SACW | 17 Aug. 2003
aiindex at mnet.fr
Sun Aug 17 04:23:49 CDT 2003
South Asia Citizens Wire | 17 August, 2003
[1.] Bridges, not bombs (Beena Sarwar)
[2.] Press Release: Legal action against the Chief Minister of
Gujarat (India), Narendra Modi, whilst on visit to the UK. (Awaaz -
South Asia Watch)
[3.] UK: Why Modi is guilty (South Asia Solidarity Group)
[4.] Public Appeal to Protest the visit of Modi to UK (AICC)
[5.] Upcoming Panel Discussion: India, Pakistan and the Possibility
of Peace (August 18, Toronto)
[6.] [ Asma Jahangir on minority rights in Pakistan ] The
constitution remains silent (Mahmood Zaman)
[7.] Jawaharlal Nehru ... his India did change (Shashi Tharoor)
[8.] Nepal: Gay Jatra "We don't want a revolution, just the same
respect given to everyone else."
The News International [Pakistan]
August 17, 2003
Bridges, not bombs
This year, there was an unusual addition to the crowds thronging
Quaid-i-Azam's Mazar on August 14. As the sun set, a small group
(women of assorted ages, plus two visiting Nepali teachers) arrived
with peace placards and candles. The Nepalis looked around, bemused
at the hordes of men, families with children, vendors and flag
sellers milling about, the women climbed onto the road divider
opposite the Shahra-e-Quaideen gate. The young men standing around
were curious: "Aunty, what's this for?"
"We want peace between India and Pakistan."
The discussion continued through the din as the group handed out
placards mounted on thin bamboo sticks and candles. More activists --
men, women and children -- arrived to join the vigil. Around them,
rivers of human forms flowed towards the illuminated Mazar, or away
from it. Silencer-less motorcycles roared between private vehicles
packed with families and buses, their rooftops loaded with shouting,
whistling, flag wavers. "Amazing enthusiasm," observed one of the
An activist produced a camera, and the young boys clamoured to be
photographed. "Where will these pictures be printed?" asked one.
There was no media present, except one participant who was there in a
personal capacity. "So who are we doing this for?"
"For ourselves, for people here, and friends in India and around the
world... Can't we do something for ourselves?"
"Sure, why not? We want peace. But there's no leadership, and the
people don't want it either. We'll follow anyone who brings us peace."
"Who doesn't want peace -- politicians, bureaucracy, army? Who gains
from the tension? Aren't we, you and me, the people also?"
Those who have until now been preaching hatred can suddenly become
peace envoys, but ordinary people continue to face hurdles, with air
and rail links still disrupted, and demand for visas far outstripping
supply. Visas, once granted, are for just three cities, not for the
country! Travelers still have to report to police on arrival and
departure. When this condition is waived, as for the delegates to the
recent South Asia Free Media Association meeting in Islamabad,
visitors are still kept under such strict surveillance that there is
panic when one person (Mani Shankar Ayer this time!) goes 'missing'
for a couple of days.
The Karachi vigil brought together private citizens, responding to a
call from the West Bengal chapter of the Pakistan-India People's
Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD). It was just one manifestation
of the desire for an end to tensions. Similar events were held in
India -- Delhi, Ahmadabad, Calcutta, Pune, Bombay, while the
Wagah-Atari border crossing demonstration drew an unprecedented
number of people on both sides, as Pakistani parliamentarians and
minority representatives joined Indians in celebrating the two
independence days together.
Veteran journalist Kuldeep Nayar has been lighting candles at the
border on Aug 14 for ten years; this was the first time that Pakistan
allowed similar activity from this side. Last year, Pakistani border
officials attacked peace activists with lathis and abuses, not even
sparing figures of international stature like Asma Jahangir, Hina
Jillani and Dr Mubashir Hasan. This time, it was a changed
atmosphere. Grp Capt (r) Cecil Chowdhry, a 1965 war hero turned peace
activist, wrote to the AsiaPeace email list: "Government officials
were very cooperative in allowing all of us to see off our delegation
right up to the gate of no man's land."
The India-Pakistan rivalry is reflected in expatriate communities --
who often meet 'the other' for the first time abroad. But many are
working to break the barriers of distrust and bigotry. They include
citizens "from all walks of life -- physicians, students,
academicians, social workers, shopkeepers and journalists, men and
women, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and others who celebrate
their unity in diversity," says a press release from the new
USA-based Develop in Peace (DiP) campaign. DiP pulls together many
"common people turned campaigners", including groups like Friends of
South Asia, Action Group of Physicians of South Asia, and the
Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia.
This year, they organised activities in the USA, UK and Canada to
jointly celebrate their countries' independence. In the USA, citizens
participated from Houston, Madison, San Francisco, Boston, Charlotte,
St Louis, Ann Arbor, Minneapolis, Madison, Atlanta, and Palo Alto.
National anthems were jointly sung, flags hoisted, and meetings held,
with poetry, music and food. These activities culminate today, August
17, in a conference call from Houston connecting all the
The campaign rejects "hatred, violence and distrust in the name of
religion, caste, regional, national or any other identities", and
denounces the arms race; "demanding development, not destruction,
with the poorest of the poor in sight; asking governments and
politicians to build bridges, not bombs; and provide security through
food, not propaganda." They are aiming for thousands of signatures
for their online petition
(http://www.petitiononline.com/DIP81415/petition.html), to be
submitted to policy makers on September 21, the UN International Day
of Peace. The campaign will continue to the January 2004 Islamabad
Indo-Pak summit and SAARC meeting "and beyond".
But even if our politicians continue the peace process that has
begun, it will take a long time, and much sustained interaction
before the wall of suspicion and hatred is knocked down.
At the Karachi vigil, the peace vigil is joined by a couple of
youngsters, one of them waving a giant flag mounted on a six-foot
pole. "We want peace," he said.
"And friendship with India?"
"Are you crazy? Would I be here if I wanted dosti? The Indians always
deceive us," he replied, barely saving his flag from being snatched
up by youngster on the crowded roof of a bus lumbering by. "Oye, stop
"They say that we deceive them, like with Kargil."
"Well. Maybe you are right. Maybe they are right. I suppose they are
people like us," he replied, waving his flag at another bus rolling
by, its roof crammed with revelers.
This time, he wasn't able to save his flag. "Oye!" he yelled,
brandishing the bereft flag-pole.
"Yaar, just leave it," shrugged his friend.
They smiled and waved before disappearing into the crowd.
FAO Editors and Planning Press Release Dated 16th August 2003
Human Rights Group to pursue legal action against the Chief Minister of
Gujarat (India), Narendra Modi, whilst on visit to the UK. Indian Fascist
and religiously intolerant leader may be arrested.
Awaaz - South Asia Watch - is planning to take legal action against the
visiting Chief Minister of Gujarat (India), Mr Narendera Modi, for crimes
against humanity and have him arrested. The human rights secular group has
already instructed a leading civil rights lawyer, Mr Imran Khan (the
solicitor for the Lawrence family), to attempt and obtain an arrest warrant
against the politician. If the legal action succeeds, Mr Modi may either be
arrested or summoned to court during the duration of his visit to the UK.
Narendra Modi - a member of the ruling Hindu extremist party the Bharatiya
Janata Party (BJP) - was responsible for inciting hatred and violence
against Gujarat's Muslim population that resulted in the slaughter of at
least 2500 Muslims (including three British Muslims) in February and March
2002, and the raping of hundreds of Muslim women, who were then burnt to
death. Over two hundred thousand Muslims were made homeless in the mass
riots that accompanied the pogrom. To date, not a single person has been
convicted for the genocide in Gujarat.
Awaaz is also mobilizing for the mass picket against Mr Modi, who is
expected to address his supporters at a meeting this Sunday 17th August 2003
at Wembley Conference Centre, London. The protest is likely to be the
biggest for any visiting politician from India as Mr Modi is detested for
his views by all sections - Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christains, Buddhists,
Jains and those of no faith - of the Indian population in the UK.
Picket Details: 3pm - 6pm, Wembley Conference Centre, Empire Way, Wembley,
Middlesex Underground: Wembley Park (Metropolitan Line, Jubilee Line,
Bakerloo Line ). British Rail: Wembley Central Station; Buses: 79, 83,
92,182 and 224
For further information contact Suresh Grover on 07958 174451.
AWAAZ - SOUTH ASIA WATCH
Awaaz is a UK-based secular network of individuals and organisations
committed to monitoring and combating religious hatred in South Asia and in
Awaaz monitors and combats the promotion of religious hatred and fascism in
the UK and South Asia.
Awaaz was established following the violence and killings of Indian
citizens, mainly Muslims, in the state of Gujarat after February 2002. The
Gujarat carnage was a turning point in the recent history of India and
showed how genocidal Hindutva forces have established a firm hold on many
aspects of Indian society.
Awaaz campaigns against religious fundamentalist control of the state, civil
society, political life and personal freedoms. Awaaz campaigns for secular
democratic state institutions and civil life where all citizens have the
right to live in peace and security and fully participate in the political
and civil process and decision-making.
Awaaz stands for peaceful resolution of problems between South Asian
countries, opposes violation of human rights, and opposes discrimination
based on caste, gender, religion, region, ethnicity or race. Awaaz
unreservedly condemns the political use of religion to attack individuals
and minorities including Muslims in India, Christians and dalits across
South Asia, Hindus in Bangladesh and Shias and Ahmaddis in Pakistan.
Awaaz has secured support from leading civil rights and community
organisations in the UK and abroad. Active members include Hindus, Sikhs,
Jains, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians and people of no faith. Visit our
website on www.awaazsaw.org.
Date: Sat, 16 Aug 2003
Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of the Indian state of Gujarat and one
of the chief architects of the genocide of Gujarat's Muslim minority
is speaking at the Wembley Conference Centre today [17 August 2003].
In March 2002, more than 2,000 women, children and men were brutally
massacred, and many thousands more saw their families, homes and
livelihoods destroyed. Several British citizens were among those
Why Narendra Modi is guilty of crimes against humanity
The election of Narendra Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat state was
a victory for Hindu fascism in India. He is not only one of the most
rabidly communal leaders of India's ruling BJP but a leading member
of the RSS, the ideological core of the 'family' of Hindu fascist
organisations, the Sangh Parivar.
Creating the conditions for genocide
On coming to power he set about creating the conditions for the
genocidal attacks on the Muslim minority in the state. He
systematically replaced existing officials in the police and
administration with members of the RSS and VHP. Before the
anti-Muslim pogrom, tridents and swords were distributed freely
throughout Gujarat. They were used as weapons in the killings.
Training camps were conducted by the Bajrang Dal and the VHP, backed
by the RSS and supported by representatives from the ruling BJP.
Violence against Muslims was glorified, and justified as the
legitimate means of self-defence.
Pre-planning the attacks
Modis government carried out surveys specifically to identify Muslim
homes and businesses. The lists were then used to pinpoint Muslim
Attacks throughout Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002, began at precisely
the same time, around 10:30 in the morning. Dozens of witnesses
described almost identical operations. The attackers arrived by the
thousands in trucks, clad in saffron scarves and khaki shorts, the
signature uniform of Hindutva groups. Armed with swords, tridents,
sophisticated explosives, and gas cylinders, they shouted slogans of
incitement to kill. They were guided by voter lists and computer
printouts listing the addresses of Muslim families and their
properties, information obtained from the Ahmedabad municipal
corporation, among other sources, months earlier.
Senior ministers from Narenda Modi's cabinet organized a meeting just
hours after the attack in Godhra on February 27, 2002. A plan was
drawn up and disseminated to the top fifty leaders of the BJP, RSS,
Bajrang Dal and VHP detailing the methods and strategies for the
revenge killings that followed the Godhra massacre. The instructions
were then methodically carried out by the police. The same evening,
Modi announced that there would be a state bandh [shutdown] the next
day. He then caled a meeting of senior police officers, where he gave
specific instructions to the police not to intervene on the bandh
day. The state and city (Ahmedabad) police control rooms were taken
over by two ministers, Ashok Bhatt and Jadeja. Repeated pleas for
help from people were blatantly turned down.
During the attacks
The central government sent the army to Gujarat. The state government
refused to deploy the soldiers until twenty-fours hours after they
arrived when the worst violence had ended. The army was also hindered
by the Modi government's failure to provide transportation and
information on where the violence was occurring.
There is clear evidence of police participation and complicity in the
attacks. Their crimes ranged from inaction to direct participation in
the looting and burning of Muslim shops, restaurants, hotels, and
homes, and the killing of Muslim residents. In many instances, the
police also fired upon Muslim youth, crushing any organized
self-defence against the mobs.
Justifying the genocide
On March 1 2002, Chief Minister Modi described the riots as
"resulting from the natural and justified anger of the people."
"Every action has an equal and opposite reaction," Modi told
reporters. Referring to the Godhra massacre he stated, "The five
crore [50 million] people of Gujarat have shown remarkable restraint
under grave provocation."
Modis victims - still living in terror
The police and judiciary have completely failed to provide justice to
the victims of the genocide. Not a single member of Gujarat's BJP
government which collaborated in, and sometimes orchestrated, these
attacks, or of the allied killer gangs of the VHP, RSS and Bajrang
Dal, has been convicted.
While Modi claims that it is back to 'business as usual' in Gujarat,
the survivors of the genocide are still living in fear. The
perpetrators of the murders and rapes continue to roam freely, and
threaten to repeat the carnage of last year. Muslim families who have
returned to their homes face an economic boycott enforced by the
Hindu fascist organisation, and are deprived of their sources of
livelihood. Muslim women continue to face threats of sexual violence.
The police continue to intimidate Muslims in regular `combing'
Camps sponsored by Modis ruling BJP, providing weapons, physical
training and indoctrination continue to multiply.
Narendra Modi's visit is ostensibly to attract British-based business
to invest in Gujarat - there will be a 'global investors meeting' -
"Vibrant Gujarat" at the end of September in Ahmedabad - but Modi
will also be using it to gather support and funds from pro-Hindutva
organisations in Britain for further communal terror in India, and to
receive congratulations from these organisations, who regard him as a
'hero' for engineering the genocide.
As a Channel 4 News report in December 2002 showed, there is clear
evidence that funds collected in Britain for earthquake relief by
organisations like Sewa International/HSS and VHP(UK) have been
channelled into communal violence in Gujarat. Less than two months
before the genocide, £1million raised by Sewa International was
handed over personally to Modi.
Narendra Modi is a viciously communal politician whose visit can only
whip up more conflict among our communities in Britain.
Remember the Gujarat Genocide -
Bring Mass Murderer Modi to Justice!
Narendra Modi will also attend a programme organised by the weekly
'Asian Voice/Gujarat Samachar' at Shakti Hall, 12 Hoxton Market, off
Coronet Street, London N1 6HG on Wednesday, 20 August 2003. Send
letters of protest to C.B.Patel, editor of "Gujarat Samachar"
email: <cb at abplgroup.com>
For more information on the events described above, see Human Rights
Watch - 1st July 2003 "Compounding Injustice - The Government's
failure to Redress Massacres in Gujarat"
South Asia Solidarity Group, c/o Londec, 293-299 Kentish Town Road,
London NW5 2TJ [UK]
email: southasia at hotmail.com
Date: Sat, 16 Aug 2003 23:23:20 +0500
Dt. 16th August 2003
Shri Samson C. Christian - National Executive member and Joint
Secretary of All India Christian Council informs that Narendra Modi -
current communal Chief Minister of Gujarat State will be going to
visit U.K. for six days. He shall attract N.R.I. and potential
investors to invest in Gujarat. In this context, the Chief Minister
of Gujarat has arranged Global Invest Event for N.R.I. in the coming
Navratri Celebration. But a matter is to be noted specially that
programmes like intact mart and rise regent were organized in Gujarat
earlier. But proper response was not achieved from foreign countries.
Narendra Modi ñ Chief Minister of Gujarat Stateshall start his visit
of U.K. on 17th August 2003 from Wembly Conference Center of U.K.
Certain volunteer associations are planning to oppose this visit
strongly, under the name of South Asian Unity. An organization named
South Asian Unity has informed in its statement that, Narendra Modi
is coming to U.K. to attract investment in Gujarat. South Asia
Solidarity Group, Group Council of Indian Muslims Women Living Under
Muslims law, Oxford South Asia Forum, Aawaj and India Muslim
Federation are making special plan to oppose the visit of Narendra
Modi to U.K. An existent association in Britain, which is associated
to R.S.S. and Bhartiya Janta Party is very enthusiastic regarding the
visit of the Chief Minister of Gujarat State Narendra Modi. But
Britain government has clearly stated that they will not have any
authorized meeting with Modi.
Officers of Britain Government have informed that, "No officer or
minister of Britain Government shall contact Modi. We welcome the
visit of Modi. But we have decided to remain away from him due to his
controversial impression." On the other hand, associations of U.K.
that are associated with Bhartiya Janta Party have made grand
preparations to welcome Modi. Modi shall be welcomed in a grand
manner in Leicester and Bembley area of London.
Thousand of people of Gujarati community reside in Bembley area. But
on the other hand, many Muslim associations are planning to protest
against Modi. A reporter of Britain Foreign Ministry has said with
condition to keep his name secret that, "We are not attached any way
with the Britain visit of Modi."
We would like to inform humbly by considering the above-stated fact
that the Chief Minister of Gujarat having controversial and communal
image is coming to visit U.K. He has got killed about more than three
thousand Muslims by burning them alive, and he has destroyed
residences ad family of lacs of innocent Muslims. He has played
politics on dead bodies of those innocent people and has achieved
power recently, and became Chief Minister of Gujarat. The head of
people of Gujarat goes down due to shame for this communal deed
performed by this Modi. Gujarati community of India has lost the
graciousness to show his face in any place in the world. The
incidents after Godhara massacre have torn the image of India as a
secular country, which was famous in the world for secularism.
We, the AICC organization, make this public appeal that we should
also stand with volunteers associations who are opposing the visit of
Narendra Modi to U.K. and should show our strong oppose, so that an
example can be given to communal political leaders of India. We
should show our oppose so that no one else in the country of India in
future will perform the act performed by Narendra Modi, and political
leaders get a lesson.
SAMSON C. CHRISTIAN
National Executive Member
and Joint Secretary
ALL INDIA CHRISTIAN COUNCIL
Mumbai's well-known journalist/human rights activist
and co-editor of Communalism Combat will be on panel
THE CONSTANT STRUGGLE;
INDIA, PAKISTAN AND THE POSSIBILITY OF PEACE
Monday, August 18, 7:00PM.
519 Church Street Community Centre (at Wellesley),
The other member from India on the panel is Tapan
Bose, Human Rights Commissioner for South Asia.
They are joined by Tarek Fatah, host of Muslim
Chronicle, in Toronto, and Hamid Bhasani, Kashmiri
peace activist, based in Ottawa.
August 17, 2003
The constitution remains silent
By Mahmood Zaman
'Exploitation of fragile situations has been done, more often than
not, by Punjab, even though Sindh is not far behind in dealing a
rough hand to its minorities,' laments Asma Jahangir.
Asma Jahangir, the courageous exponent of human rights and
egalitarian society, takes a characteristically blunt view of the
issues confronting the religious minorities in Pakistan, arguing that
things had gone wrong at the very beginning.
She believes that sentiments against religious minorities were
aroused as and when the minority members of parliament spoke against
the Objectives Resolution which was made the basis of the country's
In a recent interview with Dawn Magazine, Asma took a comprehensive
view of the minority rights in the country. The following are
Q. The Quaid enunciated a state policy in his historic speech on
August 11, 1947. Do you think his emphasis on minorities' rights as
equal citizens has been ignored to the extent of violating these
rights? If so, by whom?
A. One speech couldn't change the emphasis. If we go through the
Quaid-i-Azam's speeches to the first Constituent Assembly, we feel
that they were directed to the rights of the minorities, right of the
women and freedom of expression. It was the Quaid who was the
ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity. But later there was a shift for
adjustments between the two communities - from rights to adjustments.
And when you speak in terms of adjustments and become spokesman for
the Muslims of India, then you are not addressing the basics of the
problem. I believe this was the mind behind that speech of the Quaid
in which he said "Muslim will cease to be Muslims and Hindus will
cease to be Hindus." If that was the case, it takes away the
justification for Pakistan.
I think the political victory was so prominent that it reflected in
the speech, and it left a deep impact on the people who joined the
movement for Pakistan. It is no longer a secret that the people who
joined the Muslim League had no sympathy with the rights and
freedoms; they had only wanted to have a separate homeland for
Muslims. It thus meant that only the religious question was
So, the cross-cutting messages of the Quaid did not give a clear line
where Pakistan was eventually to go. But it is now up to the
progressive and liberal people of Pakistan to take up the speech
afresh, make it a basis, and struggle for laying a foundation of a
polity in Pakistan. It is not a constitutional but political issue
because constitution always comes on the heels of a political
The constitutional issue has been controversial since the beginning
when the Objectives Resolution was made the basis for
constitution-making, though the goal was not clear and was different
from what the Quaid had said, and also in conflict with the general
ethos of the country.
Q. Does this mean that the liberals failed even in the beginning to deliver?
A. Yes. I believe that they were not able to deliver. And by then the
complexion of the Muslim League had also changed. The Muslim League,
which used to talk of an egalitarian society during the movement, was
now a stronghold of landlords. It had now become a party interested
only in power politics. Although the politicians who came to Pakistan
could be compared to those in India, they had lost the track
immediately because they could see the fulfilment of their vested
interests; they were first and foremost feudals. That is why the
progressives had left the party and chose to form a new organization
that was to oppose government policies. The Azad Pakistan Party is a
Q. As for minorities' rights, what were the circumstances that led to
their violation? Who started it, and why?
A. I think the violation started from the very beginning. We have to
take into consideration the whole scenario of minorities rights
because they were more vulnerable than other sections of society. The
violation started in a subtle way against women, first of all. Muslim
League women were asked to leave politics and enter into social work.
So it was the top women hierarchy of the League that formed the APWA.
The only subsequent respite for women was the Family Laws of 1961.
As for the sentiment against religious minorities, they were aroused
as and when minority members of parliament spoke against the
Objectives Resolution. The speeches of Jogindernath Mandal, the first
president of the Constituent Assembly, would bear the testimony. It
was the Punjabi leadership that exploited the situation to the
maximum. They also capitalized on the mistakes of Foreign Minister
Sir Zafrullah Khan, who was from the Ahmadi community. Such
exploitation always had its basis in the Punjab.
As for Sindh, very few know that a large number of Hindus were
arrested during the 1965 war, and another large number left for
India. The situation of Hindus in Sindh has completely changed since
1965. They are no longer living there like citizens who could expect
protection from the state. Many of their charitable institutions have
also been closed down.
Then came the turn of the Christians who had traditionally been
associated with all governments and administrations in the past. They
had never posed any challenge to governments. It was during the era
of Gen Ziaul Haq that discrimination against the Christian community
started. Zia introduced such laws as to give a feeling to the
Christians that they were under attack. But what aggravated the
situation was the promulgation of blasphemy laws, which decreed death
penalty for all acts considered to be blasphemous.
Q. Is state policy the main reason behind the feelings of
discrimination among religious minorities?
A. Yes, I believe this is the main cause. We have seen Christians and
Muslims living together without complaints. But when the blasphemy
laws came, they suddenly found themselves pitched against each other.
The very fact that a big majority of blasphemy cases had been
registered on the complaints of the Muslim clergy, speaks of how it
has been misused. These cases had not been filed by their neighbours.
As such, much exploitation took place subsequent to these laws. I
believe this is the state policy. There is no enmity between the two
communities because more and more Muslims prefer their children to be
educated in Christian schools and get their patients treated at
hospitals run by Christian missionary.
Q. All political parties have incorporated clauses related to
minorities rights in their manifestos. Do you think they have been
able to honour this commitment?
A. I believe that if political parties are given a role to play, they
will be very sensitive to the issue of minorities. They have already
shown an eagerness to hold a dialogue with the minorities because
they understand that it is the question of the people of Pakistan and
the country's image. But at times, political parties have their own
expediencies to pay little attention to such problems. Besides, they
have not been able to communicate to the people at a reasonable and
respectable level about the issue of minorities.
But I should be fair to the People's Party, which effectively made a
reversal of blasphemy cases. Had it not been the PPP (the second
Benazir government), the Salamat Masih case could not have been
decided, as it was decided despite severe and several pressures. It
was in the same period that a large number of haris were liberated in
Sindh, and the administration supported the cause of bonded labour.
Q. To what extent religious militants have caused the erosion of
minorities rights? And, do you think communal hatred has taken a deep
root in society?
A. Yes, it has taken deep roots because we have earned notoriety
abroad as a country where extremism has a vast space to flourish. The
state encouraged such elements by all available means. Religious
extremism has grown so strong that it has taken the state and society
hostage and even the judiciary has no answer to this highhandedness.
The society stands at their mercy and the people look helpless. Even
the rights groups feel frightened as they face their wrath, and we
have frequently faced harassment. This has kept the people away from
taking courageous stand.
Q. Which period do you think is the worst for the religious
minorities in Pakistan, and how?
A. Of course, Ziaul Haq's period was the worst, and it continues to
worsen. This is because he (Zia) extended the state patronage to
religious extremists to such a high degree that they grew like
invincible mafias. It is because of this fearful impact that no
subsequent government has been able to strike down the Zia laws,
which has led to the emergence of the present situation.
Q. Do you think the country's constitution has adequate provisions to
protect the rights of the minorities?
A. Certainly not. It is not equipped with provisions to even
safeguard the rights of the majority, what to talk of minorities. The
constitution has now become a document of conflicting articles that
have overriding effects on one another. The constitution enshrines
fundamental rights and principles of policy, yet their provisions
have lost meanings because of other conflicting provisions.
The Eighth Amendment, for instance, has indemnified even the coma and
full stop of Ziaul Haq's dictates which have been derogatory to all
sections of society. But the question is not constitutional but
political and only a political struggle can ensure rights of citizens
irrespective of their religious beliefs. However, if a constitutional
protection is to be ensured, we shall revert to the original
constitution which was adopted on August 14, 1973.
Q. Are there sufficient laws to protect the minorities?
A. There apparently are no such laws. There are only bad laws.
Q. Whether there is a state policy on minorities' rights; if not, do
you think we need such a policy?
A. The state policy is fully manifest in the laws we have on the
statute book. When the basic law (constitution) does not provide a
remedy, we can say this is the state policy.
Q. What do you think of the proposal that a minorities commission
should be constituted?
A. No such commissions will help, as we have seen what has happened
to earlier such commissions. If at all such a commission is to be
established, a Supreme Court judge from the minorities or the judge
on whom the minorities confide, should be appointed its chairperson.
The commission should take into account the whole question of
minorities rights since the beginning, have wide ranging
consultations with all sections of society and then come out with a
set of recommendations which should first be made public for a
debate. It should be subsequent to this debate that its
recommendations should be presented for the formulation of a
Q. Will the establishment of ministries exclusively for minorities at
the Centre and in the provinces will be a meaningful step in
ameliorating their lot?
A. The only meaning of such a setup will be that some more people
will get jobs. No meaningful purpose will be served till there is a
clear state policy in favour of vulnerable groups. The ministries
should only follow to implement.
The Hindu [India]
Sunday, Aug 17, 2003
Off track, decades later
Jawaharlal Nehru ... his India did change.
by Shashi Tharoor
AS these words appear in print, India will just have celebrated the
56th anniversary of its independence two days earlier. I was
scheduled to spend much of the day correcting the final proofs of my
forthcoming biography, Nehru: The Invention of India.
My mind turns, therefore, to that time, 55 years ago, when
independence was attained and Partition proved unavoidable.
When the British government announced in early 1947 that they would
withdraw from India, and that the transfer of power would be executed
by the blue-blooded Lord Mountbatten, it was already apparent that
Pakistan, in some form, would have to be created. The experience of
the Interim Government had proved that the League was simply not
going to work with the Congress in a united government of India.
Jawaharlal Nehru nonetheless tried to prod leaders of the League into
discussions on the new arrangements, which he still hoped would fall
short of an absolute Partition. By early March, as communal rioting
continued across northern India, even this hope had faded. Both
Sardar Patel and Nehru agreed that, despite the Mahatma's refusal to
contemplate such a prospect, the Congress had no alternative but to
agree to partitioning Punjab and Bengal; the alternative (of a loose
Indian union including a quasi-sovereign Pakistan) would neither be
acceptable to the League nor result in a viable government for the
rest of India. Some critics see in all this an exhausted Jawaharlal's
anxiety to end the tension once and for all; others suggest that he
allowed his regard for the Mountbattens to trump his own principles.
Such arguments do a great disservice to Jawaharlal Nehru.
His correspondence at the time shows a statesman in great anguish
trying to do the best for his country when all other options had
failed. Communal violence and killings were a daily feature; so was
Jinnah's complete unwillingness to co-operate with the Congress on
any basis other than that it represented the Hindus and he the
Muslims of India.
As long as the British gave Jinnah a veto over every proposal he
found uncongenial, there was little else Nehru could do. Nor is there
evidence in the writings and reflections of the other leading Indian
nationalists of the time that any of them had any better ideas. The
only exception was Gandhi: the Mahatma went to Mountbatten and
suggested that India could be kept united if Jinnah were offered the
leadership of the whole country. Jawaharlal and Patel both gave that
idea short shrift, and Mountbatten did not seem to take it seriously.
There is no doubt that Mountbatten seemed to proceed with unseemly
haste, and that in so doing he swept the Indian leaders along. Nehru
was convinced that Jinnah was capable of setting the country ablaze
and destroying all that the nationalist movement had worked for: a
division of India was preferable to its destruction. "It is with no
joy in my heart that I commend these proposals," Nehru told his
party, "though I have no doubt in my mind that it is the right
course." The distinction between heart and head was poignant, and
telling. On June 3, Jawaharlal, Jinnah, and the Sikh leader Baldev
Singh broadcast news of their acceptance of Partition to the country.
"We are little men serving a great cause," Nehru declared: "... The
India of geography, of history and tradition, the India of our minds
and hearts, cannot change." But of course it could change: geography
was to be hacked, history misread, tradition denied, minds and hearts
torn apart. Jawaharlal imagined that the rioting and violence that
had racked the country over the League's demand for Pakistan would
die down once that demand had been granted, but he was wrong. The
killing and mass displacement worsened as people sought frantically
to be on the "right" side of the lines the British were to draw
across their homeland. Over a million people died in the savagery
that accompanied the freedom of India and Pakistan; some 17 million
were displaced, and countless properties destroyed and looted. Lines
The man who, as Congress President in Lahore in 1929, had first
demanded "purna swaraj" (full independence), now stood ready to claim
it, even if the city in which he had moved his famous resolution was
no longer to be part of the newly-free country. Amidst the rioting
and carnage that consumed large sections of northern India,
Jawaharlal Nehru found the time to ensure that no pettiness marred
the moment: he dropped the formal lowering of the Union Jack from the
independence ceremony in order not to hurt British sensibilities.
The Indian tricolour was raised just before sunset, and as it
fluttered up the flagpole a late-monsoon rainbow emerged behind it, a
glittering tribute from the heavens. Just before midnight, Jawaharlal
Nehru rose in the Constituent Assembly to deliver the most famous
speech ever made by an Indian: Long years ago we made a tryst with
destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not
wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of
the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life
and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when
we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the
soul of a nation long suppressed finds utterance.
One man did not join the celebrations that midnight. Mahatma Gandhi
stayed in Calcutta, fasting, striving to keep the peace in a city
that just a year earlier had been ravaged by killing.
He saw no cause for celebration. Instead of the cheers of rejoicing,
he heard the cries of the women ripped open in the internecine
frenzy; instead of the slogans of freedom, he heard the shouts of the
crazed assaulters firing their weapons at helpless refugees, and the
silence of trains arriving full of corpses massacred on their
journey; instead of the dawn of Jawaharlal's promise, he saw only the
long dark night of horror that was breaking his country in two.
In his own Independence Day message to the nation Jawaharlal could
not help thinking of the Mahatma: On this day, our first thoughts go
to the architect of freedom, the Father of our Nation who, embodying
the old spirit of India, held aloft the torch ... We have often been
unworthy followers of his, and we have strayed from his message, but
not only we, but the succeeding generations, will remember his
message and bear the imprint in their hearts ....
It was a repudiation as well as a tribute: the Mahatma was now gently
relegated to the "old spirit of India" from whom the custodians of
the new had "strayed". We have strayed much farther in the following
Shashi Tharoor's new book Nehru: The Invention of India will be
published by Viking on November 14, 2003.Visit the author at
15 21 August 2003
"We don't want a revolution, just the same respect given to everyone else."
On Wednesday, Nepalis celebrated Gai Jatra with political satire,
outlandish costumes and cross dressing. It was therefore a readymade
occasion for the Blue Diamond Society (BDS) to stage Nepal's annual
gay pride march. Sunil Babu Pant, the founder, says, "All we want is
to bring about awareness about homosexuality and celebrate it. We are
not changing Gai Jatra into a gay jatra. This exercises our right to
BDS tried to model Wednesday's parade after 'western' ones, but
that's not how it worked out. There are those who are willing to come
out but aren't prepared for it, while others desperately want to
prove to themselves just how comfortable they are with their
sexuality. A number of them have peers "pushing them out of the
It is a subterfuge to come out on this day of all those available on
the calendar-outlandish costumes, unusual behaviour and political
lampoons are to be expected. So who's to discern that they are, in
fact, showing their true colours, if all the other citizens of the
kingdom are similarly indulging in what is considered outlandish?
This parade was not about pride as much as it was about camouflage.
(Much like people wearing GAY AND PROUD t-shirts in a predominantly
gay city like West Hollywood in the US.) Whatever point BDS tried to
get across was sublimated by the farcical nature of the festival.
Having said that, it does take courage to do even that much in an
overtly homophobic society.
There isn't much space in the public sphere here for men who have sex
with men (MSMs). This mentality is prevalent throughout Asia with
little exception. The societal construction of 'gayness' runs
something like this: if a man is attracted to someone of his own sex,
and is willing to express it, he is gay. And being gay means he
actually wants to be a woman. If that's the case, then he must resort
to imitating women as a drag queen. And if he does wear frocks and
makeup, then prostitution is the seemingly obvious next step. It is
this brand of fallacious reasoning that rules stereotypes of gays. In
turn, it trickles down to the closet MSM who may identify himself as
all man, but with a different sexual preference. Even in a haven like
BDS there are those that have no access to an alternate view and are
forced to model themselves on such archaic gender roles.
Many, who are definitely masculine, but are aware of their attraction
to other men, seem to be estranged from this emerging community
because the social strata even within this community is rather rigid.
More often than not, joining and identifying with BDS connotes a
desire to be a woman, which comes with it's own set of
stereotypes-pull out the chiffon sari and magic marker make-up. Of
course the members also have to deal with additional ridicule and
abuse from society as a whole, some of which has been reported in the
Nobody wants to be a victim. Everyone wants to be heard, and if
nothing else, the BDS parade succeeded in doing that in some measure.
As 'Preeti', wearing in a little black cocktail dress for the parade,
puts it, "We deserve the same rights accorded to straight people: we
don't want to be afraid, we want exposure. Unless society
acknowledges us, we cannot move forward. We don't want a revolution,
just the same respect given to everyone else."
Angel Angelus is a staff writer at WAVE.
Buzz on the perils of fundamentalist politics, on matters of peace
and democratisation in South Asia. SACW is an independent &
non-profit citizens wire service run since 1998 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.
More information about the Sacw