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SACW - 10 March 2012 | Afghan Taliban / Pakistan: virtue and vice / Bangladesh: Jumma Women / S. Asia: Militarism / India: Gujarat, Kandhamal, Bhopal, Koodankulam & Hindutva's Military School / Mexico: Struggle Against Power and Forgetting / Day of Action to Defend Blasphemers

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire - 24 February - 10 March 2012 - No. 2732 ... Contents: 1. Afghanistan: Clerics’ guidelines ’a green light for Talibanisation’
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 9, 2012
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      South Asia Citizens Wire - 24 February - 10 March 2012 - No. 2732
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      Contents:

      1. Afghanistan: Clerics’ guidelines ’a green light for Talibanisation’ (Emma Graham-Harrison)
      2. Pakistan: Nexus between virtue and vice (Zafar Hilaly)
      3. Pakistan: No to vigil-aunties: thousands protest media's moral policing (Beena Sarwar)
      4. India - Pakistan: Warm memories of time in Pak jail (Anahita Mukherji)
      5. Militarism in South Asia (Anuradha Chenoy)
      6. Bangladesh: Patriarchal state and Jumma women’s agency (Amena Mohsin)
      7. India: Letter to International Olympic Committee from Bhopal Victims
      by Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Saghathan, Bhopal Gas Peedith Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti
      8. India: The Modi Message (Christophe Jaffrelot)
      9. India: An excuse called Rushdie (Salil Tripathi)
      10. India: Time to come out (Editorial, The Hindu)
      11. India: 75 Years of Bhonsala Military School - Militarising Minds, Hindutvaising the Nation (Subhash Gatade)
      12. India: Kandhamal - The law must change course (Vrinda Grover)
      13. India: Statement from Eminent Citizens on Harassment of Anti Nuclear Activists in Koodankulam
      14. India Selected Human Rights Campaign Resources

      International:
      15. In Mexico, a Universal Struggle Against Power and Forgetting (John Pilger)
      16. A call for action: 14 March 2012 as International Day of Action to Defend Blasphemers and Apostates
      17. Announcements:
      - Press Conference to protest arrest Syed Mohammad Kazmi (New Delhi, 10 March 2012)
      - Candle light on 1st Anniversary of Fukushima (New Delhi, 11 March 2012)
      - Rohini Hensman speaking on ‘Workers, Unions and the Left: Responding to the Global Crisis’ (Colombo, 16 March 2012)
      - Call for Papers: The Feminist South Asia Pre-Conference at Madison 2012
      - Conference: Early Modern Europe and India: Politics, Philosophy, and Representation (Dublin, 15-16 March 2012)
      - India Pakistan Civil Society Review Of Strategic Relations (New Delhi, 29-31 March 2012)

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      1. AFGHANISTAN: CLERICS’ GUIDELINES ’A GREEN LIGHT FOR TALIBANISATION’
      by Emma Graham-Harrison
      =======================================
      (The Guardian)
      Edicts released by Hamid Karzai issue repressive rules for women who, they declare, are subordinate to men

      Kabul, 5 March 2012

      Women are subordinate to men, should not mix in work or education and must always have a male guardian when they travel, according to new guidelines from Afghanistan’s top clerics which critics say are dangerously reminiscent of the Taliban era.

      The edicts appeared in a statement that also encouraged insurgents to join peace talks, fuelling fears that efforts to negotiate an end to a decade of war, now gathering pace after years of false starts and dead ends, will come at a high cost to women.

      "There is a link with what is happening all over the country with peace talks and the restrictions they want to put on women’s rights," said Afghan MP Fawzia Koofi, who warned that the new rules were a "green light for Talibanisation".

      The points agreed at a regular meeting of the Ulema Council of top clerics are not legally binding. But the statement detailing them was published by the president’s office with no further comment, a move that has been taken as a tacit seal of approval.

      "Ultimately, I don’t see a way you can read it as not coming from (Hamid) Karzai," said Heather Barr, Afghanistan researcher at Human Rights Watch. "It’s probably not an extreme position for the Ulema Council, but it’s an extreme position for Karzai, and not compatible with the constitution, or Afghanistan’s obligations under international law."

      The clerics renounced the equality of men and women enshrined in the Afghan constitution, suggesting they consider the document that forms the basis of the Afghan state to be flawed from a religious perspective.

      "Men are fundamental and women are secondary," the statement says, according to a translation by Afghan analyst Ahmad Shuja. "Also, lineage is derived from the man. Therefore, the use of words and expressions that contradict the sacred verses must be strictly avoided."

      The statement drew criticism in parliament, where some politicians took it as a direct assault on the constitution and the wider government. If a ban on men and women working and studying together were implemented, it would in effect dissolve the legislature.

      "The statement is against the constitution, against human rights and against women’s rights," said Ahmad Shah Behzad, a member of parliament from western Herat province, who warned that Karzai risked being in dereliction of his duty to protect the constitution.

      The clerics also appeared to condone violence against women in some circumstances.

      "Teasing, harassment and beating of women without a sharia-compliant reason, as set forth clearly in the Glorious Qur’an, is prohibited," the statement said, although it then called for punishment of those who assault women.

      There were some positive points in the list of women’s rights given before the list of their obligations, Barr said. Most notably it denounces forced marriage and the practice of exchanging women to settle family disputes over money or honour.

      But overall, the statement marks a disturbing return to the language and ideology of the Taliban, said Nader Nadery, a former commissioner on Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission and an outspoken advocate for women’s rights.

      "It renews some of the restrictions that were imposed during their rule, and therefore it could be alarming should it influence government policies," Nadery said.

      In focusing on the status of women, the clerics are ignoring issues that worry ordinary Afghans more, Koofi added.

      "The country has a lot of other priorities, and the religious scholars need to come forward and condemn those issues that people are concerned about, like suicide bombers or corruption."

      [also available at: http://www.sacw.net/article2572.html%5d

      =======================================
      2. PAKISTAN: NEXUS BETWEEN VIRTUE AND VICE
      by Zafar Hilaly
      =======================================
      (The News International March 09, 2012)

      It took the screams of a young woman being beaten in Swat to galvanise the country and the army to take a stand against the gruesome cruelties inflicted by the Taliban on the local population. Till then a sense of ennui, national indifference, if you like, had trumped worldwide horror that Swat had fallen into in the clutches of the Taliban.

      Will the Kohistan massacre of Shias on Feb 28 arouse similar revulsion and act as a spur to equally decisive action on the part of the government? Fat chance.

      When an identical massacre of Shias occurred in Mastung last year nothing much happened and so too, the killing of Shia doctors which has continued sporadically for years. Worse, there has been precious little by way of an effective response from the authorities. Of course, Rahman Malik does promise to rain fire and brimstone on the killers.

      The fact is we have become inured to violence, especially in far off “no go” areas of the country, like Fata, Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistanwhere it is now endemic. And unless we rouse ourselves to wrestle with this evil revenge attacks and further bloodshed will continue. What is it that drives Jundullah (Kohistan) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (Mastung) which eagerly claim responsibility for the Shia killings to act as they do?

      According to Tawfiq al Rubaie, spokesman of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the leader of Iraqi Shias: “They think that Shias are infidels and Shia lives, money and women are permissible for them to take, and that killing Shias is one of the requirements to enter paradise.”

      Such hatred is not susceptible to reason or argument. Actually, to think anything will cure such madness would itself amount to madness. Hence, the only answer is for the state to take them on with no quarter given.

      There are no signs of this happening. On the contrary, Shia-hating psychopaths are becoming increasingly brazen. They move about in Fata as if they had a free pass from whomever.

      Condemning the Kohistan killings the UN secretary general said he “stands by” Pakistan’s efforts to combat such terror. We should be worried. From “stands by,” to “urging” or “calling upon” Pakistan to end the killings will be a small but important step. The latter would suggest we are either helpless to prevent atrocities or will not, for whatever reason, and that would amount to an open invitation to outsiders to come to the help of groups they feel are being victimised. In a sense that is already happening judging by dollops of assistance rival sects are receiving from abroad.

      A state that cannot protect its citizens from random violence and butchery cannot have a claim on their loyalty. History teaches us that whenever people suspect a lack of resolve on the part of the state in fighting crimes, a revolt is never far away. By the looks of it we are at such a juncture.

      Islamabad really has no choice: the freaks and the organisations which hunt down Shias and Sunnis must be eliminated and effectively shut down or else the resulting strife will make the ongoing fighting in Balochistan seem like a mere bar room fracas.

      It’s was good, therefore, to hear Kayani offer the military’s cooperation to nab the culprits of the Kohistan atrocity. Not that anyone really thinks it will make much of a difference. Few killers ever get caught and only a fraction of those apprehended get to pay for their crimes.

      We are facing this predicament today only because successive governments in Pakistan have treated the outlying regions of Pakistan as “no go” areas for development and especially education. Jinnah is praised for leaving alone to manage their affairs by withdrawing the army from Fata in 1948. But that didn’t mean they should have been left to fend for themselves even as the government poured funds into development of nearby “settled” areas. A policy of benign neglect when pursued endlessly becomes malign and, in due course, malignant.

      In retrospect, depriving Fata of proper schools and of universities and the opportunity of becoming a part of the national political process, proved a lethal mistake. Criminality, gunrunning and smuggling has thrived for want of jobs, and so too guns for hire.

      It was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan which sanctified the marriage between vice and virtue or crime and jihad. Camps were set up to train, among others, extremists, murderers and criminals to become efficient killing machines. Their beliefs scarcely mattered as long as they could kill Russians. And then, of course, the Russians withdrew and the roof caved in.

      Meanwhile, dictators like Ziaul Haq and weak civilian regimes which were perennially in hock to the Gulf statelets, acted much like serial debtors groveling before their creditors, making excuses for tardy repayments and promising to please their patrons, even as they craved their indulgence and a further fistful of dollars.

      Worse, they allowed in foreign preachers and stood by as these imports doused Pakistan with their message of hate and intolerance. So much so that the deadly virus of extremism is now out of control.

      It is not for nothing that we are viewed today as the fount of terror the world over. Only the other day in Slovenia, the factory owner of a local telecommunication company was scolded by the national secret service for receiving a delegation of Pakistani officials. And it isn’t a coincidence that no country in the world allows a Pakistani without a visa to enter, his passport, whether Official or Diplomatic, on its own, being insufficient. Frankly, we live in a dangerously dysfunctional state ever in dread of what the morrow will bring and what dark menace it may hold.

      As for our extremists they possess an exceptional and almost pathological constitution. They make for excellent martyrs as they have a natural penchant for “shahadat” (martyrdom). Except that they seek to earn that glorified status not by killing the aggressor in war but by killing fellow citizens of another sect because that way they believe their deeds will get more purchase with heaven. In fact, all they achieve is to enable outsiders to denigrate Muslim society as mediaeval and barbarous and assign a far higher worth to non-Muslim lives than Muslim, as we have seen in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      It is much too late to fiddle around with their genetic code. However, no elaborate rewiring is required to persuade the millions of decent Pakistanis that unless the psychopaths who murder on account of sect or faith are stopped, the collective punishment all of us will have to bear will be more than what we can withstand.

      True, it’s much too ambitious to expect that we can return this country quickly to the path of a tolerant and progressive Islam that Jinnah had envisaged. But at least we can hope to reclaim our place as a civilised state in the comity of nations. That will be good enough for the moment, anything more would be a bonus.

      The writer is a former ambassador.

      =======================================
      3. PAKISTAN: NO TO VIGIL-AUNTIES: THOUSANDS PROTEST MEDIA'S MORAL POLICING
      by Beena Sarwar
      =======================================

      http://www.sacw.net/article2576.html

      A morning show broadcast in Pakistan on Jan 17, 2012, on Samaa, a Pakistani television channel, has catalysed what could well be the beginning of a media consumer rights movement.

      In the show, Subah Saverey Maya kay Sath (Early Morning with Maya), the host Maya Khan, charges through a public park looking for dating couples to interrogate. With her is a battalion of other women, who join her in self-righteously lecturing the couples they come across – does your family know you are here, why don't you meet at home if you are engaged, and, most outrageously, if you are married, where is your nikahnama (marriage certificate)?

      When the harassed couples asked for the camera to be turned off, the Samaa team pretended to acquiesce but carried on filming with the sound turned on. As several people have pointed out, this intrusive behaviour could result in putting those couples in life-threatening situations in a country where forced marriages and `honour killings' continue to be the norm.

      As Youtube links to the show were shared on facebook and twitter, the out the outrage grew. People were shocked at the level of intrusion and vigilantism on display. From India, came comments on twitter about the Saffron vigilante brigade that has been known to drag couples into temples and force them into instant marriage. Which reminded me that the mentality we are protesting is not limited to Pakistan – see my article 'Peaceful Pink Panties to Tame Right-Wing Goons' about the RSS in India, 2009 http://bit.ly/ggWNSb where I hear they're gearing up again against Valentines Day...

      Maya Khan's antics on Samaa TV triggered off several articles and reports – starting with blogger Mehreen Kasana letting rip in her post (with doodles) An Open Letter to Maya Khan, Jan 22, 2012 http://bit.ly/zRR4Gz.

      But most importantly, the outrage was channelized into a loosely organised protest. On Jan 22, lawyer Osama Siddique drafted a brief letter expressing outrage at the :highly intrusive, invasive and potentially irresponsible behavior on the part of the host - a kind of vigilantism no different than the Lal Masjid variety" (referring to the black-robed women armed with sticks called the Hafza Brigade, associated with the Red Mosque in Islamabad, who went around beating up and terrorizing women whose behaviour or looks they deemed `immoral' or `unIslamic').

      The letter protested this moral policing, and pointed out that "this kind of programming is likely to also lead to legal action for violation of dignity of man under the Constitution - which legal action we as signatories will support, propagate and promote." It demanded an end to "this irresponsible programming".

      A group of citizens emailed the letter to the Samaa head Zafar Siddiqi (President CNBC Pakistan, with which Samaa is affiliated), and an expatriate Pakistani in California, Ali Abbas Taj, uploaded it to Change.org as an petition titled STOP "Subah Saverey Maya kay Sath" vigilantism like Lal Masjid http://bit.ly/zRmPNZ. In about 24 hours, there were over 2000 signatures, and by the following day 4,800 people, in Pakistan and around the world, had endorsed it.

      Quite unexpectedly, within 24 hours, the online activism had the following effects:
      * Samaa TV pulled off the Youtube links, but some people have managed to download and save parts as evidence in case it is needed for future action (http://dai.ly/xyU1c6).
      * Maya Khan's facebook page was closed, probably in response to the number of comments being made on it. Some of those comments were highly abusive and threatening, which we condemn and have nothing to do with.
      * Maya Khan on the show of Jan 23, 2012 http://youtu.be/ZzbFP7sv_K8 acknowledged that what she did could have hurt people and said that was not her intention - but she has not apologised, and appears completely unrepentant and unaware of the dangers of her actions.
      * CEO Samaa TV Zafar Siddiqi wrote back to the people who had emailed him saying:
      "I have travelled to Khi to look at this matter and yesterday Maya apologised in her program for this. I can assure this will never happen again. Samaa is a progressive channel.
      "There are certain other directives that have been put into place as of yesterday.
      "I thank everyone concerned in bringing this matter to my attention. It's really appreciated."

      The citizens' response:
      * We do not accept Maya Khan's statement in her programme of Jan 23, 2012 http://youtu.be/ZzbFP7sv_K8 as an apology. Nor are we satisfied with Mr Siddiqi's attempts to placate us. We want an unconditional, public apology from both Maya Khan and Samaa TV.
      * We do not hold Maya Khan solely responsible for her actions; it is the producer and channel owner who set policy and allow this kind of programming to happen. We want to know what steps are being taken and what policy directives given to ensure this doesn't happen again.
      * Maya Khan should apologise publically not just to viewers but also to the couples she harassed in the park.
      * There's also outrage against a 2010 moral policing show by ARY reporter Yasir Aqeel, who is if possible even more intrusive than Maya Khan, and takes harassment to another level: http://youtu.be/Uvun5FM8lpA. We protest these intrusive tactics by TV channel owners to boost ratings by harassing peaceful, law-abiding citizens.
      * We would like to know what ethical guidelines TV channel owners and producers are setting down to ensure that this doesn't happen.
      * We are in contact with the commercial sponsors of television shows and will impress upon them the need to pull advertising from programmes and channels that violate basic media ethics.

      BOTTOM LINE: Media is not a business like any other. It carries greater responsibility and we want its workings to be transparent and ethical.

      In addition:
      A college student in Karachi, started a facebook `cause' on Jan 24 demanding that Maya Khan apologise to the youth of Pakistan, especially Karachi: http://bit.ly/zCPfms

      Some activists began an sms campaign, sharing Zafar Siddiqi's Dubai cell number with the following message: Please send this sms to Mr. Zafar Siddiqui, CEO SAMAA TV at his cell number <+971505529171>, if you want to raise your voice against the moral policing by Maya Khan: "Dear Mr Siddiqi, pardon the intrusion. I'm part of a citizens' group protesting Samaa TV and its host Maya Khan's irresponsible 'moral policing'. We expect an unconditional apology, and this show withdrawn or at least suspended until new parameters are worked out. Thank you."

      It hasn't all been about anger and outrage though. Predictably, Pakistanis have derived considerable mirth from the situation, some of it rather unkindly expressed. There's this outrageous post by Urooj Zia: bit.ly/x2fcUa Things Maya Missed (relevant to my Pink Chaddis report for IPS linked above).

      Graphics were created – Park signs saying "Beware of dog – and Maya Khan" (unkind, yes, but then, people are angry). http://bit.ly/yP6E3S - by arif iqbal @eusuphxai – and other one, quite funny, in which he takes a still from the old Indian film "Bobby" with the famous song "Hum tum aik kamre mein band hon…" and changes the next line to "Aur Maya aa jaye" bit.ly/Ajo9pw (the original line can be translated as: "what if we were locked up in a room… and the key gets lost" – changed to: "… and Maya turns up"

      There have also been some really nasty shares, including videos of Maya dancing, and an animation in which she gets slapped, but let's ignore those for now, with just this comment, that we do not condone abusive language, personal insults or threats of violence.

      See these thought-provoking articles and reports about the issue:

      Wusatullah Khan in BBC Urdu website, Jan 22, 2012 http://bbc.in/zgAeTO: `Aap tau naib khuda hain'

      BBC Urdu report, Jan 23, 2012: `TV channel ka anti-dating squad' http://bit.ly/w29jL0

      BBC Urdu Radio report, Jan 24, 2012: `Sawerey ka chapa' par sakht tanqeed' http://bbc.in/xMc8sY - Samaa senior producer Sohail Zaidi rejects civil society concerns, defends show, saying, "I am not answerable to anyone".

      Vigil-aunties (a term coined by Anthony Permal @anthonypermal) by Bina Shah, Jan 24, 2012 http://bit.ly/zD4ueJ: `At the very least, the channel and the anchorperson owe an apology, if not compensation, to those two individuals who had hurt nobody on that day when they were ambushed and harassed by the television anchor and her Moral Aunty Brigade. The irony is that she describes herself on her Facebook page as "very fair and honest in her dealings". I think that girl in the niqab, crying in the park, and her blameless friend, as well as any sane person with a conscience and a respect for other people's privacy, would beg to differ.'

      In the parks of Karachi, by Ejaz Haider, Jan 24, 2012
      http://bit.ly/wIwvyz "From the terrible scarcity of information we now have a nauseating excess of it."

      There is a legal framework, even police need permission from magistrate to conduct a raid http://bit.ly/Ad65y9 Offline must be kept offline. Media ethics, responsibility - good discussion Afia Salam and the online 247 team.

      Updates will continue to be posted on the petition link http://bit.ly/zRmPNZ. Watch this space.

      =======================================
      4. INDIA - PAKISTAN: WARM MEMORIES OF TIME IN PAK JAIL
      by Anahita Mukherji
      =======================================
      The Times of India, Jan 15, 2012

      Within half an hour of the retreat ceremony at the Wagah-Attari junction, the two gates on either side of a thin white line that forms the border between India and Pakistan were re-opened once again at twilight on January 8. And 183 weary-eyed Indian prisoners released from Pakistan began trickling into the country.

      Of these, 179 were fisherfolk from Gujarat who had accidentally crossed the invisible line in the sea that divides India from Pakistan. But as Sunday Times sat down to listen to their stories, expecting tales of terror and torture, what came out was both uplifting and heartwarming. Our prisoners had actually come home with fond memories of their stay in Pakistan's prisons.

      While a Karachi prison scarcely seems the place for Hindu-Muslim unity, the fishermen spoke highly of the Pakistani inmates with whom they shared jail space. The Pakistani convicts went out of their way to help the fishermen adjust to life in prison. "We became one large family," says Bharat Suda Soma. "We were never discriminated against for being Hindu. Whenever we needed something, like soap or buckets, the Pakistani prisoners would get it for us.'' Pakistani jailers, who gave the fishermen hope that they would soon be out, came in for praise, too: "The jailers liked us as we were well-behaved. They would let us go for walks in prison.''

      Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid, retired Pakistan Supreme Court judge and current chairman of the Pakistani government's Committee for Welfare of Prisoners, says, "The Indian prisoners in our custody are well looked after. Someone from our office visits them every day.'' It was on Zahid's mobile phone that three minors released last week recall speaking to their families while in prison. "Whenever I spoke to my mother, she would cry and ask me when I would come home,'' 16-year-old Kamlesh told this reporter after he entered India.

      The fishermen had spent between a year and 15 months in jail. Ram Singh Shamat of Junagadh district was in prison for two years. He had no idea he had crossed into Pakistani waters until he heard a shot fired in the air before being captured. "I was very scared. I had no idea what was going to happen,'' he says.

      Their joy at being released was, of course, tempered with grief for their fellow fisherfolk left behind in prison. In a remarkable show of solidarity with their brethren, the fishermen painstakingly drew up a list of 61 men - with details of villages and talukas and dates on which they were arrested - still in Pakistani jail. Each of the released fishermen has two photocopies of this list which they hope to circulate amongst the media and activists in a bid to get their friends free.

      Jatin Desai, joint secretary of the Pakistan India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy, feels that fishermen should be released by sea with their boats instead of the long route via land, from Karachi to the Wagah border and then onwards from Amritsar to Gujarat.

      While 276 Indian fishermen still remain in Pakistani prisons, 29 Pakistani fishermen are in Indian jails. India released 121 fishermen last year. Zahid feels there should be a bilateral committee of officials on board a ship between the two countries, looking at cases of fishermen straying across the border and settling the matter in the sea itself. Because no amount of affection in a foreign jail can make up for lost time with loved ones back home.

      =======================================
      5. MILITARISM IN SOUTH ASIA
      by Anuradha Chenoy
      =======================================
      http://www.sacw.net/article2561.html

      Civil- military relations appear to be seriously disturbed in all of South Asia. The president of the Maldives was forced to resign by the military and police as the vice president took his place. In Pakistan, the assertion by the military over the civilian government following the leak of an anonymous note, allegedly from the Pakistan president asking for the United States help because of fears of a military takeover, continue to haunt the nation as the matter is now in the courts. In India, for the first time the military chief has contested the government in a court of law over the issue of his date of birth. In Bangladesh, a recent attempt of coup was foiled because of the army chain of command. In Sri Lanka, the army chief who led the country in a triumphant civil war remains in jail after he accused the defence secretary of war crimes and tried to contest presidential elections against President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

      All this is cause for serious concern because it is a reflection of the state of democracy in South Asia. While the tide towards democracy in this region is irreversible and the period of long-term political and military dictators appears to be receding, there remains still a deeper and equally dangerous phenomenon of militarist forms of intervention in a variety of subtle and not so subtle ways. This comes directly from the military in some cases and sometimes from civilian regimes themselves when they use militarist methods in their governance practice.

      The military in many South Asian regions is making sure it continues to have political weight. Of course the role of the military varies from country to country as does the nature of their relation with the civil regimes. Some countries have had years of military dictatorships and elected governments being unable to complete their terms. Others countries with long-standing democratic governments have large areas where the military is allowed to take major decisions. And if the military does not directly have that kind of influence, then other forms of militarist polices do.

      What is particularly dangerous is a phenomenon of military values being increasingly used in what are essentially civil decisions. This phenomenon of militarism not only threatens the civil-military balance but stalls the deepening of democratic values and threatens to enter our everyday sphere if not stopped.

      This kind of militarism gets accepted because of the national security doctrines in all South Asian states. The military, or sometimes the civilian government, is seen as the unquestioned guardian of national security. It has the privilege of deciding what constitutes the idea of ‘national’ and therefore also what constitutes the anti-national. In other words, national security has become a legitimising cover for any issues that a regime may choose. Once a regime is allowed to use the national security argument against an ethnic or religious community or minority, then militarist tendencies penetrate and warp all policies.

      What is even more dangerous for a society is when many people, groups, media and even political parties support military or authoritarian interventions and militarist policies. Of course there are always reasons that are cited for such support. The common ones in use besides national security threat is corruption and betrayal of promises by the elected regime. In the recent Maldives affair and earlier in Pakistan, and elsewhere, this had been cited as a reason for military intervention. But surely corruption charges should be investigated by courts of law. And there is no law whereby the country cannot go to the polls again. Are militaries themselves above corruption? After all power itself is known to corrupt.

      So the real question is what is the understanding of a democracy in South Asia? How do regimes, militaries and people understand their own role and the role of institutions in democracies and how do they ensure that the balance of all these components is maintained.

      Clearly the common denominator in a democracy should be that communication and negotiation between various groups, communities, institutions — including the civil and military ones — must be maintained at all times. The arbiter should be an independent judiciary that adjudicates on the basis of a constitution that is based on a social contract that is acceptable to all communities. If such a document does not exist or one does exist but does not have legitimate consensus should be re-negotiated. No document or notion is that sacred that only military and militarist policies can protect it. In fact, the opposite might be the case. A consensus in a society between all groups does not need militarist policies at all.

      The problem is that when militaries or militarist policies take over many things follow. Militarist policies can be used by civilian leadership. These polices include, for example, the use and privileging of force over negotiations. Or even if they have to negotiate, would prefer to negotiate from a position of strength rather than a position of equality — which is an important position in a democracy. Militarist policies are based on dislike and contempt for the ‘other’ and also contempt for civilian values. They dislike discussion and debate. They do not have patience for justice. They are comfortable functioning in hierarchies and order. They enjoy revenge and retribution. Militaries and militarist policies are based on patriarchal relations and maintain all kinds of stereotypes, whether these are for men, women, etc.

      So if South Asia has to maintain its democracies it has to curb the tendency for both — a greater role of the military in decision-making as well as the use of militarism by civilian leaderships. And both these can be done only if people themselves are vigilant about the concept of democracy, even when they are faced with the greatest of difficulties — be it a corrupt and inept regime or ethnic minorities asking for political rights. It is when all these issues are negotiated in the framework of rights and justice will real democracy function.
      Anuradha Mitra Chenoy is professor at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University.


      =======================================
      6. BANGLADESH: PATRIARCHAL STATE AND JUMMA WOMEN’S AGENCY
      by Amena Mohsin
      =======================================
      http://www.sacw.net/article2574.html

      8 March 2012

      War, conflict and peace are states which cannot be abruptly demarcated. War creates its own vestiges and the creation of a war economy is one of them; it helps to sustain conflicts since certain powerful vested interest groups are created by it. More than two decades of insurgency, which followed Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s assassination on August 15, 1975 and continued till the signing of the peace accord on December 2, 1997, has led to the creation of a vested interest group in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The region has allegedly become a conduit point for small arms and drugs. Jummas (hill people) allege that Bengali security personnel along with civil officials were involved in the extraction of forest resources. The military officials however, deny the involvement of the military in such activities, but concede that a certain degree of pilferage of resources might have taken place.1

      Following the accord, the security situation in the region has been further complicated due to the emergence of unidentified armed groups, which collect tolls from vehicles plying the roads; this has increased in recent years. Hill people allege that rebel groups from Myanmar have joined forces with already existing groups in Bandarban, providing them with guns in exchange for shelter. Whereas hill people formerly paid toll only to the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti, generally regarded as being justified since they were fighting for Jumma rights, now there are several groups (including PCJSS, United People’s Democratic Front) which collect toll under different pretexts; this is regarded as being unacceptable by many, in a post-accord situation.

      Two decades of armed violence and continued instability in the region have turned the CHT into a violence-prone society, a safe haven for trafficking arms and drugs, particularly given the region’s close proximity to Myanmar, which has disastrous effects on younger people. Hill people argue that their children have grown up witnessing violence, which has resulted in the erosion of many of their traditional values. Erosion itself, they say, is a form of violence because society has lost its harmony and traditional balance.

      Prior to the signing of the accord, violence was considered to be justified as it was expected to bring about social justice, political equity, in other words rights, for which they were fighting. But continued protracted violence in the post-accord situation, frustrates many, as they find it unacceptable. Many PCJSS men have not been rehabilitated, this, coupled with the lack of employment opportunities, has created an acute sense of frustration. The UPDF members, too, are discontented with the accord, which they look upon as a compromise formula. The political situation in the CHT is thus quite complex and one is yet to see stability coming back to the region. The Awami League, which was in power when the accord was signed (1997), has formed a new committee for accord implementation and has started the withdrawal of temporary military camps from the region as stipulated in the accord. This has created much controversy within political and civil society circles in Bangladesh, as is only to be expected. Bengali settlers in the CHT, too, have protested against the move, since they look upon the military as their saviour. It is indeed a major failure on the part of the state, for it has failed to provide a solution to the Bengali settler’s issue who were used as human shields as part of a counterinsurgency strategy; political parties now look upon settlers as vote banks.

      The hill people also allege that the opening up of the Hills for tourism, post-accord, has opened the hills to vices associated with a tourist culture: prostitution (allegedly in Rangamati, a popular tourist resort), heroine and HIV/AIDS. They accuse the state of abetting in these activities, alleging that the trafficking of arms and drugs cannot go unnoticed by the army because it is stationed there.

      The gendered dimensions of the conflict are evident from the above. The circumstances leading to the insurgency and the post-accord scenario point to the dominance of factors associated with masculinity. It was most blatant in the nationalist agenda of the state, both of which are gendered categories. The conflict and its impact too have gendered dimensions. While in no way depreciating the sufferings of men, I argue that women suffer more and differently during conflict situations. They suffer due to their ‘otherness’, in both ethnic and sexual terms. When war begins, women are left behind to protect homes and children because men either flee for fear of being taken away, or to join the war. Women are thus left to face the enemy, yet in the dominant war and security discourse men are looked upon as the ‘protector’, women as the ‘protected’. In response to those who insist that wars are fought on the battlefield, between men in uniform, and hence women (i.e. civilians) who constitute the majority do not face the brunt of war, feminists have repeatedly pointed out that in recent wars, and in particular, in insurgencies, the dichotomy between battlefields and civilian fields does not hold. Wars are no longer military wars; civilians were half the casualties in the Second World War, whereas in recent wars, the number has shot up to ninety per cent. Since men are mostly mobilised, the vast majority of civilians are overwhelmingly women and children.2 As homemakers, wives, mothers, sisters, lovers, daughters and above all, as women, they suffer in various ways. This suffering is commonly characterised as victimisation; it constructs women as objects who are bereft of any agency (free will). My research amply demonstrated the inextricable link between victimisation and agency; each instance of victimisation, of the rupture of social norms, was paralleled by strategising how to cope with adversity. Interviews and case studies from secondary sources also reveal that notions of empowerment and the public-private divide need to be placed within their specific cultural and socio-economic contexts, that they cannot be universalised because both violence and victimisation took different forms.

      ‘I hated my mother she used to force me to talk to the military officials who visited our house frequently. I was very young and quite beautiful. The military personnel loved to talk to me, my mother knew what their intentions were, yet she would force me to go and talk with them. The military had taken away my father; my mother hoped that if I befriended the military they would release my father.’ This is how Kabita Chakma, former President of the Hill Women’s Federation, narrated to me her childhood experience.3 But Kabita no longer blames her mother; their home, siblings, and her father who was then captive, were understandably her mother’s priority, a moment when notions of privacy and social norms had been ruptured.

      Narratives such as these help us to shift our focus to the patriarchal modern state, for it is the latter which imposes these moral values upon people and then becomes its main violator. This, in turn, leads us to turn our attention to, and helps question the notion of the state as a guarantor of citizen’s rights and also, the issue of citizenship. Conflict, insurgencies, violence as stated above is the creation of state policies. The attempt to change people’s lives through state power in the name of law and national interest takes people’s lives away from them.

      Resistance take varied forms. In the above instance, Kabita’s mother, a homemaker, had tried to salvage the family by appeasing the military, because they had identified their locality as a safe haven for the Shanti Bahini, had therefore ordered that all houses be dismantled. They had spent many a night in the deep forest, until much later, when they moved to another para (locality), and managed to put together a house. Her mother took a job as a schoolteacher, and continued to be the bread-earner even after her husband was released, as he suffered from insanity; memories of army atrocities haunted him. The family suffered severe economic hardship, but Kabita and her family members told me how these experiences had increased their confidence, their sufferings were for a larger cause. Kabita became a political activist, a staunch supporter of the hill people’s cause. Today she is a freelance researcher, and writer. She keeps requesting me to take her to the military officer who had tortured her father. The military officer is personally known to me and has formed a new political party. He is regarded as a security analyst by the state and is frequently seen in the electronic media. I wonder how the hill people view the state when they view him in the television screen lecturing on security especially on CHT issues. I leave it upon the reader to judge the neutrality of the state and its claim to equal citizenship rights of all its citizens. Ilira Dewan in her writing Keno Andolone Elam (Why I Joined the Movement)4 narrates her childhood. It is one of fear, fleeing and hiding for safety. Very movingly she speaks of how the words, the ‘army is coming’ would mean that they would have to run, with whatever valuables they could carry, deep into the forest. As a child, she witnessed her father being tortured. She could only utter the words ‘death, death’, out of hatred for the military. Her uncle, too, was taken away and tortured. She witnessed their festivals being marred by the military and Bengali settlers; they would set fire to their dwellings with the active help of the military. The entire locality had fled and taken refuge in India. That the utterance of a single word, ‘army’, can, within minutes, turn a habitation into a deserted place, made Ilira realise the ruthlessness of state construction, its many exclusions and oppressions. Resistance for Ilira has involved being part of the hill people’s movement for autonomy.

      Rape is used as a wartime strategy to oppress and identify the ‘other’, the enemy. In 1990, 1 in every 10 Jumma women who were living in refugee camps in India had been a victim of rape in the CHT. Over 94 per cent of the alleged cases of rape between 1991 and 1993 were by ‘security forces’. Of these over 40 per cent were under 18 years of age.5 However, violence against women has not stopped following the accord. An unpublished report by the CHT commission on the human rights situation in the CHT in 2010, based on field and newspaper reports, shows that threats to personal life and liberty ranks the highest among different categories of human rights violation in the CHT (42%). The second is violence against women and children in the CHT (20%). Land rights related violation is the third (19%). It needs to be stressed that violations against women more often than not go unreported.

      During the conflict situation, one observes agency taking over victim-hood. The formation of the Hill Women’s Federation (1988) by both female and male hill students of Chittagong University provides one such instance. Its objective was to work with the Pahari Chhatra Parishad and Pahari Gono Parishad for Jumma self-determination. It took up women’s issues as one of its main causes, it declared solidarity with March 8, International Women’s Day, and began working to sensitise Jumma women about their rights, to create awareness about the Jumma movement for self-determination. In other words, it had a broad political agenda and aspired to locate itself at the local, national and international levels. The federation brought up the issue of the rape of Jumma women, since courts were not attending to these cases. In 1994, when a girl student of Class V was sexually assaulted, the federation brought out a procession for the first time in Khagrachari protesting against the assault and demanding justice; it presented a charter of demands to the district commissioner. The government was forced to form an inquiry committee, but although it never saw the light of day, it is obvious that the organisation was making its mark as a political agent of change in the CHT. While the Shanti Bahini was carrying on an armed battle from its bases in India, members of the federation were challenging the army, the core of state power in the CHT from within the region itself. The members often went into hiding or operated from outside the CHT, either from the capital Dhaka, or from Chittagong.

      Apart from the federation, the PCJSS, too, had its women’s wing during the insurgency. The task of Mohila Samitis (women’s committees) was to motivate hill women at the community level. Although it has often been reported that the Shanti Bahini had a women’s armed wing, my research revealed that only a few women, that too, wives of the militants, accompanied their husbands and worked as members of the Mohila Samiti; whether a woman’s militant combat group had truly existed requires further research.

      However, the point that I wish to stress is, since armed battle is only part of an ongoing movement, and people participate in different ways, one needs to investigate the manner in which a militant situation militarises people’s minds and society at large. Once this happens, even if a peace accord is signed, one needs to seriously interrogate if peace accords can bring about sustainable peace; and if peace accords carry with them the notion of equitable justice.

      It has not happened in the case of the CHT. Critical questions such as Bengali settlements, the land issue (displacement and pauperisation of Jummas, settlement of Bengalis as a process of colonisation) has remained largely unaddressed and the women question has not been addressed at all. I had raised the latter issue with one of the chief architects of the accord. He replied, ‘I was drafting a peace accord not doing gender.’6 The paradox of the situation is that although the state of Bangladesh does not acknowledge that rape has been committed by its security forces, it demands an apology from the Pakistan state for the same crime committed by its military personnel upon Bengali women during the liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971.

      Nationalism, nation and state indeed have its limits, as hegemonic forces they marginalise communities as well women. For women, therefore, the notion of conflict is much more complex than mere armed hostilities. It is intertwined with state and nation formation and the hegemonic notion of masculinity.

      Amena Mohsin is professor of international relations at Dhaka University.

      Notes and references:
      1. Author’s interview with Brigadier (retd.) Shahed Anam, on 28.3.2003. The latter had served in the CHT as commanding officer.
      2. Cynthia Cockburn, The Gendered Dynamics of Armed Conflict and Political Violence, in Caroline O.N. Moser & Fiona C. Clark (eds.) Victims, Perpetrators or Actors? Gender, Armed Conflict and Political Violence, Zed Books Ltd. 2001, p 21.
      3. Personal interview with the author on 18.2.2010 in Dhaka.
      4. Hill Women’s Federation, Paharer Ruddho Kontho: Pahari Narider Nipiron O Protirodh (The Silenced Voices: Oppression and Resistance of Hill Women), Hill Women’s Federation, 1999.
      5. Meghna Guhathakurta, “Where is Kalpana Chakma? A four-year-old question with no answer”, in Kalpana Chakmar Diary, Hill Women’s Federation, 2001, p 247.
      6. Author’s personal conversation with a top leader of the present regime, the Awami League, in August 2009. His name cannot be disclosed for political reasons.

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      7. INDIA: LETTER TO INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE FROM BHOPAL VICTIMS
      by Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Saghathan, Bhopal Gas Peedith Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti
      =======================================
      BGPMUS and BGPSSS, hereby, urge the IOC and the LOCOG to ensure that the principles and rules as set out in the Olympic Charter and the Code of Ethics are applied and IOC’s and LOCOG’s untenable partnership with Dow is terminated forthwith
      http://www.sacw.net/article2565.html

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      8. INDIA: THE MODI MESSAGE
      by Christophe Jaffrelot
      ======================================
      (Indian Express, 27 February 2012)

      10 years after riots, what his ‘Vikas’ means for him, the BJP and democracy

      Ten years after the 2002 carnage, in spite of repeated attempts by the Supreme Court and the determination of the victims as well as (suspended) policemen, NGOs and media persons, justice has not been delivered and reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims has not taken place in Gujarat. Whatever happens to Chief Minister Narendra Modi legally, he has already been held guilty on several counts, regarding violence of an unprecedented magnitude since Partition; he has not punished the policemen who let the massacres take place. On the contrary, they have been promoted; he has not given Muslim victims and their kin the compensation to which they were entitled and he has never apologised to the Muslim citizens of his state. In spite of that, he remains the strongest political leader of Gujarat and may also become an all-India leader.

      “Vikas” is the most commonplace explanation for the popularity of Modi. After the massacre, he needed to change his image by promoting economic development and good governance — and he did, even if the performance in agriculture remained poor. His agenda as a Vikas Purush helped him get the support of the corporate sector, as evident from the praise the most influential businessmen of India dispense him during the yearly “Vibrant Gujarat” functions. The middle class also appreciated his policy: in 2007, the richer the voters were — and the higher they were in the caste system — the more they voted for the BJP.

      Modi benefited equally from the weaknesses of his opponents. Not only did the Congress have no strong leader, but there was no caste-based party likely to divide the Hindu vote like in UP and Bihar.

      He has asserted himself in the public sphere in a paradoxical manner. Not only has he personalised politics in Gujarat — he claims, the populist way, that he is in direct contact with citizens on email or via cell phones — but the more the Centre painted him as “a merchant of death”, to use Sonia Gandhi’s phrase, the more he projected himself as the spokesman of all Gujaratis. In short, he has been defending “his” people while his state is “unjustly” stigmatised from outside.

      Last, but not least, fear has become a pervasive feeling in the state. This politics of fear has been epitomised by a record number of fake encounters in which most of the victims were supposed to target Modi himself. As a result, a dozen policemen and politicians are being prosecuted today (incidentally, the role model for governance that Gujarat is supposed to be has a record number of senior policemen and BJP members — including former members of government — behind bars or on bail). But the politics of fear also concern IAS and IPS officers who keep looking over their shoulder as they speak with you.

      The most striking aspect of this “success story” lies in the marginalisation of freedom. The supporters of Modi admitted it candidly the last time they voted for him in 2007. A CSDS survey of early November 2007 showed that 34 per cent of the interviewees (and among them 37 per cent of BJP voters) considered that Modi’s style was “dictatorial”. But 48 per cent of those who disapproved of his “dictatorial style of leadership” were ready to vote for his party (whereas among those who approved of this style, 61 per cent were about to do the same). It tells us something about the state of democracy in Gujarat, a place where the consensus of Beijing (that Modi visited recently) applies more than anywhere else in India: economic growth prevails above liberty.

      Gujarat is an exception in many ways.

      Historically, the conservative variety of Gandhiism that has prevailed there has prepared the ground for Hindu traditionalists (V. Patel, K.M. Munshi, G. Nanda, M. Desai) and inhibited the rise of the lower castes on the political scene. Today, Gujarat is one of the states in India where Dalit parties are the weakest and cannot counter Hindutva forces in any way. This is also a state combining religious orthodoxy (as evident from the popular — convenient — demand for vegetarianism and prohibition) and the cult of money in unmatched proportions. The assertive middle class that dominates the urban setting today is largely the by-product of this peculiar alchemy.

      However, one may argue that much of the middle class of the rest of India also shares the same political culture. This is why in many national opinion polls Modi is voted the best chief minister of India which makes him a natural candidate to the post of prime minister.

      However, he may not fit in that role for three reasons.

      The middle class remains in a minority — and even more so in the democratic game, given its low turn-out in elections — and the rest of society may not support him to the same extent. More importantly, this is the era of coalition politics. Even if Modi were the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP, other components of the NDA may object, especially parties which have Muslim voters like the JD(U). Already, Nitish Kumar has refused to allow Modi to come to Bihar for canvassing.

      Modi may not be a natural leader, even for the BJP — in spite of the fact that the party may badly need him at the time of election. The party knows that it could win power only when it had at its helm a widely acceptable man, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Moreover, the RSS itself is allergic to politicians with such a strong personality for whom the organisation does not come first but second at best.

      For all these reasons, Modi may remain confined to Gujarat. Incidentally, the fact that the Congress has not fought him there in a very determined way suggests that not only does it have no strong local leader but also that the party prefers to leave him safe in this state so that he doesn’t step out into the national arena.

      As a Gujarat phenomenon only, Modi tells us something of today’s Indian democracy. In some states, regional bosses are in a position to appear as incarnations of “their” state and defy national institutions — including the Supreme Court. Today, this new brand of federalism finds its most accomplished expression in Gujarat; tomorrow, it may be the case in Maharashtra with Raj Thackeray.

      A weak Centre, due to the decline of the Congress and the absence of majoritarian parties, has been good for decentralisation and federalism. But it has also given new space to state leaders who may not comply with the rules of the game any more.

      Christophe Jaffrelot, author of ‘The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics’, is a senior research fellow at CERI, Sciences Po, Paris

      [Also at: http://www.sacw.net/article2557.html%5d

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      9. INDIA: AN EXCUSE CALLED RUSHDIE
      by Salil Tripathi
      =======================================

      http://www.sacw.net/article2511.html

      19 January 2012

      Politicians and clerics offer illusory benefits to Muslims, who want education and jobs. Instead they get quotas, and not skills

      Only one out of every six Muslim children entering an Indian school stays till his matriculation. I use “his” deliberately; the figures are worse for girls—only two out of five Muslim girls enter schools, and fewer than one-tenth complete secondary education. These stark dropout rates explain the malaise affecting Indian Muslims, and unless that’s addressed, all other solutions are ineffective.

      Such low enrolment figures and high dropout rates mean that only one of 25 undergraduate students, and barely one out of 50 postgraduate students in Indian universities, is a Muslim. India defines literacy rather generously, and yet Muslim literacy rate is only 59.1%. According to the Rajinder Sachar committee’s report in 2006, Muslim enrolment at the Indian Institutes of Management was 1.3%, and at the Indian Institutes of Technology, out of 27,161 students, only 894, or some 3.3%, were Muslim.

      Students in the classroom of Darul Uloom madrasa in Deoband. Photograph by Harikrishna Katragadda/Mint.

      The consequence? Inevitably restricted professional opportunities. Just about 5% of applicants for the civil service examinations are Muslim, and of the elite bureaucracy, only 3% of Indian Administrative Services, 1.8% of the Indian Foreign Service, and 4% of the Indian Police Service, are Muslim. The figures improve marginally in other government departments, but only just. Muslims form 4.5% of employees in the railways, and an astonishing 98.7% of them are employed at lower levels. In other departments, such as education, health, and transport, representation varies between 4% and 7% of the total number of employees.

      Lacking education and skills, many Muslim men and women find it hard to get jobs, and many end up being self-employed. While 44% of Muslim women are economically active (in itself a low figure) only 25% work outside their homes. Many men work in small businesses. Such jobs typically have minimal protection—no unions, poor work conditions, limited probability of training or advancement and low wages.

      Even if they become entrepreneurs, credit may be hard to access without paper qualifications. Figures bear that out: the loans that average Muslim borrowers get are smaller than the loans others get. Furthermore, between 2000 and 2006, of the Rs. 266 billion that the Small Industries Development Bank of India disbursed, Muslims received only Rs. 1.24 billion. It could mean shortage of qualified borrowers, less ambitious projects, lower awareness of credit availability among borrowers, or plain old discrimination. The record of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development is similar, with Muslims receiving less than 4% of disbursements.

      Alarmingly, the Sachar committee also reported that some banks had identified places with high concentration of Muslims as “negative geographical areas” where banking services were not easily accessible, nor were there enough roads, bus stops, postal, or medical services.

      The self-evident mathematics should be sufficient to convince any government or political party that magical quick fixes won’t solve the problem. Cosmetic solutions such as reserving jobs for Muslims won’t and can’t change anything—given such dropout rates and low graduation levels, where will the qualified candidates come from? Setting quotas for groups is easy: you keep adding new groups for phantom jobs and keep sub-dividing the stale pie, and then promise further sub-divisions at election time, and attempt to reap rewards at elections. This is how you end up making each group resent the other, as has happened in countless cases since independence.

      Or you invest in improving the quality of primary education, and remove restrictions on non-governmental and private organizations to open schools, so that all deprived children go to schools, and more important, stay there till matriculation. Only then there will be large numbers of qualified Muslim candidates to go to universities, who will later apply for elite universities or jobs, creating a bureaucratic and professional class to administer the country, to run India’s companies, and to go to banks and venture funds with amazing entrepreneurial ideas. Focusing on quotas, as the Congress party has promised in Uttar Pradesh, only feeds the politics of envy and resentment.

      Given such a bleak picture, one would think that Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani, the rector of the Darul Uloom Deoband, would know his chief priority: to ask the government to implement the Sachar report, identify the root causes and fix those, instead of tinkering at the margins. But Nomani seems to have a more pressing concern: keeping Salman Rushdie out of the Jaipur Literature Festival. With politicians offering questionable placebos which have expired use-by dates, and clerics misdiagnosing the disease, is it any wonder that the patient’s condition remains grave?

      In Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Iff tells Haroun how certain things are P2C2E, (process-too-complicated-to-explain). But this process is simple: politicians and clerics gain by keeping the population uninformed. They fight chimeric battles and offer illusory benefits to Muslims, who want education and jobs. Instead they get quotas, and not skills, with the added bonus: to protest Rushdie.

      In case there are disturbances after prayers at the mosque tomorrow in Jaipur or elsewhere, the responsibility will rest with the clerics, the politicians, and the rioters, not the writers.Ah, magic realism.

      Salil Tripathi is a writer based in London. Your comments are welcome at salil@...


      =======================================
      10. INDIA: TIME TO COME OUT
      (Editorial, The Hindu)
      =======================================

      February 25, 2012

      The Centre's embarrassing gaffe in the Supreme Court on Thursday signals one thing clearly — that it will not take a clear and unambiguous position on the issue of decriminalising homosexuality. The Home Ministry's clarification, which distanced itself from the retrograde and irrational positions staked out by the Additional Solicitor General who “unauthorisedly” represented it, is a classic piece of equivocation. It merely reiterates another instance of hedging — the Cabinet decision that the Central government may not file an appeal against the landmark 2009 Delhi High Court judgment, which legalised gay sex between consenting adults. This raises a host of questions. Under whose brief did P.P. Malhotra argue that homosexuality was immoral and posed a risk to public health? More importantly, where exactly does the Centre stand on this issue? Does it subscribe to the Delhi High Court's view that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, inasmuch as it criminalises “consensual sexual acts of adults in private” is ultra vires of the Constitution? Or does it hold, as ASG Malhotra argued, that homosexual behaviour is out of tune with the country's cultural practices?

      In a way, the inconsistency between the ASG's submission and the Home Ministry's press release is hardly surprising. The Centre has spoken in divergent voices on this issue before. When the petition challenging Section 377 was in the Delhi High Court, the Health Ministry favoured decriminalisation; its views were reflected in the affidavit filed by the National Aids Control Organisation, which argued the Section contributed to HIV infection by impeding the access of gays to safe sex. But the Home Ministry appallingly equated homosexuality with “the crime of widow remarriage,” and the Law Ministry, while distancing itself from the MHA's controversial affidavit, claimed, bewilderingly, that scrapping Section 377 would create “a law and order problem.” Although the former Law Minister Veerappa Moily later boldly described Section 377 as an “absurdity in the present day,” the hopes he raised about the Centre's commitment to scrap the provision vanished with calls that a “wide consensus” was needed — euphemism for avoiding a hard decision. This is exactly what the Centre is trying to do now by saying it has not adopted a view on homosexuality but may request its legal advisors to assist the Supreme Court on the issue. Having surrendered good sense on gay rights in the Delhi High Court, the Centre has, in the Supreme Court, surrendered opinion altogether. This fence sitting must end. The state has no right to regulate or ban love or physical intimacy between consenting adults. Why should it be so hard to say that?

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      11. INDIA: 75 YEARS OF BHONSALA MILITARY SCHOOL - MILITARISING MINDS, HINDUTVAISING THE NATION
      by Subhash Gatade
      ======================================

      sacw.net | 9 March 2012

      ..to bring about military regeneration of the Hindus and to fit Hindu youths for undertaking the entire responsibility for the defence of their motherland. to educate them in the ’Sanatan Dharma’, and to train them "in the science and art of personal and national defence"
      (aim of ’Central Hindu Military Education Society,’ NMML, Munje Papers, subject files, n 24, 1932-36)

      This training is meant for qualifying and fitting our boys for the game of killing masses of men with the ambition of winning victory with the best possible causalities (sic) of dead and wounde
      (Message over 64 KB, truncated)
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