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SACW | Jan 1-8, 2009 / Campaign by Indian - Pakistani Citizens Against Terror, War Posturing

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | January 1-8, 2009 | Dispatch No. 2596 - Year 11 running From: www.sacw.net [1] Sri Lanka: Attack on broadcaster needs independent
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 7, 2009
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      South Asia Citizens Wire | January 1-8, 2009 | Dispatch No. 2596 -
      Year 11 running
      From: www.sacw.net

      [1] Sri Lanka: Attack on broadcaster needs independent inquiry (CPJ)
      + "Spirited Tigers defeated" by Sri Lanka (Shanie)
      [2] Living Traditions Exhibit Explores Art in War-torn Afghanistan
      (Aryn Baker)
      [3] Joint Signature Campaign by Citizens of India and Pakistan
      Against Terrorism, War Posturing
      [4] Statement by Pakistani human rights activists, feminists, labour
      leaders on the between India and Pakistan.
      [5] Independent Appeal - Sex workers dicing with death in Bangladesh
      [6] South Asia: Courting the Devil (Harsh Mander)
      [7] India - Interview: 'Don't allow fanatics to rule' Taslima Nasreen
      [9] India - Freedom of Expression:
      - Mumbai bookstore pulls Pak writers off its shelves (Anahita
      Mukherji)
      - Letter to the Editor (Ram Puniyani)
      - Banning Pakistani writers is hypocrisy (Neel Mukherjee)
      [10] Pakistani theatre group plays a peace tune (Avneep Dhingra)
      [11] India - Jammu and Kashmir?: BJP's Electoral Victory - Appearance
      and reality (Rekha Chowdhary)
      [12] International: Bombing of Gaza: statement by Communist Party of
      India (Marxist)
      [13] Announcements:
      (i) “The world after 9/11: Exploring alternatives to the ‘War on
      Terror’” a talk by Mahmood Mamdani, (Bombay, 8 January 2009
      (ii) Panel discussion on 'The Terrorist and the Citizen: How
      Television Transforms Political Life' (New Delhi, 10 January 2009)
      (iii) Play Sheema Kermani, (Lucknow, 14 January 2008)

      _____


      [1] Sri Lanka

      (i)

      Committee to Protect Journalists
      330 7th Avenue, 11th Floor
      New York, NY 10001

      ATTACK ON BROADCASTER NEEDS INDEPENDENT INQUIRY

      New York, January 6, 2009--Following today's early morning assault by
      about 15 masked gunmen on Maharaja TV's (MTV) studios outside the Sri
      Lankan capital, Colombo, the Committee to Protect Journalists called
      for an independent, nonpartisan parliamentary board of inquiry to
      investigate.

      Attackers shot at and destroyed broadcast equipment, held staff at
      gunpoint, and attempted to burn down the station's facilities,
      according to local and international news reports. Three TV channels
      and four radio stations of MTV's parent company, MBC, were off the
      air for several hours. MTV's Web site is still unable to transmit due
      to the attack. On Sunday, the station was hit with a gasoline bomb,
      but there was little damage.

      In a statement today, Mass Media and Information Minister Anura Yapa
      condemned the attack and President Mahinda Rajapaksa ordered a full
      investigation.

      "Even with its condemnations, the government can longer be trusted to
      act with impartiality when it comes to those who want to silence Sri
      Lanka's media," said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator. "Far
      too often the government or its unofficial allies have been prime
      suspects behind attacks on journalists and media organizations, and
      this latest outrage must be fully and clearly explained in an
      impartial and transparent parliamentary investigation."

      In recent days, government-controlled media had accused the station
      of "unpatriotic" coverage concerning the military's reported advances
      against the secessionist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in
      the north of the country. The LTTE's de facto capital of Kilinochchi
      fell last Friday. Government troops have been reported to be
      advancing on the strategic Elephant Pass that links the mainland to
      the Jaffna peninsula, the LTTE's stronghold.

      Government run-media had specifically criticized MTV for giving too
      much coverage to a suicide bombing in Colombo on Friday, undermining
      a victory speech by Rajapaksa after government troops took
      Kilinochchi, local and international media reported.

      o o o

      (ii)

      The Island
      3 January 2009

      SPIRITED TIGERS DEFEATED BY SRI LANKA

      by Shanie

      The headline in a website this week read "Sri Lanka defeat spirited
      Tigers". The reference was of course to the victory that the Sri
      Lanka cricket team secured over Bangladesh in the First Test
      concluded on Wednesday. Bangladesh is the minnow among the test-
      playing nations and Sri Lanka were expected to have an easy win.
      Early on the fourth day, it appeared so when Bangladesh, chasing 521
      to win in the fourth innings, were reduced to 180 for 5. But the
      Bangladeshi skipper Mahamed Ashraful and his tail-enders had other
      ideas. Two century partnerships for the sixth and seventh wickets
      took them to 403 for 6. The minnows had not only taken the match well
      into the final day but were in a position to pull off a sensational
      and record-breaking win. In the end, the Bangla (Bengal) ‘Tigers’,
      despite a spirited performance, succumbed to a better-equipped
      opposition,

      We do not know if the web editor coined the headline with tongue in
      cheek but it is possible that the headline could apply at some future
      date to the ongoing conflict in the Vanni. The predicted easy victory
      for the security forces is not happening so easily and the war, like
      the test match, is dragging on and being pushed to the wire. In the
      cricket match, it was one tragic mistake by a tail-ender, who dragged
      a ball well outside his off stump to his wicket, which both deprived
      him of a well deserved century and also triggered the quick collapse
      of the last four wickets. Can that happen to the Sri Lankan Tigers?
      Only time will tell.

      For the present, we can only watch with a mixture of admiration and
      dismay. Admiration is for the performance of the Bangladeshis at
      cricket and dismay is at the mounting loss of young lives in the
      conflict at home. The sacrifice of these young men and women who are
      being killed or maimed could have been avoided or at least minimized
      to a great extent if only President Rajapaksa and the LTTE kept to
      their promises to the people whom they claim to represent. The LTTE
      has repeatedly failed to seize opportunities to secure an honourable
      peace by spurning attempts, particularly by the Government of
      Chandriika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge, that sought to provide a
      constitutional framework to address minority grievances. President
      Rajapaksa promises justice to the minorities but has only rhetoric to
      offer. He has had and continues to have opportunities to offer a
      political solution to minority grievances but continues to spurn
      every such opportunity.

      His twisted logic that this will be done once the war is over rings
      hollow. If, as his Government often says, the war is against the LTTE
      and not the Tamils, why does the war against the LTTE prevent the
      offer of a political package to the Tamils and Muslims? Indeed, if
      the government were sincere about offering a political solution, the
      war itself would have been rendered unnecessary. The LTTE would have
      been marginalised among Tamil opinion makers had the LTTE opposed
      such a solution worked out by consensus among the non-LTTE and non-
      Sinhala chauvinist political parties and civil society/religious groups.

      Losing the larger picture

      But sadly, President Rajapaksa has opted not to take that line. He
      seems unwilling or incapable of looking at the larger picture.
      Instead, he is going along with, or at least turning a Nelsonian eye
      to the lawless and reactionary actions of the obscurantist and
      fascist forces that are part of his Government.

      In the North, Anandasangaree is quite right with his complaint that
      an armed group, seemingly enjoying the support of the security
      forces, is engaging in abductions, extortions and extra-judicial
      killings, replicating the actions of the LTTE in earlier years. The
      armed groups of today are totally insensitive to the feelings of
      civilians. Locals agree with Anandasangaree and say that people could
      be increasingly turning to the LTTE for protection from this armed
      fascist group. Civilians are being robbed in their homes by armed
      gangs in the night during curfew hours. It is possible that in
      addition to this armed group, lawless elements are also taking
      advantage of the breakdown in the rule of law. But, since the
      robberies are taking place during curfew hours, the armed gangs
      obviously are confident of immunity.

      If President Rajapaksa is sincere about restoring democracy in the
      North, he should not be replacing one set of armed fascists by
      another. ‘The future minds of Jaffna’ deserve better than that. But
      first, genuine democracy must be restored in the rest of the country.
      Journalists should be free from intimidation, assault and arbitrary
      arrests. Lawyers should be free to practise their profession without
      death threats and without having their photograph and name ominously
      displayed on the web.

      The Rajapaksa Government must learn lessons from a disastrous policy
      in the East that has brought about a multiplicity of armed groups and
      brought back a strong LTTE presence. Bishop Kingsley Swampillai,
      Bishop of Batticaloa and Trincomalee, was expressing the concerns of
      many locals when he complained of continuing abductions, violence and
      killings. It is a self-defeating policy to promote one armed group of
      fascists against another. And it is pity that continuing calls for a
      respect for the rule of law are being ignored. Sooner or later, such
      a policy will come to haunt the government.

      [. . .].

      _____


      [2] Afghanistan:

      New York Times, page A1 of the New York edition. January 2, 2009

      FOR AFGHANS, A PRICE FOR EVERYTHING, AND ANYTHING FOR A PRICE

      by Dexter Filkins

      Kabul, Afghanistan — When it comes to governing this violent,
      fractious land, everything, it seems, has its price.

      [Photo] Danfung Dennis for The New York Times
      [Caption] A man pulls a cart loaded with fire wood past a mansion
      owned by high-ranking government officials in the Sherpur
      neighborhood of Kabul.

      [Photo] Danfung Dennis for The New York Times
      [Caption] The mansions of Afghan officials in the Sherpur
      neighborhood of Kabul are a curiosity not only for their size, but
      also because government salaries are not very big.

      Want to be a provincial police chief? It will cost you $100,000.

      Want to drive a convoy of trucks loaded with fuel across the country?
      Be prepared to pay $6,000 per truck, so the police will not tip off
      the Taliban.
      Need to settle a lawsuit over the ownership of your house? About
      $25,000, depending on the judge.
      “It is very shameful, but probably I will pay the bribe,” Mohammed
      Naim, a young English teacher, said as he stood in front of the
      Secondary Courthouse in Kabul. His brother had been arrested a week
      before, and the police were demanding $4,000 for his release.
      “Everything is possible in this country now. Everything.”

      Kept afloat by billions of dollars in American and other foreign aid,
      the government of Afghanistan is shot through with corruption and
      graft. From the lowliest traffic policeman to the family of President
      Hamid Karzai himself, the state built on the ruins of the Taliban
      government seven years ago now often seems to exist for little more
      than the enrichment of those who run it.

      A raft of investigations has concluded that people at the highest
      levels of the Karzai administration, including President Karzai’s own
      brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, are cooperating in the country’s opium
      trade, now the world’s largest. In the streets and government
      offices, hardly a public transaction seems to unfold here that does
      not carry with it the requirement of a bribe, a gift, or, in case you
      are a beggar, “harchee” — whatever you have in your pocket.

      The corruption, publicly acknowledged by President Karzai, is
      contributing to the collapse of public confidence in his government
      and to the resurgence of the Taliban, whose fighters have moved to
      the outskirts of Kabul, the capital.

      “All the politicians in this country have acquired everything —
      money, lots of money,” President Karzai said in a speech at a rural
      development conference here in November. “God knows, it is beyond the
      limit. The banks of the world are full of the money of our statesmen.”
      The decay of the Afghan government presents President-elect Barack
      Obama with perhaps his most underappreciated challenge as he tries to
      reverse the course of the war here. Mr. Obama may be required to save
      the Afghan government not only from the Taliban insurgency —
      committing thousands of additional American soldiers to do so — but
      also from itself.
      “This government has lost the capacity to govern because a shadow
      government has taken over,” said Ashraf Ghani, a former Afghan
      finance minister. He quit that job in 2004, he said, because the
      state had been taken over by drug traffickers. “The narco-mafia state
      is now completely consolidated,” he said.
      On the streets here, tales of corruption are as easy to find as kebab
      stands. Everything seems to be for sale: public offices, access to
      government services, even a person’s freedom. The examples mentioned
      above — $25,000 to settle a lawsuit, $6,000 to bribe the police,
      $100,000 to secure a job as a provincial police chief — were offered
      by people who experienced them directly or witnessed the transaction.

      People pay bribes for large things, and for small things, too: to get
      electricity for their homes, to get out of jail, even to enter the
      airport.

      Governments in developing countries are often riddled with
      corruption. But Afghans say the corruption they see now has no
      precedent, in either its brazenness or in its scale. Transparency
      International, a German organization that gauges honesty in
      government, ranked Afghanistan 117 out of 180 countries in 2005. This
      year, it fell to 176.
      “Every man in the government is his own king,” said Abdul Ghafar, a
      truck driver. Mr. Ghafar said he routinely paid bribes to the police
      who threatened to hinder his passage through Kabul, sometimes several
      in a day.

      Nowhere is the scent of corruption so strong as in the Kabul
      neighborhood of Sherpur. Before 2001, it was a vacant patch of
      hillside that overlooked the stately neighborhood of Wazir Akbar
      Khan. Today it is the wealthiest enclave in the country, with gaudy,
      grandiose mansions that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
      Afghans refer to them as “poppy houses.” Sherpur itself is often
      jokingly referred to as “Char-pur,” which literally means “City of
      Loot.”
      Yet what is perhaps most remarkable about Sherpur is that many of the
      homeowners are government officials, whose annual salaries would not
      otherwise enable them to live here for more than a few days.
      One of the mansions — three stories, several bedrooms, sweeping
      balconies — is owned by Abdul Jabbar Sabit, a former attorney general
      who made a name for himself by declaring a “jihad” against corruption.

      [Photo] Danfung Dennis for The New York Times
      [Caption] Farooq Farani has been trying to resolve a property
      dispute. An Afghan judge wants $25,000, but Mr. Farani has refused.

      After he was fired earlier this year by President Karzai, a video
      began circulating around town showing Mr. Sabit dancing giddily
      around a room and slurring his words, apparently drunk. Mr. Sabit now
      lives in Canada, but his house is available to rent for $5,000 a month.

      An even grander mansion — ornate faux Greek columns, a towering
      fountain — is owned by Kabul’s police chief, Mohammed Ayob Salangi.
      It can be had for $11,000 a month. Mr. Salangi’s salary is unknown;
      that of Mr. Karzai, the president, is about $600 a month.

      Mr. Ghani, the former finance minister, said the plots of land on
      which the mansions of Sherpur stand were doled out early in the
      Karzai administration for prices that were a tiny fraction of what
      they were worth. (Mr. Ghani said he was offered a plot, too, and
      refused to accept it.)

      “The money for these houses was illegal, I think,” said Mohammed
      Yosin Usmani, director general of a newly created anticorruption unit.
      Often, the corruption here is blatant. On any morning, you can stand
      on the steps of the Secondary Courthouse in downtown Kabul and listen
      to the Afghans as they step outside.
      One of them was Farooq Farani, who has been coming to the court for
      seven years, trying to resolve a property dispute. His predicament is
      a common one here: He fled the country in 1990, as the civil war
      began, and returned after the fall of the Taliban, only to find a
      stranger occupying his home.
      Yet seven years later, the title to Mr. Farani’s house is still up
      for grabs. Mr. Farani said he had refused to pay the bribes demanded
      by the judge in the case, who in turn had refused to settle his case.
      “You are approached indirectly, by intermediaries — this is how it
      works,” said Mr. Farani, who spent his exile in Wiesbaden, Germany.
      “My house is worth about $50,000, and I’ve been told that I can have
      the title if I pay $25,000 — half the value of the home.”
      Tales like Mr. Farani’s abound here, so much so that it makes one
      wonder if an honest man can ever make a difference.

      Amin Farhang, the minister of commerce, was voted out of Mr. Karzai’s
      cabinet by Parliament earlier last month for failing to bring down
      the price of oil in Afghanistan as the price declined in
      international markets. In a long talk in the sitting room of his
      home, Mr. Farhang recounted a two-year struggle to fire the man in
      charge of giving out licenses for new businesses.
      The man, Mr. Farhang said, would grant a license only in exchange for
      a hefty bribe. But Mr. Farhang found that he was unable to fire the
      man, who, he said, simply bribed other members of the government to
      reinstate him.

      “In a job like this, a man can make 10 or 12 times his salary,” Mr.
      Farhang said. “People do anything to hang on to them.”

      Many Afghans, including Mr. Ghani, the former finance minister, place
      responsibility for the collapse of the state on Mr. Karzai, who, they
      say, has failed repeatedly to confront the powerful figures who are
      behind much of the corruption. In his stint as finance minister, Mr.
      Ghani said, two moments crystallized his disgust and finally prompted
      him to quit.
      The first, Mr. Ghani said, was his attempt to impose order on Kabul’s
      chaotic system of private property rights. The Afghan government had
      accumulated vast amounts of land during the period of Communist rule
      in the 1970s and 1980s. And since 2001, the government has given much
      of it away — often, Mr. Ghani said, to shady developers at extremely
      low prices.
      Much of that land has been sold and developed, rendering much of
      Kabul’s property in the hands of unknown owners. Many of the
      developers who were given free land, Mr. Ghani said, were also
      involved in drug trafficking.

      When he proposed drawing up a set of regulations to govern private
      property, Mr. Ghani said, he was told by President Karzai to stop.

      “ ‘Just back off,” he told me,’ ” Mr. Ghani said. “He said that
      politically it wasn’t feasible.”
      A similar effort to impose regulations at the Ministry of Aviation,
      which Mr. Ghani described as rife with corruption, was met with a
      similar response by President Karzai, he said.
      “Morally the question was, am I becoming the fig leaf to legitimate a
      system that was deeply corrupt? Or was I there to serve the people?”
      Mr. Ghani said. “I resigned.”
      Mr. Ghani, who then became chancellor of Kabul University, is today
      contemplating a run for the presidency.
      Asked about Mr. Ghani’s account on Thursday, Humayun Hamidzada, a
      spokesman for Mr. Karzai, said he could not immediately comment.

      The corruption may be endemic here, but if there is any hope in the
      future, it would seem to lie in the revulsion of average Afghans like
      Mr. Farani, who, after seven years, is still refusing to pay.
      “I won’t do it,” Mr. Farani said outside the courthouse. “It’s a
      matter of principle. Never.”
      “But,” he said, “I don’t have my house, either, and I don’t know that
      I ever will.”

      Abdul Waheed Wafa and Sangar Rahimi contributed reporting.

      _____


      [3] India - Pakistan:


      JOINT SIGNATURE CAMPAIGN BY CITIZENS OF INDIA AND PAKISTAN
      AGAINST TERRORISM, WAR POSTURING AND TO PROMOTE COOPERATION AND PEACE

      From 9th January 2009 to 8th February 2009

      Seeking Signatures from People and Endorsements from Organisations

      (To be submitted to the Prime Minister of India and the President of
      Pakistan

      With Copies to important political functionaries and media houses of
      both countries.)

      Come! Sign and endorse the Petition on line by clicking: http://
      www.PetitionOnline.com/indopak/petition.html

      And take signatures from people in your area of operation by
      downloading the attached Petition Form.


      Let People Express!

      Time Peace Loving People Decide the Agenda!! And the Course of Our
      Countries!!!

      Dear Fellow Citizens of India and Pakistan,

      After 55 years of tense relations, just five years of sustained peace
      process between India and Pakistan was producing good results for
      all. Unfortunately, the terror attack in Mumbai suddenly changed the
      entire scenario and the tensions between India and Pakistan have once
      again reached dangerous levels that are detrimental to the interests
      of both the countries.

      It is clear that a dependence on the political- bureaucratic-
      military establishments in both the countries may not lead to
      reduction in tensions but on the contrary, this nexus could possibly
      land us in a war. Role of the media of both the countries in the
      ongoing crisis is also not very heartening.

      In such a situation, assertion by the people and civil society groups
      of both the countries in favour of resolving the present crises
      through dialogue, cooperation and appropriate actions by both the
      governments to address terrorism and all other outstanding issues
      could influence the processes that are set in motion. The collective
      will of the people could certainly compel the establishments to adopt
      peaceful and appropriate processes to address all the issues and
      bring back normalcy.

      Joint Signature Campaign from 9th January 2009 to 8th February 2009

      To facilitate such assertion by the people of both Pakistan and
      India, a number of civil society organisations of Pakistan and India
      have come together to launch a Joint Signature Campaign in both the
      countries. All civil society organisations and concerned citizens of
      both the countries are invited to endorse and be partners in this
      Joint Signature Campaign and facilitate this Campaign in their areas
      of operation by reaching out to the people to collect their
      signatures in large numbers. All endorsing organisations will be
      listed alphabetically- country wise.

      The Joint Signature Campaign will be launched in different cities and
      towns of Pakistan and India on 9th January 2009 from 3 pm (IST). in
      India and 2.30 pm (PST) in Pakistan to ensure simultaneity.

      The Campaign would be carried out for one month and will conclude on
      Sunday, 8th February 2009. Copies of signatures collected in both the
      countries will be compiled to be submitted to the Prime Minister of
      India, The President of Pakistan and other important political
      functionaries of both the countries and members of the Media before
      20th February 2009.

      The Petition prepared for the Joint Signature Campaign is attached.
      We appeal to organisations in both India and Pakistan to become
      partners in taking forward this Joint Signature Campaign.

      What Can Be Done:

      Petition Form for the Signature Campaign is attached. Civil society
      organisations and concerned citizens of India and Pakistan can print
      copies of the Petition Form to take signatures from people and post
      the completed forms by 10th February 2009 to the Indo-Pak Joint
      Signature Campaign Secretariats set up in both India and Pakistan at
      the following addresses

      For Pakistan:

      Indo-Pak Joint Signature Campaign Secretariat
      C/o PILER Centre, ST.001, Sector X ,
      Sub-Sector V Gulshan-e-Maymar,
      Karachi 75340- Pakistan
      Ph:. 00-92-21-6351145 – 7
      Fax: 00-92-21-6350354

      For India:

      Indo-Pak Joint Signature Campaign Secretariat
      C/o COVA, 20-4-10, Charminar
      Hyderabad, A.P. India, 500002
      Ph: 0091-40-24572984
      Fax: 0091-40-24574527

      All organisations endorsing the Campaign and accepting to take up the
      Joint Signature Campaign in their areas of operation will be listed
      in alphabetical order as Partner Organisations in all communications
      and also on the Campaign Website. All collaborating organisations are
      requested to send their names, city/town, country and other contact
      details for inclusion as Partner Organisations.

      Online Signatures:

      Online endorsement of the Campaign is also possible at
      Petitionsonline.com through the link:

      http://www.PetitionOnline.com/indopak/petition.html

      Email and Website:

      The email ID for the Campaign is: indopak.jointcampaign@...
      Website: http://www.indopakcampaignagainstwarnterror.org


      Come! Let us join hands across borders to usher in peace and
      prosperity for both our countries!!

      In solidarity

      Pakistan- India Joint Signature Campaign

      _____


      [4]


      PAKISTANI HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS, WOMEN'S RIGHTS ACTIVISTS, TEACHERS,
      LABOUR LEADERS AND JOURNALISTS HAVE ISSUED A STATEMENT ON THE CURRENT
      STAND-OFF BETWEEN INDIA AND PAKISTAN.
      (Among the signatories are Asma Jahangir, I.A Rehman, Mubashir
      Hassan, Ahmed Rashid, Salima Hashmi and Iqbal Haider.)

      Islamabad January 4, 2008

      The statement is as follows:

      “We condemn the recent terrorist attack on Mumbai and extend our
      heartfelt condolence and sympathy to the victim families. Likewise,
      we condole and sympathize with the victims of terrorism in Delhi ,
      Kabul , Swat, other parts of NWFP and FATA. Pakistan's civil society
      is alarmed at the loss of life, denial of education to girls and
      large-scale displacement of civilians in FATA and Swat. The influence
      of militant groups is rapidly growing in all parts of the country
      without any effective challenge by the government. Regrettably, there
      appears to be a total absence of a cohesive policy by the government
      of Pakistan to protect its own citizens or any strategy to challenge
      militant outfits that operate with impunity within and outside the
      country.

      “We regret that the media in both India and Pakistan failed to
      present the Mumbai outrage in a proper context and, instead, used the
      event to fuel hostility between the two countries. It aided
      warmongers on both sides to whip up a war hysteria. Quite ironically,
      terrorism, which should have brought India and Pakistan together to
      defend peace and people's security, pushed them to the brink of a
      mutually destructive war. Confrontation between these two closest
      neighbours has never had such a puerile basis.

      “Mercifully, the tension between India and Pakistan seems to have
      abated somewhat and this is some relief. But the danger of an armed
      conflict persists and we call upon both the governments not to take
      peace for granted. Better understanding and constructive action
      rather than confrontation between states will discourage militant
      groups that are growing in strength in both countries. The government
      of Pakistan must no longer stay in a state of self-denial. It must
      not miss the opportunity of devising an effective strategy to
      overcome the menace of terrorism that is posing a greater threat to
      this country than any other nation. India too must bear in mind that
      militant groups and extremists thrive in a state of conflict and
      polarization. Both governments must sincerely redouble their efforts
      at addressing the rise of militant groups in the region. They need to
      quickly compose their differences over ways of dealing with
      terrorism. This could be done through the composite dialogue that
      must resume forthwith because neither country can bear the cost of
      keeping defence forces on alert and suspension of normal peacetime
      duties.

      “We should also like to caution the government of Pakistan against
      lapsing into its traditional complacency with the disappearance of
      the war clouds. Blinking at the existence of terrorist outfits within
      the country, some open and others disguised, will amount to self-
      annihilation and greater isolation from the comity of nations. The
      state's commitment to root out terrorist groups must be total. It
      must ensure, as far as possible, that Pakistan is not even accused of
      allowing cross-border terrorism by any group, alien or indigenous.
      But everything must be done within the canons of law and justice.
      Killing of innocents and extra-legal excesses will not end terrorism.
      They will only fuel it.

      “Islamabad must also repudiate the suggestion that its firmness in
      the ongoing standoff with India has contributed to national cohesion,
      revived the Kashmir issue, and enriched the national coffers. Nobody
      can forget the cost paid by the country for unity behind Yahya Khan
      in his war on fellow Pakistanis, for the financial windfall during
      Zia's agency for the Afghan war, and for the 'revival' of the Kashmir
      issue through adventurism is Kargil. The hazards of living in a make-
      believe environment are all too clear.

      “Success neither in the fight against terrorism nor in defending the
      nation's integrity can be guaranteed by arms alone. The way to end
      the abuse of belief for politics or for terrorism, there being little
      difference between the two, is going to be long and hard. The task
      cannot be accomplished without the whole-hearted support of a fully
      informed and wide-awake society. The returns on investment in
      people's food security, education, shelter, health cover and creation
      of adequately rewarding employment for both men and women will be
      infinitely higher than on resources expended on guns and explosives.
      This can be best achieved through regional cooperation and trade
      liberalisation.

      “It is these pre-requisites to national unity, solidarity, and
      survival that we urge the state to address and the people shall not
      fail it. Pakistan can beat off all challenges but only through
      people's fully mobilized power."

      ____


      [5]

      INDEPENDENT APPEAL: SEX WORKERS DICING WITH DEATH IN BANGLADESH

      Charities must overcome the disapproval of a conservative society to
      teach prostitutes about safe sex

      By Andrew Buncombe
      The Independent, 30 December 2008

      Ajij works as a male prostitute in Bogra, Bangladesh

      Ajij lives a double life – half in public, half in the shadows.
      During the day he works as a helper in a restaurant kitchen. In the
      evening, the slightly-built 25-year-old has sex with men for money in
      one of Bogra's many cheap hotels.

      His customers are students, rickshaw drivers, police and soldiers –
      everyday people. Away from prying eyes, they pay anywhere between 10p
      and a pound, depending on what they want from the young man.
      Afterwards they quietly leave and return to their other lives.

      "At the weekend I have a long line of police and soldiers," says
      Ajij, who says he has up to 25 clients a week. "Some are married,
      some are unmarried. We don't question them."

      Bangladesh's male prostitutes operate on the edge of this
      conservative Muslim society. Commonplace but little discussed, they
      are vulnerable to harassment, extortion and violence. They are
      vulnerable, too, to sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV.

      Ajij's double life could hardly be more complete. Having started
      selling sex when he was just 10 years old, he married at the age of
      18 under pressure from his family. His wife and five-year-old
      daughter live in a village outside the city, unaware of his real
      existence. Meanwhile, he lives and works in Bogra, where he also has
      a male partner. That relationship, he stresses, is about love, not
      money.

      "When I got married there was a lot of social pressure. I did not
      know I was homosexual until after I got married," he says. "In
      Bangladesh, the life of a homosexual is very secret ... There is
      restriction from society but the [male sex trade] is growing."

      The potential dangers from this secretive trade are obvious. But
      educating sex workers about safe sex and the use of condoms is not as
      straightforward as it perhaps should be. NGOs and charities working
      in the field are constantly having to fight disapproval from certain
      sectors of Bangladeshi society, notably religious conservatives. What
      a charity might consider health awareness and education can be just
      as easily be seen by critics as promotion of an irreligious lifestyle.

      There have been instances where outreach workers have been harassed
      by local police and government officials. Sometimes maintaining a low
      profile is the most effective option. Sometimes, however, the staff
      battle to persuade their critics of the value of what they are doing.

      "I think it is still secret. We are working with an area of the
      community that is very vulnerable," says Muradujjaman, the health
      manager of a drop-in centre in Bogra run by the charity Light House.
      "It's very challenging work to try to reduce their risk level.
      Sometimes the people we are working with are not very educated."

      Light House, a Bangladeshi-based partner of Voluntary Services
      Overseas (VSO) – one of the charities for which money is being raised
      by The Independent Christmas Appeal – has for the past 10 years been
      running health education programmes for both male and female sex
      workers in Bogra. Around 500 men are on its books.

      Kathy Peach is one of the British VSO volunteers who have worked with
      Light House. Before volunteering she had worked in advertising and
      with the Department for International Development. Once in Bangladesh
      she brought her professional skills to bear on the sex workers'
      problems – and those of Light House's outreach workers who were also
      afraid.

      "It's a tough, often thankless job with huge stigma attached to it,"
      she says of the work done by the outreach staff on the streets of
      Bogra. "I was impressed by the resilience, courage and dedication of
      all the outreach workers I met." But the workers were regularly being
      attacked by members of the local law enforcement agencies – or else
      subjected to extortion. "The result was that many outreach workers
      were scared to do their jobs and it was becoming harder to get
      condoms ... to the sex workers who had gone into hiding."

      Using her advocacy skills she devised a strategy through which the
      workers were able to build bridges with the community. She arranged
      meetings with the police and army in which the Light House staff were
      able to convince them of the vital need of the organisation's work.
      Since then the harassment has fallen off significantly.

      All the same, 22-year-old Ekalas still keeps a low profile. This shy
      young man works at a tailor's shop, but as evening descends on this
      dusty city of a million people, men will come to the shop in search
      of more than needlework. "Most of my clients I know," says Ekalas.
      "If it is someone new they will come to the shop and ask for me by
      name, so I know."

      Having started in the sex trade when he was 17, Ekalas estimates he
      has around seven or eight customers a week. He says he earns up to £3
      a time. He has four brothers and five sisters and he says none of
      them know that he works as a male prostitute. Since coming to the
      regular sessions organised by Light House, he says he has been
      persuaded of the importance of condoms and tries to demand that his
      clients use them.

      "There are huge numbers of male sex workers in Bogra. They range in
      age from 13 to 67," says Ekalas. But it is dangerous work. The young
      men say that after sex, customers often refuse to pay the agreed
      price. And there is always the hovering threat of violence; on one
      occasion Ajij went with a customer to a construction site where he
      discovered there was a group of men waiting for them. He was forced
      to jump from the third floor of a partly constructed house in order
      to escape being gang-raped.

      As for the future, Ekalas says he would like to get out of
      prostitution. But, as he explains, the key factor is economics. His
      boss at the shop pays him only a quarter of what their customers pay
      for the shirts that Ekalas makes. Sex is a much more lucrative
      option. At least with the help of Light House he is a little safer in
      that perilous profession, and considerably less likely to assist with
      the spread of the Aids epidemic. It is progress, of a kind.

      ____


      [6] South Asia:

      Hindustan Times
      December 30, 2008

      COURTING THE DEVIL

      by Harsh Mander

      As the flames of war are being fanned in both India and Pakistan,
      fortunately there are sane voices of restraint against the futility
      of sacrificing precious young lives in both countries. Also, since
      military pressure on terrorists operating along the border with
      Afghanistan would ease as troops engage the Indian armed forces,
      nothing will be gained in the battle against international terror.
      There could be heavy civilian casualties, although there is no
      conflict between the people of the two lands. In times of global
      economic crisis, the economies on both sides of the border will
      flounder, inflaming prices, and extinguishing food and jobs.

      But this orchestra of war and hate has muffled an important debate
      which concerns the major defence of the Pakistani establishment, as
      voiced by President Zardari, to the effect that the State has no
      responsibility — legal, moral or practical — for the violence
      perpetrated by what he describes as ‘non-State actors’. This means
      that even if non-State individuals and organisations based in
      Pakistan plan and execute acts of terror, within its borders or
      outside, the Pakistan government cannot be held responsible.
      Arguments like these have enabled these organisations to operate with
      impunity, given the assurance that they will go unpunished for their
      transgressions. The issue gets murkier when allegedly non-State
      organisations implement the illegal, unconstitutional and violent
      political agendas of the State. Blurring the already thin lines
      between the State and non-State are elements within the state which
      openly or tacitly support these organisations — whether logistically,
      morally or politically.

      States must accept responsibility for the crimes of hate and violence
      perpetrated by non-State organisations. In a salutary ruling
      following the 2002 Gujarat carnage, the National Human Rights
      Commission Chairperson Justice Verma had held that States were
      vicariously but directly responsible for crimes that organisations
      outside the State commit, if the state does not do enough to rein in,
      control and punish them. In practice, however, most communal riots
      tend to be more in the nature of pogroms, where non-State
      organisations commit hate crimes with impunity, given a sympathetic
      political command, police, magistracy and judiciary, which often
      shares their ideology of hate.

      States often use non-State actors as their front-line forces, without
      spilling the more costly blood of their men in uniform. Examples in
      India are militant renegades, such as the surrendered militants in
      Kashmir, the ikwanis; or in insurgent north-eastern regions, like the
      surrendered ULFA. Armed by the State, answerable to no law or code,
      they loot and kill civilian populations in conflict zones without
      fear of punishment. Vigilante armies like the Salwa Judum have been
      set up by the state in Chhattisgarh to provide dispensable foot
      soldiers in the battle against Maoist insurgency.

      But those who play with fire will one day burn in it, like the
      Taliban has turned against Pakistan in alliance with extremist
      religious fringe groups which have miniscule support, but are holding
      the country to ransom. But this is not a time for war, because a war
      will only strengthen and embolden the forces of hate and terror and
      engender enormous human suffering. Instead, it is a time to tell our
      governments unambiguously that they can no longer protect and foster
      those who live by the gun, by hate and terror. It is a time to refuse
      to accept the thin and dishonest defence of government helplessness
      before the crimes of non-State actors. .

      Harsh Mander is the convenor of Aman Biradari.

      _____


      [7] India:

      India Today

      DON'T ALLOW FANATICS TO RULE: TASLIMA

      Abhijit Dasgupta
      Kolkata, January 2, 2009

      Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen

      Exiled Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen pines for Kolkata, her
      adopted home. Ever since she was forced to leave the city after
      protests by fundamentalists, she has lived a desolate life in New
      York. Nasreen tells India Today's Abhijit Dasgupta that she now finds
      it difficult to concentrate on writing and yearns to return to the
      city she needs so sorely for inspiration. Excerpts from the interview:

      Q: Why are you perpetually harping on the fact that you are homeless
      in the world? You seem to be moving around the globe and there would
      have been many people back in our country who would revel in such a
      situation.
      Taslima: It is not my choice to become a nomad. Neither is it my
      choice to be homeless. I badly need a home.

      Q. We know that and we are in full sympathy and support. What is it
      that you are working on now?
      Taslima: It is very difficult to concentrate on my writings...When I
      have no place to live, and I am not allowed to live where I like to
      live.

      Q. We understand the pain. But tell me what are you writing now?
      Taslima: I am finishing a novel.

      Q. What is it on?
      Taslima: It's about Kolkata...

      Q. When is that coming out?
      Taslima: I am not sure. It is hard to get publishers. I am
      blacklisted and banned in both the Bengals. No Bengali newspaper
      publishes my articles…hardly any publisher dare to publish my books.

      When the fanatics are against me, I get support from people, but when
      governments are against me, I lose almost all the support. People are
      scared of supporting me. Publishers are afraid to publish my books. I
      saw exactly the same thing happen in Bangladesh.

      Q. Why should everybody be scared of publishing Taslima Nasreen?
      Taslima: They should not, but they are. They think publishing my
      books or supporting me would show that they are against the government.

      Q. But is the government that powerful?
      Taslima: Government is always powerful. If the government supported
      me, I could easily live in Kolkata, the city I love the most, the
      city I need to be inspired.

      Q. Why didn't you get the support of the people? Are they impotent?
      Taslima: I don’t think they are impotent. I don’t like this word. I
      think civil society should not shut its mouth. They should protest
      against any kind of injustice. Most of the people have become immune
      to injustice. That is very alarming.

      Q. And what about Bengal...don’t you think the situation here is
      alarming for the arts?
      Taslima: As long as you compromise, it is fine. But for a writer like
      me, who is fighting for equality and justice, who has dedicated her
      life for secularism and for women's rights is not fine.

      Q. Why don’t you compromise with the CPM?
      Taslima: I have done nothing against the CPM. Actually, I always
      supported them.

      Q. Then why did they throw you out?
      Taslima: I don’t think my ideology and theirs are different. I had
      been living in Kolkata for years and suddenly the fanatics came out
      on the streets and demanded my deportation. I thought the government
      would protect me.

      Q. You share the same ideology and they give you the boot. "Sounds
      strange. I am okay with you but when it comes to vote banks, I will
      ignore you"—sort of strange policy.
      Taslima: But unfortunately, I am getting punished for no fault of
      mine. I am being punished for the crimes Islamic fundamentalists
      committed against me. I do not believe in religion, superstition, or
      any kind of dogmas. I believe in humanism, I don’t believe in
      consumerism or capitalism. I believe in equality and justice for all
      people. Don't you think communists have the same beliefs?

      Q. If they did, then why did they surrender?
      Taslima: I was thrown out of my own country 14 years ago. West Bengal
      was my home.... and still it remains a shock that I have been thrown
      out and will never be allowed to go there. Only they know why they
      surrendered, if they surrendered. But I don’t think the fanatics will
      love them (the Communists) for too long.

      No political party, for the sake of the country, should surrender to
      the fanatics. But unfortunately you do not see this picture. The
      great politicians never give up their ideology for votes.

      Q. How would you describe the CPM in one word?
      Taslima: I can’t describe the CPM in one word. The CPM banned my
      book. But still even in my worst nightmares, I can never think that
      CPM would throw me out of Kolkata, my only refuge.

      Q. Do you think the CPM exchanged you for votes? It was a deal?
      Taslima: I don’t think they have earned a single vote by throwing me
      out. I am not subject worth that much...99% Muslims do not know about
      me. It's just handful of fanatics who use me for their political gain.

      The politicians in many countries bow their heads in front of
      fanatics. It happens in the subcontinent. Instead of taking action
      against the fanatics who issue fatwas against me, the governments of
      both Bengals took action against me.

      In India, it is heartbreaking when you take a decision to make an
      exiled writer homeless once again. I hope they will allow me in
      Kolkata again. I am not powerful, I am not a politician. If they do
      not open the door, if they do not show their sympathy and support,
      how can I go back home?

      Q. Have you written to Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi? He is a non-
      partisan man.
      Taslima: He was very sympathetic to me. I always got his support.

      Q. Any more support?
      Taslima: Recently Manmohan Singh wrote a very good letter to someone.
      He wrote: '"India's glorious traditions of welcoming people
      irrespective of caste and creed, community and religion will
      continue, whatever be the odds. The atmosphere of hate being
      perpetuated by a small segment within the country will not prevent us
      from persisting with this tradition. We recognize Taslima Nasreen's
      right to remain in a country of her choice, viz., India in this case.
      She shall also have the option to choose whichever city or state she
      chooses".

      Q. But why isn't the PM intervening? He compares you with The Dalai
      Lama in his letter and then forgets all about it. That is not the way
      a PM should react...
      Taslima: Maybe somebody else is taking all the decisions regarding
      me. I do not have the foggiest idea as to how a government works.

      Q. Did you contact anybody in the government?
      Taslima: I wrote to the chief minister and foreign minister.

      Q. Both are Bengalis...
      Taslima: As a Bengali, I would like to trust Bengalis. If they are a
      bit considerate, I think the problems would be solved.

      Q. Is the prime minister serious about your return?
      Taslima: I believe one day I will be able to go back to Kolkata and
      live there. The door of Bangladesh is closed for me. I can't imagine
      the doors of India are permanently closed. I don’t know politics. I
      am against fundamentalism but then so are many others. But I am a
      soft target because I just a mere writer, I am not influential, I do
      not have any organisation and above all, I am woman.

      Q. But you are influential. You are Taslima Nasreen...
      Taslima: I have some innocent readers who love me, that’s all. They
      are not united. You know something. You can fight fundamentalists but
      you can't cross swords with the government. And so I could not live
      where I want to live. Bengal is my place…Bengal is my home.

      Q. What are you doing in New York?
      Taslima: I am homeless everywhere...I move around and depend of
      friends to allow me to stay with them. I do not want to live in a
      Western country. It's an impossible situation. Emotionally and
      economically, it is very difficult.

      Q. When did you last come to India?
      Taslima: In August. I was only allowed to stay in Delhi. I could not
      go to my apartment in Kolkata. I wrote letters to both Buddhadeb babu
      and Pranab babu, I begged, pleaded and cried for getting the
      permission to be allowed to go back to Kolkata to survive as a
      writer. But it did not work. I did not get the permission. I had to
      quit my Kolkata home.

      I have had to remove all my furniture from Kolkata and they are now
      lying in a sealed warehouse in Delhi. I asked Pranab babu whether I
      could visit Kolkata for just two days. It was refused.

      Q. Why don't you suck up to the CPIM if you are so desperate to live
      in Kolkata? Just some mere kowtowing?
      Taslima: The cruelty that I have seen...this is not the real India. I
      cannot act. I am not an actor, I am a writer. All I have is honesty.
      Why should I sacrifice that?

      Q. What sort of cruelty have you seen?
      Taslima: I sometimes wonder whether all that is happening around me
      is true...I am too stunned to react. .

      Q. Any friends in the CPM?
      Taslima: There were many people in CPM who support me...LF Chairman
      Biman Bose once told me so many stories of his adventures. He invited
      me to visit his Vidyasagar Girls School.

      Q. But what do these people have against you? I just do not
      understand...
      Taslima: I don’t know. If they still believe in communism, I don’t
      think they have any reason to go against me. One day they will
      realise their folly. But that might happen after I die.

      Q. Did you approach Sonia Gandhi?
      Taslima: I did.

      Q. Can I ask you a personal question?
      Taslima: Shoot.

      Q. Are you in love now? Any chances of marriage? Don't you want to
      become a mother?
      Taslima: It would have been nice if I were in love. The answers of
      your three questions are, NO, NO and NO.

      Q. Have you cut down on your smoking? The last time I met you years
      ago, you were smoking like a chimney...
      Taslima: I stopped smoking in 2003.

      Q. What about your cat? You miss her, don't you?
      Taslima: When I had to leave Kolkata, my friends in Kolkata took care
      of her. I miss my Minu so much. But what can I do? There is nobody in
      India who could take care of her. She was sent to Dhaka with my
      brother. She is a great football player. She does not play anymore.
      She hardly eats. She is from Kolkata. She misses her wonderful life
      in Kolkata, she misses being with me.

      Q. What are your plans?
      Taslima: I have no future, everything is uncertain.

      Q. If you were in Bangladesh now, who would you have voted for?
      Taslima: I wouldn’t have voted for anyone.

      _____


      [8] India - Freedom of Expression:

      The Times of India
      4 Jan 2009

      MUMBAI BOOKSTORE PULLS PAK WRITERS OFF ITS SHELVES

      by Anahita Mukherji, TNN

      MUMBAI: 'The reluctant fundamentalist' could just as well be a
      description of the Oxford Bookstore in Mumbai's Churchgate area as
      the title of
      last year's Booker-nominated novel by Pakistan-born author Mohsin Hamid.

      The store has taken books by Pakistani authors off its shelves
      following "friendly advice" from police. The store was asked to take
      precautions in the light of Raj Thackeray's "ban" on Pakistani artists.

      Store manager Girish Thakur said, "Ten days ago, a policeman from the
      Marine Drive police station dropped in at our store and told us to be
      careful. He advised us to remove books and CDs related to Pakistan,
      as we may be targeted after the recent terror strikes in Mumbai. He
      reminded us of Raj Thackeray's ban on Pakistani artists".

      Thakur says he is opposed to banning books, whatever the reason.
      "People who love books should be allowed the freedom to read
      literature from across the world so that they get different
      perspectives on an issue," he said. He added that the books would be
      back on the shelves once he was assured he could.

      But it's not just the police who advised the store against selling
      books by Pakistani authors. A store employee, who belongs to Raj
      Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), also urged Thakur not
      to display Pakistani books. When contacted by TOI, the employee said:
      "After the recent attack on Mumbai, why should we have any Pakistani
      material in our bookstore?"

      o o o

      (4 January 2008]

      LETTER TO THE EDITOR

      Madam/Sir

      The fatwa by Nav Nirman Sena's (MNS) boss Raj Thackeray to 'ban' the
      Music CDs and books by Pakistani Musicians/writers is akin to
      terrorizing the society yet again. MNS which has gained notoriety for
      its attacks on North Indians was totally quiet when Mumbai faced the
      terrible attack. Since the phenomenon of terrorism has been due to
      formation of Al Qaeda by US, with the goal of controlling the oil
      wells in the region, the same US has also used Pakistan as its base
      to do serious damage to the World as a whole and India in particular
      by planting this cancer of terrorism. Today we are witnessing the
      left-over of the same phenomenon. As a matter of fact it is time that
      India-Pakistan come together to solve this problem. Within Pakistan
      itself Pakistan army is playing hawk and any military confrontation
      in the region will be counterproductive to both the countries. It is
      imperative that India as a bigger power sets the tone for peace and
      interaction with Pakistani Government and civic society to have a
      peaceful South Asia. It will be shortsighted to spread Hate against
      our neighbor. Our firm and reasoned stand can bring in Pakistani
      democratic Government and civic society to have joint efforts to root
      out the evil of terrorism, the evil which has also demonized Islam
      and Muslims. MNS politics is not only short sighted it will harm the
      interests of our nation.

      Ram Puniyani

      Secretary, All India Secular Forum
      1102/5 MHADA Rambaug Powa Mumbai
      www.pluralindia.com

      o o o

      The Guardian
      7 January 2009

      BANNING PAKISTANI WRITERS IS HYPOCRISY
      As a response to the Mumbai terror attacks, this smacks of hysteria
      and has disturbing ramifications in the longer term

      by Neel Mukherjee

      If fresh evidence were needed that books and writers are one of the
      greatest threats to bigotry, especially during times that are
      malleable enough to be twisted to serve their agenda of hysteria and
      fear, Mumbai provides an eloquently senseless example. Hard on the
      heels of the terror attacks in the city and the resultant "ban"
      declared on Pakistani artists and their works by Raj Thackeray,
      leader of the rightwing Hindu party, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena
      (MNS), the Oxford bookstore in Churchgate in Mumbai has been asked to
      remove all books written by Pakistani authors from its shelves on the
      "friendly advice" of the police.

      Is it possible to determine the "friendliness" of the advice? In the
      store manager's words, "A policeman from the Marine Drive police
      station dropped in at our store and told us to be careful about a
      possible attack. He advised us to remove books and CDs related to
      Pakistan, as we may be targeted after the recent terror strikes. He
      reminded us of Thackeray's ban." How diligent of the Mumbai police to
      be so proactive in protecting from possible vigilante attacks: the
      policeman in question denied having advised the bookstore against
      stocking Pakistani literature. He had dropped in to "check that
      everything was all right".

      One wonders if this dutiful "dropping in" has anything to do with the
      MNS employee at the same store who warned his manager not to display
      Pakistani books. In righteous anger, the staff member explained to
      the Times of India, "After the recent attack on Mumbai, why should we
      have any Pakistani material in our bookstore?" Unlike the collusive
      and internalised censorship that saw french fries renamed "freedom"
      fries after 9/11, this is a more straightforward case of petty
      terrorising by apparatchiks. Let us not forget that these are the
      very people who attack Clinton Cards outlets just before Valentine's
      Day every year for selling corrupting tokens of foreign cultures. The
      mirage of purity remains, as ever, the holy grail of the right.

      But there are more disturbing ramifications to be reckoned with
      before we dismiss this as cultural illiteracy, anti-democratic
      intolerance of all kinds of pluralities, or rightwing
      "patriotism" (that massive holdall, which accommodates some of the
      greatest criminalities in history). It is all those things, but also
      something more. Like those who had never read a single word written
      by Salman Rushdie but bayed for his blood on the publication of The
      Satanic Verses and after his knighthood, these censors are terrorists
      in the purest sense of the term: playing at the politics of fear by
      manufacturing a terrifying Other to intimidate and to disseminate
      lies. By what crazy logic would one seek to have, say, Philip Roth or
      Joan Didion removed from bookstores if one finds the existence of
      Guantánamo Bay intolerable? And what do the MNS suggest we do with
      one of the greatest Urdu writers of the last century, Saadat Hasan
      Manto, who was born in undivided India in 1912 and only spent the
      last seven years of his life, from 1948-55, in the new country of
      Pakistan? Is he "Pakistani material"?

      The Pakistani writers the MNS want to banish from bookshops would
      have been the first not only to condemn but also to understand,
      expose and analyse the intractable history of such acts. Now, more
      than ever, we should be rushing out and dedicating entire shelves and
      tables in bookstores to Pakistani writers. A culture that bans books,
      especially on the grounds of such dangerous nationalism, is a culture
      on the brink of self-destruction.

      _____


      [10]

      Mail Today
      27 December 2008

      PAK THEATRE GROUP PLAYS A PEACE TUNE

      By Avneep Dhingra in New Delhi

      AS TENSION mounts between India and Pakistan over the Mumbai attacks,
      a theatre group from across the border took the stage in Jawaharlal
      Nehru University ( JNU) to spread the message of peace.

      Ajoka Theatre from Lahore is the first Pakistani theatre group to
      visit India in 20 years. The irony of the group’s visit in these
      tense times was not lost on the crowd that applauded their
      performance with gusto.

      “ For years, artists have been trying their bit to promote peace and
      harmony between the two nations. It is our small attempt to help
      diffuse the tension. Peace activists and artists like us have worked
      very hard to build this peace process,” said Madeeha Gauhar, artistic
      director of the theatre group.

      The 23- member group performed its popular play “ Bullah” at a
      festival hosted by the Students’ Federation of India ( SFI) and the
      All India Students’ Federation on Tuesday.

      Ajoka also performed Sufi qawwali on the JNU campus, which attracted
      a lot of crowd.

      “ It’s a great feeling to have artists from our neighbouring country
      perform here. Not only do we get a chance to interact, but it is also
      a peace making process,” said Abdul, a senior SFI member.

      The performance by the group was well appreciated.

      “ The show was splendid. I enjoyed it thoroughly. Our politicians
      should learn something from them and should understand a war- like
      situation is not the solution to terror,” said Devdeep Choudhury, a
      student of international relations.

      “ We are here to bring the message of the great Sufi poet, Bulleh
      Shah, that is extremely relevant in today’s turbulent times,” said
      Gauhar, a famous theatre artist from Lahore. The famous Sufi poet
      professed “ humanism, peace, love, tolerance and looking beyond
      religious divides”. She said many people were apprehensive about the
      visit but she decided to go ahead.

      “ When the Indo- Pak cricket tour was cancelled, there was
      disappointment in our country.

      People questioned us why we were going and said we would not be
      welcomed there,” Gauhar said.

      “ People came out to condemn those terror strikes. There were marches
      and human chains in Karachi and Lahore,” the actor said. The group
      will perform at several other places in India.


      _____


      [11] India Administered Kashmir

      Indian Express
      Jan 02, 2009

      APPEARANCE AND REALITY

      by Rekha Chowdhary

      How does one interpret the massive victory of the BJP in the assembly
      elections of Jammu and Kashmir? Is it simply the communal
      polarisation of the Jammu region — a direct impact of the religious
      mobilisation during Amarnath land agitation? Certainly the BJP’s
      gain, from one seat in 2002 to eleven now — all in the Hindu-
      dominated belt of the region — has a reflection of the agitation, and
      yet the verdict is not as straight as it seems to be.

      To begin with, the Hindu belt has not exclusively gone to the BJP;
      there are many significant exceptions where the party has lost. Of
      these, the most interesting is the case of Bishnah where it had
      fielded the widow of Kuldeep Verma, whose suicide during the
      agitation had generated an intense response in Jammu. It was this
      constituency which Gujarat CM Narender Modi had chosen to campaign
      for. This epicentre of the agitation could not be returned to the
      BJP. There were many other constituencies that had witnessed a strong
      emotional response during the agitation — such as, Kathua, Samba,
      Vijaypur and Akhnoor — that remained constantly in the news during
      the agitation, but did not return the BJP. Another constituency where
      the BJP faced a setback was Gandhi Nagar, the urban heartland of
      Jammu where Nirmal Singh, the erstwhile party president, was
      contesting. Nowshera, Billawar, Ramnagar, Udhampur, Chenani, Chhamb
      were the other constituencies which saw the mobilisation during the
      agitation but remained out of the BJP fold.

      Interestingly, some of these seats have gone not only to the Congress
      and the local Panthers Party, but also to the National Conference — a
      party against which negative campaigns were launched in these areas,
      and the statement made by Omar Abdullah in Parliament was used to
      whip up frenzy against the Kashmiri leadership. That the impact of
      such campaigning had not gone deep could be seen soon after the
      election process began — the flags of the NC were all over the place.

      Like the earlier times, one can see a plural political response in
      the Jammu region. The seats have been divided between the Congress,
      the NC, the BJP and the Panthers Party. It is difficult to see the
      communal polarisation, since the Muslim belt of the region has given
      as much of a plural response as the Hindu belt has. While in the two
      districts of Poonch and Rajouri the seats have been divided between
      the NC, the Congress and the PDP, in the Doda belt — comprising the
      three districts of Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban — it is the Congress
      which has registered its dominance, winning five of the six seats.
      The entry of the PDP is seen by many as an indication of the
      communalisation of the Muslim belt. Yet one cannot see Muslims in
      Rajouri and Poonch voting as a bloc for any party, divided as they
      are between the two identities — Gujjars and Paharis. Doda,
      meanwhile, is a story of development — it was the most backward and
      unattended area of the region, which was paid attention to by the
      Congress government, specifically by Ghulam Nabi Azad, who himself
      represented one of the constituencies within this belt.

      If the BJP has succeeded in Jammu, it is not because of its communal
      agenda; it is because of many other factors, anti-incumbency working
      against the Congress being the most important one. The Congress faced
      problems also due to internal dissensions, wrong candidate choices,
      rebels and the lack of credible faces. Where it could field a
      credible candidate, as in Gandhi Nagar, it could win despite the BJP
      wave. It is a similar story of credible candidates in Kathua where an
      independent could win despite the constituency being a BJP stronghold.

      On the whole, one can say that it was the vacuum of the regional
      politics that has helped the BJP. Jammu does not have a regional
      party parallel to the NC. (The Panthers Party is the only regional
      party of Jammu and it has succeeded in maintaining its position by
      retaining three of the four seats it had won in 2002.) Hence, the
      politics based upon the regional aspirations is appropriated by the
      BJP. The Amarnath agitation in many ways succeeded in Jammu because,
      apart from the Hindu sentiments, it could mobilise the dormant but
      persistent feeling in Jammu that this region is politically
      subordinated to Kashmir and is taken for granted when it comes to
      political negotiations with the Centre. It is therefore the regional
      rather than the communal response that has resulted in the BJP’s
      unprecedented victory.


      The writer teaches political science at Jammu University

      _____


      [12] International: The Bombing of Gaza

      January 5, 2009

      Press Statement

      The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has
      issued the following statement:

      The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) denounces the invasion of Gaza by
      the Israeli armed forces. After a week of barbaric air raids, the
      Israeli armed forces have now launched the ground offensive which has
      sharply increased civilian casualties. More than 500 people have
      died in this State-sponsored terrorism.

      The Polit Bureau condemns the stand taken by the United States of
      America in the UN Security Council which prevented a statement
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