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SACW Dispatch | 25 Sept. 00

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Web Dispatch 25 September 2000 http://www.mnet.fr/aiindex xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx #1. India: The Origins & Development of
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      South Asia Citizens Web Dispatch
      25 September 2000
      http://www.mnet.fr/aiindex

      xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

      #1. India: The Origins & Development of Deendar Anjuman (1924-2000)
      #2. India: Platform: Hymn for a swayamsevak
      #3. India: The "Niagara of Visual Gabble"
      #4. India:Citizens call for implementation of Srikrishna panel report
      #5. India: War History as War with History

      -----------------------------------

      #1.

      Between Dialogue and Conflict: The Origins and Development of the Deendar
      Anjuman (1924-2000)

      by Yoginder Sikand

      Introduction

      Between May and July 2000, a series of bombs went off at twelve places of
      worship in different towns in the south Indian states of Andhra Pradesh,
      Karnataka and Goa. Most of these were churches, but a Hindu temple and a
      mosque were also targetted and were badly damaged. Anti-Christian hate
      literature, purported to have been issued by Hindu chauvinist groups, was
      found at the site of many of the blasts. Fingers of suspicion were
      initially pointed at Hindu groups, who have, in recent years, been involved
      in violent attacks on Christians and Christian-owned properties in large
      parts of India. However, in July 2000, the police and Union Home Ministry
      sources claimed to have discovered evidence of a hitherto little-known
      Muslim group, the Deendar Anjuman, in masterminding the blasts, accusing it
      of seeking to provoke further hostility between Hindus and Christians. The
      Indian press gave much publicity to these reports, indeed much more so than
      it had to confirmed evidence of earlier Hindu attacks on Christian churches
      and priests. The manner of reporting about the alleged role of the Deendar
      Anjuman in the incidents strongly suggested that the events were sought to
      be given the image of a Muslim-Christian confrontation or as yet another
      expression and evidence of Muslim ‘terrorism’ and Islamic ‘fundamentalism’.
      Further, the distinct impression was sought to be created that Hindu
      militant groups, whose role in previous attacks on Christians in India had
      been clearly proven, had been all along wrongly blamed, and that behind
      much of the current anti-Christian wave in India was a hidden ‘Islamic’ or
      ‘Pakistani’ hand. For right-wing Hindu organisations, the attacks came as a
      blessing in disguise, which they sought to use to absolve themselves of
      accusations of violent anti-Christian activity in order to salvage their
      sagging public image, which had attracted sharp criticism at home and abroad.
      In the wake of the attacks, many Indian papers went so far as to claim that
      the alleged involvement of the Deendar Anjuman in the incidents was part of
      a larger plot hatched by the Pakistani secret service agency, the
      Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), to instigate Hindu-Christian conflict
      and, thereby, further destabilise India. ‘ISI Twin-Plan: Attack Christians,
      Blame Hindus’, screamed a headline in the influential daily Economic Times,
      accusing the Anjuman of working at the behest of the ISI and the
      Lashkar-i-Taiba, a militant Islamic group based in Pakistan and active in
      the ongoing violence in Kashmir. It was said that the next target of the
      attackers had been the famous Venkateshwara temple at Tirupati in Andhra
      Pradesh, which they had planned to blow up, and thereby trigger of large
      scale communal rioting all over south India. The Home Minister of Andhra
      Pradesh, Devender Goud, claimed that these attacks were merely a prelude to
      a grand conspiracy planned by Deendar Anjuman leaders based in Pakistan to
      launch a jihad against India with a vast army of 9,00,000 Pathans from
      Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, reportedly ‘planned as per the
      dictates of the ISI’. A Union Home Ministry source claimed to have
      discovered ‘significant evidence’ of the Anjuman’s involvement in the
      blasts, and declared that this was part of a sinister campaign to ‘spread
      terror among Christians and hatred between Christians and Hindus’. Echoing
      this view, the influential English fortnightly India Today commented, ‘It
      is clear that the followers of the sect …are now part of a larger game of
      waging jehad against the Hindus and Christians in India…and [their] long
      term goal is to make Indian an Islamic state’. For this purpose, police
      sources claimed, members of the Anjuman had, from 1992 onwards, been
      crossing to Pakistan, ostensibly on pilgrimage, but actually for receiving
      armed training at camps set up by the head of the Anjuman’s Pakistan wing,
      Zia-ul Hasan, son of the founder of the sect, based at Mardan in Pakistan’s
      North-West Frontier Province. Hasan, a Indian newspaper report alleged,
      had been ‘brainwashed’ by the ISI into helping it in its alleged mission
      of ‘destabilising’ India. A special report prepared by the Andhra Pradesh
      police claimed that in 1995, Zia-ul Hasan had ‘hatched a conspiracy to
      disturb communal harmony and the secular fabric of Indian society, thereby
      affecting internal security’. The report accused him of a plot to ‘create
      nifaq (hatred)’ between different communities in India, as a prelude to a
      grand jihad to invade India and convert the Hindus to Islam. As the initial
      stage in this ‘conspiracy’, Indian Anjuman members are claimed to have been
      trained at an Anjuman camp in Pakistan in handling explosives, after which
      they returned to India, and were reportedly involved in the destruction of
      several statues of the Dalit hero Ambedkar at several places in Andhra
      Pradesh, in an effort to instigate conflict between Dalits and the caste
      Hindus. It was alleged that Hasan had paid a visit to Hyderabad in mid-May,
      2000, and at a secret meeting had selected a group of his Indian followers,
      taken them to Pakistan to be given armed training, and sent them back to
      south India to bomb places of worship, so that, as J.Dora, the Director
      General of Police, Andhra Pradesh, put it, with the south torn apart with
      communal rioting, the Anjuman, leading an army of almost a million Pathans
      from Pakistan, could invade India from the north some time in 2001. An
      arrested member of the Anjuman is said to have revealed to the police
      during his interrogation that Zia-ul Hasan had announced to his followers
      that, ‘The time had come for attacking Hindustan and that everybody should
      be ready to give up their lives [sic.] and become a mujahid’. He had
      allegedly promised them that all of India would soon turn Muslim. In the
      wake of these allegations, the Indian government came out with a statement
      asking its intelligence agencies to expose the ‘grand design’ of the
      Anjuman to ‘foment communal tension in the country’ with what it alleged to
      be the ‘active support’ of the ISI. The Indian Home Minister, L.K.Advani,
      declared that the Government of India was contemplating a ban on the sect.
      Predictably, leaders of the Deendar Anjuman based at the group’s
      headquarters in Hyderabad (Deccan) strongly rebutted the allegations
      levelled against them. They asserted that the Anjuman had nothing to do
      with the forty persons said to be responsible for the attacks, almost all
      members of the Anjuman, who were later taken into police custody. The
      acting president of the Anjuman, the eighty year-old Maulana Muhammad Usman
      ‘Ali Mallana, declared that his organisation ‘strongly condemned any such
      activity that would hurt the religious sensibilities of people’ and offered
      to co-operate with the police in tracking down the attackers. He went on to
      add that the Anjuman firmly ‘believes in peace, brotherhood, tranquillity,
      tolerance and communal harmony among the followers of various religions’,
      and that it had full respect for the law of the land and the Indian
      Constitution. He claimed that the Anjuman was itself set up for the purpose
      of promoting brotherhood, unity and understanding between people of various
      different faiths, and that this it had always been doing, using strictly
      peaceful means such as organising inter-religious dialogue conferences.
      Given this history of the sect, Mallana claimed that the members of the
      Deendar Anjuman ‘are the last persons to preach hatred or intolerance’. He
      also categorically denied any association with the ISI, and said that
      allegations of the Anjuman’s links with it and of its involvement in the
      attacks were ‘a conspiracy’ to defame the group. He claimed that it was the
      CIA that had possibly masterminded the blasts. Some Anjuman members
      commented that their success in winning converts to their version of Islam
      had won them the wrath of the Indian establishment and that the entire
      controversy about the blasts was simply a means to defame them and put a
      halt to the spread of their faith.
      Just as the various reports of the involvement of the Anjuman in the blasts
      presented contradictory images, so, too, did reports about the nature,
      history and identity of the organisation. Several Muslim groups denied that
      the Deendar Anjuman was Muslim at all, for the sect believes that Allah and
      the Hindu Ishwar are one and so are Imam ‘Ali and the Hindu god Ganesh. The
      Amir-i-Shari‘at of Karnataka, Mufti Ashraf ‘Ali, reiterated a fifteen
      year-old fatwa declaring the founder of the Anjuman as a kafir and well
      outside the pale of Islam for having claimed that he was the incarnation
      (avatar) of a Hindu deity, Channabasaveswara. Some described it as a
      strange, and, in many ways, unique syncretistic cult, drawing upon Islam as
      well as local religious and cultural traditions. According to one
      newspaper account, it was ‘a concoction of Hinduism and Islam’ which was
      ‘not acceptable to a large number of Muslims’ because it believed that
      ‘Allah and Om were the same’. According to another version, it represented
      ‘a strange alchemy of religion and mysticism’, ‘propagating the concept of
      the universal appeal of all religions’ and ‘giving a new meaning to the
      principle of showing mutual respect and peaceful co-existence’. It was
      portrayed as ‘a fighting team taming the rising communal passions’,
      preaching ‘harmony and peace’ between followers of different religions, and
      ‘doing yeoman service in bridging the differences based on religion, race,
      caste and colour’. Likewise, according to another report, it was a group
      based on ‘liberal teachings’, representing a ‘syncretic culture’. For their
      part, the Anjuman authorities based in Hyderabad claimed that the main
      focus of the community ever since its founding some three-quarters of a
      century ago, had always been to ‘propagate peace and harmony’ and asserted
      that never in its history had the Anjuman ever been ‘involved in
      controversies’. They maintained that the organisation had ‘never indulged
      in activities detrimental to mankind’. A report prepared by the Andhra
      Pradesh police presented quite a different image of the Anjuman, describing
      it as ‘a highly fanatical and shrewd Muslim militant organisation’, with
      its ‘sole objective’ being ‘to Islamise India through proselytisation and
      preaching’. The Anjuman was said to have ‘cleverly masked its hatred
      towards other religions under the guise of universal peace and
      brotherhood’, using this as a cover to carry on with its agenda of
      Islamising India. In a similar vein, the Andhra Pradesh Home Minister,
      echoing the views of senior police officials, claimed that the Anjuman’s
      annual inter-religious dialogue and peace conferences and other such
      activities were simply a ‘guise’, under which, he declared, ‘the
      organisation planned to spread terror through violence and incite communal
      trouble in the state and in other parts of the country’.

      These widely differing representations of the Anjuman clearly point to the
      fact that little seems to be actually known about the group. This article
      seeks to unravel several complex issues involved in the present controversy
      in which the Anjuman has been implicated. While it is not possible, for
      lack of any firm evidence, to ascertain whether or not the Anjuman has
      actually been involved in the recent bomb attacks in south India, a
      critical analysis of the history of the group can provide critical insights
      into how the Anjuman has tended to perceive other religious groups and how
      it has sought to relate to them over time. This could provide valuable
      clues to as to the how the group today sees its place in and engages with
      the contemporary Indian context of religious pluralism, which is being
      increasingly challenged by the rise of ethnic and religious chauvinist
      groups. In particular, the Anjuman’s own inter-religious dialogue project
      is closely looked at, to see what this entails as regards the group’s
      relations with members of other religious communities. Is this project
      geared to the creation of universal brotherhood and love between people of
      all faiths, as the Anjuman authorities insist it is, or is it simply a
      cover-up for a political agenda or for Islamic proselytisation, as Indian
      police and newspaper accounts suggest? Focusing on the Anjuman’s peculiar
      doctrinal positions which mark it as quite distinct from other Muslim
      groups, this article traces the origins and development of the Anjuman in
      early twentieth century south India and, in the process, looks at the ways
      in which it has sought to position itself vis-à-vis other groups, Muslim as
      well as Hindu. This examination of the historical development of the
      Anjuman might help shed some light on the present controversy.
      The central argument that this article seeks to advance is that the
      genesis and the development of the Deendar Anjuman cannot be seen apart
      from the charged political context of the 1920s when it was founded, a
      period of intense hostility and conflict between Muslim and Hindu groups.
      Indeed, the setting up of the Anjuman in 1924 by Siddiq Hussain, the
      founder of the Anjuman, is said to have been a response to the shuddhi
      movement of the Arya Samaj, in the course of which several thousand Muslims
      in north India are believed to have been brought into the Hindu fold. At
      this juncture, Siddiq Hussain publicly declared that he had been appointed
      by God as the incarnation of the Hindu deity Channabasveswara to bring all
      Hindus to Islam. From then on till his death in 1952 he was actively
      involved in efforts to spread Islam in south India, presenting Islam as a
      fulfilment of Hinduism rather than as a completely separate religion. In
      the course of his missionary work he came into conflict with other Muslim
      groups who suspected the Islamic credentials of the peculiar claims that he
      put forward for himself. He was also confronted with stiff opposition from
      various Hindu groups, particularly the Lingayats, the Arya Samajists and
      the Sanatanists, for his religious views and his missionary activities.
      Indeed, it can be said, contrary to what Anjuman authorities have claimed
      in response to allegations about their involvement in the recent bomb
      blasts, that conflict with other groups, rather than peaceful co-operation,
      has been a characteristic feature of much of the history of the Anjuman.
      Although the organising of an annual inter-religious conference became a
      regular feature of the Anjuman as early as in 1929, such activities must be
      seen as part of a broader agenda. In this way, the Anjuman’s
      inter-religious dialogue work, which its leaders today present as proof of
      their commitment to inter-religious harmony, was seen as just another means
      for combating rival religions, including, implicitly, rival expressions of
      Islam, and asserting its own claims to truth. In other words, this article
      argues that conflict has been a defining feature of the Anjuman, a
      pervasive feature of the life of its founder, although in the period after
      1947 this has taken on less overt forms in order to carry on with the
      mission of Siddiq Hussain in the changed political context.

      [The next part of the above article continues in the SACW dispatch of 26
      September 2000]

      _____

      #2.

      Hindustan Times
      25 September 2000
      Op-Ed.

      PLATFORM: HYMN FOR A SWAYAMSEVAK

      by Amulya Ganguli

      By allowing Hindu hymns to be chanted before Vajpayee’s address in the US
      Congress, Washington has unwittingly acknowledged that being Hindu is the
      same as being Indian.

      Though understandable because there is a BJP-led coalition in power in
      India, it is difficult to approve of the chanting of Hindu hymns in the US
      Congress before Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s address to its
      members. India is not a Hindu country.

      It is a country where Hindus are in a majority but it is also a country of
      Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, tribals who follow
      their ancient customs and many others including the different sects of the
      main religions. It is also the birthplace of as many as three religions —
      Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism — a unique heritage.

      It was to underscore this very diversity that Gandhiji initiated the
      practice of recitals from the holy books of all the major faiths in his
      ashram. It is a custom which is still followed in Rajghat on the day of his
      martyrdom. Since the practice of identifying a country, or its Prime
      Minister, with a religion is a theocratic one and totally antithetical to
      secularism, which is the creed enshrined in the Indian Constitution, it is
      odd that a Hindu priest should have been invited for an invocation in the
      US Congress.

      Recently, the BJP’s new president told the foreign correspondents’ club in
      New Delhi that they should not describe his party as ‘Hindu nationalist’,
      as is the custom with Westerners. If the BJP genuinely wants to shed the
      appellation, it means that it is beginning to realise that the label is not
      in keeping with the modern concept of a party representing all communities
      and not just one religious group.

      If so, a country should be even more reluctant to be associated with one
      religion, as the invitation to a Hindu priest by the US Congress suggested.
      For all its latest efforts however, the BJP, at least in the minds of its
      ardent supporters, is known to be a champion of Hindus. The Sangh parivar,
      to which it belongs, is even more so. There is also a clever attempt by
      both to propagate the view that the terms — Indian, Bharatiya and Hindu —
      are interchangeable in the sense that, in the ultimate analysis, the Indian
      mind is governed by the Hindu ethos.

      The theory does contain a grain of truth. After all, nowhere else but in
      the subcontinent are there two Muslim countries which have had women prime
      ministers, something which is unthinkable in, say, Saudi Arabia or
      Afghanistan. The only exception is Turkey which can be said to be under the
      influence of a secular or Christian ethos.

      What is no less distinctive is the cultural proximity of the Hindus and
      Muslims in the various regions of India. Bangladesh broke away from West
      Pakistan because it felt culturally closer to Bengal than to Punjab. But it
      is one thing to speak the same language or prefer the same food or like the
      same kind of music or have fewer inhibitions regarding the role of the
      sexes, and quite another to suggest that such similarities obliterate their
      religious differences.

      All that it shows is that in the midst of differences, there are
      similarities, and that in the midst of similarities, there are differences
      — the essence of any multicultural society. Any attempt in this context to
      fit them all in one straitjacket, or to assert that one culture or religion
      is the dominant one, will be both wrong and disastrous.

      In any event, the cultural predispositions of all communities evolve and
      change as a result of interaction with others. It is axiomatic that the
      Indian or Bharatiya or even Hindu culture is an admixture of various
      influences just as the Indian race is the product of the various racial
      groups that have lived in the subcontinent from time immemorial.

      As mentioned by Professor Suniti Kumar Chatterjee in his collection of
      essays on the social and religious aspects of the Indian civilisation,
      these groups included the Negritos, believed to be the oldest inhabitants
      of India, the Austric whose language survives among the Kols and the
      Khasis, the proto-Australoids, the Dravidians, the Aryans and the
      Sino-Tibetan. The intermixing among them has been so close that their
      original identities have been nearly obliterated. Today, they are all
      Indians and no one group can claim primacy over the others.

      It is the BJP’s emphasis, however, on India’s Hindu identity which has made
      Singapore’s former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew say that India is ‘less
      secular’ today than before. It is this impression which probably persuaded
      the US Congress to invite a Hindu priest for an invocation before
      Vajpayee’s speech. It is unlikely that it would have done so at the time of
      any other Indian Prime Minister.

      In all of Jawaharlal Nehru’s speeches, a constant theme was how the
      presence of various religions enriched the Indian heritage. The focus was
      on India’s traditional assimilative culture.

      After noting that “the history of India has been one of assimilation and
      synthesis of the various elements that have come in”, Nehru said after the
      outbreak of communal violence in the aftermath of Partition that “it is
      perhaps because we tried to go against the trend of the country’s history
      that we are faced with this”.

      In addition to the ‘trend’ noted by Nehru, the unifying culture was also a
      mantra with those fighting for independence because unity among all
      communities was indispensable in the struggle against a foreign raj.

      If the RSS stayed away from the freedom movement, it is because its concept
      of a Hindu rashtra had no place for non-Hindu communities. As a member of
      the RSS-led Sangh parivar, the Jan Sangh and its successor, the BJP, have
      subscribed to this sectarian thesis. The BJP did so till the end of
      Vajpayee’s first 13 days as Prime Minister in 1996 when it realised that
      its divisive agenda will prevent other parties from joining hands with it
      in forming a coalition.

      Since then, as an expedient measure adopted temporarily for tactical
      reasons, the BJP has kept its Hindutva agenda on hold. But its soul remains
      with the RSS. Despite its lack of acquaintance with the intricacies of the
      Indian scene, the US Congress has acknowledged this link almost instinctively.
      ______

      #3.

      [The following article appeared in The Telegraph on Sept. 11, 2000.]

      THE "NIAGARA OF VISUAL GABBLE"
      By Achin Vanaik

      What does the extraordinary popularity of Kaun Banega Crorepati (the Indian
      equivalent of How to Become a Millionaire)on the Star channel in Indian
      Television say about our culture and society today? We have long had elite
      or 'high' culture, grassroots or folk culture, with 'popular' culture,
      spatially speaking, somewhere in-between. But it is in the twentieth
      century when the infrastructure of mass communications emerges, that a mass
      culture makes its appearance. The first great products of this mass culture
      were dance and music, movies, and spectator sports. In the latter half of
      the twentieth century two developments were crucial in influencing the
      direction taken by certain forms of mass culture - the invention of
      television and the dramatic expansion of the capitalist market.

      With it came the mass culture of consumerism and the world of fashion as
      the site providing differentiating values between high and low taste much
      as the mass production of books, journals, newspapers, etc. a century
      earlier had required similar forms of cultural differentiation between high
      and low-brow literature. But it was television, especially the emergence of
      colour television, that has played the decisive role in creating what has
      been called the 'society of spectacle'. The social imaginary is now
      saturated with visual images as never before. The two great
      world-transforming inventions of the twentieth century (in the sense of
      most dramatically transforming the lives of ordinary people) have been the
      motor-car and television. Both together have created a very new kind of
      'mobile privatisation'.

      The radio was a tremendous breakthrough providing information and
      entertainment regardless of levels of educational qualification. But
      precisely because radio listening can be the background to a whole range of
      everyday activities from eating to working to travelling to relaxing it
      does not command the sole attention of the eye and mind in the way that the
      print media did for the reader. What television does is to combine these
      powers of radio and print many times over. It commands attention in a way
      that nothing else does. But precisely because the basic setting for viewing
      is the home, it reinforces a particular form of spectatorship - private and
      passive. If it is now undeniable that television has become the principal
      medium of public conversation, easily outpacing the print media or the
      public meeting in this respect, it says much about the limitations of this
      'conversation' that it is neither inter-active nor truly collective.

      With the emergence of television, the arts of the centuries can no longer
      dream of competing in regard to the sheer volume and variety of images
      created and circulated. Television provides an unprecedented torrent of
      images. But these are not just images. They carry messages and therefore
      those who control the production and transmission of these images and
      messages can aspire to inordinate social and ideological power. Any hopes
      that television would be a powerful educative and democratising instrument
      given the sheer numbers of its viewers have long since dissipated in the
      West and Japan. Compared to the serious print media, such is the dominant
      impact of the visual images on the TV screen that analysis and systematic
      argument are firmly subordinated to its power. News, politics and knowledge
      is encapsulated, personalised and trivialised; sustained argument something
      to be avoided if the attention of large audiences is to be sustained.

      Even so, there could have been a better balance between
      informative/educational functions and those of entertainment. A new
      technology may open up all kinds of potentials and possibilities. But it is
      always the already existing social relations of power in which it is
      embedded that will decide what potentials will actually be pursued,
      deepened and fulfilled. A predominantly commercial society in which market
      values are paramount will find television run according to the same
      principles. No wonder television in the advanced democracies has been
      described by one perceptive critic, Robert Hughes, as central to the
      creation of the "Niagara of visual gabble".

      However, as long as some kind of ideological or practical check existed on
      the market mechanism, market values could only make so much headway. Once
      the Communist alternative collapsed and the social democratic ideal of a
      full-employment and welfare-state economy withered in the nineties there
      was nothing left to prevent the more or les comprehensive marriage of the
      society of spectacle with unbridled market values to create a new kind of
      mass culture of both consumerism and spectacle. The writing was on the
      wall in the early eighties. Television everywhere became primarily
      entertainment oriented and commercially dependent on advertising revenues
      with advertising itself no longer oriented to providing anything so limited
      as information about the claimed superiority of the product. It was now
      oriented to providing stimulating images that suggested the purchase of
      nothing less than a desirable lifestyle. This is no longer consumerism as
      one of the means to the good life but as a great deal of the good, the
      value, and the meaning of life itself!

      In advanced industrial democracies where mass poverty does not mean tens of
      millions malnourished, the pre-eminent cultural impact of this marriage,
      howsoever distressing, is far less so than in India where this marriage has
      produced a truly ugly offspring - the mind-set of the Indian middle class
      of the nineties and the new post-millennium decade. KBC is so popular
      because it so clearly expresses the character and dominant values of this
      class. It is not for the villages but for the towns. To participate you
      have to be able to read English even if you need not be much good at
      speaking it. KBC's advertising sponsors (the source of the prize money)
      know their target buying audiences and it isn't the rural or urban poor.
      This is not the Amitabh Bachchan purveying heroic dreams or entertaining
      the cinema-goer of all classes but the designer-clothed compere and host
      impressing the middle-class with his face-to-face accessibility and his
      cosmopolitan fluency in both Hindi and English. And best of all, education
      and knowledge has never been so starkly reduced to the functional - not so
      much a goal or value in itself but a means to what is most important, the
      acquisition of great wealth.

      The problem with all quizzing is that intelligence and knowledge is reduced
      to the ability to mentally accumulate and remember discrete facts; it is
      trivialised and this trivialisation celebrated. But KBC touches a new low
      in this respect as well. Most shows of the question-answer format which
      offer high sums of money have, till recently, demanded some reasonable
      level of both specialised and general knowledge. Some like Mastermind cut
      the cord between such quizzing expertise and monetary reward altogether.
      KBC disconnects productivity and merit from reward as never before
      maintaining only the bare semblance of such a link. Of course, that
      semblance is critical for without it the programme would be seen as a
      lottery where pure luck is all. What KBC does is to combine greed (the
      monies offered are enormous by Indian standards) with an unparalleled
      degree of accessibility to the middle class. All that is required to
      achieve a considerable measure of monetary success is a certain everyday
      familiarity with Bollywood, sports, Hindu religious epics, and cursory
      newspaper reading.

      Indeed, just one form of single-minded preparation suffices: dedicated TV
      watching can itself provide most of what you need to know to succeed on the
      programme. KBC's producers and supporters are correct when they say they
      are simply giving what their viewers want and what is wrong with that?
      However, they are not simply mirroring the pre-eminent values of the new
      Indian middle class they are also celebrating and legitimising them. KBC is
      television applauding itself: the spectacle celebrating the society
      marriage that has brought together the market and the spectacle and asks of
      us that we wish this union the longest of lives.


      _____

      #4.

      Times of India
      25 September 2000

      Mumbai

      CITIZENS CALL FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF SRIKRISHNA PANEL REPORT

      By A Staff Reporter

      MUMBAI: At a public meeting held at K.C. College, Churchgate, on Sunday,
      survivors of the 1993 riots recounted their stories of loss and trauma,
      while prominent citizens urged the state government to fulfil its promise
      by implementing the Srikrishna Commission's report on the riots.

      For the January 1993 riots, the commission had held the Shiv Sena and its
      leaders responsible for fomenting trouble as well as indicted 31 policemen
      for complicity in the violence.

      However, the Sena-BJP coalition government which was in power when the
      report was submitted, in its action-taken report (ATR), summarily rejected
      the commission's findings on grounds that it was ``biased and one-sided''.
      Following this, a spate of public interest litigations were filed in the
      high court and Supreme court demanding implementation of the report.

      The reigning Democratic Front government, in its election manifesto last
      year promised to implement the commission's recommendations. ``We had hopes
      from this government, but they too have been procrastinating for nearly a
      year,'' said retired judge Suresh Hosbet.

      In fact, as speakers at the meeting pointed out, in the government's
      affidavit in the Supreme Court this month, the state echoed the Sena- BJP
      stance when it absolved 12 of the indicted policemen. ``The commission said
      even junior police officers had shown prejudice against the minority
      community. But the state, in its affidavit, has praised the Mumbai police
      for its ``secular, impartial and free-from-bias character'','' said Mr Akthar.

      ``Similarly, the report held R.D. Tyagi (who later became police
      commissioner) responsible for the death of nine members of the minority
      community in a police firing. But the ATR condoned it, saying he was only
      discharging his duties,'' said Mr Akthar. In the recent affidavit, the
      state said since Mr Tyagi had retired, he was not liable for prosecution.

      Film clips of victims and witnesses were shown at the meeting, as well as a
      recording of a police radio message, purporting to show the bias of the
      police.

      ``As many as 1,300 criminal cases, many undetected, have been whittled down
      to just 112 cases,'' said Mr Akthar. According to him, the injured in the
      riots numbered 2,036, and the missing at least 500.

      However, the meeting ended on a note of hope as editor of Communalism
      Combat, Teesta Setalvad said Justice J.S. Verma of the National Human
      Rights Commission would grant a hearing to the riot victims soon. ``We will
      send him a tape of testimonies from riot victims,'' she said. Many members
      in the audience also spontaneously rose to offer donations for the newly
      formed Citizens Watchdog Committe, created to help riot victims and put
      pressure on the government to implement the report. The committee will
      include former cabinet secretary B.G. Deshmukh, former BMC head S.S.
      Tinaikar and is also open to members of the public.

      _____

      #5.

      Times of India
      25 September 2000
      Interview

      WAR WITH HISTORY

      S N Prasad is the general editor of the official history of the 1965
      Indo-Pak war that was suppressed by the government. Obtained by this
      newspaper, the document is now posted on the Internet (timesofindia.com) in
      a special series titled `Lost Victory'. Prasad, who retired as director of
      the National Archives in 1979, began his career as a senior research
      officer in the inter-services historical section of India and Pakistan.
      Later he became director of the historical section of the ministry of
      defence and edited the official history of the 1947- 48 operations in Jammu
      & Kashmir that was completed in early 1950s but published only in 1984. In
      1983 he was recalled from retirement and asked to research the
      Indo-Pakistan war of 1971. After completing it he went on to prepare the
      official histories of the Sino-Indian war of 1962 and the 1965 war.
      However, as Prasad reveals in an interview to Manoj Joshi, all these works
      have been suppressed by the government:

      Why has the publication of the histories been delayed?

      The services have cleared it and were happy to have them published and
      wanted to use them in their training establishments. But the civilian part
      of the government in the defence ministry and even more so the external
      affairs ministry opposed publication without giving any convincing reasons.

      Why should they (MEA) object to their publication?

      There was a meeting of the secretaries committee in the early 1990s to
      discuss the subject. The objection to the 1965 war history was merely on
      the grounds that the MEA wanted to do some ``retouching'' of some small
      sections relating to external affairs.

      Regarding the 1962 war with China, the MEA argued that the publication of
      this ``half forgotten episode'' would be an irritant in our newly emerging
      cordiality with China. About the Bangladesh war, they perhaps were on
      stronger grounds because it deals with the entire gamut of the national
      effort -- intelligence, Mukti Bahini and so on which perhaps should not
      have been revealed.

      But doesn't the public have the right to know what happened in the past?

      Of course, actually there is a law, the Public Records Act, which says that
      all government records, once they become 30 years old, should not only be
      transferred to the National Archives, but should also be made available to
      bona fide researchers.

      But what happens in real life?

      Even the 1962 war records have not yet been processed or handed over to the
      National Archives. Actually they are expected to reach the archives when
      they are 25 years old and at the archives it takes another five years to
      reference and index them. Then at the end of 30 years it makes them
      available to scholars.

      [The remaining text of he interview is available at
      http://www.timesofindia.com/today/25intw1.htm ]

      _____________________________________________
      South Asia Citizens Web Dispatch (SACW) is an
      informal, independent & non-profit citizens wire service
      run by South Asia Citizens Web (http://www.mnet.fr/aiindex)
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