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SACW | April 1-14, 2009 / War Noise / Culture Police

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    South Asia Citizens Wire | April-1-14, 2009 | Dispatch No. 2615 - Year 11 running From: www.sacw.net [1] Bangladesh: Celebrating the activists who organise
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 13, 2009
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      South Asia Citizens Wire | April-1-14, 2009 | Dispatch No. 2615 - Year 11 running
      From: www.sacw.net

      [1] Bangladesh: Celebrating the activists who organise women garment workers (Hana Shams Ahmed)
      + The banality of violence in Bangladesh (Bina D’Costa)
      [2] Nepal: interview with Prime Minister Dahal (Katri Merikallio)
      [3] Pakistan: Swat flogging & public outrage (Beena Sarwar)
      [4] Sri Lanka: Who is Responsible for the Slaughter of Civilians in the Vanni? (Rohini Hensman)
      + IA-Forum Interview: Asoka Bandarage
      [5] India Administered Kashmir: Ratify enforced disappearance convention: APDP to Govt. of India (Hakeem Irfan)
      [6] India: Press Statement by Arundhati Roy at the Raipur Satyagraha for the Release of Dr Binayak Sen
      [7] India's Coming Elections and the Hindu Right
      - Politics without ideas or issues (Mahesh Rangarajan)
      - Rally behind Mallika Sarabhai in her Fight against Communal Fascism
      - Mr Advani mixes religion and politics, BJP gives tickets to killers of Christians in Orissa
      - BJP's project of a Hinduised India gives heart to the politico-religious nuts in Pakistan (Jawed Naqvi)
      [8] Tributes:
      - Remembering Victor Gordon Kiernan (Hassan N. Gardezi)
      - Janet Rosenberg Jagan (1920-2009)
      - Remembering Smitu Kothari: Adieu to an activist (Sadanand Menon)
      [9] India: Continuing Erosion of Secular Space - The Hindu Far Right Keeps Up its Slow and Steady work
      - Report on cultural policing against women and minorities in Karnataka (PUCL- Karnataka)
      - Pink Undies Facebook Group vandalised and taken over by the Hindu Right (Nisha Susan)
      - The Hinduised face of Bastar’s tribals (Aarti Dhar)
      [10] International: Women Living Under Muslim Laws Demands the UN Resolution on Combating Defamation of Religions be revoked
      [11] Miscellanea:
      - Talisma Nasreen : "Aucune religion ne prône l’égalité entre les hommes et les femmes" (Dominique Bari et Rosa Moussaoui)
      - Taliban v. Taliban (Graham Usher )
      - The Mysterious "Amar Singh": What Did Hillary Clinton Do? (Vijay Prashad)
      [12] Announcements:
      (i) Just Published: Violent Gods: Hindu Nationalism in India's Present - Narratives from Orissa (Angana P. Chatterji)
      (ii) The Fourth Annual Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture by Nawal El Saadawi (New York, May 3, 2009)

      _____


      [1] Bangladesh:

      Celebrating Najma Akhtar, and her associates who built Bangladesh’s women garment workers trade union
      by Hana Shams Ahmed
      http://www.sacw.net/article820.html


      THE BANALITY OF VIOLENCE IN BANGLADESH
      by Bina D’Costa
      http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2009/03/20/the-banality-of-violence-in-bangladesh/

      _____


      [2] Nepal:

      "WE ARE COMMITTED TO MULTIPARTY DEMOCRACY, FREEDOM OF PRESS AND RULE OF LAW..."
      In this interview with Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal printed in the Wednesday edition of the Finnish newsmagazine, Suomen Kuvalehti, Katri Merikallio asks him about his commitment to democracy, the free press and the future of the peace process.
      http://www.nepalitimes.com.np/issue/2009/04/13/Interview/15847

      _____


      [3] Pakistan:

      Dawn
      12 April 2009

      SWAT FLOGGING & PUBLIC OUTRAGE

      by Beena Sarwar

      In the ‘flogging video’ â€" undated footage shot with a cellphone in Swat (judging by the language and clothes) â€" a man whips a woman in red, her pinned face down on the ground and encircled by men. The leather strap strikes her back as she cries out in pain.

      The video, circulated on the Internet before local television channels broadcast it, caused a furore both in Pakistan and internationally. What caused the outrage? The public punishment meted out to a woman â€" or the fact that it was broadcast?

      Those who helped make the incident public, including the man who told a channel that he made the video, are under threat for their part in what many term a “drama” staged to give “a bad name” to Pakistan and to Islam. Political forces and local residents join this chorus, terming the video a bid to sabotage the peace deal. The Taliban say that the woman who was flogged was accused of illicit relations with her father-in-law and that the punishment was meted out by a small boy. The woman, whose face is not visible in the video, was accused of ‘adultery’ after allegedly being in the company of a na-mehram man. Her subsequent denial of the flogging before a magistrate reflects the intimidation she faces.

      All this diverts from the real issue â€" that such punishments have been and legally can be meted out to women in Pakistan, thanks to Gen Ziaul Haq’s controversial Hudood laws. Political dissidents and journalists have felt the lash on their backs. So have some women â€" a few in prisons, and at least one publicly in Bahawalpur. Those terming the video ‘fake’ argue that no one who was really flogged would be able to sit up, then walk on her own feet as the girl in the video did when she was led away. However, psychiatrists say that in highly charged situations, the body functions at a higher metabolic level to overcome physical pain. “The need to escape from that situation takes precedence over the pain,” says eminent psychiatrist Dr Haroon Ahmed.

      Nasir Zaidi, one of the four journalists who were whipped in 1979 says, “It is entirely possible. We were whipped with a proper ‘hunter’, not a leather strap, and walked away. So did a young boy who was flogged before us. We did not want them to see our weakness.”

      Hadd punishments (amputation, flogging, stoning to death) in fact have witness requirements which are so strict that they can practically never be met. These laws made adultery a criminal offence and rape a private one, punishable by flogging or stoning to death. Earlier, under the Pakistan Penal Code, adultery was a private offence, compoundable and bailable, punishable by five years or a fine, or both. The state could not be a party to prosecuting adultery.

      In 1981, the Federal Shariat Court pronounced that stoning to death was not even an Islamic punishment (PLD 1981 FSC 145 Hazoor Baksh). Gen Zia had the bench changed. The new bench upheld the punishment. Islamic scholars such as Dr Mohammad Farooq Khan of Mardan term the Hudood laws as “the biggest insult to Islam”. The Council of Islamic Ideology has found them to be flawed and inconsistent with the teachings of Islam (CII Report, 2006). Gen Zia’s use of Islam for political purposes was meant partly to drum up support for the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, and partly to create terror and render the populace incapable of protest against oppression. This is what the Taliban are also doing. They have in the past deliberately videotaped such punishments and circulated the footage.

      In March 2007, Taliban in Khyber Agency publicly stoned and then shot dead a woman and two men on charges of adultery. They videotaped the shooting and circulated it â€" footage that even the most sensationalist of channels would think twice about broadcasting. The Swat flogging video is an aberration only in that the local media broadcast it. One reason for the broadcast (conspiracy theories aside) was that the footage, while horrific, involved no blood or limbs being lopped off. There have been other incidents of public executions of men and women in the region. In September 2007, the beheaded bodies of two women kidnapped in Bannu were found with a note in Pashto, warning that all women “involved in immoral activities” would meet the same fate â€" like Shabana, the dancer in Mingora who was shot dead.

      It is socially acceptable (but not necessary) for family members to punish â€" but never in public â€" females who transgress their code of honour. The Taliban’s public violence goes against this code. It also overshadows ‘private’ gender violence, like swara, stove-burnings and beatings.

      The first casualty of war may be the truth but the first casualty of any ‘religious militancy’ is women’s rights. During the Zia years, American and Pakistani intelligence agencies boosted this tendency when they re-invented the Afghan war of liberation against Soviet occupation as a religious war. The Mujahideen’s launching pads against the Soviets in Pakistan’s tribal areas are sanctuaries for their successors, the Taliban. The drug trade used to finance the war contributed to growing lawlessness, worsened by the influx of weapons. Sectarian violence escalated when the ‘jihad’ boomeranged after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan. The suicide bombing in Chakwal recently is just the latest such attack on imambargahs.

      The Taliban’s treatment of women, including their ban on female education while in power in Afghanistan (please note, before the American drone attacks) takes Zia’s obsession with controlling women’s morality and public behaviour further. They have destroyed hundreds of girls’ schools, besides targeting teachers and NGOs attempting to provide health and education. Such NGOs have been under attack since before 9/11. Remember the summer of 2001, when Taliban attacked NGO offices in the tribal areas; the tragic murder in Mansehra of three women and their driver working for an NGO focusing on education on April 6 comes barely a year after an armed attack, also in Mansehra, in February 2008, that killed four employees of an organisation focusing on children and rehabilitation work after the 2005 earthquake.

      One reason for the Pakistani state’s apparent paralysis is that the armed forces and large sections of the population think of this as America’s war, compared to the previous Afghan war with its religious trappings. In fact, that was less ‘our war’ than the current one, which threatens the very existence of the Pakistani state.


      _____


      [4] Sri Lanka:

      (i)

      SRI LANKA: WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SLAUGHTER OF CIVILIANS IN THE VANNI?

      by Rohini Hensman, sacw.net, 8 April 2009
      http://www.sacw.net/article807.html

      With the military defeat of the LTTE imminent, the terrible plight of civilians in the Vanni has attracted worldwide concern and sympathy, and rightly so. While the circumstances are completely different, the civilian death toll in the Vanni over the past few months (over 2700) is already triple the number of civilians killed in the Gaza massacre of December-January, and is still mounting. The thousands who suffer serious injuries are further victimised by the delay or lack of medical attention, which means, for example, that injuries to limbs which could have been saved with prompt treatment, instead result in gangrene and amputations. Even those who have not lost lives, limbs or loved ones, have lost their homes and livelihoods, and live in appalling conditions which could well claim more lives through disease or even starvation.

      Meanwhile, the LTTE and Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) trade charges, each accusing the other of being responsible for the slaughter. What truth is there in their respective allegations?

      The LTTE

      The LTTE and its supporters, especially in Tamil Nadu but also elsewhere, cry ‘Genocide!’ and accuse the government of being solely responsible for the carnage. They do not mention the appalling war crimes committed by the LTTE, which have been documented by several international and Sri Lankan human rights groups. The most obvious is their use of Tamil civilians as a human shield from behind which they can engage in offensive firing, and their shooting of those who try to escape. This means that the Tamil civilians over whom the LTTE sheds crocodile tears are effectively prisoners or hostages whom it deliberately keeps in the line of fire so that it can hide behind them. The relationship between Tamils and Tigers is the very opposite of what it claims: far from defending Tamils, the LTTE leaders are using Tamils for their physical and political survival, a violation defined as a war crime.

      But it is doing worse. All the official reports mention forcible conscription of civilians, including children. This, too, is a war crime. Unofficial reports say that these unfortunate youngsters are not even being provided with cyanide capsules, because some have committed suicide rather than go into combat. It must be kept in mind that large numbers of the LTTE casualties actually consist of these frightened and ill-trained conscripts, who never chose to bear arms. Their presence in the LTTE forces also means that their families, who might otherwise flee, remain in LTTE territory because they do not want to abandon their children. Planting a suicide bomber among fleeing civilians was a cynical move, ensuring that all civilians would thenceforth be regarded as suspects.

      Most cynical of all, refugees who have escaped report that the LTTE deliberately fires from areas where civilians have taken shelter, for example from the vicinity of hospitals and schools and from safe areas, knowing that government forces will respond by shelling. The fighters then vamoose, leaving the civilians to take all the casualties This is worse even than using civilians as a shield: this constitutes using civilian lives as propaganda, deliberately getting them killed in order to justify the allegation of genocide. The LTTE massacre of Sinhalese civilians in Inginiyagala on February 21 was probably also an attempt to provoke violent reprisals against Tamils. The suicide attack on Muslims celebrating the Milad festival at the Jumma Mosque in Akuressa on March 10 recalled the LTTE’s massacres and ethnic cleansing of Muslims in the past. Those who hurl charges of genocide and war crimes against the government alone are guilty of whitewashing the LTTE and covering up some of the most heinous war crimes being committed in the recent phase of fighting.

      The LTTE leadership is undoubtedly in a tight spot, but they still have the option of behaving honourably. The most honourable and humane thing they could do now is to negotiate a surrender monitored by international organisations, which will ensure that the civilians are rehabilitated and their fighters receive humane treatment as prisoners of war. Or, if they insist on fighting to the finish, they could release all the civilians and conscripts, so that only those who wish to stay with them are subjected to the final assault. They will not, of course, do either of these things, because they have no concern whatsoever for the welfare of Tamils.

      The Government

      When evaluating the conduct of the government and the course of action open to it, it is important to keep in mind these actions of the LTTE. One of the demands, for example, has been for a ceasefire and peace talks with the LTTE. But Rajan Hoole and K.Sritharan of the award-winning University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) report that Sri Lankan Tamils are wary of any peace talks that will give oxygen to the LTTE. This is not surprising if we look at the way in which the LTTE has treated the Tamils subjected to its rule. If Tamils who have suffered under the LTTE are anxious that it should not be rescued at this point, it is hardly surprising that Muslims who have been subjected to massacres and ethnic cleansing, and Sinhalese who never know when the next terrorist attack will strike them, cannot wait to see the last of it. In these circumstances, it would be unrealistic to expect the government to go back to anything like the Ceasefire Agreement of 2002, which allowed the LTTE to arm itself for Eelam War IV. Such a course of action would also be undesirable, simply preparing the way for renewed bloodshed in the future.

      However, this doesn’t mean that the GOSL is as free of blame as it and its supporters claim. Observers are surprised that there has not been a mutiny or split in the ranks of the LTTE which would end the war, and one probable reason this has not happened so far is that the government has gone out of its way to support LTTE propaganda. Earlier, it sabotaged the APRC process when it had already arrived at a political solution which could have been fine-tuned to suit the democratic majority in all communities, thus reinforcing the LTTE’s message that Tamils will never get justice in a united Sri Lanka. This message was further reinforced when leading members of the armed forces and government, Sarath Fonseka and Champika Ranawaka, proclaimed that Sri Lanka belonged to the Sinhalese, and minorities would have to put up with less than equal rights, thus further assisting the LTTE’s recruitment drives. Yet more support was provided to LTTE propaganda by earlier government proposals to keep IDPs in camps for up to three years, fuelling suspicions that their original habitats would be occupied by Sinhalese, and that the war was being used as a cover for ethnic cleansing.

      Government armed forces have responded to LTTE fire by shelling civilian concentrations, including safe areas and hospitals, killing and injuring thousands. Those who escape to government-controlled territory are kept in internment camps surrounded by barbed wire, prevented even from visiting injured family members in hospital or attending the funerals of loved ones. Recently senior citizens were released, but others remain prisoners. Reports of disappearances from these camps, coming on top of thousands of disappearances in the last few years, make this incarceration all the more fearsome. Not only would this prospect make civilians think twice before fleeing LTTE territory, it would also make LTTE conscripts think that surrender means death, and so they might as well die fighting.

      All these policies of the government and its armed forces not only result in massive civilian casualties, they also prolong the fighting. Alongside concern for civilians, we should also spare a thought for combatants on both sides, who are being expended by their respective leaderships as though ther lives have no value, whereas a different strategy could ensure that a whole generation of young people is not killed and disabled. Moreover, the government’s strategy makes a peaceful outcome almost impossible. Even when the LTTE is defeated militarily, it â€" or another guerrilla group â€" is likely to rise up in the future to carry out terrorist attacks and restart the war, just as the Taliban has staged a comeback in Afghanistan. So what is the alternative?

      A Different Strategy

      An alternative strategy would consist of the following: (1) Stop shelling safe areas and civilian targets within LTTE-controlled territory; this only results in propaganda gains for the LTTE. (2) Ensure adequate food, water and medicine supplies to civilians both inside LTTE territory and outside, making sure, however, that no arms or ammunition get through to the LTTE. (3) Ask the UN or ICRC to monitor the screening and registration of IDPs entering the camps so that an independent record is available, and disappearances cannot take place so easily. If LTTE suspects are separated out, they, along with LTTE cadre who surrender, should be kept in prisoner-of-war camps whose inmates are also registered with the UN or ICRC, and treated in accordance with international law. (4) If there is no evidence that IDPs are LTTE operatives, they should be given identity cards and allowed to move freely. These measures will encourage civilians to escape the LTTE if they can, and LTTE conscripts to surrender with some confidence that they will be treated humanely.

      Simultaneously, the APRC proposal for constitutional change drafted by Tissa Vitharana on the basis of the Majority and Minority Reports of the Panel of Experts needs to be adopted by the government, which should also provide a solemn pledge that transfer of population (defined in international law as a crime against humanity) will not take place: all IDPs and refugees who wish to return to their original homes will be assisted to do so. This will not be easy, especially in the case of Muslim IDPs who have been languishing in camps for over eighteen years, but it must be done as part of a political solution to the crisis.

      Is a political solution an immediate priority in the closing stages of this battle in the Vanni? Yes, it certainly is! If the ruling SLFP had not repeatedly sabotaged the APRC process from mid-2007 onwards, the war might have ended months ago, and thousands of lives might have been saved. It is now too late to save those who have been killed, but it is still possible to save lives and limbs that would be lost if a just political solution is not achieved. A purely military victory will merely push the war underground, and ensure that it will re-emerge as guerrilla and terrorist strikes in future. A constitution which is acceptable to democratic elements in all communities is the only way to end the war once and for all. If the current political leaders in the two major parties are reluctant to implement a just and democratic settlement, then the people of Sri Lanka must either push them into doing so, or dump them and create a new leadership.

      As for international actors who wish to help civilians in the Vanni, they would do well to acquaint themselves first with the situation on the ground. Accusations of ‘genocide’ against the government, for example, do more harm than good. As an anxious Tamil in Sri Lanka put it, ‘When I hear Indians talking about genocide in Sri Lanka, I shudder, because I know it will merely make things worse for the trapped civilians. It is like crying ‘Wolf!’ If we cry ‘Genocide!’ when it is not occurring, who will believe us and come to our aid if it really occurs? No one!’ Those who are really concerned about the appalling situation of people in the Vanni should not only demand of the government that they implement the measures listed above, but should also demand that the LTTE release the civilians and conscripts they are holding hostage. Otherwise they would merely be adding fuel to the fire that is consuming thousands of lives.

      o o o

      (ii)

      IA-FORUM INTERVIEW: ASOKA BANDARAGE
      10 April 2009
      http://www.ia-forum.org/Content/ViewInternalDocument.cfm?ContentID=6821

      International Affairs Forum: Aid organizations are calling the situation in the North of Sri Lanka a humanitarian disaster, while the Sri Lankan government is saying such claims are overblown. Do we know how bad the humanitarian situation really is?

      Asoka Bandarage: It’s a very complex situation. On the one hand, there aren’t media sources out there, so one has to go by what the government is saying. On the other hand, the government is also in a very difficult situation. Successive Sri Lankan governments have tried to negotiate with the LTTE and it hasn’t worked, so the government had to take this military offensive. The government forces are on the verge of finally defeating the LTTE. Yes, there is a humanitarian crisisâ€"there is no doubt about thatâ€"but the question is, would a ceasefire at this point really help the humanitarian situation given that the LTTE is holding a lot of Tamil people as human shields? Even if there is a ceasefire, would the LTTE allow these people to leave? Holding Tamil people as human shields is basically their last resort. Is a ceasefire the wise thing to do at this point, when the LTTE is almost finished with? The LTTE has been a ruthless terrorist organizationâ€"conscripting children, killing dissidents, so on and so forth.

      Going back to your question about the humanitarian organizations, it’s not clear whether or not there is an exaggeration on their part. We would like to think that intervention and humanitarian aid is motivated simply by the desire to help the victims on the ground, but in the complicated world we live in that’s not always the case. These groups can be politically motivated. Are these organizations motivated by humanitarianism or other geopolitical interests? In Sri Lanka, there has been a history of international NGO’s being involved in the conflict and taking sides.

      Also, why isn’t there more of an emphasis on the part of international organizations calling on the LTTE to let the civilians go? This would be the most important thing to do at this pointâ€"to put pressure on the LTTE to let people leave the conflict zone. A lot of people have left voluntarily because the government has erected a ‘no fire zone’ for people to move into. But the LTTE has been firing at people who are leaving. These are reports that I have readâ€"I don’t know how accurate they areâ€"but, I think that there should be a lot of international pressure on the LTTE to let people leave, rather than simply calling for a ceasefire which could prolong the war.


      IA-Forum: You mentioned that we have to rely on the government for information about the military offensive. Do you see them allowing the media into the North anytime soon?

      Asoka Bandarage: From what I understand, no. In terms of war and security, one can understand that. But, in terms of civil rights and freedom of the press, it is a problem. There is a certain abrogation of civil rights and democratic norms in this atmosphere of war. I think that is why most people are just hoping that this military offensive ends soon, because that doesn’t necessarily end the conflict, which is much more complicated than simply defeating the LTTE. There are a lot of other issues that have to be worked out. When the military offensive is over, the political issues can be dealt with.


      IA-Forum: To ask a similar question to that which many have posed in the wake of the recent Israeli offensive in Gaza, does this military offensive help or hurt the LTTE in terms of public support among Tamils?

      Asoka Bandarage: It’s a heart-wrenching situation. Anyone can feel for the suffering of the Tamil people in the north who are caught in this war and who have suffered the most. But the thing to remember is that the Sri Lankan Tamil people are not a free population. They are not able to freely express themselves. There are certain elements, certainly, that support the LTTE because they want to see a separate homeland, but then there are also others who are coerced into supporting it.

      When the global media and others portray this conflict as a Sinhala government versus a victimized Tamil minority, they overlook the fact that the Tamils have been oppressed by the LTTE itself. Their use of Tamil people as human shields and human weapons is the most blatant expression of that. The situation calls forâ€"and this is what I talk about in my bookâ€"moving beyond bipolar thinkingâ€"Sinhala versus Tamilâ€"and looking at the intra-ethnic issues, in this case within the Tamil community, how the LTTE has engaged in censorship and internal oppression. There should be condemnation on the part of the Tamils of the LTTE for holding people hostage. The LTTE’s concern has always been themselves, not Tamil people. They have been using the Tamil people to advance their cause.


      IA-Forum: Do you think that those within the Tamil diaspora have made sufficient efforts to condemn the LTTE?

      Asoka Bandarage: No, because even those who are opposed to the LTTEâ€"and there are quite a lot, including dissidents who have left the country because they were under threat from the LTTEâ€"don’t speak openly because the LTTE is not just a local movement but an international network, so certainly that condemnation is not going to come. It is those who support…not necessarily the LTTE…but support a separate state who have been speaking up, and those who are opposed to the LTTE and do not support separatism are not really heard from. So in the world media there is this presentation of a unified position among Tamils, which is not actually the case. The LTTE presents itself as the sole representative of the Tamils but it is not a democratically elected regime or organization.


      IA-Forum: So are you suggesting that even those in the Tamil diaspora are afraid to speak their minds because they feel threatened by the LTTE, or just that they are not being given a chance to do so by the global media?

      Asoka Bandarage: I think it’s both. There are a few voices here and there but mostly there is a fear of speaking out against this organization, which is one of the most sophisticated terrorist organizations in the world.

      Also, this issue must be looked at in a broader way than a domestic issue between two ethnic groupsâ€"a primordial conflict. In my book I show that although there is a domestic aspect to it, it is really a much broader regional and international issue. For example, the Tamils are a majority in the regional, South Indian contextâ€"there are some 60 million or more Tamils thereâ€"and the demand for a separate Tamil state called Dravidistan, which was primarily for the Tamils, began during British colonial period in South India because there was a fear that with independence, the northern Indianâ€"the non-Dravidian, so-called Aryan groupsâ€"would dominate. So even before the British left there was a very strong movement in southern India calling for a separate state. That became quite vociferousâ€"in fact, it became one of the most activist movements in the post-independence eraâ€"until a draconian anti-secessionist amendment to the Indian constitution was passed in 1963. The Dravidian separatist movement was squashed at that point, and very heavy penalties were imposed on anyone calling for a separate state.

      It was at that time that the movement for Tamil separatism shifted to Sri Lanka because they are the Tamil minority, many of whom were in the North and East of the island. And then in conjunction with developments within Sri Lanka, the separatist movement evolved in Sri Lanka. The Tamil community in South India is an important and sizable community, and at a time in the world when every ethnic community seems to be gaining its own nation-state, the Tamils, who have an advanced cosmopolitan elite, feel that they don’t have a nation-state of their own.

      There is a world Tamil movement which says that there is a Tamil in every state of the world but no state for the Tamils. The Tamils are a transnational community. So the movement for separatism is not something that is peculiar to Sri Lankan Tamils. Rather it is something for which there is support from certain political parties in South India which have always been involved in Sri Lankan political issues, and also from other groups in Malaysia and the diaspora. So it is must bigger than just a Sri Lankan issue, which is one of the reasons why it has been so difficult to resolve, especially because of the very influential role played by South Indian political parties. So, support for separatism has a broad base.


      IA-Forum: But isn’t there a danger in conflating the identity of the Sri Lankan Tamilsâ€"who have lived in Sri Lanka for about 2,000 yearsâ€"and the Indian Tamils? Aren’t those two very separate identities?

      Asoka Bandarage: Yes, they are separate identitiesâ€"there is the Sri Lankan identity and there are the Indian identity and Malaysian identity, etc.â€"but they are also co-ethnics who share a wider Tamil culture and close links. At this point Eelam is not being conceptualized as a part of South India, but there have been talks throughout of a Greater Eelam, which includes parts of South India and Sri Lanka. So there are separate identities but there are also a lot of links and commonalities. The separatist movement is not just a Sri Lankan movementâ€"it is regional and it is international.


      IA-Forum: So wouldn’t this idea of a Greater Eelam make India want to oppose any type of Tamil separatism?

      Asoka Bandarage: Yes, and that is a very important point. India is opposed to the creation of a separate state within Sri Lanka because it would pose a threat to India’s own unity and territorial integrity. But because of pressure from the South Indian political parties on the central government, India has also had to take up the cause of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. That’s the nature of the political system in Indiaâ€"coalition politics, where the Congress Party, for example, needs the support of the South Indian parties in order to stay in power. So the issue is not simply that India is so concerned with the Tamil cause, but also the interest of the Indian political parties in their own survival.

      The proximity to India has been a very key factor in the origin and evolution of the conflict. From the beginning, the terrorist organizations were able to find refuge in South India because it is so close to Sri Lanka. There is even evidence which shows that the Indian government was involved in arming and training the guerilla groups, including the LTTE, from the beginning. During Indira Gandhi’s time, India’s policy was to destabilize Sri Lanka because there was the fear that Sri Lanka was moving into the Western sphere of influence through its economic policies and alleged alignment with the United States and so on. So India was very much involved in the Sri Lankan conflict.

      Later, the arrival of the Indian Peacekeeping Forces (IPKF) came into Sri Lanka (in 1987), led to one of the worst periods of political anarchy in Sri Lanka. The Indian peacekeeping operation was a disastrous experiment, ending in a war between the IPKF and the LTTE. And after the IPKF left, [Former Prime Minister of India] Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by the LTTE. After that, India proscribed the LTTE as a terrorist organization and Vellupillai Prabhakaran, its leader, has been a wanted man in India.


      IA-Forum: What kind of role has India played during this most recent military offensive?

      Asoka Bandarage: India has not played a direct role, but at the same time India is very concerned and is a key player. It is a very tricky situation because India doesn’t want to get directly involvedâ€"there have even been calls for India to come in and evacuate some of the civilians, but India didn’t want to do that. India is not trying to stop the military offensive and it doesn’t support a separate state, but at the same time it is also calling for devolution and for support for the Tamils in Sri Lanka.


      IA-Forum: How close is the Sri Lankan military to actually eliminating the LTTE?

      Asoka Bandarage: They say that the amount of land that is under LTTE control now is some 20 square miles or something like that, and they claim that this could have been finished much earlier if it wasn’t for the civilian population that is caught up in the conflict. There are different estimates that are given by the government and by other organizations. I think that the real issue is the civilian population. How can they be protected and brought to safety? I’m going by what I hear in the press myself.


      IA-Forum: Hypothetically, if the military offensive is successful in completely dismantling the LTTE, what happens next? Who represents the Tamils? Will there be new efforts at political reconciliation or will the government try to maintain a sort of status quo with the Tamils in a very weak state?

      Asoka Bandarage: What needs to be recognized is that although the LTTE claims to be the sole representative of the Tamil people, there are Tamil political parties and politicians who are part of the democratic system, so it’s not like there is no representation at all. There have been calls for the LTTE itself to join the democratic process, which they refused to do. It is really about strengthening the democratic process and making sure that all groups are really participating in that process, which is something that the LTTE tried to stop the Tamils from doing.

      It’s a very complicated situation because the majority of Tamils are not in the North and the East anymoreâ€"they are outside of the North and the East, and also there is a large number outside of the country. As I say in my book, devolution is not a magic formula. It is often presented like “okay, once the military offensive is finished there should be devolution,” but there should be a more integrated approach incorporating a lot of different issues, especially the concerns of the people on the ground who have suffered the most. Their needs for land, education, livelihood, employment, rehabitation, infrastructureâ€"the development of the North and the Eastâ€"should be the priorities rather than simply assuming that devolution will solve everything. Devolution is more the concern of politicians seeking power than people on the ground. Conflict resolution needs to incorporate the interests of the people not just Tamils but also Sinhalese and Muslims, who are a very important third community in Sri Lanka, particularly in the North and the East. For example, there are over 100,000 Muslims and Sinhalese who were ethnically cleansed out of the Northern and Eastern province by the LTTE. So there are all these other issues that need to be dealt with, and the sooner the country is able to deal with them, the better it is since it is going to be a long-term process of reconciliation, rebuilding and development.


      IA Forum: Is Tamil separatism a dead idea at this point? What about regional autonomy?

      Asoka Bandarage: There are some groups that are diehard. Many in both groupsâ€"the Sinhalese and the Tamilsâ€"approach this conflict in an ideological wayâ€"either for or against separatism. I think the important thing is to look at the realities on the groundâ€"the demographic and socioeconomic realities. There may be certain situations in which devolution, autonomy, or even separatism is the right solution. But in Sri Lanka separatism cannot be justified on the basis of demographic and socioeconomic realities.

      As I already mentioned, most Tamils now live outside of the North and the East. The North and the East are also pluralistic. The whole island is pluralistic, that has been the case historically. In [the capital city of] Colombo, minorities constitute the majority of the population, and that is the case even in some of the districts in the Central Province. So given the increasing pluralism in the entire country, the creation of separate regions for ethnic groups is only going to perpetuate the conflict because not only the Sinhalese but also the Muslims are opposed to that. If there is an attempt to have ethno-regions, then the Muslims who consider themselves to be a distinct ethno-religious group are going to demand separate autonomous areas for themselves in the Eastern Province, which they have already done. So regional autonomy does not make sense in this particular case. It might make sense in different places, but because of the pluralism of the island, ethnic regions would have to be artificially created, and if that happens, we could see ethnic cleansingâ€"population transfersâ€"and that which is unlikely to create peace and harmony.


      IA-Forum: What does the government have to do in order to convince the Tamils that they are not second-class citizens? Might it be necessary to put aside the idea of Sri Lanka as a Sinhala-Buddhist state?

      Asoka Bandarage: I go into the history in my book. There were policies in the 1950’s and 60’s which were attempts to redress some of the inequities of the colonial era. The Tamil elite was highly privileged and had proportionately greater access to education and professional jobs during that era. Some of the policies that were introduced in the post-independence period were attempting not just to support Sinhalese Buddhists, who had been victimized during the colonial period, but also to take away some of the privileges of the English speaking elites of all ethnic groups. The sense of discrimination resulting from legislation during the 50’s and 60’s was not something that was experienced just by the Tamil elite but by the cosmopolitan elite of the other groups, including the Sinhalese. For example, quota systems introduced for entrance into the universities gave preference to so-called “backward rural areas,” undermining the privileges of the elite Colombo schools attended by children of the elite of all of ethnic groups.

      But many of these language laws, university entrance quotas have long been changed, and, in fact, Tamil was made an equal official language in Sri Lanka in 1978. Even prior to that it was given the same status. This is not something that is available to Tamil speakers anywhere in the world, including India, which has over 60 million Tamils.

      Legally, Tamils are not second-class citizens. They have the same rights. This is not to say that there weren’t people who experienced violence, especially in riots of 1983, and people with legitimate fears and grievances and distrust of the state. So there must be work done to reconcile and make the Tamils and all groups feel that they are part of society and have equal access. In terms of the law they have equal rights, but, things like a bill of rights upholding minority rights needs to be introduced and enforced.

      Yes, I do think that there have to be compromises on all sides. Yes, in the Constitution it says that Buddhism has a special place, but there is much greater religious freedom in Sri Lanka than in many other countries including the freedom to convert. If you were to travel to Sri Lanka, you would see that there are Muslims, Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists all living side by side. Pluralism exists, but it can be deepened and trust has to be built. But in terms of daily life, there is just so much interaction and mutual coexistence and harmony.

      Yet there is this tendency to use the argument of primordial enmity and exaggerate charges of Buddhist dominance to make up a case for separatism. The inter-ethnic animosity has also increased over the course of the conflict itself. For example, there are checkpoints where they tend to check Tamils more because of fear that they could be suicide bombers, and of course people experiencing that feel that they are being targeted, but the reality is that there are suicide bombers and the state needs to protect all its citizens.


      IA-Forum: What changes, if any, do you seeâ€"or hope to seeâ€"the Obama administration making in terms of American policy toward Sri Lanka?

      Asoka Bandarage: They have to see the real threat that is posed by the LTTE, what a ruthless terrorist organization it is and what it has done to the country. It’s considered the prototype of global terrorismâ€"they were the first group to acquire airpower, they have had a navy, they have been involved in narcotics trading, they have very sophisticated fundraising mechanisms. They even infiltrate political campaigns of politicians here in the United States. The threat that this posesâ€"not just to Sri Lanka and to the region, but to the world at largeâ€"cannot be overlooked. There needs to be greater recognition that, while democratic norms, civil rights, and human rights need to be upheld, they need to be addressed in the context of terrorism. It cannot be either/or.

      The Obama administration is not naïve about the world. There is a recognition that you have to address the human rights and democracy in the context of the very difficult realities of global terrorism and the complexities that go along with that.

      Asoka Bandarage is a professor in the Public Policy Institute at Georgetown University. Her latest book is entitled “The Separatist Conflict in Sri Lanka: Terrorism, Ethnicity, Political Economy (Routledge,2009)


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      [5] India:

      Rising Kashmir, April 11 2009

      RATIFY ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCE CONVENTION: APDP TO GOI

      by Hakeem Irfan

      Srinagar, April 10: Families of the disappeared persons on Friday demanded that India should ratify the Enforced Disappearance Convention to which it is a signatory.

      In its monthly sit-in, Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) urged the government of India to follow countries like France, Senegal, Argentina, Mexico, Hundura and Cuba, and ratify the convention.
      Speaking on the occasion, legal advisor of APDP, Advocate Hafizullah Mir said, “India should also ratify the convention. The disappearances that took place in Kashmir, Punjab and North East should be probed by independent and credible commission.”
      The convention is an international human rights instrument of the United Nations intended to prevent forced disappearance. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 20, 2006. As of March 2009, 81 states have signed, and ten have ratified. It will come into force when ratified by 20 states-parties.
      Speaking on the occasion, APDP President, Parveena Ahanger said, “We don’t want any compensation from the government. If our sons are alive, allow us to meet them and if they are dead, handover their bodies. Our demand is plain and simple.”
      Family members of several missing persons, mostly elderly men and women, participated in the peaceful protest holding placards demanding whereabouts of their dear ones.
      One of the victims, Begum Bakti whose son was arrested one month after his marriage from Tragpora Rafiabad and later went missing, said, “I am still hopeful of my son’s return. His wife has married again only six years after his disappearance and is demanding compensation in the name of my son which adds to my miseries.”
      Nineteen-year-old Abrar was too small to recollect his father’s disappearance after his arrest in 1993 from Narkara Budgam.
      “I don’t know what happened then. But now I know that my father was arrested from home. I want to know if he is alive or dead,” he said.
      On the occasion, APDP chairman Parveena Ahanger said, “We don’t want any compensation from the government. If our sons are alive, allow us to meet them and if they are dead, handover their bodies. Our demand is plain and simple.”
      The parties to the convention are bound to investigate acts of enforced disappearance and bring those responsible to justice, ensure that it constitutes an offence under its criminal law, and to assist the victims of enforced disappearance or locate and return their remains. It also envisages establishing a register of those currently imprisoned, and allow it to be inspected by relatives and counsel, and also to ensure that victims have a right to obtain reparation and compensation.

      _____


      [6] INDIA: PRESS STATEMENT BY ARUNDHATI ROY

      Issued at the Raipur Satyagraha for the Release of Dr Binayak Sen
      April 6, 2009 / Raipur, Chattisgarh

      Dr Binayak Sen has been in prison for 22 months, arrested under one of India’s most draconian laws, the Chattisgarh Special Public Security Act. This Act has such a vague, diffused definition of ’Unlawful Activity’ that it renders every person guilty unless he or she can prove their innocence. Dr Sen’s bail application was dismissed twice, both times at the very outset, by the High Court of Chattisgarh and by the Supreme Court of India. On neither occasion was there a discussion on the merits of the case. On the 2nd of December 2008 the High Court of Chattisgarh once again turned down his bail application, without a discussion on the merits of the case, saying that there had been no change in circumstances.

      But there has been a change in circumstances. To begin with, the charge-sheet has been filed. 64 witnesses have been examined by the prosecution. Not one of them has provided legally admissible evidence to support the accusations in the charge-sheet. Even the jail officials, the Superintendent and the Jailer, who were called as witnesses by the Prosecution, have ruled out the possibility of Dr Sen being a carrier of letters given to him by Narayan Sanyal (said to be a senior Maoist leader) who is a high security prisoner in Raipur Jail. (It should be mentioned here that Narayan Sanyal has a medical condition which requires surgical intervention from time to time, which is why the jail authorities permitted Dr Sen to visit him regularly.)

      That Dr Sen should continue to be in prison when the case against him has almost completely fallen through says a great deal about the very grave situation in Chattisgarh today. There is a civil war in this state. Hundreds are being killed and imprisoned. Hundreds of thousands of the poorest of the poor are hiding in the forests, fearing for their lives. They have no access to food, to markets, to schools or healthcare. The thousands who have been moved into the camps of the government-backed peoples’ militia, the Salwa Judum, are also trapped in sordid encampments, which have to be guarded by armed police. Hatred, violence and brutality is being cynically spread, pitting the poor against the poorest.

      There is very little doubt that Dr Sen is in prison because he spoke out against this policy of the State Government, because he opposed the formation of the Salwa Judum. His incarceration is meant to silence dissent, and criminalize democratic space. It is meant to create a wall of silence around the civil war in Chattisgarh. It is meant to absorb all our attention so that the stories of the hundreds of other nameless, faceless people - those without lawyers, without the attention of journalists - who are starving and dying in the forests, go unnoticed and unrecorded.

      Tomorrow is World Health Day. Dr Binayak Sen spent the best part of his life working among the poorest people in India, who live far away from the government’s attentions, with no access to clinics, hospitals, doctors or medicines. He has saved thousands from certain death from malaria, diarrhea, and other easily treatable illnesses. And yet, he is the one in jail, while those who boast openly about mass murder are free to go about their business, and even stand for elections.

      What does this say about us? About who we are and where we’re going?

      Arundhati Roy

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      [7] INDIA'S COMING ELECTIONS AND THE HINDU RIGHT

      Mail Today
      April 13, 2009

      POLITICS WITHOUT IDEAS OR ISSUES
      by Mahesh Rangarajan

      THERE are ample signs now that we edge towards the first phase of polling that the elections may throw up a far more uncertain outcome than in 2004. A major reason for this is the absence of a central election issue. At first sight this has to do with strategies of parties. More than that, it indicates a growing gap in the political system between those at the apex and those at the base of society.
      Five years ago, when Vajpayee went to the country for early elections the issue was clear. The economy was on the rebound and the slogan of India Shining energised the ruling alliance, though it hardly struck a chord in the minds and hearts of the voters.
      But it was the key Opposition party that stole the thunder. As Ram Vilas Paswan has indicated in a recent interview, the Congress took the initiative to forge alliances even with parties and leaders who had long been its opponents. This paid off handsomely as did the idea of simply focusing on the common man and woman.

      In 2009, it is difficult to identify any such key issue. Congress could well have gone on the offensive. India still has the second fastest growing economy on earth. Agriculture has indeed been a net gainer as capital formation has recovered and investment increased. There is much going in favour of the ruling alliance: increased outlay in rural credit, the jobs programme and higher prices for crops.
      More than that, in the Prime Minister, Congress has a rare combination of economic expertise and personal integrity perhaps unequalled in any other country. By not fielding him for a Lok Sabha seat, and there is no dearth of ‘ safe’ seats in the country, Congress has scored an own goal. His appeal is not because he is a mass leader or a technocrat. It is in his specific knowledge of the economy at a time when it is central to politics.
      Issues

      His government is also not tainted by scams the way the two previous Congress governments were. Rajiv Gandhi fought hard to keep his head above the water in the winter of 1989, on the Bofors issue. The Narasimha Rao government was the most scam tainted in India’s history. The PM is the embodiment of high standards in public life but is not in the fray for the polls.
      In 1999, when his party was in far greater disarray and the beat of war drums during the Kargil conflict tilted the game in favour of the BJP, Manmohan Singh had stepped into the fray.
      Even though he lost, it must have added to the confidence and élan of the Congress rank and file. Ten years on, it is inexplicable why he is not in the field.

      This remains so despite a serious economic slowdown.

      The premier opposition party is on record that it will give 35 kilogrammes of grain to each Below Poverty Line family per month. But this is not as yet a central plank of the election campaign.
      The issue matters and could well be a major vote winner. When a ruling party makes a similar pledge, it is open to the charge of inaction for five years. At a time of high food prices and the threat of joblessness, the grain issue could well help the BJP both in the rural and urban seats. But it has not made it a central plank in its election work except in select states like Chhatisgarh.
      It is possible Advani feels more at ease on issues of security and identity politics where he made his mark. Critical as these are, successive state level elections have shown that bread matters most. All the more so, as the slowdown takes effect across small town India, and for the labouring poor, with jobs in construction simply drying up.

      But the BJP has so far been unable to define a central plank for its platform.

      More than the medium, the message is unclear. If the party is to improve the lot of the people, it is still short on detail of how it will do so.
      While campaigns are a poor indicator of how well a party will actually do at the hustings, they are a far better indicator of how, where and in which direction the political mind is evolving. In the past, mass contact was standard fare for Indian political leaders.
      Mobilisation
      Chandra Shekhar’s padayatra from Kanyakumari to Rajghat broke the sense of crisis in the centrist Opposition. VP Singh traveled across the country extensively after his ouster from the Congress, rallying support for his cause of a change of government.
      Advani’s rath yatra changed the grammar of politics in 1990. Even earlier, the cycle yatras of Kanshi Ram laid the foundations of the Bahujan Samaj Party as he traversed 25,000 kilometres of north India.
      At a state level, men like YS Rajasekhara Reddy in Andhra and Narendra Modi in Gujarat are virtually always on the move.
      Uddhav Thackeray has been in the rural districts virtually on a weekly basis, taking up farmers’ issues.
      These are of course recent variants of techniques central to mass nationalism in India, where journeys among the people were more than merely symbolic.
      These were a means to enable a jan sunvai , or people’s hearing. These were all the more crucial in areas that were marred by poverty or exclusion. The tradition was taken forward not only by politicians but also by social activists.
      Sunil Dutt who was part of both worlds went on a famous foot march to Punjab at a time it was in the grip of terror. He continued on the journey even when local party units did not cooperate with him.
      It is unclear if such traditions appeal at all to today’s leaders. But there is a dearth of even the usual kind of public meeting in the interim between polls. A kind of atrophy sets in except at poll time. This became true of the Congress in its long spell in power at the Centre but is increasingly true of other parties as well now.
      Perhaps there is a pattern in all this. Many leaders with deep regional roots are able to keep in touch with the common voter through travel, mass contact and outreach programmes. This has become much rarer with those who are on the national stage.
      Mediation
      This sense of distance from the grass roots is a serious matter for reasons beyond electoral politics. It is also closely linked to the inability of parties to articulate economic and social issues in an idiom that all can relate to. This might also explain the excessive even obsessive preoccupation with caste and community.
      Parties are not mere vehicles to capture power or to focus energies against the government when not in office. Their central function is to mediate between the state system and the people.
      No other institution, not the media, nor the corporate world nor civil society can be a substitute for their role.
      Yet, the party system especially among the larger national formations is in crisis.
      The dearth of ideas in the campaign is an indicator of a deeper malaise within. The vacuum at the top is sign of the need for renewal at the base.

      The writer teaches history at Delhi University by Mahesh Rangarajan

      o o o

      RALLY BEHIND MALLIKA SARABHAI IN HER FIGHT AGAINST COMMUNAL FASCISM
      http://www.mainstreamweekly.net/article1267.html

      o o o

      MR ADVANI MIXES RELIGION AND POLITICS, BJP GIVES TICKETS TO KILLERS OF CHRISTIANS IN ORISSA

      All India Christian Council
      President: Dr Joseph D Souza Secretary General Dr John Dayal

      PRESS STATEMENT

      NEW DELHI 12 April 2009

      Mr Advani’s mixing Religion and Politics is dangerous for secular India BJP wants to reopen debate on Minority Rights, negate Statuary rights given after long debate in Constituent Assembly after Independence

      The All India Christian Council has refrained from commenting on the Manifestos of various political parties in General Elections 2009, or on statements of their leaders. The Council however can no longer maintain its silence after reading newspaper reports of former Deputy Prime Minister and BJP leader Mr Lal Krishan Advani’s mixing of religion in politics, first in the Election manifesto of the party, and then in his letter to heads of various Mutts, or abbeys of Hindu sects, and arch communal advisors of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. These twin acts are fraught with dangerous consequences for peace and harmony in secular India.

      The electoral environment has already been vitiated by hate speeches and communal propaganda. Mr Advani may have made his moves as an electoral strategy. But coming from an important party and its prime-ministerial candidate, they collectively expose the BJP’s appeasing an extreme section of the community, as well as those organisations which have been directly involved in violence against religious minorities in Punjab, Gujarat, Maharashtra and other states in the past, and Karnataka and Orissa in the present.

      This is coupled with the fact that Mr Advani’s BJP, which pilloried the Congress for backing politicians suspected of fomenting violence against Sikhs in 1984, has in 2009 given tickets to people such as persons in Kandhamal, Orissa, as M Pradhan who is in jail in on charges of mass murder of Christians. The Election Commission’s notice to BJP Lok Sabha candidate Ashok Sahu, and an Rs 50 Crore criminal suit against him for spouting hate against Christians which could again trigger mass mob violence against the micro minority, is proof of the party’s playing the communal card in the elections. It is not surprising that neither Mr Advani nor his party manifesto even make a passing reference to Kandhamal carnage and to the trauma suffered by the Christian community. Neither does he offer any hope to Dalit Christians in their long struggle for their just rights.
      Mr Advani’s ‘Shashtang pranam” or greetings from a prostrate position of humility and reverence, may be a figure of speech, but is symptomatic of his party’s capitulating absolutely to the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and its daughter organisations. As a leader of national stature, a former deputy premier and with hopes of leading secular nation at a future date, he should have maintained a distance from groups of people whose “advice” and active participation in Dharam sansads, or religious parliaments in the past were major contributory factors to the demolition of the Babri Masjid and subsequent national tragedy of long drawn communal bloodshed.

      Once again, in his letter, Mr Advani wants to set up mechanisms to be guided by their advice. As a secular democratic republic and not a theocracy, India has a separation of religion and State, if not in the western sense then certainly in neither government nor religion meddling in each other’s affairs. Mr Advani promises to reverse this trend. Religion has its place not at the levers of power, in State mechanisms or as political engine, but as a conscience keeper on civilisational issues and ethics. The Christian community certainly, even through its own Canon laws and other denominational mechanisms, gives religious heads powers to guide the flock on issues of faith, morality, dogma and doctrine, but leaves it categorically to the lay citizens, the community at large, to take part in national life, ideological issues and political affairs guided by their own reason on matters of security and the welfare of their brothers and sisters. This is why the Christian community does not believe in floating political parties of its own, but banks on democratic processes and forces to protect its rights and Constitutional guarantees.

      The All India Christian Council has no comments to offer on the BJP’s right to pack its manifesto’s preamble with its own construct of India’s past. We are also familiar with the thesis of Hindutva. But the Council reads into the BJP’s so called offer of a dialogue with the Christian community nothing short of reopening issues settled in the long and learned debates of the Founding Fathers of modern India in the Constituent Assembly after which they enshrined in the Constitution the fundamental rights of Freedom of Religion, to profess, practice and propagate one’s faith. That is a sacred right, and cannot be negotiated if India is to retain its plural culture and its secular and democratic integrity.

      The party’s pillorying of State mechanisms for minority security, including the Ministry for Minority Affairs and national commissions, howsoever impotent they may have been in the past, cannot but beget apprehensions in the community. The party’s own record in subverting Human rights and minority commissions in States that it governs shows the scant respect it has for such institutions.

      Released for publication by Dr John Dayal.

      o o o

      BJP'S PROJECT OF A HINDUISED INDIA GIVES HEART TO THE POLITICO-RELIGIOUS NUTS IN PAKISTAN
      by Jawed Naqvi
      http://www.sacw.net/article819.html

      _____


      [8] Tributes and Rememberances:

      Remembering Victor Gordon Kiernan
      by Hassan N. Gardezi
      http://www.sacw.net/article804.html

      Janet Rosenberg Jagan (1920-2009)
      http://www.flonnet.com/stories/20090424260811900.htm
      http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-jagan_obit_sub_5smar29,0,324648.story

      Remembering Smitu Kothari: Adieu to an activist
      by Sadanand Menon
      http://www.sacw.net/article821.html

      _____


      [9] India: Continuing Erosion of Secular Space - The Hindu Far Right Keeps Up its Slow and and Steady work

      INDIA: PUCL REPORT ON CULTURAL VIGILANTISM AGAINST WOMEN AND MINORITIES IN KARNATAKA
      by People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Karnataka Chapter

      The below PUCL report was written by a fact-finding team consisting of:
      Ramdas Rao: PUCLâ€"Karnataka, Shakun Mohini: Vimochana, B.N.Usha: Hengasara Hakkina Sangha and Arvind Narain: Alternative Law Forum

      Excerpts from the Introduction:

      It was only after the continuous telecast of the images of the women who were subjected to a horrific assault by cadres of the Sri Ram Sene in a pub in Mangalore on January 24, 2009, that public attention gravitated towards what was happening in Mangalore. Even prior to this incident, The Hindu and many other newspapers had for many months reported various incidents of cultural policing where boys and girls from different religious communities were attacked merely for being together. The sense we got from discussions with social activists based in Dakshina Kannada was that there was a lot more to what was happening there than was apparent in the sporadic incidents which made it to the national press. We felt that the kind of incidents that were coming to the surface, be it the attack on women in the pub or attacks on anyone who dared to cross religious boundaries and interact, pointed to a new phase of communal politics.
      [. . .]
      Despite the Sangh Parivar’s disclaimer to the contrary, Sri Rama Sene has very close connections with the Sangh Parivar, ideologically and organizationally. Prasad Attavar, convener of Sri Rama Sene, has admitted that the pub attack was carried out jointly by the cadres of Sri Rama Sene and Bajrang Dal who are working towards a common goal. The leaders of these organizations are different, but the cadres staging such attacks see themselves as part of the same programme. The Sene is part of a long-standing Hindutva project of restructuring and redefining the ideal Hindu woman, and, in the current context, of confronting what the Sangh Parivar calls “the love jehad”, i.e., a perceived Muslim strategy to defile the Indian woman. The rise of Sri Rama Sene and other outfits, such as Hindu Jagran Vedike, Hindu Jannajagriti Samithi, Sanathan Sanstha, and so on, points to the emergence of a radical project of the Sangh Parivar to move towards the stage of an armed offensive to realize its fascist objectives.

      Full Text at: http://www.sacw.net/DC/CommunalismCollection/ArticlesArchive/CulturalPolicing-Karnataka.pdf

      o o o

      From: Nisha Susan
      Date: Sat, Apr 11, 2009
      SUBJECT: PINK CHADDI VANDALISED AND TAKEN OVER

      Dear All,

      Some of you know that the Pink Chaddi facebook group has been hacked over and over again over the last month. We<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
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