SACW | 1 June 2005

sacw aiindex at
Wed Jun 1 03:04:16 CDT 2005

South Asia Citizens Wire  | 1 June,  2005

[1]  Thousands of Bangladeshis flee India's Assam (Biswajyoti Das)
[2]  India - Pakistan: We need a people's movement (Abid Hasan Minto)
[3]  Dual India-Pakistan citizenship? (Sandeep Pandey)
[4]  All India Secular Forum Newsletter May 2005-II
[5]  India: The Arbiters of Hindutva (Yoginder Sikand)
[6]  India: Letter to the Editor (Mukul Dube)
[7]  India: An English School For Katna (Syeda Hameed)
[8]  Announcements:
(i) May 2005 issue of Lines magazine



Boston Globe - May 19, 2005

Thousands of Bangladeshis flee India's Assam
By Biswajyoti Das  |  May 19, 2005
GUWAHATI, India (Reuters) - Thousands of 
Bangladeshis have fled India's northeastern state 
of Assam following threats by anonymous groups 
against migrants and a campaign asking locals not 
to employ foreigners, officials and residents 

The unidentified groups in the troubled state's 
Dibrugarh district have circulated leaflets and 
sent text messages on mobile phones in the past 
week, warning Bangladeshi nationals to leave 
immediately or face unspecified action.

Mobile phones in Assam are being flooded with 
text messages saying, "Save the nation, save 
identity. Let's take an oath ... no food, no job, 
no shelter to Bangladeshis" while leaflets 
seeking an "economic blockade" of the migrants 
are also being distributed.

"Many labourers working in brick kilns, rickshaws 
pullers and construction workers have fled in the 
past one week due to the threat," said P.C. 
Saloi, superintendent of police in Dibrugarh.

Over the years, hundreds of thousands of illegal 
Bangladeshi migrants have swamped the tea-growing 
and oil-rich state in search for work and food.

Over two years ago, the government estimated 
there could be up to 20 million illegal 
Bangladeshi immigrants in India, and labeled some 
of them a security risk.

In the early 1980s, the powerful All Assam 
Students Union launched a bloody campaign to push 
Bangladeshis back to their homeland.

Thousands of Bangladeshis, including women and 
children, were massacred across the state by 
indigenous people who feared they would be 
reduced to a minority in their own land.

The government and the students union signed a 
pact in 1985, but clauses on the deportation of 
foreigners have still not been implemented.

The campaign against the Bangladeshis has 
mushroomed into a full-fledged uprising against 
New Delhi's rule and many rebel groups are still 
battling for independence.


India has fenced parts of the 4,000-km 
(2,500-mile) border with Bangladesh, but 
officials say this has done little to deter 
migrants bent on leaving one of the world's 
poorest countries.

Assam shares a 272 km (169 mile) porous border 
with Bangladesh, a vast stretch of which is 

"Fencing along the border with Bangladesh in this 
sector has started to prevent illegal 
infiltration," said federal Home Secretary V.K. 

"Legal and judicial measures have also been 
adopted to deport illegal Bangladeshi settlers 
from the country."

The lush paddy fields and the sandy, shifting 
plains of the mighty Brahmaputra river that 
divides the countries are natural transit routes. 
Hundreds take rickety boats across the river, 
which at some places is 15 km (9.5 miles) wide, 
into India.

The migrants become farmhands or river fishermen 
in villages. In towns they are often construction 
workers or rickshaw pullers, and the women work 
as maids.

Since the latest campaign against Bangladeshis 
began, rickshaw pullers in Assam have gone off 
the road, maids have stopped coming to work and 
there is a shortage of eggs and chickens as most 
vendors were Bangladeshi. Brick kilns have been 
closed due to shortage of labor.

Though there are no officials figures of actual 
numbers of Bangladeshis in Assam, locals say 
their population could be six million of the 
state's 26 million people.

"Every day around 6,000 illegal infiltrators 
cross the border and enter the state," said an 
intelligence official in Guwahati, the state's 
main city.

Police said most of the fleeing Bangladeshi have 
now moved to districts close to the border with 

"The police have been put on maximum alert and 
instructions have been given that no genuine 
citizens are harassed and no communal clashes 
take place in disturbed areas," said Rockybul 
Hussain, Assam's minister for home (interior).



Magazine Section  | Dawn - May 29 2005


'Two things thrive on conflict between India and 
Pakistan: religious fundamentalism and the 
military. If this conflict is removed, it will be 
easier to build a liberal democratic process in 
our country,' says Abid Hasan Manto

ABID Hasan Manto, a lawyer by profession, is one 
of the founders of the Pakistan India People's 
Forum for Peace and Democracy, and a member of 
its central committee. He is also the president 
of the National Workers Party which was formed in 
May 1999, coincidentally a few months before the 
military takeover led by General Musharraf. The 
following are excerpts from an interview 
conducted recently with Mr Manto about the 
current situation vis-a-vis Indo-Pak relations.
Q. A generation of Pakistanis has grown up 
considering the India-Pakistan animosity as the 
most natural state of being. What, in your view, 
is the context of this hostility?
A: Between India and Pakistan there are certain 
historical facts that must be kept in mind. To 
begin with, the two major communities, that is, 
the Hindus and the Muslims, over a period of 
thousand years did not have an amiable 
relationship at all. The Muslims originally came 
as invaders, they plundered and returned. They 
did not indulge in empire building at that time. 
Later on, the Pathans and the Mughals came and 
built an empire. For several centuries different 
parts of India, which were overwhelmingly Hindu, 
worked within an empire that was primarily 
Muslim. There is no denial that during this 
period the relationship between the Hindus and 
the Muslims as the rulers and the ruled had 
several ups and downs. Muslim rulers took some 
steps that generated cordiality and the Sufis and 
mystics interacted with the people of India in a 
way that peace and harmony were also created. As 
a result, to this day, non-Muslims also go to 
Nizamud din Aulia and Hazrat Chishti's mazars. In 
spite of all this the basic physical fact is that 
the Muslims ruled over Hindustan for eight 
hundred years. Against this background the people 
who were working within the Hindu community for 
its resurgence, using its religion and culture, 
and the fact that the Muslims had subordinated 
them, is not such an irrelevant thing. Now for 
those building a Muslim identity on religion it 
is easy to use this (Hindu resurgence) because it 
has a historical foundation.
But the key issue is the difference between the 
rulers and the ruled. Such differences exist 
between the Muslims too. When the Arabs took over 
Iran they kept a difference between 'Arabi' and 
'Ajami' for centuries. The Iranian civilization 
at that time was an advanced civilization. 
Similarly, Indian civilization was also an 
advanced one when the Muslims came here. Anyway, 
the rulers had an impact on the local culture be 
it Iran or India. But we should realize that in 
spite of being Muslims the Arabi and Ajami 
difference still exists to this day. So 
establishing peace is not so easy because a lot 
of prejudices exist for such a long time that it 
is not possible to eradicate them at a stroke. In 
fact, it is easy for the establishment to use 
these differences when it wants.
In the Indo-Pak situation, we say we are 
different from Indians, we have also made a 
separate country and we feel that we are the 
smaller country in this equation. At the back of 
our minds is also our history that we were the 
rulers and we ruled over a major chunk of the 
world including India. This is similar in some 
ways to the superiority that the British feel 
even towards other Europeans in spite of peaceful 
relations for many years. This is essential 
background for us to remember: our relationship 
with religion. We cannot separate our history of 
having ruled the world from Spain to India from 
religion's point of view. Certainly Islam had the 
last big religious empire. So we are convinced of 
the power flowing through religion, which may not 
be as clear to others. In parts of the world 
where modernism and industrialization have not 
established themselves people are busy 
establishing their identity on the basis of 
Q. What role does industrialization play in this situation?
A: Historically, the Indian subcontinent has not 
entered the modern era completely. We have not 
entered the industrial and post-industrial era 
completely. There are several reasons, going back 
to the Mughal Empire with its own character, and 
the colonization impact. Colonization forced a 
distance from the development of society that 
western societies gained. Western liberalism and 
democracy were a result of the economic 
industrialization in those countries. These 
things complemented each other. Science and 
technology helped bring down religious prejudices 
etc. For them to talk about secularism and 
liberalism is valid because it is part of their 
historical tradition.
Our system is still largely feudal. In fact, to 
the extent that India was able to progress in 
industrialization and break down its feudal 
structures, it is ahead of Pakistan. At the eve 
of independence, India was at a different level 
of trade and development and that helped the 
democratic tradition in many ways. The 
arbitrariness of feudal structures is reduced in 
such a situation. The ruling, commercial elite 
remains arbitrary in some ways, but because they 
need to sell things, they need to establish some 
kinds of relationships with a wider variety of 
people in a host of different ways. This is what 
happened in Europe and also in India to some 
Another problem for us is that we got our country 
by dividing the common struggle against the 
British. We said 'we don't want the British,' but 
that we're also against the Hindus. I don't want 
to go into details of the justifications for this 
but the fact remains that this is what we did. 
This we started doing from 1940; before that we 
were looking to resolve our issues within an 
Indian confederation or union, whether through 
Jinnah's 14 points or other means. In 1940, there 
was a clear break. Although even in 1946 Jinnah 
moved back on this too, and he accepted the 
Cabinet Mission Plan, which would have meant a 
united India. However, Congress did not accept 
this plan for several reasons. Anyway, our entire 
struggle for a separate state was six years old 
and as a result it did not give birth to a mature 
political leadership here. A long struggle for 
their independence was the principal struggle 
that Congress leaders had undergone. Mr Jinnah 
was not wrong when he said he had 'khotay sikkay' 
in his pocket. He could not find good leaders; 
for instance, in Punjab he had to rely on Noon, 
Sikander Hayat and Daultana, all feudals without 
a history of struggle for independence. 
Therefore, these leaders were not anti-empire 
and, in fact, many had the seal of British 
approval through titles such as sir etc. These 
are again facts of our heritage so we need to 
know them before we can judge the current 
This is also why there was such a vacuum after 
his death. The leadership later on was not of the 
same level - intellectually, culturally or 
politically. His own political grooming had been 
during an Indian national struggle and he was 
very different from the people around him 
including Liaquat Ali. All of this also left its 
impact on the political traditions on Pakistan. 
This class had no interest in making a 
constitution and delayed it constantly because 
they were feudal rulers and felt no need for a 
law or constitution. You can see how the change 
in the class itself impacted our 
constitution-making when a different class of 
leaders from East Pakistan were in power briefly, 
the constitution was finally made. The outdated 
feudal Bengali leadership and our feudals could 
not make this constitution.
Q. Kashmir plays a pivotal role in our 
relationship with India, and to many Pakistanis 
peace with India is tantamount to a sell-out on 
the Kashmir issue.
A. The ML leadership had thought that Kashmir was 
contiguous and predominantly Muslim. So of course 
it would stay with us after partition. At the 
same time we thought that Hyderabad, although not 
contiguous with Pakistan, has a Muslim ruler so 
he will accede to Pakistan. So we took a stand in 
the middle about accepting the ruler's decision 
as far as the princely states were concerned. We 
did not at that time bargain for a poll or public 
opinion. We may claim now that the Hindu raja was 
pressurized by the Indian government, but our 
stand now is weakened by our stance on partition.
The fact again is that war happened. Our desire 
was always that Kashmir should be part of 
Pakistan. In addition to religion there was the 
issue of all our rivers originating from Kashmir. 
A psyche was built up that Kashmir is ours and 
India is occupying it by force. This disaster has 
created perpetual conflict between India and 
Pakistan. In fact, it has turned our state 
apparatus into a security state; defend yourself 
against India, which is three times larger than 
our country. So our focus moved to security, 
which meant building the army, and that required 
money, which we did not have, so right from 1951 
we looked to the US for money. We entered various 
defence pacts with the US and in the cold war 
context the India-Pak conflict was solidified.
Q. There have been, however, other episodes of 
improved relationship between India and Pakistan. 
Take the example of the '50s cricket matches in 
Pakistan when the borders were opened. Why didn't 
they last for long?
A. In 1953, there was a cricket match and the 
borders were opened. There was a general exchange 
at all levels. I was studying at the Law College 
at the time, and I took the Punjab University 
debating team to different cities in India. They 
welcomed us warmly and we met Nehru. Ghazanfar 
Ali was the High Commissioner in India at that 
time and he took several initiatives. And then 
their teams came and we looked after them here. 
But this ended quite soon because Pakistan became 
an active participant in the cold war on the US 
side. We entered various defence pacts that also 
bolstered the role of our army in Pakistan's 
decision-making. India, with a generally 
non-aligned but largely pro-Soviet stance, was in 
the other camp. As I said, our conflict was 
solidified because of the cold war context. The 
Kashmir conflict continued in spite of 
negotiations and Nehru's visit. All the politics 
here was being conducted on the basis of 
establishing India as the key enemy.
However, today's situation does not parallel 
those previous incidents of peace building. In 
part, this is because of the realization now that 
we have tried the path of hostility and it is not 
going to work. We have realized that the Security 
Council resolutions are of no use. The 
institution that makes these resolutions can and 
will not implement them. We have also realized 
now that we cannot win Kashmir over form India. 
We can create disturbance, but we cannot win it 
over in war. But the right to create disturbance 
is no longer given to any country other than 
America today. So in this context, there has been 
a withdrawal from jihadi politics. It is the age 
of economics and trade. It is now impossible for 
us to not trade with our neighbour rather than 
somebody 2,000 miles away. This will happen 
inevitably although we will go through certain 
ups and downs.
There have been other experiences as well. For 
instance, now there is a clearer understanding 
among the people that the US has time and again 
used us, and dropped us when a relationship is no 
longer in their interest - for example, after the 
Afghan war. Although admittedly the predominant 
impression in our ruling class is still that 
being with the Americans is important. But one 
thing that everyone realizes is that 
international conditions have changed. Our 
so-called friend America is itself saying we need 
to build peace with India, and so is China. These 
pressures are not just for India and Pakistan. 
This is an international scenario in 
globalization in which economic integration 
requires free access to people and nations for 
corporate interests.
Q. How is this US or corporate interest-sponsored 
peace likely to affect its sustainability?
A. We need to be aware that the ruling elite in 
both Pakistan and India is overwhelmingly part of 
US global plans. All this peace is to make it a 
part of that global economic system, which is 
another form of colonial extension. Certainly, we 
cannot stay away completely from the global 
economic system, but how can we decrease or 
change the impact? Our party's analysis has been 
that we need regional arrangements. We have had 
this analysis since the fall of the Soviet Union 
and when such notions were not particularly 
fashionable. In the case of South Asia, Saarc 
should be converted into a massive ground for 
trade and economics rather than just striking 
conversations. Then various other groupings can 
be pursued like Saarc and the Middle East, Saarc 
and Central Asia etc. Some of these regional 
groupings are already emerging and the US is not 
happy with all of them. For example, they are in 
competition with the European Union. Even now 
they do not want the gas coming from Iran to go 
from Pakistan to India. They are pressurizing us 
to leave Iran and take the gas from Turkmenistan, 
where the Americans have military bases.
We are not pursuing a radical agenda at this 
point. We need to get beyond our archaic feudal 
structures, build our industry, promote equitable 
trade, and all this is not possible without peace 
with regional players.
Therefore, we need to consciously pick up the 
issue and build a people's movement. We do not 
want to become a pawn in the hands of MNC 
globalization. As far as possible we want to 
benefit from globalization, which is not possible 
on IMF and WB conditions. A people's movement is 
necessary to pressurize the government in the 
right direction.
In India, for instance, a Common Minimum 
Programme has been agreed between the left 
parties and Congress to decide how much inclusion 
in the globalization process, how much 
privatization etc. are they willing to work 
towards. For us it is problematic because such a 
movement is weak in our country. The situation is 
such that the mainstream political parties are 
looking for employment with the US. Instead of 
mobilizing the people these parties put in an 
application to the Americans to impose democracy 
in our country. Corporate globalization will have 
an impact on our industry, including textile, 
which will obviously have an impact on farmers 
and cotton crops. The rich countries insist that 
we cannot provide subsidies to our farmers while 
they continue to subsidize theirs. And then we 
are expected to compete with their farmers. This 
effect on the rural economy has a direct bearing 
on the urban economy. At its most basic 
unemployment in rural areas translates into 
migration to cities creating greater pressure on 
urban structures. Here, with privatizations in 
cities we can see further unemployment, lack of 
social legislation etc. Even our traditional 
economists are beginning to realize these 
In Pakistan two things thrive on conflict between 
India and Pakistan: religious fundamentalism and 
the military. If this conflict is removed it will 
be easier to build a liberal democratic process 
in our country. A people's movement on the lines 
of, with some changes, Latin America is what we 
need in South Asia. Brazil and Venezuela are not 
cutting off the world but want to exert control 
on their resources and decisions.
- Humeira Iqtidar



Daily Star
May 31, 2005
Dr Sandeep Pandey

We are grateful to the Pakistani government for 
allowing us to enter Pakistan and symbolically 
complete the India Pakistan Peace March scheduled 
from Delhi to Multan between March 23 and May 11, 
but regret that we were not given permission to 
walk within Pakistan. The only consolation is 
that we reached Multan on the scheduled date, 
which was not looking possible at one point 
because of bureaucratic hurdles.

The highlight of the Multan event was the 
presence of both Shah Mahmood Hussain Qureshi, 
the Sajjada Nashin of the Dargah of Bahauddin 
Zakaria in Multan where our March ended and Nazim 
Syed Ali Shah Nizami, the Gaddi Nashin of the 
Dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi from 
where the march began.

The march was meant to carry the message of Sufi 
saints and we accomplished our objective to a 
large extent. The response from people on both 
sides of the border was overwhelming. The signs 
are very clear. The people of India and Pakistan 
are for peace and friendship and they blame their 
governments for not giving it to them.

The people of India and Pakistan are anxious to 
meet each other as no other two communities of 
people around the globe. The governments of India 
and Pakistan have made it so difficult for the 
two people to meet as probably nowhere in the 
world. A very complicated travel restriction 
regime exists between India and Pakistan. Some of 
the restrictions are beyond the comprehension of 
common people.

For example, why does one need the permission of 
one's Home Ministry to cross the Wagha border on 
foot if the other country has granted a visa? 
This permission is not needed when you're 
crossing over from one country into the other by 
any other means -- air, rail, or bus. Hence, if 
you cross the same border on Delhi-Lahore bus 
service then you don't need the permission from 
the Home Ministry.

There is also a rule which mandates a group of a 
minimum of four to cross the border on foot. Most 
of the common Indian and Pakistani citizens are 
neither terrorists nor criminals, but they are 
required to report daily to the police if they 
are in the other country. It is funny that during 
our stay in Pakistan a police squad was 
continuously accompanying us and they had minute 
to minute knowledge about our movement but still 
our friends Saeeda Diep or Shabnam Rashid had to 
waste a couple of hours every day to carry our 
passports to the police headquarters. One has to 
use the same means to return that one used to 
enter the other country. There is a senseless 
strictness about port of entry.

Most importantly, you cannot go into the other 
country unless you have a relative or an 
invitation. The Pakistani High Commission in 
Delhi had refused to entertain our visa 
applications until our names were cleared by the 
Interior Ministry in Islamabad, which meant that 
unless we had influential friends in Pakistan it 
was virtually impossible for us to enter Pakistan.

And we had to go through all this after Pervez 
Musharraf's recent trip to New Delhi where the 
two governments had talked about increasing 
people to people contact and making the borders 
softer! The bureaucracy on the two sides is still 
not willing to acknowledge the changing realities 
between the two countries. It wants to maintain 
its hold over people and create all possible 
obstacles in the path of people wanting to go to 
the other country.

Only twelve of us had got the nod of the 
Pakistani Interior Ministry to enter Pakistan. 
About ten times more people who wished to 
accompany this march into Pakistan were 
disappointed. A close friend Vinish Gupta, who 
left his Ph.D. programme at IIT Delhi to become a 
Buddhist Monk and presently lives in Sarnath, 
wanted to come to Pakistan to see his ancestral 
home in Lahore which houses Habib Bank today. His 
grandmother would have been most happy if he 
could have brought photographs of this home back 
with him.

However, Tenzin, as he is now known, was not 
given the opportunity by the Pakistani Interior 
Ministry to fulfill even as small a wish as this. 
The great Gautam Buddha had said that desrire is 
the source of pain. Tenzin has learnt this the 
hard way. However, what right the bureaucracies 
on the two sides, who themselves are not 
accountable to anybody, have to deny even simple 
freedom to the people to travel and meet people 
they wish to on the other side?

Even though we're demanding a complete doing away 
with of the passport-visa regime for travel 
between India and Pakistan, the common sentiment 
that was expressed by people along our route was 
that the two governments must grant visas on 
arrival at the border. The governments of India 
and Pakistan can do it if they want to. They have 
to merely demonstrate the political will as they 
did when they started the Delhi-Lahore bus 
service, implemented the cease fire agreement, 
allowed over 5,000 people to cross over to watch 
a cricket match and most importantly, against all 
odds, introduced the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus 

In fact, it would be a very novel idea for India 
and Pakistan to allow granting dual citizenship 
to people of the other country who wish to apply 
for it. There would be a number of Pakistanis 
willing to obtain Indian citizenship too and 
similarly a number of Indian citizens willing to 
obtain Pakistani citizenship too if given the 

This would be the surest way to get rid of 
distrust between the people of two countries 
which exists because of sustained propaganda on 
both sides against the other country and its 
people. It would also make life easier for a 
number of us who wish to frequently travel to 
Pakistan to meet friends and attend events and 
have to go through the tedious process of getting 
approval of Interior Ministry of Pakistan every 

And till the day of our departure we're not sure 
whether the Indian Home Ministry would allow us 
to cross the Wagha border on foot, even though we 
might have the visa from the Pakistani 
government. No governments possibly treat their 
citizens in such a disrespectful manner as the 
governments of India and Pakistan when it comes 
to traveling between the two countries. Why 
should the citizens of the two countries be 
subjected to this shoddy treatment by their 

Dr Pandey is a social activist and recipient of 
the Ramon Magsaysay Award for the year 2002. He 
has been on the engineering faculties of IIT 
Kanpur and Princeton University and founded ASHA 
For Education Trust in 1991.
Crossing the Wagha border.



All India Secular Forum Newsletter May 2005-II

While we witnessed the increase in the number of
communal incidents in Rajasthan and against Christian
missionaries, the law to curb communal violence came
more as a set back rather than a relief. There is a
demand that the guilty be punished after every
incident of violence. But as per the present state of
things most of those organizing violence or taking
part in violence get away without any punishment. It
is this light that measures have been demanded by
human rights groups to curb this process. UPA Govt
came up with a law for discussion, in this direction.
As it turns out this law gives immense powers to
authorities, without asking for the answerability.

It is in this light that CSSS organized one day
consultation to oppose the implementation of this
bill. Following was the resolution passed unanimously
at this meeting attended by activists and legal

A group of activists, lawyers and police officers met
in Delhi on 18th May 2005 to discuss the government
draft of the Communal Violence (Suppression) Bill,
2005.  After careful consideration of the proposed
Bill, the meeting was entirely unanimous that the
draft was entirely unsatisfactory and even dangerous,
the solution being worst than the disease.  We believe
that the government does not lack sufficient powers
even under the existing laws to prevent and control
communal violence.  The new law only adds draconian
powers to the state and the armed forces in communal
situations, which experience shows tends to be used
most against minorities and marginalized groups.
The meeting endorsed the view of the former
Chairperson of the NHRC, Justice Verma, that the Bill
should be restricted to ensuring accountability of
state and central governments and reparation and
rehabilitation according to accepted international

More such meetings are in the offing in different
places. There is a need to build up pressure against
this bill.

The improvement in the Indo Pak relations is most
heartening phenomenon which is taking place slowly but
consistently. The Maharashtra Chapter of Pak India
Peopleís Forum for Peace and Democracy has organised a
meeting from 10th June in Pune. Those interested may
contact-desaijatin at

Ram Puniyani

Resources- ìModi-fied Justice and Rule of lawî-The
case of Best bakery, with Introduction by Rajeev
Dhavan Edited by Ajay Kumar. Published by Udbhavna
A-21 Jhilmil Industrial Area GT Road Shahdara Delhi
95. Available in Hindi also.


Web | May 31, 2005

'It is for Hindu religious leaders and social 
reformers to talk on the religion,' and not a 
'declared non-believer' Karunanidhi, argues RSS 
mounthpiece Organiser. Why, then, does it present 
itself as a saviour of Muslim women from the 
'tyranny' of 'obscurantist' and 'barbaric' Islam?

Yoginder Sikand

The irony cannot be more striking. Known for 
their fierce opposition to reforms in Hindu law 
that sought to ameliorate the conditions of Hindu 
women, Hindutva groups present themselves as 
ardent champions of Muslim women. The image of 
Muslim women as oppressed by their men and their 
religion is central to Hindutva discourse, 
buttressing their claim of Islam and Muslims 
being inherently and unrepentantly 'obscurantist' 
and 'barbaric'. This explains the hypocritical 
defence by Hindutva ideologues of Muslim women's 
rights, while at the same time the pogroms they 
unleash lead to the death and rape of Muslim 

While Hindutva ideologues present themselves as 
saviours of Muslim women from what they describe 
as the 'tyranny' of Islam, they are fiercely 
opposed to any measures that might threaten 
Brahminical Hindu patriarchy. Thus, the cover 
story of the last issue of Organiser, the RSS' 
official English weekly, protesting against a 
move to reform Hindu marriage, should come as no 
surprise. Titled, 'A Mischievous Proposal to 
Tinker With Hindu Faith', and written by a 
certain R. Balashankar, the article furiously 
denounces the proposal put forward by the Tamil 
politician, M. Karunanidhi,  leader of the 
anti-Brahmin Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham, to allow 
for 'self-respect' marriages that do without a 
mandatory priest, who is generally a Brahmin.

The article refers to a letter sent recently by 
Karunanidhi to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh 
demanding an amendment in the Hindu Marriage Act, 
1955 in order to legalise, at the all-India 
level, marriages without a priest. Presently, 
such marriages are recognized only in Tamil Nadu. 
This demand has been a long-standing one, and was 
first put forward by E.V.Periyar Ramaswamy 
Naicker, the pioneer of the anti-Brahmin movement 
in Tamil Nadu. Periyar was a bitter critic of 
Brahminical Hinduism, seeing it as a 
thinly-veiled guise for Aryan, North Indian, 
'upper' caste Hindu hegemony. He regarded 
Hinduism as a creation of 'wily Brahmins' to 
assert their control over the 'low' caste 
majority whom they had reduced to servitude. He 
believed that the non-Brahmins could effectively 
challenge Brahmin hegemony only if they developed 
a sense of self-respect and refused to consider 
the Brahmins as 'gods on earth', a status that 
the Brahmins claimed for themselves.

As part of the comprehensive plan  for cultural 
revolution that Periyar laid out, non-Brahmins 
would dispense completely with Brahmins to 
officiate over their religious and social 
functions. In particular, the use of Brahmins to 
conduct the marriage of Hindu couples was to be 
strictly avoided. In this way, non-Brahmins would 
be able to assert their equality with the 
Brahmins and would, at the same time, be saved 
from paying the Brahmins the hefty fees that they 
charged as ritual specialists.

In place of Brahmin-officiated marriage 
ceremonies, Periyar launched what he called 
'self-respect' marriages, which were conducted 
without any priest at all. Unlike the Brahminical 
marriage, in which the bride is explicitly 
recognized as subordinate to the husband and is 
given away as a commodity to him,  the 
'self-respect' marriage was an egalitarian one. 
In contrast to the Brahminical marriage, the 
'self-respect' marriage did not entail any dowry.

That the RSS, and the Hindutva brigade as a 
whole, are simply a new face of Brahminism is 
well-known. Little wonder, then, that the 
Organiser spies in Karunanidhi's proposal for 
state recognition of 'self-respect' marriages 
throughout India a conspiracy to 'meddle with 
Hindu religion', going so far as to denounce it 
as 'promot[ing] atheism by deritualising and 
de-Hinduising Hindu marriages'. Clearly, it 
recognizes that marriages that dispense with 
Hindu priests, mostly Brahmins, are a potent 
challenge to Brahminism.

It is, however, careful not to register its 
protest in a way that reveals its own Brahminical 
agenda. Instead, it denounces such marriages as 
'anti-Hindu', as 'intimidation of Hindu 
religion', and as calculate to 'to spite the 
religious sentiments of the Hindu majority'. The 
fact that the vast majority of 'Hindus' are 
non-Brahmins, who might well believe that they 
are equally capable as Brahmins to conduct their 
own marriages, is, of course, ignored. So, too, 
is  the fact that many Dalit castes and Tribals, 
whom the RSS seeks to include within the 'Hindu' 
fold in order to augment 'Hindu' numbers, 
continue to conduct their marriage ceremonies 
without Brahmin priests and dispensing with 
Brahminical ceremonies.

Any critique of Brahminism, therefore, is 
interpreted as an attack on Hinduism as such by 
the RSS. Any move that might challenge the 
hegemony of the Brahmin minority or make a dent 
in the citadel of Brahminism is presented as an 
attack on the 'Hindu majority' and 'Hinduism', 
even if such moves as 'self respect' marriages 
might work in favour of the non-Brahmin majority.

As defenders of Brahminical or 'upper' caste 
privilege, Hindutva ideologues see every issue 
from the point of view of the Brahminical elites. 
Hence, the reasonableness of Karunanidhi's demand 
is completely dismissed, without any recognition 
of the fact that it might well help the majority 
of the 'Hindus', who are from the oppressed 
castes, victims of Brahminism. The Organiser sees 
no merit in the proposal at all, and, instead, 
makes the ridiculous suggestion that it might be 
a communist-inspired conspiracy to 'wean away 
Hindu youth from the fold of family and religion 
and make them tools of atheist, anti-Hindu 

The Organiser ends its vehement denunciation of 
Karunanidhi's proposal with by insisting that, 
'as a declared non-believer, Karunanidhi and the 
[sic.] likes have no right to talk on Hindu 
religious affairs'. 'It is for Hindu religious 
leaders and social reformers to talk on the 
religion', it insists. If that is the case, then 
why, one must ask, do the Hindutva-walas appear 
to take such an inordinate interest in the 
'plight' of Muslim women? If non-Hindus and 
self-declared non-believers have no right to talk 
about Hindu religious matters, what gives the RSS 
and its affiliates in the Hindutva camp the right 
to talk about Islam and shed crocodile tears over 
the 'oppression' of Muslim women?

It is striking how, despite their visceral hatred 
of each other, Muslim and Hindu fundamentalists 
think alike on a range of issues. Both speak of 
religious identity as a monolith, conveniently 
ignoring the obvious fact that the interests of 
the elites they champion have little in common 
with those of the poor.

On the issue of gender, too, both are firm 
upholders of patriarchal privilege. Like their 
counterparts among the Muslim clerics, the 
Hindutva-walas see patriarchal control as 
essential to their vision of religion, and hence 
any step that threatens to challenge it is 
regarded as a sinister anti-religious plot, as 
the Organiser's furious reaction to Karunanidhi's 
sensible and very welcome proposal  makes amply 



D-504 Purvasha
Mayur Vihar 1
Delhi 110091

1 June 2005

The *Hindu* of 30 May reports Shri Lal Kishenchand Advani
as having said, "We have been discharging our duties as
people's representatives ... outside Parliament" and
also that "we have capable leaders in the second generation,
even more capable than me." Why do not this epitome of
modesty and his capable young followers resign their
parliamentary seats and do their fine work on the foot-
path, the election to which is what they really fought and

Mukul Dube



The Telegraph
June 01, 2005


A combination of grit and resourcefulness enabled 
Jugnu Ramaswamy to set up a school in the middle 
of nowhere, writes Syeda Hameed

Dream come true
Jugnu Ramaswamy had started Jagriti School in 
1990 to educate Delhi's street children. Under 
the aegis of Street Survivors India, the school, 
located in Delhi's Motia Khan slum in Paharganj, 
began in 1990, and grew from some 30 children to 
over 500 students. During the 12 years of its 
existence, it transformed the lives of slum, 
street and railway-station children. In 2002, the 
Delhi government, reclaiming valuable commercial 
space, demolished Motia Khan. Along with it the 
school too became debris. On June 24, 2002, Jugnu 

"The bulldozer works fast. And this one is as 
mean as they come. Before you can say 'Ananth 
Kumar' it's all gone - several classrooms and a 
small kitchen where working children once learnt 
and ate, a hall that sheltered the homeless among 
them each night and the only tiny toilet to boast 
of a commode among a squatter population of over 

Then he and his wife, Shabnam Ahmad, decided to 
continue Jagriti. But by now Jugnu had realized 
the importance of owning land. He sold his house, 
collected all his savings and set out for a place 
where even modest people like him could own their 
very own piece.

He decided to take the school to Katna, a village 
in the Kandi sub-division of Murshidabad 
district. This is where Shabnam was born and it 
was from here that, owing to the sagacity of her 
father (the first graduate of Katna), she went to 
Darjeeling and Calcutta for school and college 
education, respectively. He told me that the 
building had just been completed. He, Shabnam, I 
and Nurul Amin (a district official who had been 
sent as my escort) talked for two hours. I forgot 
how tired I was from the day's exertions in 
Berhampore and the 2-hour drive to the village.

I just listened and listened. I heard Jugnu's 
account of how the building came up. All his 
savings went into buying the land. After Motia 
Khan, he could not risk another bulldozer ripping 
apart his dreams. Then came architect friends who 
understood the environment of rural Bengal and 
the imperative of cutting corners. Slowly the 
building started coming up. Meanwhile, he faced 
untold hardships, political coercion, betrayals, 
and death threats; so much so that a bomb was 
hurled at his vehicle and almost got both of 
them. But he did not give up. Slowly the enemies 
melted away; the would-be assassin came to touch 
his feet. The dream had overcome the nightmares.

By the time we finished talking, dusk had settled 
in. It was then that I went around the building. 
Among the verdant paddy fields, in natural terra 
colours, fringed by ferns and trees, stood the 
monument of his hard work. The underlying idea of 
his school was to provide a level playing field 
for rural children. It aimed to give all 
advantages, including aesthetic surroundings, 
quality English-medium education, sports and 
extra curricular activities to the poorest of the 
poor village children of Murshidabad and nearby 
districts. The fact that it was located in Katna 
village meant that it would reach quality 
education to many Muslim children, since Katna is 
almost 98 per cent Muslim. The school was 
expected to open its doors on May 16, 2005.

There was no big money behind the school. It was 
funded entirely by private resources raised by 
Jugnu from individual donations. On appeal from 
him, friends just sent what they could. And in 
his circle, no one is very rich; there are 
teachers, writers, film-makers. He told me of a 
man from England who, while getting his boots 
polished, learnt of a certain school where the 
little polisher studied. Not believing the boy's 
story, he landed in Motia Khan and became a solid 
supporter of Jugnu's work. Then there was a long 
silence - maybe he was dead. When Jagriti had to 
be launched and Jugnu was tapping friends, he 
wrote to the man. In reply came a stout promise, 
followed by a cheque. While I was in Katna, 
another friend called to say, give whatever you 
have on my behalf; I will reimburse you in Delhi.

The school prospectus, beautifully designed and 
printed, says tuition fee: Rs 350 per month. Not 
a large amount when there are schools in metros, 
which charge Rs 1 lakh a month for the 
air-conditioned education of privileged kids. But 
for these beedi-rolling women and men of 
Murshidabad, even Rs 350 is a huge amount. So 
Jugnu thought of instituting scholarships for the 
poorest of the poor.

So here it was, before my unbelieving eyes; a 
fully-equipped English medium school on a 
two-acre campus in this remotest of remote 
settings. It was a glowing example of the 
president of India's idea of PURA - Provision of 
Urban Facilities in Rural Areas. Why can't we 
replicate it all over the country, I though to 

The next day, many cars pulled up at Jugnu's 
house. The entire district administration had 
landed up to see Jagriti School. "Look Jugnu, who 
is here," Shabnam said. He looked at me with his 
laughing eyes and said, "Because you are here. We 
have been inviting them for months."

One day, a month after my visit, with three weeks 
left for the school opening, Jugnu sat in the 
school with Shabnam working on the last details. 
He complained of his stomach hurting. I still 
recall the divan lying on the side of his desk. 
He walked there and lay down, breathing heavily. 
Those were his last breaths. I did not even 
realize until I read the notice in the papers 
that he was only 48-years old.

The question is, what now? Jugnu's work cannot be 
allowed to go waste. Shabnam has risen from her 
mourning to pick up the pieces and continue his 
mission. Every rupee in the school account is 
fully committed. Jugnu was just collecting money 
for three second-hand vehicles in which to 
transport the children. How will it all come 
together? But in my heart I know it will. Just a 
few years, four or five, to create jagriti 
(awakening) in the community; just a few years of 
help and Jagriti will become self-sustaining. The 
cruel twist to the story, Jugnu, has deprived us 
of you but given a strange new life and vigour to 
your dream.

At the end, as I and many friends like me say 
goodbye, I want to place at Jugnu's feet two 
lines of Iqbal which symbolize him, his life and 
his mission:

Jugnu ki raushni hai kashana-e-chaman mein

Ya shama jal rahi hai phoolon ki anjuman mein

(Is the glow from firefly which illumines the 
bower?/ Or is it a candle lit in the assemblage 
of flowers?)

The writer is a member of the planning commission


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Accountability? Political Assasinations and the 
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the JVP on Federalism
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JVP, Meet Mr. Gramsci
 Civil Society, NGOs and 
the State
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of the JVP circa 2005AD
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initial assessment of the post-1988 JVP
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and displeased: fragile fragments of conversation
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Convention and Sri Lankans on Death Row
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Tsunami Reconstruction and the Eastern Muslim 
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Kalaichelvan (Gfyplf; fiyQd; - fiyr;nry;td; - In 
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Engagements with 'At the Water's Edge'

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The Water's Edge: A Review
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Cabs and Capitalism in New York City
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the Revolution to New Forms of Struggle: Review 
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In The Public Sphere:

Taboos: Speaking about Rights and Intimidation in 
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Reader's Comments:

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