SACW | 16 Dec. 2003 |Sri Lanka / Bangladesh/ Pakistan India
/ Communalism / N East India
aiindex at mnet.fr
Mon Dec 15 17:18:13 CST 2003
South Asia Citizens Wire | 16 December, 2003
 Sri Lanka: Communal Violence - Land Dispute
Between Tamils and Muslims (M.I.M.Mohideen)
 52,000 missing: Sri Lanka has no answers
 Bangladesh: Ahmadiyyas (Qadianis) Under
Attack: Violating the Right to Freedom of Religion
 India - Pakistan: Peace bid welcomed [at Karachi meet] (Shamim-ur-Rahman)
 India: The BJP isn't becoming normal or
moderate. It's still rooted in Hindutva plus
It's still abnormal! (Praful Bidwai)
 India: Look East, but via the Northeast (Sanjib Baruah)
 India: Call to Join - Anti War-On-Iraq
Memorabilia Exhibition - World Social Forum
 India Upcoming Film Screening: 'The City
Beautiful' a documentary by Rahul Roy (18 Dec, N.
Muslim Rights Organization
KINNIYA FAISAL NAGAR - AL-IRFAN VIDYALAYAM LAND
DISPUTE BETWEEN TAMILS AND MUSLIMS
Wednesday 08th October 2003
Communal violence erupted between the Tamils and
Muslims at 10.00 am on Wednesday 8th October
2003, in Faisal Nagar, Kinniya over a plot of
land 3 acres belonging to Al-Irfan Mixed School.
Fifteen Tamils were injured - fourteen admitted
to Kinniya Hospital and One to Trincomalee for
the treatment of minor injuries. A Muslim was
abducted by the Tamils and a Muslim student was
arrested by the police. In retaliation four
Tamils were abducted by the Muslims. Muslim
students stopped the ferry service between
Kinniya and Trincomalee.
Faisal Nagar - 3857 Muslims and 217 Tamils, 3½ km
East of Kinniya. Al-Irfan Muslim Mixed School -
760 students conduct classes from grade 1 -10.
Situated in a 3 acre plot. Adjoining this School
is the 3 acre land in dispute. Originally this
land belonged to Captain Sarawanamuthu of
Trincomalee who owned more than 350 acres in the
area. Under the Land Reforms, the land in dispute
was vested with the LRC in 1972. Muslim Religious
School - Madrasa and Hindu Vinayakar Kovil were
jointly cultivating the said land for some time
without approval from the LRC or permission from
The Al-Irfan Muslim Mixed School made an
application to the LRC for the adjoining 3 acre
land for the expansion of the School. Approval
was obtained from the LRC, North-East Provincial
Land Commission and the Land was surveyed by the
Survey Department in 1998. Finally the said land
was handed over to the School through the
Education Department Kinniya Zonal Director by
Kinniya Divisional Secretary on 22nd September
2003. The School Development Society is
constructing the boundary wall for the land with
the funds allocated by the area Muslim
Parliamentarians and Eastern Development Ministry.
When the Vinayakar Kovil Hindus - Tamils came to
know the vesting of the land to the school,
nearly 18 Tamils unlawfully entered the land,
blocked it into small plots and erected temporary
fences. Immideatly the Principal informed the
Zonal Director and the Zonal Director sent a
registered letter to the Chaina-bay Police
complaining of the unlawful occupation of the
School land by the Tamils and wanted the police
to take immediately action. In the mean time the
principal checked at the Police Station and
conformed that the Police station had received
the letter sent by the Zonal Director. However no
action was taken by the Police to remove the
The School Development Society also complained to
the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission Trincomalee. The
SLMM visited the place on 07th October 2002 but
not taken any action to settle the dispute. When
there was no action by the Police and the SLMM,
Muslim School children protested in front of the
Kinniya Divisional Secretariat and took the DS
and the Police to the site at Faisal Nagar
Al-Irfan School and removed the unlawful fence
erected by the Tamils at about 10.00 am on
Wednesday 8th October 2003 The Tamils who
unlawfully put up the fence pelted stones in
anger at the Muslim boys, four Muslims were hurt.
In retaliation the Muslim attacked the Tamils and
nearly 15 were injured. None of the MPs were
available in Kinniya.
The violence erupted when the Muslim students
removed the fence put up by Tamils in the 3 ace
plot belonging to Al - Irfan School in the
presence of Police and Kinniya Divisional
Secretary. Tamils abducted a Muslim teacher Mr.
Anver of Al-Irfan Vidyalaya. In retaliation
Muslims abducted four Tamils. Police arrested a
Muslim Student at 2.00 pm. In protest the Muslim
students stopped the ferry service between
Kinniya and Trincomalee. The Tamils released the
Muslim teacher in the evening at 5.00 pm and the
four Tamil were also released by the Muslims. The
Ulama Sabai safely handed over the four Tamils to
the respective families. Police also released the
Muslim student and the ferry service resumed at
6.00 pm. The situation returned to normal in the
Thursday 09th October 2003
At the boarder of Alankeni - Idiman, Tamils
attacked the Muslims in the morning. LTTE
Anpalakan invited the Ulamasabai for immediate
discussion. When the representatives of the
Ulamasabai went LTTE Anpalakan did not turn-up.
However, Mr. Parimelalakan from LTTE Political
division came. They met and dispersed. Soon after
the meeting with LTTE Parimelalakan, the Tamils
attacked the Muslims in Alankeni No.10, Situation
became tense and Muslims in the boarder villages
started moving out to the interior of Kinniya and
SLMC Leader and Minister Hon. Rauff Hackeem
visited Kinniya by Helicopter at 3.30 pm and met
the local Civil Society Leaders and defused the
situation. SLMM Trincomalee and SSP Mr. Daya
Samaraweera have also visited the area. Local
curfew was enfaced from 6.00 pm to 6.00 am the
following day. No incidents during the curfew in
Kinniya and the suburbs.
Immediate inquiry should be held by the IGP or
DIG Trincomalee as to why the Chaina-bay Police
failed to take prompt action on the letter sent
by Kinniya Zonal Director of Education.
SLMM Head Office should hold and an inquiry as to
why the SLMM Trincomalee did not take prompt
action on the complaint made by the Al-Irfan
School Development Society.
Strengthen Security in the area
SLMM Trincomalee should coordinate reconciliation
between the Tamils and Muslims with the
assistance of Government Security Force, LTTE and
Local Civil Society - Muslims and Tamils.
150 Merton Road
London SW19 1EH
52,000 missing: Sri Lanka has no answers
Champika Liyanaarachchi (OneWorld.net)
Colombo, December 11 
To coincide with Human Rights Day, the Organization of Parents and Family
Members of the Disappeared (OPFMD) in Sri Lanka, held a commemoration on
Wednesday for nearly 52,000 missing people, demanding punishment of the
guilty and compensation for their families.
The memorial service was held at Kotte, just three kilometers from the Sri
Lankan capital of Colombo.
The figure of 52,800 comprises 44,000 Sinhalese who disappeared during the
second youth uprising between 1987 and 1992 and some 8,500 people, mostly
Tamils, who went missing in the North and East provinces since 1995.
"There are no proper records of the disappearances that took place before
1987 in the South or the disappearances in the North and the East before
1995," says OPFMD general secretary Shantha Pathirana.
This is unfortunate given the fact that thousands in the South went missing
both during the first youth uprising in 1971 and the 18-year war in the
Northern and Eastern provinces, which continued till December 2001.
The list also excludes thousands of abductions made by the Liberation Tigers
of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the North and East, due to the difficulty in
collecting information here.
Despite the disappearance of such large numbers of people, the government is
yet to implement most of the recommendations made by the UN Working Groups
on Enforcement Involuntary Disappearances (UNWGEID) that visited Sri Lanka
several times and also by the Presidential Commission on Involuntary
A demand to implement the recommendations of these bodies tops the petition
presented by the OPFMD on Wednesday to the opposition leader in Parliament,
The petition is to be handed over to President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who is
also the leader of the main opposition party, the People's Alliance.
The OPFMD's other demands include the amendment of the Constitution
guaranteeing right to life. Despite being signatory to several international
conventions on human rights, Sri Lanka is yet to make the right to life a
clause in the Constitution.
Says Pathirana, "Since the Constitution was introduced in 1978, there have
been agitations to include the right to life. But we continue to live in a
country where this right is not guaranteed."
By way of compensation, the OPFMD has also demanded that the family members
of the missing be given US $2,000.
"But due to a variety of reasons a large number of people had not applied
for compensation for the disappeared," says the deputy director of the
Rehabilitation Authority, Ananda Wijepala.
Prime among them is the fear of exposing the fact that the dead were
involved in armed struggle. Many family members are also completely ignorant
of the compensation scheme.
Of the 22,000 who have applied for compensation, 17,735 were declared
eligible for payment. But with a ceiling of US $500.
Another issue of concern for the OPFMD is the fact that many of those
responsible for the involuntary disappearances are still walking free.
"Nearly 3,000 perpetrators - mainly military personnel - have gone without
any punishment or cases against them," says the head of the OPFMD's northern
branch, Sittamparam Mohan.
Meanwhile, the Mothers Front of the OPFMD's northern branch held a protest
Wednesday in front of the Human Rights Commission office in Jaffna,
protesting against the human rights authorities' inaction in probing their
"Unlike the family members of those killed in war or insurgency, the
families of those missing were in a state of shock when they came before the
commission, years after the disappearances of their loved ones", says PCID
chairperson Manouri Muttettuwegama.
While some PICD recommendations regarding the issuing of death certificates
and compensation have been implemented to a fair extent, a lot still
"The culprits have to be booked and there should be a special program for
the families of the disappeared to look into their needs, especially
financial ones," stresses Muttettuwegama.
According to her, almost 90 per cent of missing persons hail from the lowest
income group, and the PICD has recommended that a special tax be levied on
the public to help the disappeared.
"There are genuine grievances of the family members, which have been
neglected for long. While it is imperative to include the right to live as a
clause in the Constitution even at this late stage, justice should be meted
out to the disappeared by carrying out independent and prompt inquiries,"
ALERT FOR ACTION !
[Bangladesh] Ahmadiyyas (Qadianis) Under Attack:
Violating the Right to Freedom of Religion
In the last few months, the Ahmadiyya (Qadiani)
community in Bangladesh has been subjected to
repeated assaults on its mosques in several
places and on individual members of the
community. The two most recent events occurred in
Dhaka, the capital city, on November 21 and
December 5, 2003, when large mobs of thousands
were instigated by Moulana Mahmudul Hasan
Momtaji, Coordinator of the Khatme Nabuwat
Movement and Moulana Azizul Huq of the Islami
Oikkyo Jote, to attack an Ahmadiya mosque in
Nakhalpara. In previous incidents, mobs carrying
banners in the name of "Khatme Nabuwat Movement
Coordination Committee" have attacked mosques in
Jessore, Kushtia, Jheniadah and Jamalpur.
In a hate demonstration on December 5, the
anti-Ahmadiyya zealots, mainly under the banner
of Khatme Nabuwat Movement and an organisation
called "Jaish-e-Mustafa," announced a one-week
ultimatum for the government to declare Ahmadiyas
as non-Muslims. They also threatened to either
burn down or take over the Ahmadiyya mosque and
vowed to bring the country to a standstill if
their demands are not met. Earlier, Moulana
Azizul Huq, Chairman of the faction of the
Islamic Oikyo Jote (IOJ), a coalition partner of
the present Government, had called on the Prime
Minister Khaleda Zia on 29 November 2003, and
urged her to declare the Ahmadiyyas as
non-Muslims. It had been reported in the press
that the Prime Minister assured Moulana Huq that
she would "look into the matter." This comment
itself points to appeasement and gives more than
tacit encouragement for the use of violence.
The increasing level of religious intolerance
instigated by extremists and the corresponding
indulgence of the Government, is a matter of
grave concern. The lenience of the Government has
resulted in a situation where religious fanatics
terrorise communities they disapprove of,
threaten violence and destruction if they are not
appeased, and spew fanaticism and hatred with
impunity. The acts of arson and demolition of
religious institutions, and instigations to
violence breached the right to freedom of
religion guaranteed under the Constitution, and
gave sufficient cause to the Government to
enforce the law and bring the situation under
control. Instead the law enforcement agencies
have delayed in arresting the perpetrators, and
the government has prevaricated, leading to
apprehensions that the government is unwilling to
act against the leaders of the Islami Oikkyo Jote
(IOJ), who are members of coalition in
government. The Government has thus allowed
itself to play into the hands of organised terror
groups. Moreover, the ominous silence of the main
Opposition has created a major threat to peace
and stability in Bangladesh.
Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), as a human rights
organisation based in Bangladesh which advocates
in favour of access to justice of all
marginalised groups, strongly condemns the
attacks on the Ahmadiyyas as well as the demand
to declare them as non-Muslims. This move can
only lead to violence and anarchy and will be a
gross violation of the right to freedom of
We call upon the Government of Bangladesh to take
immediate steps to prevent this incitement to
sectarian violence. The Government's present
indifference to the plight of religious
minorities and marginalised communities exposes
these communities to extreme vulnerability and
insecurity. Moreover, there is fear that such
communal intolerance in Bangladesh will impact
negatively on the whole South Asian region as
We are reassured to read in the press today ( 9th
December, 2003, Daily Star) that the State
Minister for Religious Affairs, Mr. Mosharef
Hossain Shajahan rejected the demand for
declaring the Ahmadiyyas non-Muslims by saying,
"None less than Allah can do it ... as the
Minister concerned, I have no power nor am I
entitled to do so." We also commend the State
Minister for his fortitude in pointing out that,
"Now they (anti-Ahmadiyya group) are demanding it
... once the demand is met, they will want to
capture a mosque, then a church ..." We take
great hope in the State Minister's comments and
would like to be reassured that his comments are
representative of the stand of the Government of
Bangladesh in favour of religious freedom of all
We call upon all conscientious individuals and
human rights organisations to urge the Government
of Bangladesh to uphold the constitutional
guarantees of freedom of religion of all
citizens, irrespective of sect or denomination,
and to protect the rights of all minorities.
Please find attached herewith an excerpt about
the Ahmadiyya community, taken from the
Banglapedia - National Encyclopedia of
Bangladesh. Also find contact details for the
office of the Hon'ble Prime Minister of
Bangladesh, the Hon'ble Minister for Home Affairs
and the Hon'ble State Minister for Religious
Affairs of the Government of Bangladesh.
You are invited to visit our website: www.askbd.org
Begum Khaleda Zia
Hon'ble Prime Minister
Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh
Prime Minister's Office, Old Sangsad Bhaban, Tejgaon, Dhaka
Phone : (880 2) 8828160 - 79, 9888677; Fax: (880
2) 8113244 (Principal Secretary)
Fax: (880 2) 9133722 (Political Sec.); (880 2) 8113243 (Press Sec.)
E-mail: pmo at pmo.bdonline.com
Mr. Altaf Hossain Choudhury
Hon'ble Minister, Ministry of Home Affairs
Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh
Bangladesh Secretariat (Building No. 8), Dhaka
Phone (880 2) 7164611; 8614611 and 8614633
Fax: (880 2) 8619667; and 8614788
Mr. Mosharef Hossain Shajahan
Hon'ble State Minister, Ministry of Religious Affairs
Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh
Bangladesh Secretariat, Dhaka
Phone (880 2) 8610682
Fax: (880 2) 8615040
15 December 2003
Peace bid welcomed
KARACHI, Dec 14: The sixth convention of the
Pakistan-India People's Forum for Peace and
Democracy on Sunday called upon the two countries
to settle the Kashmir dispute while respecting
the aspirations of the people of Jammu and
Kashmir on both sides of the LoC.
The Karachi Declaration, which was adopted on the
last day of the three-day convention, also called
for withdrawal of armed forces and armed groups
on both sides, establishment of an effective and
accountable mechanism to ensure protection of
life and liberty of the people, particularly the
women, of J&K.
During three days of deliberations delegates from
the two countries appreciated the current efforts
at rapprochement and called for building the
people's movement to remove obstacles in the way
Delegates from the two countries unanimously
declared that the future of the people of
Pakistan and India as independent countries was
contingent upon permanent peace and harmony so
that they fought the imperialist machinations of
subjugating and exploiting "the resources and the
people of our countries."
The Karachi Declaration also reiterated call for
global nuclear disarmament, and immediate
'de-alert' and subsequent destruction of all
nuclear weapons by the two countries, a 25 per
cent reduction in conventional forces, and an end
to the use of landmines. It also called upon the
two countries to become signatory to the UN
documents in this regard.
The convention also constituted joint committees
to ensure systematic and concerted pursuit of the
objectives of the Forum. The committee on Kashmir
has been mandated to arrange for, and facilitate,
a dialogue between people from both sides of the
LoC, and interact with all organizations involved
in the efforts to achieve a peaceful and
democratic resolution of the Kashmir issue.
The delegates from India and Pakistan were
convinced that the people of the world in general
and South Asia in particular faced new forms of
The committee would prepare an immediate and
short-term people's plan for confidence-building
and normalcy in the region and a long-term
strategy for a just and durable peace in the
It would visit different parts of India and
Pakistan and hold extended discussions with the
various sections of society, including political
parties, business community, workers and farmer's
organizations, media professionals, women and
minority groups, and representatives of the
The convention also decided to constitute a joint
committee on minorities to deal with the issue
relating to the protection of minorities and
their rights in the two countries.
It was of the considered view that there would be
no justice without granting redress to the
victims of human rights abuses, especially with
the connivance of the state as in Gujarat.
The conference was convinced that people of the
world in general and South Asia in particular
were confronted with new forms of imperialistic
globalization, that was increasingly aided and
abetted by local interests and constituencies;
imposed an iniquitous system on the developing
countries; destroyed the livelihood of common
people; undermined the political and economic
independence of counties; directed violence
against societies with different political and
social ideals, particularly Muslim people; and
terrorized entire countries in the name of
The conference also called for building
"resistance against the IMF, World Bank and
WTO..., and promoting strong trade and economic
cooperation between the two countries and in
entire South Asia to foster independent
The Karachi Declaration also held that
"persistence of majoritarian politics and
increasing communalization of the polity, pitting
one disadvantaged section against another
deprives the people of their right to
It was of the view that without adequate
protection of religious, cultural and political
minorities, and women, there would be no
democracy. The convention also resolved that all
regimes and laws that deny human rights of the
person without citizenship status, such as
migrant workers and those who cross the border by
mistake must be scrapped.
It also exhorted Pakistan and India to sign a
protocol on exchange of prisoners and respecting
the rights of refugees. It demanded immediate
cessation of the harassment of fishermen. Those
arrested must be repatriated immediately with
their boats, equipment and property, it added.
The convention also called upon the two
governments to remove all restrictions on travel
between the two countries, and put in place a
regime of issuing of visa on arrival.
It also emphasized the need for recognizing the
universal right of divided families to reunion,
and allow cultural exchanges and interaction
between civil society organisations to counter
the atmosphere of hate and distrust, remove
restrictions on exchange of literature, films,
music, and other art forms.
The Hindustan Times, New Delhi, December 12, 2003
The BJP isn't becoming normal or moderate. It's
still rooted in Hindutva plus neo-liberalism
It's still abnormal!
BY PRAFUL BIDWAI
After the latest state elections, it has become
fashionable to argue that the BJP has morphed
into a fairly non-ideological, "normal", even
"moderate" party solidly focussed on governance
and "development". It has distanced itself from
Hindutva and did not invoke/use Hindu-political
issues and symbols during this campaign; it may
even be about to cut its umbilical cord with the
RSS parivar and emerge as a truly autonomous, if
conservative, political formation.
The very first actions of the three new BJP Chief
Ministers lucidly demonstrate this to be fanciful
or wishful thinking, indeed apologia for the BJP.
Uma Bharati's swearing-in was nothing short of a
mini-dharma sansad, with some 40 trishul-bearing
sadhus in various shades of saffron occupying the
centre-stage, edging out the 17 ministers under
the approving gaze of L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar
Joshi and Arun Shourie. Bharati touched her
guru's feet before taking the oath of office to
the loud chanting of "Jai Shri Ram". Not to be
missed in the sea of saffron robes were the VHP's
Giriraj Kishore, the Ramajanmabhoomi Nyas's
Nritya Gopal Das, and the RSS's Madan Das Devi.
Although the ceremony violated all norms of
solemnity and democratic decency, it was entirely
appropriate that the elected leaders paled into
insignificance beside RSS-VHP functionaries.
On swearing-in day in Jaipur, who should
conspicuously stand by Vasundhara Raje and be
exclusively photographed with her but Narendra
Milosevic Modi himself? And in Raipur, the first
thing Raman Singh did was to pay a tribute to
assorted gods, including gau-mata. Singh is a
hardcore RSS man, and Bharati proved her
credentials again by tonsuring her head at
Tirupati. Remarkably, both Bharati and Raje
entered national politics in the Advani-led
mandir-driven 1989 Parliament elections.
It is equally futile to pretend that the BJP's
campaign was free of Hindutva's influence and
totally focussed on secular issues like power,
roads and water. Bharati's saffron robes
themselves belie the claim. How can Bharati, with
her pivotal "ek-dhakka-aur-do" role in the Babri
demolition, ever be separated from Hindutva in
the people's perception?
In any case, Hindutva isn't only about the temple
or Article 370. It's also about macho,
aggressive, majoritarian nationalism. As Advani
himself says, conventional Hindutva's place has
now "been taken by cross-border terror", which
"satisfies the BJP's support base today".
Hundreds of RSS-VHP cadres were specially drafted
into Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh
to campaign for the BJP. The VHP even dominated
candidate nomination in the Rajasthan
constituencies bordering Gujarat. Such "election
karsevaks'" role in similar constituencies in MP,
where people like Modi overtly invoked Hindutva,
was undisguised. The BJP's claim to
"forward-looking", modern image also sits ill
with Raje's quasi-feudal lineage and image.
This doesn't argue that the BJP didn't talk about
"development". It did. But so did everybody else!
The argument that the BJP/NDA's record of
governance at (a rather distant) Centre outshone
the Congress's performance in the states defies
credibility. It falls flat on its face in the
election closest to the Centre-in Delhi.
Power- and water-related grievances indeed made a
big impact in MP. But in Rajasthan, squeaky-clean
Ashok Gehlot's drought management was excellent,
and his creation of 7 million-days of employment
impressive. In Chhattisgarh, Jogi could be
faulted for venality (as could Judev & Company),
but hardly for his road-building, health and
The reasons for the BJP's triumph lie elsewhere:
in erosion of the Congress's social base,
combined with voter-fatigue and anti-incumbency
especially in the tribal belt ("negative"
factors); and an amalgam of its ideological
appeal, clever caste calculus and shrewd election
micro-management ("positive" factors).
Thus, of the 99 constituencies reserved for the
Scheduled Tribes in the three Adivasi-rich
states, the BJP won in an impressive 77. The
Congress won in only 16. As detailed analysis by
Yogendra Yadav and his colleagues at the Centre
for the Study of Developing Societies shows, the
BJP's gains in the three states' Adivasi
constituencies were substantial and
across-the-board-undoubtedly the result of
long-term groundwork by the RSS-sponsored
Vanavasi Kalyan Ashrams.
MP is the only state in which the BJP scored a
crushing, decisive, comprehensive victory
in/among all regions and classes. There, popular
dissatisfaction with Congress rule exceeded its
satisfaction ratings by 12 percentage-points. The
Congress' vote-loss was a high 9 percent. But the
BJP's gain was only 2 percentage-points.
Two other factors magnified the anti-Congress
shift: the rise of the tribal Gondwana Ganatantra
Party which ate into the Congress's vote and
Digvijay Singh's gau-mata, gau-mutra,
soft-Hindutva line. Asked to choose between
soft-Hindutva and the genuine article, the
electorate opted for the second-as in Gujarat.
In Chhattisgarh, Jogi's general satisfaction
rating was a positive 13 percent (although
sharply polarised between 70 percent positive
Congress supporters and 22 percent negative BJP
voters). In Rajasthan, Gehlot scored 12 percent
(positive), out-rating the BJP on four counts
including "good leadership" and "controlling
What mattered here much more than power and roads
was the Congress' failure to build coalitions
with non-BJP parties. Had it formed "secular"
coalitions, that would have produced an outright
victory in Chhattisgah and a hung assembly in
Rajasthan. The NCP was secularism's worst spoiler
in Chhattisgarh: its 7 percent vote far outstrips
the BJP's modest one percent vote-swing!
Now consider the BJP's "positives". It astutely
cultivated Rajputs, Jats and Dalits in Rajasthan;
upper castes, OBCs and Adivasis in different
regions of MP; and a combination of southern
tribals and floating upper caste votes in
Chhattisgarh. Remarkably, vigorous campaigning
enhanced its gains by up to four
percentage-points in the last phase.
The BJP's micro-management was brilliant, if
Machiavellian: shrewd choice of candidates,
focused campaigning, fielding of a galaxy of
speakers, systematic encouragement of Congress
rebels and other spoilers, and voter
"mobilisation" (getting electors to booths often
manned by bureaucrats willing to "guide" them
with electronic voting machines). In Rajasthan, a
pollster's leak helped the BJP identify weak
spots and concentrate resources there. The
divided, bumbling Congress showed lack of energy,
intensity and tact in all these.
No less important was the BJP's ideological
appeal. This lies in Hindutva, especially its
crude, chauvinist, militant nationalism and
rejection of pluralist tolerance, combined with
neo-liberalism. The BJP has a muscular,
combative, ideological personality. This may be
intolerant, even distasteful, but it's distinct.
This personality can project the BJP as a party
on the march. This greatly attracts the upwardly
mobile, highly articulate, if numerically small
strata (especially in the cities, and in the
services sector) which are neo-liberalism's sole
The Congress, and other BJP rivals in the three
states, projected no distinct personality, no
appeal, to counter the BJP's. The voter had no
idea what, apart from some umbrella-type
pluralism or secularism(?), the Congress stands
for, what its visions, policies and programmes
The point is simple. Secularists cannot defeat
the BJP unless they fight it comprehensively and
programmatically-not just on communalism, but
through economic programmes and social visions
that really answer the people's needs. This alone
can prevent the BJP from building a social
coalition beyond its narrow, elite, core-support
base. If the Congress cannot project a
people-oriented, modern, progressive, vision, it
cannot defeat the BJP.
The BJP must not be allowed to obscure its true
nature. Despite recent gains, it remains at
extremist, abnormal, sectarian and obscurantist
party, devoted to the Hindutva ideology,
intolerance, economic elitism and social
conservatism. It desperately craves
"normalisation" and "mainstreaming". It must be
denied that legitimacy.-end-
The Indian Express, Friday, December 12, 2003
Look East, but via the Northeast
Without using the Northeast as a conduit, India's wooing of southeast Asia
will fail. China offers a model
In 1999, when China brought together experts, scholars and business people
from China, India, Myanmar and Bangladesh to initiate a regional economic
forum, it invited them to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province.
The venue underscored Chinese intention to take advantage of Yunnan's
geographical location and of its cultural affinities with its neighbours
across the border - and to restore Yunnan's historical role as a bridge to
southeast Asia and south Asia.
Yunnan is well on its way. The road, air and rail links between Yunnan and
the rest of China and with its transnational neighbours are impressive.
The Kunming-Vientiane road connects Yunnan to Laos. There is a rail link
between Kunming and Hanoi.
There are air routes connecting Kunming with Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala
Lumpur, Hanoi, Yangon and Vientiane. The Lancang-Mekong river route links
China with Laos, Myanmar and Thailand.
The Yunnan provincial government gives incentives to foreign investors in
addition to those available in other parts of China. Kunming today is very
much a pan-Asian international city. Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam
have consulates in Kunming.
It is this willingess to rely on provincial-level institutions that
distinguishes Chinese efforts in southeast Asia from India's ''Look East''
policy. Thus while Yunnan's provincial government plays a direct role in
the institutions of the Greater Mekong Subregion, there is little room for
India's northeastern states in the Mekong Ganga Cooperation forum or in
BIMSTEC (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand Economic
This is no small irony. After all, it is India and not China that has a
democratic and federal polity.
Even at the level of public diplomacy, when it came to India's turn to
host the Forum of Regional Economic Co-operation - created by the Kunming
Initiative - the meeting took place in New Delhi and not in Guwahati,
Shillong or Imphal.
There are of course good reasons why India would be hesistant about
turning northeast India into its actual gateway to southeast Asia. But it
is worth remembering that the ethnic diversity of Yunnan and northeast
India is not dissimilar. Yunnan's population, in Chinese official
parlance, is made up of 26 ethnic nationalities. This is not very
different from northeast India's demographic profile.
Whatever accounts for the difference between the two approaches, it is
China's reliance on regional institutions and not India's top-down method
that meets demands of the globalising economy. Models of economic
development that encourage capital and job concentration - leading to
internal social and cultural standardisation - have long given way to
models that put a premium on regional distinctiveness.
Flexible production systems, with myriad forms of outsourcing, depend
heavily on social relations. Outsourcing requires inter-dependent firms
that trust each other. Such ties are best forged at local and regional
Thus in Europe one sees efforts at forging regional systems of action.
These accompany consolidation of Europe-wide institutions. Coca-Cola's
description of itself as multilocal and not multinational is more than a
cute slogan. It is an example of the increasing significance attached to
regions and localities in modern business practices.
Is it possible that China is more in tune with the nuances of contemporary
capitalism - and with the differences between old and new capitalism
-precisely because it began engaging the world relatively recently and
with a clean slate?
WE have been reticent about using northeast India's history and culture as
a soft power resource in our ''Look East'' policy. While talking about our
shared cultural ties with southeast Asia, we refer endlessly to Buddhism,
Angkor Vat and the Ramayana.
But we do not talk about the southeast roots of the Tai Ahoms or the
Khasis. We scarcely acknowledge Balinese Hinduism and art forms are
probably closer to Manipur's than to those of the Hindi heartland.
Yet in southeast Asia itself there is growing awareness of northeast
India. Many northeast Indian cultural figures too are drawn eastwards.
For instance there is keen interest in Thailand in the culture of the Tai
Ahoms of Assam. Similarly, Tai-Ahom intellectuals in Assam are focusing on
the cultures of their ethnic cousins in southeast Asia.
The Tai-Ahoms or Ahoms are an offshoot of the Tai people who are called
Shan in Burma, Thai in Thailand, Lao in Laos, Dai and Zhuang in China and
Tay-Thai in Vietnam.
Recent conferences in Thailand on the culture of the Tai people have
routinely included papers on the Tai Ahoms by Thai scholars as well as by
ethnic Tai-Ahom Assamese scholars. Thai official interest in the subject
has been quite apparent. For instance Princess Galyani Vadhana not only
inaugurated one of those conferences, she presided over all its sessions.
The Tai-Ahoms most likely came to Assam from Yunnan. The Khasis of
Meghalaya too have a Yunnan connection. They pioneered rice farming in
Vietnam's Red River delta before losing out to the Vietnamese. They then
moved up the Red River across Burma into Yunnan before crossing into
The communication revolution has bridged many gulfs in recent years. But
the distance between Yunnan and the Khasi Hills and between Yunnan and
Gargaon - site of the Ahom capital of Assam - is greater today than it was
As the stalemate in northeast India continues, we must recognise India
will now have to pay a price in terms of its diplomatic agenda for a
bumbling Northeast policy that forces it to keep the door to the region
half-shut. By denying itself the use of its natural gateway, India is in
effect scaling back its ambitions in southeast Asia.
The author heads the Centre for Northeast India, South and Southeast Asia
Studies at the Omeo Kumar Das Institute of Social Change and Development
in Guwahati. His book India Against Itself: Assam and the Politics of
Nationality has been published in India by Oxford
To briefly introduce myself - I am a bombay based
filmmaker, currently involved in curating the
exhibition mentioned below. [...]
Please forward this call letter to anti war
groups/ artists/ filmmakers/ media professionals.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
on behalf of the culture group, WSF04
ANTI WAR-ON-IRAQ MEMORABILIA EXHIBITION
World Social Forum 2004, INDIA
Calling all campaigners who came together all
over the world to make history in 2003
wrote, painted, screamed, photographed, sang,
shot and walked against the US led invasion of
Iraq. Lets celebrate that show of strength!
That music video which just HAD to be made,
That installation which had to be put together,
That nasty Dear Bush Email which had to reach everybody in your contacts
That graffiti you scrawled defiantly on McDonald's walls
real long banner that u laboured overnight over
That moving photograph of the massive demonstration in your city
.. send them to us. We are planning an
exhibition of anti-war art, campaign materials
and documentation produced during the worldwide
protests and demonstration against the attack on
Iraq. All the materials collected would be
curated for a show by the committee on culture at
the World Social Forum 2004. We can even work
with jpeg images and reproduce them in India to
avoid physical transportation. Any necessary
transportation costs can be reimbursed.
Write to wsf04 at hotmail.com or
wsf_mamtamurthy at rediffmail.com with a description
of the material you possess (item/ creative idea/
size or duration/ weight etc.). Display,
transport and other terms will be discussed in
each case.For more information on WSF 2004 check
You are cordially invited to the screening of 'The City Beautiful',
a documentary by Rahul Roy
Venue: Main Auditorium, India International Centre, New Delhi
Date: 18 Dec 2003
Time: 6:30 PM
The City Beautiful, 2003, 78 minutes: Sunder
Nagri (Beautiful City) is a small working class
colony on the margins of India's capital city,
Delhi. Most families residing here come from a
community of weavers. The last ten years have
seen a gradual disintegration of the handloom
tradition of this community under the
globalisation regime. The families have to cope
with change as well as reinvent themselves to eke
out a living.
The City Beautiful is the story of two families
struggling to make sense of a world, which keeps
pushing them to the margins.
Radha and Bal Krishan are at a critical point in
their relationship. Bal Krishan is underemployed
and constantly cheated. They are in disagreement
about Radha going out to work. However, through
all their ups and downs they retain the ability
Shakuntla and Hira Lal hardly communicate. They
live under one roof with their children but are
locked in their own sense of personal tragedies.
The Leipzig International Documentary Festival, 2003, Germany
Contact: Rahul Roy, A-19, Gulmohar Park, New Delhi 110049. India
Tel: 91-11-26515161. Fax: 91-11-26960947. Email:
<mailto:khel at vsnl.com>khel at vsnl.com
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
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