
      for the army to publicly support major political
      reform in FATA and to help the PPP-ANP protect
      emerging civil society in FATA thereby allowing a
      strong anti-Taliban and anti-extremist ethos to
      emerge among the Pashtun tribes.

      Since the first military action in 2004, the army
      has failed to protect tens of thousands of FATA
      residents who have fled to other parts of
      Pakistan as refugees rather than accept Taliban
      rule. The Pakistani Taliban have killed hundreds
      of tribal maliks and members of civil society in
      FATA such as journalists, educators, doctors and
      businessmen - all charged with allegedly spying
      for the US but in reality the victims of Taliban
      ethnic cleansing to clear the region of all those
      Pashtuns who do not support the Taliban ideology.

      The army must help these people return home and
      protect them while the government provides the
      social and economic backup for them to prosper.
      Only then can the state hope to develop a serious
      Pashtun lobby in FATA for progressive political

      These substantive issues are what the PPP-ANP
      alliance should be discussing and engaging with
      the army rather than trying to come up with a
      plan that abandons long term political reform in
      favour of short term quick fixes which will
      collapse within weeks.

      Likewise the Bush administration with its
      terrible penchant for military solutions needs to
      be persuaded to be patient and prepare itself for
      a more long term solution that will make its
      offer of US $750 million over five years in
      development aid for FATA, far more meaningful.

      Similarly the madrassa culture in FATA needs to
      be countered by a massive educational and
      literacy program which the ANP government is best
      placed to carry out.

      At present the government is caught in the
      conundrum of appearing to be soft on terrorism
      because it is advocating a dialogue with the
      terrorists. What it should be saying is that it
      is trying to establish a strategic political
      vision for FATA that is comprehensive and far
      reaching and will eventually give the people of
      FATA the same rights as all Pakistanis.

      Ahmed Rashid is the author of Taliban: Militant
      Islam, Oil, and Fundamentalism in Central Asia
      and Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central



      15 April 2008


      by Rajindar Sachar

      The Constitution Bench Judgment on
      upholding reservation in Higher Educational
      Institutions has come on expected lines, in the
      light of Judgment in Indira Sawhney case (1992).
      Though 27% quota for OBC was loosely challenged,
      but this plea was an empty one because latest
      Govt. of India National Sample Survey data (2004
      - 05) shows 41% and 43% constitute OBC amongst
      Muslims and Hindus respectively.

      Of course everybody knew that the real
      issue was " would court accept govt's partisan
      approach (no doubt influenced by higher echelons
      of OBC political leadership) that the principle
      of creamy layer amongst OBC should be dispensed
      with - The court has given short shrift by
      holding "Thus, any executive or legislative
      action refusing to exclude the creamy layer from
      the benefits of reservation will be violative of
      Articles 14 and 16(1) and also of Article 16(4)".

      It is unfortunate that because of partisan
      politics some are still unwilling to accept this
      equitable decision and thus put in jeopardy the
      implementation of this overdue measure for poor
      segments of OBC. As it is, the partisan approach
      of higher segments of OBC has already done
      considerable damage to SC/ST students. This is
      shown by the fact of how all the parties indulged
      in conspiracy of silence with regard to the
      benefit that was to accrue to SC/ST under this
      very govt. circular from last year.

      It may be noted that though the Supreme
      Court had given interim stay regarding OBC
      admission, there was no stay regarding SC/ST
      quota, which could have been filled up but no one
      spoke about it and it has unnecessarily gone
      waste for last year. This indifference to SC/ST
      quota exposes the hypocrisy of many politicians
      that when they are talking of uplifting the poor,
      it is the caste angle which has primacy. It
      should be noted that the extra seats created for
      2007-08 were 12216 of which 9468 were for the
      OBCs 1832 for SCs and 916 for the STs. Thus it
      was possible for the Govt. to fill up the quota
      for SC/ST (a total of 2748 seats). Management of
      Institution had no objection because they had
      already made arrangement for filling up 12216

      But surprisingly no effort was made to fill
      up SC/ST quota last year. This anomaly was felt
      very strongly by Peoples Union for Civil
      Liberties (PUCL) which by its letter of May 4,
      2007 brought this fact to the notice of prime
      Minister, Mr. Arjun singh, and others including
      Ms. Mayawati, the Chief Minster of U.P.,
      expressing its anxiety and surprise that so far
      the Government had not taken any steps to fill up
      the seats reserved for SCs and STs when there was
      no restraint against them. Unfortunately for
      reasons not clear no steps were taken - the
      result SC/ST lost last year's quota.

      Again from the current press reports it
      appears that some political groups are trying to
      find ways how creamy layer can be included in
      the quota (a useless exercise in view of
      judgment). Again no attention is being paid in
      this process for the enrolment of SC/ST which is
      permissible - why has the government not asked
      the institutions to go ahead with their
      admissions - whatever the angulanties, regarding
      OBC can be worked out but why should SC/ST be
      denied admissions in higher institution again for
      the second year. Why must partisan politics
      always override equity and fairness to the most
      neglected. Is it because political leadership is
      under pressure from the creamy layer of OBC not
      to let SC/ST take benefits if the same are not at
      the same time available to OBC is this social
      justice - is it not pandering to
      caste politics and vote
      gathering mechanism. But why SC leadership is not
      exposing this game - even Mayawati is playing
      cool on this.

      I feel that nervousness on the question
      whether if OBC is graduate, but economically
      below the guidelines of 2004 (updated to the
      present inflation index) he will not be eligible
      for admission in OBC quota is misplaced. Creamy
      Layer touchstone is not only at the educational
      level but also at economic level. Thus it would
      be unacceptable and unjust if a conscientious
      hardworking OBC poor was to pass graduation by
      studying even under street lights (instances have
      actually happened) he should be deprived of the
      benefit of reservation even when his family
      income is below the limit. As Court has said
      about the exclusion of creamy layer "one of the
      main criteria for determining the socially and
      educationally backward class is poverty", and
      that "Creamy Layer has no place in the
      reservation system".

      I feel prima facie family income level of
      2.5 lakh per year fixed in 2004 (updated by
      inflation index) can be the upper most limit for
      being retained in non creamy layer. To call it
      inadequate would be a mockery considering that
      statistics show that of OBC Muslims (82%) and
      Hindus (80%) are below a per capita consumption
      of Rs. 20 per day - as it is even national
      average of poor whose per capita consumption per
      day is Rs. 20 constitute about 77% of total

      The Court has also given direction that '
      there must be periodic review as to the
      desirability of continuing with the reservation,
      and suggesting possibly five or ten years'. With
      respect it seems to me that this direction is
      hasty, considering that the directive of Article
      45 of the Constitution (now made a Fundamental
      Right) that the State shall provide free and
      compulsory education until the age of 14 years
      remains woefully a distant dream, coupled with
      the fact that according to Census of 2001,
      national literacy (which in reality only means
      writing your name) is 65%.

      Bhandari J. suggestion that legislators
      should be outside the ambit of reservation is
      sound both in principle and equity. Legislators
      who proclaim their first loyalty to the common
      man must show their genuineness by making this
      voluntary gesture - as it is they are certainly
      for above the limit of social/economic

      Another fear expressed is that if creamy
      layer is excluded the quota for OBC will remain
      unfilled. I would therefore suggest that if after
      filling up from non creamy OBC, any seats are
      left out, they should be filled up from
      economically weak and backward non creamy segment
      of non OBC. If still quota remains unfilled,
      those vacancies could be filled up by creamy
      layer of OBC, but not otherwise.

      The Court has rightly not given any
      direction regarding Minority Institutions. But
      does not equity demand that these institution on
      their own provide proportionate quota for non
      creamy OBC amongst its own Minority on the same
      terms as for non Minority institutions.

      New Delhi



      [snip . . . already on FOIL]



      Press Release

      29th April 2008


      More than a thousand people from people's
      movements from across the country have come
      together under the banner of Sangharsh. A three
      day agitation and dharna in front of the Indian
      Parliament in New Delhi's Jantar Mantar was
      started on 28th April 2008.

      A Jan Sansad (People's Parliament) was organised
      today on issues of Displacement, Land Acquisition
      and R&R. People's voices on these issues have so
      far remained on the margins of electoral
      politics. A much needed platform for dialogue and
      engagement between people and their elected
      representatives was presented today.

      More than 45 organisations and movement groups
      who have either faced displacement or are
      resisting it, gave testimonies on their
      struggles, state repression and their vision and
      perspectives of development without displacement.
      While people affected by dams built as many as
      100 years ago are still without rehabilitation,
      thousands more are being displaced in the name of
      SEZs, mining, water and power projects, forest
      reserves and so on. Presentations from Jharkhand,
      Chhattisgarh and Orissa presented cases of
      unprecedented loot through diversion of Adivasi
      land and minerals. The stories from slums and the
      so called unauthorised colonies in Delhi, Mumbai
      and other cities makes it clear that for the
      urban poor, labourers, hawkers and small
      retailers it is not 'urban renewal' but 'urban

      The Central Government has brought forth two
      Bills-The Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2007
      and the Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill,
      2007, purportedly to strike a balance between the
      need for land for development and protecting the
      interests of the persons from whom land is
      statutorily acquired. Both the Bills will have
      far reaching impact if enacted. In effect, these
      Bills sanction displacement and plunder of land
      and other natural resources from the people for
      the profit of corporations and private investors.
      The Land Acquisition Bill allows land to be
      forcefully acquired in favour of private
      companies sneaking private purpose into the
      definition of "public purpose". It is more
      regressive and anti-people than even the original
      colonial Act! The government pays mere lip
      service to protecting the rights of those whose
      lands are acquired. The R&R Bill does not even
      guarantee basics like land for land and
      alternative livelihood based rehabilitation. The
      issue of urban displacement has been completely
      sidestepped yet again.

      People unequivocally opposed development policies
      which take displacement as an inevitable
      eventuality. One demand has emerged from the
      people's struggles across the country - a
      decentralised development planning process which
      ensures 'development' that is truly people
      centric and bases itself firmly on the principles
      of democracy, social justice and equity. Concerns
      regarding development planning, land acquisition
      and resettlement and rehabilitation are
      intrinsically linked with one another and cannot
      be addressed in isolation. In fact a draft of a
      'Comprehensive Legislation on Development
      Planning, No Forced Displacement, and Just
      Rehabilitation' has been prepared based on
      Article 243, and the 73rd and 74th Constitutional
      Amendments. In the true spirit of democracy, gram
      sabhas and municipalities are proposed to be
      empowered with the right to formulate district
      and metropolitan level development plans.

      Raising their voices against the Special Economic
      Zone Act 2005, the people's movements demanded
      that governments and different political parties
      should stop behaving like brokers of corporations
      and big companies. The groups and activists also
      demanded withdrawal of the proposed Coastal Zone
      Management (CZM) plan and Special Tourism Zone
      (STZ) projects.

      "In an election year Congress and UPA will do
      well if they side with the people and not the
      corporate land grabbers. The Indian masses will
      not tolerate a government that has sold India to
      private companies and corporates in the form of
      SEZs, urban renewal and industrialisation", said
      Gautam Bandhopadhyay of Nadi Ghati Morcha. "The
      government is selling off water, forests and
      other natural resources. People have been treated
      as oustees and displaced. We will not tolerate
      the denial of our rights anymore; we will not
      allow another inch of land to be snatched from
      us", said Vimal Bhai of Matu Jan Sangathan.

      On Behalf of Sangharsh

      Rajendra Ravi Madhuresh
      Kumar Mukta Srivastava



      Press Release: [May 1, 2008, Lahore ]

      Student Action Committee

      In light of the fact that the issue of the
      restoration of the judiciary once again lies in
      peril, and with the 30 day countdown finally
      coming to an end. The students organized a rally
      that proceeded from Fast University to the PPP
      Secretariat. The protest brought together the
      students once more to send the message that the
      youth of the country are still active and will
      not sit idly by. The slogans chanted were
      pro-judiciary and anti-musharraf. A new variety
      of slogans from pre-election days were directed
      at zardari saying be loyal to us [the people]
      zardari, do not betray us (ker hum se wafadari,
      zardari zardai; na ker tu hum se ghuddary,
      zardari zardari) and musharraf-zardari alliance
      is not acceptable (musharraf zardari ittehad, na
      manzoor na manzoor).

      The message was loud and clear, as
      repeated over and over by the various speakers.
      "You the politicians are the representatives of
      the people, you are answerable to us. We have
      elected you. You have come on our mandate, and
      you must stick to the task entrusted on you. We,
      the people, elected you to restore our judiciary.
      A restoration that comes with no strings
      attached. A minus one formula or the reduction of
      judicial tenures; no such side policies will be
      appreciated and will be tantamount to a betrayal
      of the public's trust."

      The students made a human chain
      around the intersection along the rally's way,
      followed by a picket line around the PPP
      secretariat. The rally lasted for about an hour
      and a half, with the students peacefully
      dispersing as has become the tradition of these
      student-led protests.


      Buzz for secularism, on the dangers of fundamentalism(s), on
      matters of peace and democratisation in South
      Asia<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
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