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SACW | Nov 29 - Dec 2, 2008 / Gala for War Mongers and Fascists: white vans / storks / bombay bloodbath

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | November 29 - December 2, 2008 | Dispatch No. 2587 - Year 11 running From: www.sacw.net [1] Democracy in the US and Sri Lanka
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2008
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      South Asia Citizens Wire | November 29 - December 2, 2008 | Dispatch
      No. 2587 - Year 11 running
      From: www.sacw.net

      [1] Democracy in the US and Sri Lanka (Rohini Hensman)
      + Sri Lanka's 'White Van Syndrome' (Roland Buerk)
      [2] Bangladesh: Secular forces must organise against bigots (New Age)
      + Islamists arrested for attacking sculptures seen as idols
      (reuters)
      [3] India: Mumbai bloodbath - a joint statement by concerned citizens
      of Pakistan and India
      [4] India/Pakistan: Pleas For Sanity as Sabres Rattle Over Mumbai
      Mayhem (Beena Sarwar)
      [5] India: What They Hate About Mumbai (Suketu Mehta)
      [6] India: Mumbai rekindles debate about Muslims, their beard and so
      on (Jawed Naqvi)
      [7] India: Tolerating Terrorism (Ram Puniyani)
      [8] Announcements:
      (i) Panel 'Accounting for Justice' in Kashmir (New York, 2 December
      2008)
      (ii) Public Forum : Orissa - Another Hindutva Laboratory? (London, 5
      December 2008)
      (iii) Say No To Terror! Say No To Violence!" - Human Chain" in South
      Mumbai, (Bombay, 10 December, 2008)

      -----


      [1] Sri Lanka:

      DEMOCRACY IN THE US AND SRI LANKA

      by Rohini Hensman
      http://www.sacw.net/article346.html

      o o o

      SRI LANKA'S 'WHITE VAN SYNDROME'

      by Roland Buerk
      BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents

      The Sri Lankan government claims to be on the verge of delivering a
      knockout blow to the Tamil Tigers. But in its pursuit of victory, has
      the government lost the chance of lasting peace?
      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/crossing_continents/7750100.stm

      _____


      [2]

      New Age, December 1, 2008

      Editorial

      SECULAR FORCES MUST ORGANISE AGAINST BIGOTS

      THE attempted destruction of the Balaka sculpture in Dhaka’s
      Dilkhusha area on Saturday night by a radical Islamist group adds to
      concerns over the growing impunity with which religious extremists
      are attacking political, cultural and social freedoms in our society.
      Just over a month ago, a group of bigots tore down a monument to
      commemorate mystic and folk philosopher Lalon Shah, claiming that
      representations of living beings is forbidden in their medieval
      interpretation of Islam. The following day, the military-controlled
      interim government decided to remove the monument that it itself had
      commissioned. The government has refused to reverse its decision
      since, despite widespread popular demands for restoration of the
      sculpture. Its refusal to stand up to religious bigotry may very well
      have emboldened the obscurantist forces to launch an attack on
      another sculpture in the city.

      The law-enforcement agencies did act to prevent the destruction of
      the Balaka sculpture and some of the perpetrators were arrested, so
      reported the national media on Sunday. However, the interim
      government’s apparent policy of political religious hardliners,
      accentuated earlier this year by its backtracking on the women’s
      development policy in the face of week after week of protests by
      obscurantist forces and more recently by its inaction with regard to
      the assault on a freedom-fighter by some Jamaat-e-Islami activists at
      a so-called freedom fighters’ convention, makes this a case of too
      little too late. The incumbents’ tendency to use kid gloves to deal
      with the religious hardliners was also apparent in the immunity that
      the figureheads of the Jamaat-e-Islami have enjoyed during the
      corruption investigations that the government has carried out in the
      past two years.

      The destruction of the Baul monument and the latest attack on the
      Balaka monument could be signs that the Islamist radicals may be
      convinced of their political impunity. While the targets are cultural
      representations of Bengali history and tradition, the ultimate aim of
      the bigots seems to be to invade the political sphere and block the
      freedoms that a secular society inherently enjoys. This latest
      incident should be a wake-up call for all democratic and secular
      sections of society to rally in a broad resistance of the medieval
      dogma that these radicals preach. At the heart of this resistance
      must be a political movement to protect democratic freedoms, bringing
      to bear popular pressure on the major political parties to either
      embrace secular thinking or be rejected by the masses.

      o o o

      The Daily Star
      December 01, 2008

      ISLAMISTS ARRESTED FOR ATTACKING SCULPTURES SEEN AS IDOLS

      Reuters

      Dhaka: Police in Dhaka arrested eight Islamists after they attacked a
      sculpture depicting a group of white storks, in a continuing campaign
      against statues and artwork they say are forbidden by Islam.

      "We detained eight members of a fanatic Islamist group for damaging
      the sculptures at Dhaka's Motijheel commercial area around midnight
      on Saturday," police officer Fazlul Haq told Reuters on Sunday.

      Witnesses said nearly 400 Ulama Anjumane Al Baiyanat activists
      gathered around the sculptures with shovels and hammers, chanting
      slogans calling for the demolition of all stoneworks, which some
      hardliners consider to be idols.

      Clash with police

      First they tried to pull down the 13-metre high sculptures by putting
      ropes around the necks of the storks. Unable to do this, the group
      attacked the base with hammers and other tools, the witnesses told
      reporters, before clashing with police trying to disperse them.

      Various Islamist groups, including the Al Baiyanat, have been
      vandalising sculptures in Muslim-majority Bangladesh in recent months.

      They destroyed a huge statue of mystic poet Lalon Shah outside the
      Dhaka international airport in October, triggering a national protest.

      "These are attacks on Bengali culture and a state of impunity has
      encouraged them to carry out such acts," said Mrinal Haque, who
      sculpted both Lalon and the storks.

      ____


      [3] Pakistan / India:

      http://www.sacw.net/article354.html

      This Joint Statement is being released to the press simultaneously in
      Pakistan and India today, 29th November 2008.

      MUMBAI BLOODBATH

      We are deeply shocked and horrified at the bloody mayhem in Mumbai,
      which has claimed more than a hundred and twenty five lives and
      caused grievous injuries to several hundred people, besides sending a
      wave of panic and terror across South Asia and beyond. We convey our
      profound feelings of sorrow and sympathies to the grieving families
      of the unfortunate victims of this heinous crime and express our
      solidarity with them.

      As usual, all sorts of speculations are circulating about the
      identity of the perpetrators of this act of barbarism. The truth
      about who are directly involved in this brutal incident and who could
      be the culprits behind the scene is yet to come out and we do not
      wish to indulge in any guesswork or blame game at this point.
      However, one is intrigued at its timing. Can it be termed a
      coincidence that it has happened on the day the Home Secretaries of
      the two countries concluded their talks in Islamabad and announced
      several concrete steps to move forward in the peace process, such as
      the opening of several land routes for trade – Kargil, Wagah-Attari,
      Khokhropar etc –, relaxation in the visa regime, a soft and liberal
      policy on the issue of release of prisoners and joint efforts to
      fight terrorism? Again, is it just a coincidence that on this fateful
      day the Foreign Minister of Pakistan was in the Indian capital
      holding very useful and productive talks with his Indian
      counterpart? One thing looks crystal clear. The enemies of peace and
      friendship between the two countries, whatever be the label under
      which they operate, are un-nerved by these healthy developments and
      are hell bent on torpedoing them.

      We are of the considered opinion that the continued absence of peace
      in South Asia - peace between and within states - particularly in
      relation to India and Pakistan, is one of the root causes of most of
      the miseries the people of the region are made to endure. It is the
      major reason why our abundantly resource-rich subcontinent is
      wallowing in poverty, unemployment, disease, and ignorance and why
      militarism, religious and sectarian violence and political, economic
      and social injustice are eating into the very vitals of our
      societies, even after more than six decades of independence from
      colonial rule.

      At this moment of unmitigated tragedy, the first thing we call upon
      the Governments of India and Pakistan to do is to acknowledge the
      fact that the overwhelming majority of the people of India and
      Pakistan ardently desire peace and, therefore, the peace process must
      be pursued with redoubled speed and determination on both sides. The
      sooner the ruling establishments of India and Pakistan acknowledge
      this fact and push ahead with concrete steps towards lasting peace
      and harmony in the subcontinent, the better it will be not only for
      the people of our two countries but also for the whole of South Asia
      and the world. While the immediate responsibility for unmasking the
      culprits of Mumbai and taking them to task surely rests with the
      Government of India, all of us in South Asia have an obligation to
      join hands and go into the root causes of why and how such forces of
      evil are motivated and emboldened to resort to such acts of anti-
      people terror.

      It is extremely important to remind the leaderships of Pakistan and
      India that issuing statements and signing agreements and
      declarations will have meaning only when they are translated into
      action and implemented honestly, in letter and spirit and without any
      further loss of time. It assumes added urgency in the prevailing
      conditions in South Asia, with the possibility that so many different
      forces prone to religious, sectarian and other forms of intolerance
      and violence may be looking for ways to arm themselves with more and
      more sophisticated weapons of mass murder and destruction. The
      bloodbath in Mumbai must open the eyes of our governments, if it has
      not already happened.

      We urge upon the governments of India and Pakistan to immediately
      take the following steps:

      1. Cessation of all hostile propaganda against each other;
      2. Joint action to curb religious extremism of all shades in both
      countries;
      3. Continue and intensify normalization of relations and peaceful
      resolution of all conflicts between the two countries;
      4. Facilitation of trade and cooperation between the two
      countries and in all of South Asia. We welcome the fact that the
      Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawlakot borders have been opened
      for trade and that the opening of the road between Kargil and Skardu
      is in the pipeline.
      5. Immediate abolition of the current practice of issuing city-
      specific and police reporting visa and issue country-valid visa
      without restrictions at arrival point, simultaneously initiating
      necessary steps to introduce as early as possible a visa-free travel
      regime, to encourage friendship between the peoples of both countries;
      6. Declaration by India and Pakistan of No First Use of atomic
      weapons;
      7. Concrete measures towards making South Asia nuclear-free;
      8. Radical reduction in military spending and end to militarisation.

      Signatories:

      Pakistan

      1. Mr. Iqbal Haider, Co-Chairman, Human Rights Commission
      Pakistan and former federal Minister of Pakistan
      2. Dr. Tipu Sultan, President, Pakistan Doctors for Peace &
      Development, Karachi
      3. Dr. Tariq Sohail, Dean, Jinnah Medical & Dental University,
      Karachi
      4. Dr. A. H. Nayyar, President, Pakistan Peace Coalition, Islamabad
      5. Justice (Retd) Rasheed A. Razvi, President, Sindh High Court
      Bar Association
      6. Mr. B.M.Kutty, Secretary General, Pakistan Peace Coalition,
      Karachi
      7. Mr. Karamat Ali, Director, PILER, Karachi, Founding member,
      PIPFPD
      8. Mr. Fareed Awan, General Secretary, Pakistan Workers
      Confederation, Sindh
      9. Mr. Muhammad Ali Shah, Chairman, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum,
      Karachi
      10. Mr. Zulfiqar Halepoto, Secretary, Sindh Democratic Front,
      Hyderabad
      11. Professor Dr. Sarfraz Khan, Area Studies Centre ( Central
      Asia), Peshawar University
      12. Syed Khadim Ali Shah, Former Member National Assembly, Mirpur
      Khas
      13. Mr. Muhammad Tahseen, Director, South Asia Partnership (PAK),
      Lahore
      14. Mrs. Saleha Athar, Network for Women’s Rights, Karachi
      15. Ms. Sheema Kermani, Tehreek-e-Niswan, Karachi
      16. Ms. Saeeda Diep, President, Institute of Secular Studies, Lahore
      17. Dr. Aly Ercelan, Pakistan Labour Trust, Karachi
      18. Mr. Suleiman G. Abro, Director, Sindh Agricultural & Forestry
      Workers Organisation, Hyderabad
      19. Mr. Sharafat Ali, PILER, Karachi
      20. Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah, PILER, Karachi
      21. Mr. Ayub Qureshi, Information Secretary, Pakistan Trade Union
      Federation
      22. Ms. Sheen Farrukh, Director, Interpress Communication
      Pakistan, Karachi
      23. Mr. Zafar Malik, PIPFPD, Lahore
      24. Mr. Adam Malik, Action-Aid Pakistan, Karachi
      25. Mr. Qamarul Hasan, International Union of Food Workers (IUF),
      Karachi
      26. Prof. Muhammad Nauman, NED University, Karachi
      27. Mr. Mirza Maqsood, General Secretary, Mazdoor Mahaz-e-Amal
      28. Ms. Shaista Bukhari, Women Rights Association, Multan

      India

      1. Kuldip Nayar, journalist, former Indian High Commissioner,
      UK., Delhi
      2. S P Shukla, retired Finance Secretary, former Member, Planning
      Commission, Delhi
      3. PEACE MUMBAI network of 15 organisations, Mumbai
      4. Seema Mustafa, Journalist, Delhi
      5. Manisha Gupte, MASUM, Pune
      6. Dr. Ramesh Awasthi, PUCL, Maharashtra
      7. Jatin Desai, journalist, Mumbai
      8. Prof. Ritu Dewan, University of Mumbai
      9. Prabir Purkayashta, DSF, Delhi
      10. Prof. Pushpa Bhave , Mumbai
      11. Paromita Vohra, filmmaker, Mumbai
      12. Achin Vanaik, CNDP, Delhi
      13. Meena Menon, Focus on the Global South, Mumbai
      14. Romar Correa Professor of Economics, University of Mumbai
      15. Anjum Rajabally, film writer, Mumbai
      16. Anand Patwardhan, filmmaker, Mumbai
      17. Kamla Bhasin, SANGAT, Delhi
      18. Dr. Padmini Swaminathan, MIDS, Chennai
      19. Sumit Bali, CEO, Kotak Mahindra Prime Limited
      20. Dr Walter Fernandes, Director, North Eastern Social Research
      Centre, Assam,
      21. Rabia, Lahore Chitrkar
      22. Rakesh Sharma, filmmaker, Mumbai
      23. Prof. Kamal Mitra Chenoy, JNU, Delhi
      24. Prof. Anuradha Chenoy, JNU, Delhi
      25. P K Das, architect, Mumbai
      26. Neera Adarkar, architect, Mumbai
      27. Datta Iswalkar, Secretary, Textile Workers Action Committee,
      Mumbai
      28. Madhusree Dutta, filmmaker, Majlis, Mumbai
      29. Amrita Chhachhi, Founding member, PIPFPD

      ______


      [4]

      Inter Press Service,
      December 1, 2008

      INDIA/PAKISTAN: PLEAS FOR SANITY AS SABRES RATTLE OVER MUMBAI MAYHEM

      by Beena Sarwar

      KARACHI, Dec 1 (IPS) - The pattern is all too familiar. Every time
      India and Pakistan head towards dialogue and detente, something
      explosive happens that pushes peace to the backburner and drags them
      back to the familiar old tense relationship, worsened by sabre-
      rattling war cries from both sides.

      The relationship between the two nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours
      has been marked by tentative ups and plunging downs, particularly
      over the past decade. This decade is also marked by increasingly
      vocal voices for peace on both sides of the border who openly
      criticise their countries’ political and security establishments.

      The fallout from the Mumbai mayhem is no different, if all the more
      ominous for having taken place in the midst of the global ‘war on
      terror’ with its ‘us versus them’ rhetoric that has contributed to
      escalated violence around the world and pushed fence-sitters onto one
      or other side.

      On Wednesday a ten-man squad of Islamist warriors armed with assault
      rifles and hand grenades landed in the port city Mumbai and, after
      going on shooting spree, seized control of two of its finest luxury
      hotels and a Jewish centre. By the time commandos neutralised the
      attackers and lifted the sieges Friday, 200 people lay dead —
      including 22 foreign hostages.

      Pakistan and India are part of the Indian sub-continent. They share a
      landmass, mountain ranges, rivers and seas, ancient cultures,
      history, languages and religions. Yet they have fought three wars
      since gaining independence from the British in 1947, after the bloody
      partition of the sub-continent into two countries — largely Hindu
      India and Islamic Pakistan.

      The fourth major conflict between the two countries was the Kargil
      conflict of 1999 that the political leadership on both sides referred
      to as a ‘war-like situation’. The nuclear threat that underlined this
      situation drew the world’s attention to India-Pakistan relations, and
      the festering issue of the disputed state of Kashmir, as never before.

      A year earlier, India and Pakistan’s nuclear tests of May 1998 had
      plunged the region into an unprecedented state of tension. The
      governments celebrated their nuclear capability, feeding rivalry,
      jingoism and nationalism on both sides that the media played up.
      There was far less coverage of those who condemned the tests and the
      governments’ encouragement of reactionary forces that equated
      religion with nationhood.

      Those who protested were swimming against the tide, labelled as
      traitors and anti-nationals, and ‘agents’ of the other country, like
      Islamabad-based physicist A.H. Nayyar who has been active in the
      Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy since the
      organisation was launched in 1995.

      As Nayyar and pro-peace activists addressed a press conference
      condemning the nuclearisation of the region, charged-up young men who
      supported Pakistan’s nuclear tests physically attacked them with chairs.

      Now, expressing his shock at the "mindless, horrible event" in
      Mumbai, he told IPS: "There are people in both countries who don’t
      like efforts towards rapprochement. They take the first opportunity
      to start blowing the bugles of war and instigate hostility."

      The nuclear tests were followed by the historic Lahore Declaration of
      Feb. 1999, when Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif invited his
      Indian counterpart A. B. Vajpayee to Lahore.

      Two months later, the Kargil conflict dashed all hopes for
      rapprochement as it transpired that while the governments talked
      peace, infiltrators from Pakistan were busy grabbing positions in
      Kargil on the Indian-administered side of the disputed state of Kashmir.

      Sharif denied knowledge of the operation, but his army chief Pervez
      Musharraf insisted that Sharif had been briefed. It took the
      intervention of then U.S. president Bill Clinton to de-escalate the
      tension and comple the Pakistani army into making the infiltrators
      withdraw by July 1999, pulling the countries back from the brink of a
      nuclear war.

      In October, Musharraf ousted Sharif in a military coup. The present
      composite dialogue process began in 2004 during the Musharraf regime,
      but India is now dealing with a democratically elected government for
      the first time in a decade, note observers. They also point out that
      it is for the first time that a Pakistani government appears to be
      genuinely attempting to undo the damage done by past policies.

      These policies, linked to Washington’s need to pull down the former
      Soviet Union and drive the Soviet army out of Afghanistan, nurtured
      religious extremism and armed militancy. Later, these armed,
      indoctrinated forces, supported by the Pakistani establishment,
      fuelled the insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir and led to the
      worst sectarian violence in Pakistan.

      The third phase came after ‘9/11’ when Pakistan officially rejected
      these ‘Islamic warriors’.

      As the Pakistan government now tries to formulate new security
      paradigms while also combating the terror menace at home, it needs
      support, say observers. "For the first time, it feels like we are at
      war," says a Karachi-based analyst asking not to be named. "Under
      Musharraf, it was a game to show the Americans that we are taking
      action but actually continuing to nurture some militant elements
      against India."

      "With the threat of global communism gone, and the need for Middle
      East energy primary, America suddenly recognises India as an ally
      against Islamism, and Pakistan becomes a buffer to be squeezed
      relentlessly," commented Vithal Rajan in Hyderabad, India who works
      with several civil society organizations. "The Indian government in
      relief at winning American friendship has fallen in with this ploy,
      further distancing itself from the fledgling democracy of Pakistan,
      and leaving no real solution in sight."

      Mumbai was still burning when Rajan wrote to civil society activists
      in Pakistan and India on Nov. 28 urging them not to "just be reactive
      like the popular press" but take a more thoughtful view of the
      situation.

      Angry condemnations "lead us nowhere; political demands (may) make
      vote-catching politicians rethink strategies, but these might remain
      ineffectual. (We) should create space… to think things out in the
      long term…

      "...[Lal Krishna] Advani has called this attack in Mumbai by a few
      terrorists as ‘a war.’ This is dangerous stuff and nonsense. A war is
      fought between sovereign countries, not between the police and
      criminals. It is in India’s interest and in Pakistan’s interest to
      have stable, progressive governments."

      Advani, who is opposition leader in Indian parliament and represents
      the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has repeatedly accused
      the ruling Congress party, which professes to be secular, of allowing
      India to turn into a ‘soft state’ in the face of a series of deadly
      bombings in Indian cities, this year, that have been attributed to
      Islamist groups.

      Pakistan’s new civilian government has, however, been making attempts
      to step out of the familiar well-worn grooves, note observers.
      President Asif Ali Zardari, for example, has signalled major policy
      shifts by terming the militants in Kashmir as "terrorists", stating
      that India is not Pakistan’s enemy, and then declaring that Pakistan
      had adopted a "no first use" policy on nuclear weapons.

      Participating via satellite link in the prestigious ‘Leadership
      Summit’ conducted by India’s prestigious ‘Hindustan Times’ newspaper,
      on Nov. 22, four days before the attack on Mumbai, Zardari quoted his
      late wife Benazir Bhutto to say that there is a ‘’little bit of India
      in every Pakistani and a little bit of Pakistan in every Indian’’.
      Bhutto was assassinated by suicide bombers, last year, while on
      election campaign.

      The religious right in Pakistan — and its supporters within the
      establishment — is clearly unhappy at Zardari’s peace overtures
      towards India. Militants involved in fighting the state on Pakistan’s
      north-west border have announced a stepping up of efforts to
      assassinate Pakistan’s political leadership.

      Pakistan and India’s fights against extremism "will founder if fought
      alone," noted the young Britain-based Pakistani novelist Mohsin Hamid
      in a recent op-ed in the Guardian, London, warning that India’s rush
      to implicate Pakistan is a "dangerous mistake". "The impulse to
      implicate Pakistan is of course understandable: the past is replete
      with examples of Pakistani and Indian intelligence agencies working
      to destabilise the historical enemy across the border."

      Many analysts believe it is too soon to pin the blame on anyone. "To
      take on the government of a country of 1.2 billion just like that is
      unbelievably stupid," says Nayyar in Islamabad, referring to the
      handful of youngsters who held Mumbai hostage for three days. "If it
      is the work of a fringe group then it is very alarming that the
      states are getting worked up to this extent.

      "But if the perpetrators were part of an organised group, then it is
      also very alarming. We need to sit down and do our homework all over
      again and see how such groups can be contained, or we will all perish."

      Beyond India and Pakistan, the global activist group Avaaz.org is
      launching a message calling for unity following the attacks in
      Mumbai, to be published in newspapers across India and Pakistan and
      delivered to political leaders within one week.

      "The message is that these tactics have failed and we are more united
      than ever. And we are determined to work together to stop violent
      extremism, and call on our political and religious leaders to so the
      same. If these attacks cause us to turn on each other in hatred and
      conflict, the terrorists will have won."


      ______


      [5] India:

      New York Times
      November 28, 2008

      WHAT THEY HATE ABOUT MUMBAI

      by Suketu Mehta

      MY bleeding city. My poor great bleeding heart of a city. Why do they
      go after Mumbai? There’s something about this island-state that
      appalls religious extremists, Hindus and Muslims alike. Perhaps
      because Mumbai stands for lucre, profane dreams and an indiscriminate
      openness.

      Mumbai is all about dhandha, or transaction. From the street food
      vendor squatting on a sidewalk, fiercely guarding his little
      business, to the tycoons and their dreams of acquiring Hollywood,
      this city understands money and has no guilt about the getting and
      spending of it. I once asked a Muslim man living in a shack without
      indoor plumbing what kept him in the city. “Mumbai is a golden
      songbird,” he said. It flies quick and sly, and you’ll have to work
      hard to catch it, but if you do, a fabulous fortune will open up for
      you. The executives who congregated in the Taj Mahal hotel were
      chasing this golden songbird. The terrorists want to kill the songbird.

      Just as cinema is a mass dream of the audience, Mumbai is a mass
      dream of the peoples of South Asia. Bollywood movies are the most
      popular form of entertainment across the subcontinent. Through them,
      every Pakistani and Bangladeshi is familiar with the wedding-cake
      architecture of the Taj and the arc of the Gateway of India, symbols
      of the city that gives the industry its name. It is no wonder that
      one of the first things the Taliban did upon entering Kabul was to
      shut down the Bollywood video rental stores. The Taliban also banned,
      wouldn’t you know it, the keeping of songbirds.

      Bollywood dream-makers are shaken. “I am ashamed to say this,”
      Amitabh Bachchan, superstar of a hundred action movies, wrote on his
      blog. “As the events of the terror attack unfolded in front of me, I
      did something for the first time and one that I had hoped never ever
      to be in a situation to do. Before retiring for the night, I pulled
      out my licensed .32 revolver, loaded it and put it under my pillow.”

      Mumbai is a “soft target,” the terrorism analysts say. Anybody can
      walk into the hotels, the hospitals, the train stations, and start
      spraying with a machine gun. Where are the metal detectors, the
      random bag checks? In Mumbai, it’s impossible to control the crowd.
      In other cities, if there’s an explosion, people run away from it. In
      Mumbai, people run toward it — to help. Greater Mumbai takes in a
      million new residents a year. This is the problem, say the nativists.
      The city is just too hospitable. You let them in, and they break your
      heart.

      In the Bombay I grew up in, your religion was a personal
      eccentricity, like a hairstyle. In my school, you were denominated by
      which cricketer or Bollywood star you worshiped, not which prophet.
      In today’s Mumbai, things have changed. Hindu and Muslim demagogues
      want the mobs to come out again in the streets, and slaughter one
      another in the name of God. They want India and Pakistan to go to
      war. They want Indian Muslims to be expelled. They want India to get
      out of Kashmir. They want mosques torn down. They want temples bombed.

      And now it looks as if the latest terrorists were our neighbors,
      young men dressed not in Afghan tunics but in blue jeans and designer
      T-shirts. Being South Asian, they would have grown up watching the
      painted lady that is Mumbai in the movies: a city of flashy cars and
      flashier women. A pleasure-loving city, a sensual city. Everything
      that preachers of every religion thunder against. It is, as a monk of
      the pacifist Jain religion explained to me, “paap-ni-bhoomi”: the
      sinful land.

      In 1993, Hindu mobs burned people alive in the streets — for the
      crime of being Muslim in Mumbai. Now these young Muslim men murdered
      people in front of their families — for the crime of visiting Mumbai.
      They attacked the luxury businessmen’s hotels. They attacked the open-
      air Cafe Leopold, where backpackers of the world refresh themselves
      with cheap beer out of three-foot-high towers before heading out into
      India. Their drunken revelry, their shameless flirting, must have
      offended the righteous believers in the jihad. They attacked the
      train station everyone calls V.T., the terminus for runaways and
      dreamers from all across India. And in the attack on the Chabad
      house, for the first time ever, it became dangerous to be Jewish in
      India.

      The terrorists’ message was clear: Stay away from Mumbai or you will
      get killed. Cricket matches with visiting English and Australian
      teams have been shelved. Japanese and Western companies have closed
      their Mumbai offices and prohibited their employees from visiting the
      city. Tour groups are canceling long-planned trips.

      But the best answer to the terrorists is to dream bigger, make even
      more money, and visit Mumbai more than ever. Dream of making a good
      home for all Mumbaikars, not just the denizens of $500-a-night hotel
      rooms. Dream not just of Bollywood stars like Aishwarya Rai or Shah
      Rukh Khan, but of clean running water, humane mass transit, better
      toilets, a responsive government. Make a killing not in God’s name
      but in the stock market, and then turn up the forbidden music and
      dance; work hard and party harder.

      If the rest of the world wants to help, it should run toward the
      explosion. It should fly to Mumbai, and spend money. Where else are
      you going to be safe? New York? London? Madrid?

      So I’m booking flights to Mumbai. I’m going to go get a beer at the
      Leopold, stroll over to the Taj for samosas at the Sea Lounge, and
      watch a Bollywood movie at the Metro. Stimulus doesn’t have to be
      just economic.

      Suketu Mehta, a professor of journalism at New York University, is
      the author of “Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found.”
      More Articles in Opinion » A version of this article appeared in
      print on November 29, 2008, on page A23 of the New York edition.


      ______


      [6] India:

      Dawn
      December 1, 2008

      MUMBAI REKINDLES DEBATE ABOUT MUSLIMS, THEIR BEARD AND SO ON

      By Jawed Naqvi

      WHAT else could one do to cope with relentless grief? So I joined an
      impromptu candlelight vigil held by a dozen friends at India Gate,
      where we paid our silent tribute to the fallen brave of Mumbai.
      Scores of men, women and children were visiting there anyway, eating
      ice creams or buying dinky toys. They were ordinary citizens having a
      holiday due to the Delhi assembly elections. Some of them also joined
      us in lighting candles.

      There was no speech, no slogan, just a silent tribute. I grabbed the
      balloons from a boy vending them and gave him a candle to light. He
      hesitated, not believing that he was being urged to join the nation’s
      grief. Later he said thank you. I am not sure if it was relief at
      being returned the balloons or for being given a candle to light
      along with a class of people for many of whom he was no more than a
      pest. Two other boys in tattered sweaters were walking around the
      colonial war memorial selling hot coffee. I gave them candles too as
      I looked after their steaming kettles.

      I handed out candles to a group of evidently upper class women. A
      friend, a woman journalist who doesn’t normally have patience with
      communal gossip, overheard their conversation. She whispered to me
      that the women were suspicious of me. She thought it had something to
      do with my beard and the Afghan cap I wear on cold evenings. Only
      when I introduced myself and declared that India needed a dictator
      did they look relaxed. I said Narendra Modi was my hero, even though
      he sports a different kind of beard. This was a ploy that works when
      there’s no scope for serious discussion. The women said the country
      needed Modi as prime minister. I endorsed the view so that they could
      sleep peacefully that night. We parted on this cordial note.

      On the way back, my friend and I discussed how beards had become
      particularly suspect since the advent of Osama bin Laden. And here,
      the Mumbai terrorists who themselves were probably clean-shaven pub-
      crawling college kids, had deepened mistrust that was not just rooted
      in facial hair. They had succeeded in their mission to drive a deeper
      wedge among Indians as evident at India Gate.

      It didn’t seem to matter to the women that the Jewish rabbi who was
      killed in Mumbai with his wife also sported a beard. It was
      irrelevant that Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the revered icon of the
      RSS wore a mullah-like beard as did the troika of Marx, Engels and
      Lenin. If anything Hitler and Stalin were always neatly shaved. But
      that’s not the point. Today in India it has become difficult to say
      exactly where and how prejudices are given shape such as the kind the
      women exuded.

      The next day, on Sunday, I attended Sabina Sehgal Saikai’s simple
      funeral at an electric crematorium near the Nizamuddin Aulia’s
      shrine. She was charred when they found her in the bombed out room at
      the Taj Mahal Hotel from where one of her last messages from her
      mobile phone, as she hid under the bed, said: “They have entered my
      bathroom.” Why the terrorists bombed her room is not known. But it is
      fair to surmise that reckless TV journalists gave her location to
      them with the TRP-linked live coverage. Sabina was a journalist at
      Times of India and we shared a common interest in Indian classical
      music. She learnt singing from an Ustaad of the Dagar family. The
      funeral brought many of her friends together. They ranged from the
      left to the right of the political spectrum. But she was a singularly
      liberal intellectual who joined causes such as the defence of artist
      M.F. Husain against religious fanatics.

      Given the range of her friends and the grief Sabina left them with,
      the funeral became a platform to exchange the dominant theme of the
      occasion: What was to be done? Film actress Nandita Das was among the
      mourners that broke into a dozen groups or more, each more worried
      than the other about what was happening to India. Nandita has just
      made a film about the social isolation of Muslims in Gujarat. She
      told me some of her close friends had wondered why she was
      sympathetic to Muslims, and one of them even asked if she had a
      Muslim boyfriend. What I know is that she has a Gujarati mother.

      Let me share a bit of an email Nandita sent to her friends the day
      before the funeral. It said: “It hadn’t hit me hard enough till
      Thursday morning…I have to say, it had very little effect on me. My
      predictable response was, not again...more people will die, more
      fear, more prejudice and more hatred. But at some level the response
      was instant and cerebral. But this morning when I got up things felt
      different. Got a message from an unknown no: “See what your friends
      have done.” Strangely a close friend of mine got a similar message
      last night, but from an acquaintance. Just because Firaaq, my film,
      deals with how Muslims ‘also’ get affected by violence, the
      terrorists are supposed to be my friends!

      “Today a common young Muslim man around town is probably the most
      vulnerable. I got many messages from my Muslim friends who feel the
      need to condemn it more than anyone else, who feel the need to prove
      their national allegiance in every possible way. They are begging to
      be not clubbed with the terrorists, a fear not unfounded. Then of
      course there were tons of messages from well-wishers across the world
      who asked about me and my loved ones’ safety. I too did the same. And
      strangely that was when tears started rolling down my cheek, almost
      involuntarily. Guess the thought that if our loved ones were fine,
      it’s all ok, seemed like a bizarre way to feel. When will our souls
      ache when anyone is hurt, even those that we have never seen and will
      never see? The more I wrote back in sms’s and emails that I was ok,
      the more miserable I was feeling.”

      Nandita’s torment may not be unrelated to the way our democracy has
      evolved. Here you are an unprecedented terror attack by any global
      standards, which begins with the elections in BJP-ruled Madhya
      Pradesh and ends with polls in Congress-ruled Delhi. The outcome will
      not be known till next week. The BJP doesn’t need Muslim votes but it
      doesn’t want the Congress to benefit from this indifference either.
      So it mounts pressure on the Congress, accusing it of being soft on
      terror (forgetting that it was the BJP government that had freed the
      man who went on to kill Daniel Pearl).

      A newspaper declared on Sunday that the government had been finally
      jolted from its sleep. How did the newspaper know? The evidence was
      there for all to see, it said. The government had put back on the
      table the hanging of Afzal Guru, the Kashmiri convict, sentenced to
      die for plotting to blow up the 2001 parliament, it says. Will that
      go an inch in curbing terrorism? The killers of Mumbai seemed quite
      prepared to die. Guru himself wants to be hanged. So what’s the logic
      in hastening his death ahead of others who have been languishing on
      the death row for much longer than him? Some years ago they had
      hanged Maqbool Butt who became a Kashmiri hero. You can’t have
      vendetta or prejudice for state policy. It’s a mercy that the women
      at India Gate are not running the government. Or aren’t they?

      ______


      [7] India:

      TOLERATING TERRORISM

      by Ram Puniyani

      Things have been changing by the day on the issue of terrorism
      investigation since the proof of Sadhvi Prgya Singh Thakur’s
      involvement in the Malegaon blast has come to the surface. So far the
      word Islamic terrorism has been in the air in the post 9/11 phase
      when the US administration ensured that media takes up this new word
      and propagates it. The social common sense that ‘all terrorists are
      Muslims’ went to such a pass that many a lawyers taking up the cases
      of terror suspects were not only beaten up but also some of the Bar
      Associations passed the resolutions, contrary to their own
      professional ethics, that they will not take up the cases of the
      terror suspects. The basic adage that one is innocent till proved
      guilty was turned upside down. The legal aid to many of these
      suspects was meager if at all.

      Matters change with Sadhvi being arrested by the Maharashtra ATS. The
      RSS associates, VHP, Shiv Sena rushed to put together the team of
      lawyers to stand for the terror accused. The Shiv Sena is calling a
      bandh in support of Pragya and Co. We are hearing strange arguments;
      Hindus can’t be terrorists as it is not in their genes. This
      statement also subtly hinted that terrorism is in the genes of ‘some’
      other community. But lets be clear terrorism is not a genetic
      problem, it is due to social, political and economic reasons.

      It was stated that Maharashtra Government is doing all this at the
      behest of the Government, reducing all investigations to being merely
      politically motivated one. Not that these things don’t happen but one
      has also to see that in the prevailing situation where the social
      mind set accepts the formulation that ‘all terrorists are Muslims’,
      to suspect a non Muslim will require more than a mere grain of truth
      to venture and touch any non Muslim and that too one with divine robe
      adorning on one’s body or the one wearing the green fatigues of army
      with its holy cow image. Logically no officer in the right frame of
      mind can even dare think of such a move unless impeccable evidence is
      there.

      In pre-Sadhvi period of terrorism RSS affiliates accused the Congress
      of being soft on terrorism, in turn encouraging terrorism. They came
      up with the formulation that they will provide a Government with Zero
      tolerance for terrorism, meaning a total high handed ness in case of
      terror accused. Now the matters stand turned upside down and no
      question of zero tolerance for terror accused, special efforts are
      being made to ensure that popular pressure is built up to save the
      likes of Sadhvi, Acharya or Lt Col. Not only that, the issue is being
      communalized and many right wing political parties are offering the
      accused the tickets for the forthcoming elections. At the same time
      propaganda is launched that the holy person like sadhvi is being
      targeted for political reasons or that the noble institution of army
      is being sullied by the Congress Government. Both these are baseless
      as the investigation seems to be proceeding with extreme caution and
      the leads provided by Sadhvi’s motor cycle, used in Malegaon blasts
      is being pursued meticulously.

      Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and the Lt Col. Prasad Purohit have
      alleged that they were tortured in the police custody. A major
      morning newspaper reports that the training camp conducted by Abhinav
      Bharat, instructed the trainees that in order to deflect the
      investigation, all should be done to implicate the investigation
      authorities themselves. So one does not know whether they were
      tortured or they have been tutored to say so. One waits with baited
      breath for the real truth to come out. It goes without saying that
      torture of accused in police custody is not a matter of surprise, it
      must be condemned and there is no place for compromising with the
      human rights of accused, who so ever one is. One will condemn the
      authorities if the torture of Sadhvi and company has taken place.

      So far no one from RSS affiliates talked of human rights of accused.
      Now this section is talking that the terror accused are being
      tortured and that their human rights are being violated. One must
      ensure the truth behind this. While police is capable of using its
      usual arms twisting methods to extort confession, one will doubt if
      the police can dare touch a saffron robed sadhvi or green uniformed
      Lt Col. Let the inquiry decide, whether it is a genuine complaint or
      a ploy to deflect the investigation.

      One interesting aside to the investigation of acts of terror is that
      so far during last few years, the Muslim youth were caught hold of
      after every terror attack, for a couple of days the media was abuzz
      with the same news and then once they were produced in the court for
      the lack of evidence many of them were quietly let off. This part was
      generally not in the news. While a wrong person is accused, that
      person does suffer all the humiliation etc, the additional point is
      that because of this the real culprit merrily keeps planning the
      further things. And that seems to be the case. As despite the leads
      provided by Nanded blasts, where two Bajrang Dal workers were killed
      while making bomb. Despite this the other acts of terror were not
      investigated on this line, so one after the other the tragedy kept
      happening. Hopefully with this the further blasts will be arrested in
      the tracks.

      Overall the logic of the events as unfolding makes it clear that the
      RSS affiliates have been caught with their pants down. How so ever
      much they deny the ideological and organizational difference, it
      seems that there is lot of proof to point the finger towards the
      Abhinav Bharat and ex workers of ABVP as a part of the plot of
      Malegaon blasts, Ajmer blasts and Samjhauta express blasts. The
      proximity of the accused to many a top brass of the organizations is
      being reported day in and day out.

      To deflect from the issue a campaign has been started to defame the
      ATS, the Mahrashtra Government and even the Sonia Gandhi. Rumors are
      being spread that these are the one’s who are framing and torturing
      the accused. One is amazed at the double standards of those saying
      this. Till yesterday when the police was blindly apprehending the
      Muslim youth for all these crimes, especially police was being
      cheered for the investigation. In the aftermath of Ahmedabad blasts
      and the series of bombs found in Surat, hanging on trees and all
      that, Modi took the credit for showing the way to deal with
      terrorism. Now with his own ideological associates accused in the
      acts of terror, another type of offensive has been launched to
      wriggle out of the situation. One hopes that truth alone will prevail
      and guilty, irrespective of their religion, holiness, and military
      uniform are given punishment for the suffering they have inflicted on
      the nation.

      --
      Issues in Secular Politics
      November, 2008 III

      ______


      [8] Announcements:

      (i) A panel on
      'Accounting for Justice'
      Contemporary Kashmir through international frameworks

      Tuesday, December 02, 6.00-8.00 pm, 2008

      Sponsored by NYU's Law Students for Human Rights
      New York University School of Law
      Address: 110 West Third Street, New York, NY 10012
      Venue: Lipton Hall


      Speakers

      Betsy Apple, Former Director, Crimes Against Humanity Program, Human
      Rights First and Adjunct Professor, School of International and
      Public Affairs, Columbia University.

      Dr. Angana Chatterji, Co-convener, International People's Tribunal on
      Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir and Associate
      Professor, Anthropology, California Institute of Integral Studies.

      Nusrat Durrani, Senior Vice President and General Manager of MTV
      World, envisioning an advocacy campaign on Kashmir.

      Accompanied by an exhibit by photojournalist, Robert Nickelsberg, who
      has documented Kashmir since 1989. His work has appeared in TIME,
      Newsweek, The New York Times, Getty Images, and Human Rights Watch.

      Chaired by Dr. Mridu Rai, Associate Professor, History, Yale University.
      Introduced by Mohsin Mohi-Ud-Din, Fulbright Scholar and Program
      Assistant, Crimes Against Humanity Program, Human Rights First.


      Free and open to the public
      Directions: http://www.nyu.edu/about/campusinfo.html; Phone:
      212.998.6714
      Event coordinated by Krista Minteer
      For further information - Phone: 212.845.5207; E-mail:
      MinteerK@...


      - - -

      (ii)

      SOLIDARITY MEETING FOR MUMBAI AND INDIA

      Trocadero, Thursday, 4th december, 6.30pm

      The recent events of Mumbai have left us all in a state of shock. The
      indiscriminate killing of people by the terrorists - in hotels, at
      Railway stations and on the roads - were an attack on India, on that
      very founding idea of India, which has stood, with all its
      weaknesses, for a multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-
      linguistic democracy. Leaving the hows and whys of such acts to be
      debated tomorrow, let us get together to express our sorrow at the
      loss of life in Mumbai and to stand for a world of peace, harmony and
      justice.

      It might be appropriate for everyone to bring a candle to light on
      this occasion in memory of those who died or suffered in Mumbai, and
      for anyone who has suffered at the hands of a mindless violence.

      Indians, India-sympathisers and advocates of a better tomorrow,
      regardless of their nationality, are requested to assemble at the
      Parvis des Droits de l’Homme, Place du Trocadéro (Metro: Trocadéro)
      on Thursday, 4th December 2008 at 6.30 pm.

      Pour plus d’information:

      Fédération des Associations Franco-Indiennes

      Tel : 01 42 53 03 12 Email : dassaradan@...

      - - -

      (ii) ORISSA: ANOTHER HINDUTVA LABORATORY?

      An Awaaz – South Asia Watch Public Forum

      On the eve of the 16th anniversary of the demolition of the Babri
      Masjid in Ayodhya, Awaaz South Asia Watch invites you to a public
      meeting on the anti-Christian violence in Orissa and in other parts
      of India.

      5 December 2008, 6.00pm – 8.00pm
      Room B111, School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS)
      University of London, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London, WC1H
      0XG
      Nearest tube: Goodge Street / Russell Sq
      Attendance is free

      Speakers:
      Baroness Caroline Cox (recently visited Orissa)
      Ramesh Gopalakrishnan (Amnesty International)
      Bipin Jojo (Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai)

      Merely six years after the Gujarat massacres of Muslim citizens,
      Christians in Orissa and elsewhere in India are facing attacks from
      Hindutva groups. Numerous Christian men and women have been killed,
      injured or raped; several thousand churches have been destroyed, and
      more than 50,000 people have been rendered homeless in Orissa alone.
      What explains this latest and ongoing outbreak of violence against
      another religious minority in India?
      What has been the role of the police and state governments in these
      episodes of violence?
      Is the Hindu Right (specifically the Sangh Parivar) renewing its
      project of Hindutva by creating new objects of hate?

      The meeting will be chaired by Rosemary Morris and Dr. Rashmi Varma
      of Awaaz-South Asia Watch
      More info: www.awaazsaw.org

      - - -

      (iii)


      Calling all Citizens of Mumbai!

      Join "Human Chain" in South Mumbai, afternoon 1 pm on December 10th,
      2008 International Human Rights Day!


      SAY NO TO TERROR! SAY NO TO VIOLENCE!

      We, the people of Mumbai, from all walks of life, of all faiths, all
      linguistic groups, all ages, will express our commitment to peace,
      and our condemnation of terror and violence in any form, by coming
      out on the streets on the day when the world will be commemorating
      the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948. The theme
      for 2008, which is "Dignity and justice" has a poignant resonance for
      the people of Mumbai, traumatized and fearful after the attack on its
      spirit by criminals who are without a shred of humanity or conscience.

      We demand:

      1. Government must take responsibility and map out long term and
      short term strategies, and take action on them.
      2. Joint action between India and Pakistan governments to curb
      religious extremism of all shades in both countries.
      3. Better coordination amongst various security and intelligence
      agencies to deal with terror; and sharing of intelligence and
      information.
      4. Punishment of those responsible for attacks on minorities,
      which are also an attack on the majority and the multi-cultural body
      politic of India.
      5. Swift, transparent and credible trial and punishment for all
      those involved in terror, whatever the religion they may profess,
      6. A comprehensive Communal Violence Bill in place of the one
      pending in Parliament.
      7. Immediate implementation of Police reforms, providing
      equipment and training, basic service conditions to police personnel
      and state security forces. Active facilitation of community
      participation in security and intelligence gathering.
      8. Ensuring moderation and sensitivity in media reporting of
      violence whether terrorist or any other form, through self-regulation
      or fiat.
      9. Evolve a policy for legal action against hate speech and
      demonization of any religion or community.

      NO MORE SILENCE! WE MUST SPEAK OUT!

      MUMBAI FOR PEACE: a campaign of Mumbai based organizations.

      Contact:

      Enquires: Dolphy: 9820226227, Datta: 9224197954, Jatin: 9322255812,
      Meena: 9821038474,

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

      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
      Asia Citizens Web: www.sacw.net/
      SACW archive is available at: http://sacw.net/pipermail/sacw_insaf.net/

      DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed in materials carried in the posts do not
      necessarily reflect the views of SACW compilers.
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