South Asia Citizens Wire | October 19 - November 4, 2009 | Dispatch
No. 2662 - Year 12 running
[ SACW Dispatches for 2009-2010 are dedicated to the memory of Dr.
Sudarshan Punhani (1933-2009), husband of Professor Tamara Zakon and
a comrade and friend of Daya Varma ]
 The Afghan election: a five-star debacle (Simon Tisdall)
+ Remember the Women? (Ann Jones)
 Sri Lanka outcry over police brutality (Charles Haviland)
+ Growing strains (B. Muralidhar Reddy)
 Pakistan: Stories from the Baloch resistance movement -
Interview with Chakar Khan (Malik Siraj Akbar)
"We Refuse to Be Held to Ransom By Terrorism" - Beena Sarwar
interviews Veena Masud
 Can petty minds create a South Asian confederation? (Jawed Naqvi)
 India: War on Terror & counter terror, Impunity, Lack of Justice
& Eroding Human Rights
- SC has failed country on Batla case (Editorial, Mail Today)
- 'Give me one week to bring peace' (Anita Aikara)
- A Citzens Fact Finding Report on the Demolition of Vanvasi
Chetna Ashram, Dantewada, Chhattisgarh
- What made Mahato a political fugitive (Monobina Gupta)
- NDTV Panel Discussion on Maoism
- Mr Chidambaram’s War - How many soldiers will it take to
contain the mounting rage of hundreds of millions of people?
- Concerned Citizens Statement on the “Maoist” Violence
- India must change the discourse from violence to democracy
- Madhya Pradesh: A Social Movement for People's Rights under
attack - NBA activists arrested and intimidated - Peaceful protest
 India: Resources For Secular Activists
(i) The MF Husain controversy: Identity, intent and the rise
of militant fascism (Beena Sarwar)
(ii) Protect me? They can’t even protect my art: M F Husain
(Anubha Sawhney Joshi & Himanshi Dhawan)
(iii) And now politics of cultural virginity (Charu Gupta)
(iv) Love or Holy War (Vidyadhar Gadgil)
Sunil Janah's photographic epic: India 1939 - 1971 (New Delhi, 7
The Guardian, 1 November 2009
THE AFGHAN ELECTION: A FIVE-STAR DEBACLE
With the UN's reputation in tatters and Washington in denial over
Abdullah's exit, Obama must turn this round or look like a loser
by Simon Tisdall
In Afghanistan's disreputable 2009 presidential election, everyone's
a loser. Hamid Karzai's "victory", achieved by fraud and now by
default, has left him a tarnished, diminished figure. The US
administration that orchestrated the whole process still lacks the
credible partner in Kabul it says is essential for success.
The UN's reputation for probity lies critically wounded in the
gutter, a victim of inaction and bitter infighting among officials.
Nato's mission looks even more rudderless and ill-defined than
before. The cause of the Afghan people, bemused and terrorised by
turns, is no further forward and may in truth have been set back.
US officials risked ridicule by claiming the election process
remained credible, despite the decision of Abdullah Abdullah,
Karzai's only remaining rival, to pull out of a second round run-off.
Referring to wildly dissimilar American election precedents,
secretary of state Hillary Clinton said his withdrawal did not
necessarily destroy the validity of the run-off – even if only one
candidate was running.
"It's not surprising that he [Abdullah] is not going to contest an
election he wasn't going to win," an unnamed White House official
told the Washington Post. "This is not a challenge in any way to the
process of choosing the next Afghan president. This is politics." The
official went on: "However this shakes out, it does not affect the
legitimacy of the process."
This creative interpretation of the weekend's events ignored the fact
that it was Hillary Clinton and Richard Holbrooke, the US special
Afghanistan-Pakistan representative, who only a few days ago strong-
armed Karzai into accepting a second round. It was essential, they
said, given that his supposed first-round victory was fraudulent to
the point of farce.
The White House spinners also dodged the obvious conclusion, arising
from Abdullah's withdrawal, that notwithstanding all their power and
influence, the US, the UN, and assembled western diplomats, plus
Afghanistan's discredited Independent Election Commission were
unable, in the final analysis, to ensure a free and fair vote.
Abdullah's call for the replacement of compromised election officials
was ignored. The UN's wish that the number of polling stations be
reduced to lessen the chance of a repeat fraud received similar short
shrift. It had become clear in recent days that there was little or
nothing to prevent further pro-Karzai ballot-rigging on an epic scale.
Whether the run-off will go ahead remains uncertain at this point. If
Abdullah cuts some kind of power-sharing or national unity deal with
Karzai, it may be cancelled and further embarrassment avoided. Or it
may go ahead – but more "smoothly", given that there will be no
actual contest. Some western officials seem to be privately hoping
for this sort of fudge.
Peter Galbraith, a former senior American diplomat who was sacked
from the UN mission in Kabul in a row over its turning a blind eye to
ballot rigging, warned last week that a fraud-stained second round
would be "catastrophic for Afghanistan and the allied military
mission battling the Taliban and al-Qaida". For this reason, others
might say, rendering a second round irrelevant has obvious attractions.
Galbraith said a Karzai second term, however achieved, would be
"tainted at home and abroad". To overcome this crisis of legitimacy,
he urged the adoption of reforms put forward by Abdullah that would
allow greater power-sharing among ethnic groups, the election of
provincial governors, increased power for local governments, and the
appointment of a prime minister and cabinet by parliament, not by the
Barack Obama may insist on such reforms as part of his still
unfinished Afghan policy review. Reducing Karzai's powers in these
ways would provide a fig leaf for Washington's abject failure to
secure the democratic and governmental advances that it hoped would
justify ever more costly, and ever more unpopular, US and Nato
As of last Friday, Obama, like an ivory tower professor struggling to
engage with reality, was still calling for more option papers from
the Pentagon on future troop levels. The latest word in Washington is
that he will increase US forces, though by fewer than the 40,000
additional troops requested by his commander, General Stanley
McChrystal. They will be used to defend key Afghan cities and
population centres from Taliban attack. In the countryside, US and
Nato forces may shift to guerrilla-style, counter-terrorist tactics.
Maybe, given time, Obama can turn things around. But his inability to
prevent the US-promoted election turning into a five-star debacle was
damaging. It has left him looking like something he has rarely been
in his lifetime – a loser, just like everyone else. The only winners
yesterday were the bad guys.
The Nation (in the November 9, 2009 edition of The Nation)
REMEMBER THE WOMEN?
by Ann Jones
What happens to women in Afghanistan is not merely a "women's issue."
It is the central issue of stability, development and durable peace.
Women are made for homes or graves. -- Afghan saying
Gen. Stanley McChrystal says he needs more American troops to salvage
something like winning in Afghanistan and restore the country to
"normal life." Influential senators want to increase spending to
train more soldiers for the Afghan National Army and Police. The
Feminist Majority recently backed off a call for more troops, but it
continues to warn against U.S. withdrawal as an abandonment of Afghan
women and girls. Nearly everyone assumes troops bring greater
security; and whether your touchstone is military victory, national
interest or the welfare of women and girls, "security" seems a good
I confess that I agonize over competing proposals now commanding
President Obama's attention because I've spent years in Afghanistan
working with women, and I'm on their side. When the Feminist Majority
argues that withdrawing American forces from Afghanistan will return
the Taliban to power and women to house arrest, I see in my mind's
eye the faces of women I know and care about. Yet an unsentimental
look at the record reveals that for all the fine talk of women's
rights since the U.S. invasion, equal rights for Afghan women have
been illusory all along, a polite feel-good fiction that helped to
sell the American enterprise at home and cloak in respectability the
misbegotten government we installed in Kabul. That it is a fiction is
borne out by recent developments in Afghanistan -- President Karzai's
approving a new family law worthy of the Taliban, and American
acquiescence in Karzai's new law and, initially, his theft of the
presidential election -- and by the systematic intimidation, murder
or exile of one Afghan woman after another who behaves as if her
rights were real and worth fighting for.
Last summer in Kabul, where "security" already suffocates anything
remotely suggesting normal life, I asked an Afghan colleague at an
international NGO if she was ever afraid. I had learned of
threatening phone calls and night letters posted on the gates of the
compound, targeting Afghan women who work within. Three of our
colleagues in another city had been kidnapped by the militia of a
warlord, formerly a member of the Karzai government, and at the time,
as we learned after their release, were being beaten, tortured and
threatened with death if they continued to work.
"Fear?" my colleague said. "Yes. We live with fear. In our work here
with women we are always under threat. Personally, I work every day
in fear, hoping to return safely at the end of the day to my home. To
my child and my husband."
"And the future?" I said. "What do you worry about?"
"I think about the upcoming election," she said. "I fear that nothing
will change. I fear that everything will stay the same."
Then Karzai gazetted the Shiite Personal Status Law, and it was
suddenly clear that even as we were hoping for the best, everything
had actually grown much worse for women.
Why is this important? At this critical moment, as Obama tries to
weigh options against our national security interests, his advisers
can't be bothered with -- as one U.S. military officer put it to me
-- "the trivial fate of women." As for some hypothetical moral duty
to protect the women of Afghanistan -- that's off the table. Yet it
is precisely that dismissive attitude, shared by Afghan and many
American men alike, that may have put America's whole Afghan
enterprise wrong in the first place. Early on, Kofi Annan, then
United Nations secretary general, noted that the condition of Afghan
women was "an affront to all standards of dignity, equality and
Annan took the position, set forth in 2000 in the landmark UN
Security Council Resolution 1325, that real conflict resolution,
reconstruction and lasting peace cannot be achieved without the full
participation of women every step of the way. Karzai gave lip service
to the idea, saying in 2002, "We are determined to work to improve
the lot of women after all their suffering under the narrow-minded
and oppressive rule of the Taliban." But he has done no such thing.
And the die had already been cast: of the twenty-three Afghan
notables invited to take part in the Bonn Conference in December
2001, only two were women. Among ministers appointed to the new
Karzai government, there were only two; one, the minister for women's
affairs, was warned not to do "too much."
The Bonn agreement expressed "appreciation to the Afghan mujahidin
who...have defended the independence, territorial integrity and
national unity of the country and have played a major role in the
struggle against terrorism and oppression, and whose sacrifice has
now made them both heroes of jihad and champions of peace, stability
and reconstruction of their beloved homeland, Afghanistan." On the
other hand, their American- and Saudi-sponsored "sacrifice" had also
made many of them war criminals in the eyes of their countrymen. Most
Afghans surveyed between 2002 and 2004 by the Afghan Independent
Human Rights Commission thought the leaders of the mujahedeen were
war criminals who should be brought to justice (75 percent) and
removed from public office (90 percent). The mujahedeen, after all,
were Islamist extremists just like the Taliban, though less
disciplined than the Taliban, who had risen up to curb the violent
excesses of the mujahedeen and then imposed excesses of their own.
That's the part American officials seem unwilling to admit: that the
mujahedeen warlords of the Karzai government and the oppressive
Taliban are brothers under the skin. From the point of view of women
today, America's friends and America's enemies in Afghanistan are the
same kind of guys.
[. . .]
 Sri Lanka:
SRI LANKA OUTCRY OVER POLICE BRUTALITY
by Charles Haviland
by B. Muralidhar Reddy
If Rajapaksa calls an early presidential poll, it may not be
surprising for him to find Gen. Sarath Fonseka or Justice Sarath N.
Silva as his rivals.
INTERVIEW WITH CHAKAR KHAN
Revisiting the Che Guevara-like days of Baloch resistance movement
with Asad Rehman
by Malik Siraj Akbar
Guerilla movements in Balochistan have always been romanticized by
young men who aspire to overthrow the domineering elite and bring
revolutions. Taking to the hills for the rights of the Baloch
fatherland is what has placed many statesmen, kings, governors and
princes from Balochistan at irremovable positions in the annals of
the Baloch history.
A similar exceptionally striking chapter of the Baloch movement was
written in the early 1970s when a group of five scions of Pakistani
non-Baloch elite joined Balochistan’s guerilla war against the
Pakistan army’s occupation of the Baloch land. Popularly known as
the London Group, the members of this study circle left the comforts
of wealthy life, education in London and joined the Balochs in their
battle against the Pakistan army in the Marri hills. In their early
twenties, these comrades adopted Balochi names, learned the language,
explored the terrain, faced hunger and fought on the frontline in
their commitment for the Balochs.
A spirited Asad Rehman, the youngest but the fittest in the popular
London Group, remembers how he, at the age of 21, used to ambush the
Pakistani military convoys and take away ammunition from them to
sustain the movement. An eyewitness to what he bills as the
‘genocide” of the Balochs in the 70s, Rehman alias Chakar Khan,
still an ardent supporter of an independent Balochistan, reveals how
Baloch women were used as ‘comfort women’ in the military custody
and male fighters were captured and thrown from the helicopters.
In an exclusive but a candid and revealing interview with this
writer, Rheman recalls his Che Guevara -like days of Baloch
resistance movement of 1970s and compares it with today’s Baloch
MALIK SIRAJ AKBAR: Tell us something about your family background.
ASAD RAHMAN: I am the son of late Justice S.A. Rahman, who retired as
Chief Justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court in 1968. We were three
brothers and one sister. My eldest brother, Shahid Rahman, a Supreme
Court lawyer, has passed away. My sister is the Dean of Liberal Arts
at Beacon House National University, Lahore. My middle brother,
Rashid Rahman, is a well-known journalist and political analyst.
I owe my sense of justice and serving poor humanity to my parents
because they helped all sorts of people. Until my mother died in
2002, she was running a Convalescent Home with (late) Begum Justice
Shahabuddin where they treat women and children free of cost and this
was established in 1948.
My father was also the member of the Boundary Commission and,
therefore, worked very closely with Quaid-e-Azam and Lord Radcliff.
He was in the East Pakistan Boundary Commission. He served as a High
Court judge in 1947, became the Chief Justice of the High Court in
1955 and was elevated to the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1960. We
did not know how he help poor people until his death in 1979 when
lots of people came from his hometown of Wazirabad and told us that
he had actually educated hundreds of boys and girls of the area. Even
my mother did not know about this aspect of his humility and
humanity. He was a totally self made man.
I was born in Murree, district of Rawalpindi on 11 August 1950. We
lived all our lives in Lahore and I was educated in Lahore. In 1969,
after completing my intermediate, I left for London to study
architecture. In 68-69 when the anti-Ayub movement was going on, I
was very much a part of it as a student-agitator of Government
I did not finish my studies in London because in 1971, I came back to
Pakistan (straight to Balochistan). Why I came to Balochistan is a
very interesting story. My father was also the chairman of the
tribunal which was trying Sheik Mujeeb-ur-Rehman in 1968-69 in
Agartala Conspiracy Case and the Chief Election Commissioner in the
1970 elections, reputed to be the fairest and cleanest elections in
Pakistan’s history. There were two Bengali judges and my father was
the chairman of the tribunal.. When Sheik Mujeeb was finally released
by Bhutto, the first person he visited was my father. He said he had
come to thank him because, according to Mujeeb, “if you had not been
the chairman, they would have hung us.”
When I went to London, there were around 25 Pakistani, boys and
girls, from different cities who had formed a study group. There were
some Indian students as well in the study group. We used to study all
kinds of literature, Marxist, Maoist, Leninist, Stalin etc. In
Pakistan in those days, we could not get this kind of literature. In
London, we got the opportunity to read Marxist literature. I do not
call myself a Communist, Marxist or Socialist simply because I do not
think we are true Marxists. When you have an ideology and you do not
practice it or are unable to practice it, it does not give you a
reason to claim to be a Marxist.
The study of these literatures gave us an understanding of humanity,
human rights and understanding of exploitation by the ruling elite of
the poor.. That is what drove me to Balochistan.
MSA: Who were the prominent members of the London Group?
AR: There was Najam Sethi, Ahmed Rashid, my brother, Rashid Rehman,
Dilip Dass. These are the people who originally came to support the
Balochistan movement. These are the names I am willing to disclose
because they are well-known as having played a part in the
Balochistan movement. I would not be discussing the names of the
other members of the London Group for two reasons: One, they did not
participate in Balochistan movement. Two, I will be compromising on
their security if I disclose their names.
In 1970, when the East Pakistan civil war started, we felt that
whatever was happening in East Pakistan was wrong. We decided to
bring out a monthly magazine, called Pakistan Zindabad (Long Live
Pakistan). In that magazine, we used to write about nationality
rights, minority rights, fundamental human rights, articles on how
the army had taken on Pakistan’s polity, how it was dictating to
civil government that was in place. We started to write about the
East Pakistan issues and the economic exploitation. We used to
distribute that magazine in London, Manchester and Birmingham.
I suppose some friends felt they needed to bring this magazine to
Pakistan. They smuggled some copies of it to Pakistan. Some Leftist
groups here reproduced the magazine and distributed it among the
local Left circles. I can take the name of Ali Baksh Talpur, who has
now passed away, who was the one to bring this magazine to the
attention of Sher Mohammad Marri (whom we called as “Babu” while
the others remember him as General Sheroff) and Nawab Khair Baksh Marri.
[. . .]
o o o
Also see IPS Q&A - http://
tinyurl.com/yhuu2d7 - Also see footnote below (refers to a skit by
"WE REFUSE TO BE HELD TO RANSOM BY TERRORISM"
Beena Sarwar interviews Veena Masud, Pakistan Women's Swimming
KARACHI, Oct 29 (IPS) - Karachi-based, Trinidad-born and educated
Veena Masud is a school principal who wants to see Pakistani women
shine in the international sports arena.
Honorary Secretary of the Pakistan Women's Swimming Association,
president of the Sindh Women's Swimming Association, and executive
committee member of the Pakistan Olympic Association, she has cheered
Pakistani swimmers as they returned to the Olympics after 40 years.
In 2004, Rubab Raza was just 13 when she won a wild card entry to
Athens along with a male swimmer (Mumtaz Ahmed). She was the first
female swimmer to represent Pakistan at the Olympics. Four years
later at the Beijing Olympics, Kiran Khan - another wild card
entrant, from Lahore - swam for her country.
Pakistani female swimmers are making a splash despite the hurdles,
which include "little government support" and social conservatism,
Masud tells IPS. Excerpts from an interview.
IPS: Last weekend, after schools countrywide were closed following
the suicide bombing at the Islamic University in Islamabad (Oct. 20)
there was a major swimming competition in Karachi. How does the
ongoing violence affect sport?
VEENA MASUD: Yes, that was the 18th Sindh Women's Swimming
Championship organised by the Karachi Women's Swimming Association.
The club where the event was being held told us categorically to
cancel. But our sponsor said it's up to us. We decided to go ahead.
We are not afraid, we refuse to be held to ransom by this terrorism.
The club management then said if we could arrange our own security,
we could go ahead. We had a massive turnout - 280 swimmers
representing 22 institutions. They bettered 30 provincial records.
See, 90 percent of Pakistanis want to go forward, get on with our
lives. We can't allow this (disruption) to happen.
IPS: You were born and educated in the West Indies. How did you come
VM: I came back to my roots - my grandfather (in Trinidad) told me
that one of my forefathers was from Sindh; he went on a ship to the
West Indies as indentured labour.
My husband (a Pakistani) and I were in London when our son was born
in 1979. We moved back to Pakistan because we wanted to bring him up
here. I love it; the culture is so rich, and there is so much to offer.
IPS: You are not a swimmer, how did you get involved?
A. You don't have to be a swimmer to be a coach, or a technical
official. I coached my son (Kamal Salman Masud, now 30) in swimming.
Until then, the army, navy and air force swimmers won all the
competitions. My son set several national records. We'd be at the
pool and his (girl) friends wanted to swim competitively too. That's
how it started.
Four of us (mothers) started the Karachi Women's Swimming Association
in 1991, mindful of the confines of Islamic culture. We had great
difficulty getting sponsors for the First Sindh Women's Swimming
Championship - but 75 girl swimmers competed, representing local
clubs and schools.
In 1994, the then Benazir Bhutto government agreed to host the Second
Islamic Women's Solidarity Games. Iran, the initiators of these
games, insisted that swimming be included. The Pakistan Sports Board
(PSB) and the Pakistan Swimming Federation (PSF) asked us to form the
Pakistan Women's Swimming Association.
The games went back to Iran when Pakistan couldn't conform to
standards but we encouraged the formation of women's swimming
associations. Sindh and Punjab (provinces) did that.
Before long women swimmers from the Pakistan Navy, Pakistan Army,
Wapda (Water and Power Development Authority) and NWFP (North West
Frontier Province) began participating. The Balochistan Women's
Swimming Association was recently formed.
Now, we have over 300 swimmers from 30 schools and clubs around the
IPS: How have Pakistan's women swimmers fared internationally?
VM: They're improving all the time. Now a lot of our swimmers are
doing 'American A' timings (coached by my daughter-in-law Melanie
Masud, herself an 'American A' swimmer). They're very tenacious and
they have their parents' support.
Fourteen of our swimmers at the Fourth Islamic Women's Games (Tehran,
September 2005), won 10 of Pakistan's 19 medals. They came second in
the swimming events and seventh among the 45 participating countries.
The introduction of the longer "fast-skin" swimming costumes made it
possible for our girl swimmers to participate in international
competitions. For the first time, Pakistan sent two women swimmers
(Sana Wahid and Kiran Khan) to the Commonwealth Games in Manchester,
When we convinced the Pakistan government to include women's swimming
in the 9th SAF (South Asian Federation) Games in Islamabad 2004, our
girls took 14 medals, competing in the open arena on home ground for
the first time.
Our swimmers returned to the Olympics after 40 years in 2004.
IPS: What about technical officials?
VM: This was initially one of our biggest drawbacks, not having any
female technical officials. We have now trained up to 60 female
technical officials to international standards and they are lauded
everywhere. I'm really proud of our female technical officials.
Pakistan is the only South Asian country to have two female technical
officials on the Asian list, and one on the international list.
All over the world women get the rough end of the stick, but we have
four women out of 10 members in the Pakistan Olympic Association
(POA). I was in fact the first woman inducted into the POA when the
International Olympic Committee in 1992 stipulated that all national
committees must have women.
IPS: What hurdles do Pakistan's women swimmers face?
VM: First of all, there is little government support or funding.
Also, swimming is still an elite sport for women, because you have to
be a member of a private club to participate.
We need to push for the government to build infrastructure for
swimming all over the country and take women's swimming to the
corners of Pakistan, so that Pakistani women have the opportunity to
be at par with women all over the world. Then there's the
conservative mindset - many people don't want their daughters
participating in sports, or in public events.
Still, I believe that being determined and strong and tenacious will
in the end bring you medals. (END/2009)
FOOTNOTE: Against All Odds
Contrary to popular perception women's sports were never banned in
the country – but attempts were certainly made to sweep them out of
sight. The worst days were undoubtedly the `Zia years' – 1977-88,
when the then military dictator Gen. Ziaul Haq tried to push women
out of the public gaze in a bid to strengthen his `Islamic' credentials.
"We used to wear shorts," recalls a former sprinter, "but under Zia
we had to adhere to a more restrictive dress code."
Pakistani sportswomen are up against all kinds of hurdles, but they
refuse to give up.
Popular satirist Shoaib Hashmi highlighted this in a theatre skit
which has him interviewing 'Captain Samina' (Ahmed) of Pakistan's
women's hockey team. "Yes, we've had problems," she tells him. "First
they told us we can't play wearing shorts, so we switched to track
The dress code changed from track pants to shalwar kurta (long tunic
over baggy trousers), "but they said that was un-Islamic too. So then
we had to wear burqas (top to toe covering). We even agreed to that
but then they said that people will still know that there are women
under the burqas."
"So then what did you do?" asks Hashmi.
"Oh now we are sure to win," says the `captain, "because under each
burqa is (she rattles off the names of the male hockey team)."
"Women in sports have continued to flourish in their own limited
circuit in spite of the constraints, quite poor training facilities
and a lack of substantial financial support," notes prominent sports
journalist Gul Hameed Bhatti.
"When Rubab (Raza) went to Athens in 2004, she revealed that she
hardly got an equivalent of 30 dollars per month from the Pakistan
Swimming Federation. She couldn't engage the services of a foreign
coach to train her for the Olympics but her parents were very
supportive and took on almost the entire financial burden of getting
her ready for the big event."
Women participate in various sports all over the country - cricket,
hockey, track, swimming, football - even participating in
They face a lack of government support and patronage, and constant
threats from religious hardliners who disapprove of women being
visible in any public sphere.
The disapproval takes the form of public protests - as when Pakistani
female swimmers first competed at the international level - to
physical attacks, like the disruption of the mixed-gender mini-
marathon in the small town of Gujrat in Punjab province in 2004.
 India - Pakistan:
Dawn, 2 Nov, 2009
CAN PETTY MINDS CREATE A SOUTH ASIAN CONFEDERATION?
by Jawed Naqvi
Indian fishermen who are arrested by Pakistani authorities seen in
confinement, Friday, Feb. 6, 2009 in Karachi, Pakistan. —AP /File
Pandit Nehru tried hard to persuade Josh Malihabadi not to migrate to
Pakistan. We have it from various accounts that Josh sahab – who had
ruled the hearts of millions of Indians, and still does of quite a
few, as the poet of revolution (shaaer-i-inquilab) – was never at
ease about his eventual decision to live in Karachi. There are many
people like Josh who regretted choosing to go to Pakistan, not
necessarily because they didn’t like their new neighbours but
because they missed home. One of my grandmothers who died in Karachi
was among them.
The tragedy of those from Punjab and Bengal, who had no choice but to
leave their houses in a hurry or be killed by insane mobs, is even
more heart wrenching. There is hardly a Punjabi home on either side
of the border that didn’t experience the searing tragedy of the
partition. Dharam Vir was my hostel warden at Jawaharlal Nehru
University in the 1970s. His mother Devika Rani was 45 when the
family migrated from Girot, a once idyllic village in Jhelum in 1947.
She spoke only Punjabi of a certain dialect though she could
understand Urdu and a bit of Hindi. It was not always easy for me to
understand everything she said.
Yet I could never not be totally riveted to Devika Rani’s wizened
old face, often imagining that the creases on her face contained
countless unwritten chapters of history like the grooves of a
gramophone record hold myriad sounds and music. Her words still ring
in my ears to a query on partition: ‘Tenu ki dassan, puttar. Tarikh
vich raj badalde si, raja badalda si. Ae ki raj badlya ke prajaa hi
badal diti?’ (Son, history witnessed countless changes of kingdoms
resulting in the change of kings. What kind of kingdom have we
created, in which the people were changed?)
Do a headcount and you would very easily find a few million Indians,
Pakistanis and Bangladeshis who cannot hold back their tears at
Devika Rani’s Brechtian fulminations on the partition. Now suppose
Devika Rani (though she is no more) wanted to go back to her
childhood home in Jhelum to spend the last few days of her life in
what was once her very own land. There must be many Muslim Devika
Ranis living in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Let’s suppose they too
wanted to go across the borders to spend their remaining life in the
environs from where they were rudely uprooted.
I would have thought that a scheme unveiled by the government of
India in 2005 to allow people of Indian origin, popularly known as
PIOs, to have dual citizenship should first and foremost apply to
those who lived in the neighbourhood – in Pakistan, Bangladesh,
Nepal and Sri Lanka. But the Indian cabinet in its wisdom decided to
exclude Pakistanis and Bangladeshis from the purview of an otherwise
sound idea. I think someone should ask India’s Supreme Court as to
why the decision to exclude Bangladeshis and Pakistanis should not be
considered communal, if also petty.This is not to say that every
Pakistani or Bangladeshi is waiting with bated breath to be given an
Indian passport. Far from it. On the contrary, a very large number of
Pakistanis would probably frown at the idea of diluting their
national pride by swearing allegiance to the Indian constitution, for
that is what dual citizenship implies – it involves dual or multiple
allegiances as the situation may require. As far as I am aware
Pakistanis have a dual citizenship arrangement only with a handful of
European countries. Indians will probably play on a wider canvass
But consider this. In a footnote in Gunnar Myrdal’s Asian Drama,
Jawaharlal Nehru is quoted as saying that though he favoured some
kind of a loose confederation with Pakistan, he felt discouraged to
press it because of fears in Pakistan that India would swallow up its
neighbour. From Ram Manohar Lohia to Lal Kishan Advani Indian
politician of every hue has spoken about a federation or a
confederation with Pakistan, often also with all the South Asian
countries. Many NGOs have allocated budgets to study the negative and
positive consequences of a Saarc federation. Is this the mindset that
will get us there?
So what is the basis for singling out Pakistanis and Bangladeshis as
ineligible for India’s dual membership move? The catchall word
‘security’ comes to mind. Perhaps the Indian cabinet considered
inputs from its intelligence units to come to the conclusion that in
this era of war on terror, euphemism for insidious whisper campaign
against Muslims the world over, it would not be prudent to grant a
passport with unrestricted travel privileges to citizens of those
countries that are regarded as the epicentre of trouble. This is a
patently false premise to draw an unwarranted distinction about those
who are eligible and those that are not.
After all the ultimate decision to grant a passport, as is the case
with visas, rests with an issuing government, and so it is with
India. The Indian government, if it so chooses, can find a hundred
legitimate or spurious reasons not to grant the facility to anyone it
doesn’t like. In fact, it is a familiar phenomenon that many
Indians – Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, or Christians – have to bribe lower
division officials to get a passport or a government certificate.
Clearly the government can stall access to passports by this or other
forms of deterrence. Moreover, it could apply greater rigour or vigil
in the case of its two neighbours.
In fact, that’s all the more reason why the principle behind the
current stance seems to be questionable. If the government has its
own filters to allow and disallow citizens or PIOs to get a passport
or a dual citizenship then why the fear of the wrong people –
let’s call them subversive people – being given the status? On the
other hand, by making the overture to all people of Indian origin –
regardless of their religion or the bitter history of partition –
the Indian government would have taken a high moral ground on a core
issue of immense emotive appeal. This is something I suspect the
Quaid-i-Azam may have had in mind when he held out of hopes of
visiting his home in Mumbai after the creation of Pakistan.
The assumption behind my plaint is that it is not an easy quest at
all. To begin with anti-India hardliners in the Pakistani government
would throw such a proposal out of the window. After all dual
citizenship involves the consent of two sides. My guess is that such
hardliners would not be in favour of even a Saarc-based initiative to
confederate. The familiar fear of the big brother together with
regional and geo-political stakes would need to be negotiated for any
baby steps in this direction. Be that as it may, had India not acted
small, it would have won a moral victory. Imagine a gathering lobby
of friends of India in Pakistan pressing their government to agree to
a dual citizenship with its biggest bete noire.
These are not outlandish ideas. Let me cite the precedence of Sajjad
Zaheer, who was jailed by the British and later by Pakistan as a
communist subversive. Why did Nehru allow him to return to India in
1955, a privilege denied today to the less ‘connected’ in
Pakistan? Men and women like Salamat Ali and Fahmida Riaz were given
asylum for years in India when they came here to escape Gen Zia ul
Haq’s bigoted dictatorship. These are good precedences that need to
be further built upon.
There was a very moving Shyam Benegal movie on the subject of
partition – Mammo. It is a nickname given to Mehmooda Begum by her
sisters. She marries a man from Lahore. After partition, she and her
husband automatically become Pakistan citizens. Although childless,
her marriage is a happy one until her husband’s death. Over property
matters, Mammo is thrown out of the house by her relatives. She comes
to India to stay with her only kin, her two sisters. Unable to extend
her visa, she has to go back – political priorities defeat
humanitarian ones. Devika Rani would have embraced Mammo for she had
a big heart – big enough to live with the angst of an absurd reality
that robbed her of her small perch on earth. The Indian government
can learn a lesson or two from her. So should politicians and the
NGOs clamouring for durable peace in South Asia.
 India: Impunity, Lack of Justice & Eroding Human Rights:
Mail Today, November 1, 2009
SC HAS FAILED COUNTRY ON BATLA CASE
THE Supreme Court’s rejection of the petition seeking a judicial
inquiry into the Batla House encounter of last year is an abdication
of its responsibility to ensure justice for victims of the Indian
state’s excesses. The remarks attributed to the court on Friday
sound more like a government agency speaking than an independent
institution that is the last refuge of citizens to obtain redress of
their grievances. One of the grounds it has cited to rule out a
judicial inquiry into the encounter is that it would affect the
morale of the law enforcement agencies.
This is nothing short of ridiculous.
That the apex court in our democracy takes upon itself the duty of
keeping up the spirits of armed personnel is surely news to us.
On being told that sections of a community believed that the
encounter was a fake one, the court admonished the petitioner’s
counsel to not identify ‘ criminals’ with sections of people. By
determining that they were ‘ criminals’ even before their trial,
the court seems to have overlooked the fact that whether they were so
was one of the basic questions raised by the petitioners. Also, by
citing the National Human Rights Commission’s clean chit to the
police, the court has made light of the fact that the NHRC did not
even care to visit the site of the encounter and talk to the affected
people before it came up with its verdict. It only relied on the
police’s version of events.
The contradictions in the police theory are too well known to need
iteration. The injuries on the bodies of the slain men were
inconsistent with their story. How two ‘ terrorists’ escaped from
the apartment that was surrounded by cops on all sides was never
explained. The postmortem reports are yet to be made public.
Besides, the petitioners were only seeking a probe, not punishment
for the police. If the police have nothing to hide, then a judicial
probe would have only refurbished their credentials.
By turning down the plea, the court has also not cared for the dictum
that justice must not only be done but appear to be done. In the
Jamia Nagar locality where the encounter took place, most residents
believe that the police carried out an extra- judicial killing, as
they are known to do elsewhere in the country as well.
o o o
'GIVE ME ONE WEEK TO BRING PEACE'
Anita Aikara (DNA, Sunday, November 1, 2009)
Mumbai: "The Indian state police are cold blooded murderers," said
Himanshu Kumar, Gandhian and social activist from Dantewada in
Chhattisgarh, "Jis din police ki banduk garib ke haat mein khadi
hogi, naxalities khatam hogi," he added.
Himanshu Kumar and Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj were in Mumbai on
Saturday to discuss the plight of adivasis in Chhattisgarh. Earlier
in May, Kumar's Vanvasi Chetna Ashram was demolished by the
Holding his social activism responsible for the demolishment, the
activist took digs at the Home Minister and the local cops, "Not a
single leader has visited us in the last five years. PC Chidambaram
says that he wants peace in these areas. But I don't think it is
peace that the people want. They want justice which isn't being
delivered to them. Where there is injustice there can't be peace. Why
are they sending forces to Bastar? Did the villagers ask for help or
did the naxalites harass people in Delhi? I pity the armed forces
that will be killed fighting for the corporates rather than poor
Kumar has been actively involved in the Dantewada region of
Chhattisgarh, added that he was made a victim of indifference too,
"When I was trying to rehabilitate people who have been displaced by
the government's anti-Naxalite movement, Salwa Judum- my ashram was
demolished". Bharadwaj added, "In Jharkhand corporates are eyeing the
land owned by the poor adivasis. The war is not against naxalites, it
is against the poor adivasis. Bauxite, diamond, uranium, iron ore are
found in Bastar and that is what the corporates want."Speaking of the
indifference shown by the government, Kumar added, "Why doesn't the
PM ask the villagers the reason behind their turning towards violence?"
When asked what he thought of Kobad Gandhy's arrest, Kumar quickly
responded, "I don't know the person, so I can't comment about him."
As for the weapons carried by naxalites, Kumar alleged that most of
the weapons were stolen from the local police, "Though at times the
naxals also purchase weapons from the police. It is said that during
encounters the cops hide the bullets and later sell them to the
o o o
A CITZENS FACT FINDING REPORT ON THE DEMOLITION OF VANVASI CHETNA
ASHRAM, DANTEWADA, CHHATTISGARH
o o o
WHAT MADE MAHATO A POLITICAL FUGITIVE
by Monobina Gupta (The Times of India, 1 November 2009)
o o o
NDTV PANEL DISCUSSION ON MAOISM
o o o
9 November 2009
Mr Chidambaram’s War
A MATH QUESTION: HOW MANY SOLDIERS WILL IT TAKE TO CONTAIN THE
MOUNTING RAGE OF HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF PEOPLE?
by Arundhati Roy
The low, flat-topped hills of south Orissa have been home to the
Dongria Kondh long before there was a country called India or a state
called Orissa. The hills watched over the Kondh. The Kondh watched
over the hills and worshipped them as living deities. Now these hills
have been sold for the bauxite they contain. For the Kondh it’s as
though god has been sold. They ask how much god would go for if the
god were Ram or Allah or Jesus Christ?
Perhaps the Kondh are supposed to be grateful that their Niyamgiri
hill, home to their Niyam Raja, God of Universal Law, has been sold
to a company with a name like Vedanta (the branch of Hindu philosophy
that teaches the Ultimate Nature of Knowledge). It’s one of the
biggest mining corporations in the world and is owned by Anil
Aggarwal, the Indian billionaire who lives in London in a mansion
that once belonged to the Shah of Iran. Vedanta is only one of the
many multinational corporations closing in on Orissa.
If the flat-topped hills are destroyed, the forests that clothe them
will be destroyed too. So will the rivers and streams that flow out
of them and irrigate the plains below. So will the Dongria Kondh. So
will the hundreds of thousands of tribal people who live in the
forested heart of India, and whose homeland is similarly under attack.
In our smoky, crowded cities, some people say, “So what? Someone has
to pay the price of progress.” Some even say, “Let’s face it,
these are people whose time has come. Look at any developed country,
Europe, the US, Australia—they all have a ‘past’.” Indeed they
do. So why shouldn’t “we”?
[. . .]
FULL TEXT AT: http://www.sacw.net/article1198.html
o o o
27 October, 2009
CONCERNED CITIZENS STATEMENT ON THE “MAOIST” VIOLENCE
There has been a spate of growing murder and violence in certain
areas of Andhra, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal
by armed persons acting on behalf of “CPI (Maoist)”. We strongly
feel that their use of the name of Mao Zedong, a widely respected
figure, while carrying out the acts of carnage and killing, is
reprehensible. Such acts can also in no way be justified in the name
of a war against the state. While every conscious citizen opposes
acts of oppressions committed by members of the exploiting classes or
individuals in the state apparatus, the so-called “Maoists” by
their violent acts of vendetta, torture and gruesome killings are
gravely damaging the cause of the popular democratic movement. The
“Maoists” are thus in fact working against the interests of the
workers and peasants.
In order to isolate the “maoists” politically, it is however
important that the Indian state do all that is necessary to restore
its presence and credibility in tribal areas whose interests it has
largely been ignoring. The Central government should review its neo-
liberal policies that have pauperised the tribal people and help the
state governments to meet their developmental challenges in these
areas. Counter insurgency vigilante groups (such as Salwa Judum) have
proved to be counter productive. Harassment and killing of innocent
local people should be avoided while tackling the violence. and those
responsible for such acts in the name of the fighting the "maoists"
should be punished. A genuine dialogue should be started with those
"maoists" who are ready to give up the path of armed struggle.
Irfan Habib,Teesta Setalvad,Vijay Prashad, Utsa Patnaik, Amiya Kumar
Bagchi, M.K. Raina, Najaf Hyder, Badri Raina, Shireen Moosvi, Jayati
Ghosh, Iqtadar Alam Khan, Sohail Hashmi, Archana Prasad, Amar
Farooqui, Ayesha Kidwai, Simi Malhotra, Nadim Rizavi, Sonya Surabhi
Gupta, Lata Singh, Atlury Murali, Biswamoy Pati, Madhu Prasad, D. N.
Jha, P. K. Shukla, Arjun Dev, Suvira Jaiswal, H. C. Satyarthi,
Kesavan Veluthath, V. Ramakrishna, N. R.Rana, N. K. Sharma, Prabhat
Patnaik, Arun Bandopadhaya, Rajendra Prasad ( contact-26691162)
o o o
INDIA MUST CHANGE THE DISCOURSE FROM VIOLENCE TO DEMOCRACY
by Manoranjan Mohanty
o o o
India - Madhya Pradesh: A Social Movement for people's Rights under
(i) Narmada Bachao Andolan Press Note / 3rd November 2009
CONTEMPT of COURT and VIOLATION of DEMOCRACY by ADMINISTRATION
ANDOLAN DRAWS SUPPORT FROM FAR AND WIDE
The administration continues to harass the peasants and adivasis of
Narmada valley struggling for their just rights and implementation of
court orders and the rule of law in the state. The police is
discovering and adding newer cases everyday to intimidate the
displaced people and undermine their demand of implementation of the
orders of the Hon’ble High Court. On the other hand, there has been
widespread condemnation of the highhanded and unlawful attitude of
the state government.
Today, suddenly, the police has filed a new case under Section 333
IPC. This discovering of charges and adding them piece-meal is
hampering the rule of law in the state. It is also violating the
constitutional and democratic right of the people and in consequence
diminishes people’s faith in democratic processes. The andolan is
determined to fight against this attitude of the government.
Repressing the andolan is a violation of the court
A delegation of about 50 local intelligentsia and supporters of
Narmada Bachao Andolan collected in Indore today and met the
Commissioner to condemn the atrocities of the Khandwa district
administration on the andolan activists. They reminded the
Commissioner that the acts of the district administration was
unlawful and was depriving the displaced people of their rights that
have been upheld by the court. The delegation comprised of senior
educationist Prof. R.D. Prasad, literary scholar Shri Saroj Kumar,
cultural activist Shri Chinmay Mishra, Shri Amulya Nidhi of Sanskriti
Kendra, Shri Rakesh Chandore of Jhuggi Basti Sangharsh Morcha and
In Badwani, activists and villagers associated with the Jagrit Dalit
Adivasi Sangathan met the Badwani Collector today, to send a protest
letter to the Chief Minister and extend support to the Narmada Bachao
In Harda, the Samajwadi Jan Parishad and Kranti Hammal Union
organized a dharna at Narayan Talkies Square and submitted a
memorandum for the Chief Minister to the district Collector that
condemned the acts of the Khandwa district administration. Shri Sunil
of Samajwadi Jan Parishad said that arresting and jailing the
activists who were trying to ensure implementation of court orders is
a case of contempt of the court.
In Bhopal, members of Janpahal group Ms Sarika Sinha, Ms Sushma and
Shri Deepak Bhatt met with the State Human Rights Commission and
presented fresh evidence of human rights violation and repression by
the state to the commission. The SHRC took cognizance of the gravity
of the state’s acts and ensured prompt action after they receive the
report called from the district administration on Wednesday.
In Durg, Chhattisgarh a torch rally is being organized today by
Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha in support of the andolan and in protest of
the unlawful detention of NBA activists and continued harassment of
the displaced people.
Yesterday, on Nov 2nd, a road meeting and candle light vigil was
organized in Bhopal by Yuva Samvad and MP Mahila Manch in solidarity
with Irom Sharmila for her struggle against the draconian Armed
Forces Special Powers Act and the Narmada Bachao Andolan for their
non-violent struggle for the rights of the displaced. Members of the
two groups condemned the repression and violence that the state is
unleashing on all democratic peoples movements. They raised slogans
against the recent lathi charge on the ten thousands protesters of
the Narmada valley and the jailing of its activists and termed it a
matter of grave concern and shame that the government that is
supposed to work for the rights of the people is crushing their
peaceful protests while they fight for their rights. They said that
while Sharmila has become a symbol of protest against states excess,
the people of the Narmada valley have by their prolonged non-violent
struggle against biased model of development, brought the issue of
displacement to the forefront. It is very disturbing that the state
of madhya pradesh has been using brutal force and false cases to
crush such movements. They demanded that the government take
accountability for this crime and release the imprisoned activists
and also comply with the courts order and give people their rights.
(Kailash Chauhan) (Ashish
Mandloi) (Gajraj Singh)
(ii) Narmada Bachao Andolan Action Alert:
30th October 2009
PEACEFULLY PROTESTING NBA ACTIVISTS ARRESTED IN KHANDWA IN AN
OUTRAGEOUS AND EXCESSIVE POLICE ACTION BY MADHYA PRADESH POLICE.
NBA OFFICES IN KHANDWA SEALED AND WITHOUT ANY WARRANT SEARCHED AND
PHONE / FAX / WRITE LETTERS TO CHIEF MINISTER, PRIME MINISTER AND
Following the demonstration by over ten thousand men and women
affected by the Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar dams on the 28th of
October 2009 in Khandwa, Khandwa police in an unprecedented action
has arrested all the key activists of Narmada Bachao Andolan from
their offices and the dharna site, in front of the Khandwa
Collectorate. From 29th October more than a thousand adivasis had
been protesting infront of the Khandwa Collectorate, since the MP
government refused to live up to the Jabalpur High Court order of
giving 5 acres of land to elder son of each of the oustees.
On 29th evening Chttaroopa Palit and 18 other activists were arrested
and today without any provocation police came in large numbers and
locked NBA’s office alleging anti-state activities. They arrested
five of the activists, including Alok Agarwal, present at the office
around 5:15 pm and then locked the office. After some time five
police people came and without any search warrant and copied files
from the computer and taken some files from the office.
After some protest they have released 4 people but kept Alok Agarwal
in custody though have not explained the charges under which he has
been kept in custody.
It is a clear case of violation of the rights of the activists and
also an attempt at breaking the peaceful protest by police action.
Yesterday they had lathi charged the protesters but even then the
protest had continued, innervating the district administration. This
is a clear cut attempt at breaking the morale of the thousands of
protesting famers, adivasis and workers.
NBA unequivocally condemns this action and also demands that the
activists be released unconditionally and action been taken against
the responsible police officers.
Phone / Fax / email letters of protesting police action on peacefully
protesting people affected from Indira Sagar, Omkareshwar, Maheshwar,
Upper Beda and Maan dams. Also write letters to Chief Minister and
Chief Secretary of Madhya Pradesh Government asking them to release
activists immediately, unseal NBA office, live up to High Court order
and take action against the police officers responsible for this high
handedness and unlawful action.
Prime Minster :
Shri Manmohan Singh
Room No. 148 B, South Ablock, New Delhi
Office Nos : 91-11-23012312 Fax : 230116857
Residence : 91-11-23011166, 23018939. Fax : 23015603
Email : manmohan@...
Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh
Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan
Off – Phone : 91-755- 2441581, 2441033, 2441096, Fax: 91-755-2441781
Res – Phone : 91-755-2440241, 2440242 Fax : 91-755-2540501
email : cm@...
MP Government, Chief Secretary
Shri Rakesh Sahni
Off Phone : 91-755-2441848. Fax 2441751
Email : cs@...
Khandwa Collectorate :
Email : dm@...
Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission of India
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi 110 001, Tel: +91 11 230
74448, Fax: +91 11 2334 0016, Email: chairnhrc@...
Ramkuwar Rawat, Sangita, Kailash Chouhan, Rahmat, Kalu and others
Narmada Bachao Andolan
2, Sai Nagar, Mata Chowk,
Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh.
Telefax : 0733 - 2228418/2270014
E-mail : nbakhandwa@...
 India: Resources For Secular Activists
THE MF HUSAIN CONTROVERSY: IDENTITY, INTENT AND THE RISE OF MILITANT
by Beena Sarwar
[I wrote this essay for Nukta Art in September, for its November
issue which has just been published]
The campaign against the iconic Indian artist Maqbool Fida Husain,
perhaps the most prominent living symbol of art under attack, is part
of the political fight for India’s soul – secular democracy versus
a ‘Hindu’ state.
Full text at: http://tt.ly/3n
o o o
The Times of India
30 October 2009
PROTECT ME? THEY CAN’T EVEN PROTECT MY ART: M F HUSAIN
Anubha Sawhney Joshi & Himanshi Dhawan
MUMBAI/DELHI: The government might be finally moving to make things
easier for India's renowned painter M F Husain to return to his homeland
M F Husain
after four years of exile, but the 94-year-old artist is hardly
impressed. Nor is he taking seriously the home ministry's efforts to
club three pending cases against him so as to ensure their speedy
``What are they talking about?'' asked Husain in a telephonic
conversation with TOI from Dubai. ``The India Art Summit held in
August this year did not feature a single work by me. The reason
given was that they could not afford to take the `risk'. How will
they protect me if they cannot protect my work? How can I trust
them?'' (Read full interview in TOI-Crest this Saturday.)
The artist feels that it's not just a question of legal cases against
him. That did not force him to leave India. What caused his exile
were the threats of physical harm to him by saffron groups. He
wondered what would happen to him if he actually returned. ``They
can, of course, promise me a bullet-proof car and the works. But,
then, did Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi have any less security?''
On its part, the home ministry plans to approach the Supreme Court
and request it club the three cases pending in Delhi, Gujarat and
Maharashtra ^ and move for their early disposal. Said Husain's lawyer
Akhil Sibal: ``Any positive step by the government is welcome. But we
would also like to see a clear message that the government would do
everything within the law to prevent his harassment.''
Husain said his case was not unique: ``From Galileo to Pablo Neruda,
creativity has been exiled many times. I am not the first one.''
Still, the artist said he was deeply hurt by the way ``a few'' have
treated him. ``It's a tremendous hurt. I'm Indian. Why should I beg
these people to call me back to my country?''
o o o
AND NOW POLITICS OF CULTURAL VIRGINITY
by Charu Gupta (Mail Today, November 1, 2009)
THE Hindu Right seems to have found a new agenda to arouse passions
through the alleged ‘love jihad’ movement, supposed to have been
launched by Muslim fundamentalists, to convert Hindu and Christian
women through trickery. It is ironical that there is an uncanny
resemblance of the issue and its language with similar ‘abduction’
and conversion campaigns launched by Arya Samaj and other Hindu
revivalist bodies in the 1920s in north India, to draw sharper lines
between Hindus and Muslims. Seen through the prism of a historical
perspective, the dichotomy and falseness of the allegations of the
Hindu Right appear more starkly.
In the 1920s, militant Hindu assertion reached new heights. There
were unprecedented communal clashes in UP. What is significant in the
present context is that in this period the Hindu woman’s body became
a marker to sharpen communal boundaries in ways more aggressive than
before. The period witnessed a flurry of orchestrated propaganda
campaigns and popular inflammatory and demagogic appeals by a section
of Hindu publicists and Arya Samaj against ‘ abductions’ and
conversions of Hindu women by Muslim goondas, ranging from
allegations of rape, abduction and elopement, to luring, conversion,
love, and forced marriages.
Drawing on diverse sources like newspapers, pamphlets, meetings,
handbills, posters, novels, myths, rumours and gossip, the campaign
was able to operate in a public domain, and to monopolise the field
of everyday representation. Tracts with provocative titles appeared.
One was called Hindu Auraton ki Loot , which denounced Muslim
propaganda for proselytising female preys.
Yet another was named Hindu Striyon ki Loot ke Karan , which was an
Arya Samajist tract, showing how to save ‘ our’ ladies from
becoming Muslim. The converted woman was a potential site of outrage
of family order and religious sentiment.
In the unfolding of the tales in the 1920s and in 2009, there are
certain common strains. I will highlight just a few. In both
campaigns, one of the arguments given by Hindu groups has been that
the conversions of Hindu women are linked with enhancing Muslim
numbers. A tract, published in 1924 from Kanpur and titled Humara
Bhishan Haas dwelt on the catastrophic decline of Hindus due to
increasing conversions of Hindu women to Islam.
It claimed that a number of Aryan women were entering the homes of
yavanas and mlecchas ( terms used for Muslims in such writings),
reading nikah with them, producing gaubhakshak children, and
increasing Muslim numbers. Pro- Hindu organisations in 2009 too have
claimed that forced conversions of Hindu women in the name of love
are part of an international conspiracy to increase the Muslim
The issues at stake here are not only to construct a picture of
numerical Muslim increase but also to lament the supposed decline in
Hindu numbers and mourn the potential loss of child- bearing Hindu
Both the campaigns construct an image of the Muslim male as
aggressive, and broadcast a series of repetitive motifs, creating a
common ‘ enemy’ Other. Whether it is 1920 or 2009, images of
passive victimised Hindu women at the hands of inscrutable Muslims
abound, and any possibility of them exercising their legitimate right
to love and to choice is ignored. In June 1924 in Meerut, handbills
and meetings claimed that various Hindu women were being lured and
their pure body being violated by lustful and sexually charged Muslim
The present campaign too, while focussing its anger on the Muslims,
receives its emotional bonding from the victim. It is impossible for
Hindu groups to conceive that Hindu women can voluntarily elope or
Thus every romance, love, elopement and marriage between a Hindu
woman and a Muslim man is rewritten by Hindu organisations as
It is also assumed that the mere act of marrying and staying with a
Muslim ensures that the woman is leading an unhappy and dreadful life.
Behind it are also anxieties about possible relations between Hindu
women and Muslim men. The fears of elopements and conversions by some
Hindu women show the need felt not so much to protect, but to
Often there are not just particular cases; there is a ready move from
the particular to the general. Reckless generalisations are made,
with rumours adding spice. A pamphlet released by the Akhil Bhartiya
Vidyarthi Parishad during the present campaign, and distributed in
Jawaharlal Nehru University, claims that 4000 girls have been
converted till now. Another pamphlet distributed by the Hindu
Janjagruthi Samiti, Karnataka states the number to be 30,000 within a
year! The concrete examples given in both cases have often been
imagined, and there is sometimes evidence to prove the depth of
For example, in April 1927, Hindus spread a rumour in Muzaffarnagar
that a Hindu girl had been forcibly converted to Islam and was being
married to a Muhammadan.
They proceeded in crowds to inspect the alleged pervert and found
that the girl had always been a Muslim.
At Kanpur in 1939, a Hindu youth accused Muslim volunteers of
kidnapping Hindu women. This led to a search of the Muslim League
office, which yielded no trace of them. And in June 2009, when Anitha
of Bantwal taluk in Karnataka went missing, several Sangh Parivar
organisations claimed that she was forcibly converted to Islam by a
Pakistan- backed, professional ‘ jihadist lover’ and a protest
meeting was held on 4 October.
However, on 21 October 2009, a serial killer, Mohan Kumar, was
arrested, who confessed that he had poisoned Anitha to death.
It appears that communication, more than direct experience, has
created such ideologies of abductions and conversions.
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