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SACW | August 1-4, 2008 / Nuclear-weapons-free S Asia / FATA's Fascists

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    South Asia Citizens Wire | August 1-4, 2008 | Dispatch No. 2546 - Year 10 running [1] For a nuclear-weapons-free Southasia (Zia Mian) [2] Pakistan: Fata s
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      South Asia Citizens Wire | August 1-4, 2008 | Dispatch No. 2546 - Year
      10 running

      [1] For a nuclear-weapons-free Southasia (Zia Mian)
      [2] Pakistan: Fata's growing disconnect (Afrasiab Khattak)
      [3] India: State Cultivation of the Amarnath Yatra (Gautam Navlakha)
      [4] India: The Sarpotdar case (Jyoti Punwani)
      [5] International: A chance to fix the fight against Aids (Siddharth
      Dube and Joanne Csete)
      [6] Publication announcement: The History of Pakistan (Iftikhar H. Malik)
      [7] Upcoming Events:
      (i) The Nigah QueerFest '08 (New Delhi, 8 - 17 August 2008)
      (ii) War and the Question of Minorities: Democratization and State
      Reform in Sri Lanka (Toronto, 8 August 2008)

      ______


      [1]

      Himal SouthAsian, August 2008

      SOMEONE ELSE'S WEAPONS

      by Zia Mian

      A nuclear-weapons-free Southasia must be championed by the smaller
      countries.

      In May 1998, first India and then Pakistan tested nuclear weapons. War
      erupted in the Kargil region of Kashmir a year later. This was the
      first war between two nuclear-armed states anywhere in the world, and
      raised the prospect that the next conflict would be a catastrophe
      beyond reckoning. Since Kargil, both states have continued to build
      nuclear weapons, to develop and test ballistic missiles with ranges up
      to several thousand kilometres, and to accelerate their build-up of
      conventional arms.

      The tests, war, crises and the on-going arms race are only the latest
      expressions of a more than 60-year-long conflict between Pakistan and
      India, which has plagued efforts to build democratic and just
      societies in these countries and has hampered the progress of
      Southasia as a whole. A settlement of the Kashmir dispute would help
      ease tensions, but would not necessarily be enough for India and
      Pakistan either to give up their nuclear-weapons status or to end
      their mutual hostility. The experience of the Cold War and the nearly
      two decades since its end makes this abundantly clear. The US and
      Russia still have thousands of nuclear weapons each, despite the fact
      that the Soviet Union is no more. The logic of nuclear weapons has had
      an enduring effect in preventing the establishment of peace in any
      meaningful sense. This suggests that the Indian and Pakistani nuclear
      stockpiles ensure that the future of the region will remain in
      jeopardy until these weapons are eliminated.

      Nuclear war between India and Pakistan would be a catastrophe not only
      for the two countries. Recent studies simulating the effects of such a
      conflict have suggested that the use of 50 weapons by each side could
      create enough smoke from burning cities to trigger a decade-long
      change in climate across much of Southasia – indeed, across large
      parts of the northern hemisphere. This would lead, in turn, to crop
      failures and widespread famine. The casualties would be beyond
      imagination.

      Against the backdrop of the nuclear-weapons tests of 1998, peace
      groups sprang up spontaneously in towns and cities across India and
      Pakistan. Building on years of work by a handful of anti-nuclear
      activists in both countries, these groups articulated deep public
      concern about the grave dangers posed by nuclear weapons, sought ways
      to educate and mobilise local communities, and reached out to make
      common cause with other civil-society groups working on issues of
      sustainable development and social justice. The need for a
      Southasia-wide effort on public education and mobilisation for nuclear
      disarmament in India and Pakistan was recognised by activists in both
      countries. They hoped that a South Asian Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone
      (SANWFZ) treaty, modelled on such agreements in Latin America, the
      South Pacific and Southeast Asia (with Africa and Central Asia on the
      block), could offer a way to build regional consensus against nuclear
      weapons. Such a treaty would forbid each signatory state from
      possessing or seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.

      At its heart, this activism reflects a politics based on imagining and
      bringing about, from the ground up, a Southasian community of
      countries sharing a particular set of values. It envisages the
      countries of the region as not only committed to peaceful
      co-existence, but also as rejecting the possession and threat of use
      of nuclear weapons. The political path is one where the civil society
      in the non-nuclear weapons states in Southasia (ie, Sri Lanka,
      Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, the Maldives and Bhutan) campaign for
      respective governments and others in the region to negotiate a SANWFZ
      treaty. This combination of popular and official pressure would
      strengthen nuclear-disarmament movements in India and Pakistan.

      Peace zone

      It was back in January and February 2001 that Admiral (retired)
      Laxminarayan Ramdas and Sandeep Pandey from India, and A H Nayyar from
      Pakistan, as well as this writer, were asked by groups in Sri Lanka,
      Bangladesh and Nepal to travel to each country, to begin a regional
      civil-society dialogue on a Southasian Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone. This
      effort was by some measures very successful. It showed the feasibility
      and utility of systematic interactions between peace activists from
      India and Pakistan with a large number of civil-society organisations,
      activists, scholars and government officials in the other Southasian
      countries. The interest generated by the visits, evident from the
      large meetings and extensive media coverage that ensued, indicated a
      widespread concern in the region about the implications and challenges
      created by the nuclearisation of India and Pakistan.

      In some places, people did seem to find the nuclear dangers facing the
      region somewhat remote. The clearest expression of this was in Sri
      Lanka, where many seemed to be hearing about the devastating effects
      of nuclear weapons for the first time. This could be due simply to
      geography; Sri Lanka is, after all, far removed from any plausible
      conflict between Pakistan and India. But there can also be no doubt
      that there are more pressing concerns for Sri Lankan civil society and
      policymakers, with the long civil war there showing few signs of
      ending. Nonetheless, even in Colombo, there was enthusiasm for a
      Southasia-wide civil-society initiative for peace and disarmament,
      recognition that nuclear weapons posed a risk to the whole region and
      support for a SANWFZ treaty.

      While there were no discussions with government officials in Sri
      Lanka, we learnt that Sri Lanka had sought to encourage talks between
      India and Pakistan on the matter of nuclear weapons. This is a
      positive sign, and suggests that a more formal dialogue with
      government officials on the possibilities of the treaty could be worth
      pursuing. There was strong support from the Bangladeshi civil society
      for the idea of a SANWFZ treaty, and the need for the smaller,
      non-nuclear countries in the region to lead the way. The contacts with
      government officials suggested that Bangladesh could be encouraged to
      consider working towards such a treaty. This willingness reflects the
      historical role that Bangladesh played in launching the idea of SAARC
      as a regional organisation during the late 1970s, and in hosting the
      organisation's first summit in 1985. Meanwhile, in Kathmandu, there
      was concern about the impact of a possible nuclear war on the northern
      parts of the Subcontinent, which would rope in Nepal. The possibility
      of being affected by radioactive fallout was taken very seriously. An
      important issue raised most directly in Nepal, but also elsewhere, was
      that of overcoming the constraints imposed by the larger and more
      powerful neighbours on political initiatives by smaller Southasian
      countries.

      While immediate domestic problems took priority in each country, there
      was a widespread sense of urgency regarding possible nuclear-armed
      confrontation between India and Pakistan. There was likewise
      significant understanding that, without peace between Pakistan and
      India, the Southasian region would remain unstable, and fail to
      develop the structures of economic and political cooperation it needs
      to meet the people's needs. From nuclear weapons to energy, food
      security and climate change, there is a growing array of problems that
      need to be seen as regional in scope, and which require collective
      regional solutions. These problems and their solutions will
      necessitate and generate the practice of a Southasian politics – and
      with it, a Southasian identity.

      Zia Mian directs the Project on Peace and Security in South Asia at
      Princeton University's Program on Science and Global Security.

      ______


      [2]

      www.dawn.com
      July 31,2008

      FATA'S GROWING DISCONNECT

      by Afrasiab Khattak

      IT is hardly an exaggeration that the security of Pakistan,
      Afghanistan, the entire region and indeed that of the whole world will
      be defined by developments in Fata over the next few months. Different
      scenarios are being painted by military strategists and political experts.

      Al Qaeda, after regrouping in the militant sanctuaries of the area, is
      acquiring the capacity to repeat attacks in North America or Europe
      similar to those carried out in 2001 in the US.

      If reports about the exchanges between Pakistan and the US at the
      highest level are anything to go by it is pretty clear that the US
      will retaliate against Pakistan, probably even more severely than it
      did against the Taliban-dominated Afghanistan. Similarly the use of
      these militant sanctuaries for cross-border fighting is so large in
      scale (in fact all the six political agencies bordering Afghanistan
      are being used) that denial in this regard is no longer plausible.

      The federal government has to either admit defeat or muster the
      political will to resolve the problem, or else justify the existence
      of militant sanctuaries by explaining their usefulness to the national
      interest. We have run out of time and this decision cannot be delayed
      any more as there are no takers of the denial line.

      As if this were not enough, armed lashkars (armies) from militant
      sanctuaries in Fata are poised to penetrate/invade the contiguous
      settled districts. The events in Hangu some three weeks back are a
      case in point. The Hangu police arrested four Taliban commanders from
      a car that also contained weapons, explosive material and manuals for
      making bombs in a place called Doaba not far away from the Orakzai
      Agency border.

      Hundreds of Taliban surrounded the Doaba police station and demanded
      the commanders' release. They also blocked the Hangu-Kurram highway.
      During this confrontation the Frontier Constabulary was ambushed near
      Zargari village and 16 security personnel were killed. Subsequently
      the army was called in to launch a military operation in Hangu. This
      action was not just in retaliation for the murder of 16 FC men but
      also came in view of the threat of attack by four to five thousand
      Taliban from Orakzai and Kurram agencies.

      By now the said military operation has been completed and the targets
      achieved to the extent that the Taliban have been chased out of Hangu.
      Nevertheless, they have fled to Orakzai Agency where they are
      regrouping and preparing for future attacks.

      The NWFP (Pakhtunkhwa) government is in a quandary. It has to call in
      the army whenever armed lashkars threaten to overrun a district as the
      police force simply does not have the capacity to fight an
      ever-expanding insurgency.

      After Swat the army has also been deployed in Hangu. In view of the
      militant sanctuaries situated nearby, the army cannot be withdrawn in
      the near future. Imagine if the story is repeated in other vulnerable
      districts. Will the army also have to be deployed in all these other
      districts? Will such measures not bring the existence of the civilian
      provincial government into question?

      Is it not amazing that in spite of such high stakes the presidency
      that has a monopoly over governance in Fata seems to show no anxiety
      over the prevailing situation? It is continuing with the policy of
      keeping Fata a black hole where terrorist groups from across the globe
      run their bases. It is still a no-go area for the media and civil
      society, and so far there is no corrective measure or policy change in
      sight. So much so that we have failed to take even the most
      preliminary step of extending the Political Parties Act to Fata.

      It is only natural that we are perturbed when attacks are launched
      from across the border. But should we not be equally sensitive to the
      loss of our sovereignty over Fata to militant groups? Strangely enough
      we do not seem to be bothered about the militants' total control of
      Fata. When the international media carries reports about this
      situation we dismiss them as `enemy' propaganda against Pakistan. We
      have failed to grasp the fact that in the post-cold war world there is
      a universal consensus about two things. One, that all assault weapons
      that can be used for launching a war cannot be allowed to be kept in
      private possession. Two, that no state will allow the use of its soil
      by non-state players against another state. The entire world is
      astounded by our fixation with the cold war mode. We have developed an
      incredible capacity to live in unreality. This is indeed dangerous for
      any state system but it can be catastrophic for a state dancing in a
      minefield.

      Where does all this leave the people of Fata? They are victims and not
      perpetrators as some people would like us to believe. They are in fact
      in triple jeopardy. Firstly they are groaning under the draconian
      Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) of 1901. They have no access to the
      fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan since
      they are not justiciable outside of the jurisdiction of the higher
      judiciary.

      Secondly the tribal belt has almost been occupied by foreign and local
      militant organisations that are better equipped, better trained and
      better financed than the local population. More than 160 tribal
      leaders have been killed by terrorists in North and South Waziristan
      who operate with total impunity. Today's Fata is not dissimilar to the
      Taliban and Al Qaeda controlled Afghanistan before 9/11.

      Thirdly, the people of Fata get caught in the crossfire between
      militants and security forces from both sides of the Durand Line. The
      so-called collateral damage has seen a cancerous growth in Fata. The
      people of Fata have lost the support and protection of the state. They
      have no access to the media, courts and hospitals or to humanitarian
      assistance. The only intervention by state players takes place through
      their armies and air forces in which people of the tribal area are
      mostly on the receiving end.

      For any informed and sensitive Pakistani, the situation in the tribal
      area is the top-most priority when it comes to policy formation and
      implementation. We must realise that the question of dismantling
      militant sanctuaries in Fata and taking short-term and long-term
      measures to open up the area and integrate it with the rest of the
      country needs urgent national attention if we are to avoid the
      impending catastrophe.

      ______


      [3]

      The Economic and Political Weekly
      July 26, 2008

      STATE CULTIVATION OF THE AMARNATH YATRA

      by Gautam Navlakha

      The origins of the conflagration in June in Kashmir on forest land
      allocation for construction of facilities for the Amarnath yatra lie
      in open state promotion of the pilgrimage. The yatra has caused
      considerable damage to the economy and ecology of the area. The
      high-handed actions of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board only aggravated
      the situation.

      The Amarnath pilgrimage erupted into a major controversy last month
      entirely on account of the actions of the state. The Act setting up
      the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) was passed by the National
      Conference government in 2001. On January 1, 2008, the SASB informed
      the legislature of Jammu and Kashmir, through a letter to the deputy
      chief minister, that "(t)he Governor is sovereign ex-officio holder
      of the power... who acts on his own personal satisfaction and not on
      the aid and advice of the council of ministers...the member (of the
      legislative council) may be explained that he does not enjoy the
      powers to question the decisions of the body" (Greater Kashmir, June
      12, 2008).

      Disconcertingly, the SASB, when presided over by S K Sinha when he was
      governor, has been engaged in some controversial transactions. The
      chief executive officer (CEO) of the SASB is the principal secretary
      to the governor. The CEO's wife, in her capacity as principal
      secretary of the forest department, granted permission to the SASB on
      May 29, 2005 to use forest land for the pilgrimage. Because this
      action was not in accordance with the provision of the J&K Forest
      Conservation Act of 1997, the state government withdrew the order.
      However, a division bench of the J&K High Court stayed the withdrawal
      of permission to occupy forest land. But when in mid-2008, the state
      cabinet gave its approval to "divert" 40 ha of forest land for the
      yatra the issue erupted into widescale public protests. The deputy
      chief minister, belonging to the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP)
      went so far as to claim that Congress ministers "black- mailed" them
      into giving this approval (Indian Express, June 16, 2008). The Indian
      state has often used the yatra to promote a certain kind of
      nationalism. During the Kargil war, in 1999, the Press Information
      Bureau put out a press re- lease stating: "(the) yearning for moksha
      (salvation) can move the devotees to the challenging heights of
      Kashmir and will be a fitting gesture of solidarity with our valiant
      soldiers who have been fighting the enemy to defend our borders"
      (pib.nic.in/ feature/feo799/f1507992 html).

      A Little Known Shrine

      Thus, what is otherwise a religious pilgrimage of the shaivite Hindus
      has been elevated to represent a patriotic enterprise. What is
      interesting is that the translator of Rajtarangini, Aurel Stein, found
      no reference in 1888 in either the Rajtarangini or the Nilmata Purana
      to the Amarnath cave. For Kashmiri Hindus the holiest site was the
      Haramukuta (Shiva's Diadem) and Haramukh-Gangabal pilgrimage (see M
      Ashraf, 'Aggression At Its Worst', Greater Kashmir, June 20, 2008).
      The cave was in fact discovered in the 18th century and a Gujjar
      family and its descendants who found it were given the right to a
      share of the offering as a consequence. Even until the 1980s, this
      pilgrimage was not well known and in 1989, only 12,000 pilgrims
      visited the cave in a fortnight of pilgrimage. It is only after 1996
      that the Amarnath cave acquired its prominence when militancy in
      Kashmir was at its peak. The SASB is headed by the governor (until
      recently S K Sinha, a former lt general in the army) and his principal
      secretary, from the Indian Administrative Service, is the CEO of the
      SASB. Thus when the SASB pushes for movement of a larger and larger
      number of pilgrims and rejects the right of the legislators to even
      raise a question regarding the functioning of the SASB, the Indian
      state is sending a simple message.

      Imagine if a Muslim governor of Rajasthan were to ask to set up an
      independent Ajmer Sharief Dargah development authority, with say,
      control over a large part of Ajmer city. What would be the response
      of Rajasthan's BJP government or the right wing Hindutva rabble-rousers?

      Ironically, it is the deposed custodian of the shrine Deependra Giri
      who has been crying hoarse over SASB's promotion of pilgrimage as
      tourism, flouting the principle of penance inherent in such pilgrim
      ages as laid down in the Hindu scriptures! The point is this promotion 

      of Amarnath can be faulted on temporal, religious and secular grounds.
      In other words it is downright duplicitous when the Indian state
      promotes religious tourism (tourism in any event) in the guise of the
      welfare of Hindu pilgrims. This is an extension and/or part of the
      process of acquisition of a huge mass of land (orchard and cultivable
      fields, including the precious saffron fields of Pampore) by Indian
      security forces and water management and control through the National
      Hydro Power Corporation.

      Implications

      The implications are far-reaching. The SASB runs a virtually parallel
      admini- stration and acts as a "sovereign body" promoting Hindu
      interests, increasing the number of pilgrims from 12,000 in 1989 to
      over 4,00,000 in 2007 and ex- tending the period of the pilgrimage
      from 15 days to two and half months (the first fortnight is meant for
      families of service personnel). The SASB has virtually taken over the
      functioning of the Pahalgam De- velopment Authority, laying claims to
      forest lands and constructing shelters and structures even on the
      Pahalgam Golf Course!

      As part of the latest instances of land grab the SASB received the
      approval of the state government on June 3, 2008 to transfer 800
      kanals of forest land. And it wanted another 3,200 kanals. The SASB
      has also staked claims to set up an "independent" Amarnath Development
      Authority between Nunwan, Pahalgam, and Baltal (ahead of Sonmarg). It
      is true that the state government shot down this proposal and has
      publicly claimed that only temporary structures can be set up in the
      800 kanals, but two things should be kept in mind. Firstly, the brazen
      manner in which the SASB has gone about staking its claims. Secondly,
      but for public anger it is doubtful if the state government would have
      found the courage to oppose the demands of the SASB. It has not done
      anything to prevent or rollback the annexation of parts of Pahalgam
      Golf Course in order to provide security for pilgrims. If it were not
      for the widespread protests in Kashmir and the PDP's withdrawal from
      the government, the new governor of Jammu and Kashmir would not have
      been compelled to revoke his predecessor's order.

      Environmental Damage

      Be that as it may, probably the most damning evidence against the SASB
      and its dangerous exclusivist policy is the dam- age being caused to
      the environment in and around Pahalgam. A noted environmentalist told
      Greater Kashmir (June 10, 2008) that "The yatris during their Amarnath
      yatra do not only defecate on the banks of the Lidder river but throw
      tonnes of non-degradable items like polythene, plastic items directly
      into the river. This has resulted in the deterioration of its water
      quality." One expert, M R D Kundangar, told Greater Kashmir that
      "(t)he chemical oxygen demand of the Lidder has been recorded between
      17 and 92 mg/l which is beyond the permissible level. Such enriched
      waters with hazardous chemicals ranges can no way be recommended for
      potable purposes. It has crossed all permissible limits due to flow
      of sewage and open defecation. Lidder has been turned into a
      cesspool." It has been estimated that every day during the pilgrimage
      55,000 kg of waste is generated. Apart from this waste, the
      degradation caused by buses and vehicles carrying pilgrims, trucks
      carrying provisions and massive deployment of security forces
      contributes further to air pollution. Another fallout is the threat
      posed to local inhabitants from crowding of the ecologically fragile
      area where they have to compete to retain their access and rights to
      re- sources, both water and land. Indeed such was the arrogance and
      clout of the previous governor that he sent an ordinance to the state
      government to establish Shardapeeth University in Baghat Kanipora in
      Srinagar. Prominent jurist A G Noorani was constrained to point out
      to Greater Kashmir (June 9, 2008) that this move of the governor was
      "unheard of in parliamentary democracy". General Sinha would have
      gotten away with this had it not been for the fact that state
      coalition government did not have enough time to promulgate this while
      he was still the governor. The same governor, who also headed the
      Shri Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, had also created a special facility
      for rich Hindu pilgrims visiting Vaishno Devi by paying an additional
      Rs 200-500. Had it not been for the strike by residents and ordinary
      pilgrims in Katra this decision would not have been withdrawn.

      The special time allocated for the pilgrimage to the armed forces
      personnel, the acquisition of land, introduction of helicopter
      services (which causes its own attendant problems), crowding of the
      area and slowly pushing out local people from these locations because
      of the environmental degradation or because their livelihood is
      adversely affected (for example consider the protests by the Pahalgam-
      based tourism industry for squeezing them out), all pose a huge challenge.

      Limits in Gangotri

      Significantly, even the Bharatiya Janata Party in Uttarakhand on May
      1, 2008 limited the number of pilgrims visiting Gangotri and Goumukh
      to 150 persons per day so as to protect the fragile ecology of the
      area. Yet, in the case of Amarnath, and despite overwhelming evidence
      of environmental degradation posed by the huge increase in the number
      of pilgrims and large number of security forces deployed for
      protection of such pilgrims, there is no one who dares challenge the
      SASB's stubborn extension of the yatra. Indeed if the CEO of SASB is
      to be believed since "the population of India will increase we will
      have to consider further extension of the yatra period".

      Arguably, when the yatra was halted between 1991 and 1996 due to the
      threat by a section of the militants it played into the hands of the
      extreme right wing elements in Indian society who have since then
      played an integral role in mobilising large numbers of pilgrims.

      However, it is equally important to note that earlier, school-
      children and college youth used to act as volunteers and provide
      assistance to the yatris. Even when this was discontinued after 1996,
      the main indigenous militant organisation the Hizbul Mujahideen and
      Muslim Janbaz Force always supported the yatra and consistently
      demonstrated its opposition towards those who tried to dis- rupt it.
      And even today there is no section of people who opposes the yatra.
      What they resent is the horrendously jingoistic turn that it has taken
      under the SASB. Verily the more things change more they remain the same.


      ______


      [4]

      Indian Express, July 31 2008

      THE SARPOTDAR CASE

      by Jyoti Punwani

      Mumbai is still to come to terms with the Madhukar Sarpotdar
      conviction. On July 9, the former Shiv Sena MP was convicted to a
      year's imprisonment and a fine of Rs 5,000 for having committed an
      offence under Sec 153 A, i.e., promoting communal enmity. The offence
      had been committed during the 1992- 93 riots and the judgment was
      handed down by one of the two special magistrates' courts set up in
      March his year to exclusively try the 1992-93 riot cases.

      Madhukar Sarpotdar's case has been the highest profile case of the
      Mumbai riots, thanks to the special mention it received in the
      Srikrishna Commission report. It concerns a procession led by the then
      Sena MLA in his constituency (where his party boss, Bal Thackeray also
      lives) addressed by Sarpotdar and other Sena leaders. Two of them (one
      now with the Congress) were convicted with him. The processionists
      carried placards and shouted slogans, some of them so vulgar that even
      hardened policemen refused to repeat them in court. On one of those
      placards was a slogan which Justice Srikrishna highlighted as
      illustrative of the Shiv Sena's vigilantism during the riots. It read:
      `Only in the Shiv Sena's terror lies the true guarantee of people's
      safety.'

      Just a fortnight earlier, the worst riots to hit Mumbai had ended,
      with 263 dead. Incidents of communal violence continued. Yet, the top
      police officers accompanying the 5,000-strong procession made no
      attempt to prevent it from being taken out, or to arrest anyone en
      route or after it was over. Doing so would have escalated communal
      tension, they told the Commission. The then Police Commissioner had
      agreed with this assessment.

      A mere four days after the procession, communal violence erupted again
      in Sarpotdar's constituency. At the height of this second phase of the
      riots, the army intercepted, during curfew hours, Sarpotdar in his
      jeep with his licensed revolver, and others, including his son, with
      unlicensed revolvers, choppers and hockey sticks. The local police
      convinced the major to hand over the case to them, arrested Sarpotdar
      three days later, allowed Shiv Sena women to block the highway in
      protest, and then produced him before the night magistrate who gave
      him bail immediately so as not to create further tension. Five years
      later, Sarpotdar was acquitted in this case because the major couldn't
      recognise the weapons he had seized.

      It is this background one needs to keep in mind to understand the
      reaction of awe and wonder that has greeted Sarpotdar's conviction.
      After the Srikrishna Commission report held the Sena responsible for
      the second phase of the riots, the general feeling was : if Thackeray
      can't be booked, let's at least get Sarpotdar.

      When Vilasrao Deshmukh set up the two courts exclusively for riot
      cases, he was simply taking the easiest measure to placate Muslims
      upset at the harsh punishment handed down to the 1993 bomb blast
      perpetrators, while those indicted for the riots, which had led to the
      blasts, remained untouched. Among the 120-odd non-descript cases sent
      to these courts, two had wellknown Sena leaders as accused. Former
      minister of state for home Gajanan Kirtikar was acquitted in May.
      Everyone expected Sarpotdar to walk free too.

      The trial had already lasted 15 years, with magistrate after
      magistrate giving adjournments at the behest of the defence. Even
      after the Congress government took over in 1999, no special PP was
      appointed; indeed, one resigned after having remained unpaid for more
      than six months. All seven accused — six from the Sena and one from
      the BJP —were never present in court together, but warrants were
      rarely issued and if issued, not served.

      Then, the police had done their best to save Sarpotdar. All that they
      produced in court against him as evidence was the FIR and the Station
      Diary Entry that had the text of the speeches, placards and slogans.
      Typically, they had not bothered to record the statement of any
      independent witness. Sarpotdar's lawyer Jaiprakash Bagoria, who had
      got him acquitted in the previous riots case and also got Kirtikar
      acquitted, had once fought elections on a Sena ticket.

      He was confident about the outcome thistime too. Ironically, it was
      his cross-examination that got his clients convicted. Bagoria did not
      deny that his clients had given speeches. In his cross, he only
      contested the content of the speeches. Bagoria submitted a newspaper
      photograph of the procession which showed no placards. The
      accompanying text mentioned placards and slogans Magistrate R C Bapat
      Sarkar, picked out from a civil court to judge cases of rioting, was
      the kind who scrutinised every word of the evidence before her. Hence,
      she read not only those excerpts of the speeches highlighted in the
      FIR but also the long excerpts in the Station Diary Entry, which were
      far more incendiary. The judgment reproduces these long excerpts to
      show just how "vituperative and acerbic" the speeches were, the
      language used leaving no doubt about their intention to promote enmity
      on grounds of religion.

      The conclusive paragraphs of the judgment are worth reproducing only
      because they remind us that acts committed day in and day out by
      Hindutva leaders are in fact crimes for which they are never punished.
      Says the judgment: "All the accused have to begin with, lauded the act
      of destroying the Babri Masjid as a credit to the Hindus... These kind
      of speeches were clearly aimed at kindling the Hindu populace into an
      aggressive stance… Against the backdrop (of the riots) it would be
      obvious to any prudent person …that such incitement would lead to
      further aggravation of communal sentiments and violent acts.

      The accused were all seasoned politicians and elected representatives
      with some maturity… In spite of this, it has come on record that they
      blatantly gave such speeches openly exhorting Hindus to take to the
      streets instead of discarding their responsibility towards the public
      of trying to alleviate tension and restore normalcy. Such acts deserve
      punitive measures in order to send the correct signal to society at
      large that wrong-doing would be punished." The judgment is all the
      more remarkable because the magistrate could easily have taken the
      easy way out and talked about letting bygones be bygones.

      After all, she had an illustrious precedent — the Bombay High Court
      had done that while exonerating Bal Thackeray for his editorials in
      Saamna, just two years after the riots. A week before this judgment,
      Magistrate SS Sharma's special riots court convicted two Shiv Sainiks
      for rioting, the first time anyone from the party was found guilty in
      a 92- 93 riots case. Not in his wildest dreams would Deshmukh, whose
      appointment had been welcomed in Saamna, and who has shown no
      inclination in the eight years he's been CM, of wanting to punish the
      guilty of the '92-93 riots, have imagined such an outcome. One more
      wily politician thwarted by the judiciary.

      ______


      [5]

      The Guardian
      August 3 2008

      A CHANCE TO FIX THE FIGHT AGAINST AIDS

      To improve prevention, HIV/Aids organisations must roll back George
      Bush's demonising of sex workers and drug users

      by Siddharth Dube and Joanne Csete

      With President Bush's term coming to a close and a search underway for
      a new chief for the UNAids secretariat, the 15,000 experts and
      activists gathered in Mexico City for the 17th International Aids
      Conference can begin to repair the deadly damage inflicted by the Bush
      administration's reactionary take on HIV prevention and the UN's
      culpable failure to challenge it.

      Since 2001, the Bush administration has poured billions of US
      government dollars into preaching abstinence to young people,
      maligning the efficacy of condoms, denying key HIV prevention services
      to drug users and eradicating sex work - the last, bizarrely, elevated
      to an explicit goal of US foreign policy. The net result today is that
      HIV prevention is in tatters in many countries, including in the US
      itself.

      In 2007, 2.5m people contracted HIV, bringing the global total of
      people living with HIV to over 33m. HIV prevention services reach less
      than one in 10 injection drug users and men who have sex with men,
      globally, and less than one in five sex workers - even though these
      disenfranchised populations have some of the highest HIV infection
      rates and are crucial to stemming the epidemic's spread. The
      demonising of sex workers and drug users has intensified, with raids,
      imprisonment and punitive laws on the upsurge in country after
      country, rich and poor alike. US-funded abstinence-only programmes
      have derailed comprehensive approaches to HIV prevention in several
      sub-Saharan African countries, as well as fuelled persecution of gay
      men, sex workers and even people living with HIV.

      Just as perniciously, through financial blandishments and outright
      bullying, the Bush administration has sabotaged the UNAids
      secretariat's commitment to providing rigorous guidance on any issue
      contested by it. (UNAids is a joint-agency effort that has coordinated
      the UN's response to Aids since 1996. Its 10 co-sponsors include the
      World Health Organisation and the World Bank.) The UNAids
      secretariat's now-outgoing executive director, Belgian virologist
      Peter Piot, blundered hugely in not combating the reactionary Bush
      agenda on HIV prevention when it first emerged. Consequently, global
      policy-making on HIV prevention has regressed at precisely the time
      when rigorous guidance could have made the billions now available for
      anti-Aids programmes work effectively.

      To its great credit, in its early years of operation, UNAids
      successfully integrated human rights and public health imperatives, as
      well as on-the-ground evidence of what works best, in framing policies
      and guidance on HIV prevention. It developed a remarkable body of
      guidelines for legislators and other policy-makers about protecting
      the rights of the disenfranchised populations that are very vulnerable
      to HIV. It put together a wealth of evidence showing the value of Aids
      programmes and policies that put the last first – that engaged with
      and respected some of society's most marginalised persons as agents of
      change and HIV prevention. It pronounced as "best practice" those
      path-breaking programmes that recognised the power of sex workers to
      educate their clients and the public, and the effectiveness of drug
      users as counsellors and outreach workers in HIV prevention efforts.

      Tragically, in the face of the Bush administration's assault, UNAids
      has disavowed much of this admirable legacy. The disavowal is
      particularly marked on sex work and injection drug use, the two areas
      singled out by the Bush administration. Thus, UNAids' longstanding
      policy guidance that sex work should be decriminalised, sex workers
      mobilised and health and workplace conditions regulated, as a central
      HIV prevention strategy, contrasts starkly with a UNAids guidance note
      on sex work released last year (pdf), seeming to have been dictated by
      the White House. The guidance note focused on "rescue" and
      "rehabilitation" of sex workers – an approach that UNAids had
      criticised in the past as being harmful to HIV prevention – rather
      than on supporting sex workers. The guidance note did not even refer
      to UNAids' earlier recommendations on sex work, let alone explain the
      reversal of policy.

      It may bode well for a new era of more courageous UN leadership
      against Aids that the Commission on Aids in Asia, a group of
      distinguished experts convened by but independent of UNAids, released
      a report in March that breaks with both the Bush and the current
      UNAids lines. The HIV epidemic in Asia, the commission noted, affects
      mostly sex workers and their clients, drug users and men who have sex
      with men. The epidemic is stopped in its tracks, then, by ensuring
      that those persons have access to all the HIV prevention and treatment
      services that 25 years of experience have shown to be effective. But
      providing those services is nearly impossible to people whose most
      pressing worries are escaping police repression and overcoming social
      exclusion.

      So with clarity and boldness that has been completely lacking from
      UNAids for many years now, the commission recommends decriminalisation
      of sex work as being essential to HIV prevention. It calls for
      reshaping policy on illicit drugs so that public health services for
      people with addictions are more important than criminal prosecution.
      And it enjoins Asian nations to repeal sodomy laws, to respect the
      rights of men who have sex with men, and to empower them to be part of
      HIV programmes and policy-making. The case for such legal and policy
      reform is so strong that UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon himself
      explicitly endorsed the commission's call for decriminalising sex
      work, same-sex relations and "harm reduction" for injection drug users.

      A strong and human-rights-based UNAids response is vital to ensuring
      that millions more people do not die as a result of preventable HIV
      infections. If the delegates to the Mexico Aids conference want to see
      HIV prevention efforts get back on track, they must insist that the
      next leader of the UNAids secretariat be someone who has the nerve to
      resolutely stand up to political pressures - and to always put the
      needs and legitimate demands of the last first.

      ______


      [6] [Just Published]


      THE HISTORY OF PAKISTAN

      by Iftikhar H. Malik

      ISBN: 0-313-34137-0
      ISBN-13: 978-0-313-34137-3

      260 pages, map
      Greenwood Press
      Publication: 7/30/2008
      List Price: $45.00 (UK Sterling Price: £25.95)

      Media Type: Hardcover
      Also Available: Ebook
      Trim Size: 6 1/8 x 9 1/4

      Table of Contents:

      * Series Foreword
      * Preface
      * Acronyms
      * Chronology
      * Chapter One The Indus Heartland and Karakoram Country
      * Chapter Two The Indus Valley Civilisation: Dravidians to Aryans
      * Chapter Three Islam in South Asia: The Indus and Delhi Sultanates
      * Chapter Four The Great Mughals and the Golden Era in the Indo-
      * Islamic Civilisation, 1526-1707
      * Chapter Five The British Rule and the Independence Movements
      * Chapter Six Muslims in South Asia and the Making of Pakistan
      * Chapter Seven Pakistan: Establishing the State, 1947-58
      * Chapter Eight Military Take-over and the Separation of East
      Pakistan, 1958-1971
      * Chapter Nine Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, PPP and the Military Regime of
      General Zia-ul-Haq, 1972-88
      * Chapter Ten Democratic Decade: 1988-1999. Benazir Bhutto and
      Nawaz Sharif
      * Chapter Eleven General Pervez Musharraf and Pakistan in the
      Twenty-first Century
      * Biographical Notes
      * Glossary


      ______


      [7] UPCOMING EVENTS

      (i)

      THE NIGAH QUEERFEST '08
      8th to 17th August 2008 in New Delhi
      http://www.thequeerfest.com

      o o o

      (ii)

      Kethesh Loganathan Memorial Event

      WAR AND THE QUESTION OF MINORITIES: DEMOCRATIZATION AND STATE REFORM
      IN SRI LANKA

      Saturday, August 9, 2008
      7:00p.m.
      OISE/University of Toronto
      Auditorium
      252 Bloor Street West
      (St. George Subway Station)

      Sri Lanka is mired in a brutal war with civilian suffering reaching
      immense proportions. A just political solution that rejects violence
      and works towards democratization and co-existence is the need of the
      hour. Impunity must end and there is no military solution to the
      conflict. The question of minorities, who are under increasing attack,
      needs to be addressed through open dialogue and a democratic political
      process. Please join Sri Lankan activists from around the world for
      this public discussion in memory of longtime democracy activist
      Kethesh Loganathan.

      Sponsored by Sri Lanka Democracy Forum (SLDF)



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

      Buzz for secularism, on the dangers of fundamentalism(s), on
      matters of peace and democratisation in South
      Asia. SACW is an independent & non-profit
      citizens wire service run since 1998 by South
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      DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed in materials carried in the posts do
      not necessarily reflect the views of SACW compilers.
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