SACW | 1 June, 2003
Sun, 1 Jun 2003 04:08:20 +0100
South Asia Citizens Wire | 1 June, 2003
In Defence of the Indian Historian Romila Thapar
- The Violence of Peace (Ahilan Kadirgamar)
- May issue of Lines
#2. Pakistan :
- Pakistan is losing the fight against fundamentalism (Isabel Hilton)
- Obscurantism on the move (Aqil Shah)
- MMA links LFO acceptance to Islamization (Ahmed Hassan)
- MMA's cat is out of the bag (Editorial, Daily Times)
- Pakistan's Mullahs attack circus as 'un-islamic' (Adnan Adil)
#3. A South Asian union of independent states (Ishtiaq Ahmed)
#4. Blockade of South Asia Tribune web site by the Pakistan
Government: How to beat the ban from Pakistan
#5. A failure India cannot afford (Praful Bidwai)
#6. The destruction of pluralist India : The three books under review
#7. Indian HIV+ Patients Move Court Against Healthcare System (Kalyani)
#8. India: Big Brother's Invading Your Privacy via 'location based'
The Violence of Peace
-- Ahilan Kadirgamar
The last few months in Lanka have been tumultuous to say the least,
as a dangerous trajectory of a renewed culture of violence is taking
root. A violence that is both physical and structural. The LTTE has
recently carried out a number of assassinations. There is renewed
rampage in the East, as thousands of Muslims have been displaced. The
Sri Lankan state in turn has chosen to ignore such violence in the
interest of pursuing its own agenda of a peace that is good for
business; polices that are in the realm of economic violence. While a
new dawn for peace was welcomed by all early last year, its outcome
might be deceptive as argued by many contributors to this magazine.
It is becoming an illusive peace, providing cover for the LTTE to
attack its perceived enemies and strength to the Southern ruling
class to cynically pursue its own power interests.
In the last thirty odd years of state repression, heightened ethnic
tension, militarization of society and outright war, there were many
paths taken that are deeply regrettable. Such paths have led to the
creation of violent sub-cultures. A culture of economic violence, a
culture of 'traitor' killings, a culture of ethnic cleansing and a
culture of fear all flowing out of crucial steps taken by the Sri
Lankan state, political forces in the South and Tamil political
In the realm of structural and economic violence, one of the major
steps in tandem with the ethnic conflict was the open economy
policies brought by the UNP in 1977, with arrogant disregard for
questions of social justice. Such an environment of arrogant power
led to the sacking in 1980 of 80,000 teachers on strike and
macro-economic policies leading to the pauperization of larger
sections of the lower classes. An intensified system of patronage
contributed to the ethnic pogrom of 1983, which targeted and
destroyed Tamil businesses. What was violence aimed at the Tamil
community spread to the South, with the reign of terror during the
second JVP insurrection. The logical conclusion of such a destructive
trajectory was a war economy, where production and consumption went
hand in hand with murder and massacre.
In the North, a dangerous politics of labeling and marginalizing
individuals as 'traitors' was escalated further by the assassination
of Mayor Duraiappah in 1975 and the murder of St. John's College
principal Anandarajah in 1985. These were the first steps that led to
a culture of 'traitor killings'. Such targeted killings multiplied
into the thousands including committed activists such as Rajani
Thiranagama, Selvi, Santhathiyar, Manoharan and Kanthaswamy to name a
In response to indiscriminate massacres of civilians by the Sri
Lankan state, the LTTE massacred Sinhalese villagers for the first
time in 1985. That step was followed by the decimation of other Tamil
militant groups and then the massacre and expulsion of Tamil speaking
Muslims by the LTTE. It eventually led to the repression of all
dissent, of both individuals and the community as a whole, as a
culture of fear took over. A culture of fear that eventually
restricted everyday life and crippled civil administration to private
The dual history of violence noted above is a familiar story.
Nevertheless, the current trend in Lanka seems to warrant learning
two lessons from its tragic history. First, certain crucial steps
lead to spiraling escalation in an irreversible direction. Second,
the impact of policies/violence restricted to a particular section of
society can come back to haunt all of society.
In that context, the recent LTTE assassination of rival political
activists and others is a dangerous step. Numerous cases of political
opponents, Tamil Army personal, former LTTE members, Tamil and Muslim
civilians targeted and murdered by the LTTE since the ceasefire, have
been documented by human rights activists. Not only is this a grave
violation of the ceasefire, it's a calculated step in the direction
of a renewed cycle of violence and suppression of dissent. Some may
argue that the militant groups in question or the Tamil army
personnel are not without their own history of violence. Such
arguments however, can only feed the cycle of violence. While past
violations of human rights by all actors have to be addressed, the
present cycle of murder has to be dealt with immediately and
resisted. Furthermore, in the interest of honesty, it should be noted
that many living in the North and East believe this renewed cycle of
violence has already gone beyond the point of no return. That such
violence has become pervasive in Tamil society, characterized not
only by assassinations, but the horrendous violence of child
conscription, extortion aimed at businesses and intimidation of
ordinary people by the LTTE.
On the other hand, the Sri Lankan state is rapidly pushing through
financial and labor reform supported by its vision of a peace that is
good for business. Its abdication to the violence engendering
policies of the World Bank, are showing signs of what is in store for
the people. Cost of living is already rising as the impact is
beginning to be felt by society at large. Finally, such policies have
the character of irreversibility as bondage to the multilateral
financial institutions is assured through the debt cycle.
During the last few decades, both the physical brutality of war and
economic deprivation were figured into the cost of saving the nation
and nation building. The vision of a Sinhala-Buddhist dominated
nation in the South and the vision of a liberated Tamil nation in the
North were the war cries, which justified both the crushing of
dissent and poverty inducing policies. Ironically, during the last
year, it is peace and the continuance of the peace process that is
used to dismiss the new round of violence. What is a murder here or
there the people are told, as long as the war does not resume and the
peace process continues. Similarly, the state's World Bank dictated
vision of narrow development is rationalized as a precondition for
peace. Hence a crooked ideology of peace (not a democratic vision of
peace) has now displaced war and nation for not addressing a culture
It is the responsibility of all sections of society to condemn and
resist the onslaught of this renewed culture of violence, before such
destructive steps consume all of society. There is very little
substantive debate or constructive criticism from the political
formations, whether it is the TNA, LTTE, other Tamil militant groups,
PA, JVP or UNP. All of them are merely concerned about manipulating
the populace for future electoral gains, control and power. Finally,
speaking of the illusion of peace is not a rejection of the peace
process. The breathing room coming out of the ceasefire has led not
only to the ceasing of large guns, but even pockets of people's
resistance. Such resistance has to be supported wholeheartedly to
counter the authoritarian and technocratic policies, targeted
killings and a renewed culture of fear. It is such resistance that
can lead to a democratic peace. It is not a question of war or peace,
rather what kind of peace.
Current Issue: May 2003
=46rom Berlin to Bonn to Baghdad - Vasuki Nesiah
Averages and Outrages - Nanthikesan
The Violence of Peace - Ahilan Kadirgamar
Man-Made Laws and Feminie Feelings - Yasmine Tambiah
Displaced Women - Sophia Elek
Assessment of Needs in the Conflict Affected Areas =F1 M. Saravananda
Who Wins the Neo-Liberal Peace (Part 2)? - Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake
Gujarat Revisited - Jean Dreze
Out of Line(s): Guest Column
Trickling Up - Anika
Q&A with Lionel Bopage
Q&A with Kethesh Loganathan
Lines off the Web
Buddhist Monks (Bhikkus) and Peace in Sri Lanka - C.R. De Silva
'Imagining Karma' - Pradeep Jaganathan
Against Race - Nilanjana Bhattacharya
Secularism Debate - Lawrence Liang
May 29, 2003
Pakistan is losing the fight against fundamentalism
Sharia law is back - and spells disaster for Musharraf's secular vision
When Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, gave his support to the US in
its war on Afghanistan 20 months ago, he took a calculated risk: he was
confronting his country's conservative religious lobby in a stand-off that
would determine whether Pakistan became a modern, outward-looking democracy
or a reactionary Islamic republic. There were protests as the war began, but
on the whole Musharraf seemed to get away with it: when it came down to it,
it seemed, even devout Muslims in Pakistan had doubts about government by
Today, with religious parties dominant in Pakistan's parliament and the
introduction of sharia law imminent in the North-West Frontier Province, the
question seems less clear-cut: is the NWFP a harbinger of more general
religious militancy, or a special case, unrelated to the rest of Pakistan?
The NWFP has always been beyond the reach of central government. The British
failed to subdue it and left it as a political no-man's land, a buffer
between the Raj and the uncertainties of Afghanistan. The Pakistani state
did no better, adopting almost unchanged the British policy of neglect and a
tacit acceptance of the limits of federal law.
The result was a backward region that remained poverty-stricken. Outside the
cities, government investment was negligible, and social and economic
structures remained tribal. In the absence of economic development, people
survived as best they could, dealing in arms and drugs, smuggling people and
goods. Until last year's election, though, even this deeply conservative
province had not elected a religious government. Two things changed that:
the war in Afghanistan and the manipulation of the election by Musharraf
=46or the Pashtun people in the NWFP, the war in Afghanistan recalled the
Soviet invasion of Afghanistan - another example of outsiders trespassing on
Muslim tribal territory. The volunteers who flooded into Afghanistan to
fight on the Taliban side testified to the fact that Pashtun people have, in
their view, the historic right to rule Afghanistan, and have never forgotten
that Afghanistan once ruled in the NWFP.
When the Taliban collapsed, the fugitives - as Afghan President Karzai still
complains - found ready shelter in the NWFP. Even if traditional codes had
not dictated the provision of sanctuary, clan feeling would have. Even so,
Pashtun people are fairly pragmatic. Had Afghanistan flourished after the
overthrow of the Taliban, the appeal of fundamentalist parties might have
paled before the example of secular prosperity. But the victors in
Afghanistan seemed perversely disinclined to learn the lessons of history.
In the early 1990s, the US lost interest in Afghanistan after the Soviet
withdrawal. The chaos of warlordism and civil war eventually gave birth to
the Taliban. After the Taliban collapsed, it was meant to be different.
Afghanistan, though, is last year's story. The return of the warlords, the
weakness of the Karzai government, the disaffection of Pashtun people who
have been marginalised from power, the failure of the reconstruction effort
to effect any material improvement - none of this seems important in
Washington. Once again Afghanistan is lawless, its roads are dangerous and
western promises have not been honoured.
In the NWFP, Musharraf's support of the US was taken as betrayal, and
nothing has altered the conviction that the Afghan war was a war against
Islam. For the western television viewer, that war is over - replaced by
images of victory. On the ground, in the NWFP and in southern Afghanistan,
armed confrontations continue between Pashtun fighters on both sides of the
border and US-led forces who are still trying to subdue what they
characterise as al-Qaida and Taliban resistance.
With every armed encounter, local resentment grows. If Pashtun people felt
betrayed by Musharraf's support for the US, they had their revenge in the
elections. Musharraf wanted to ensure the continuation of his power and
banned the main secular opposition figures, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.
=46or months his government tried to create alternative parties more friendl=
to a new constitution that gave the army and president a hold on power in
perpetuity. Their efforts backfired and resulted in the largest showing ever
for religious parties in Pakistan.
There was never any ambiguity about the ambitions of the Muttahida
Majlis-e-Amal, the religious coalition that won in the NWFP. One of its
first acts in provincial government was to ban music on public transport.
>From those modest beginnings, it has hacked through a small forest of
personal liberties: police squads tearing down cinema posters depicting
actresses; raids on cinemas; videotapes and music cassettes burned; bars
with permits to sell alcohol to foreigners closed down. Religious fanatics
in the provincial congress compete to introduce measures to restrict women:
one MP is trying to make purdah compulsory; another has targeted sport for
women and schoolgirls.
Encouraged by this, vigilantes have been operating unchecked. In January,
cable TV operators shut down in protest at the provincial government's
failure to offer protection after 40 men rampaged through the premises of
one operator in Peshawar, destroying millions of rupees worth of equipment.
Later that month, Fazal Wahab, well known locally as the author of books
attacking Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, was shot dead in Mingora.
Now, with the formal introduction of sharia law, the path is clear for
official religious vigilantes. If these measures have struck horror in
Peshawar's liberals, they are crowd-pleasers to a province that already
largely lives by a conservative clan code of justice.
The actions of the NWFP provincial assembly have symbolic importance in a
wider struggle for values in Pakistan. The central government can challenge
any legislation proposed by a provincial assembly if it conflicts with
federal law, but how vigorously will Musharraf fight for the secular values
that he appeared to proclaim 20 months ago? He would have been better placed
to resist the encroachment of religious parties in Pakistan's public life
had he not been so determined to consolidate his own powers - and those of
the armed forces - at the expense of secular democracy.
When Musharraf began this confrontation with fundamentalism, in the wake of
September 11, he had a historic opportunity to reverse decades of creeping
encouragement to Pakistan's religious lobby and belatedly to build a secure,
legitimate and secular democracy. Now he is locked in a dispute over the
extent of his powers with the national parliament. Several parties want him
to give up his post as head of the army. He is resisting. The religious
parties have enough power in the parliament to give Musharraf victory if
they wished, but a favour like that is bound to have a price.
o o o
[ Related material:]
Dawn, 31 May 2003
Obscurantism on the move
By Aqil Shah
That the NWFP government has finally tabled a Shariat bill in the
provincial assembly is hardly surprising. But that doesn't make the
development any less menacing. If nothing else, this and other recent
actions of the ruling MMA have reignited the age-old controversy
about the relationship between state and religion.
As much as unleashing vice squads on our cities may be the clergy's
idea of delivering social justice, it is bringing a bad name to both
Pakistan and Islam. More than just images are at stake here though.
The impunity with which the Shababe Milli ransacked Peshawar has made
a mockery of the rule of law.
It has also shaken the already diminishing public faith in state
institutions since the law enforcement agencies were unable or
unwilling to confront the unruly mobs. That the pillage was
orchestrated and later hailed by a sitting JI MNA points to something
even more ominous. Beneath the mindless attempts to impose
Taliban-like standards of public morality lurks the MMA's deep-rooted
desire to rehash state and society in its own image. With a helping
hand from the establishment, chances are it might even achieve that
Why should it worry anyone? After all, the MMA has a democratic
mandate to rule and legislate in the frontier province. And the
political process might still offer the best hope to moderate its
extremist tendencies. Integration into the political mainstream,
accommodation of their legitimate interests and the gradual
habituation to civil norms inherent in a democracy can perhaps have a
moderating influence on religious hardliners.
This is not to imply that all Islamic parties are inherently inimical
to pluralistic politics. But the danger remains that they may have
merely appropriated democratic practices and institutions to
radically alter public policy and eventually impose their
totalitarian goals on the rest of civil society. The MMA government's
track record points in that direction.
Since coming to power, it has done precious little save a
single-minded obsession with "Islamizing" state and society. This has
meant cracking down on cable TV operators, cinema owners and
musicians. Also on the cards is the Hisba Act for the "promotion of
virtue and prevention of vice". Not only is such moral zealotry
misplaced, entrusting a corrupt and abusive police force with the
task of sin patrolling can only make life more miserable for the man
on the street. Worrying still, the MMA espouses terminating
co-education, veiling women and Islamizing educational curricula.
At least technically, federal legislation can override provincial
laws. But once in place, repressive laws can often assume a life of
their own. Almost two decades after it was enacted, General Zia's
Hudood Ordinance is still firmly entrenched in the legal system.
True, the MMA is far from a tightly knit political entity.
There are deep-rooted doctrinal and sectarian divisions within the
alliance making it susceptible to disintegration. Also true, its
electoral appeal is still largely restricted to the NWFP and
Balochistan. Be that as it may, religious parties and their agendas
are ascendant. At the heart of this disturbing trend is the state's
indiscriminate use of religion for political legitimation.
The country's military rulers, as well as their civilian
counterparts, have traditionally appealed both to Islamic ideology
and to the long-standing enmity with India to conceal ethnic,
sectarian and linguistic fissures in society. This overtly
ideological posturing has put a premium on extremist politics while
restricting the already limited public space in which democratic
norms and institutions can flourish. For instance, Bhutto, Zia, and
later Sharif readily sought refuge in Islamization, co-opting
Islamists to boost their positions. Yielding to their demands has
only emboldened Islamic parties to demand, and often violently, more
space from the state.
The right wing, however, is not a power unto itself. Not yet. Since
they share the garrison's anti-India hostility as well as its
aversion to open democratic politics, religious parties remain its
closest allies in sustaining the anti-democratic status quo.
The violence generated by extremist elements also comes in handy to
pressure and destabilize non-compliant elected governments. The
military needs religious parties and their jihadi militias not only
for the low-intensity conflict it sponsors in Indian Kashmir but also
for sustaining the larger consensus on the religiously charged
In addition, the threat of radical resurgence helps it claim the
diplomatic and economic backing of an international community
increasingly alarmed by the prospect of a Pakistan falling into the
hands of "nuke-wielding mullahs." It is no surprise that by targeting
the PPP and PML-N, the military helped create the political opening
across the country which the MMA was able to exploit in the last
general elections, especially in the traditionally conservative
strongholds of the NWFP and Balochistan where resentment at the
conduct of American military campaign in Afghanistan was already
Curiously enough, the MMA was constituted at a time when all other
parties were being splintered by the military-led regime. Even now,
the federal government's indifference to the MMA's relentless
attempts to Talibanize governance is an indication that it is willing
to turn a blind eye in return for support in Balochistan as well as a
possible rapprochement on the LFO.
While it is quite tempting to pass the buck on to the establishment,
our civil society hardly deserves any accolades. Some vocal groups
like the legal fraternity have consistently opposed military rule.
But by and large, influential segments of civil society had
unabashedly welcomed the October 1999 coup citing popular frustration
with inept political rule. Others sought in General Musharraf's
liberal demeanour protection against the clergy.
This was a fatal miscalculation. In the search for political
legitimacy, Musharraf has adroitly used their services to
delegitimize democratic politics, shore up his own legitimacy and
strengthen his bargaining position vis-a-vis the domestic political
opposition and the international community.
Even though he has declared an open war on the moderate parties while
cajoling the Islamists, many bleeding heart liberals continue to
recycle the mantra of the "good hearted general". If the general's
recent admission that he will only deal with the MMA (in his opinion
the only legitimate political force in the country) is not enough
evidence to jolt them out of their functional coma, it is hard to
imagine what will.
Together with the threat of the military's abiding interventionism,
the political rise of the religious lobby poses the most serious
threat to the consolidation of civil and democratic norms in the
country. The onus to counter these political deviations is on what
remains of the progressive and liberal forces in society. Deriving
comfort from the time-honoured assumption that the common Pakistani
keeps religion separate from politics, as many moderate politicians
often do, is not enough. Whether political parties can defy the odds
in mobilizing this latent strength will be the real test.
Civil society's perennial abhorrence of politics too is
counter-productive and can only benefit Islamic hardliners who
continue to manipulate the public's religious sentiments as we seek
shelter in the cosy confines of our nine-to-five lives. Merely
blaming it all on 'corrupt' politicians has not worked in the past,
and will certainly not do so now. We must think and act politically
before it is too late.
o o o
Dawn, 31 May 2003
MMA links LFO acceptance to Islamization
By Ahmed Hassan
o o o
The Daily Times, June 1, 2003
Editorial: MMA's cat is out of the bag
o o o
Saturday, 31 May, 2003
Pakistan militants attack circus
By Adnan Adil
Hundreds of people have been injured in a stampede at a circus in
northern Pakistan after Islamic activists assaulted the spectators.
The charge occurred after students from Islamic seminaries in
Gujranwala, a northern city of Pakistan near Lahore, ransacked and
torched the circus on Friday.
Armed with sticks and clubs, the attackers denounced it as obscene
Eyewitnesses say the student attackers, who numbered over 100 were
led by a local cleric, Qazi Hameedullah. He is a national assembly
member and representative of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal or the MMA,
an alliance of radical religious parties. [...].
The Daily Times, June 01, 2003
A South Asian union of independent states
In his August 15, 1947 message to the Pakistani nation, Quaid-e-Azam
Mohammad Ali Jinnah observed, "Our object should be peace within and
peace without. We want to live peacefully and maintain cordial and
friendly relations with our immediate neighbours and the world at
large." The pronouncements from India were no less positive.
But what befell South Asia was constant tension; three wars and
rising defence expenditure because India and Pakistan could never
became normal, trusting neighbours. After 55 years of 'freedom' South
Asia shares the unenviable distinction of being only second to
sub-Saharan Africa in terms of the abject poverty that afflicts the
vast majority of its peoples. Many people wonder what the entire
hullabaloo about state formation and nation-building was about if
inefficient government and a corrupt administration were to be the
main 'gains' from the end of colonial rule.
Some faint hope can now be expressed that things will change for the
better. The world economy is becoming increasingly global in its
reach. It is in the interests of the various regions to pool their
resources, establish favourable terms of trade for states in the
region and thus set up viable and vibrant economic blocs that can
face the challenges of globalisation. Economic rationality requires
that structural changes that accelerate economic development be
It is time to forsake ideological and political rancour and open a
new chapter in India-Pakistan relations. Such relations should be
based on a vision and strategy which maintains the basic two-state
format but brings India and Pakistan closer together into greater
economic integration and a political union. This union should also
include Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Maldives. Needless
to say that the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation
(SAARC) already exists as an expression of regional aspirations but
it needs to be invested with a new enthusiasm and a programme of
If we agree that our top priority is to find ways and means to fulfil
the pristine pledges given by the erstwhile leaders of India and
Pakistan to their citizens then we need to identity factors that
facilitate peace and progress as well as those which hinder. These
factors could be as follows:
Remove all barriers to free trade but establish a framework which
brings equitable benefit to all the countries in South Asia
Establish uniform labour laws throughout the region applicable to
both industry and agriculture so that a fair share is given to all
those involved in the production of wealth.
Establish a South Asian Economic Authority which should be funded by
member states to help the poorer or weaker states improve their
productive capacities and thus enter competition with others on a
gradually improving level playing field
In the long run, it should be possible for unskilled and skilled
labour and professionals to seek gainful employment across South
Asia. The abolition of restrictions on free movement of labour need
not lead to an invasion of the more prosperous regions by poor people
if a system of development funds can be established to gradually
even-out outstanding differences in economic development.
Abolish visa, police reporting and other draconian legislations whose
purpose has been to discourage free movement and contacts between the
peoples of the various states. All visitors should have the right to
enter another country for three months. A longer stay should require
Agree on a charter of minimum civil liberties which should be
respected by all member states
Visitors from other South Asian states should be entitled to the same
civil, social and economic rights as citizens
Educational and cultural factors
Remove all hostile and prejudiced material about neighbouring
countries and their people from the textbooks in schools and higher
seats of learning
Contacts between the universities in South Asia should be made a
central concern, backed by concrete measures
Student exchange as well as exchange of university teachers between
the various countries should be encouraged
It should be possible to seek admission on a long-term basis within
the stipulated quota for students
University teachers should be able to apply for employment in other
Encourage writers, intellectuals, cultural workers and other such
groups to freely interact with one another.
Military and security matters
The main factor hindering the peace process is the Kashmir problem.
It should be resolved in a spirit of mutual accommodation. Any
immediate drastic alteration in the balance of power would be
destabilising. Concretely the entire undivided Jammu and Kashmir
State should be demilitarised. India and Pakistan should guarantee
the security of the State, whose people should enjoy maximum autonomy
within the current framework established by the LoC. Over time the
LoC should be dissolved and people from the Kashmir Valley, Jammu,
Ladakh and the Pakistani Azad Kashmir should be able to move across
freely and interact with the people in other regional states on
mutually favourable terms. These four regions should have their own
governments but not the sovereignty to maintain their armed forces
India and Pakistan should set standards and laws against the use of
violence and terror as the means for resolving disputes and conflicts
India and Pakistan should drastically reduce their armed forces, and
along with other states in the region, develop a South Asian defence
structure which ensures that no outside power invades and occupies
In general philosophical and moral terms a South Asian union of
independent states should develop standards and guidelines for
establishing honest and transparent government, a work ethic which
leaves no scope for parasitical life styles and instead inculcates
pride and respect for hard-work, honesty and sincerity. This would
mean establishing a South Asian parliament and collective executive
with the limited mandate to legislate on matters dealing with overall
economic and security interests of the region. All this is possible
if democracy is accepted as the only means for establishing
legitimate government. But for democracy to prosper values such as
gender equality, religious tolerance and justice also need to be
[ From South Asia Tribune]
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Thank You for your cooperation and support.
South Asia Tribune
May 24 - June 06, 2003
A failure India cannot afford
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee must persistently press on with
the welcome process of improving relations with Pakistan, or a
historic opportunity will slam shut thanks to mere wooden-headedness.
SO delicate, problematic and fragile is the state of India-Pakistan
relations, and so unsure and suspicious are their leaders of one
another's intentions, that the two governments have only made
painfully slow, unsteady and hesitant progress towards normalising
their relations in the weeks that have passed since Prime Minister
Atal Behari Vajpayee made his "hand of friendship" offer on April 18.
The two establishments are drawing up "road maps" and tentative
confidence-building measures (CBMs). India has announced the posting
of Shiv Shanker Menon as its High Commissioner in Islamabad but, at
the time of writing, Pakistan has not yet named his counterpart.
Even on the issue of restoring civil aviation links, there are
divergences despite Pakistan's initial response welcoming the
proposal. India interprets this as giving overflight rights to
civilian aircraft of both flags as well as resuming direct flights.
Apparently, Pakistan is hesitant to accept this broader
interpretation because this means India will regain the easy access
it had to Afghanistan before December 2001 through Pakistani air
space. On trade too, India complains that the progress is inadequate.
The slow pace is not surprising given the baggage of mutual suspicion
and resentment that the two governments carry, especially after the
Agra fiasco and their divergent views of its causes. (India
attributes the Agra Summit failure to Pakistan's inflexibility over
defining Kashmir as the "core issue". Pakistan blames India,
specifically Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani, for going back on a
mutually agreed draft declaration.) But there is a real danger that
the positive momentum generated by Vajpayee's overture and by
Pakistan's response will be lost unless moves towards reconciliation
are considerably speeded up. The risks of yet another failure to
resolve the outstanding disputes will be forbidding.
There are four main reasons for this. First, this is a singularly
opportune moment for acknowledging that military force, whether overt
or covert, cannot resolve any India-Pakistan problem. This is the
vital lesson from Operation Parakram and the 10 month-long
eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation after the December 13 attack on the
Parliament House as well as from Pakistan's failure to force India to
the negotiating table on Kashmir despite 13 years of trying.
In plain truth, what India and Pakistan have both practised in recent
years is a de facto policy of compellence. After December 2001, India
sought to bend Pakistan to its will by mobilising 700,000 troops on
the border and demanding that Islamabad hand over 20 terrorists on
the "wanted" list. Pakistan responded to India's build-up by
deploying 300,000 soldiers on the border. Both ratcheted up their war
machines to dangerous levels and at least twice came close to the
brink of actual combat - with a disturbing, acknowledged, potential
for escalation to the nuclear level.
However, coercion failed. Compellence is different from deterrence.
Deterrence is about preventing your adversary from doing what you do
not want him to do - by threatening "unacceptable damage".
Compellence is about forcing him to do what you want him to do.
Deterrence can, theoretically, work between equal as well as unequal
adversaries provided they can assuredly inflict unconscionable damage
upon each other. It does not matter much if one of them has 3,000
nuclear missiles and the other "only" 800. Both can wipe out each
other. In practice, deterrence is fraught, unstable, degenerative and
prone to failure.
Compellence is even more fraught. It assumes a significant asymmetry
or disproportion between rivals. You cannot compel your adversary
unless you have overwhelming superiority over him. In the
India-Pakistan case, the degree of asymmetry essential to compellence
does not exist. An overall conventional superiority of 1.5-to-1 or
less and a nuclear-level disproportion of, say, 3-to-1 is no good.
Thus, even within the traditional (and flawed) framework, it was
unrealistic of India and Pakistan to expect compellence to work when
they do not even have stable mutual deterrence. The dangers of
raising their military standoff to its highest pitch to achieve
compellence are even greater because of their strategic hostility,
complicated by competing notions of nationhood, territorial disputes,
mutual distrust and factors related to religion. Within this
perspective, abandoning coercion-centred approaches and using
diplomacy is a long-overdue correction. It is time for both states to
recognise that coercion has turned unacceptably counter-productive.
=46or instance, Operation Parakram cost India much more than the
estimated Rs.7,000 crores to Rs.10,000 crores, an amount that was
spent for the mobilisation alone. As many as 387 Indian soldiers
died. Only 99 perished in combat. Twice as many died in accidents or
from psychological or environmental strain. A high number (75) died
from landmine blasts. Another 1,051 were injured.
The civilian toll was even higher - if displacement, collapse of
agriculture, loss of livelihoods near the border, and damage from
landmines are put together. According to a survey in The Hindustan
Times, over 900 civilians died in landmine blasts. More than 1.5
million mines were planted, mainly in Rajasthan, and of these only 70
per cent have been removed. Parakram was a Faustian bargain.
Second, India and Pakistan have both repeatedly used another
identical strategy - mounting pressure on each other through a third
agency, the United States, which they both ardently woo. Thus, India
has tried hard to persuade the U.S. to pressure Pakistan on the
terrorism issue. Pakistan has done the same on Kashmir. The U.S. role
in defusing the Kargil crisis and last year's stand-off did not arise
in a vacuum. Both states strained to win it.
This too is no longer viable. The main message delivered by Armitage
in his five meetings with Indian leaders was that the U.S. will not
involve itself in determining whether or not Musharraf has delivered
on his June 2002 promise to end "cross-border" infiltration into
India. It is "up to India" alone to make that assessment and respond
appropriately and "that's not my [Armitage's] job". Armitage also
reportedly told his Indian interlocutors that Washington would not
apply diplomatic and economic pressure to ensure Pakistan's
compliance with Musharraf's promise.
Logically, then, India must take the bilateral route and discuss all
outstanding issues with Pakistan, on pain of attracting onerous
pressure from the U.S., which is adopting a particularly aggressive
posture as it embarks on building a new Empire, in which the war on
Iraq is the first step. It is not only because of subtle U.S. goading
in the recent past but because of the apprehension that American
pressure would become overt and unbearable in the near future that
Vajpayee made his April 18 overture. His reference to Iraq's lessons
for "developing countries" is best seen as an awkward acknowledgement
of this. External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha confirms this in an
interview to The Asian Age (May 14): "There is a new reality after
Iraq, forcefully brought home to all countries. The developing
countries, the weaker countries at this point of time, have to make a
Third, there has been a significant improvement in the Kashmir
situation after a largely credible, if imperfect, election and the
installation of a broad-based coalition government. The government's
promise of a "healing touch" has found favour in the Valley. This is
the right time to normalise relations with Pakistan. As the killing
of pro-ceasefire Hizbul Mujahideen leader Abdul Majid Dar suggests,
the situation is still delicate and vulnerable to extremist sabotage.
It would be unwise not to make the most of its positive aspects,
including the Hurriyat Conference's response welcoming an
=46ourth, there is only a limited interval of time available for
getting a reconciliation process under way. Elections to four State
Assemblies in India are due by October/November. These elections will
have a trend-setting character for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the timing of the next
Lok Sabha elections. After August or September, the BJP might not
want to pursue what some of its leaders regard as a risky "soft" line
on Pakistan. If the party, out of desperation, mounts a blatantly
communal election campaign, it will be tempted to fall back upon the
familiar anti-Pakistan line favoured by its core supporters.
The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) is already showing its aversion
to any negotiation of the Kashmir issue. It cites the 1994 Parliament
resolution to demand that the only outstanding issue pertaining to
Kashmir is the return of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. Close supporters
of Advani too have put their own spin on Vajpayee's "hand of
friendship" offer, as was evident in V.K. Malhotra's distorted
briefing on Pakistan Prime Minister Jamali's invitation to Vajpayee
to visit Pakistan. The Sangh Parivar is preparing the ground for a
future change of stance.
THE Indian government is taking a highly cautious approach, one
favouring the Two-plus-Six formula worked out by the two foreign
secretaries in 1997 but regrettably never pursued. Caution is fine,
even unexceptionable. But an excess of it could be damaging. A
moderate amount of caution must be supplemented by a purposive
attempt to prepare the NDA, in particular the BJP, for the new turn
vis-=E0-vis Pakistan. Vajpayee's leadership will be on test here. So
far, he has not made the necessary effort by holding focussed
discussions with key figures in the party or Sangh Parivar as a whole.
Vajpayee's task will not be easy. He has been complicit in the BJP's
attempt to create and exploit an Islamphobic climate on the issue of
"terrorism". Over the past decade or more, an aggressive, jingoistic
nationalism has taken root in India, which the BJP has further
communalised by demonising Pakistan and vilifying Islam as an
intrinsically intolerant religion prone to extremism. Within this
scheme, itself reinforced by the saffronisation of education and of
cultural institutions, Indian Muslims figure as Pakistan's Fifth
Column and their religion as the fount of "global terrorism".
September 11 gave this vilification campaign a degree of legitimacy
and international support. The Iraq war has encouraged maniacal
elements such as Praveen Togadia to use a "clash of civilisations"
rationale and demand that India support U.S. war efforts.
India's social and political discourse has been so badly vitiated
that large numbers of urban middle class people, especially the
young, now spout rabid, inflammatory anti-Pakistan rhetoric. Middle
class audiences on television talk shows reflect this. In the
Question Time-India programme on BBC World on May 2, Shiv Sena
rabble-rouser Sanjay Nirupam won applause for demanding that India
must send suicide-bombers to kill Pakistani citizens randomly.
This climate is perhaps more intolerant and vicious in India than in
Pakistan. There, "Crush India" slogans painted on city walls a decade
ago are fading. In India, we have, thankfully, never had a public
display of an identical kind so far. But today the same toxic,
jingoistic sentiment finds expression here albeit on paper, in sound
bites and email circuits.
Urban Indian youth are probably more viscerally hostile to Pakistan
and more dismissive of the very possibility of peaceful coexistence
with it than the other way around. An impressionistic measure of this
disturbing change is found in a May 11 article in the Pakistani
newspaper Dawn by Anwar Abbas, who reports on a letter exchange
programme between school students of the two countries. Abbas took
Pakistani students on a tour of India in 1997 and 2001. He compares
the comments in letters written to them by their Indian pen-friends
with the strident anti-Pakistan declamations by Indian students aired
on a recent Indian TV programme on which he was interviewed. The
results are embarrassing. This climate can be changed. That demands
more people-to-people contact and personal exposure, which alone will
convince people that ordinary Indians and Pakistanis can have normal
interaction, even friendship, with one another. This makes it
imperative that India and Pakistan aim not just to return to the
pre-December 13 situation but go beyond it through cessation of
hostile rhetoric, diffusion of rivalry and relaxed visa regimes as
well as trade and military CBMs.
To achieve this, Vajpayee will have to spell out the true rationale
for India-Pakistan reconciliation as a precondition for social
sanity, peace and prosperity in all of South Asia. He will also have
to assert himself, most of all within the Sangh Parivar. If he does
not rise to the task, we will all pay a heavy price through ruinous
India-Pakistan hostility, strife and instability.
Literary Review | The Hindu, Jun 01, 2003
The destruction of pluralist India
The last decade has seen the systematic capture of socio-political
and cultural space by the Hindu Right. The three books under review
offer a comprehensive overview and secularist critique of the whole
process, says SHAJAHAN MADAMPAT.
VEER DAMODAR SAVARKAR and Mohammed Ali Jinnah, both irreligious and
"unconventional", represented the mutually complimentary, yet
outwardly antagonistic streams of religion-based, two-nation theory
in pre-independence India. Savarkar scripted the drama and Jinnah
literally enacted it to its (il)logical conclusion. The major point
of agreement between the two gentlemen was, however, the theory that
Hindus and Muslims constituted two different nations, unable to
coexist and historically irreconcilable with each other. Having won
independence, Indians heaved a sigh of relief that, despite partition
and the horrendous genocidal violence that accompanied it, the newly
born Indian nation had decided to follow a course fundamentally at
odds with the anti-national forces on the Muslim and Hindu Right
Well over half a century after partition, we are yet again confronted
with the same forces, no less dangerous though in a different form.
The last couple of decades have seen a systematic capture of
socio-political and cultural space by fissiparous forces, represented
this time by the Hindu manifestations of the ghost of Jinnah. They
have not only managed to win a popular mandate to rule India with the
help of opportunistic alliances with "secular parties", but also
unleashed a scathing attack on all the pillars of India's
multi-culturalist existence. While those occupying positions of power
attack them from within through a number of manipulative strategies
and transformative measures, the lumpen fringe do so by way of naked
verbal and physical aggression. The three books under review here
provide a comprehensive overview and secularist critique of this
whole process that continues to erode even a semblance of sanity from
the public space. The landmarks of the "devastate India" campaign
have been the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, the genocidal
pogrom against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 and the antediluvian
attempts at rewriting history, represented mainly by the NCERT's
introduction of new social science textbooks.
Communalism, Civil Society & the State is a collection of profound
essays by some of India's most respected scholars, including K.N.
Panikkar, Aijaz Ahmad, Irfan Habib, Mushirul Hassan, Romila Thapar
and Prabhat Patnaik. These essays emerged from the disturbing
realisation that, as the introduction rightly portends, "communalism
has quite clearly made the transition to the full-blown symptoms of
fascism". The "Gujarat experiment" confirms this, bringing into focus
the twin elements of mass participation and state complicity in
communal carnage, leaving the victims with no recourse either to the
collective wisdom of the civil society or to the rule of law. The
active role that social groups considered thus far on the opposite
side of the Hindu Right, such as Dalits and Adivasis, played in
Gujarat, added to the complexity of the situation. That all the three
landmark Hindutva exploits happened during the BJP rule (at the time
of the Babri demolition the BJP was in power in UP) belies the na=EFve
optimism in some liberal circles that the taste of power would
ultimately quell the savage passions of the bloodthirsty fanatic
fringe. The ominous truth is that India is at the threshold of
fascism, a second partition has actually occurred, this time on a
The economic deterioration and rising unemployment made rampant by
globalisation provided the right atmosphere for chauvinist mass
mobilisation. Fascism requires a period of economic crisis as a
necessary condition for its mass growth. A recolonised economy
serving the interests of the advanced capitalist countries is sure to
cause widespread frustration. One question remains unanswered: why
have the progressive forces completely failed in translating this
despair into constructive political action? Several contributors
refer to the take over of the nationalist space by the fascist
elements, leaving India's constitutional framework vulnerable to
cynical distortions and manipulations. Even the Congress party is now
more interested in playing the BJP's B team, than in confronting the
demon head on. Third world nationalisms originally emerged as a
result of people transcending narrow sectarian and cultural barriers
in their struggle against imperialism. However, the calculated
invisibility of new forms of imperialism renders the whole political
space ambiguous and in utter chaos.
Saffronised and Substandard comprises articles, editorials and news
reports that expose the mediocrity, factual inaccuracies and wilful
distortions that mark the new NCERT textbooks. The silences and
distortions in these textbooks were only to be expected, but the
fathomless depths of philistinism and matchless ignorance with which
the authors wrote these books are simply "spectacular". The essays by
Arjun Dev, Kumkum Roy, V.M. Jha, Sumit Sarkar, K.M. Shrimali and
others offer a minutely analytical account of the textbooks. One the
one hand, one feels the authors of these textbooks only deserve the
charity of our contempt; they are not even worth any serious
engagement. On the other, one shudders at the thought of how
pathological the mindset of a generation that grows up on a fair dose
of this kind of histories would be.
The Republic Besmirched documents media reports and commentaries on
the demolition of the Babri Mosque. The pieces compiled in this book
make one feel that despite many shortcomings, the English media
reflects the conscience of the nation even in these deeply troubling
times. The three books, taken together, will provide adequate
information and analysis of the historic rape of India that has
continued unchecked during the last decade.
Communalism, Civil Society & the State: Reflections on a Decade of
Turbulence, edited by K.N. Panikkar and Sukumar Muralidharan, Safdar
Hashmi Memorial Trust, p.181, Rs.120.
Saffronised and Substandard: A Critique of the New NCERT Textbooks,
Articles, Editorials, Reports, Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust, 2002,
The Republic Besmirched: 6 December 1992, edited by Anand K. Sahay,
Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust, p.172, Rs. 60.
OneWorld.net, May 28, 2003
Indian HIV+ Patients Move Court Against Healthcare System
Kalyani,OneWorld South Asia
NEW DELHI, May 28 (OneWorld) - Alleging denial of medical care, a
body of HIV (news - web sites)-positive people in India have
petitioned the High Court in India's capital, Delhi, to pressure
hospitals and healthcare workers to end discrimination against them.
The Lawyers' Collective, an Indian legal cell working on AIDS (news -
web sites)/HIV, has filed the petition on behalf of the Delhi Network
of Positive People (DNP) -- an organization comprising people with
AIDS. The court has asked DNP to provide it with details of
discrimination by July 23.
Legal and other experts advocating the rights of HIV-positive people
stress that hospitals and other health care centers in India
routinely turn away people seeking medical treatment if they are
suspected of having AIDS.
"Discrimination in health care is a huge problem in India," says
Anjali Gopalan, the director of Naz Foundation, a New Delhi-based
organization working on HIV and related issues. "Most HIV patients
are treated in an absolutely callous manner," she says.
The issue of denying care to HIV + people was taken up by the court
recently when newspapers reported the case of an AIDS afflicted
patient who was forced to move from one Delhi hospital to another
because doctors refused to treat him. A government employee, he was
being treated for a urinary blockage in a well-known Delhi hospital
late last year. But after blood tests showed he was HIV-positive, the
hospital turned him out.
Last week, DNP, with the help of Lawyers' Collective, filed a
petition saying there were numerous such incidents of AIDS patients
being turned away by medical personnel. DNP is preparing an
exhaustive list of problems that HIV + people face to present to the
"They are denied treatment for anything from routine tests to
surgeries," says an AIDS worker with The Lawyers Collective. "They
are turned out even if they need to get their teeth or eyes checked,"
AIDS workers point out that patients are discriminated against both
directly and indirectly. Direct discrimination leads to hospitals
refusing to admit them, while indirect biases entail proper
treatment, where although a person is given a bed in a hospital, but
is not treated after that.
"A surgery, for instance, may keep getting postponed on some pretext
or the other, forcing the person to finally look for treatment
elsewhere," says the legal AIDS worker. "But they keep going round
and round -- for everywhere the story is the same."
Gopalan cites the recent near fatal case of a person who was not
being treated by medical personnel. Though he was severely
dehydrated, doctors refused to give him the necessary fluids.
Discrimination is one of the major problems that HIV-positive people
are subjected to in India, where the government's National Aids
Control Organization estimates that 3.97 million people have HIV
But as Gopalan stresses, "If doctors and nurses start discriminating
against them, it creates a further stigma."
Experts say one of the reasons for discrimination in health care
centers, is the fact that Indian medical personnel are not equipped
with the basic precautionary gear needed tp protect themselves from
getting the infection. "Doctors and other health care workers don't
have disposable gloves or the thicker disposable bags that are needed
for used needles," says an AIDS worker.
The petitioners hope that once the court intervenes, guidelines will
be framed and implemented for safeguarding medical personnel treating
HIV + people. This will lead doctors and nurses to treat patients
"It just requires some basic measures such as gloves and eye-covers,"
says an AIDS worker. "Doctors do not require space suits to tend to
Groups such as NAZ stress that the court can do alot to help remove
discrimination. "An HIV +person requiring medical help is usually
suffering from something like tuberculosis. All that we are asking
for is that he or she be treated for tuberculosis like any other
patient," says Gopalan. "We are not asking for the moon."
The Times of India, MAY 30, 2003
Big Brother's Invading Your Privacy
The launch of 'location based' mobile telephone services in India
will be seen by many as a harmless innovation aimed at providing
subscribers on the move with useful information about products they
may wish to buy or consume.
But set against the backdrop of inadequate privacy protection in our
country, the onset of this and indeed other new communications
technologies raises concerns about the ability of the state to
intrude into the private domain of the citizen. Cellphone service
providers have always had the ability to track the movement of
subscribers as the signals emitted by an individual phone get passed
from one transmission tower to the next.
Sophisticated computer technology allows this information to be
stored indefinitely and retrieved, perhaps years later, to build a
profile of an individual's movements in the city.
Officially, this information is only meant to be provided to the
police and intelligence agencies. However, most law-abiding citizens
will not feel comforted by the ability of the state to keep track of
their movements. In India, there is the additional problem of the
police being used by private parties to obtain what is otherwise
confidential personal data from mobile service providers who are
obliged by law to cooperate with the authorities.
In the US, after 9/11, the Pentagon is working on an Orwellian
project to gather as much information as it can about every aspect of
all citizens under its 'total information awareness' programme. In
India, the baseline situation is much worse since there is no
legislation which deals directly with privacy protection.
The problem is compounded by the Vajpayee government's attempts to
introduce a compulsory ID card system and build a computerised
database of citizens. Databases are most useful when welfare-oriented
states use them to develop and target public services. In India,
however, the government cannot be accused of having any such
Rather, the impulse to catalogue and classify citizens is being
driven by a misplaced sense of 'national security', so that
'terrorists', 'infiltrators' and other undesirables can be weeded
out. Such a process will invariably make the state, which already
enjoys so much of power over the citizen, even more of a leviathan.
SACW is an informal, independent & non-profit citizens wire service run by
South Asia Citizens Web (www.mnet.fr/aiindex).
The complete SACW archive is available at: http://sacw.insaf.net
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed in materials carried in the posts do not
necessarily reflect the views of SACW compilers.