SACW | 23 June, 2003
Mon, 23 Jun 2003 01:03:00 +0100
South Asia Citizens Wire | 23 June, 2003
#1. India-Pakistan border closures has kept apart families in the
mostly Muslim community.
#2. Reshaping Pakistan Along Religious Lines (John Lancaster)
#3. Bangladesh likely face litigation for troops to Iraq (Saleem Samad)
#4. India: Facets of violence (Kuldip Nayar)
#5. India: In Hindutva Genes:Treason and Moral Turpitude (I.K.Shukla)
#6. India: Left-liberalism and Caste Politics (Nalini Rajan)
#7. India: Cognate, Meet Agnate; Now Get Lost (Dilip D'Souza)
#8. Book Review: Pointers to Partition (Gyanesh Kudaisya)
Los Angeles Times (USA)
Punjab Caught in Fray of Politics
India-Pakistan border closures has kept apart families in the mostly
By Robyn Dixon
Times Staff Writer
June 22, 2003
MALER KOTLA, India - Nothing gilds the future of a young Punjabi
couple like an engagement ring, but Shahida Kalo has had to tuck away
her ring and her hopes into a box, waiting on the whims and plunges
of the troubled India-Pakistan relationship.
Two years ago she was engaged at 17 to a cousin in Lahore, Pakistan,
a couple of hours away by road. But 18 months ago, relations between
the two nuclear powers plummeted and she had to put her wedding
dreams on hold when the border closed.
The twists and turns in diplomatic rhetoric make predictions about
India-Pakistan ties difficult, even for experts. As the politicians
alternately beckon and bluster, Kalo eagerly follows the television
news, trying to divine her future.
This mainly Muslim community is torn, with families scattered on each
side of the border. Cross-border marriages among Muslims here have
been traditional since the partition that created Pakistan in 1947,
dividing Punjabi Muslims.
"Our culture is the same, our food is the same, our dress is the
same, our language is the same," said Maler Kotla businessman Amjad
Pakistan and India recently agreed to exchange high commissioners,
stepping back from 18 months of hostilities when the nuclear powers
came perilously close to war. The thaw melted the surface ice, but
there are doubts about how far they will go to make peace in Kashmir,
the core dispute.
Hanging on the latest thaw are the marriage hopes of at least one
Punjabi couple and the safety of civilians in the strife-torn region
of Kashmir. And businessmen like Ali, a textile and furniture
manufacturer, dream of a direct trade route to Pakistan, Afghanistan
and Central Asia.
Set in a verdant patchwork of rice paddies, Maler Kotla is a
prosperous Punjabi town with pin-neat streets, its market a colorful
splash of summer fruit. In a country of 1 billion, where survival for
many is a grinding struggle, Maler Kotla is blessed. The Himalayas
pour spring waters into Punjab's four rivers and its many canals; the
earth is so fertile that the state, on just 1.5% of India's landmass,
provides a quarter of the nation's wheat and 10% of its rice.
The state has the best infrastructure in the nation, according to the
Center for Monitoring the Indian Economy, and the highest per capita
Water buffalo wallow luxuriously in ponds, some so deep that only
their nostrils protrude. The houses are well-appointed, topped with
eccentric water tanks shaped like soccer balls, cars, hats or
Kalo, a laborer's daughter, saw her fiance, Asef Ashi, once - four
years ago - after her parents arranged the marriage. She glanced
shyly into his eyes, trying in one moment to glean what she could of
her future. He was handsome, and his voice was silky. Recalling, she
blushes, covers her face and giggles. Yes, she liked him.
Perhaps marriage will free her from her drudgery of sewing two
dresses a day for less than $2 in a house in the back alleys of
central Maler Kotla. Perhaps she will have to work harder.
Ashi, 22, works in a fabric shop. She doesn't know what his dreams
are, but she's willing to work for them.
Kalo and others like her pin their hopes on an agreement between the
governments to resume a bus service from New Delhi to Lahore next
Kalo heard nothing from her fiance until he called a few days ago,
promising to bring her to Pakistan as soon as the bus line resumes.
After 18 months apart they spoke just 10 minutes.
"He said I miss you and you can guess what else," she said. When Ashi
told her he loved her for the first time, "I was thrilled," she
added. "My heart was beating so fast. As soon as the border reopens,
"The entire fight between the two countries is because of Kashmir. I
hope they'll solve the Kashmir problem once and for all and harmonize
The border was closed and diplomatic ties were cut after an attack by
Islamic militants on the Indian Parliament in December 2001 that
killed 14, including five assailants. In April, Indian Prime Minister
Atal Behari Vajpayee offered peace talks if the Islamabad government
closed Islamic militants' camps in Pakistan and prevented them from
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf says that the incursions have
stopped. He has called on India to take more concrete steps toward
peace, but the Indians insist that the militants in Kashmir are still
active. The U.S. ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill, also said
recently that terrorism emanating from Pakistan has not stopped.
After the border closed, some families in Maler Kotla missed
relatives' weddings or funerals. Some could not visit dying relatives.
The day the border closed, Tahira Parveen, 30, was trapped on the
wrong side. She managed to return to her Pakistani husband in Lahore
but was deported last year, despite offering authorities proof of the
marriage. She thinks that she was kicked out because relations
between the countries were then at rock bottom.
Punjab would surge ahead, says Ali, the businessman, if only the
leaders of India and Pakistan would make the peace that people crave,
and open the border. "If the border opened, this would be the most
prosperous place. They are short of iron [in Pakistan], and we have a
lot of iron. We could export a lot of goods to them. And they have
huge supplies of power, while we are short of electricity."
Praful Bidwai, a national political columnist who writes for more
than 20 newspapers, said the trade benefit to both countries would
amount to between $4 billion and $5 billion. "It's much more than the
foreign investment that both India and Pakistan receive," he said.
Ali believes that the cost of the Kashmir conflict in military
spending, lost lives and lost trade is too high for both sides. "It
will have to stop. There's no other way out. There's no life on those
mountains," he said, referring to the disputed territory.
When a bus chugs from New Delhi to Lahore - within weeks, if the
fragile thaw does not freeze over - Shahida Kalo's hopes, and those
of countless others, will ride with it.
Her only problem then will be to get a ticket.
The Washington Post
=46riday, June 20, 2003; Page A01
Reshaping Pakistan Along Religious Lines
Islamic Fundamentalism Exerts a Growing Influence in Secular Society
By John Lancaster
Washington Post Foreign Service
LAHORE, Pakistan -- At Punjab University last month, professors of
English literature were flabbergasted when they learned that a top
administrator had ordered their curriculum reviewed for un-Islamic
texts. Among the books deemed offensive to public morals: "Gulliver's
Travels" and "Tess of the d'Urbervilles."
"It was so absurd," one of the professors recalled. "We didn't know
whether to laugh or cry."
Emboldened by an unexpectedly strong showing in national elections
last fall, Islamic fundamentalists are stepping up their efforts to
reshape Pakistan along religious lines, alarming moderate Pakistanis
and casting doubt on President Pervez Musharraf's ability -- or
willingness -- to curb the fundamentalists' power.
One site of their new power is parliament, where a coalition of six
radical Islamic parties -- the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal, or MMA --
constitutes the main political opposition to Musharraf and is
obstructing legislative business to protest his military rule.
In North-West Frontier Province, one of four provinces in Pakistan
and the only one where the coalition holds undiluted power, the local
legislature passed a bill earlier this month calling for imposition
of sharia, or Islamic law. It is considering a companion measure that
would create a force of morality police modeled after one fielded by
Afghanistan's deposed Taliban movement.
Islamic militants in the province's capital, Peshawar, have taken the
law into their own hands, vandalizing satellite dishes and other
things they see as symbols of Western decadence.
But even in places where the fundamentalists do not hold formal
political power, they are exercising major influence.
Lahore is one of Pakistan's most cultured and cosmopolitan cities and
capital of Punjab province, home to Pakistan's moderate mainstream
culture and long known more for food and festivals than religious
zealotry. Yet here student couples have been physically attacked on
college campuses for holding hands. The bar association recently
elected a lawyer from a fundamentalist party as its head. And on the
streets lately, night-riding vigilantes have been splashing paint on
billboard images of unveiled women.
Clerics have mounted a partially successful campaign to curb the
spread of pedestrian-friendly "food streets" in Lahore's historic
walled city. Such amenities, the clerics say, promote mixing of the
sexes and prostitution.
"I have questioned them: Is there room for entertainment in your
religion?" said Kamran Lashari, the U.S.-educated head of the Punjab
Parks and Horticulture Authority, which has promoted the food-street
plan. "I think they're basically joy killers. I don't see any event
which has brought public joy and happiness being accepted by these
Leaders of the religious coalition deny they are seeking to emulate
the Taliban. They say they are committed to the rule of law and to
working within a democratic system. "Islamization is not
Talibanization," said Farid Ahmad Paracha, a leader of the
Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest party in the religious alliance, and a
member of the national assembly from Lahore. "There is no model of
Iran or Afghanistan."
Paracha said that while Islamic law forbids most forms of music, "we
are not going to eliminate it at once. . . . We believe in educating
society toward the Islamic system." He dismissed the billboard
vandalism, which many people here believe to be the handiwork of
party followers, as "just a reaction of some people" and "not an
The growing strength of the religious alliance is of no small concern
to the United States, which considers Pakistan a front-line ally in
the war on terrorism and has praised its efforts to capture al Qaeda
fighters who took refuge in the country after U.S.-led forces
overthrew the Taliban in 2001.
At the same time, U.S. officials remain deeply concerned about
Pakistan's support for Islamic militants fighting Indian forces in
Kashmir and the use of Pakistan's border areas by resurgent Taliban
forces fighting the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan. Both
topics are likely to figure prominently in talks between Musharraf
and President Bush scheduled for Tuesday at Camp David.
Among secular-minded Pakistanis -- many of whom welcomed the 1999
coup that brought Musharraf to power and his subsequent pledges to
transform Pakistan into a modern, progressive Islamic state -- the
muscle-flexing by the fundamentalists has sparked warnings that the
country has instead embarked on a path of "creeping Talibanization."
"I think we are entering a new phase," said Ahmed Rashid, author of
an international bestseller on the Taliban who makes his home in
Lahore. "There's a cultural change happening. This is going to spread
in [the frontier province] and spread in the whole country. It will
certainly silence the voice of the liberals," people who favor a more
secular state. Rashid places much of the responsibility for that on
the military, which he says has fostered the fundamentalist
groundswell as a bulwark against India and is now living with the
Such warnings date at least to the military government of Mohammed
Zia ul-Haq, who seized power in 1977 and embarked on a vigorous
effort to "Islamize" Pakistani society that ended with his death in a
plane crash in 1988. Musharraf and his defenders say the president is
committed to unraveling that legacy.
Zia's efforts notwithstanding, the religious parties have
traditionally commanded little support among Pakistanis. Their
success in last fall's elections, analysts say, was in some ways
brought about by Musharraf's efforts to neutralize the country's main
opposition parties, both of whose leaders -- former prime ministers
Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif -- were barred from participating.
The religious parties moved into the resulting vacuum, many analysts
Pakistan's political cross-currents converge in Lahore, a sprawling
low-rise city of about 6 million people 220 miles southeast of
Islamabad. Studded with minarets and the tombs of ancient kings,
Lahore has been a center of politics and intrigue for centuries,
first as a center of the Mughal empire, more recently as an outpost
of British colonial administration in pre-independence India.
In many ways, the British era lives on through a small but
influential Westernized elite, whose generally secular outlook is
evident in the city's many art galleries and a performance of "The
Vagina Monologues" scheduled for later this month. One of the city's
most distinctive landmarks is Aitchison College, an exclusive
colonial-era boarding school -- often described as "the Pakistani
Eton" -- that sends many graduates to top universities in the United
States and Britain.
"You can go to parties here and you can imagine you were in New York
or anywhere in the world," said Shehla Saigol, the city's leading art
patron -- Lahore's "Peggy Guggenheim," in the words of one associate
-- and the wife of a wealthy industrialist. Sitting in her billiards
room one recent night, Saigol, 49, said she sometimes frets that her
grown children "seem to know Monte Carlo and Cannes and Sardinia more
than they know Pakistan."
But the political and cultural winds may be shifting in Lahore.
Although it is not heavily represented in the provincial government,
the religious alliance wields considerable street power in the city,
which serves as the headquarters of Jamaat-e-Islami.
Youth organizations linked to the religious parties are deeply
involved in campus politics, and are often accused by secular-minded
faculty members of promoting an atmosphere of intolerance. At Punjab
University last month, militant students used wooden clubs to beat a
male and female student -- both from Iran -- after the two were
discovered sitting together on a campus veranda, according to three
Masud Haq, a retired military officer and the university's registrar,
said in an interview that he has taken a number of steps to curb
fundamentalism on campus and that one of the students who carried out
last month's attack has been expelled. "I have firm control of the
university," he said. "I don't allow any student or any extremist to
raise his head."
But the fundamentalist influence is felt in subtler ways as well,
some faculty members say. Last month, the university's academic
council engaged in heated debate over whether to drop English as a
requirement, as fundamentalist groups have urged.
And then there was the flap over English literature, which began when
Haq ordered a member of the department, Shahbaz Arif, to scrutinize
the curriculum for offensive material.
Arif compiled a long list of examples, including Jonathan Swift's
description of "a monstrous breast" in "Gulliver's Travels" and the
title of Alexander Pope's "The Rape of the Lock," according to a copy
of the memo he supplied to colleagues in the English department.
Ernest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises," was deemed especially
offensive: "All characters sexually astray: men homosexuals; females
lesbians/promiscuous," he wrote.
In an interview, Arif said he did not hold extreme religious views
and described himself as "very much Westernized," citing, among other
things, his linguistics doctorate from Essex University in Britain.
But he defended the logic of his review, asserting that in a
conservative Islamic society, "some limitations should be there."
Infuriated by what they regarded as an assault on academic freedom,
professors in the department alerted the local press to the
controversy. Haq, the registrar, described the text review as routine
and said it would not result in any curriculum changes. He said he
had ordered the review only after receiving a complaint from someone
he declined to name.
"We are proud to be Muslims, but we are gentleman Muslims," he said.
"We are good liberal citizens of the world."
But faculty members, who have been ordered not to discuss the case
with reporters, in some cases interpret the episode in a more
sinister light. "What's happening in the university is more or less a
microcosm of the political environment of the entire country," said
one English professor. "We feel a very real threat to the liberal
Iqbal Hussain shares their worries. A prostitute's son who grew up in
the red-light district, where he still occupies the family home,
Hussain, 51, is one of the city's best-known artists. His frank
portraits of prostitutes and dancers fetch prices as high as $10,000
on international markets. They also have gotten him in hot water with
religious zealots, one of whom paid him a disturbing visit last year.
As Hussain recalled the episode recently, the bearded visitor pointed
to a wooden sculpture -- an abstract representation of a woman -- at
the entrance to Hussein's home, part of which has been converted into
a gallery and restaurant. "You have a nice house," Hussain recalled
the man saying in flawless English. "You have a nice gallery. I
suggest you remove this sculpture now."
"I got the message," said Hussain. He moved the sculpture inside.
[21 June 2003]
Bangladesh likely face litigation for troops to Iraq
By Saleem Samad
Source: Bangladesh Observer, page 11
Speculation regarding sending Bangladesh troops to Iraq for security
purpose at the behest of United States is high on the agenda of
official talks during the visit of US Secretary of State Colin Powell
and Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia Thursday.
The United States had requested India to send contingent of military
troops to Iraq. India diplomatically avoided a response. The request
for troops was sent to Pakistan. General Musharaff quietly passed the
request to the newly elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, who is yet
to place it at the cabinet due to sensitivity of the issue.
Now America seems to have turned its head towards Bangladesh for
mobilisation of a contingent of battle troops for security purpose of
strategic targets, including key installations, government buildings,
street patrolling, and security of religious and archaeological sites
in Iraq, occupied by Anglo American coalition forces.
=46oreign Minister Morshed Khan said Bangladesh is ready to send troops
for peacekeeping in Iraq for containing law and order situation and
its reconstruction, but clarified that it should be under the United
Bangladesh in 1994 agreed to send troops to Haiti after the United
States invaded the Central American country. Prime Minister Begum
Khaleda Zia agreed to American President Bill Clinton?s telephonic
conversation to despatch a contingent of troops to join the UN
sponsored multinational forces.
Soon after the decision a writ was filed in the High Court
challenging the decision to join the US forces in Haiti on September
12, 1994. Advocates Shamsul Huq Chowdhury, M.I. Farooqui, M.K.
Rahman, K.M. Saifuddin Ahmed and M. Saleem Ullah filed the writ
The decision to send Bangladesh troops to join the US led forces in
Haiti on the request of American President, the petitioners argued
that was in violation of Article 63 of the constitution which says:
"War shall not be declared and the Republic shall not participate in
any war except with the assent of parliament."
According to Dhaka Law Report 47 (1995), page 218, the court rejected
the petition on the plea that the decision to send troops to Haiti
does not violate the fundamental principles of the state policy of
In another litigation, former student leader Advocate Ruhul Quddus
Babu and also junior of M.I. Farooqui filed a writ in the High Court
challenging the decision of the Advisory Council of the Caretaker
Government on September 19, 2001 to provide air space, sea ports,
airfields and refuelling facilities to the US-led coalition forces
against Afghanistan. The judgement remained pending after a show
cause issued upon the authority.
The petitioner stated that the "government's decision to participate
in the belligerency" by providing military facilities without the
approval of the parliament on recalling the dissolved parliament
under Article 72(4) of the constitution was illegal.
Advocate Farooqui told the Bangladesh Observer on Wednesday that the
government would once again invite another writ in the High Court, if
Bangladesh agrees to send military troops to Iraq without the UN
mandate. He observed that with deployment of Bangladesh troops in
Iraq, Dhaka would apparently recognise the Anglo-American led war and
occupation of Iraq.
The Hindu (India)
Jun 23, 2003
=46acets of violence
By Kuldip Nayar
Violence, the demolition of human rights and values, is taking place
all over the country.
THE SIKH community's attitude towards Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale has
always been ambivalent. It has not owned him fully because his word
cost Punjab many innocent lives. Yet, the community has never
denounced him because the shadowy figure was able to shroud the
Sikhs' sense of identity with the sentiment of independence. His rise
is the story of machinations by small men for small gains that made a
village preacher a near prophet, a political puppet, a political
By declaring Bhindranwale a martyr, the Akalis, who primarily
represent the Sikhs, may have ended the ambiguity. But they have not
served the community well. On the one hand, they have given
recognition to such wayward forces which brought no glory to the
Sikhs. On the other, they have re-sown the seed of distrust in the
minds of the majority community.
Punjab may well be in for ferment again. The 1980s were the worst of
times in the State. The Bhindranwale cult of violence, Operation
Bluestar in the Golden Temple, the assassination of Indira Gandhi and
the killing of Sikhs in Delhi - all happened in a span of five years.
And they took their toll on peace and equanimity.
Punjab looked nearly beyond repair. Never before were human rights
and religious sentiments so blatantly violated as was done then.
Besides the loss of thousands at the hands of terrorists and the
security forces, a feeling of insensitivity came to pervade the land.
Today, when there is a demand to account for the missing young men
since then and to punish those responsible for false encounters,
there is also praise for those who "fought against terrorism".
The Akalis are not answering the real question: how did Bhindranwale
come to acquire a large following among the Sikhs? He was the
instigator of violence. Should he have been glorified? A former Akali
leader, Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, who was till recently an MP, puts
it succinctly: "The Akalis never face the truth because in their
calculation two and two do not make four". Still, the Akalis have a
point when they say that those who killed 3,000 Sikhs in Delhi in
1984 have gone scot-free. None has been imprisoned or hanged. They
have every reason to criticise the snail speed of the Nanawati
Commission conducting a fresh inquiry into the killing.
But they exasperate everyone and create doubts about their motive
when they hail Bhindranwale. He came to represent terrorism which
cannot be condoned in any way. Nor can violence.
It is, however, sad to see that violence, the demolition of human
rights and values, is taking place all over the country. Even
organisations motivated by economic considerations are behaving like
the Akalis whose propelling force is religion. The naxalites, for
one, should be working differently. There is no difference between
them and the security forces. Both are indiscriminate.
The third report by the Committee of Concerned Citizens covering the
5-year-long effort, from 1997 to 2002, shows their fruitless
intervention in the climate of social turmoil and violence in rural
Andhra Pradesh, especially Telengana. The committee was disappointed
to find that there was "no change at all" in the Government's
approach. Nor was there any qualitative change seen in the practices
of the People's War, a naxalite group.
In 2001 and 2002 alone, as many as 350 lives were lost in police
"encounters" and more than 310 persons died as a result of violence
by naxalites. Most of the victims were from the weaker sections -
women, youth and children. This unending and spiralling violence,
according to the report, tended to obscure the basic issues of people
and progressively brutalised the State and the society, reducing the
people to passive spectators and often victims.
"It is the considered position of the committee that law is not just
a weapon in the hands of the State but also a restraint on its
behaviour and unless the State itself first respects law, it is not
possible for the State to expect adherence to law by people", says
the report. "Likewise, the committee is equally clear that the
naxalite parties must adhere to higher standards of human rights,
human values and human concerns through their theory and practice and
this alone can provide moral legitimacy and justification for any
revolutionary or transformatory movement and every action has to be
examined on the touchstone of democratic, moral and humane standards."
This takes me to another facet of violence: dowry. I am referring to
dowry deaths. There are hundreds of women jumping into fire or the
well for escaping the demands of their greedy in-laws. Media
publicity is essentially on the incident, seldom against the evil. It
is surprising that leading women journalists have not built a
campaign against dowry as they have done in other fields. The recent
incident of a bride in Delhi who showed the bridegroom the door and
his parents is a case in point.
I also find that the law is unhelpful. By jailing the husband, you
may have the satisfaction that the guilty is undergoing some
punishment. But the wife's problems - maintenance, shelter for her
and her children - continue. Above all, women facing the dowry
problem are generally poor. They cannot undergo the rigours of the
delay in our criminal justice system.
More than a decade ago, some lawyer NGOs drafted a model law on
domestic violence. The National Commission for Women gave a helping
hand. A bill was introduced two years ago in the Lok Sabha. But it is
not a comprehensive legislation. It defines domestic violence as
habitual assault. Why has the assault to be habitual? Section 4 (2)
gives the man the leeway of `self-defence'. He can always make the
plea of `self-defence' to justify his fights with his wife,
mother-in-law or other members of the family. A woman jurist, Indira
Jai Singh, while criticising the bill said: "The present law is a
complete sell-out of the rights of woman."
We must demand that the state perform its most elementary duty, that
of protecting the life and liberty of its citizens in an effective
way, consistent with its constitutional and international
obligations. Law helps no doubt. Social problems depend on the
sensitivity of the society for remedy. Men have to be awakened to
what women go through.
Seema Sirohi, a journalist of eminence, has tried to do that. In a
book, `Sita's Curse', she has narrated the story of six dowry
victims. Their tales of woe are so poignant that even the tough will
melt. She says: "Dowry makes one realise that women are often treated
like second class citizens. While doing research for my book, I
realised that there is too much pain that women go through and there
is nothing to justify it". Joining Seema, actress Nandita Das says:
"Dowry, as a social issue, impacts all our lives. It is the
realisation of the fact that it can happen to any of us, which will
bring about a change in the social perception of dowry as an issue".
An activist, Sagari Chhabra, who has developed a distinctive style of
her own, has shot a film, "Hunger in the Time of Plenty", portraying
the agony of women, in the interior of Orissa and Rajasthan. It tells
all about the struggle of women for a space of their own. More than
anything else, it is a cry for human dignity, something similar to
what Seema focusses attention on.
In the current issue of a journal released by the National Human
Rights Commission, its former Chairman, Justice J. S. Verma, has made
a similar plea: "Human dignity is the quintessence of human rights".
Governments and political organisations need to remember this.
22 June 2003
In Hindutva Genes:Treason and Moral Turpitude
Depravity is not aberrational or one-time affair. It is as much
cultivated as calculated. Crime and wanton bloodletting raised to the
status of a "national" ideolgy is fascism. When Muslim women in
Gujarat of Narendra Modi were gangraped, mutilated, and burnt alive
by rampaging Hindu hordes, and the state police was ordered to help
the holocaust, it was nothing exceptional or random. It had a
pedigree. It had a well-plotted political purpose. It was in
fulfillment of a project long revered, long formulated, long
This realisation would dawn on anyone reading Dhananjay Keer's
biography of Savarkar referred to in a recent article by Dr Ram
Puniyani. Which will make one wonder how tendentious iconography
mangles and misleads.
A clemency-begging, cravenly, collaborationist, and traitorous
Savarkar was invested with the honorific of Veer (brave) by his
acolytes. And, in a final assault on logic and ethics, the portrait
of an enemy of India's freedom was installed in the Parliament,
facing Gandhi's. Far from irony, it was infamy gone wild.
Naming the Andaman cellular jail after a traitor, Advani again
distinguished himself as crass.
The Shivaji, whom local Brahmans would not anoint as a king for he
was a shudra, is today misappropriated as the savior of Brahmanism!
And, the Shivaji who installed measures of social justice, abolished
discriminatory practices in revenue collection, instituted laws
guaranteeing egalitarianism and equality, and ordered women of all
faiths protected and respected whether in peace or war, the Shivaji
whose courtiers, administrative officers and generals were nearly all
Muslims, is the Shivaji shunned and viciously sought to be excised
out of all historical record and collective memory of a nation. Here
too, Savarkar bobs up as a stinking lump in pellucid waters.
Savarkar, crowning his inhuman and subhuman streak, disapproved of
Shivaji sending back with escort and full honours, the
daughter-in-law of Kalyan's Muslim king, against whom he had just
fought and won a battle. Savarkar wanted her to have been used for
teaching the mlechchhas a lesson.
It was this "unfinished business" of teaching a lesson to the
Muslims, long postponed and long due in their book of unhistory and
immorality, prescribed by Savarkar to his Hindutva homonids, that was
gleefully and lethally staged in Gujarat, Modi directing the show for
the benefit of his depraved and despicable Hindu men, women, and
children. It was Savarkar the sadist writ large all over Gujarat.
That treason came to Savarkar naturally and reflexively is proved by
another historical scandal. Sir C.P.Ramaswamy Aiyar, the Dewan of
Travancore, had declared the state independent of India! The perfidy
did not stop there. He gallantly and speedily appointed an ambassador
from Travancore to Jinnah's Pakistan, thus affirming once more his
credentials as an inveterate enemy of India free and whole.
And, for this treason, who lustily applauded Aiyar in all of India?
Who else but "Veer" Savarkar?
Savarkar should have been tried for treason. He was let go in those
days of national euphoria. It only whetted his passion for more
treason and grosser crime, culminating in Gandhi's assassination.
A.G.Noorani, in his review of two biographies of C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar
in the latest issue of Frontline, a Hindu publication from Chennai,
furnishes the sordid details.
No wonder, with this patrimony, Hindutva could be nothing less than
perpetually criminal and anti-national.END.
The Economic and Political Weekly (India)
June 14, 2003
Left-liberalism and Caste Politics
Whether it is dalit politics or feminist struggles, more and more
analysts are focusing on the realm of embodied experience involving
groups rather than on abstract rationalist theory involving
individuals. The obvious question is: can communities, like caste
groups, be viewed as legitimate categories within the framework of
liberal modernity? This essay explores the idea that group-centred
'embodied experience' may be no more than a phantom category. The
emergence of this third category in order to bypass the
tradition-modernity or communalism-secularism dyad, may turn out to
be without much substance.
[Full Text of the above paper is available to all intersted. should
you require a copy send a request to <firstname.lastname@example.org> ]
June 21, 2003
Cognate, Meet Agnate; Now Get Lost
After an argument, some wise man once wrote, each
protagonist walks away convinced that all other minds
were firmly closed. I found confirmation of this after
a workshop I attended. As it degenerated into a
shouting match, I could not even tell which side I was
on. No one who was yelling had listened to a word
anyone else was saying: so convinced were we all that
we were right. Naturally, I was sure I had been
open-minded. But going home with a friend, I realised
as she spoke that I had not heard anything she had
said earlier. I still did not agree with her. But away
from the ruckus, at least I understood her position.
Only then did I truly understand how difficult a
subject the workshop had tackled. So many people talk
easily about a Uniform Civil Code. But when you sit
down to discuss one, you're immediately caught in a
thicket whose ferociously tangled state few of us
The first problem comes from trying to remove politics
from the debate. So charged has the atmosphere become
that any discussion, any opinion at all, on a UCC is
viewed through political lenses. If you express even
faint reservations about one, you're a reactionary --
or that nasty breed, a pseudo-secularist -- who is
dividing India. If you're just as faintly positive,
you are a Hindutvawadi, a Muslim hater no doubt, and
you are also bent on dividing India. And don't sit on
the fence: then both sides abuse you.
But what's debate without sharply differing views?
Where will solutions to the UCC tangle come from if
some few don't brave the abuse, the differing views,
and get down to addressing the issue? That's why a
small group in Pune tried a few years ago to draft a
UCC. They were whom I went to hear that day.
In their attempt, they ran smack into the next great
problem: making sense of the unbelievable mess our
personal laws are. At every level, in every area,
there are differences by religion. If Hindus are the
exception to one rule, Muslims are to another,
Christians to a third and Parsis, a fourth. Or some
combination forms the exception here; another
combination there. What "uniform" can mean in this
situation, I haven't the faintest idea. How is it
possible, from innumerable exceptions and special
cases, to extract the holy grail of a UCC?
But you want examples, no doubt. Chew on a couple.
Personal laws by religion apply to adoption,
inheritance, marriage and divorce. Let's take only
You have two, and only two, grandchildren. One is the
son of your son, the other the son of your daughter.
Tragedy strikes one June afternoon: during the annual
family vacation on Pulicat Lake, your son and daughter
both fall off the boat and drown. Of course the news
devastates you. You waste away in grief. A month
later, you too are dead.
Unfortunately, you have not left a will. Your
grandsons are your only heirs. How will your property
be divided between them?
To answer that, you have to understand that the law
looks at the relationship you have with your grandsons
differently. You have an agnate relationship with your
son's son, a cognate relationship with your daughter's
son. Pay no attention to the mysterious words: just
know that these are two different relationships. Why
is that important?
Because if you are a Muslim or a Hindu, your son's son
gets preference over your daughter's son, in deciding
who inherits your unwilled estate. That is, these two
faiths prefer a son's line of inheritance. The laws
for Parsis and Christians, on the other hand, make no
distinction between the two kinds of grandchildren. If
you followed one of those faiths, both grandsons would
get an equal share of your estate.
Got that? Did that surprise you? Leave you cold?
Simple enough, you say? Whatever it is, let's try one
You have a son, a daughter and a devoted husband. Your
parents are aging, but in good health. Tragedy strikes
one wintry December night. Driving home from a hard
day's work, you drop off to sleep at the wheel and
crash into a wall on Tyagaraj Marg. Your car is
totalled. You are dead on the spot.
Unfortunately again, you have left no will. Who
inherits your car-less estate?
No surprise: again, that depends on your faith. Among
Muslims and Parsis, five basic relationships --
mother, father, son, daughter and spouse -- are never
"excluded" from inheriting. That is, all of them are
entitled to and will get a share of your property.
There is, however, some difference between the two
religions in the size of the share each relation is
entitled to. I won't even touch upon that difference
here. Leave it at this: each of your five close family
members will get a share.
But if you're Christian, the fact that you have
children automatically excludes both your parents.
They get nothing. Then again, had you been a childless
Christian, your father would not be excluded: he would
inherit. Though your poor mother would remain excluded
in that case too.
=46inally, if you're Hindu, the situation is different
again. Your father is excluded from a share of your
property. Your mother is not. She will inherit.
Got all that? Believe me: this is only the tip of a
monstrous iceberg. These intricate distinctions go on
and on, through every aspect of inheritance law.
Marriage, divorce and adoption laws are riven with
such stuff as well.
Why have we got ourselves into this bizarre mess?
Because we have pandered to every possible tradition
that's followed in our country, reflecting each one in
our laws. As a result, we have today the fierce knot
of rules and exceptions that pass as our personal
So when this enormous debate has to begin somewhere,
if this knot is ever to be untied, we need to ask,
again: what can a "uniform" code possibly mean?
What can it mean, when in almost any aspect of
personal law, drafting a UCC will mean stepping on
toes marinated in tradition and religion? When aspects
of existing laws for one religion are diametrically
different from those for others?
What's that you say: simply choose the "best" aspects
of our different personal laws and slap them together
into a UCC? Fine, so take just example #2 above, where
your parents survive you. If Hindus exclude your
father, Christians exclude both (but only your mother
if you had no kids), while Muslims and Parsis exclude
neither, on what grounds can one of these options be
termed "best"? Go ahead, tell me: which one is "best"?
When you tackle such questions, you find yourself up
against a third major problem. Everyone is smugly sure
that their own religion is the finest in existence. So
a uniform code, they say to themselves and sometimes
more publicly, need mean nothing other than --
surprise! -- their own laws.
On a talk show I watched not long ago, a Parsi man
asked sadly: why can't every other religion have rules
as fair as mine does, rules that treat men and women
just the same? How much happier the world would be! He
fumed in silence when reminded that Parsis draw a
clear distinction between men who marry outside the
religion and women who do. The men's children retain
inheritance and other rights, the women's retain none.
Similarly, a Muslim at the workshop I attended told us
that unlike in other religions, laws in Islam come
straight from the Creator himself. They are based on
"revelation, not reason." Thus, he said, they are
infallible. Being so, who could possibly argue with
Now why a Creator would distinguish between a son's
son and a daughter's son beats me, but never mind.
Because every religion encourages its faithful to feel
superior to every other like this.
And there's one more thing that complicates the UCC
debate: the notion that our personal laws "favour" one
religion. Really? So I'd like to know, in just the two
examples I cited above, how the law "favours" Muslims
over others. Go ahead, tell me: how are Muslims
"favoured"? Or anyone?
Spreading the ignorant lie that the personal laws
favour Muslims is no way to achieve the consensus that
a UCC will have to be. So it seems to me that those
who paint such a picture don't really want a UCC. They
only want to hold on to something they can fling at
Muslims, portray them as stubborn backward thinkers.
Not the best way to start a debate, but certainly the
best way to get Muslim backs up.
To anyone who takes the time to look, the truth is
clear. Overall, the personal laws "favour" nobody.
They are just an all round mess.
So do we want a UCC? Yes, you say? Well, there seems
only one way to see through this crazy fog. Every
aspect of the personal laws must be examined in the
light of constitutional guarantees to every Indian:
equality, justice, right to life. Laws that fail to
uphold these basics must be thrown away. That is,
going back to my two examples, we cannot allow
inheritance laws that make a distinction between
agnate and cognate, or between mothers and fathers.
This must happen whether the laws are based on
traditions or not. If we have traditions that lead to
injustice and discrimination -- and too many of ours
do just that -- the faster they are thrown on the dung
heap they belong on, the better. Often, the best way
to reform is to actually change
Not easy, but that's the spirit the Pune group brought
to their efforts. It's why the man who led their work,
S P Sathe, wrote an article about the experience with
this interesting reflection: a UCC need not be "a
common law, but different personal laws based on
uniform principles of equality of sexes and liberty
for the individual."
I'll take that, thanks. Because I really don't care,
don't want to care, what "agnate" is. Nor that it is
distinct from "cognate."
The Economic and Political Weekly (India)
June 14, 2003
Pointers to Partition
A Narrative of Communal Politics: Uttar Pradesh, 1937-39 by Salil
Misra; Sage, New Delhi, 2001; pp 363, Rs 295.
Since the publication of the first vol- ume of Ranajit Guha's
Subaltern Studies over 20 years ago the pursuit of political history
is said to have become unfashionable in south Asian historiography.
The work under review, coming from a younger scholar, might be
dismissed by some as a throwback to good old empirical history, with
a focus firmly set on the institutions and structures of organised
politics. Yet, this is precisely the strength of the book. In
highlighting the importance of organised politics and structures in
historical narration and analysis, it provides an insightful account
of a period which was critical in terms of both decolonisation and
At the core of the book lies the author's ambition to unravel a
controversy which has for long confounded historians of 20th century
south Asia: could the partition of the subcontinent in 1947 have been
avoided? The author by focusing on Uttar Pradesh (UP) has highlighted
the centrality of UP to partition studies which have traditionally
focused on Punjab and Bengal, the two regional societies which were
actually divided in 1947. Misra looks at UP's 'share' in the politics
leading to partition and he focuses on the years 1937-39, a momentous
period in communal politics.
In doing so he challenges head-on the 'coalition theory' which has
been immensely influential in the historiography of partition. The
coalition theory, briefly stated, runs along these lines. The push
for partition did not come from Punjab and Bengal, the two Muslim
majority provinces, but ironically from the 'heartland' state of UP,
where the Muslims were in a minority and in territorial terms could
never hope to be a part of the envisioned Muslim homeland of
Pakistan. It was in UP that the campaign for Pakistan gathered
momentum. According to this view partition was the product of a
process which was unleashed in 1937 in UP when the Congress turned
away the Muslim League from sharing power in a coalition ministry.
According to the 'coalition theory' view of partition, there had
existed an informal understanding between the Congress and the Muslim
League. The Congress had virtually agreed to a coalition before the
provincial elections of 1937. During the elections they avoided
confrontation; the Congress even delegated the task of contesting
Muslim seats to the League. As proof is offered the example of
Congress leader Rafi Ahmad Kidwai against whom the League did not put
up a candidate. However, the deal fell through after the elections,
as the Congress changed its attitude. Although Jinnah 'pleaded' for a
coalition, Nehru rejected the proposal. The Congress, 'jubilant' over
its electoral success, spurred the offer. This infuriated Jinnah and
he launched a massive campaign against the Congress ministry in
power, reorganised the Muslim League to resist the coming of 'Hindu
raj' and in 1940 at the Lahore session of the Muslim League demanded
a separate homeland for the Muslims. Thus, the 1937 episode triggered
an increase in communalism, Congress-League hostility, the increasing
popularity of the Muslim League and eventually the partition of the
subcontinent in 1947.
It is argued that if, on the other hand, the two political parties
had forged a partnership in 1937, a decade later partition may well
not have occurred. Under a coalition, the Muslim League would have
been co-opted into constitutional politics. Jinnah would not have
been pushed towards the separatist path of demanding a separate
Pakistan; Muslim masses might never have rallied behind the League;
and politics might not have been communalised to the extent that it
did. In such a narrative the year 1937 is represented as a landmark,
a missed opportunity, in which the immediate responsibility of
realising its potential rested upon the Congress alone.
A Narrative of Communal Politics tries to demolish this view of
partition. In this meticulously researched monograph Misra argues
that no evidence exists, whatsoever, of any prior agreement, either
formal or tacit, between the Congress and the League. He argues that
both the parties did not leave seats for the other to contest.
Neither could the unopposed election of Kidwai be taken as a sign of
tacit understanding; the League's sheer lack of a candidate to field
against Kidwai was the reason. Likewise, Misra refutes the assertion
that the Congress and the League manifestos were common in their
appeal and programme.
Misra offers a detailed and convincing analysis of why the coalition
did not eventuate. He untangles the ambiguous Congress-League
relations during the election campaign in which "if cooperation was
not the dominant theme, neither was hostility". He then goes on to
take stock of inner-party alignments within both the Congress and the
League to show the forces arrayed for and against the coalition.
Within the Congress two distinct groups were hostile to the idea of a
partnership with the League: the 'nationalist' Muslims who saw in it
a compromise with the high ideal of 'secularism' and a second group
made of Socialists and Left-wingers within the Congress. The latter
looked upon the UP Muslim League as a body dominated by 'landlords
and Nawabs' who could not be partnered if the Congress was to pursue
an agenda of agrarian tenancy legislation. Likewise, Misra shows that
within the Muslim League, there existed diverse pulls and pressures.
While the prominent Lucknow politician Chaudhury Khaliquzzaman
clearly wanted an alliance with the Congress, there existed at least
two other groups with divergent aims: one advocated unity with the
landlord-dominated National Agriculturist Party, while another group
owed allegiance to Jinnah and his 'all-India' agenda for the unity of
Muslims, which looked beyond 'provincial' interests. Misra is able to
show that, in the end, the forces arrayed against the coalition in
both the parties won the day. He thus condemns the 'coalition theory'
as having little basis in historical evidence and as based upon the
forecast of an imperial historian (Reginald Coupland), the judgment
of a governor (Sir Harry Haig), the hindsight of a Muslim nationalist
(Maulana Azad) and the subjective experience of a provincial
politician who stood to gain from the coalition (Khaliquzzaman).
Characters in a Tragedy
Misra devotes three individual chapters to profiling the three main
actors in the drama: the Congress, the Muslim League and the Hindu
Mahasabha, as they operated at the provincial level. He sees each of
them interlocked in a triangular relationship, with the British on
the one side and the two political parties on the other. Chapter 4
looks at a Congress coming to terms with the experience of provincial
power. He shows that, in spite of being in office, the Congress was
not all powerful though certainly it did possess all the cards. It
showed itself to be very vulnerable vis-a-vis the Muslim League.
Misra attributes the fragility of the Congress in terms of a lack of
base among the Muslims of UP, tracing this weakness to the late
19th century. Chapter 5 analyses in-depth the politics of the Muslim
League. Misra argues that the organisation had an autonomy of its
own. He shows that Muslim League's phenomenal growth in these
years was not contingent upon the Congress' tactical mistakes, but
was the result of a well-worked out political strategy. He rejects
the view of the League simply as a tool of the British and
attributes to it a strongly anti-imperialist character.
In Chapter 6 Misra shows the Hindu Mahasabha to be ideologically
strong, yet organisationally and electorally weak in UP. He rejects
the tendency in some circles to look upon the Mahasabha simply as the
Congress' younger sibling. Instead, he asks the question: in spite of
a flourishing and vibrant Hinduism, why did the Mahasabha remain
'lame and crippled'? (p 289). His answer is that the Mahasabha faced
a 'formidable task' of 'not just to mobilise Hindus, but first to
wean them away from the Congress influence'. This proved to be
difficult as the UP Congress had struck 'deep roots among Hindus'.
His work shows an interpenetration of ideas and persons between the
Mahasabha and the Congress.
Misra's insightful study helps us make sense of the fundamental
change which came about in these critical two years in the political
behaviour of both the Congress and the Muslim League. From the
experience of these years the Congress realised the need to gain
Muslim support. This it could gain either by forging alliances with
political parties like the Muslim League, or making a direct appeal
to Muslim masses. Such thinking led the party to launch the 'Muslim
Mass Contact Programme'. It served to further antagonise the UP
Muslim League, provoking a vicarious anti-Congress tirade which
propagated the alarmist imagery of a Hindu raj. Likewise, Misra shows
that the failure of power-sharing arrangements in UP demonstrated to
Jinnah in a stark manner the futility of politics built upon separate
electorates. Jinnah realised that, while separate electorates
provided an incentive to communal politics, they prevented its
further advance into formal structures of power, which required a
majority status. Nowhere was the problem more acute than in UP where
even if it the League had won all the minority seats (66 in a house
of 228) it would still had to remain in opposition, or at best play a
subordinate role to the party in power. According to the author,
Jinnah learnt the 'right lessons' from the experience and proceeded
to build an alternative all-India political structure of the Muslims.
"He knew that politics of safeguards and concessions had been
rendered obsolete and must give way to the politics of seeking parity
with the other all-India structures" (p 152).
This work draws upon extensive primary archival materials. Misra has
made admirable use of private papers and newspapers such as the Star
of India which have enabled him to recover contemporary voices and
perspectives. However, the overuse of colonial official sources
remains a weakness of the book. Further, the ambition to provide a
meticulous account of organised communal politics has led the author
to neglect the important dimension of communal violence. Can we
accept that communal politics and communal violence belonged to two
separate realms? Perhaps the author needed to explicate in his work
clear linkages between the two.
Notwithstanding these criticisms, this book makes an immense
contribution to our understanding of the political history of the
1930s, and the ways in which the micro-politics of two critical years
set India for the d=E9nouement it faced in 1947.
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