SACW | 9 Sept. 2003
aiindex at mnet.fr
Tue Sep 9 00:51:02 CDT 2003
South Asia Citizens Wire | 9 September, 2003
 Gov'ts of Pakistan and India need to overcome their fear of
friendship between their people
(I. A. Rehman)
 Press Release - The Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace
 Euro. Parliament resolution on human rights in the world in 2002
- Referring to India, Pakistan and India-related issues
 India: How one man has changed Gujarat (Kuldip Nayar)
 India: Want the latest news? Close your eyes and meditate (Jawed Naqvi)
 India: Television - Danger of Saffronisation (A. L. Chougule)
 Public discussion: September -11: Two Years Later - Who gained,
who lost? (11 Sept., Islamabad)
 Audio / Video by Democracy Now: Israeli PM Sharon Makes
Unprecedented Visit to India; Will India and Pakistan Send Troops to
The News on Sunday [ Pakistan]
September 7, 2003
Reality over mindset
As a first step towards normalisation, the governments of Pakistan
and India need to overcome their fear of friendship between their
By I. A. Rehman
Reports that the process of thaw between India and Pakistan is losing
steam are not unexpected and yet they must cause widespread anxiety.
These reports are not unexpected because both countries -- their
governments, bureaucracies, intelligence agencies and sizeable
population too -- are prisoners of a confrontationist mindset. A
change of posture on bilateral issues demands that none of the many
actors involved chooses to throw a spanner in the works. That
condition is not easy to meet, not in the short run at least. It is
possible that public perception of easily disposable matters is not
acceptable to state apparatuses.
The cause of anxiety lies in the widely shared realisation that the
costs of confrontation are mounting day by day and both countries are
losing time on meeting the pressing needs of their peoples. Further,
none of the causes of fresh setbacks to the move towards
normalisation is intractable. Lack of will is thus the biggest factor
contributing to the stalemate.
Hopes of an early restoration of all travel links between India and
Pakistan have not materialised. The proposal to resume the train
service is in doldrums. Not even a date for talks has been set.
Expectations of resumption of flights received a jolt with the
failure of recent talks in Islamabad. Both sides are blaming each
other but no credible explanation for this failure is available. It
is said that negotiations broke down because no agreement on a
mechanism to ensure irreversibility of a new accord was possible.
Perhaps the search for an unbreakable compact in the existing
situation is unrealistic if not totally naive. No agreement can enjoy
a better guarantee of its life than each party's perception of gain
from it. Perhaps undue attention has been paid to the oft-repeated
view that disruption of over-flights is causing a heavier loss to
India than to Pakistan. Little reliance should be placed on such
handicap theories. There is more to bilateral accords on use of air
space than the scale of facilities offered to one party or the other.
The need for direct air links between India and Pakistan is pretty
obvious. Regardless of the state of their relations the two
governments cannot avoid contacts. They may not discuss bilateral
issues but there are many issues concerning the region and the world
and their own people that demand frequent consultation. From
Pakistan's point of view the fact that the closure of India's air
space curtails its access to SAARC countries merits due
consideration. No Pakistani carrier today offers direct flight to any
of the SAARC countries and this kind of isolation cannot be seen as
normal or desirable. The biggest losers are the people. Apart from
the trading community that vitally needs easy access to South Asian
neighbours, the right of divided families to reunion and civil
society organisations' requirements for a meaningful contribution to
India-Pakistan normalisation and for strengthening the SAARC should
not be ignored. These factors demand a stronger will to expedite the
conclusion of an India-Pakistan agreement on over-flights.
At the same time both countries must relax their visa regimes. It may
be possible to explain the delay in the grant of visas to Indian
jurists but such incidents can have an unwelcome fallout. There is no
reason the frequency of the Lahore-Delhi bus service or the number of
buses per day cannot be increased if justified by passenger traffic.
Further, it is time the possibility of allowing the ordinary people
to walk cross the Wagah-Attari border was seriously considered. The
process may begin by affording this facility to properly managed
groups who could be identified as harmless promoters of worthwhile
The recent explosion in Mumbai was rightly seen as a bad sign.
Fortunately the Indian authorities did not wag the finger of
accusation at Pakistan as vigorously as on earlier occasions. But
will the two governments forever remain content with blaming each
other for acts of terrorism? Can't they realise that terrorism is no
longer the monopoly of intelligence agencies? Some thought should be
given to the objective conditions in the two societies and the
emergence of numerous factors that are driving desperate people to
violence. If the two governments are serious about peace at home they
have to organise negotiations between their security agencies to meet
the common challenge. The only obstacle is the security agencies'
obsession with secrecy even when secrets are too few.
Then something or the other is happening in Kashmir. The
impossibility of securing a complete end to violence there is no
longer debatable. Nobody has a reason to be upset if Hurriyat people
wish to talk to the government of India or Pakistan. The more the
divided people of Jammu and Kashmir are allowed to interact the
better the possibilities of fresh approaches to a peaceful and
democratic settlement. Here again the holy mindset bars rational
Another factor that threatens to harm the movement towards
India-Pakistan normalisation is their rivalry of pre-eminence in
Kabul. Neither country should dream of closing Afghanistan to the
other. But sane courses often are not the first options. The worst
attitude would be to force Afghanistan into making choices it may
wish to avoid. Peace in the region demands India-Pakistan cooperation
beyond bilateral matters. Yet such advice is unlikely to be welcome
to hardliners in both camps.
Above all the mindset the forces of peace and democracy in the region
are faced with has a quaint interpretation of the relationship
between a country's domestic and foreign policies. Instead of
defining external relations in the light of domestic imperatives,
foreign policy is seen as a weapon to win political battles on the
home front. Thus, each side concentrates on the immediate fallout of
what it may consider acts of giving rather than taking and ignores
the long-term gains.
However, it is in the nature of things that references to a
confrontationist mindset must at some stage become thin excuses.
Persuading the people of India and Pakistan to accept the logic of
peaceful co-existence and mutually beneficial cooperation may not be
as difficult a task as the elites want to believe. There is no need
to underplay the enormous nature of the task that changing a people's
psyche always is.
Neither rhetoric nor emphasis on education of the young alone can
help. The most effective way to change people's mind is to seek
understanding through common action and widest possible exchanges at
the people-to-people level. The restrictions on exchange of
newspapers or banning of TV channels by this party or that betrays
commitment to sustain the mindset more and more people are now
complaining of. As a first step towards normalisation the two
governments may overcome their fear of friendship between their
people. A cessation of the propaganda war they have been waging for
decades will be an earnest of the goodwill they often claim for each
Date: Mon, 08 Sep 2003 22:07:16 +0500
The Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), India notes with
deepest concern that the Government of India led by the BJP has chosen to
further aggravate its original sin committed in Pokhran in May 1998. In
its first meeting earlier this month, the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA)
chaired by the Prime Minister decided to further "consolidate India's
nuclear deterrent". This can only have spine-chilling consequences for the
region. It is no mere coincidence that Pakistan's President in turn
chaired a meeting of its National Command Authority only two days afterwards,
similar to the way Chagai had followed Pokharan, and announced that
Pakistan would "keep upgrading its arsenal in order to maintain its
minimum deterrent capability".
The falsity of the claim of "security" and "stability" through nuclear
weapons stands fully exposed by the Kargil War in Summer 1999, and the
long and dangerous period in 2002-3 of full-scale military mobilisation and the
practice of "nuclear brinkmanship" by both India and Pakistan. Given the
abysmal safety record of both militaries a catastrophic nuclear exchange
by unintended accident can never be ruled out. We urge the governments of
India and Pakistan to desist from pushing ahead towards open deployment
and instead work jointly for denuclearisation of the region and for a nuclear
weapons free world. The search for "security" and "supremacy" through
nuclear weapons can only lead to unimaginable disaster.
(On Behalf of the CNDP)
Adopted: 4 September 2003
Rapporteur: Bob van den Bos
European Parliament resolution on human rights in the world in 2002
and European Union's human rights policy (2002/2011)INI)
Referring to India, Pakistan and India-related issues (including
AI. whereas traditional peaceful relations between religions have
been disturbed by power struggles e.g. in the Balkan region, the
Moluccas, Nigeria, Sudan, Pakistan and India, where clashes which
have principally affected the minority are witnessed between Muslims
and Christians, or Hindus and Muslims and other religious minorities,
AW. whereas religious extremism may nurture other religious
extremism, as is the case e.g. in the Asian sub-continent, where for
instance in Pakistan, Indonesia and India extremism of one religion
provokes extremism of another and vice versa,
AX. whereas fundamentalism is a growing threat to equal
constitutional rights and access to justice for millions of people in
India, especially for Muslim and Christian minorities,
AY. whereas anti-conversion laws, such as those adopted or
proposed in India and Sri Lanka, could easily be abused in practice
to suppress religious minorities,
133. Calls on the Council and the Commission to discuss, under the
political dialogues with the Indian Government, the threat posed to
human rights, and in particular to religious freedom, by the current
'anti-conversion laws', an abuse of Hinduism for nationalistic
purposes, and the situation in Gujarat;
147. Underlines the key role of education in deepening mutual
understanding and respect for different religions; calls, therefore,
on the Commission, by means of a constructive but impartial attitude
towards religions, to foster mutual acceptance among citizens of
differing faiths; takes the view that incitement to hatred should be
a criminal offence, including when it occurs in the sphere of
education; calls on the Commission, Council and Member States to
ensure that they do not fund school books and other material which
promotes religious or other hatred; considers that access to modern
communications technologies and language courses can facilitate
inter-cultural exchanges, tolerance and understanding for other
religions within and outside the European Union;
161. Calls on the Council and the Commission to support the fight
against slavery in affected countries, including specifically the
situation of bonded child labour, and urges the governments of these
countries to investigate the full extent of the problem and institute
measures for the eradication of this gross violation, such as
mechanisms for release and rehabilitation;
162. Calls on the Council and the Commission to address and take
concrete measures on the issue of caste discrimination in political
dialogues and in EU development and trade cooperation with the
countries concerned; calls for the establishment of bilateral
consultative mechanisms on the issue and support for the emancipation
of the Dalits through external assistance programmes; urges the EU to
avail of every opportunity to ensure that the General Recommendation
XXIX on Descent-based Discrimination, adopted by the UN Committee on
the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in August 2002 be given the
widest recognition in terms of implementation;
163. Calls on the Council to include in its Human Rights Report an
analysis on caste-based discrimination, as well as factual reports
and a critical assessment of the effectiveness of the EU's Human
Rights Policy in terms of addressing caste discrimination;
165. Supports the efforts undertaken by the ILO to bring about a
permanent elimination of forced labour in all countries concerned;
reiterates its call to the Council to strengthen its common position
so as to include a foreign investment ban in order to stop
international business from profiting from the widespread and
systematic use of forced labour;
From: Explanatory Statement
Religious intolerance is taking different forms :
- totalitarian attempts to control and suppress religious belief or
practice is seen in Burma, China, Cuba, North-Korea and Vietnam;
- discriminatory legislation or policies towards minorities and non
approved religions is the case in Brunei, Bulgaria, Eritrea, Iran,
Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Territories, Jordan Laos Peoples's
Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Maldives, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi
Arabia, Singapore, Sudan, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates,
- state neglect of the problem of discrimination against, or
persecution of, minorities (including lower castes) or non approved
religions can be witnessed in: Bangladesh, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia,
Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Nigeria.
Of the 30 conflicts in the world in 2002 claiming more than 1000
casualties, 12 are linked to religion. Violent clashes are for
instance perceived between Hindus and Muslims in India in particular
in Kashmir; between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, Sudan,
Indonesia, Eritrea, Ivory Coast; between Muslims and Jews in Israel
and the Occupied Territories.
Religious extremism has in several cases provoked extreme violence
and disruption, it has inflamed civil wars and has even by some taken
the form of international terrorism. To give just two examples: the
terrorist attacks on September 11 in the US have been attributed to
militant muslim extremists. The US has reacted with a War on
Terrorism which amongst others has led to military action in
Afghanistan. The massacre of 2000 muslims in March 2002 in the Indian
State of Gujarat has been committed by Hindu fundamentalists. This
tragedy is unfortunately one of many assaults committed by these
extremists against religious and ethnic minorities which they
consider to be a threat to Indian national unity.
There is no doubt that the world-wide phenomenon of religious
extremism is dangerous, it breeds hatred and violence and causes
wide-scale human suffering. Thereby it can nurture other extremism.
In India for example Hindu fundamentalism is provoking reactions from
Muslim fundamentalists and vice versa.
On Pakistan specifically:
AT. whereas in several countries with a strong Muslim population,
such as (the North of) Nigeria, Sudan and Pakistan, the
re-establishment of Sharia and other practices that are perceived to
be contrary to universal human rights can be witnessed,
123. Deplores the violence directed against members of minority
communities in Pakistan and, in particular, those from the Christian
and Ahmadi communities and the government's failure to protect those
individuals; deplores also the arbitrary application of the law of
130. Expresses deep concern at the growth of religious extremism in
Pakistan and the imposition of Sharia law in the North West Frontier
Province by an alliance of religious fundamentalist parties;
From: Explanatory Statement
Islamic fundamentalists are developing counter cultures of political
radicalisation. With a view to persuading people, they deploy
grassroot activities that meet social needs left untended by the
State, in particular in the fields of education and health. We see
this in Pakistan but also in Indonesia where not only moderate
islamic scholars teach in Madrasas but also extremists which
propagate fundamentalist interpretations of the Koran and intolerance
towards other religious communities.
6 September 2003
How one man has changed Gujarat
By Kuldip Nayar
What is the difference between dictatorship and democracy? In the
first, one man changes the people; in the second, the people change
him. When I read about the treatment meted out to Mrs. Zakia after
she had deposed before the Nanavati-Shah Commission at Ahmedabad on
the killing of her husband, former MP Ehsan Jafferey, I wondered how
one man, Chief Minister Narendra Modi, had changed the people in
True, those who mobbed Mrs. Zakia and the media men interviewing her
were the Sangh Parivar activists. But I know of no person of
substance in Gujarat who has condemned the incident. Even earlier I
did not find any protest against the case which was initiated against
Nafisa Ali, a social activist, who went to Ahmedabad from Delhi to
talk about communal harmony.
In the long list of men and women from the world of film, media and
academic who have sent a joint letter to the President of India on
the immediate withdrawal of the case against Nafisa, I did not find
the name of anyone living in Gujarat. It seems as if the Gujaratis
have been brainwashed by Modi to believe that the country is
oblivious to their sensitivities. They have to fend for themselves.
And even for a small incident they are held responsible because they
are always in the dock.
Fear of Modi's annoyance may also be the reason for the Gujaratis'
silence. It is like the emergency days when the mere mention of Mrs.
Indira Gandhi's name would cast terror. Yet the Gujaratis must
remember that, as Martin Luther King has said: "The day we see the
truth and cease to speak is the day we begin to die." It is sad that
the same Gujaratis who responded to the refrain of 'Ishwar Allah Tere
Nam' in the song that India's tallest man, Mahatma Gandhi, liked,
flare up at the suggestion of Hindu-Muslim amity.
Gandhi was a Gujarati and he said at the height of rioting between
Hindus and Muslims in the wake of partition: "Hindus and Muslims are
my two eyes." Instead, the BJP workers decorated the other day
Gandhi's statute by tying saffron bands on the hands and in the neck.
The occasion was to celebrate the return of ashes of Shyamji Krishna
Verma from London. The effort of Modi, who brought the ashes, was
probably to find an icon other than secular Gandhi to make them feel
There is a smouldering hatred which is consuming the best in the
Gujaratis. Many believe they have not got the recognition which is
due to them. Parochialism is not what they like but this is something
that has been imposed on them. Modi keeps stoking fires. What
happened at Godhara was unforgivable. But the pre-meditated reprisal
in several parts of the state was no less beastly and brutal.
I do not want to go over the story of murder and worse, and of men
and women migrating from their places with bundles on their heads and
the fear-stricken children trailing behind. Time should have been a
healer. But even after 18 months of the tragedy, the process of
conciliation has not begun.
Many victims wanting to return to their villages have been stopped.
They have been told first to take back their FIRs they had filed to
narrate what the mob had done to them and their family. The
rehabilitation is a farce because the state has washed its hands off
the task. How much of the prime minister's special grant has been
spent on putting back the affected on their legs is anybody's guess.
I wonder if the PMO has ever sent a query.
Surely, I have not seen anything by the PM on the behaviour of the
Sangh Parivar activists towards Mrs. Zakia. I do not expect Deputy
Prime Minister L.K.Advani and BJP president Venkaiah Naidu expressing
regret because they are cast in a different mould. But somehow I go
on indulging in wishful thinking, like many others in the middle
class, that Vajpayee will speak out to condemn the saffron crowd for
having humiliated Mrs. Zakia.
Once again the police behaved in the same manner as it did during the
carnage. The force stood as spectators when Mrs.Zakia was mobbed by
the Sangh Parivar activists. Her car was kicked. Still the police
stayed distant. This fitted into the description of the accounts
published on the Gujarat massacre: Even then, most of the government
machinery, including the police, was on the side of the mob.
The Concerned Citizens Tribunal confirmed this in a two-volume
report: "Despite the mass crimes committed against large sections of
the population of Gujarat, the police response to the crimes was such
that justice was not done. This is evident from the fact that mass
FIRs were filed, often even panchnamas were not recorded and an
investigation of forensic evidence was not undertaken."
It should not, therefore, come as a surprise when the court throws
out the Best Bakery case because of lack of evidence. What the
National Human Rights Commission went through to get a copy of the
court's judgment is a story of Gujarat government's deliberate policy
to withhold anything relating to the carnage. The judgment was sent
after many reminders and that too in Gujrati, without the English
The Supreme Court is yet to decide whether to order a retrial in the
Best Bakery Case or to transfer the cases arising out of the carnage
to courts outside Gujarat. The important thing is how to stop
witnesses changing their testimony under pressure. Probably one way
to do so is to record the evidence on an audio-visual tape.
The real problem that confronts the nation is how to ensure justice
to the victims in Gujarat. More than that, how to make the Muslims
feel at home in the state. The administration is not cooperating. The
Centre is not evincing any interest because Modi is the BJP mascot
for the coming elections. There is no use demanding President's rule
since the governor is from the RSS.
There is no option other than making an appeal to the Gujarati
community. Some among them should assert themselves - poor Malika
Sarabai did so at the cost of making her friends strangers - to see
how the "blot on the nation" can be removed. Gujarat is still thrown
at you wherever you go abroad. I am disappointed that Vajpayee did
not do anything although he went on calling the carnage "a shame."
The party interests pushed out human considerations.
The poison of communalism, which is the politics of hatred and
division will take us to the road to disaster. The Gujaratis should
Shamefully, some Muslims have come to believe that they must avenge
the killing of their brethren wherever it takes place. They have
formed groups of terrorists. The Mumbai bomb blasts were their
handiwork. They do not realize the harm they are doing to their own
community. They cannot afford to indulge in violence. They are
playing into the hands of Hindu fanatics who are dividing the society
on the lines of religion. The battle against communalism cannot be
fought through communalism. Pluralistic approach is the only way out.
The writer is a freelance columnist based in New Delhi.
September 8. 2003.
Want the latest news? Close your eyes and meditate
By Jawed Naqvi
There has been a steady growth of TV channels in India in recent
months. Contrary to conventional punditry about their profitability,
both news and religious channels, we are told, are raking in the
moolah. But why have separate channels for religion, one might
legitimately ask, if all other channels, including the so-called
newsvendors, are overflowing with matters spiritual?
From the minutely catalogued progress of the Amarnath Yatra, a
tortuous pilgrimage to a Hindu shrine in Kashmir, to the live
coverage of the Kumbh Mela in Nasik, running into a couple of weeks
or more, these are among the religious stories carried relentlessly
on the main news channels. The unfortunate stampede that killed 45
devotees in Nasik appeared sadly to be a sidebar to the main event.
Is India turning suddenly very religious or has television merely put
the spotlight on a dormant tendency? Is it possible that the nouveau
riche classes in post-economic reforms India are asserting their
cultural identity a tad more than the rest of the world? Or is a
surfeit of religion part of the new global world order, which is
perhaps pushing religion as a palliative, or as an escape from its
own increasingly horrendous reality?
In a multi-cultural country like India the, mushrooming of religious
channels could bring its own problems. Britain is a similar cultural
salad bowl. Therefore, when Mr Tony Blair's government proposed an
easing of the ban on religious organizations from owning television
broadcast licenses, civil society expressed its fears. Cult-watchers
opposed any move that would allow evangelical sects to extend their
influence among "vulnerable people".
But with the proliferation of satellite and digital channels
extending viewers' choice, the British government signalled that the
rules could be changed. Yet it conceded that "religious content has a
particular capacity to offend those with different views and
opinions, or, sometimes, to exploit the susceptibilities of the
vulnerable. Religious issues may also shade into matters of political
controversy." Surely India's grinding poverty and rampant illiteracy
make it a lot more vulnerable to obscurantist cults that some of
these channels promote?
Let me give an example. The Asianet channel that has a niche market
for news and entertainment programmes in the Malayalam speaking state
of Kerala has begun giving an hour every Friday to discourses by
Satya Sai Baba, an extremely popular spiritual guru. His followers
straddle countries in South Asia, including Sri Lanka and Nepal and
beyond. The devotees throng his meetings and the numerous temples
that have been raised by his trusts, and often receive the boon of
this or that miracle.
I have it from impeccable sources close to the late Sirimavo
Bandaranaike that she flew in a special plane to meet Sai Baba at his
southern Indian hermitage. Mrs Bandaranaike was prime minister of Sri
Lanka at the time. Her toes were badly paralysed and she couldn't
walk. Herbal therapies in Kerala and acupuncture in Singapore had
failed to cure her. But Sai Baba told her calmly that she would walk
within 10 days. She never did. Subsequently the opposition press
picked up the story and chided "the leader of a Buddhist state for
dabbling in Hindu mumbo-jumbo."
But that is not the point. The real issue is that there is neither a
limit to nor any checks on what is being preached on the religious
channels, and there is no space available for a fair and rational
content. It would be unthinkable in India to nominate someone like
Alan Bookbinder, a self-confessed agnostic running the BBC's science
department, as head of a religious channel. But this is what the BBC
did recently when it appointed the 46-year-old producer to head its
religious programmes section.
Mr Bookbinder sought to assuage the outraged clerics, saying: "I am
not an active member of any religion, and, although I do not rule it
out happening one day, I have not had any personal experience of God
or of an absolute sublime being. I have a huge respect and a huge
amount of appreciation and empathy for faith, and I admire and in a
way I even envy people for whom faith means purpose and meaning and
identity." Two of India's religious channels, Aastha and Sanskar,
have been running neck and neck in a race to get the devout eyeballs
for the last three years. Both channels, after an initial lean run,
have reportedly started attracting ads steadily.
While Sadhna TV, promoted by a Delhi-based advertising group, started
telecasting some months back, Ahimsa TV and Sanskriti are preparing
to join the fray. And then of course there is God TV (yes, actually)
with its fair share of viewers for its transmission of the gospel in
English and Tamil. According to a new survey, some of these channels
claim upwards of 10 per cent of the viewership in the estimated 24
million cable and satellite homes in the country that have around 150
While religious channels are beamed to a select audience, it is the
news and current affairs channels that, when they engage with
sensitive religious issues, are often found wanting in professional
handling of the subject.
For example, following up on the recent blasts in Mumbai a well-known
TV anchor was interviewing the city's deputy police chief from her
studio in Delhi last week. She asked him if being a Muslim, which he
was, came in the way of his job of hunting and arresting the alleged
culprits who also happened to be Muslims.
The officer said he was a professional and as such had never allowed
his religion to interfere with his work. What if he had turned around
and asked the anchor if her religion interfered with her professional
work while reporting on events like this?
Screen, September 05, 2003
Danger of Saffronisation
A. L. Chougule
How many times have you seen your favourite television characters
turning to God to save their family's honour? How often have you seen
the old mother clutching the puja thali and crying helplessly in
front of her favourite deity to bless her family? How often have you
seen religious festivities being celebrated by entire families with
traditional gaiety? And finally, how often have you seen and heard
references to Ram, Sita, Laxman, Ravan, Ayodhya and Lanka? The answer
to these questions is, as often as crisis befell on the families...
as often as we are reminded of our politicians... as often as we are
reminded of cultural nationalism... And as often as the House is
divided vertically over a debate on Ayodhya
At the outset it must be said that there is no link between the
increasing religious elements - pujas, havans, shraadhs, aartis and
festivities in serials and the communal divide in the county over a
host of issues. But the fact remains that prime time television
programming is a grand spectacle of religion, festivities and
rituals. On the Raksha Bandhan day (August 12) we saw Prerna of
Kasuatii Zindagi Kay being blackmailed by her ex-husband Bajaj with
Komolika's help. Komolika had the last laugh as she declared that
this time it's not Lanka but Ayodhya that will burn. The following
day we saw an emotional verbal dual between Rahul's mother, Simran
and Juhi in Sanjivani. The place: not anyone's house but a grand
temple where the three women fired verbal missiles at each other with
puja thalis in their hands. Meanwhile, for a day there was perfect
peace in the Aggarwal family as every member cutting across three
generations celebrated Raksha Bandhan. If during pre-independence
movement several social reformers fought against social evils,
religious rituals, obscurantism and worked for women's upliftment
through education, the women of our television serials are not only
kitchen workers but extremely religious, traditional and
conservative. The men just support and follow them.
The House may get divided often over debates on secularism and
communalism but the undivided families of soaps are always united in
their religious beliefs, practices and rituals. Not that serials
revolving around Muslim stories can be absolved of the same charge
but there have been very few serials set in Muslim families. Is
religion one of the mainstays of serials lately? Do they overtly
emphasis the religious aspect? "Religion is not the mainstay,"
informs UTV's Zarina Mehta. "The serials do not emphasis on religion
and religious beliefs but deep faith in God. In any case, we are
living in a Hindu majority country. Therefore Hindu religious
elements are bound to be there." It is an open secret that production
house/producers are told by channels to add more Hindu element in
their serials in the form of religion/tradition-driven stories,
religious and traditional characters and a host of festivities and
pujas. "It is a wave created by Ekta Kapoor that has swept television
programming," says producer-director Anil Chowdhry. "More than of any
consequence it is a gimmick aimed at attracting middle class ladies.
Since the programming is women-driven and targeted at women the idea
is to attract their attention through religious elements as women are
always more religious than men." Chowdhry who is making Awaaz for Zee
has been told to follow the trend. "I have to follow the rules to
attract viewers," he confesses.
According to the first ever and an exhaustive survey of household
amenities and assets conducted by the Census of India, for every
second Indian, house is just one room, over 60 per cent families
don't get water at home, over 50 per cent Indians depend on firewood
as cooking fuel and 65 per cent of households do not have a bank
account. The figures are shocking. But when it comes to religion and
owning TV sets the figures have a different story to tell: 2.4
million places of worship, more than the number of schools, colleges
and hospitals put together, and 61 million TV sets. In a country
where people's lives are majorly driven by religion and
entertainment, family soaps became staple entertainment with Hum Log
in 1984, followed by Buniyaad. While the former, a clone of a Mexican
soap, blended Indian values and homilies with social messages like
family planning, population control and the evils of alcoholism, the
later was a riveting saga of a displaced family set against the
backdrop of the Partition. Both revolved around Hindu families but
there was no emphasis on religion and religious practices.
The power of televisual religion was discovered with Ramayan, which
was watched by 40 million people. The telecast of Ramayan coincided
with the propaganda of an aggressive Hindutva. It is an open secret,
acknowledged by the proponents of the Hindutva campaign, that Ramayan
helped their cause. No wonder, the telecast of another partition
saga, Govind Nihalani's Tamas, raised the hackles of the Hindutva
brigade. Where Ramayan left Mahabharat took over and created TRP
history. Chanakya painted the television screen saffron so much so
that it ran into problems and the makers had to take legal course to
complete its quota of episodes.
While mythologicals continued to hold their sway on Doordarshan in
most of the '90s, satellite television viewers feasted on boardroom
and bedroom wars, extra-marital affairs, campus-rampus, pimples and
pre-marital sex. The rules changed in mid-2000. Suddenly the power of
televisual religion was discovered: this time not through mythology
but fictional stories and characters based on mythology. It worked
like a magic potion, became a mainstay of prime time programming and
benchmark for mopping TRPs. "Religion has always been an intrinsic
part of any hit fictional programme," says Zarina.
Hum Log, according to her, was a story of a Hindu family. "So was
Buniyaad and both were big hits." But the difference between today's
soaps and the ones that hooked the audience nearly two decades ago is
that they were not overtly religious. "Amanat (considered to be the
first in the line of traditional family sagas) was very religious in
content," points out Zarina adding that, it was a huge hit. "Why only
pick up Hindu family soap? Serials based on Muslim stories and
families were also rich with religious content. In Heena and
Sarhadein, characters have been shown praying quit often. It all
depends on the story and characters. If the character is shown to be
very religious he/she will have to be shown praying to justify the
story and characterization," she avers. According to Sony
Entertainment Television's on-air programming director, Anupama
Mandoloi, elements that are commonly woven into the fabric of Indian
society find themselves being increasingly reflected in our soaps so
as to create a high level of empathy with a large viewer base. "Joint
families, prayer meetings, devotion to God, devotion to family and
rituals all find a mirror in the shows on television these days. It's
a function of reaching out to a larger mass and pinning down a
commonality among them," elaborates Anupama, adding, "Naam Gum Jayega
on Sony reflects Hindu as well as Muslim sentiments and cultural
sub-contexts since the show requires it."
According to Ekta Kapoor, it's not the religious element that is the
mainstay of soaps but traditional element. "It's wrong to look at
programmes from religious angle," she observes. "Indians being
traditional and religious, religion is an ofshoot of the traditional
element in serials. In any case if religious element is coming in and
is being accepted by the masses it's because more and more people are
turning to religion than before." No one denies that festivities are
an integral part of our day-to-day existence. So is religion. But why
make it a spectacle? "It is part of the narrative," defends Tarun
Katial, vice-president, programming and content, Star India. "It is
there to set up the story and characters initially but once the story
takes off and full blown narration takes over the religious element
declines. It is a case with Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi where the
religious element has decreased considerably than what it was three
years ago." Katial further says the so-called spectacle is a result
of the scaled up television production. "Earlier TV was confined to a
small set or room," he explains. "Today there are big sets and
interiors. So as part of the scaled up production you have weddings,
mehndi ceremonies, prayers and festivities."
Televisual religion, according to Katial is not about regular worship
but faith and festivities, talking to God and keeping faith in Him.
Ekta seconds Katial's view, "It is about faith and positivity. It
generates humility and hope." But the question is, why are stories
and characters overdosed with religion and religious practices than
faith? "Stories today are character-led. I wouldn't term the use of
cultural symbolism as an overdose of religious activities. The fact,
however, is that since largely Hindu families are depicted in shows
it becomes natural to reflect their milieu and custom," defends
Anupama adding that religion per se does not create a hook for
viewers. "Viewers want to watch characters for whom they feel empathy
and sympathy. The rest is a function of the storyline and backdrop
that makes the journey of the character richer and more relatable."
But what's difficult to understand is this narrow interpretation of
cultural symbolism. Does cultural symbolism comprise only religion or
is religion just one sub-text of culture? "It is one aspect of
culture," says writer-director Ajay Kartik. "Religion is a way of
life. It gives a person solitary space to connect with the Supreme
Power as well as to understand and negotiate his place and
relationship in society. It teaches to enrich the quality of life.
But what's happening is the serials are reinforcing traditional value
system, cashing on conservative beliefs and practices and creating a
role model for women which is not only outdated but affects their
Joint Hindu families, prayer meetings, devotion to God, religious
characters, rituals, festivities and so on is television screen being
painted saffron? "No," says Chowdhry. "People are not so religious as
shown on television. Everything about these soaps is false." Katial's
answer is also an emphatic no. So also says Zarina. But veteran
offbeat filmmaker Saeed Mirza who has also made socially relevant
serials like Nukkad, Intezaar and Raja Ka Baja says he is not sure
whether it's saffron or any other colour. "What's really happening is
the views and value system of the upper middle class that's being
imposed. They pretend to be modern but they are orthodox,
conservative and overtly religious. They have a conservative and
fascist worldview. It's not happening only in India but all over the
world," says Mirza. Kartik feels the rise of religious element in
serials has to be in the backdrop of the increasing religious bigotry
of last decade. "Intentionally or otherwise it is getting reflected
in serials," says Kartik adding, "The pre-requisite of a good story
is pain, agony, joy, sorrow, relationship and so on than
over-dependence on gimmicks."
In Palaeolithic age man acquired the skills of chopping and shaping
stones to suit his needs. In Neolithic age, which began about ten
thousand years ago, man invented the wheel. In modern age man has
access to the most advanced technology so much so that he is making
human clones. It's a wonder that in the age of information technology
instead of stories rooted in reality which will reflect life of rural
and urban India, television entertainment is peddling religion weaved
into dramatic stories of the overtly religious rich?
From: The Physics Gup-Shup Club <gup-shup at physicslessons.com>
Date: Sun, 7 Sep 2003 22:03:00 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Sep. 11- Two Years Later
The Physics Gup-Shup Club cordially invites you to its
first session in this semester.
Topic of the sessions is:
September -11: Two Years Later
Who gained, who lost? How has the event changed things for the world?
Can it happen again?
Our speakers for the session are:
Dr. A.H. Nayyar
(Department of Physics, QAU)
(Director,Institute for Policy Studies)
(Department. of Physics, QAU)
The lecture will be followed by a question and answer session.
Come and join us to ask and share your views. Session scheduled as:
Venue: Razmi Auditorium (Dept. of Physics)
Date : 11 Sep. 2003
Day : Thursday
Time : 1:15 p.m.(sharp)
All are invited. For details contact :
mariam at physicslessons.com
mariam saleh khan
coordinator ,THE PHYSICS GUP-SHUP Club
deptt. of Physics,
Quaid-i-Azam University ,Islamabad.
September 8th, 2003
Israeli PM Sharon Makes Unprecedented Visit to India; Will India and
Pakistan Send Troops to Iraq?
Listen to: Segment
Watch 128k stream
Watch 256k stream
As Ariel Sharon begins his three-day visit to India and as the White
House continues to pressure Indian troops to come to Iraq- Democracy
Now! goes to India and to Pakistan and hosts a debate between
journalists C. Raja Mohan, Praful Bidwai and M. Ziauddin.
Ariel Sharon begins his three-day state visit to India today. He is
the first Israeli Prime Minister to ever visit the country.
Just hours before the visit, a Bhartiya Janata Party spokesperson in
Delhi said, "If any country is making an effort to join the war
against terrorism especially after September 11, we cannot ignore
Interestingly, Palestinian foreign minister Nabeel Shaath was in
India a week ago and said that India must not forget its historical
ties with the Palestinian struggle for independence.
Meanwhile, Pakistani papers have been talking about fears of an
anti-Muslim Jewish-Hindu axis.
The New York Times reports that, "Israeli munitions have proved
particularly valuable for India as it tries to bulk up its
conventional defenses against its nuclear-armed neighbor, Pakistan.
Israel has supplied India with surface-to-air missiles, avionics,
sophisticated sensors to monitor cross-border traffic, remotely
piloted drones and artillery. After Russia, Israel is India's second
largest supplier of arms.
India and Israel are currently negotiating the transfer of three
Phalcon airborne early-warning radar, command, and control systems -
after the United States lifted its objection this year to the sale.
The Phalcon, long coveted by both India and China, is a long-range
Israeli-made system that will be fitted onto Russian-built military
* C. Raja Mohan, Strategic Affairs Editor of The Hindu and
author of Crossing the Rubicon-The Shaping of India's New Foreign
Policy (New Delhi, Viking, 2003). Speaking from New Delhi.
* M. Ziauddin, Resident Editor of The Dawn, Islamabad.
* Praful Bidwai, former senior editor of The Times of India.
Bidwai is a freelance journalist and regular columnist for several
leading newspapers in India. He is an associate editor of Security
Dialogue, a member of the International Network of Engineers and
Scientists against Proliferation and co-founder of the Movement in
India for Nuclear Disarmament. His latest book, co-authored with
Achin Vinaik and with an introduction by author and peace activist
Arundhati Roy, is New Nukes: India, Pakistan and Global Nuclear
Disarmament (Interlink 1999).
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