SACW | 13 Jan. 2006 | India: Gujarat Hindutva@work/ Narmada valley protests / food security / censorship /homeless
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Thu Jan 12 21:06:23 CST 2006
South Asia Citizens Wire | 13 January, 2006 | Dispatch No. 2202
Announcement: Please note. There would be no SACW dispatches between 14
- 20 January 2005.
 India: Gujarat 2002 - A turning point? (Rakesh Sharma)
 India: A New Ayodhya in the Making, Maker Modi (Shabnam Hashmi)
 India: Narmada valley on the boil (Rahul Kumar)
 India: Statement from of the Right to Food Campaign
+ Sabotaging PDS (Colin Gonsalves)
 India: Film Maker Withdraws Film For the Mumbai Film Festival To
 India: Hail the Chief (Censor) (Pamela Philipose)
 India: Death devours the homeless (Bharat Dogra)
(This was written for India Today's special issue : 30 Years : Turning
points in recent Indian history. An edited version has appeared in the
December 26, 2005 issue)
GUJARAT 2002 : A TURNING POINT?
by Rakesh Sharma
Imagine Gujarat in March 2002. What if the bloodthirsty mobs in Baroda
had found Irfan Pathan or Zaheer Khan? What if Mohammed Kaif lived in
Naroda Patiya, Ahmedabad? Would there be a resurgent Team India now? Or
what if Sania Mirza's home was Gulberg society, where ex-MP Ehsan Jafri
was not just brutally killed, but according to eyewitnesses, "even his
body could not be found, just some bones and other parts"? What if Ustad
Bismillah Khan was a resident of posh Paldi, home to the prestigious
National Institute of Design and the ransacked Delite Apartments? Would
his shehnai have been silenced forever and his home reduced to ashes?
What if Ustad Zakir Hussain had a home in Gandhinagar? What if...
"We do not want the Muslims to shift to Pakistan. They can live here, as
a part of our family, like our brothers, but like younger brothers. They
must learn to respect us as there are 800 million of us and they are
only 150 million" - Retired Professor Ghanshyam Joshi of the Pavagad
VHP, swaying gently on his swing explains his final solution very
nicely, during one of the many conversations I had with him in 2002
while shooting my film. Somehow his words are more chilling than the
rabble-rousing speeches I first heard from Uma Bharti and Sadhvi
Ritambara in 1990-91 and a decade later from the surgeon-turned
demagogue Praveen Togadia. The next day, one of his party workers
explains even more gently - "we just want these Muslims to first shift
out of Gujarat and then we will see what to do with them".
At the Don Bosco school in Ahemdabad, between 350-400 Muslim children
are asked to leave. Their teacher, Pramod Kumar Kul, is very matter of
fact - "they weren't good students, just interested in somehow finishing
school and then learning spray painting etc", summarily dismissing all
those young kids who had giggled and smiled the day before while talking
to me about becoming a doctor or an engineer or a teacher. At the
'National School' inside a ghettoised part of the city, seven-year old
Shahrukh Khan, though has different ideas - " I will study and join the
police as then I'd be able to help people during riots". Little does he
realise that in Modi's Gujarat, you are most likely to get a punishment
posting if you happen to discharge your constitutional obligations to
try and curb the slaughter of innocent women and children. Ask R B
Sreekumar or the SPs and DCPs shunted out of Kutch, Bhavnagar,
Banskantha and Ahmedabad city's zone 4. Invent conspiracy theories
involving Muslims, ignore the Gujarat State Forensic lab's reports that
suggest an absence of hydrocarbons ( i.e., petrol, diesel or kerosene)
inside S-6, allude to flimsy evidence based on confessions by
history-sheeters, slap POTA charges on a 100-odd people and possibly
earn a commendation for meritorious service! Innuendos and insinuations
triumph - but isn't anyone interested in giving us the truth behind the
gory deaths at Godhra?
Much of the Gujarat violence is justified in the name of the 59 people
who died inside coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express. But the late
Jyotiben's family - husband Bharat Panchal and daughter Shefali do not
want any revenge to be taken in their name. Dr. Girishchandra Rawal,
retired government servant, who lost his wife, tells me Godhra should
not have been used during the elections - "Religion should never be
mixed with politics, that's the cause of our recent troubles". He then
asks me a question - "Railway is a government body. Wasn't it their duty
to protect passengers?" Certainly, Dr. Rawal, more so because media had
reported trouble along the Sabarmati Express route a couple of days
before the Godhra incident. The Faizabad-based daily Jan Morcha,
specifically published a report about violence at the Rudauli station in
UP. Intelligence agencies had echoed these concerns. Yet, Nitish Kumar,
Advani and Modi failed to bolster security for the train and its
passengers along the entire route. Reinforced RPF presence inside the
train and on platforms would have helped save the 59 karsevaks who died
and prevent the manhandling of Siddiq Bakar, the tea vendor and the
16-year old Sophiya Sheikh at the Godhra platform, the two incidents
that triggered stone pelting at Signal Falia. Yet, does any of them
emulate the former Railway Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, own moral
responsibility and resign?
The Ministers and MLAs deny any involvement in the genocidal violence;
yet their cellphones mysteriously make their way into Naroda Patiya and
sites of other massacres. Senior Ministers are found directing police
operations inside the Police Control Room to ensure their 'mobs' have
immunity and in some cases, active help from the cops. The MP from the
Gandhinagar constituency does precious little to contain violence in his
own constituency. He also happens to be the Deputy Prime Minister and
the country's Home Minister at the time. On election results day in
2002, Advani looks into TV cameras and comments on the BJP election
campaign - "I think it is unique that the party decided not to raise the
Godhra issue...because we did not want to create that kind of
climate...it is remarkable". Just a few days earlier, I shoot a speech
by Bhupendra Singh Solanki, the BJP MP from Panchmahals. Says he - "This
election is not about development...the issue is Godhra...Everyone knows
that even in America, England and Delhi!". The Congress remains silent,
though there is both scope and precedent for legal action - after all,
Bal Thackeray was disenfranchised on similar grounds! Hindutva
ideologues first deny any horrific violence, then deny state complicity
and finally deny their cynical exploitation of the Godhra tragedy for
electoral gains. Haren Pandya, the only Minister from the Modi
government to testify before the Citizen's Tribunal provides some
insights into the State's involvement in the carnage. He is shot dead a
few months later, under what can only be euphemistically termed as
Report any of this and earn the sobriquet -"enemy of Gujarat" or "
human-rightswallah-out-to-defame-Gujarati-asmita "! NDTV's coverage of
the carnage so infuriates Modi that he orders a black out of their
signal for several days. "60 Hindu girls abducted from Sabarmati Express
" headlines a prominent Gujarati daily on Feb 28, 2002, fuelling sexual
violence against Muslim women, only to retract the report a couple of
days later in a tiny paragraph buried in the inside pages. Modi
personally expresses his high appreciation for the newspaper's
restrained coverage in the 'best traditions of journalism'; Times of
India, Indian Express and other national dailies do not receive a
similar letter of commendation from him.
Prof Bandukwala, whose home was destroyed by the very people who invited
him to deliver the Savarkar Memorial lecture on Feb 26, 2002, tells me -
"Gandhi was an accident that happened to Gujarat". I attribute it to
anger and despair, but it sets me thinking - Would Bapu have embraced
Modi as the "chhotey Sardar Patel"? Could the Mahatma have ever imagined
that the gates of his Sabarmati Ashram would be shut to those who sought
shelter at the height of the carnage? What would he have thought of his
Congress - of some of its members equally complicit in communal attacks,
of its president who failed to visit her own ex-MP's home, the site of
his brutal hacking or of the myriad 'intellectuals' who failed to raise
their voice against Moditva? Would he have been proud of Vali Gujarati's
flattened mazaar or Ustad Fayyaz Khan's desecrated tomb? Of the
kathakars and Godmen who failed to condemn the killings and preach
peace? Or of Mallika Sarabhai's persecution? Or the Gaurav Yatra?
At the karsevak anniversary meeting on Feb 27, 2003 in Pavagad, the
local leader exhorts the crowd - "Buy only from Hindu shops, use only
Hindu rickshaws and raise saffron flags from your shops". He has police
protection! In village after village, Muslims are unable to return home,
their shops and fields taken over by people who should've been behind
bars for driving them away in the first place. In cities and towns,
informal ghettos have sprung up, children speak of being afraid to cross
the 'border' to go to their schools. Would Mahatma Gandhi himself have
been safe in his own Gujarat?
So, who do the people of Gujarat turn to? A partisan Legislative? The
Executive - IAS and IPS officers - intent on serving its political
masters - the very same bunch of IAS and IPS officers who crawled when
asked to bend, barring a few notable exceptions? Or that last bastion of
hope - the state Judiciary?
According to the Editors' Guild report on the Gujarat carnage - "Two
serving Muslim Judges of the Gujarat High Court, Mr Qadri and Mr Akbar
Divecha were threatened and had to flee their homes. The residence of
one was attacked and burnt. A Hindu brother judge who offered him a safe
haven in his own home was reportedly the recipient of threatening
calls". A senior lawyer insisting on anonymity speaks of hindutva in the
Judiciary and cites examples of many BJP or VHP sympathisers appointed
as public prosecutors or judges in the last decade! I attend a trial at
the Godhra court - a courageous Muslim woman has decided to seek justice
for the horrific rape and killing of her daughters. An ace lawyer, an
ex-BJP MP, represents the accused. The Public Prosecutor, an erstwhile
partyman, seeking justice on behalf of the Muslim woman as her lawyer
hasn't seen it fit to even meet her though she is a key eyewitness!
Later, many of us read the Gujarat High Court's remarks against Teesta
Setalvad and Mihir Desai with a mix of horror and resignation;
thankfully, the Supreme Court expunges them. Still later, the Zaheera
Shaikh drama is played out, the SC steps in again and terms her a "liar".
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh created history by apologizing to the
nation for the 1984 anti-sikh carnage during his speech in the
Parliament. But, honestly, do you see M/s Sudarshan, Advani, Togadia and
Modi apologizing for the genocidal violence in Gujarat? Instead, they
speak of janadesh - the peoples' mandate; Modi is now flying high on the
back of his triumph in the Ahmedabad municipal elections and his earlier
sweep of the Gujarat assembly elections. But does an electoral victory
legitimise evil? After all, Hitler did win the German elections!
Former Prime Minister Vajpayee preached rajdharma to Modi, but himself
shunned all advice to practice what he preached, deliberately ignoring
counsel from the President of India. Said the late K R Narayanan in
March 2005 in an interview to Malayalam monthly Manava Samskriti - "I
met him personally and talked to him directly. But Vajpayee did not do
anything effective...I feel there was a conspiracy involving the state
and central governments behind the Gujarat riots"
Is Gujarat 2002 a turning point in our recent history? Can politics of
hate and intolerance be the basis for the creation of a harmonious
society and a robust democracy? You decide...
Rakesh Sharma is an independent film-maker. His latest film Final
Solution, which analyses the Gujarat carnage, has won 20 international
awards at film festivals worldwide (Berlin, HongKong, Zanzibar, Munich,
Bangkok, France, Spain, USA etc). He can be contacted on
actindia at vsnl.com or through www.rakeshfilm.com
Jan 21, 2006
A NEW AYODHYA IN THE MAKING, MAKER MODI
In the tribal Dangs of Gujarat, the Sangh is building a big bomb
By Shabnam Hashmi
During those turbulent times when Hindutva was just about emerging like
an incipient octopus, LK Advani told VP Singh, on being offered land to
build a temple in Ayodhya, that the Sangh parivar was not that foolish.
The slogan then was ‘Mandir wahin banayenge’ — exactly at the same spot
where the Babri mosque stood in Ayodhya. During a workshop organised by
Anhad, veteran editor Prabhash Joshi wondered, how was the Sangh so
categorically specific about the 2 feet by 2 feet site where ‘Ram lalla’
was presumably born? How did they discover this incredible, mythical,
I think the Sangh has some fantastic surveyors. They have now discovered
the exact location where Ram ate ‘berries’ during his vanvas. The task
was much simpler this time, only a few adivasi families had to be
coerced into donating their land, and with a few threats they yielded.
The story of the Dangs is a remarkable inventory of how the RSS fronts
operate. Initially, a self-proclaimed Swami Aseemanand, a vhp worker
from West Bengal, moved to the Dangs. He started visiting village after
village, spreading venom against Christian missionaries and ‘Islamic
jehadis’ in an organised campaign. He relentlessly propagated
re-conversion, ghar-vapasi (homecoming) to Hinduism among the adivasis.
The total Christian population of Dangs is less than 8,000, and yet, the
‘threat’ of Christian conversion has been made into a strong and emotive
propaganda plank by the Sangh parivar in tribal areas, along with the
more generalised hatred against Muslims. A legend was created that Ram
had visited Dangs, which finds mention in Ramayana as Dandakaranya. A
nearby hill, Chamak Dongar (shining mountain), has been touted as the
exact place where Ram met Shabari and ate the wild berries offered by her.
The Dangs is the smallest district in Gujarat. It has a population of
1,86,000. It is one of the two districts in the country that has 90
percent forest cover. Almost 92 percent residents are tribal. Bhils,
Kokanis and Warlis are the major tribal groupings. According to the
district gazetteer of the Dangs, the religion of the Dangi adivasis is
animistic. Their gods and goddesses are many and varied. Animals,
plants, trees and places, which are useful or fearful, the forces of
nature like rain, mountains and several inscrutable objects, locations
and elements, are held in high esteem, looked upon with awe and
worshipped. The gods are traditionally feted with home-brewed liquor and
However, suddenly, in almost all the 311 tribal villages, small temples
with photos of Shankar, Bhawani Mata, Hanuman, Amba Mata, among others,
started appearing. Initially, about 1.25 acre was acquired by the Sangh
in the reserve forest, over 700 trees were cut and another eight acres
were grabbed. According to the testimonies of many adivasis whom we met
in different villages when we visited the area recently as part of a
fact-finding team, a huge temple was erected violating all forest laws.
Using Central government’s developmental funds, check dams were made and
a small pond is being converted into ‘Pampa Sarovar’ to match the legend
as it exists in Ramayana. The Sangh plans to organise a massive Shabari
Kumbh on February 11-13, 2006.
Organisations affiliated to the RSS/vhp/Bajrang Dal, with the open
support of the bjp-led Narendra Modi government, are strenuously
mobilising five lakh adivasis and Hindutva activists to participate in
this gathering, in a remote, socially and environmentally highly
sensitive and protected forest region. The slogan tells the story:
Sankalp: Dharmantaran aur jehad ke vichaar ko vishwa se nirmool karenge
(Our resolve is to free the world from the ideologies of conversions and
The activities in the Dangs are not an isolated incident. For the last
several years, the Sangh and its front organisations like the Vanvasi
Kalyan Parishad and the Hindu Jagaran Manch have been targeting the
tribal belts of India, which includes Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh,
Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Orissa and Gujarat. Their effort is to see
that adivasis lose their identity, culture and traditions of worshipping
nature outside any mainstream religion, by asserting that they are
Unfortunately, we have not seen any resolve on the part of the ‘secular’
UPA regime in Delhi or their Left supporters to take on Narendra Modi
and the RSS/vhp in Gujarat or curb the communalisation process in India,
as in the Dangs. But I do hope that even if not for the safety of the
Christian minorities or for preserving the tribal culture of this
protected area, they would at least act for the sake of the protected
forests. Does that require extraordinary political will?
The writer is an activist with Anhad
OneWorld South Asia
04 January 2006
NARMADA VALLEY ON THE BOIL, OUSTEES TO INTENSIFY AGITATION FOR LAND RIGHTS
New Delhi: Farmers, fishermen and villagers, made landless by the
Narmada dam in central India, plan to intensify their stir over lack of
rehabilitation. They accused officials of the central Indian state of
Madhya Pradesh of massive corruption and intimidating villagers.
Children protest submergence in Narmada valley
Children protest submergence in Narmada valley © Narmada Bachao Andolan
Noted activist and Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar
said: “We have unearthed a scandal of hundreds of crores and have lodged
police complaints. Madhya Pradesh officials, their agents and bankers
have together eaten up to 50 per cent of the money that was meant for
compensation for the oustees.”
Hundreds of farmers from the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and
Maharashtra along with activists from NBA staged a noisy protest on
Wednesday at the gates of the Indian minister for Social Justice and
Empowerment Meira Kumar in New Delhi. An NBA delegation met with the
minister and also with officials of the Ministry of Water Resources.
Patkar alleged that the state government has violated a number of orders
by the Central government and also a March 15, 2005 judgment by the
Supreme Court of India over compensation to oustees.
Giving an account of human rights violations by the state, Patkar said:
“Despite clear instructions by many agencies that land has to be given
to people as compensation, and not cash, the government has sent
registered letters to landless villagers that money has been deposited
in the bank. How can people take money when they do not have bank accounts?
Narmada Bachao Andolan logo
Narmada Bachao Andolan logo © Narmada Bachao Andolan
Corrupt government officials, with the help of middlemen and bank
employees, have withdrawn hundreds of crores of Rupees. Now that the
fraud has been unearthed, officials are intimidating villagers, forcing
them to sign fake affidavits and asking them to return the money - money
which the landless never got!”
Water activist Vimal said: “Land owners have taken to working as
labourers. Orchards and fields have been submerged and nearly ten
thousand people have lost livelihoods. The law says people have to be
rehabilitated before land is acquired, but in reality it is the other
way round. People have been evicted at 48-hour notices.”
The protestors included women and children, who clapped and sang songs
about the Narmada River, crops and fields. Many people gave testimonials
and narrated their tales of woe. Most were worried about the future of
their children as everything – schools, hospitals and houses lie
submerged under water.
The protestors squatted in front of the office of the Ministry of Social
Justice and Empowerment and shouted slogans. “We are asking for our
rights and not alms,” “No land, no honour” and “We will fight and we
Dam of controversy
Dam of controversy © NBA
Farmer Noorji Padwani from village Daenil in Maharashtra said: “I have
been relocated to Gujarat and given land which is rocky and infertile.
Even after a number of years of hard work we have been unable to grow
any crops there. This is not the kind of compensation we want in return
for cultivable and fertile land.”
Patkar said: “All big land projects are being pushed in the same manner.
Just two days back the police in the state of Orissa killed tribals
agitating over land rights. It is a nexus between politicians,
bureaucrats, contractors and businessmen. In the Narmada valley, people
are living in the open and are facing snake bites and attacks from
crocodiles. If there is rain, more people will be rendered homeless.”
The NBA has completed two decades of struggle for land rights and proper
compensation for millions of farmers and villagers affected by the
Narmada Dam Project in central India. The movement has given itself a
slogan – 20 Years of Resistance and Reconstruction.
Right to Food Campaign Secretariat
New Delhi, 8th January 2006
STATEMENT OF THE STEERING COMMITTEE OF THE RIGHT TO FOOD CAMPAIGN
The decision of the Central Government to reduce the entitlement and
increase the prices for food grain supply under PDS is a direct attack
on the food security of all Indians especially the poor. Even Antyodaya
Anna Yojana beneficiaries who are on the brink of starvation have not
been spared. This cruel and unprecedented move comes at a time when a
family is entitled to a measly 35 kilos per month compared to an average
family cereal need of at least 60 kilos (NSSO Data 60th round). Now the
government wants to reduce this allotment drastically.
It was felt that such a decision would immediately hit the poorest 70%
of the Indian population who are already living on less than the minimum
nutritional standards (NSSO 60th Round, Utsa Patnaik) fixed by the
Planning Commission way back in 1979. It was also felt that the UPA
Government has already gone back on its own commitment in the Common
Minimum Programme to strengthen the PDS. The committee also felt that
this anti poor step was also violation of the spirit of the Supreme
Court Orders on the RTF Case pending before the Supreme Court.
It was stated that the government is out to further finish the food
subsidy under the directions of the unholy trio of the World Bank, IMF
and WTO and leave India’s poor to the mercy of the markets and the
The steering committee also condemns the manner in which the Delhi
police inflicted violence on the NFIW activists who were carrying out a
peaceful protest against the cut in the PDS quota and hike in PDS prices
on 7th January. It indicates the concerted onslaught on the PDS and
Farmers Support Programme.
The Steering Committee demands transparency from the cabinet and would
like to know both the basis of this decision and purpose this money is
being diverted for.
The RTFC in its recently organised II National Convention held in
Kolkata had reaffirmed its commitment for a effective, corruption free
and a Universal PDS. Thus the campaign will continue to struggle for
this and oppose tooth and nail at the District, State and National level
this recent decision of the GOI of reduction in quota and the hike in
rates. We will also agitate for a upward revision of the ridiculously
low poverty line of less than 11 rupees per person per day.
The RTFC appeals to the people to take to the streets to oppose this
anti poor step of the UPA government.
Aruna Roy, Colin Gonsalvez, Jean Dreze, Kavita Srivastava, Paul Diwakar,
Madhuri Krishnaswamy, Vinod Raina, Subhash Bhatnagar, Sandeep Pandey,
Soumen Ray, Balram
Steering Committee of Right to Food Campaign
Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti (BGVS)
Human Rights Law Network (HRLN)
Jan Swasthay Abhiyaan (JSA)
National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW)
National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR)
National Conference of Dalit Organisations (NACDOR)
National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)
National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI)
National Campaign Committee for Rural Worker (NCC-RW)
National Campaign Committee for Constructional Labourer (NCC-RW)
National Alliance Fundamental Right to Education (NAFRE)
People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Rajasthan (PUCL)
Right to Food Campaign - Madhya Pradesh & West Bengal Network for Right
to Food and Work
o o o
In a cruel and unprecedented move the cabinet has decided to reduce the
PDS outlay by over 4524 crores by increasing prices and cutting quotas,
at a time when a family is entitled to only 35 kg per month as compared
to a family need of 60 kg. This has been done on the basis of a World
Bank sponsored dubious analysis of National Sample Survey Organisation
(NSSO) data purporting to show that poverty in India had reduced from
36% to 26% of the population. The conclusion drawn was that
globalization, privatization and structural adjustment was indeed
working not only for the rich but also the poor. Several economists
joined the bandwagon of the World Bank and published papers to this
effect only to be met by a barrage of criticism.
Matters came to a head when the number of persons eligible to get
subsidized rations under the below poverty line (BPL) quota were sought
to be drastically reduced by the Central Government in 2002. In
Rajasthan alone 10 lakh families were to be removed from the BPL list.
The Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) moved the Supreme Court
that stayed the decision.
The poverty line was fixed in 1979 by the Planning Commission at Rs. 49
per person per month corresponding to an intake of 2,400 K calories per
person per day. In 2001 the Planning Commission released its updated
poverty line. In the era of globalization where trade and business
standards are sought to be universalized the poverty line of the
Planning Commission made interesting reading. In the capital city for
example, the poverty line stands at Rs. 511 per person per month or
approximately Rs. 17 per day. A domestic servant or an unskilled worker
earning Rs. 18 would be ineligible to get a BPL card! In Delhi travel to
work alone would normally cost an employee that amount. In the rural
areas it is Rs. 11.
The old International Poverty Line is $ 1 per person per day or in
Indian terms approximately Rs.1400 per month. It is more common to use
the revised International Poverty Line standard of $ 2 per day. And yet
the Indian Government which otherwise swears by globalization still uses
a standard of $ 1/3 per person per day! By this statistical jugglery
government boasts to the international community that liberal reforms
have worked and poverty has been reduced.
Then Professor Utsa Patnaik of JNU published a remarkable paper titled
“The Republic of Hunger” where, on the basis of the latest census, found
70% of the Indian population at or below the poverty line of 2,400 K
calories per person per day. Going by this standard of food intake over
700 million people in India are poor and consume less than the minimum!
She found that in the last decade the annual absorption of food grains
per head had come down from 177 kg to 155 kg, levels last seen during
World War II. She concludes that though foodgrains are available people
are too poor to purchase these grains at the prices they are available.
Hardly 10 million tons were sold through PDS in 2000 as compared to 20
million tons in 1991.
After PDS was set up in 1964 and distribution peaked in 1991 it was
sabotaged by price increases and targeting. Between 1991 and 1994 PDS
prices were doubled. Between 1998 and 2001 APL prices were increased by
85% and BPL prices by 66%. Sales dropped and the poor were priced out.
BPL and APL price must be slashed to make grain affordable for the poor.
In 1997 targeting was introduced. This break up into above poverty line
and below poverty line families was done ostensibly to benefit the poor
but it is now well documented that targeting errors were so numerous and
so severe that millions of the poor are excluded from the BPL list and
millions of ineligible families included therein.
With the largest population of malnourished people in the world and with
half the nation’s women and children malnourished, ‘business as usual’
will not do. Drastic steps are called for. The heart of the matter is
money. India’s food subsidy at 1% GDP is not high by international
standards. India must consciously dedicate a part of its GDP towards
subsidizing food for the poor. The subsidy must go up not down. In the
present extreme situation 2% GDP is not excessive. Jamaica in the 70’s
and Tunisia in the 80’s had these subsidy levels.
Once upon a time Sri Lanka too had an effective universal system of
heavily subsidized food. Encouraged by the IMF, government began
targeting in 1972 and shifted to a fraudulent food stamp programme in
1979. The poor were excluded. Similar changes were made in Mexico in
the 80’s and there was a fall of 80% in the number of households
receiving subsidized food between 1983 and 1987. In Jamaica where upto
1984 price subsidies were in place for food, these were eliminated and
in 1988 it was found that 53% of the poorest households were not
receiving food stamps.
The decision of the central cabinet to reduce the food available to the
poor is a betrayal of the mandate of the UPA government that was elected
by the poor in the hope that it would reverse the anti-people policies
of the NDA government. Rumours circulating in the corridors of power
that since the Employment Guarantee Act has been brought into force
without a Financial Memorandum, the Finance Minister and the Planning
Commission are not ready to make funds available unless funds are
diverted from the PDS by pruning it have gained credence over the past
week. Cutting back on the main existing food security programme on the
illusory promise of employment guarantee will be a huge setback for the
January 13, 2005
FILM MAKER WITHDRAWS FILM FOR THE MUMBAI INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL TO
Text of the letter of withdrawal sent by film maker Saba Dewan to the
Minister (Information and Broadcasting), Govt. Of India to protest
continuing censorship at Miff
11 January, 2006
Shri Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi
Minister For Information and Broadcasting
Government of India, New Delhi
Dear Shri. Dasmunshi,
I am an independent filmmaker based in Delhi and my film, Delhi-
Mumbai-Delhi has been selected for the forthcoming Mumbai International
Film Festival (Miff2006). I regret to inform you that I have decided to
withdraw my film from the festival in protest against the insistence of
the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and the Festival organisers
to retain a censorship clause in the selection process of the festival.
Clause 8 allows the Festival Director to overrule the decision of the
selection committee and debar a selected film from being screened.
Despite several representations and protests by the film making
community it still remains integral to the festival regulations.
Under the objectionable Clause 8 of MIFF 2006, "Selection of
films/videos for Competition will be made by a Committee whose decision
will be final.
However, Festival Authorities reserve the right to accept or not to
accept any film, if it is likely to offend the feelings and
sensibilities of any country and /or promote racism or any other reason
Festival Authority consider to be sufficient for acceptance or non
acceptance of a film / video."
While the festival authorities and the Ministry officials have been
insisting that the Clause will not be used and there will be no
censorship, it can be argued that why insist on retaining a censorship
clause and taint a selection process when it will not be used. The
Festival as you are aware faced international boycott in its last
edition because of overt and covert censorship that saw a 'cleansing' of
all films that were deemed not supporting the idea of 'India shining'.
Given this scenario the festival authorities should have made the effort
to win the confidence of the film making community but have instead
again introduced clauses that have made the festival lose face.
The festival authorities may argue that the Clause will not be used in
the current Miff but can they provide an assurance that it will not be
used in the future? They cannot because this very clause was used in
the last edition of Miff to keep out films. If the clause exists in the
regulations of Miff then it can always be misused. Since the Festival is
organised by an agency of the Government of India, it will always remain
under pressure by the political powers of the day. It is in the interest
of the international image of the festival to present itself as a space
that does not practice censorship. To this end it makes little sense to
retain a clause that reflects the festival's unwillingness to support an
unfettered voice to the documentary film making community.
Last year I was requested to join the organising committee of the
festival but I declined because I am aware how toothless the Committee
is in the absence of an independent festival director. To quote from my
letter dated 10 February, 2004 of non acceptance of the position*,
"...May I take this opportunity to suggest that the Ministry appoint an
independent Director for the Festival to ensure the hosting of this
important film gathering without any political interference. *As you are
aware, the last edition of the Festival faced an international
controversy for attempts to impose censorship in the selection process.
An independent director who enjoys the confidence of the documentary
film fraternity would go a long way in improving the image of the
Festival and regaining the confidence of filmmakers internationally.
Miff has the potential of becoming an important international film
festival and I do hope the Ministry can introduce long term measures to
make that possible."
It is still not too late for MIFF to correct the situation. I do hope
your personal intervention will allow for the forthcoming edition of the
festival to be held without an accompanying set of withdrawals,
resignations of jury members and an international embarrassment to the
festival. Fourteen filmmakers withdrew their films from the last edition
of the festival in protest against censorship. Shri Girish Karnad
resigned from the jury. It is not possible for me to forget the
sacrifice of my colleagues. The withdrawal of my film is in support of
all those filmmakers who resisted censorship at the last Miff and with
the knowledge that many will continue the protest at this edition of the
I appeal to you to order an immediate revocation of Clause 8 from the
regulations of Miff2006 and steps to appoint an independent director of
the festival. A formal announcement of these steps would prevent this
festival from getting mired in unsavoury controversies.
January 12, 2006
HAIL THE CHIEF (CENSOR)
NOW, FILM CRITICISM FROM THREE OF THE MOST SENIOR OFFICERS OF THE ARMED
by Pamela Philipose
Pamela Philipose The country, it seems, could not be in safer hands. Our
defence chiefs are busy securing not just our seas, our skies and our
borders, but the very boundaries of our mind, the very peripheries of
our aesthetic imagination, the very limits of our cinematic experience.
Rare indeed is such evidence of collective resolve. It is as if these
three men had — to borrow some of Churchill’s verbal efflorescence —
collectively decided to fight ’em on the beaches, fight ’em on the
landing grounds, fight ’em on the fields and on the streets... fight ’em
in film studios and on television screens.
In what was possibly the most significant meeting of strategic minds
since Operation Parakram, they gathered at the VVIP auditorium of the
Films Division in the Capital on Tuesday in full battle regalia. That it
required the services of three of the most senior officers of the Indian
Armed Forces — Air Chief S.P. Tyagi, Army Chief J.J. Singh and Naval
Chief Arun Prakash, along with the Union Defence Minister Pranab
Mukherjee himself — to clear a Bollywood movie, may appear absurd to
some. But in India things work differently.
Ad Network by Sulekha
Here, where we get the right to burn a book, or stone a film hall, along
with our right to vote; where our politicians mutate instantly into
historians and ban books for a few more votes, and policewomen turn into
disapproving nannies armed with lathis, the idea of our three defence
chiefs turning into film reviewers to decide whether the rest of us can
handle Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s cinematic excesses in Rang De Basanti
should not surprise, really.
The System has decided in its Infinite Wisdom to infantilise the
citizen. It presumes that he/she is congenitally incapable of exercising
independent judgement, or distinguishing between fact and fantasy. Of
course, everybody has read about air force pilots being killed in freak
incidents; of course, everybody has seen kilometres of TV footage on
such crashes, but if — God forbid — a film dwells on the theme, the
instant assumption is that a whole generation will refuse to join the
air force. If the reality is so fraught, how can the fantasy be allowed
Hollywood, incidentally, has had some famous run-ins with authority as
well. The film, Coming Home, which had as its protagonist a paralysed
veteran bitter over how the war had destroyed him personally, came some
years after the US defeat in Vietnam. Yet, how it rankled! The Marine
Corps pronounced that the film “reflected unfavourably” on its image.
Yet the US administration could not ban it, nor indeed the more powerful
critiques of the war — like Apocalypse Now, or The Deer Hunter — that
followed shortly after. It has also on occasion taken potshots at the
commander-in-chief. Wag the Dog — which has a US president calling for a
fake war in order to buttress his popularity ratings before a crucial
election, and which appeared to be a shadow-play of the scandal-scarred
Clinton presidency — could not be swotted out of existence.
Rang De Basanti has escaped with a few snips from the collective
attentions of the Indian Armed Forces. One senior air force officer even
commented — after it was announced that the show could go on — “We live
in a democracy, after all.” Great. Thank you, Sir. So why all the fuss
in the first place?
The Times of India
January 10, 2005
DEATH DEVOURS THE HOMELESS
A social system is best judged by the care it provides to vulnerable
groups. Therefore, a city should be judged by the care it provides to
its homeless. The remorseless cold wave has already claimed the lives of
many on the streets.
Several people are eager to donate blankets and woollens. Each such gift
is welcome, but a much more sustained and broad-based effort is also
needed to address the basic needs of the homeless.
The administration wakes up to the inadequacies of night shelters only
when a cold wave is at its peak. No matter how bad the situation, the
authorities can minimise damage by starting temporary shelters as early
as possible. Even half-way measures like providing tents and serving hot
food at places where the homeless are concentrated can save several lives.
Citizens' groups can make an important contribution by helping in such
efforts, even initiating them. They can remind the
administration of its responsibility towards the vulnerable.
Public buildings, or parts of such buildings, can be opened at night
to provide shelter.Generous individuals with spare housing or office
space can also make such a beginning, as also school and college
managements as well as religious or charitable institutions.
While such steps need to be taken on an emergency basis, long-term
commitments are no less important. The homeless are in desperate need of
shelter during the monsoons — a downpour that lasts just half an hour
can ruin a pavement-dweller's night.
Ask homeless night shift workers how badly they need a day shelter in
summer for protection from heat wave conditions.
While attention is drawn to the plight of the homeless only in winter,
their need for shelter is of a permanent nature. There are about three
million urban homeless people in India; existing night shelters are able
to meet the needs of less than 5 per cent of them.
The number of urban homeless people may actually be much higher if the
category of 'precariously housed' people is also included — people whose
housing is so inadequate as to be almost non-existent.
Government policies have, in fact, been working at a feverish pace to
increase the number of homeless. These policies include remorseless
evictions of slum dwellers as well as the larger failure to facilitate
affordable housing for the poor.
In a predominantly rural country like India, the homelessness in cities
is also linked to the failure to reduce poverty in the villages. Instead
of helping the poor, government policies have unleashed massive
displacement of tens of thousands of villagers.
Whether it is the recent police firing in Orissa on tribals protesting
against displacement, or the injustice meted to the evictees of Narmada
dams, these processes contribute to rising numbers of the homeless.
Well-intentioned organisations grappling with problems of homelessness
need broad-based help from citizens. Ashray Adhikar Abhiyan has tried to
mobilise such support in Delhi. Support from lawyers and students helped
rescue hundreds of homeless people thrown into beggars' homes.
Appalling anti-begging (or vagrancy) laws are in operation in most parts
of the country. These define begging in such a broad way as to brand any
poor and homeless person as a beggar.
They can be imprisoned for long periods under trying conditions. In many
cases the unfortunate victims don't get a chance to even inform their
family members where they have vanished.
Over the years, infrastructure in the form of beggars' homes of various
kinds has been created. This is a highly corrupt system and to keep it
running a steady stream of real or imaginary beggars need to be arrested.
Lakhs of homeless people live in constant dread of being picked up to
fill these beggars' homes. This is apart from the intimidation they face
from the police and anti-social elements.
The homeless need policies that further a range of welfare tasks — from
health clinics and drug de-addiction centres to literacy and community
kitchens — in an integrated manner. The rain basera or night shelter can
be a suitable location for many such activities involving volunteers.
The writer is a journalist.
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/
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