SACW | Mar. 1-2 , 2009 / S. Lanka: What future / BDR Mutiny / California Ruling
- South Asia Citizens Wire | March 1-2, 2009 | Dispatch No. 2609 - Year
 Sri Lanka's War - What future for Peace?
(i) Rule of all (Rohini Hensman)
(ii) War-trapped Civilians (Praful Bidwai)
(iii) Beyond the point of return (Papri Sri Raman)
 Bangladesh: BDR Mutiny and After
- Trying times for us (Editorial, The Daily Star)
- [India's hawks happily buy conspiracy theory] Dhaka's horror
(Editorial, The Indian Express)
 Pakistan and Elsewhere: Myths vs facts about fundamentalism (Part
1 and 2) (Rubina Saigol)
 USA / India: Hindutva Fundamentalists Loose California Textbook
Court Case - Text of Court Ruling
 India - Karnataka: State Massively Funding Hindu Religious
- Rs 60-cr largesse for faith (Express Buzz)
- Karnataka Govt funding transport - distribution of 50,000 liters
of 'holy water' (ibnlive.in.com)
- Letter to the Editor: Karnataka Govt funding of Temples is a
matter of serious concern (Ram Puniyani)
- Misplaced Religious Grants (Editorial, Deccan Herald)
 FILM REVIEW: Slum Dog Millionaire (Arundhati Roy)
- Following Joint Signature Campaign for peace : Pakistan Peace
Delegation in India (Delhi, Lucknow, Jaipur 1-9 March 2009)
 SRI LANKA'S WAR - WHAT FUTURE?
Himal South Asian,
RULE OF ALL
by Rohini Hensman
A mass campaign is needed to convince the Sinhalese majority that
devolution and democratisation are in its interest as much as they are
in the interest of Sri Lanka's minorities.
The political right and left around the globe seem to concur in
linking democracy to bourgeois rule; the two concepts have even been
hyphenated in the adjective `bourgeois-democratic'. Yet history gives
us no reason to believe that there is a necessary connection between
the two. It is true that when the bourgeoisie is fighting against
feudal power to establish its rule, it seeks the support of the
plebeian masses, and in the process allows them to fight for their own
demands hence the famous slogan of the French Revolution, `Liberty,
Equality and Fraternity'. Yet once their rule is established, they are
quite capable of turning on their erstwhile allies, repressing or even
slaughtering them. This is not to say that capitalism is incompatible
with democratic rights and freedoms, but to emphasise that the latter
will prevail only if the working people fight to establish and defend
them. Even in advanced capitalist countries, long-established rights
can quickly be demolished. Social Democracy in Germany was followed by
fascism; even today, democratic rights are under attack in the
heartlands of capitalism.
In the former colonies, there was likewise a popular movement for
liberation from imperialism. This was often followed by a sense of
disappointment when, though independence was won, the condition of the
working masses remained little changed. Again, the illusion that
democracy is the free gift of the bourgeoisie, or a necessary
condition of their rule, is responsible for this disappointment.
Alternatively, there has been a tendency, shared by both Maoists and
Trotskyists, to deny that a bourgeois revolution has taken place or
that capitalism is developing. A more realistic view would be to
recognise that, for the working class, independence from colonialism
is only the first of many battles for democracy.
The most common popular definition of democracy equates it with
elections and parliamentary rule. While having elections is better
than not having them, this system of representative democracy is, even
at its best, the rule of a minority. The representatives who are
elected and they tend to come from the wealthier strata of society
can go on to do largely whatever they like, with little reference to
the wishes of their constituents; indeed, there is very little the
latter can do about it until the next elections. If, as in the US,
there is a powerful president who is elected by a complicated system
that allows a candidate with a smaller proportion of the popular vote
to win, or, as in the first-past-the-post system, a government can be
formed by a party that gets fewer votes than one of its opponents, the
representative character of the government becomes even more tenuous.
Another popular definition of democracy is the rule of the majority.
This is all too often used to justify discrimination against
minorities as being inherent in the rule of the majority, especially
in a capitalist society where there is fierce competition for jobs and
resources. This type of majoritarianism has been widely prevalent in
Sri Lanka. From the disenfranchisement of Up-country Tamils and the
Official Language Act to the recent revival of attempts at Sinhala
colonisation of the east, successive governments or parties hoping to
come to power have advocated policies that deprive members of minority
communities of their citizenship, franchise, employment, education,
land, homes and, in many cases, their lives. All of this has been
undertaken in the name of the Sinhalese majority.
Yet if we look behind the rhetoric and ask how many Sinhalese have
actually benefited from these policies, the answer is `very few'. The
majority has actually suffered from the decades of war, which have
dragged down their living standards. Furthermore, at its worst, the
assault on the rule of law allowed tens of thousands of Sinhalese to
be killed with impunity during the late 1980s. In other words,
majoritarianism is a way in which minority rule seeks to legitimise
itself by creating the illusion that a small elite speaks and acts in
the interests of the majority.
In fact democracy, properly defined, is not the rule of a minority or
even the majority, but rather rule by the people all the people,
without any exception. It is true that perfect democracy cannot be
achieved in a class-divided capitalist society, and therefore it would
be legitimate to distinguish a more restricted democracy, one that is
compatible with bourgeois rule, from the full democracy that is
possible in a classless society. But the former is a necessary
condition for the latter: only the struggle to defend and expand
democracy under capitalism can create a truly democratic
Dealing with difference
If we define democracy as the rule of all the people, what measures
are required to make this a reality? There is a practical problem
here, because `the people' are not, of course, homogeneous. Every
population is differentiated by age and sex, and Sri Lankan society
also has class divisions. Most modern societies embody linguistic,
ethnic, religious and cultural differences. And if we are talking
about a democratic order, there will be differences of opinion on all
conceivable issues. So how could these disparities be accommodated?
Perhaps the first principle that needs to be laid down is that
violence will not be used to resolve differences. The rights to life
and freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment are necessary
to ensure that no one can prevail by annihilating the other. This
already rules out such practices as torture, and judicial or
extrajudicial executions. These rights should be regarded as absolute,
in the sense that they cannot be denied even to criminals. The right
to liberty, on the other hand, could be curtailed if someone is proved
to have violated the fundamental rights of others, but it would be
important to have a carefully defined due process of law to ensure
that this penalty is not misused.
Equality is fundamental to democracy. Both equality before the law and
equal protection of the law need to be guaranteed to all individuals,
as does freedom from discrimination and persecution of any type. This
would obviously rule out special privileges for any linguistic, ethnic
or religious group. The special place given to Buddhism in the
Constitution of Sri Lanka, for instance, erodes the democratic
character of the Constitution without conferring any benefit to
Buddhism. Implementing a policy of equality would also entail passing
legislation and putting in place machinery to ensure
non-discrimination and equal opportunities.
Finally, democracy as the rule of all people would require the
institutionalisation of the right to information as well as freedom of
expression and association, so that individuals have the means to
participate in self-government. These freedoms should be restricted
only where they encroach on the rights of others. For example, libel
and slander are illegal because they can injure a person, and
similarly hate-speech or incitement to violence can injure a whole
community. Establishing the distinction between legitimate freedom of
expression and hate speech may not be easy. Banning books such as The
Satanic Verses because they hurt the sentiments of some people is not
warranted. On the other hand, local radio was used to mobilise Hutus
in the Rwandan genocide, and there clearly should not be freedom to
incite people to commit murder.
The overall principle in this conception of democracy is that those
who are most affected by a decision should have the most say in that
decision. For example, the decision to continue or terminate a
pregnancy most affects the woman who is pregnant, and she should have
the final say in it. As another example, the residents of a block of
flats or a housing society need to make collective decisions about
issues that affect their living arrangements, and this process then
continues up through municipalities and villages, provinces, countries
and the world. But all of this depends on a constitutional and legal
framework that confers on individuals the rights and means to be
informed about issues that affect them, to engage in discussions on
them and to participate in decision-making about them.
In past debates on a political solution to Sri Lanka's ethnic crisis,
devolution has tended to be over-emphasised and democracy has been
under-emphasised. Within an overall democratic framework, devolution
can certainly be a democratic measure. Instead of decisions about what
happens in your municipality, village or province being made by people
in a distant capital, who have little knowledge and less concern about
the place where you live and the effects of their decisions, you would
be empowered to have more say in the decisions that concern you. But
if it is not specified clearly that the purpose of devolution is to
promote democracy, there could be many dangers.
One potential danger is that there is insufficient devolution of
powers, and the central government could interfere unnecessarily in
the affairs of the province, without any justification in terms of
protecting people's human rights or civil liberties. This has happened
in India in the past, and such interference was an important reason
why the earlier experiment with provincial councils in Sri Lanka
failed, and why the Rajapakse regime's determination to go no further
than that experiment will also fail. But it is also possible that it
is the provincial government that is violating the people's rights. In
2002, the state government in Gujarat carried out a genocidal pogrom
against Muslims in the state, and the central government, which ought
to have intervened to protect the victims from mass rape and
slaughter, did not do so. Even after a Congress-led coalition came to
power at the Centre, Muslims continued to be persecuted and prevented
from returning to their homes by the state government in league with
the police, while the judiciary in the state was subverted to allow
the criminals to go free while incarcerating innocent Muslims. In
essence, Gujarat was a fascist state within the framework of a more
democratic one a strange example of devolution gone wrong.
In fact, if we try to imagine what would have happened if Velupillai
Prabhakaran had been more flexible and had accepted a federal
arrangement when it was offered to him during the peace talks
following the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement, it probably would have been
something very similar to the situation in Gujarat. There would have
been a fascist Tamil Provincial Council in the northeast, with Muslims
of the north having no chance to exercise their right of return, and
Muslims of the east facing ethnic cleansing. The courts would have
functioned according to the dictates of the LTTE, and democratic
rights and freedoms would be non-existent. At the same time,
violations of the rights of Tamils in other parts of the country could
continue, despite devolution, if the Provincial Council ruling over
their area happened to be dominated by Sinhalese nationalists.
In Sri Lanka, the central government has long been displacing people
in the name of High Security Zones and Special Economic Zones (SEZs).
But in India, pitched battles have been fought by state governments
against local communities facing displacement by SEZs. A democratic
framework for devolution would allow neither the central nor the
provincial government to dispossess people of their land, livelihoods
and homes, but rather would insist on the need not only to obtain
their consent as well as to compensate them adequately. Moreover, the
usual practice of denying workers basic rights in SEZs, whether they
are under the jurisdiction of the central or the provincial
government, would also be impossible.
Even at the lower level of village councils, devolution may not result
in democracy if the councils are controlled by the village elite. The
movement in India that culminated in the Right to Information Act
actually began at this level, when villagers demanded to know what was
happening to development funds allocated to their villages, large
quantities of which had gone missing. Subsequently, this Act has
become a potent weapon against corruption and abuse of power.
Moreover, until legislation was passed reserving 33 percent of the
seats in the village Panchayats for women, the latter were rarely able
to get elected. (A struggle for one-third reservation for women in
Parliament and state assemblies is still in progress.) There may be
cases where women are used as fronts for their menfolk, but in many
cases the influx of women into local government has made a real
difference, with priorities shifting to development and welfare
measures that have truly benefited the mass of local people.
Unitary or united?
This is a useful lesson for Sri Lanka, where women are conspicuously
absent from government, despite the relatively high level of female
literacy and large number of extremely able women. This is a
significant loss, both for the women whose abilities are not being
exercised and for the country. But it is a problem that will not be
addressed by devolution alone. Nor will devolution in itself ensure
respect for the rights of children, which are violated in so many
ways: forced conscription, sexual abuse both commercially and within
the family, physical violence, psychological trauma and neglect. As
such, it simply cannot be assumed that devolution by itself will
guarantee democracy. It is vitally important to spell out a bill of
rights that will protect the fundamental rights of all citizens in all
parts of the country, and to make it the duty of government at all
levels to defend those rights. Only within such a framework would
devolution become a genuinely democratic measure, putting
decision-making more securely into the hands of those who are affected
by the decisions.
In Sri Lanka, previous exercises in constitutional change have done
exactly the opposite. It is well known that the Republican
Constitution of 1972 abolished the protection of minorities and
established a unitary state. But it is less often recognised that it
also took away rights from the majority of Sinhalese people, and
concentrated power in the hands of the government. The Constitution of
1978 further concentrated power in the hands of one person the
president and took away more rights, including the right to life.
The adverse consequences for Tamils were immediately obvious, as
several thousands were disappeared, tortured and killed; but the
devastating consequences for Sinhalese did not become apparent until
some years later. This very Constitution, under which tens of
thousands of Sinhalese were disappeared, tortured and killed between
1987 and 1990, is what the Sinhala nationalists are now trying so hard
to preserve. And the separate state for which the LTTE has been
fighting would be exactly the same, with absolute power concentrated
in the hands of one man Prabhakaran and the majority of citizens
deprived of all rights, including the right to life.
From this angle, it can be seen that the conflict in Sri Lanka has
been between a Sinhalese political elite fighting for a Sinhalese
unitary state and the LTTE fighting for a Tamil unitary state. Both
leaderships have been unwilling to share power, either with minorities
in their area of jurisdiction or with the majority of their own
community. Their goals have therefore been irreconcilable not only
with each other, but also with democracy. The majority of people in
all communities would, on the contrary, benefit from constitutional
changes that strengthen democracy, and there is therefore no conflict
between their interests on the basis of ethnicity.
The great virtue of spelling out the idea of constitutional change as
a necessary measure to restore and strengthen democracy in Sri Lanka
is that it quickly becomes clear that such change is not only in the
interests of Tamils and that, too, only those in the northeast,
leaving out Hill-country Tamils and others living in the south. In
fact, such a change would empower the vast majority of the people of
Sri Lanka indeed, all but the small elite who currently control all
the power. In mid-2007, a poll by the Marga Institute of Colombo
suggested that when Sinhalese people realised that devolution could
actually bring government closer to them, the majority supported it.
Unfortunately, the way in which the issue of devolution has usually
been posed suggests that it is a zero-sum game, with more power for
Tamils resulting in less for Sinhalese.
It needs to be clearly explained to the people of Sri Lanka that
democratic devolution is actually a win-win strategy, ensuring peace
and strengthening the rights of all people of all ethnic groups bar
a tiny minority who currently exploit and oppress the rest. The LTTE
may be defeated militarily, but unless the democratic aspirations of
the minorities are satisfied, conflict will surely spring up again.
Conversely, if Tamils enjoy democratic rights and freedoms in the
whole of Sri Lanka, why would they want to fight for a much smaller
separate state in which their democratic rights are suppressed?
Furthermore, the military victory has been won at the cost of a
dangerous erosion of democracy in the south, exemplified by the
harassment and murder of a large number of journalists, including
Lasantha Wickrematunga. Reversing this trend will also depend on a
common struggle for democracy by people of all communities.
As a Sinhala-speaking half-Burgher Tamil from the south, who is also
an activist focusing on labour and women's rights, I feel that the
simplistic way in which identities are commonly defined in Sri Lanka
today is one reason why a solution to the crisis has thus far remained
elusive. Such an approach erases important elements of identity,
including class, caste, gender, political belief and even the mixed
ethnicity that is so common in Sri Lanka. In my neighbourhood, there
are many middle- and lower-income Sinhalese, some of whom I have known
since my childhood; I know for a fact that they do not hate Tamils,
because they protected my family in both 1958 and 1983. They may
insist that I share their meal with them, but if they are asked to
share power with the Tamils, I suspect their response would be, "What
power? We don't have any. How can we share what we don't have?" And
indeed, given that most of them struggle to make ends meet on insecure
incomes in the informal sector, their sense of powerlessness is
Those with formal employment may not be much better off. When I
started working with women garment workers in the late 1980s, simply
undertaking to organise in the Free Trade Zones was to risk
disappearance and death. Since then, there has been considerable
progress in winning the right to freedom of association, but hard-won
wage gains are currently being snatched away by runaway inflation.
Back in 1990, when I interviewed women widowed by the Janatha Vimukthi
Peramuna (JVP) insurgency and the government's counter-insurgency,
their sense of powerlessness was overwhelming. I imagine they
experience a similar feeling of despair now, as it becomes
increasingly difficult to survive economically.
Would it be surprising if such people get the feeling that Tamils are
demanding more power than they themselves possess? Or that they could
allow themselves to be persuaded that devolution would rob them of
part of their country, and that this would be a concession to the
Tigers, who are killing Sinhalese? Such arguments need to be countered
by explanations that, far from leading to a separate state, devolution
within a democratic framework is the best insurance against separatism
and war; that it would empower not just minorities but also the
majority of the Sinhalese; and that those who oppose it and campaign
for a unitary state are interested not in the welfare of the majority,
but only in the power of a small political elite.
The All Party Representative Committee (APRC), set up to find a
political solution to the ethnic crisis, got off to a good start when
the Majority Report of the panel of experts was released in December
2006, and Professor Tissa Vitharana later produced a draft proposal
incorporating most of the elements of the Majority Report. But the
task of building consensus around proposals for constitutional change
that would be acceptable to the democratic majority among the minority
communities later ran into trouble. What is grievously lacking in this
process, and what has allowed the Sinhalese nationalists to sabotage
it time and again, is a mass campaign to convince the Sinhalese
majority that devolution within a democratic framework is as much in
their interests as it is in the interests of the minorities.
Particularly in the current environment of military `victory' fervour,
it is critically important that the APRC proposals be released to the
public without any dilution, and that a mass campaign be launched to
support them. The campaign would need to draw in everyone who has been
opposed to the war and in favour of democracy: progressive political
parties, trade unions, women's groups, religious organisations,
academics and intellectuals, students, journalists, NGOs and others.
The campaign should result in a popular outcry among Sinhalese against
anyone who tries to derail the process of constitutional reform.
Politicians need to get the message that the electorate will reject
them if they put obstacles in the way of a democratic constitution.
That is the only solution to Sri Lanka's ethnic crisis.
Rohini Hensman is a researcher and writer active in the women's
liberation, trade union, human-rights and anti-war movements in India
and Sri Lanka.
o o o
The Times of India
2 March 2009
by Praful Bidwai
As the Sri Lankan Armed Forces (SLAF) attack what is claimed to be the
last stronghold of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in
Mullaithivu, a huge humanitarian crisis has built up in the war zone,
where 2,50,000 Tamil civilians remain trapped. As the SLAF and the
LTTE target them the former through indiscriminate bombing and
shelling, and the latter by firing on them to prevent them from
fleeing to safety up to 35 civilians are being killed every day.
According to the international liberties group Human Rights Watch
(HRW), 2,000 Tamils have been killed and 5,000 wounded since the fall
of the Tigers' administrative headquarters in Kilinochchi in January.
Here's what HRW says: "The Sri Lankan government has indicated that
the (trapped) ethnic Tamil population... can be presumed to be siding
with the LTTE and treated as combatants, effectively sanctioning
unlawful attacks." This permits heinous crimes against civilians, in
total violation of the laws of war and of international humanitarian
law, which grant immunity to non-combatants. The SLAF has "repeatedly
and indiscriminately shelled areas crowded with displaced persons",
including state-declared "safe zones" and the region's "remaining
hospitals". "The [civilians'] plight... has been made worse by the
government's decision in September 2008 to order most humanitarian
agencies out...", according to HRW.
The government has thrown a blanket of censorship over the war zone.
It has failed to bring in enough food, medical supplies, and other
relief, with only a minimal role for the United Nations. Continued
fighting, lack of oversight, and manipulation of aid delivery have
intensified the humanitarian crisis. The SLAF is keen to finish the
war and declare victory before the Sri Lankan New Year in April. This
will lead to a sharp increase in civilian casualties. As if to cover
this up in advance, the SLAF is deliberately playing down the number
of civilians originally inhabiting the zone to 70,000. The Rajapakse
government claims that half of them have fled, although the number may
be only a few hundred, according to the Sri Lanka Democracy Forum.
In the coming days, Colombo may declare that virtually all civilians
have escaped and the SLAF can legitimately launch a no-holds-barred
final offensive, including firebombing, to finish the LTTE. This is
liable to lead to mass slaughter. In addition to open war in the
north, the Colombo government has launched a dirty war in the south.
Critics are harassed, abducted and have "disappeared", or like
journalist Lasantha Wickrematunga, killed by hired gunmen. Colombo is
deviously resisting international pressure to remedy the situation and
allow aid workers to return.
The European Union has called for an immediate ceasefire so that
civilians can leave the conflict area, and asked the LTTE to lay down
arms. It has also asked the government to "engage in an inclusive
political process which addresses the legitimate concerns of all
communities". The government balks at this and says if the LTTE lays
down arms, there would be no need for a ceasefire. It claims civilians
are exclusively targeted by the Tigers.
India has demanded an end to civilian killings and a political
settlement that addresses Tamil grievances through devolution of
powers. The Rajapakse government is particularly keen to stave off
Indian pressure. Sri Lankan army chief Sarath Fonseka has exaggerated
the "threat" that the LTTE's air wing poses to India and warned that
their planes could penetrate 150-170 km inside Indian territory.
The LTTE has proved ruthless towards Tamil civilians. With each
battlefield defeat, it treats them with ever-greater brutality,
subjecting them, including children, to forced recruitment and deadly
labour on the battlefield. The LTTE, probably the most murderous and
pathologically militarised group in South Asia, with a long history of
assassinating all those who disagree with it, deserves no sympathy.
But that should blind no one to the unitarist and chauvinist framework
under which the Rajapakse government operates.
Sinhalese chauvinists wrongly see the Tamils as "outsiders" although
they have inhabited the island for 2,000 years. India bears a special
responsibility vis-a-vis Sri Lanka not only because it is a big
neighbour with a large Tamil population, but because of its past
interventions there. New Delhi committed a grave blunder in the early
1980s by training and arming the LTTE, which soon turned against
India. India committed a second blunder in 1987 by sending in the
Indian Peace Keeping Force. This was a disastrous misadventure, which
failed to accomplish the objective of disarming the Tigers.
After Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, India followed a hands-off policy.
But in recent years, it has covertly given, and continues to provide,
military assistance to Colombo, including radar surveillance,
logistical support, armaments and helicopters. Without India's
support, the SLAF couldn't have scored major military victories. It
isn't enough for India to ask Sri Lanka to evacuate the trapped Tamil
civilians and implement the 13th constitutional amendment, enacted at
India's behest, which mandates provincial councils and merger of the
north and the east.
India must pull its full political weight by mobilising a diplomatic
campaign and making specific time-bound demands: a series of safe
corridors, international monitors, protection of civilians under
international supervision, and permission for extensive relief
operations. Above all, India must ask for extensive devolution of
powers and a non-unitary state structure, with a bicameral
legislature. This alone can achieve fruitful results while preventing
the massacre of civilians.
The writer is a Delhi-based journalist.
o o o
March 2, 2009
BEYOND THE POINT OF RETURN
by Papri Sri Raman
Sri Lanka's President, Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, said: "On behalf of the
entire Sri Lankan nation, I make an open invitation to all Sri Lankans
Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher, Malay and all other communities
who left this country because of the war, to return to your motherland."
Judging by past experience, the February 5 appeal is unlikely to find
a positive response among the fugitives, mainly Tamils, from the
island's war-torn north to Tamil Nadu across the Palk Strait.
Even before such appeals, 1,99,546 refugees in India have returned to
Sri Lanka over the years, according to the UN High Commission for
Refugees. Aid agencies, however, point out that 50 per cent of them
have come back to India. In the Tamil Nadu camps, there are refugees
who have come back for a third time, after repatriation.
The numbers reeled out by the aid agencies are truly numbing 90,000
Tamil Muslims driven out of Jaffna overnight, another 50,000 Tamils
told to leave the city in a day. Up to 2005, as many as 2,78,549
people are said to have come to India in three phases of displacement,
the first in 1984, the second between 1989-91 and the third since
1996. Half of all these were children.
In December 2008, the 117 camps in Tamil Nadu sheltered a total of
73,613 people. As many as 23,500 refugees live outside camps. Since
January 12, 2006, when the latest war began, yet another 21,000 have
arrived in India.
India has refrained from taking aid from any country or external
agency for the Tamil refugees. For the first time in 2008, however,
funds from the USAID Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian
Assistance and the Public Law (PL) 480 (also called the Food for
Peace) programme were used through international relief organisations
to rebuild some shelters gutted by fire in the Metupatti camp in the
Namakkal district, upgrade sanitary facilities in the Mandapam camp
and construct new structures in the Thappathi and Kulathuvaipatti
camps in the Tuticorin district.
"Mandapam is our best camp", says D. Jothi Jagarajan, one of the most
senior government officers and the secretary in charge of public
affairs, under whom a Rehabilitation Commissioner and a department
facilitate refugee rehabilitation.
The Mandapam camp in Rameswaram, with flood-lit high walls, barbed
wires and armed guards, is a transit facility for more than 5,000
where the refugees are given shelter, after their authenticity is
verified and they go through a quarantine procedure. Most camps are
rows and rows of palm-thatched cubicles besides dusty highways,
flooded during monsoon.
There are two special camps, one in Chengalpet in Kancheepuram
district and another in Cheyyar, Thiruvannamalai district, holding
about 40 specially interned people. Some of the Indian camps are very
large. The Tiruvallur camp houses nearly 5,000 inmates, of whom 1,300
are children. There are 1,497 children in a camp in Madurai, and the
Bhavanisagar camp has more than a thousand children.
All the refugees are required to carry identity cards, are under
24-hour police surveillance, have to report to authorities whenever
required to do so and their access to the media is severely restricted.
A category of refugees, to whom Mr. Rajapaksa's appeal is not
addressed, is that of the internally displaced. Together, the
internally displaced and the refugees abroad are estimated to total
6,00,000 as of today.
`There is actually no difference whether a person is an IDP
(internally displaced person) or a `refugee' in another country. For
the victim, it is not only a loss of home and livelihood, it is also a
loss of ownership and freedom, a loss of identity," says Ashok
Gladston Xavier of the social work department of the Loyola College,
Particularly distressed among the internally displaced are the
2,00,000 Tamils herded into 13 barbed wire camps by the Sri Lankan
government in last two months of the ongoing war. The Rajapaksa
government has declared its intention of keeping them in camps for at
least three years and is seeking foreign aid.
After a visit to the IDP camps, British Labour MP Robert Evans has
said: "These are not welfare camps: they are prisoner-of-war cum
concentration camps." People are allowed to get out of these camps,
"only if a relative stays behind," say Amnesty International officials.
The refugees are fleeing not only the endless war but also its
economic fallout. Sri Lanka, according to most United Nation reports
of the 50s and 60s, was a state with better human development indices,
literacy and healthcare than Singapore and Malyasia. Now, in the
island's north, every step is a mine-field, most buildings are
burnt-out shells, and village after village bombed out.
"It has been estimated that the ongoing war has annually taken one to
two per cent off the GDP growth in Sri Lanka", says economist S.
Narayan, a former finance secretary of the Government of India.
He adds: "When cumulated over two decades, it is possible to argue
that per capita incomes should have been twice what they are now,
which would be equivalent to that in Malaysia or at least Indonesia.
The cost of the war in terms of overall welfare is, therefore, quite
evident. The displaced persons camps are a part of this cost."
What will the refugees' rehabilitation cost? Says Narayan:
"approximately US $ 600 per person per year including administrative
overheads, leakages etca huge amount, given the numbers of displaced
persons." Not exactly an easy target to reach, one may add, in these
times of recession.
This article is supported by a C-NES UNHCR media fellowship
 BANGLADESH: BDR MUTINY AND AFTER
The Daily Star
March 2, 2009
TRYING TIMES FOR US
Unity and discipline are the needs of the hour
EVER since the dastardly acts of a section of BDR men came to light,
we, through several editorials have expressed our deepest sorrow at
the tragic events. We commend the armed forces for the way it has held
its grief in check and gone about performing its duties in the most
We are passing through a difficult time and the events will no doubt
leave a deep sorrow in our collective psyche. We are in the process of
overcoming a grave catastrophe at the moment crossing the very initial
days of the post-crisis phase. It is thus very important that we
preserve our cool and avoid split within the society since that is
what those behind the mutiny would be most happy to see happen. One
must not fail to see that the mutiny in effect was designed to destroy
and damage the two major elements of our defence capability the army
and the BDR
It is neither the time for rumour mongering nor giving ears to all the
irresponsible tales that are making the rounds. Going by the events of
February 25 one can be in very little doubt that there is a
deep-rooted plan to destabilise the country and exploit the situation,
and we can resist and prevent that from happening if we as one,
cutting across party lines, refuse to dance to their tunes by quashing
All the political parties must understand that politicising the matter
will be very damaging for the nation. We would have liked to see the
PM involve her counterpart in the decision making process in the
quelling of the BDR mutiny. This unfortunately did not happen and we
feel that the Grand Alliance and Sheikh Hasina have lost a golden
opportunity to gain the confidence of the opposition. One should not
overlook the importance of such involvements since the collective
decision, right or wrong, would have to be owned by all. And the blame
game one sees is primarily due to this.
The BNP reaction, perhaps a consequence of being spurned by the
government, is a disturbing stance to take. This is not the time for
blaming one another or pointing accusing finger at the government on
mere speculation, since what we need at the moment are cohesion and
consolidation not division.
We feel that there will be time for discussion on the way the matter
has so far been handled. We shall have enough scope for analysying the
actions of all concerned. What we need to do now is to help overcome
the immediate problems that of making the BDR operational and
strengthening the armed forces to overcome their loss of such a large
number of officers. We must work together to overcome the trauma
inflicted on us.
o o o
The Indian Express
March 02, 2009
The gory details of the Bangladesh Rifles mutiny emanating from Dhaka
are worrisome for two reasons. First, because of the brutal massacre
that constitutes a human tragedy of mammoth proportions and a
potential for destabilisation. Second, the violent rebellion has
exposed the tind-erbox that Bangladesh, and by extension, its
neighbours particularly India sit upon. When Sheikh Hasina Wajed
won a landslide victory in a legitimate democratic election in
December 2008, there was hope that Bangladesh's prolonged instability
would end soon and the rule of law be restored, along with civil
liberties. But the discovery of mass graves within the Pilkhana
headquarters of the BDR in Dhaka demonstrate how close the country had
come to another catastrophe. A stern threat from the prime minister
and tanks rolling down Dhaka towards Pilkhana might have compelled the
rebels to surrender, but the fear of imminent doom has far from subsided.
Inquiries into what happened on February 25 and 26, and why, are
revealing a murky picture. As some had suspected, there appears to be
an extremist cum political instigation. The name of Salahuddin Qader
Chowdhury, a Bangladesh Nationalist Party MP and business tycoon, with
ties to the Pakistan military and the ISI, has cropped up. Chowdhury
was linked to an arms haul in 2004, arms meant perhaps for insurgents
in India's Northeast. BDR personnel under interrogation have disclosed
that 1 crore taka may have exchanged hands before the mutiny began.
All of this point to conspiracy and pre-meditation. According to
information provided by Dhaka, the plan was to exploit BDR jawans'
grievances with the hope that once they had killed a "sufficient"
number of army officers assigned to the BDR, the army would react
violently. In the process, the Awami League-led Government would have
been toppled. Plots to assassinate the army chief, Moeen U. Ahmed, and
the PM have also come to light.
The BNP leader, Begum Khaleda Zia, has pledged her support to the
government in the ongoing inquiry. That is to be welcomed. However, a
further cause for concern is the anger among army personnel to exact
their revenge on the mutineers. They want exemplary punishment for the
BDR personnel who instigated the rest. But they must persist in the
restraint they have shown so far and have faith in the process of
inquiry and justice set in motion. This episode is, in the end,
Bangladesh's internal matter; but given the potential threat to the
subcontinent, New Delhi must be in constant touch with Dhaka and
 Pakistan and Elsewhere: Understanding Fundamentalisms
The News International
February 21, 2009
MYTHS VS FACTS ABOUT FUNDAMENTALISM (Part 1)
by Rubina Saigol
Religious fundamentalist movements of all shades and hues have gripped
large parts of the world and have posed a threat to the prevalent
political, economic and social systems. While "fundamentalism" is a
term that is used in varying contexts to denote differing realities,
its origins lie in 1920s America where it was used to refer to
puritanical evangelist movements. The term is sometimes used to deny
history by suggesting a return to some imagined early purity or
"golden period" that supposedly existed in a bygone era.
Fundamentalisms have manifested themselves in virtually all kinds of
cultures and societies, Christian, Muslim, Hindu or Jewish. Like
anything that is not much explored or understood, fundamentalisms have
given rise to certain myths that tend to seduce public imagination.
The purpose of this article is to try and dismantle eight of the most
common myths about Muslim fundamentalism and extremism in our part of
the world by juxtaposing such myths against observable facts.
Myth: Fundamentalism is the result of mental and moral backwardness,
attitudes, religion and beliefs.
Fact: Fundamentalism is about geopolitics, involving power, money, and
control over territory, people and resources. If we examine the
actions and pronouncements of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or the
Swat Taliban actions that include beheading, rape, murder, public
display of dead bodies, public executions, suicide bombings killing
scores of innocent people it is not hard to discern that such
actions have little to do with religion or a moral order. Through
brutal means and barbaric methods, the Taliban have gained control
over territory in Swat and Waziristan. They have forced the government
to accept their power over people and resources through the
Nizam-e-Adl agreement reached between the
Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammdi's Maulana Sufi Muhammad and the
provincial government of the ANP. Apart from drug trafficking, the
money is raised from donations received from Saudi Arabia and other
countries and goes to pay Rs15,000-20,000 per month to about ten
thousand militant followers of Maulana Fazlullah.
Myth: Fundamentalism in Pakistan can be traced back to the era of
Fact: Fundamentalism can be traced much further back to Imam Hanbal,
Al-Ashari, Imam Ghazali (he influenced writers like Ashraf Thanvi who
wrote Bahishti Zewar), Abdul Wahhab and the Darul Uloom, Deoband.
Contrary to the common perception that General Zia's Islamisation laid
the foundation of extremist and fundamentalist strands of religion,
the seeds were sown much earlier. Reactionary Islamic thought goes
back centuries, to the time when rationalism first appeared in Muslim
lands. The Asharite revolt against the Mu'tazila rationalist thought
located in Greek philosophy, Imam Ghazali's total repudiation of
Reason as a source of truth apart from Revelation, and his
denunciation of the great scientists, medicine men, mathematicians and
thinkers like Al-Kindi, Al-Razi, Ibn-e-Rushd and Ibn-e-Sina who
introduced enlightenment within the Muslim world between the 8th and
11th centuries, are reflections of early fundamentalist reactions. In
the heyday of Baghdad, the genius of these thinkers was much admired
and they were highly respected during the time of Khalifa Al-Mamun.
However, later Muslim rulers like Al-Mutawakkil punished them severely
for injecting innovative thought in the Muslim world. It was political
power that chose to ally itself with the traditionalist and
conservative ulema who crushed innovative and scientific thinking in
favour of obscurantism.
The 18th century Arabian thinker Abdul Wahhab, who was also protected
by and aligned with the House of Saud and political power, rejected
all later accretions in Islamic thought and insisted on returning to
purported versions of pure Islam during its early years. The bland
Wahhabi version of religion that he propounded was exported to the
subcontinent through Saudi Arabian funding of religious movements in
Pakistan. The much more syncretic, tolerant and non-violent versions
of Sufi Islam were rejected by a highly intolerant version which came
though Saudi imperialism. In the context of the subcontinent,
fundamentalist thought was furthered by Maulana Maudoodi, who used his
influence in the passage of the Objectives Resolution in 1949 which
laid the foundation of a potentially "theocratic" state. General Zia
made the Objectives Resolution a substantive part of the Constitution
in 1985 through the insertion of Article 2-A. General Zia thus merely
accelerated a process begun by his predecessors.
Myth: Only religious parties and sectarian outfits support or forge
Fact: Fundamentalism has been supported or encouraged as much by the
so-called secular elite as by religious parties to maintain class
power and privilege.
The common assumption that only parties like the JUI-F, JUI-S and
Jamaat-e-Islami and sectarian and Jehadi outfits like
Sipah-e-Sahaba-e-Pakistan or Harkat-ul-Mujahideen support
fundamentalism in Pakistan overlooks the constant capitulation to
religious extremism by seemingly secular and liberal parties. Most
analysts like to quote Jinnah's August 11, 1947, speech to argue that
he envisioned a secular state, but in several of his other speeches he
catered to the religious lobby's sentiments to justify the two-nation
concept. In 1940 he declared: "It is extremely difficult to appreciate
why our Hindu friends fail to understand the real nature of Islam and
Hinduism. They are not religious in the strict sense of the word, but
are, in fact, different and distinct social orders, and it is a dream
that the Hindus and Muslims can ever evolve a common nationality, and
this misconception of one Indian nation has troubles and will lead
India to destruction if we fail to revise our notions in time. The
Hindus and Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies,
social customs, literatures. They neither intermarry nor inter-dine
together and, indeed, they belong to two different civilisations which
are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions."
Even though Ayub Khan was considered modern and enlightened, a large
number of his speeches cater to the religious lobby, in particular the
ones that were designed to ensure "national integration" and emphasise
Pakistani identity over ethnic and regional identities. In 1962 he
declared: "Pakistan came into being on the basis of an ideology which
does not believe in differences of colour, race or language. It is
immaterial whether you are a Bengali or a Sindhi, a Baluchi or a
Pathan or a Punjabi we are all knit together by the bond of Islam."
The Council for Islamic Ideology was established during his rule to
scrutinise laws for their conformity to religion. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto,
often associated with the Left and socialist thought, caved in to the
demand to declare the Qadianis non-Muslims in 1974 through the Second
Amendment, and later capitulated to the Nizam-e-Mustafa movement by
taking certain symbolic measures towards Islamisation. The National
Education Policy of 1972 declared that Islam is woven into the warp
and woof of Pakistani society and would be reflected centrally in
education. It was during Benazir Bhutto's second tenure that the
Taliban gained ascendancy in Afghanistan in 1996 and her government
was the first to recognise their rule.
Again, it was the right-of-centre PML-N which, during Nawaz Sharif's
first tenure, instituted the death penalty (295c) for blasphemy, a law
much abused by religious zealots against the Ahmadi and Christian
communities. In his second tenure he introduced his infamous Shariat
Bill (15th amendment) which would have effectively made him
Amir-ul-Momineen, for it was designed to gain power by deciding virtue
and vice and imposing it upon the country. Most recently, the ANP has
entered into a desperate agreement with TNSM for Shariat in return for
peace an expensive peace which may or may not come about! Liberal,
centrist and Left-oriented leaders and parties have contributed
heavily to the rise of religious fanaticism in order to maintain their
hold on power.
(To be continued)
The writer is an independent researcher specialising in social
development. Email: rubinasaigol@...
The News International
February 23, 2009
MYTHS VS FACTS ABOUT FUNDAMENTALISM (PART 2)
by Rubina Saigol
Myth: Fundamentalists want a genuine Shariah-based system of quick and
Fact: Fundamentalist and extremist outfits have little or no
understanding of Shariah and have devised a highly convoluted version
of Shariah that is rejected by a large number of serious religious
Recent interviews of a cross-section of religious scholars and
thinkers in Punjab and the NWFP conducted by a team of researchers
reveals the following: There is not a single serious scholar of
Shariah and Islamic jurisprudence who believes that bombing and
torching girls' schools, digging out dead bodies and hanging them from
trees, murdering with wild abandon and killing innocent people with
suicide bombing are Islamic. Similarly, these scholars informed us
that there is no known school of Islamic thought that forbids the
education of women and disputes their right to work, or their freedom
of movement to carry out their daily tasks. Rather, virtually every
scholar or religious leader that we interviewed said education is the
foremost duty of every Muslim, man or woman. There is no respected
religious scholar who supports the beating of women for going out of
their houses or starving children to death by disallowing women from
earning a livelihood. Virtually, every scholar, belonging to various
sects and schools of thought, strongly condemned the actions of the
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan of Baitullah Mehsood and Fazlullah's actions
in Swat as efforts to give religion a bad name.
Myth: Fundamentalism is the antithesis of imperialism and
Jehadis/Taliban are fighting against imperial domination.
Fact: Fundamentalism and imperialism are deeply linked and invoke each
other for their own aims; fundamentalism is itself a specific form of
In his thoroughly researched book Jihad-e-Kashmir o Afghanistan,
journalist Muhammad Amir Rana reveals the following: After the Soviet
invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Jimmy Carter's administration created
a secret fund of $500 million to create terror outfits to fight the
Soviets. Nicknamed "Operation Cyclone," this fund was kept secret even
from Congress and the American public. Subsequently, the Reagan
administration and Saudi Arabia provided $3.5 billion to General Zia's
regime for the funding of madrassahs for the Afghan Jihad. Militants
were trained in the Brooklyn School in New York and in Virginia by the
CIA. In Pakistan they were trained by MI6 and the
Inter-Services-Intelligence. Between 1979 and 1990 there was a
mushroom growth of madrassahs Jihad-related organisations grew by
100 percent and sectarian outfits multiplied at the rate of 90
percent. By 1986 the rate of increase of deeni madaris was 136 percent
annually, whereas in previous times it had been a mere 3 percent. By
2002, 7,000 religious institutions were offering degrees in higher
education. Currently, it is estimated that there are between 18,000
and 22,000 madrassahs operating in Pakistan, teaching over 1.5 million
children. Pakistan is in fact located at the nexus of multiple and
competing imperialisms representing the US (and the so-called West),
Saudi Arabian Wahhabiism and Iranian forms.
Myth: Fundamentalism and related terrorism are problems of the
Fact: The Largest recruitment for Afghan and Kashmir Jehad is from the
Punjab followed by the NWFP, Sindh and Balochistan.
Amir Rana's study reveals that Punjab contributes about 50 percent of
the Jihadi workforce, followed by the NWFP, Sindh and Balochistan.
Punjab has the largest number of deeni madaris (5459 according to a
2002 study). The NWFP, Sindh and Balochistan have 2,483, 1,935 and
769, respectively. Karachi alone accounts for about 2,000 madrassahs.
Statistics collected by the ministry of education show that FATA has
135 while Islamabad alone has 77 deeni madaris. According to Rana, the
great majority of militants from the Punjab were sent to fight in
Kashmir by groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad, while
most of the Pakhtoon and Balochi youth from the NWFP and Balochistan
were sent to and killed in Afghanistan. Most belonged to the JUI-F and
the TNSM (which has now entered into an agreement with the ANP
government of the NWFP). A large number of organisations, such as
Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Jabbar wal Islami, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen,
Lashkar-e-Taiba, Al Badr and Lashkar-e-Islam have participated in the
Kashmir and Afghan Jihad getting their poor foot soldiers killed while
the leaders enjoy luxurious lifestyles that include Pajeros, expensive
mobile phones, large houses and frequent air travel.
Myth: Only non-state actors are involved in religion-based terrorism
Fact: State policy, in line with imperial and vested interests, has
fully encouraged and supported the growth and rise of fundamentalist
and sectarian outfits.
The state is fully implicated in backing, supporting and fanning the
growth of extremist outfits. Pakistan's "strategic depth" theory
effectively helped keep the Taliban in power in Afghanistan, even as
they killed, murdered and butchered children for playing football,
women for going to the bank or school, working or lifting the lower
part of the burqa to cross a river. The reign of terror had Pakistan's
official support while the rest of the world remained incredulous. The
policy of "bleeding India with a thousand cuts" through infiltration
in Kashmir also had state sponsorship. One look at the curriculum and
teachings by Jamaat-ud-Daawa, an offshoot of Lashkar-e-Taiba, reveals
the main purpose of this organisation. Their alphabet revolves around
killing, murdering and jihad and their hatred is focused on Hindus.
The games children play are war games designed to inspire them to lay
down their lives for "holy war." Going into the Afghan jihad in return
for dollars was also a state decision.
Myth: Fundamentalist outfits have the support of local populations.
Fact: People have invariably voted in secular and liberal parties in
A frequent defence in favour of religious hegemony is that the people
are essentially religious and want a religious order in Pakistan. An
examination of all elections held since 1970 reveals that people
invariably voted for secular and liberal parties, while religious
parties were promoted only by dictators: the Jamaat-e-Islami by
General Zia and the MMA by Musharraf! The major winners of elections
in 1970, 1977, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1997, 2002 and 2008 were the Awami
League, the PPP, the PML-N, the ANP and the MQM, along with smaller
nationalist parties. The religious parties failed to capture people's
imagination in a significant way in any election.
The myths that one has tried to unpack above need detailed scrutiny.
As a nation we need to contemplate our choices: can we afford
religious extremism with its negative obsession with controlling women
as well as its anti-democracy, anti-development stance and its
propensity towards violence because of its love for martyrdom, death
and the next world? Or, do we need a plural democracy that can ensure
fundamental rights while also accommodating and balancing the concerns
of the different provinces, ethnicities, religions and genders into a
just system of production and distribution.
 USA / India:
HINDUTVA FUNDAMENTALISTS LOOSE CALIFORNIA TEXTBOOK COURT CASE:
(CAPEEM vs Kenneth Noonan et al) Summary Judgement (February 25, 2009)
In an important court ruling by the US Federal judge on 25 February
2009, Hindutva's politically motivated efforts to change the contents
of school textbooks in California are scuttled.
Full Text of 63 page court ruling
 INDIA - KARNATAKA: MASSIVE STATE FUNDING OF HINDU RELIGIOUS
INSTITUTIONS UNDERWAY BY THE BJP GOVT.
RS 60-CR LARGESSE FOR FAITH
Express News Service
21 Feb 2009
Bangalore: With an eye on the coming Lok Sabha elections, Chief
Minister B S Yeddyurappa has doled out grants worth over Rs 50 crore
for the development of various religious institutions and places of
importance for different sects of people, besides announcing a grant
of Rs 10 crore for places spreading religious harmony.
Unmindful of the criticism by the Opposition for his soft corner for
religious institutions, BSY has given them the goodies. "Sincere
efforts will be made to bind different religions and castes with love
and affection by formulating constructive programmes," the CM
announced in his budget speech.
Institutions and places chosen for the grants for spreading religious
harmony are: Khaja Aminuddin Dargah (Bijapur), Shirahatti Fakiraswamy
Mutt (Gadag Dist), Kodekal Basavanna and Tinthani Mauneswara of Surpur
(Gulbarga), Savalgi Shivalingeswara Mutt of Gokak (Belgaum),
Murugamalla Kshetra of Chintamani (Kolar) and other places of
Hindu-Muslim and Hindu-Christian amity.
Yeddyurappa has earmarked Rs 10 crore for Kaginele, the birth place of
saint Kanakadasa, while announcing a Rs 50-crore plan to develop
Renuka Yellamma temple at Saudat t i in Belgaum. An amount of Rs 5
crore has been kept aside for the coming year for the Kaginele projects.
Other religious places and institutions chosen for grants include:
Yediyuru Siddalingeshwara Mutt (Rs 5 crore), Malemahadeshwara Betta,
Biligirirangana Betta and Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta (Rs 5 crore),
Melukote (Rs 2 crore), Chandragutti and Shivanapada (Rs 2 crore each),
Jidaga Mutt in Gulbarga ( Rs 1 crore), Sharanabasaveshwara Gurupeetha
of Bovi community in Bagalkot, Immadi Siddarameshwara Mutt and Hampi
Hemakoot Gayatri Mutt (Rs 1 crore each), Kumaraswamy Mutt at Hangal
and Shivayogi Mandir in Bagalkot (Rs 1 crore each), Babbuswamy Mutt in
Udupi (Rs 1 crore) and Rajanahalli Valmiki Gurupeetha in Davanagere
(Rs 2 crore).
o o o
KARNATAKA GOVT TO WASH SINS BY GANGAJAL DISTRIBUTION
Deepa Balakrishnan / CNN-IBN
Feb 23, 2009
HOLY GRAIL: BJP has a votebank that thrives on religious sentiments so
the Karnataka state government may please its voters.
New Delhi: Holy water from the Ganga is all set to flow into Karnataka
today on the occasion of Maha-Shivaratri.
The BJP government in Karnataka is spending lakhs of rupees to take
the holy river to 1,500 temples cross the state.
Ganga-jal or holy water from the Ganga river in tankers is the BJP
government's unusual gift to the people of Karnataka this Shivratri.
SN Krishnaiah Shetty, Muzrai Minister said, "Gangajal is considered
very auspicious for Hindus who call it pavithra gangajal or holy
water. That's why we're distributing it for Maha-Shivaratri, which is
an important and powerful day."
Nearly 50,000 litres of gangajal has been brought in two tankers
across 2000 kilometres.
Ashok Kumar, driver of the tanker too was amazed at the kind of cargo
he ferried and said that he has never done something like this before.
This is not the first time that the Muzrai department is showing its
eccentric side. A few days after coming to power, this department
ordered that every temple should do a puja religious rituals in the
name of chief minister Yeddyurappa every morning. It was an order that
hugely embarrassed the government and had to be taken back the next day.
Shetty says he doesn't know how much the gangajal distribution will
cost and that the devotees are footing the bill.
This is only a way of cooperating with devotees said the minister.
But simple arithmetic will tell you that the whole exercise is going
to cost more than a few lakh rupees. Karnataka may not get any new
schools or hospitals this year but it will have plenty of holy water.
o o o
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: KARNATAKA GOVT FUNDING OF TEMPLES IS A MATTER OF
The move of Karnataka Government to allot 130 crores for Temples and
mutts in the state is a matter of disgust and serious concern. The
ground for allocation is that this will please the Gods. The Chief
Minister said that this is to seek forgiveness for the sins of
previous Governments, to bring prosperity for the state by more rains
and food production by making the Gods happy. This is blatant
promotion of blind faith, going against the values of our
constitution, which directs the state to promote rational thought and
oppose the blind faith. By now we know that rainfall is related to
ecological factors and food production is related to agricultural
policies. To attribute this to Gods' will is not only wrong it is a
slap on the scientific temper. BJP in Karnataka came to power by
propping up Baba Budan Giri dargah issue and now it is resorting to
outright communal and obscurantist politics by giving money to
temples. This also displays that BJP like formations are there just to
promote faith in temples and Mutts, to build their policies around
issues of `other world'. The builder of Modern India, Nehru, saw `Holy
places' in industries and agricultural development through planning.
In contrast for BJP, Ram temple has been the core issue. BJP ruled
Karnataka is fast falling into the politics of medieval ages. It is
time that people reprimand such retrograde policies of the BJP and
demand that public money cannot be wasted in temples etc.
All India Secular Forum
1102/5 MHADA Deluxe
o o o
2 March 2009
GRANTS FOR RELIGIOUS BODIES IS POLITICAL APPEASEMENT.
Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa, who has had an opportunity to present
two budgets in a span of nine months, may not have a formal economics
background, but so was the case with many of his predecessors. M Y
Ghorpade was perhaps the last finance minister that Karnataka has seen
with an academic background of economics and finance. But,
Siddaramaiah and S M Krishna who preceded Yeddyurappa in the finance
department, carried enough political acumen to depend on sound
economic advice before presenting their budgets and put the state on a
sound economic footing. The two budgets that Yeddyurappa has presented
last June soon after the elections and now betray a lack of vision
and roadmap to consolidate the state economy in an acutely adverse
Global meltdown has begun to hit the country badly. But Karnataka,
especially Bangalore, could be worst hit in the coming fiscal year as
it has rode high on the information technology sector boom for last
one decade. Economic activity is already witnessing severe downturn in
IT and textiles, the two major sectors in the state. The fears of
large-scale job losses are real in the two sectors. The state
government should have geared up to meet this challenge. The resource
mobilisation and consequently the budgetary allocation in the last
fiscal fell short by over Rs 4,500 crore and the downward fiscal
spiral is expected to continue. And yet, Yeddyurappa's latest budget
has not been able to relate itself to this challenge. On the contrary,
scarce resources have been proposed to be deployed to dole out to
religious institutions. Over and above the Rs 130 crore he handed out
while presenting the budget on Feb 20, Yeddyurappa has announced a
further Rs 22.70 crore `grant' to religious bodies across the state.
The point is that apparently there were no specific requests or
justifiable reasons for such state support. It is as if the chief
minister has used the budgetary instrument to openly appease different
communities ahead of the general elections. The allocations prompted
one Opposition MLA to make a sarcastic remark that Yeddyurappa would
have even made allocation for BJP's `operation lotus' as well, if the
Constitution so permitted. These allocations are eminently avoidable.
In these times of economic distress, it is still not late for the
government to review its budgetary course. It would be prudent and
highly desirable that the government allocates its limited finances
for public investment so as to induce economic recovery.
 FILM REVIEW: Slum Dog Millionaire
1 March, 2009
CAUGHT ON FILM: INDIA `NOT SHINING'
by Arundhati Roy
The night before the Oscars, in India, we were re-enacting the last
few scenes of Slumdog Millionaire. The ones in which vast crowds of
people poor people who have nothing to do with the game show,
gather in the thousands in their slums and shanty towns to see if
Jamal Malik will win. Oh, and he did. He did. So now everyone,
including the Congress Party, is taking credit for the Oscars that the
The party claims that i<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)