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SACW | June 17-18, 2008 / Frontier Mullah / original Hindu Rashtra / Godmen and Politics; Insult to Injury (Dilip Simeon); Death Penalty

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | June 17-18 , 2008 | Dispatch No. 2526 - Year 10 running [1] The Sri Lankan Conflict: A Multi-Polar Approach (Asoka Bandarage) [2]
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 17, 2008
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      South Asia Citizens Wire | June 17-18 , 2008 |
      Dispatch No. 2526 - Year 10 running

      [1] The Sri Lankan Conflict: A Multi-Polar Approach (Asoka Bandarage)
      [2] Pakistan: The Long Life of the Frontier Mullah (Basharat Peer)
      [3] Nepal: The original Hindu Rashtra (Ramachandra Guha)
      [4] India: Godmen and God should be kept out of
      our politics (Jyotirmaya Sharma)
      [5] India: Insult to Injury (Dilip Simeon)
      [6] Death Penalty:
      (i) Letter to Pakistan's Prime Minister to Abolish the Death Penalty
      (ii) India: Deadly gamble (V. Venkatesan)



      The Harvard International Review
      June 15, 2008


      by Asoka Bandarage

      Asoka Bandarage is currently a professor at
      Georgetown University . She has taught at Yale,
      Brandeis and Mount Holyoke, and is the author of
      Colonialism in Sri Lanka, Women, Population and
      Global Crisis and publications on South Asia,
      global political economy, ethnicity, gender and
      population. This article is derived from her
      forthcoming book, The Separatist Conflict in Sri
      Lanka: Broadening the Discourse ( Routledge).

      Narrow interpretations of cultural identity and
      models of conflict resolution built on ethnic
      dualism contribute to ethnic polarization and
      inhibit sustainable peace. To improve both the
      analysis and processes of conflict resolution, it
      is necessary to move beyond the bipolar ethnic
      model and explore the multi-polar nature of

      The conflict between the Sri Lankan government
      and the secessionist Liberation Tigers of Tamil
      Eelam (LTTE) is commonly identified as a
      primordial ethnic conflict between the Sinhala
      majority and the Tamil minority. But, much of the
      long pre-colonial history of Sri Lanka was
      characterized by ethno-religious pluralism and
      co-existence over antagonism and conflict. There
      has been tremendous inter-mixture between Sinhala
      and Tamil populations as well as the Muslims who
      are considered an ethno-religious group in Sri

      The dominant Sinhala vs. Tamil dualism projects
      Tamils and Sinhalese as two homogeneous
      categories overlooking the intra-ethnic conflicts
      and killings within the Tamil and the Sinhalese
      communities. It is believed that the Tamil Tigers
      have killed more Tamils than the Sri Lankan armed
      forces, especially given the fratricidal wars
      among Tamil militant groups since 1985. Likewise,
      the Sri Lankan security forces had killed more
      Sinhalese than Tamils by the end of the 1980s,
      particularly when it suppressed the JVP (Jantha
      Vimukthi Peramuna- People's Liberation Front)
      insurgency that arose against the 1987 Indo-Lanka
      Peace Accord, which was introduced to resolve the
      Tamil separatist conflict.

      On the Tamil side, it is the 'partial and often
      partisan view' of the northern, especially Jaffna
      peninsula Tamils, that is often identified as the
      Sri Lankan Tamil perspective. This is largely due
      to the fact that the Tamil Diaspora in the west
      is drawn largely from that conflict-ridden region
      of the island. The Diaspora influence has
      prevented the international community from
      understanding 'the diversities and intricacies'
      within Tamil communities. Moreover, the Tamil
      Tigers who claim to be the 'sole representative
      of Tamils' have turned Sri Lankan Tamils, on the
      island and in the Diaspora, into a 'silent
      majority,' presenting the LTTE position as the
      only Tamil perspective.

      Electoral politics has contributed to a vibrant
      multi-party democracy among the Sinhalese, but
      the entrenched party rivalry especially between
      the two major political parties, UNP (United
      National Party) and the SLFP (Sri Lanka Freedom
      Party), has undermined a unified approach to
      eradicating terrorism and a political solution to
      the separatist conflict. The Muslims are
      generally left out of the dominant discourse on
      the Sri Lankan separatist conflict, yet they are
      a distinct island-wide community and the largest
      group in the Eastern Province claimed by the
      secessionists as part of its fictitious
      'traditional Tamil homeland'. Like the Sinhalese
      and the Tamils, they too have significant
      regional and class differences.

      A protest by Tamil children against the Sri
      Lankan government. Photo courtesy of
      A protest by Tamil children against the Sri
      Lankan government. Photo courtesy of

      Origins of the Conflict

      The dominant ethnically based approaches portray
      the Sri Lankan conflict as a purely domestic
      conflict when in fact, it has been a regional
      South Asian conflict from the very beginning.
      After India adopted the draconian
      anti-secessionist amendment to its constitution
      in 1963, the South Indian Dravidasthan
      secessionist movement was halted, but, South
      Indian support for a "surrogate" Tamil state in
      the north and east of Sri Lanka expanded. All Sri
      Lankan moderate and militant separatist groups,
      including the LTTE, were nurtured and protected
      by Tamil Nadu political parties. The LTTE's
      assassination of former Indian Prime Minister
      Rajiv Gandhi in Tamil Nadu in 1991 alone shows
      that the 'Sri Lankan' separatist conflict is a
      regional one. Even today, the manifesto of the
      MDMK (Marumarchi Dravida Munnetra Khazagham) in
      Tamil Nadu calls for autonomy for regional states
      in India and establishment of Tamil Eelam in Sri

      The fault lines between the Sinhala and Tamil
      communities that show up in the modern Sri Lankan
      conflict were drawn during the period of British
      colonialism from1815 to1948. The island's
      conflict, like many other 'ethnic' conflicts
      around the world, emerged with democratization
      and the shift of power from privileged
      minorities, such as the Sri Lankan Tamils to the
      Sinhala Buddhist majority who had been
      marginalized under colonial rule.

      Today, the Sri Lankan conflict has become an
      international conflict with serious implications
      for peace and security across the world. Over the
      course of the Sri Lankan secessionist war, the
      LTTE-banned in the United States, Canada, United
      Kingdom, the EU, India, and Malaysia -has emerged
      as -the proto-type of global terrorism. According
      to the FBI, LTTE's ruthless tactics have
      'inspired terrorist networks worldwide including
      Al Qaeda in Iraq'. The LTTE 'perfected the use of
      suicide bombers; invented the suicide belt;
      pioneered the use of women in suicide attacks'.
      It is also the first militant group to acquire
      air power.

      Notwithstanding its multiplicity of intra-ethnic,
      regional, and international dimensions, the Sri
      Lankan conflict continues to be characterized as
      a primordial Sinhala vs. Tamil conflict and a
      domestic phenomenon. The failure to grapple with
      the multi-polar reality has in turn contributed
      to the failure of peace initiatives, especially
      the 2002 ceasefire agreement facilitated by

      The 2002 Ceasefire Agreement

      The 2002 ceasefire agreement (CFA) upheld the
      dualistic characterization of the Sri Lankan
      conflict by recognizing only the government of
      Sri Lanka and the LTTE as the two parties to the
      conflict. Bypassing elected members of Parliament
      representing non-LTTE Tamil interests and
      choosing to negotiate with the unelected LTTE,
      the Agreement accepted the LTTE as 'the sole
      representative of Tamils' elevating the
      internationally banned terrorist organization, to
      an equivalent status with the democratically
      elected Sri Lankan government. The Agreement did
      not require LTTE cadres to be disarmed. Rather,
      it dictated terms to weaken the armed forces of
      the government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and strengthen
      LTTE military capability by requiring the GOSL to
      disarm non-LTTE Tamil paramilitary groups and to
      offer to integrate those cadres within the GOSL
      armed forces 'for service away from the Northern
      and Eastern Province'. The CFA did not ban child
      soldiering and forcible recruitment and child
      recruitment, routine practices of the LTTE, and
      it failed to specify mechanisms to monitor and
      enforce other serious human rights violations or
      to uphold pluralism and democracy.

      Other terms of the Agreement further advanced the
      separatist ambitions of the LTTE. By accepting
      those terms the government of Sri Lanka acceded
      to the LTTE's right to control land areas it had
      usurped in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and
      a formal partition of the country under the
      supervision of the Scandinavian-led Sri Lanka
      Monitoring Mission (SLMM). Notwithstanding
      implications for democracy and peaceful conflict
      resolution, there was massive support for the CFA
      from the 'international community' and the local
      peace lobby, which dubbed it as the 'best chance
      to establish peace'.

      For those opposed to separatism and the LTTE,
      however, the CFA symbolized appeasement, if not
      outright capitulation, to terrorism. Norway, the
      facilitator of the peace process, and the
      Scandinavian countries that provided the members
      to the SLMM were the final arbiters and
      supervisors of the implementation of the
      Agreement. Although this placed Norway in the
      dominant position, Norway and the Nordic SLMM
      were severely constrained by the CFA's
      capitulation to terms laid down by the LTTE. For
      example, according to the CFA, the SLMM, which
      established its headquarters in Colombo and local
      monitoring committees in all other districts of
      the north and the east, was excluded from
      Killinochi and Mullativu, the LTTE strongholds
      where the Tamil Tigers were allowed to do as they
      pleased without any kind of monitoring. Given the
      LTTE's insistence that the proscription prevented
      it from being 'an equal and legitimate party to
      engage in peace talks with the government,' the
      Sri Lankan government lifted the proscription on
      the LTTE, paving the way for negotiations. There
      was tremendous local opposition against this move
      since the LTTE had neither disavowed separatism
      nor were disarmed.

      During the 2002-2003 negotiations, the GOSL and
      the LTTE held six highly publicized rounds of
      talks, but, the LTTE refused to deal with the
      core issue- specifically, the nature of the
      administration for the north and the east-at any
      of these sessions. The situation on the ground
      became more confused, and there was little hope
      for long-term peace among those directly affected
      by the conflict. Marginalization by the peace
      process and fear of living under a terrorist LTTE
      regime radicalized many young Muslims, who began
      to demand a separate Muslim region in the
      southeast. On January 29, 2003, students of the
      South Eastern University put forward a separatist
      Muslim platform- the Oluvil Declaration. Echoing
      the landmark 1976 Tamil separatist declaration,
      the Vaddukodai Resolution, it asserted that
      Muslims are a separate nation with claims to a
      'traditional homeland', self-determination, and
      political autonomy apart from both Tamil and
      Sinhala domination.

      The peace process was not broadened in response
      to the concerns of Muslims or different Tamil and
      Sinhala groups. Thus, the internationally driven
      bipolar conflict resolution model intensified the
      specter of a future globalized war between the
      LTTE and the Muslims and ethnic balkanization of
      the east. Low caste Dalits who constitute a major
      portion of the LTTE cadres also felt marginalized
      by the peace process. As a Sri Lankan Tamil Dalit
      leader wrote, 'A problem that that has been
      awaiting a resolution for decades was simply
      glossed over as if it did not even exist.' The
      limitations of the bipolar model of conflict
      analysis and resolution became most apparent when
      the LTTE split into two in March 2004. The
      Northern/Wanni wing led by Prabhakaran moved
      against the renegade LTTE Commander in the East,
      Karuna and some 7,500 of his cadres, in violation
      of the CFA. Karuna's challenge to Prabhakaran's
      authority was more than a personal matter. It was
      driven by more deeply rooted historical,
      cultural, and regional differences and
      political-economic inequities between the Tamils
      of the north and the east. In defecting from the
      LTTE, Karuna invoked the resentment of eastern
      Tamils toward the northern Tamils who had long
      dominated over them and spoken for them. The LTTE
      split exposed the shortcomings of the bipolar
      conflict resolution model, which overlooked
      intra-ethnic, regional, and cultural differences
      within and across the linguistic divide. The
      ground situation in the north and the east,
      became rife with internal LTTE feuding and LTTE
      intra-ethnic killing.

      Notwithstanding its professed role as protector
      of Tamils, the LTTE continued to oppress Tamil
      people, using the legitimacy given by the CFA as
      their 'sole representative'. According to SLMM
      statistics, the LTTE has been responsible for a
      disproportionately large number of the CFA
      violations and human rights abuses. Between
      February 2002 and April 2007, for example, the
      LTTE was responsible for 3,830 and the GOSL for
      351 out of all violations ruled and reported by
      the SLMM. Of these, LTTE was responsible
      overwhelmingly for human rights violations
      including child recruitment, torture, forced
      recruitment of adults, and assassinations.

      UNICEF, Human Rights Watch, Child Soldiers Global
      Report, and the local human rights group
      University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna)
      UTHR reported that the CFA led to an increase in
      one of the worst aspects of the 21-year
      separatist conflict-the forcible recruitment of
      children, some as young as ten or eleven years of

      Just as UNICEF was relatively ineffectual in
      stopping LTTE's recruitment of children, the SLMM
      was ineffectual in controlling Sinhala-Tamil as
      well as Tamil-Muslim clashes which flared up in
      the east in the aftermath of the signing of the
      CFA. More than 200 politicians from rival Tamil
      parties were reportedly killed between the
      signing of the CFA in 2002 and mid-January 2006.
      A number of Tamil media personnel who did not
      completely toe the LTTE line were also believed
      to have been eliminated by the LTTE. Providing
      long lists of names of Tamil opponents
      systematically eliminated by the LTTE, UTHR
      blamed civil society activists, the international
      community, and the Sri Lankan government for the
      'manipulative', 'unprincipled,' and costly
      approach to peace which yielded 'Dividends of
      Terror' rather than peace.

      Norway, the facilitator of the peace process, and
      the Scandinavian peace monitors, the SLMM, came
      under even more criticism from Tamil dissidents,
      Sinhala and Muslim nationalists, and some
      international human rights and anti-terrorist
      groups. Norway has played and continues to play
      multiple and conflicting roles in Sri Lanka as
      peace facilitator, leader of the SLMM, and
      leading aid and loan provider. As Human Rights
      Watch observed in August 2003, 'The SLMM appears
      to lack both sufficient political distance from
      the negotiating process and a genuine capacity to
      investigate these [human rights] incidents. As a
      Norwegian-led initiative, the monitoring effort
      is too closely tied to the politics of the peace

      Although Norwegian peace 'facilitation' in Sri
      Lanka continued to be viewed positively in the
      international media and by LTTE supporters, there
      was growing frustration and anger in Sri Lanka.
      Norway was seen as a new colonial ruler and a
      supporter of LTTE separatist terrorism. The
      Patriotic National Movement, which emerged in
      February 2004 with the objective of protecting
      Sri Lanka's sovereignty and territorial
      integrity, called for the expulsion of Norwegian
      facilitators from Sri Lanka. One rally drew over
      50,000 people, considered to be the largest
      protest in Sri Lankan history. Frustrated by
      Norwegian disregard for LTTE atrocities, Tamil
      dissident groups frequently protested outside the
      Norwegian embassy in Colombo, bringing coffins of
      their politicians said to have been murdered by
      the LTTE.

      During the course of the ceasefire, the LTTE was
      able to strengthen itself financially and
      militarily. By 2007, it was raising an estimated
      US$ 200 to 300 million a year through its licit
      and illicit businesses and fronts globally. The
      financial largess allowed the LTTE to purchase
      advanced weaponry for its military struggle and
      to pursue a sophisticated propaganda campaign on
      electronic, print, and other media and try to
      portray itself ' as a genuine national
      liberation' movement despite its continued
      terrorist activities. Indeed, the bipolar
      conflict model which identifies Tamil interests
      and LTTE interests as one is at least partly to
      blame for this situation.

      Federalism: The Magic Solution?

      According to Sri Lankan government estimates,
      Sinhalese were 75 percent, Sri Lankan Tamils were
      11.9 percent, Indian or hill country Tamils 4.6
      percent, and Muslims (Moors and Malays) were 8.2
      percent of the island's total population in 2001.
      According to other estimates, the percentage of
      Sri Lankan Tamils is less or the same as for the
      Muslims, i.e. 8 percent of the total population.
      The proportions of the two communities -Sri
      Lankan Tamil and Muslim- will keep decreasing and
      increasing if present trends continue. The
      emigration of people from the north and the east
      has steadily increased due to the war and LTTE
      terrorism. The majority of Tamils in Sri Lanka
      live amidst the Sinhalese and the Muslims in the
      multicultural southern areas of the island. In
      other words, the Tamil community now is more an
      island-wide rather than a regional minority.
      These demographic and multicultural realities
      undermine the separatist argument that an
      exclusive Tamil northeastern region is required
      for the Tamils to live in safety apart from the

      Some 800,000, that is, more than 25 percent, of
      Sri Lankan Tamils are now part of the Diaspora.
      Toronto is believed to be the largest Sri Lankan
      Tamil city in the world. Much of the financial
      (about 90 percent) and ideological support for
      the LTTE comes from the Tamil Diaspora elite and
      the worldwide Tamil community, making the Sri
      Lankan separatist struggle a transnational
      phenomenon increasingly removed from domestic
      realities. The 're-drawing of the ethnic map of
      Sri Lanka' calls into question the justice of
      granting one-third of the island exclusively to
      the small population of Sri Lankan Tamils,
      especially when increasing numbers of them are no
      longer living in the areas erroneously claimed as
      the 'traditional Tamil homelands'.

      For most of the long history of the island,
      tolerance and mutual coexistence have been the
      predominant characteristics of inter-group
      relations, not enmity and conflict. During the
      course of the war, two broad patterns of ethnic
      relations have emerged: a mono-ethnic policy in
      the north and ethnic pluralism in the south. Some
      100,000 Muslims and a smaller number of Sinhalese
      were driven out of the Northern Province by the
      LTTE's ethnic-cleansing campaign, making it
      imperative that any solution to the separatist
      conflict take into account Muslim and Sinhala
      rights to the north and the east and their
      opposition to Tamil regional autonomy. are .
      Despite the most gruesome LTTE massacres of
      Sinhala and Muslim civilians in the Eastern
      Province, it has maintained its
      multiethnic-Muslim, Tamil, and Sinhala-character,
      but, given historical settlement patterns that
      enhance mutual coexistence, attempts to
      artificially carve out exclusive ethnic enclaves
      by Tamil or Muslim separatists could lead to
      greater upheaval and suffering.

      Given the dominant Sinhala vs. Tamil dualism, few
      studies have explored the common
      political-economic issues facing youth across the
      different communities. While 'ethnic tensions'
      exist, they have been 'exacerbated by the ongoing
      conflict'. As one study noted, Tamil and
      Sinhalese youth have 'similar major concerns and
      'reducing the potential of violent conflict to
      ethnic discrimination belies the complexities of
      social discrimination and the very real lack of
      adequate employment and livelihoods of youth
      both'. Indeed, the broadening of the global
      discourse on conflict requires moving beyond
      ethnic dualism and cultural identity to
      considering socio-economic inequities at the
      local, regional and international levels as well
      as the patterns of pluralism and coexistence and
      the changing ethnic distribution on the island.

      A sustainable solution to the Sri Lankan conflict
      'must take into account issues of poverty and
      property rather than seek to extend the interests
      of international corporations'. Indeed,
      decentralization of power needs to be carried in
      a way that allows local people-Sinhalese, Tamils
      and Muslims-greater control over regional
      resources and decisions over governance. The
      creation of separate ethno-nationalist regions is
      not a panacea. A policy that only breaks up the
      unitary, centralized Sri Lankan state through a
      form of federalism and grants Tamil regional
      autonomy is unlikely to address these fundamental
      issues of economic democracy and political
      participation that are important to all Sri
      Lankans, not just a single ethnic group.



      The Nation,
      30 June 2008


      by Basharat Peer (11 June 2008)

      (Basharat Peer's memoir of the Kashmir conflict,
      Curfewed Night, will be published by Scribner in
      the United States next year. He is an assistant
      editor at Foreign Affairs)

      Late one evening in March, I sat in Haandi, a
      Pakistani restaurant on Lexington Avenue, and
      watched the swearing in of the new Prime Minister
      of Pakistan, Yousaf Raza Gillani. Gillani is a
      loyalist of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP),
      which since its founding in 1967 has been led by
      the Bhutto clan.

      The general election in February was held seven
      weeks after the PPP's chair, Benazir Bhutto, was
      killed by a bomb blast and a bullet to the head
      at an election rally in Rawalpindi, and in an
      acrid climate of grief, anger and bewilderment,
      the PPP ended up trouncing President Pervez
      Musharraf's Pakistan Muslim League. A television
      suspended from the ceiling at Haandi showed
      Pakistan's new prime minister discussing the
      restoration of democratic institutions and then
      announcing the release of the sixty-two judges,
      including Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad
      Chaudhry, who had been living under house arrest
      since President Musharraf imposed martial law on
      November 3. Soon after Gillani's announcement,
      the television showed Chaudhry on the balcony of
      his house in Islamabad, Pakistan's capital.
      Crowds of supporters danced about and showered
      him with rose petals.

      The news anchor then claimed a scoop, as one of
      the network's reporters thrust a cellphone into
      Chaudhry's face. The chief justice spoke into it,
      and his words reached me and the dozen or so
      Pakistani cabdrivers staring at a television in a
      restaurant in New York City. "There is still a
      long struggle ahead of us," he said. Three men at
      my table broke into a spontaneous discussion. The
      newscast's images of reform and hope reminded
      them of their country's failures: a feudal social
      system, the rule of the landlords, nearly four
      decades of military rule, widespread inequality.
      These were men who worked twelve-hour shifts in
      their rented cabs and had for years lived apart
      from their families in Pakistan, to whom they
      regularly remitted their meager savings. One man
      talked about the tragedy of the partition of
      British India into India and Pakistan. Another
      compared prepartition India to a neighborhood:
      the country had been a cluster of houses owned by
      people who were related, often sons of the same
      father. They argued and fought, but at the end of
      the day they lived together as part of a larger
      whole. "We didn't even maintain the house we
      got," the man said.

      The rooms long thought to be Pakistan's messiest
      are the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and
      Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which
      hug 500 miles of the country's mountainous and
      dangerous border with Afghanistan. Six years ago,
      the mullahs of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA),
      an alliance of six Islamist parties, were elected
      in the NWFP during the wave of anti-Americanism
      that swelled up after the US invasion of
      Afghanistan. Yet in the recent elections there,
      the MMA was defeated by the Awami National Party
      (ANP), a secular Pashtun nationalist party
      established in 1986 after the merger of a few
      left-leaning parties. The ANP is led by Asfandyar
      Wali Khan, the grandson of Abdul Ghaffar Khan,
      the foremost twentieth-century leader of the
      Pashtuns, who was known as Frontier Gandhi and
      had opposed the partition of British India. The
      MMA's re-election bid faltered because the party
      had failed to provide even the most rudimentary
      government services to the impoverished people of
      the frontier region, an area scarred by the
      brutal insurgency and counterinsurgency warfare
      being waged by the Taliban and other Islamist
      militants who control the area and Pakistani
      soldiers supported by US forces. The MMA's defeat
      has been celebrated as one of Pakistan's most
      dramatic and positive developments.

      The "war on terror" has made the borderlands a
      newsworthy topic, yet accounts of the daily
      struggles, aspirations and challenges of the
      region's population are rare. American coverage
      of the recent elections there spotlighted the
      ANP's victory as a rejection of Islamist parties
      and marginalized the issues that dominated the
      campaign: reducing the presence of the Pakistani
      military, lowering civilian casualties in the
      counterinsurgency operations and pushing a
      development agenda in the tribal belt. What's not
      in short supply are stories about the mullahs and
      warring tribes; their prominence is a testament
      to how the frontier region remains an unruly
      captive of the narrative that first defined it
      for the world beyond the Hindu Kush and the
      Khyber Pass: the imperial "Great Game" played by
      Britain and Russia in the region in the
      nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The
      Great Game had its second inning in the early
      1980s, when the United States, Saudi Arabia and
      Pakistan supported the Afghan resistance against
      Soviet forces in neighboring Afghanistan.

      One of the first printed works to establish the
      reputation of the North-West Frontier tribes as
      bloodthirsty and acrimonious was written in 1897
      by a second lieutenant of a British cavalry
      regiment. The young officer was Winston
      Churchill, who had ended up commanding a brigade
      tasked with subduing tribes in Malakand - in the
      frontier territory's northern reaches - after
      refining his polo game during a posting with his
      regiment in British India. In The Story of the
      Malakand Field Force, which is peppered with
      racist and Islamophobic remarks, Churchill says
      of the frontier tribes, "Except at the times of
      sowing and of harvest, a continual state of feud
      and strife prevails throughout the land.... Every
      man's hand is against the other, and all against
      the stranger.... To the ferocity of the Zulu are
      added the craft of the Redskin and the
      marksmanship of the Boer." He goes on to write
      that the frontier people were exposed to the
      "rapacity and tyranny of a numerous
      priesthood...and a host of wandering
      Talib-ul-ilms, who correspond with the
      theological students in Turkey, and live free at
      the expense of the people. More than this, they
      enjoy a sort of 'droit du seigneur,' and no man's
      wife or daughter is safe from them."

      In Sana Haroon's Frontier of Faith, the history
      of the borderlands is not a chapter in the story
      of the Great Game. Haroon, a young Pakistani
      historian trained at the University of London's
      School of Oriental and African Studies, provides
      a complex and valuable account of the role and
      influence of the mullahs in the frontier region
      and the frontier's relationship with external
      powers from the late nineteenth century to the
      1960s. The position and power that the mullahs
      came to possess in the frontier areas, she
      explains, was not some sort of a divine right but
      rather assiduously built from social networking,
      political and spiritual manipulation, and
      coercion. The product of meticulous doctoral and
      postdoctoral research, Frontier of Faith draws on
      a wealth of sources, such as the correspondence
      and memoirs of British officials, Indian Muslim
      nationalists and Deobandi scholars; the archived
      files of the colonial police and administration
      in Peshawar; Pakistani Urdu and English
      newspapers of the era as well as rarely explored
      anticolonial jihadi papers like Al Mujahid; and
      interviews of various descendants of the frontier
      mullahs in Peshawar. Haroon offers a fascinating
      street-level view of frontier life and politics,
      but unfortunately she often gets overwhelmed by
      details and loses direction. Her book's many
      insights suffer from the absence of a coherent
      and elegant narrative.

      The rise of the frontier mullahs is not solely
      religious in origin. While the mullahs' emergence
      is inextricably linked to the nineteenth-century
      revival of the ideas of a seventeenth-century
      north Indian Muslim philosopher, Sheikh Ahmed
      Sirhindi, and his disciple Shah Wali Ullah, their
      ascendance was boosted by the transformation of
      those ideas into weapons of regional warfare and,
      later, anticolonialism. Sirhindi mixed Sufi
      practice with a return to the fundamentals - the
      Koran and the hadith, the sayings of the Prophet
      Muhammad. Wali Ullah added the idea of social
      practice based on Shariah and called for social
      and political reform. In the early nineteenth
      century, Wali Ullah's grandson, Shah Ismail, and
      his friend Sayyid Ahmed Barelvi interpreted this
      call for social and political reform as a call
      for jihad and launched campaigns against the
      Sikhs who ruled most of Punjab and Peshawar.
      During the campaigns, Barelvi struck a strong
      alliance with Akhund Ghaffur, a Pashtun Sufi from
      the tribal belt, and preached Wali Ullah's
      revivalist vision of Islam among the Pashtuns.
      (Wali Ullah's faith is akin to Wahhabism, the
      ultraconservative brand of Sunni Islam whose
      dramatic spread since the 1970s has been fueled
      by Saudi petrodollars as well as American cash
      funneled to the mujahedeen who fought the Soviets
      in Afghanistan.) Although Barelvi was betrayed by
      some tribal chiefs and killed during an 1831
      battle in a small town in the NWFP called
      Balakot, about 125 miles from Islamabad, some of
      his men found refuge in the frontier region with

      Among the descendants of Sirhindi who had settled
      in Kabul was the city's head priest, Hafiz Ji,
      the mentor of Ghaffur and religious policy
      adviser to the Afghan king. In 1835 Dost Muhammad
      Khan, the ruler of Afghanistan, went to battle
      against Ranjit Singh, the Sikh ruler of Punjab.
      On Hafiz Ji's recommendation, Dost Muhammad had
      appealed to Ghaffur, among others, for military
      support. Ghaffur obliged, bringing his supporters
      and students to Peshawar to join the Afghan army.
      Dost Muhammad rewarded Ghaffur for his support
      with vast tracts of land throughout the frontier
      areas. Ghaffur's newfound wealth led him to
      establish a langarkhana (free community kitchen),
      where 500 people were fed every day; his
      reputation grew, and the town he lived in turned
      into a "thriving city whose economy revolved
      around the langarkhana." His disciples spread out
      and set up bases throughout the frontier
      promoting Wali Ullah's revivalist vision of Islam.

      The Afghan patronage ended in 1878. Ghaffur died,
      and his disciple Hadda Mulla Najmuddin succeeded
      him. At the same time, a new ruler in Kabul, Amir
      Abdur Rahman - after establishing a centralized
      bureaucracy and a state army - ignored the
      mullahs and spearheaded intrusions into the
      tribal regions. The British were also pushing
      forward from Peshawar to establish control of the
      frontier region. As he strived to further
      consolidate his authority and extend the network
      of his order throughout the entire frontier area,
      Hadda Mulla resisted the unfavorable Afghan ruler
      and obsessively fought the British, most famously
      in the Battle of Malakand, which Churchill
      chronicled. Haroon quotes a letter Hadda Mulla
      wrote to persuade tribal elders to join a
      campaign against the British: "The kafirs have
      taken possession of all Muslim countries, and
      owing to the lack of spirit on the part of the
      people are conquering every region." These words
      have been reverberating in those mountains ever

      Hadda Mulla's words didn't repel the British, but
      his revivalist religious order continued to
      dominate the frontier, and opposition to the
      British continued after his death in 1903, thanks
      to the work of his disciples. They were led by
      Haji Turangzai, a mullah who had ventured into
      the larger world - first to the revivalist
      Islamic seminary of Deoband near Delhi and then
      to Mecca for hajj. Turangzai and other disciples
      of Hadda Mulla named their revivalist agenda
      amr-bil maruf wa nahi anal munkir (the movement
      for "the promotion of virtue and prevention of
      vice"), which Haroon describes as "a social
      mission that was to give the line [their order]
      its greatest cohesion and form its primary agenda
      in the twentieth century." Turangzai consolidated
      the mission's influence by establishing 150
      madrassas throughout the British-administered
      North-West Frontier Province, and then settling
      full-time in the tribal region of the frontier.

      In 1893, after the Second Anglo-Afghan War, the
      British forced Afghanistan to consent to the
      drawing of the Durand Line, which demarcated a
      rough boundary between Afghanistan and British
      India and was meant to formally limit Afghan
      influence in the North-West Tribal Areas. But the
      frontier remained porous, and the tribal mullahs
      continued to rally their militias in support of
      various men fighting for the throne of Kabul. The
      mullahs, who were mostly Pashtuns, enmeshed
      themselves in the fabric of village life in the
      frontier region, "trading, interacting and
      inter-marrying within the clan unit," Haroon
      writes. The mullahs claimed their place in the
      villages by managing the local mosques, which
      Haroon aptly describes as "a functional,
      inclusive and vibrant arena of male village
      life." Despite their poverty, illiteracy and
      sparse communication with the greater world, the
      villagers in the frontier area were hungry for
      news - "about on-going wars, the nationalist
      movement in India, colonial governance, and
      intrigue at the Afghan darbar, and events across
      the Tribal Areas." Rumors such as Turks coming to
      liberate India, and Germany embracing Islam
      filled the frontier villages. The mullahs
      received travelers and the occasional newspaper
      someone brought to the mosque, and used the
      "traditional Friday sermon to comment on the
      content of news and its implications."

      Around the time of World War I, political
      activism among Indian Muslims grew more common,
      invigorated by anticolonialism and questions
      about colonial repression shared by Muslim
      communities across the world. "Using the Urdu
      press to publicise their ideas," Haroon writes,
      Indian Muslims criticized the British government
      of India fighting the Ottoman caliph. In this
      atmosphere, Maulana Mahmudul Hasan, the
      chancellor of the revivalist Islamic seminary at
      Deoband, conceived of a plan to launch armed
      rebellion against the British from the Tribal
      Areas. Some Deobandi sought assistance and
      financial support from Afghanistan, and others
      made plans in 1916 to invite the Ottoman vizier
      to attack and liberate India. The Deobandi
      initiative in the frontier died when letters from
      frontier-based Deobandis to the vizier and Hasan,
      "written on pieces of silk to avoid detection,"
      were intercepted by the colonial police and most
      of the senior Deobandi leaders were arrested.

      The tribal mullahs turned toward Kabul and fought
      against the British in 1919 during the Third
      Anglo-Afghan War, which led to an end of the
      British control of Afghan foreign policy.
      Beginning in the 1920s, the British made strong
      efforts to expand roads, railways and garrisons,
      especially in Waziristan. Led by the mullahs, the
      tribes resisted. But when the British responded
      heavy-handedly, using RAF planes to bomb Muslim
      militias, the mullahs showed that maintenance of
      their regional authority was closer to their
      hearts than anticolonialism. The main mullah
      order led by Turangzai "did not see the utility
      in opposing the [colonial] scheme once its
      monetary benefit accrued to them." (British
      allowances to the frontier tribes for projects
      like roads and railways had more than doubled
      between 1919 and 1925.) And during moments of
      relative peace between the British and the
      tribes, Haroon shows, Turangzai, backed by a
      private militia of mullahs and tribesmen,
      positioned himself and other mullahs as the chief
      arbitrators of disputes and order in the frontier
      - for example, by preventing the extradition of a
      Pashtun man who had kidnapped a young British
      girl, and negotiating the release of the girl and
      the safety of the kidnapper.

      Even by the late 1930s, the British had not
      succeeded in destroying the mullahs' authority,
      although the RAF's "disproportionate response" to
      unrest, and the deaths of prominent mullahs like
      Turangzai, had reduced militant campaigns against
      the colonial government. But throughout the '30s,
      opposition to the British rule had grown stronger
      throughout India. Haroon traces a web of
      relationships among the tribal mullahs, the
      Deobandi ideologues and militants, the Khudai
      Khidmatgars (the nonviolent anticolonial
      followers of the Gandhian Pashtun leader Ghaffar
      Khan), Muhammad Ali Jinnah's Muslim League and
      Mahatma Gandhi's Indian National Congress Party.
      These relationships also involve a contest for
      allegiances, which the Muslim League won after
      Jinnah (who would become the first
      governor-general of Pakistan in 1947) traveled
      through the NWFP in 1936, criticizing the British
      frontier policies and valorizing the independence
      of the tribal region.

      In the summer of 1947, when the British were
      leaving and the partition plan had been
      announced, the Tribal Areas joined Pakistan but
      retained their autonomy and traditional systems
      of power and authority, even though Ghaffar Khan
      and his supporters in the NWFP remained committed
      to an undivided India and, later, a separate
      state of Pashtunistan. In fact, the Tribal Areas'
      relationship with the postcolonial Pakistani
      state was not very different from the region's
      relationship with the Afghan rulers or with the
      British. It was a patron-client affair wherein
      the state provided the tribes with financial and
      other kinds of assistance to earn their
      cooperation. The tribal belt was never integrated
      into the Pakistani polity, and Pakistan made no
      real effort at establishing modern systems of
      administration and infrastructure in the region.

      Yet from the very beginning the tribes served the
      purposes of the state, first and foremost in the
      first Indo-Pakistan war over Kashmir in 1947-48,
      when Pashtun mullahs led by Turangzai's son,
      Badshah Gul II, and supported by the Pakistani
      military led a tribal attack to liberate Kashmir.
      The invasion, Haroon explains, was not fueled so
      much by Pakistani "nationalism" as by
      "opportunity, bravado, and possibly hunger,
      shored up by massive moral and material support."
      The first India-Pakistan war over Kashmir helped
      the Pakistani government "to convene jirgas with
      almost all tribes and ratify new treaty-based
      settlements between them and the Pakistan
      government on the colonial model." It took
      Islamabad many more years to establish control as
      some Pashtun tribal leaders in Waziristan began
      an insurgency for a Pashtun state.

      Khan, a towering, muscular man with a beaklike
      nose and much personal wealth, got involved in
      the Indian freedom struggle in 1919 after the
      British passed the infamous Rowlatt Act, which
      denied the right of trial to dissidents. Under
      Gandhi's influence, Khan turned to an austere
      life - most photographs show him as a smiling
      giant dressed in homespun cotton. Khan founded
      the Servants of God, or the Red Shirt Movement,
      in 1929, and his roughly 100,000 followers (all
      turned out in red shirts) were mostly Pashtun
      peasants. They formed a unique, nonviolent
      Pashtun army pledged to follow the teachings of
      Islam and to pursue social and political reform
      among the Pashtuns and nonviolent agitation for
      Indian independence. Khan and his Red Shirts
      supported the Congress Party's cause of an
      undivided India over the Muslim League's demand
      for Pakistan. Khan's biographer (and Gandhi's
      grandson), Rajmohan Gandhi, writes, "The
      naturalness of his Islam, his directness, his
      rejection of violence and revenge, and his
      readiness to cooperate with non-Muslims add up to
      a valuable legacy for our angry times."

      After 1947, as the NWFP became part of Pakistan,
      Khan's demands for an autonomous Pashtunistan
      earned the wrath of the Pakistani government. He
      was jailed for many years and spent most of the
      1960s exiled in Afghanistan, where the government
      of Mohammed Zahir Shah (the king in exile
      rediscovered by the world in Rome after the fall
      of the Taliban in late 2001) supported the
      Pashtunistan demand, opposed Pakistan's
      membership in the United Nations and provided
      financial and moral support to secure the loyalty
      of the frontier mullahs. The volatile frontier
      was stabilized in the 1950s by American pressure
      on Afghanistan and Pakistani military action
      against dissenting tribal leaders like Mirza Ali
      Khan, who led an armed group of tribesmen from
      the Mahsud tribe (which counts among its brethren
      Baitullah Mahsud, the militant leader accused of
      assassinating Benazir Bhutto). Pakistani military
      and elected governments believed in the
      "intractability of the tribes" and avoided the
      expense of infrastructure development,
      controlling the frontier through financial
      assistance to tribal leaders. Haroon argues that
      the tribes would have embraced the social, civic
      and institutional amenities available to citizens
      elsewhere in Pakistan, since hundreds of young
      Pashtuns "were migrating from the Tribal Areas to
      Peshawar and Kabul in pursuit of education,
      business opportunities or jobs."

      Pakistan mostly ignored the Tribal Areas until
      the beginning of the US-backed resistance to the
      Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the early 1980s,
      when the NWFP and FATA became staging areas for
      Afghan fighters. The story of the Afghan war, the
      role of Pakistani and American intelligence
      agencies and Islamist groups, and the rise of the
      Taliban are stories better read in Steve Coll's
      fascinating Ghost Wars or Ahmed Rashid's Taliban.
      Senior Pakistani journalist Zahid Hussein's
      Frontline Pakistan is another valuable addition
      to the literature on a post-9/11 Pakistan
      dominated by terrorist and counterterrorist
      operations in the NWFP and FATA. Al Qaeda,
      Afghan, Uzbek and Arab militants and the Taliban
      have enmeshed themselves in the region,
      especially Waziristan, marrying local women,
      living like locals, alternating between working
      in the fields and firing rockets on US coalition
      forces in Afghanistan and the Pakistani military.

      Haroon's account of the region is marred by her
      failure to acknowledge the stature of Ghaffar
      Khan, his movement among the Pashtuns and the
      nature of his influence in the tribal region.
      Haroon's discussion of Khan is slight, an odd way
      to treat a man whose death in 1988 at 98 prompted
      the Pashtun guerrillas fighting the Soviet forces
      in Afghanistan to declare a cease-fire for a day
      in his honor. The Soviets permitted thousands of
      guerrillas to cross the border into Pakistan for
      his funeral. Still, this oversight doesn't hamper
      Haroon's understanding of the origins of the
      political tragedy of the frontier areas, where
      about 4 million people have no recourse to
      Pakistani laws or courts; the literacy rate is
      only 17 percent, against the Pakistani national
      average of 45 percent; and female literacy is 3
      percent, against the national average of 32
      percent. As Haroon observed recently in a column
      in the Guardian, "As long as the Pakistan state
      continues to represent the tribal areas as a
      nightmare landscape of roads cut deep through
      unknowable mountains swarming with enemies - and
      keeps persisting in trying to control or
      subjugate them instead of governing - extremists
      will continue to find them a haven."



      Hindustan Times
      June 17, 2008


      by Ramachandra Guha

      Many years ago, I picked up a 31-page pamphlet
      with the intriguing title, King Mahendra and the
      RSS. I cannot remember now where I found it -
      whether on the pavement in Daryaganj, or in
      Mumbai's New and Secondhand Bookshop, or at the
      superb Prabhu Book Service in Gurgaon, or even in
      Bangalore's own Select Bookshop. The last seems
      most likely, since the pamphlet was published by
      the Karnataka branch of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak
      Sangh, and was printed in February 1965 in

      Anyhow, years after I discovered this pamphlet,
      it has acquired an unexpected topicality. For in
      the last week of May 2008, Nepal became a
      republic, and its 240-year-old monarchy entered
      the ash-heap of history. The last ruler of Nepal,
      once God in the Flesh, the Representative of
      Vishnu on Earth, now became plain old Mister

      The pamphlet I found was connected principally
      with Gyanendra's father, King Mahendra, also
      known as God in the Flesh, the Representative of
      VishnuŠ etc. It told the story of an aborted
      visit of the Nepali monarch to the neighbouring
      Republic of India. Apparently, "a couple of
      years" before the pamphlet was printed, that is
      to say in 1962 or 1963, the Sarsanghchalak of the
      RSS, M.S. Golwalkar, had visited the temple of
      Pashupatinath in Kathmandu. Before or after he
      paid tribute to the shrine, the RSS chief had
      called upon the King of Nepal.

      Golwalkar recounted the details of his meeting
      with King Mahendra in Organiser, the house
      journal of the RSS. He first acquainted the
      Nepali monarch with the work of the Sangh. Then,
      speaking of "the unbreakable relations of Nepal
      and Bharat, owing to their unity of religion and
      culture," he invited the king to preside over the
      annual Makar Sankranti celebrations held at the
      RSS headquarters in Nagpur. Unfortunately,
      Mahendra was not free in January 1964. So
      Golwalkar invited him again the next year. This
      time the king agreed.

      On Christmas eve, 1964, Golwalkar released a
      press statement confirming that the visit was on.
      Two weeks later, on January 8, 1965, the royal
      palace in Kathmandu said that the trip to Nagpur
      has been cancelled. This was deeply embarrassing
      for his hosts, since the visit had been widely
      publicised in RSS shakhas across the land. There
      were only a few days left for Sankranti. Where,
      now, would they find an equally distinguished
      chief guest?

      Although he could not come, King Mahendra sent a
      message to be read out at the RSS meeting held in
      Nagpur on Makar Sankranti, January 14, 1965.
      Nepal, said the king, "has always acted as a
      sentinel of India. Both have almost the same
      culture and both are animated by the same ideal
      of lifeŠ This is a matter of glory for the entire
      Hindu world".

      The king continued: "It is our desire to build up
      Nepal as an ideal Hindu Kingdom in the eyes of
      the world from every point of view... Even in
      days when some Hindus were victims of an
      artificial atmosphere and were ashamed of calling
      themselves Hindus, Nepal securely maintained
      herself as a Hindu Kingdom. All Hindus should
      take special pride in this fact."

      The reading of the king's message was followed by
      the speech of the Sarsanghchalak. This was even
      more effusive in its praise of the Hindu essence
      of the Himalayan State. Nepal, said Golwalkar,
      "is the only State that proudly proclaims itself
      a Hindu Nation. Nepal, treading the path of her
      own genius, has rejected Western and other types
      of democracy and has adopted the time-honoured
      panchayat system of Hindu Democracy... Surely,
      Nepal finds a pride of place in the hearts of
      Hindus all over the world".

      The RSS chief's rejection of 'Western' style
      democracy is noteworthy. So, too, is his praise
      of the 'Hindu' system of democracy allegedly in
      force in Nepal. In the late 1950s, Nepal briefly
      had a proper democracy. Then, the king dismissed
      the lawfully elected government and threw the
      Prime Minister, the great patriot and democrat
      B.P. Koirala, into jail. He further imposed,
      manifestly against the will of the people, a
      political system where there were no parties and
      no elected national government, thus further
      consolidating his own (and undeniably autocratic)

      The king's proposed visit to the RSS headquarters
      was promoted by a man called Tulsi Giri, who was
      then Chairman of Nepal's (unelected) Council of
      Ministers and an active proponent of the
      partyless Panchayat scheme. The pamphlet quotes
      Giri as saying: "Our King is a Hindu King of a
      Hindu Kingdom. Why shouldn't Hinduism be a basis
      of unity [between Nepal and India]?" Giri also
      claimed that "Nepal would never go red as she was
      a Hindu kingdom". After the trip was cancelled,
      Giri told the Hindustan Times that "it would have
      been the fulfilment of one of my dreams if the
      King had been able to visit Nagpur for I wanted
      to project him as a world leader of Hindus. He
      was the only King of the only Hindu Kingdom in
      the world who could lead the Hindus of the world".

      Now, 43 years down the line, Nepal has in fact
      gone 'red' (a change of colour commendably
      achieved via the ballot box). Meanwhile, the
      monarchy has been abolished, and the former king
      made to vacate his palace. Perhaps, in the spirit
      of the contents of the pamphlet King Mahendra and
      the RSS, the now homeless, jobless, commoner
      carrying the name of Gyanendra can be invited to
      Nagpur to assume a honoured place among the men
      who presume to lead the Hindus of the world.

      Ramachandra Guha is a historian and the author of India After Gandhi.



      Mail Today
      17 June 2008


      by Jyotirmaya Sharma

      IN March 2001, I wrote a piece in a national
      daily I used to then work for arguing that there
      was no essential difference between the Taliban's
      felling of the Bamiyan Buddha and the destruction
      of the Babri Masjid in India. For every Mulla
      Muhammad Omar in Afghanistan, there is a
      corresponding Giriraj Kishore. Soon after the
      piece was published, I received a request from
      Sri Sri Ravishankar through a disciple for a
      conversation on this very issue. I was told that
      the popular New Age guru was upset and perplexed
      by my speaking of the Bamiyan Buddha and the
      Babri Masjid in the same breath. I met him in
      Delhi and we spoke for nearly an hour (all
      through which Sri Sri ran his fingers in a large
      bowl of dry fruit, neither eating any nor
      offering it to me). There was total asymmetry
      between our perspectives and we agreed to
      disagree. I failed to impress upon him that
      slavery to historical memory can lead to aspiral
      of recriminations and fuel the desire to settle
      scores endlessly. Both acts, contemporary as they
      are, are born out of cynical politics and the
      desire to divide people and rule on the basis of
      such adivision. The Godman kept repeating the
      fact that the Mosque in Ayodhya was built after
      destroying atemple and so it fell into another
      category than the Bamiyan Buddha. For me the
      impulse to destroy the Bamiyan Buddha and the
      Babri Mosque came from the same seed of
      intolerance and fear of diversity and complexity
      with little or no difference separating the two.

      When Irecently saw images of Sri Sri Ravishankar
      engaged in efforts to bring about reconciliation
      between the BJP government in Rajasthan and the
      Gurjar leadership, Iwas saddened by the level to
      which Indian democracy and constitutional
      processes have been reduced. Of course, there has
      been aproliferation of new age Hindu gurus in
      recent years, where the tag of "new age" manages
      to camouflage their otherwise apparent sectarian
      identities. They manage to hide behind the
      indeterminate label of "world religions" and this
      label releases them from immediate identification
      with any narrow sectarian affiliation. Their
      stress on singing, dancing and being happy, and
      doctrinal fast food such as "smiling" and "love"
      endears them to the burgeoning "I, me, myself"
      middle class in India, especially the young. This
      escape from any serious doctrinal discussion
      helps justify and legitimate hedonism and
      mindless consumerism. They help concretise aworld
      where guilt is someone else's bad karma and good
      karma is the pursuit of unbridled gratification,
      including the misplaced greed for spirituality.


      These new age gurus offer to Hindus a simplified,
      non- threatening and pre- digested doctrine that
      is founded on a peculiar kind of interpretation
      of advaita Vedanta, made popular in India since
      the nineteenth century. This is akin to an
      overripe banana that looks solid from the outside
      but is essentially gooey from the inside. It
      takes the form of endless prattle about the
      oneness of the universe and the universality of
      the Brahman. Add to this yoga, meditation and
      ayurveda and the picture gets completed. The
      latter are touted as part of the great eternal
      and abiding legacy of their version of the great
      Hindu civilisation and their popularity elsewhere
      helps integration with Western modernity and
      concepts of progress. But more significantly,
      almost all of these new age cults and gurus are
      recruitment centres for the RSS and the Sangh
      Parivar .Put differently, the RSS has outsourced
      its putative recruitment to these new age cults.
      The RSS and the Sangh Parivar realise that no
      amount of sartorial changes will help correct
      their regressive image. What the new age cults
      manage for them is to keep the Indian middle
      class within the Hindu nationalist fold by
      echoing the preoccupations of this class.
      Therefore, these cults also have a subtle way of
      speaking about India's military glory, how true
      gentleness lies in strength, the dream of India
      as a superpower, the impediments in the way of
      economic growth (namely, communists, secularists
      and Muslims) and how missionaries, alternate
      lifestyles, heterodox ideas, creative literature,
      poetry and modern art have worked to tarnish
      India (which is Hindu in their scheme of things)
      and its glories in the eyes of the world. More
      serious are the banalities offered day in and day
      out. The more popular among these are "the same
      god is in all of us" and the "same essence
      permeates us all". In that sense, they reduce all
      other faiths and their followers to nothingness
      and rob them of any specific cultural identity
      they might have cherished, also being extremely
      condescending to other faiths. In all of this,
      the new age guru manages to impress upon their
      followers that this benign doctrine flows from
      Hinduism and that its customary tolerance is what
      accounts for this seeming generosity. The only
      counter to these pernicious doctrines is the
      celebration of politics, democracy, liberalism
      and plurality in letter and in spirit. Genuine
      democracy is the greatest enemy of these
      regressive tendencies. The way politicians have
      vitiated the public sphere in recent years leads
      to the spectacle of a godman entering the public
      arena to solve an issue that is primarily
      political. Whether this is done in a public
      capacity or in a private one is an issue that
      ought to be thoroughly debated and any such
      future efforts ought to be shunned. Neither the
      Shankaracharya nor new age gurus have any
      business to meddle in political issues. They
      neither have the legitimacy nor the authority.
      They are not part of the formal political process
      and are to be kept out of the public realm. Of
      course, godmen too are citizens of this country
      but they no longer are sole representatives of
      their faiths. Hence, to ask the Kanchi Acharya to
      negotiate a settlement of the Babri Masjid- Ram
      Mandir dispute is patently unfair to those Hindus
      who do not look up to him as their spiritual
      leader. New age gurus represent an even smaller,
      though powerful, number of people, who are
      ensconced in their pretty enclaves with little to
      do with the rest of India. The time and need to
      ease out the influence of these cults is more
      immediate than ever. Otherwise, there will be a
      repeat of Gujarat elsewhere and the stranglehold
      of religious cults on governments would become a
      reality sooner than later.


      There is much to do in India and godmen can lend
      ahelping hand. Most of them do so, but restrict
      it largely to indoctrinating future generation of
      young men and women to be less Indian and more
      Hindu, Muslim or Christian. This is the direction
      in which the Gurjars must direct Sri Sri
      Ravishankar, never mind what the shallow piety of
      the BJP might suggest. There is no one art of
      living, but there is a staggering plurality of
      ways in which we might live. The most ordinary
      Indian instinctively understands this as long as
      he doesn't fall prey to divisive ideologies or
      restrictive cults. One of these many ways of
      living and living well is to revel in the noise
      and chaos of democracy, as spiritual and as
      sacred for some of us as a holy text, a godman,
      or even apilgrimage.

      The author teaches politics at the University of
      Hyderabad and is the author of Hindutva:
      Exploring the Idea of Hindu Nationalism



      Mail Today
      June 17 2008


      On June 13, I was reminded that the past never
      leaves us. The newspapers reported an 'HC clean
      chit' of the Ramjas ex-Principal in the 26
      year-old case of an assault on a college lecturer
      named 'Dalip'. Since I was the person assaulted,
      I was deeply perturbed by this judgement. I had
      no idea that the state had approached the High
      Court. Where does this leave me, as a law-abiding

      The bare facts are as follows. I joined the
      Ramjas History Department in 1974. In October
      1981 I went on hunger-strike to obtain the salary
      of Sita Ram the head mali, who had been
      wrongfully denied it without an inquiry. My
      actions were part of a campaign that I did not
      initiate. The backdrop was an autocratic regime,
      allegations of administrative corruption and
      divisions amongst teachers. Efforts to secure a
      just procedure had been scornfully turned down.
      After a nine-day strike joined by teachers from
      Ramjas and SRCC, we resolved to pursue the
      struggle by other means.

      Ramjas remained extremely tense in the new year.
      On February 18, my scooter was intercepted near
      ISBT by six young men who had followed me in a
      car. I was beaten with iron rods, my left leg
      broken in two places and my upper jaw permanently
      damaged, with five teeth lost. But for my helmet,
      I might have suffered severe skull injuries. I
      was picked up by a kindly couple in a car and
      taken to Bara Hindu Rao Hospital. The Vice
      Chancellor, colleagues and friends arrived, and
      that evening I was taken to AIIMS. The subsequent
      agitation brought about the Principal's
      suspension. I was removed to Bombay for surgery,
      and needed nine weeks to walk again.

      We knew who had instigated and carried out the
      deed, but the public prosecutor could prove
      nothing in court. When I appeared as witness, the
      magistrate treated me as if I were a defendant,
      rather than the victim of a crime. In acquitting
      the accused, he implied that I was using an
      opportunity to implicate certain persons on
      account of personal enmity. There was no
      curiosity as to how I came to be so grievously
      injured, or whether my injuries were compatible
      with a traffic accident. There was no effort to
      get at the truth.

      The High Court judge has observed that my failure
      to speak to the police "at the first opportunity"
      indicates that my statement was 'tutored', and
      hence he upholds the acquittal. How fair is this
      reasoning? Medical records will show that I lost
      five teeth, my upper jaw was damaged and my left
      leg broken in two places. I lay in Hindu Rao the
      entire day, during which time stitches were
      applied inside my mouth without anaesthesia. I
      was unable to speak, and needed pencil and paper
      to state my identity. Even the application of
      plaster took place after 10 pm. Owing to the
      severity of my condition, the police recorded my
      statement the following day: this was not my
      personal decision. Is this an adequate reason for
      the trial court and the honourable judge to
      impugn my honesty? Would it not have been
      reasonable to conclude that the delay in
      recording my statement was due to my medical

      The prosecution did not have the courtesy to
      inform me of the appeal in the HC. Surely as the
      victim I would have been most interested in
      pursuing the matter? Had it done so, I might have
      asked for representation, and prayed for the
      infirmities of the judgement to be overturned.
      The recent news report came as a bolt from the
      blue. And it is misleading, for I never accused
      the principal and physical training instructor of
      assaulting me. I only stated my suspicion of
      their being implicated in the assault. I had this
      intuition at the moment of the attack and have
      not altered it since. Of course, intuition is not
      evidence. But the investigation and framing of
      charges was the job of the police. Incidentally,
      in October 1982 I was introduced to my assailants
      in a police station. They said they had been
      misled and asked for forgiveness. One of them
      visited my house to ask me not to give evidence.

      The events of the 1980's had many repercussions.
      Teachers launched a campaign for democratic
      functioning. A movement against goondaism was
      undertaken by students. In 1988 I was elected to
      the university's Academic Council and chaired the
      DUTA Committee on Accountability. Our college
      became the first to set up a staff committee to
      maintain academic standards. All that energy was
      not expended in vain.

      We often come across the term "judicial
      conscience". Where exactly does this entity
      reside? The CJI has observed that the judiciary
      is the ultimate defender of citizens' rights. Who
      will defend these rights if the courts fail us?
      One of the most twisted problems in legal theory
      is the assumed neutrality of judges. Not to
      mention the distinction between forensic and
      narrative versions of truth. What is the
      guarantee of this neutrality and how is it
      manifested? Truth is surely not a mere technical
      or formal detail. The idea of justice is
      antecedent to the emergence of constitutional
      systems or governments. Otherwise we would not
      speak of natural law. But does justice reside
      exclusively in the utterances of courts? Law is
      the basis of an orderly society. It represents
      the need for a fair resolution of conflicts.
      Although democratic governments may exist only
      upon public approval, judges cannot be subject to
      the whims of electorates. What then, can ensure
      that those entrusted with the care of justice
      will fulfil their charge? Ultimately the social
      contract is a historical gamble. It depends upon
      the alertness of the citizenry and a public ethos
      that respects the ideals that lie behind the
      phrase "the rule of law".

      Homer's Iliad describes a dispute in a
      market-place between two men over the blood-price
      for a victim of murder. The crowd asks the elders
      to arbitrate whilst they keep the antagonists in
      check. "Between them, on the ground lay two
      talents of gold, to be given to that judge who in
      this case spoke the straightest opinion". The
      public stands in judgement over the arbitrators.
      Here is a clue to the mystery of the judicial
      conscience. It is a circular thread that runs
      through all of society's constituents, the ones
      that are wise and the ones who accord them the
      status of being wise. There is no exclusive judge
      and no exclusive witness - all judge and are
      judged. When this thread is broken, we are on the
      brink of disintegration. The circle of public
      conscience points to the true meaning of law and
      judgement in a democratic society. The seat of
      law is not synonymous with the person occupying
      it, nor are judicial decisions always coterminous
      with justice. In 1982 I became the victim of a
      violent crime. But in the eyes of the justice
      system no one is guilty. All that it has done is
      to suggest that I made a 'tutored' accusation.
      The crime has now become invisible. I expect no
      recompense for that murderous assault on me 26
      years ago. I still respect the law. I cannot say
      the same for those to whom I turned for justice.

      Dilip Simeon


      [6] DEATH PENALTY:



      June 17, 2008

      Yusuf Raza Gillani
      Prime Minister

      Re: Death Penalty

      Dear Prime Minister Gillani,

      Human Rights Watch is a nongovernmental
      organization that monitors human rights in more
      than 70 countries around the world. We appreciate
      the policy goals you have announced to address
      many of the human rights problems your government
      inherited after more than eight years of military
      rule. We welcome the goals related to lifting
      media restrictions, freeing detained lawyers and
      judges, and releasing political prisoners.

      We a<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
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