SACW #1 | 30 March 2005
aiindex at mnet.fr
Tue Mar 29 16:51:17 CST 2005
South Asia Citizens Wire #1 | 30 March, 2005
 A media fact-finding mission to Nepal (Imtiaz Alam)
 Pakistan: 'Enlightened moderation' and the right (Iqbal Haider)
 Indo - Pak Fishermen and the invisible border (Khurram Baig)
 Some unanswered questions for secular India (Jawed Naqvi)
 Book Review: 'Explorations in connected history' (C P Bhambhri)
(i) Film Screening: Urdu Hai Jiska Naam, A film on the history of
Urdu (New Delhi, March 30)
(ii) Upcoming conference: Engendering Health and Human Rights"
(Bombay, Sept 30 - Oct 1)
(iii) Educational Forum: Crisis in Balochistan (Burnaby / Canada,
April 16, 2005)
The News International, March 28, 2005
A MEDIA FACT-FINDING MISSION TO NEPAL
The writer is the Secretary General of SAFMA and Editor Current
Affairs of The News.
The State of Emergency in Nepal proclaimed on February 1, 2005, is
not the first suppression of fundamental rights and freedom of the
press since the 1990 Constitution was introduced. It is, however,
worse than the previous emergency in scope and intensity, symptomatic
of the failure of state, crisis of representative institutions and
breakdown of constitutional structures and rule of law. The three-way
conflict between the Palace, democratic forces and Maoists has become
so complicated that it cannot be resolved through a barrel of gun -
whether of the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) or People's Liberation Army
(PLA) -- which may further exacerbate the crisis beyond the capacity
of the parties to the conflict. The state may destabilize before one
or the other party comes into a position to impose its will.
The crisis may prolong, and even become irresolvable, and a
negotiated settlement of conflict, restoration of peace and
multiparty democracy may become impossible in the absence of an
arbiter in a sharply divided polity. Between the two extremes of
absolute monarchy and the Maoists, the people at large, including the
journalists, may suffer greater agonies than expected. The emergency
targets civil society and all those political forces that want
multi-party democracy, still inclined to go along with a
constitutional monarchy, and eager to jointly fight out Maoists or
reach a peaceful settlement with them. In the current situation, the
middle ground from under the feet of democratic parties and civil
society is fast eroding, leaving only two poles: the King and the
Maoists, with the so-called 'third force' or middle ground-holders in
The fact is that King Gyanendra, for the sake of an active monarchy,
has broken down the social contract that was reached around the 1990
constitution. In doing so, he has put at risk the future of a
constitutional monarchy. The spontaneous popular outcry is not
against the Maoists; it is against the King. The support for
constitutional monarchy is thinning out. At this critical juncture,
the democratic forces are locked in a dilemma: if they join the King,
they lose their democratic credentials and if they agitate against
him, the movement is likely to take a turn in favor of republic that
the Maoists, notwithstanding their notions of proletarian
dictatorship, are fighting for. They are also apprehensive of the
third option, of joining hands with the Maoists known for their
exclusionary and authoritarian streaks.
Ironically, every factor is now playing to the advantage of Maoists:
a) The King's proclamation of emergency and his assumption of all
powers has broken the social contract and alienated the entire
political and civil society; b) the illusion about the monarch as an
honest arbiter is shattered and legitimacy of state power
compromised; c) the suspension of fundamental rights, representative
institutions and the crisis of institutions, coupled with economic
pressures have exacerbated the crisis of state; d) the divide between
the King and pro-constitutional monarchy forces has eroded the unity
of ruling classes; e) the international community's stoppage of
economic and military aid has effectively reduced the state's
capacity to withstand any serious challenge; f) the Maoists are
gaining ground. Defections from the Royal Nepalese Army and an urban
political insurgency, if and when they coincide, may enable the
Maoists to take over Kathmandu valley.
If the Maoists enter Kathmandu riding on tanks they will succumb to
extremist and violent tendencies as happened in Cambodia under Pol
Pot. But if they are brought into the democratic mainstream, they may
emerge as a force that can rid Nepal of a feudal and authoritarian
system. There are two real issues now: One, there is an urgent need
for an arbiter, before it is too late, with the necessary power and
legitimacy to bring the King, the Maoists and the five-party alliance
to the negotiating table. Two, the time for constitutional monarchy
may perhaps have elapsed. This may in fact have to be ultimately
sacrificed for the sake of a peaceful settlement between the Maoists
and the democratic parties.
The South Asia Free Media Association's recent fact-finding mission
on the state of media found that the Declaration of the State of
Emergency has suspended sub-clauses (a), (b) and (c) of clause 2 of
article 12; clause 1 of article 13; and articles 15, 16, 17, 22 and
23 (except the sub-clause on habeas corpus). This has led to a
blanket suspension of fundamental rights and most coercively of media
practitioners with the enforcement of a brutal censorship. With the
denial of right to know and right to express, a young and free media
has been chained to infinite, yet undefined, censorship.
Media practitioners and media houses have been terrorized and those
who responded to the call of their profession victimized and
intimidated by various means, including detentions, takeover of news
houses, closure of news and current affairs programmes, censorship,
withdrawal of advertisements and subsidies, unprecedented
retrenchment of journalists, and distortion of information, forced
migration or circumvention of movement.
The relative 'relaxation' visible over time is not due to any
retraction or review, but due to the incapacity of the coercive
institutions, and the resistance of the media community that
continues to defy the draconian measures. Worse, the media are being
forced into self-censorship, given the uncertainty about what they
can safely publish or broadcast. All doors to seek remedy and justice
Although the overall situation is quite alarming, there are certain
areas of particular concern for the media community and civil society
that the SAFMA Media Mission noted and shares.
1) The suspension of most of the fundamental rights that adversely
affect the life of the people, especially media practitioners. Most
notable are the suspension of sub-clauses (a), (b) and (c) of clause
2 of article 12, clause 1 of article 13, and articles 15, 16, 17, 22
2) The citizens' right to appeal and seek justice through legal means
is in jeopardy and the authority of the superior judiciary to provide
justice and interpret law compromised. Unfortunately, the superior
courts have declined to admit the petitions challenging the ultra
vires of the proclamation of emergency and suspension of fundamental
3) Since February 1, the media have been placed under constant
harassment and are being forced to coalesce in to official "truth"
and become instruments in the hands of officialdom denying the people
their right to information.
4) Dozens of journalists were arrested, many dailies and weeklies
were forced to shut down, FM Radio sector stopped from relaying news
and current affairs programmes, private television networks barred
from telecasting the dissent, hundreds of journalists from outside
Kathmandu Valley forced to either stop work or seek asylum outside
their place of work or home towns, and freedom of movement partially
curtailed. The economic sustainability of the private sector media
has become doubtful due to the withdrawal of official advertisements
and subsides, especially the weeklies, hundreds of journalists
rendered jobless and the future of media industry and professionals
has become bleak.
5) Contrary to King Gyanendra's contention that "an independent Press
serves as a medium for raising the level of democratic consciousness;
it plays a crucial role in the promotion of national interest", a
blanket censorship has been imposed by his invocation of sub-clause 1
of Clause 15 of Print and Publication Act and Broadcasting Act. The
conditions imposed by the military authorities, District
Administration Offices and ministries of information, communication
and home are so prohibitive that media cannot function as a vehicle
of communication and information.
The Print and Publication Act and National Broadcasting Act are being
misused to stifle publications and broadcasting houses that refuse to
compromise their editorial independence. Draconian laws, such as
Terrorism and Disruptive Activities Ordinance (TADO), are being used
at random againstjournalists. Eight journalists are still under
detention, mostly at military barracks, police stations or unknown
places with no access to family or attorney. Many more are "missing",
their families ignorant of their whereabouts.
6) The censorship committees, consisting of Chief District Officer
and representatives from Police and Army have further expanded the
scope of censorship.
The authorities, not legally competent to regulate the media, are
interfering with the daily working of media without being accountable
to a legally competent authority. Given the ambiguity of the scope of
censorship, officials at various tiers of civil and military
administration are making the life of working journalists miserable.
The orders are often verbal and, in most cases, violate all tenets of
law. Editors and journalists are summoned to the police stations or
military barracks where they are humiliated, pressurized and, in some
The situation in Nepal warrants immediate intervention by the
international community, before it is too late. The current pressure
on the King is not enough. Greater solidarity with the people of
Nepal and journalists is urgently needed.
Dawn - March 29, 2005
'ENLIGHTENED MODERATION' AND THE RIGHT
By Iqbal Haider
True to character, the government has made yet another somersault by
withdrawing a positive decision to delete the column of religion from
our passports. The greater tragedy is that it was done under pressure
from the orthodox religious forces only a day after their million
The ruling elite has once again reaffirmed its fundamental principle
of "might is right", which it follows religiously for
self-perpetuation. Little wonder it also succumbs to the might of
others, whether religious/sectarian or ethnic.
Consequently, the extremist forces gain more courage, confidence and
motivation to impose on the people their obscurantist, illogical and
half-baked ideas, values and norms, through sheer show of force.
It seems that our rulers rely on rhetoric and peroration rather than
action to eradicate and discourage the reactionary norms and
practices promoted by the militant religious forces.
Gen. Pervez Musharraf and his colleagues have also found it
expedient, "in the national interest," to bow down before these
forces. The list of surrenders is unending and difficult to cover in
one article. However, some of the most capricious somersaults
detrimental to the rights and interests of the people are as under:-
1. Immediately after his take over, the general had expressed his
appreciation for the great reformist of Turkey, Kemal Ataturk. But to
pacify the obscurantist, while addressing the journalists of Saarc
countries at Islamabad only a few months later, perhaps in July 2000,
the general denied having any such liking or appreciation for Ataturk.
2. In April 2000, a national convention on human rights was held in
Islamabad. This convention was attended mostly by non-governmental
organizations and some leaders of public opinion.
People were happy that attention was being paid to the human right
issues. The decisions of this convention, in particular to amend the
blasphemy law, that is, Section 295-C of the PPC with a view to
preventing its misuse, were welcomed by most sections of public
However, when the extremists started protesting, within a couple of
weeks, the chief executive (as the president then was) changed his
mind and said that none of these laws would be amended.
3. On the demand of one religious party, the chief executive
immediately inducted in his cabinet Professor Mahmood Ahmed Ghazi.
According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, reproduced in Dawn of
January 1, 2001, "Mr. Ghazi graduated from a madressah as that also
produced several Taliban leaders, some of whom were his classmates."
4. The military government decided not only to abandon a survey of
religious seminaries (The News August 19, 2000) but also lifted the
ban on grant of financial assistance to the madressahs out of the
Zakat funds. (Jang, October 25, 2000).
The government also decided to incorporate the madressahs in the main
educational system of the country to enable their graduates to get
jobs in other fields (chief Executive's interview, weekly Newsweek,
February 19, 2001).
This decision only resulted in a further mushroom growth of
madressahs, and increased output of self-righteous youths spreading
our all over the country and claiming appointments in private and
public institutions on the basis of madressah degrees.
5. As one religious party started its campaign against the signing of
the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and threatened to launch a
movement, Gen. Musharraf decided not to sign the CTBT, though for all
possible considerations, it was in the interest of Pakistan to do so
at that juncture.
6. A religious organization demanded deletion of the name of the
Nobel laureate Dr. Abdus Salam from the roll of scientists in
textbooks. The Punjab education department obliged the extremist
religious party and issued instructions to the Punjab Textbook Board
to correct the textbooks accordingly. (Article by Kunwar Idrees,
Dawn, July 24, 2000).
7. The government had also agreed to amend certain provisions of
criminal laws with a view to ensuring prosecution of and award of
exemplary punishment to culprits involved in "honour killing" cases.
Three prominent NGOs, namely the HRCP, the Aurat Foundation and
Shirkat Gah, after consultation with virtually all concerned sections
of society, had succeeded in preparing a balanced, comprehensive
draft of the amendments required in the Pakistan Penal Code and the
Criminal Procedure Code.
A copy of the draft bill was circulated to all political parties in
parliament, including the ruling coalition and the opposition. It was
hoped that this draft bill would be passed by consensus. But under
pressure of the religious parties, the treasury benches chose to
reject this bill and instead made only cosmetic changes in the PPC
that are not capable of serving the objective for which the
amendments were required.
8. In its same bill to amend PPC ostensibly to tackle the issue of
"Honour Killing", the government surreptitiously added an amendment
in Section 295-C relating to the blasphemy law, but again in a manner
that it should not offend the sensitivities of the religious parties.
This amendment as well would not fully serve the purpose and prevent
wide misuse of the blasphemy law, by instituting false and fabricated
cases, on the basis of personal enmity, prejudice and hatred.
9. In November 2003, speakers of both the National Assembly and the
Sindh Assembly refused to allow any discussion on a resolution moved
by some of the members to condemn the barbaric practice of "honour
killing". So much so, that the member who had dared to move the
resolution in the National Assembly was reprimanded and advised to
This is not an exhaustive list of contradictions, hypocrisy and
somersaults. I am sure many other such incidents must have occurred
and would be in the knowledge of concerned citizens.
The latest decision of the federal cabinet to restore the religion
column in the machine-readable passports and to inscribe the words
"Islamic Republic of Pakistan" on the passport's cover, belies all
claims of "enlightened moderation" and is devoid of any logic. A
passport is not a certificate of one's religious beliefs. It only
certifies the nationality of the citizen, irrespective of his
religion or ideology.
The founder of our country, the Quaid-i-Azam, in his historic speech
of August 11, 1947, had rightly emphasized that "You are free; you
are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or
to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may
belong to any religion or caste or creed, that has nothing to do with
the business of the state." and that "Pakistan shall not be a
It is also pertinent to highlight, and I state this without any fear
of contradiction, that neither the Independence Act of 1947 nor any
other constitutional instrument or law pertaining to the creation of
Pakistan nor in any of his statements or speeches did the
Quaid-i-Azam ever name or brand Pakistan as the "Islamic Republic of
Pakistan was only called "Dominion of Pakistan", simply because the
Quaid-i-Azam was conscious of the fact that the state was incapable
of having any religion by any stretch of logic or reason.
It was the unholy alliance of the civil and military bureaucracy
which, to perpetuate its undemocratic rule, invoked the innovation of
the prefix of "Islamic" to the "Republic of Pakistan" in the
Constitution of 1956 with a view to exploiting religious sentiments
of the people.
It is our misfortune that every strate gam is adopted and promoted in
Pakistan in the name of religion to exploit, hoodwink and subjugate
the people. It is interesting to observe that Gen. Pervez Musharraf
has been claiming from time to time - and rightly so - that not more
then 10% of the People of Pakistan are orthodox extremist Muslims.
However, while announcing the latest ill-advised and misconceived
decision, his federal ministers in their press conference attempted
to justify it by claiming that it was taken in view of the demand of
Whose demand was it? Obviously of not more than a 10 per cent
minority of the bigots in Pakistan. Why should the liberal, moderate
and enlightened people who admittedly constitute more than 90 per
cent of the population be subjected to the will, whims and fancies of
orthodox extremist forces, who are not more than 10 per cent of our
It appears that "enlightened moderation" is nothing more than a
hollow slogan. In practice the ruling junta is only serving the
agenda of reaction and conveying the image of Pakistan as a country
of bigots, ruled by and for bigots. The writer is a former senator,
attorney general and federal minister for law, justice, parliamentary
affairs and human rights.
The News International - March 29, 2005
THE INVISIBLE BORDER
by Khurram Baig
It is a serious humanitarian problem: Indian and Pakistani fishermen
straying into the territorial waters of each other's country are
often arrested and imprisoned. Each fisherman arrested represents an
entire family deprived of its main breadwinner, not to mention the
fact that they are held without the basic legal and human rights that
every citizen, even of another country, is entitled to.
A limited exchange of fishermen has been made possible in recent
years, thanks to improving relations between the two countries and
consistent lobbying by human rights organisations. Under the
bilateral Pakistan-India Cultural agreement reached in 1988, each
side releases prisoners on an on-and-off basis, but more are arrested
just as frequently.
It is difficult to determine the exact number of those still
imprisoned in the two countries, since the governments do not release
the figures. The magnitude of the problem is indicated from the
numbers available with the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, which claims
that 153 Pakistani fishermen and 802 Indian fishermen are in the
jails of the two countries. On January 2, 2005, Pakistan released 268
Indian fishermen, while another 529 were released on March 20, 2005.
India has just released 93 Pakistani fishermen, due to arrive in
Pakistan on Monday.
The agencies' task has been made difficult by the "exchange protocol"
-- the procedure followed for the release of the fishermen, which is
similar to the one applicable in the case of prisoners of war. At
every stage from the time of their arrest, the fishermen are kept in
the dark. They are not released even after the completion of their
terms of punishment: they have to wait for a formal exchange of
prisoners to take place.
Trades unions and labour support groups of both India and Pakistan,
and their common platform, the South Asian Labour Forum (SALF), have
been drawing the attention of the authorities of two countries to the
plight of the fishermen. It has demanded the unconditional release of
all the detained persons, and a stop to the mid-sea arrests and the
imprisonments, and has also often criticised the absence of a clear
policy of action to prevent the arrest and detention of fishermen.
Another SALF demand is that India and Pakistan mark out their
maritime boundary by buoys and other marking devices. It also
emphasises the need for an agreement among countries of the South
Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) that would enable
fishermen of the maritime member-nations to fish in the Arabian Sea,
the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal without hindrance. India,
Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the Maldives share the resources
of the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. India has
a long coastline, 7,417 km. Pakistan's coastline meets India's
1,640-km-long Gujarat coast. However, there are no bilateral
agreements on maritime boundaries between India and any of the South
The provisions of the Maritime Zones of India Acts of 1976 and 1981,
under which the fishermen are detained and punished, do not
correspond with those of the United Nations Convention of the Law of
the Sea, of which India is a signatory. The Maritime Zone of Pakistan
Act is almost identical to the Indian law. The SALF has demanded that
these Acts be amended to bring them in consonance with the UN
Conventions. It has also requested that fishermen's organisations and
trade unions be represented at, and consulted on, bilateral or
regional negotiations on this issue.
For fishermen, the concept of marine borders is difficult to
comprehend. The ocean has been their workplace and their families
have been engaged in fishing for generations. So they feel they are
victimised for political reasons.
Apart from the fact that there are no signals on the sea demarcating
the maritime boundary between India and Pakistan, there is not even
an agreed boundary. For their mutual convenience, the two countries'
patrolling agencies have worked out an imaginary line in the Sir
Creek region, off the Kutch coast. Fishing boats, especially those
with engine failures, can easily, and do, stray into neighbouring
territory owing to tidal currents, wind force or cyclones. The
captured Pakistani and Indian boats have no navigational aids.
There is also the issue of retaliatory action. For example if the
Pakistan side captures Indian boats and fishermen, chances are that
Indian maritime forces will do the same at the earliest opportunity.
For many years now, fishermen's unions, boat owners' associations and
trade unions in the two countries have asked their respective
governments to work out a long-term solution. Since 1988, the Shree
Akhil Gujarat Machhimar Mahamandal, the Fishermen's Boat Association,
the Diu Porbandar Machhimar Boat Association, the Gujarat Marine
Products Exporters Association, the National Fishworkers Forum and
others have made several representations to the Indian government.
Similar efforts have been made on this side of the border. The
Fishermen's Cooperative Society and the Fishermen's Union, the
Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research and the Pakistan
chapter of SALF have taken up the issue with the government.
The authorities of the two countries invariably cite national
interests. In the process, they appear to have lost sight of two
major questions: the fishermen's right to livelihood and the
incompatibility of the countries' laws with regard to the seas and
internal laws and conventions.
Dawn - 28 March 2005
SOME UNANSWERED QUESTIONS FOR SECULAR INDIA
By Jawed Naqvi
When we watched TV in the Gulf 25 years ago we saw that virtually
every transmitting station offered one or two mandatory channels with
a mullah as staple fare, relentlessly gesticulating with both hands,
fiercely pontificating on the virtues of his faith.
We accepted this as a cultural hangover of a region that was
suddenly, even rudely, sucked into the vortex of the 20th century
from a mediaeval slumber, thanks largely to the great social engineer
called the petrodollar.
Colour TV came to India in 1982 piggybacking on the Asiad
mini-Olympics held that year in Delhi. The event also heralded Rajiv
Gandhi as a key player in national affairs. The youthful
premier-to-be not only supervized an impressive Asiad, albeit under
his mother's watchful eye, but also became the nation's hope for a
change in public discourse away from a raging religious strife. But
even before he could fix the searing Hindu-Sikh fissures that
dominated the national politics of the time, Rajiv Gandhi, quite
unwittingly let us admit, plunged headlong into a Hindu-Muslim
His tinkering with the Shah Bano divorce case to placate orthodox
Muslims followed by the unlocking of the Babri mosque to allow Hindu
worshippers were not viewed kindly by his liberal supporters.
Insidiously, without doubt, Indian TV too set about abusing its newly
unleashed prowess across the remotest parts of the country. It
broadcast television programmes that began to draw on religious
atavism of the people rather than serving as a vehicle for the
unfettered liberal dialogue promised by Jawaharlal Nehru.
The advent of private broadcasters, some of them acknowledged to be
gifted with a farsighted worldview, also proved to be a major let
down. Their TRP ratings were driven by everything except a rational
discourse. If it was mindless soap operas here, it was the bustling
bourses there that occupied the space, and determined their earnings.
Thus religion has remained the dominant ingredient of Indian TV,
showing up in odd places like the marketplace or the world of
entertainment, or politics. Major news channels, including NDTV,
initially seen as a progressive platform, find all the time to run
live programmes on India's perennial religious pilgrimages wherever
they could find one. Obviously, there must be something in it for
After all in India today there are dozens of 24-hour TV channels
exclusively dedicated to religious discourses. And there is a fair
division of spoils. They cater to everyone, be they Sikh, Muslim,
Christian, or Hindu viewers.
On the other hand there is no public place, much less a single
platform for dissent, nor any for the ubiquitous cynic, the atheist
or the agnostic. There is virtually no room for the questioning
spirit. It looks as though yet again in time, the dice is loaded
adversely for Galileo against the awesome might of the Pope.
It was in this stifling atmosphere that free thinking poet Javed
Akhtar got his chance recently to breach the fortress of suffocating
axioms. His quarry was Shri Shri Ravi Shankar, the globe-trotting
The occasion was India Today magazine's international symposium on
India's progress. It was an unlikely platform to discuss faith or
spirituality, when Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Senator Hillary
Clinton and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were competing for
attention. But Javed Akhtar just had to have his way, and how. And as
he began punching holes into the arguments for spiritualism put forth
by Shri Shri Ravi Shankar, even Javed Akhtar was surprised by the
applause he got. Shankar's case was that spirituality was a virtue.
Javed claimed that it was a hoax.
"It has become a fashion with journalists to blindly continue the
colonial tradition of calling Hindu spiritual leaders a hoax," said a
miffed Ravi Shankar in a signed article shortly after the debate
"They called Mahatma Gandhi, Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo godmen and
hoaxes, and their contemporaries continue to do so. Would they say
this to Mother Teresa or the Dalai Lama? No! Only Indian spiritual
leaders are singled out."
Javed Akhtar argued that as a scriptwriter for movies, he creates
illusions for his audience. But then after three hours he puts up the
sign, The End. Spiritual gurus sell illusions too but they forget to
put up The End sign after their discourse.
"The hatred and frustration were obvious from his body language,"
thundered Ravi Shankar in the article. "It's not just Mr Akhtar. Many
journalists, communists, atheists and naxalites live in that state of
mind, of being anti-religious, anti-rich, anti-famous, anti-business."
What did Akhtar say that riled the guru so much? "Let's not be
confused by this word spirituality," he argued. "You can find two
people with the same name and they can be totally different people.
Ram Charit Manas was written by Tulsidas. And the television film has
been made by Ramanand Sagar. Ramayan is common but I don't think it
would be very wise to club Tulsidas with Ramanand Sagar.
"When Tulsidas wrote Ramcharit Manas, he had faced a kind of a social
boycott. How could he write a holy book in such a language like
Avadhi? Sometimes I wonder fundamentalists of all hues and all
colours, religions and communities are similar.
In 1798, a gentleman called Shah Abdul Qadir, in this very city, for
the first time translated the Quran in Urdu, and all the ulemas of
that time gave fatwas against him as to how could he translate this
holy book in such a heathen language."
The audience was glued to his every word. But the point that
evidently hit the bull's eye was searing. "Gautam Buddha came out of
a palace and went into wilderness to find the truth," said Akhtar.
"But nowadays we see modern age gurus come out of the wilderness and
wind up in palaces. They are moving in the opposite direction. We
can't talk of them in the same breath." Applause. Applause. But was
it the last time that a confirmed atheist was allowed to speak his
mind before a revered Indian guru? Time will tell. However, the dice
* * * * *
Their treacherous journey from guarding mediaeval harems to earning a
living by singing and dancing may not yet have ended, but Indian
eunuchs intending to travel abroad now need not pass off as male or
They will now be issued passports that specify their true gender
identity. Eunuchs applying for passports have just to fill 'E' in the
gender box on the forms. A capital 'E' in any of the tiny 'M' and 'F'
squares meant for male and female applicants.
Business Standard - March 23, 2005
'EXPLORATIONS IN CONNECTED HISTORY'
C P Bhambhri / New Delhi
Under the rubric that is the title of this review, Sanjay
Subrahmanyam has brought together his scholarly research articles in
two books and they provide an opportunity to scholars of "early
modern" history to study in an integrated manner his rich
The author has spelt out his approach to the study of the "early
modern" period by following "connected histories", where issues are
looked at by keeping in mind "space flexibility".
The author says "we can sense some of this connectedness when one
looks to the travel accounts written in the period, not merely the
well-thumbed travelogues of European males and later their memsahibs,
but also those written by visitors from the Ottoman domains or
Samarqand to Delhi, or voyagers going from Patna to Isfahan".
Subrahmanyam's work clearly establishes his claim that his sources of
historiography of the "early modern" period are varied and cut across
He demolishes the myth of a "Hindu" Vijayanagara (the mid-fourteenth
and mid-seventeenth centuries) resisting "Muslim" opponents because
the myth was of course a complex production, one that was partly put
out by the later ideologues of the empire in decline, but also partly
on account of the intervention of the Portuguese, who, in their
search for help against the "Moorish" rulers of peninsular India,
thought that the "Gentile" kings of Vijayanagara were their natural
The making of the history of South Asia of 500 years was the result
of "openness" and connectedness and thus the construction of pure
Hindu India by the Sangh Parivar by looking at only indigenous and
geographically limiting factors is a fraud.
The author, having spelt out his approach in his first chapter "On
the Window that was India", pursues his research on the
"connectedness" in chapters "Indian Views of the Portuguese in Asia,
1500-1700"; "Persianization and Mercantilism in the Bay of Bengal
History, 1400-1700"; "Violence, Grievance, and Memory in Early Modern
South Asia, Sixteenth-Century Millenarianism from the Tagus to the
Ganges"; "European Chronicles and the Mughals"; etc.
These chapters in From the Tagus to the Ganges establish the author's
thesis of the openness of South Asia. It is not only the Portuguese
who wrote about South Asia, in Shahjahan's time the Padshah Nama of
'Abd al-Hamid Lahori also shows the evil effects of this Firangi
Further, "the spread of Iranians and Persianized elites was an
important characteristic of Bay of Bengal history in the years 1400
to 1700, thus this spread was accompanied by a partial Persianization
of comportments and of conceptions of statecraft (including the
attitude towards trade), and that it can be linked without too great
a difficulty to the rise of sort of 'mercantilist' ideology in states
of the Bay of Bengal."
The author does not say that there was no violence or wars or
proselytising during this period, because human historical
experiences have a dialectical journey of positives and negatives.
Mughals and Franks, comprising eight chapters, follows the same
approach. The author quotes Jesuit Xavier's views on Akbar: "King
died more or less alone, he only took the name of God a few times,
nor did he die in keeping with the custom of the Gentiles.
As one never knew under what religion he lived ... he made place for
all the religions and took none of them for the truth, though his
usual habit was to worship God and the Sun."
The author has warned that the account of early modern South Asian
society by Europeans should be confirmed by independent and
heterogeneous sources because "this is surely a matter of the
prestige that a European text continued to hold in the eyes of Sir
Jadunath, and many others including the neo-colonial historians of
the Sangh Parivar".
It is a very important note of caution given by the author that
European sources and the writings on the Persianisation of politics
in the Indian subcontinent deserve to be studied and compared,
keeping in mind the context of that age.
The note of warning given by him is known to every historian writing
on South Asia but the timing is important because Indians are
involved in a big struggle around the politics of history of the
forces of Hindutva, and eminent scholars like Romila Thapar, R S
Sharma, Irfan Habib, Satish Chandra et al. are put on the defensive
by the sectarian historiography of the Parivar.
While the author's project "has been conceived as a partial response
to the challenge posed by the intellectual project of a reflection on
the ongoing encounters between South Asia and Europe at the time of
the Mughals", our historians are engaged in a struggle to rescue
Mughal historiography from Hindu fanatics masquerading as historians.
It is a pity that Subrahmanyam's rich contribution would end up in
libraries while Indian history becomes a victim of politics, an
appendage in the larger project of Hindutva.
From the Tagus to the Ganges
Oxford University Press
Price: Rs 575
Mughals and Franks
Oxford University Press
Price: Rs 575
 [Announcements: ]
Wednesday, March 30, 2005, 3:30 pm
Sarai-CSDS, 29 Rajpur Road, Delhi -54
URDU HAI JISKA NAAM, 120 minutes
A film on the history of Urdu
Directed by Subhash Kapoor
Introduced and discussed by Sohail Hashmi, who conceptualised, researched for
and scripted the film.
The film begins with the shift from Sanskrit to popular Apabhransha languages
including Shaurseni that had by the 10th Century AD spread from the West
Coast of the sub-continent to the East and gave birth to Gujarati, Sindhi,
Punjabi, Braj, Avadhi, Maghdi, Maithli, Bangla and Khari Boli, among others.
The arrival of the Sufis, Central Asian armies and large number of traders
brought in new technologies, new crafts,new languages and scripts from the
11th century and all these began to combine with their South Asian
counterparts to create new vocabularies of Music, Attire, Architecture and
creative expression. All this took place at the shrines of the Sufis, in army
camps, in the bazars and the sarais. The film goes on to trace these many
strains through the centuries and across Delhi, Gulbarga, Gujarat, Avadh and
By the time John Borthwick Gilchrist set up the Fort Williams College in the
1820s at Calcutta, Urdu had grown to become a language that was "spoken and
understood from Gujarat to the Bengal" and it was on Gilchrist's
recommendation that the East India Company gave up their dependence on
Persian and replaced with Urdu.
The rest is more familiar but by no means less exciting history of a language
gone out of favour in recent decades.
Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT) is
conducting the International conference in India. The International
Federation of Health and Human Rights Organisations (IFHHRO),
conducts annual conferences on themes linked to health and human
rights each year and for year 2005, CEHAT has taken responsibility
for coordinating the conference in India.
The Conference is being held in Mumbai, India on 30th September and
1st October 2005 and the theme of the conference is "Engendering
Health and Human Rights". CEHAT and IFHHRO invite abstracts of no
more than 500 words (deadline 30th April 2005) and full papers of not
more than 10,000 words (deadline 1st August 2005) on the above
Please check website for further details:
South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy
Suite 435, 205 - 329 North Road, Coquitlam, BC, Canada. V3K 6Z8
phone : (604) 420-2972; FAX: (604) 420-2970
Electronic mail : sansad at sansad.org
[Incorporated in British Columbia under the Society Act as a
Non-Profit Society, # S-31797]
SANSAD Educational Forum:
Crisis in Balochistan:
Implications of Military Action Between the Baloch and the Pakistan Army
Saturday. April 16, 2005, from 2 to 5 pm.
at the Bonsor Recreational Complex, Burnaby
Since March 17 the town of Dera Bugti has been in a state of siege,
cut off from the world. After four days of clashes that left dozens
of people dead thousands of Bugti tribesmen armed with automatic
weapons and rocket-propelled grenades have surrounded the Pakistani
military base, with some 300 troops in it. The Baloch tribesmen have
put up roadblocks, dug trenches, and occupied the surrounding
mountains, completely cutting off the base and the town of Dera
Bugti. Most of the civilian population of Dera Bugti has fled. The
Chief of the Bugti tribe, Nawab Akbar Bugti, has accused the
government of massacring innocent civilians, including women and
children and robbing the area of its natural resources.
Nationalists in Balochistan have been fighting pitched battles with
Pakistani security forces for more than a year. During 2004 this
struggle became more intense, causing the death of more than 30
soldiers and paramilitary personnel in attacks on troops and
government installations, including the Sui Gas Complex. In January,
2005, 8 people were killed in fighting near strategic gas fields
after a local doctor was raped, allegedly by an officer of the
security forces. Since then there have been daily attacks on security
forces, railways, and the power and communications infrastructure.
A new political formation calling itself Balochistan Liberation Army
(BLA) has emerged and gathered wide support. It is held responsible
for the current rise in Baloch militancy. The BLA claims to be
fighting "Punjabi domination", the sense that the natural resources
of abysmally poor Balochistan are being exploited by a state
apparatus dominated by people from the Punjab province. Baloch people
also feel marginalized by mega-developments such as the city of
Gwadar on the Makran coastline, which is being developed as a major
international route for sea-traffic to Central Asia, particularly as
an outlet for Central Asian oil. They also oppose the plan of the
Punjabi-dominated Pakistan Army to establish new garrisons in the
province. The nationalists want greater autonomy and greater share of
their natural resources.
In the mid-70s there was a major armed uprising in Balochistan that
was ruthlessly suppressed by the Pakistan Army with the help of the
Iranian Army. The current situation seems to be leading toward a
major conflict between the Baloch, who retain memories of the 70s,
and the Pakistan Army, which is already engaged in Waziristan. The
Baloch resistance to Pakistan's development plans also counters the
US interest in securing a route for Central Asian oil.
Mr. Zahid Makhdoom and Dr. Haider Nizamani
will facilitate discussion by providing the background and point out
the implications of the current situation.
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.sacw.net/
SACW archive is available at: bridget.jatol.com/pipermail/sacw_insaf.net/
Sister initiatives :
South Asia Counter Information Project : snipurl.com/sacip
South Asians Against Nukes: www.s-asians-against-nukes.org
Communalism Watch: communalism.blogspot.com/
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed in materials carried in the posts do not
necessarily reflect the views of SACW compilers.
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