SACW | 15 March 2006 | Bangladeshi Taliban; Sri Lanka Nationalism(s) talk; LTTE funding; India's history from below; On a Nuclear high with Uncle Sam; Advani's (w)rath Yatra; Faiz
aiindex at mnet.fr
Tue Mar 14 20:05:26 CST 2006
South Asia Citizens Wire | 15 March, 2006 | Dispatch No. 2233
 Bangladesh: ... assaulted for playing folk songs; ... beaten up
for falling in love
 Sri Lanka: Peace Talk - War Talk
(i) Dialogue among Nationalisms (Jayadeva Uyangoda)
(ii) Funding the 'Final War'- A Report (Human Rights Watch)
 India's history from below (Partha Chatterjee)
 Gandhi would not have taken India nuclear, nor sought the atomic
blessings of the US (Kanak Mani Dixit)
 India: Relgious Fatwas - Wrong Remedy (Editorial, Times of India)
 India: Advani's (w)rath Yatra (V.B.Rawat)
 India: Independent films from visualsearch.org
- Book Review: The Other Faiz (Amir Zia)
- The Financial Foundations of the British Raj (Sabyasachi
 Bangladeshi Taliban
The Daily Star
March 12, 2006
He spared none
VENDOR ASSAULTED FOR PLAYING FOLK SONGS; YOUTH BEATEN UP FOR FALLING IN LOVE
Staff Correspondent, Rajshahi
An ice-cream seller in Bagmara, Rajshahi was drawing attention of the
public playing folk songs on a cassette player on April 1, 2004. Bangla
Bhai called and asked him why he was playing anti-Islamic songs. Giving
the old vendor no time to reply, Bangla Bhai kicked him and asked his
men to beat up the "informer of outlaws".
This is a snapshot of how Bangla Bhai started his 'promised operations'
to cleanse the country's northwest region of outlaws. In a few weeks'
time, he turned to establish a self-styled Islamic rule and started
extorting money besides killing those who crossed him.
Bangla Bhai-led Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) extorted huge
money from local people terming the extortion zakat and usr [Islamic
donations from income and produced crop].
A good number of Bangla Bhai adherents have become rich after they
joined the JMJB and many of them are still on the prowl.
His men forced women to stay indoors and wear veils, shut down all
cinemas, and extorted huge sums from villagers, who according to them,
were not following Islamic rules.
The tyrannical JMJB cadres used to pick up villagers at will and
targeted mostly their personal enemies and political opponents of
influential locals. They levied and extracted ransoms from the victims'
families and snatched a huge number of motorcycles and cellphone sets.
A youth was beaten up at Bhawaniganj Helipad field for his 'offence' of
falling in love with a girl.
On May 17, a 300-strong JMJB force backed up by police besieged Shimba
and Bhiti villages to occupy a madrasa, declared a 22-day vacation and
set up a camp there.
Bangla Bhai branded landowner Jagannath of Baragachha village in
Raninagar as an outlaw and demanded a hefty toll.
Refused, his men pulled down Jagannath's house and looted valuables to
pay the fare for vehicles they used in the showdown in Rajshahi city on
The militant kingpin collected members through so-called surrenders of
outlaws, who were spared for signing up with the JMJB.
At present, a host of sufferers come forward to describe their plights
at the hands of the JMJB militants. But no-one was available to protest
against the atrocities during Bangla Bhai's reign of terror.
A retired army personnel, Sheikh Farid, had raised a protest and paid
for it in next to no time.
"It's unjust. Why are you torturing people? What Islam are you
preaching? " Farid once told a few JMJB men.
A few days later on April 26, Farid, a retired havildar of 43 Bengal
Regiment, was abducted and beaten up publicly at Bhawanipur camp.
His cousin Sheikh Sirajul Islam said Farid had enmity with outlaw-turned
JMJB leaders Shamsul Huda, head maolana of Bhopara High School, and
Azhar Ali Sardar, lecturer of Molla Azad Memorial College.
At Azhar's call, his colleague and Jamaat-e-Islami leader Prof Lutfar
brought Bangla Bhai to the camp in the afternoon. Siraj said Bangla Bhai
without hearing a word from Farid ordered his men to beat up him.
Siraj said over 20 JMJB cadres including Hemayet Uddin Himu, Abul
Master, Salam, Nazrul, Zia, Robin, Mahin and Chhoto Zia tortured Farid,
who died of his injuries in Rajshahi on May 1.
A reinvestigation into the case for murdering Farid started yesterday as
an additional superintendent of police from Naogaon took villagers'
"We are happy that the investigation restarted. But the appearance of
the militants who are still roaming the locality makes us afraid," said
 SRI LANKA: Peace Talk - War Talk
DIALOGUE AMONG NATIONALISMS FOR CONFLICT TRANSFORMATION - Phase I
By Jayadeva Uyangoda
The unfolding debate on the outcome of Geneva talks indicates more than
anything else the impossibility of an early breakthrough in Sri Lanka’s
search for a political settlement to the ethnic conflict. As many
independent students of Sri Lanka’s crisis would agree, every attempt at
a political breakthrough also carries with it new evidence of conflict
In a dialectical sense, negotiations while producing temporary outcomes
have also been journeys for the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to
discover new differences and re-affirm old prejudices. To believe in the
possibility of negotiated peace in Sri Lanka, one has to be an optimist
in the very long run.
Reponses to Geneva
Just look at the outcome of Geneva talks held on February 22 and 23 and
the domestic political responses to it. It was a fairly moderate
negotiated agreement that addressed the concerns of the government and
the LTTE about violence and ceasefire violations. The agreement made it
mandatory for both sides to ensure that violence is stopped and CFA is
honoured and properly implemented.
The communiqué issued at the end of the talks is a no-violence
agreement, with mutual commitments for compliance. In brief, the
agreement formalised an immediate need felt by both the LTTE and
Rajapakse administration to control the recurrence of violence that had
gone beyond their control. It required a joint approach and the Geneva
talks and communiqué was basically about that, and nothing else.
The subsequent opposition to Geneva outcome has two main sources
–Sinhalese nationalist forces, as represented by the JVP and JHU, and
anti-LTTE Tamil groups. The views of the latter are being articulated by
the TULF’s Anandasangarie.
Anandasangarie’s main criticism is that the Geneva agreement re-affirmed
the LTTE’s domination in the political representation of the Tamils in
the North and East, not allowing any new space for political pluralism.
In his view, by accepting the LTTE’s argument for ‘disarming the
paramilitaries,’ Rajapakse administration has merely fallen into the
Sinhalese Nationalist Opposition
The Sinhala nationalist opposition to the Geneva outcome is presented
mainly in terms of violating the Mahinda Chinthanaya, the presidential
election manifesto. In statements made by the JVP and JHU denouncing the
Geneva agreement, a number of political assumptions shared by them in
rejecting the LTTE-GOSL accord have now become clear.
They are angry that the agreement has given a status of parity to the
LTTE and enabled the LTTE to reclaim international legitimacy. The
controversy about the term ‘cease-fire agreement’ demonstrates this
The government negotiation team, on the instructions from Colombo had
initially objected to this term being included in the joint statement.
They had proposed the term ‘cease-fire’, without the word agreement.
According to the position shared by the JVP and some of the legal
advisors to the government negotiation team, an ‘Agreement’ presupposes
an agreement between two independent states. In their view, an
‘agreement’ is an international instrument, not one between a ‘sovereign
state’ and a ‘terrorist’ entity. It appears that the government has
compromised on this on the insistence of the Norwegian facilitators.
The JVP is also quite angry about the welcome extended by the Norwegian
Foreign Ministry to some members of the LTTE’s negotiation team, when
they visited Oslo after Geneva talks. The ‘red carpet’ welcome expended
to the LTTE, the JVP argues, has given the LTTE both political
legitimacy and diplomatic status. The JVP now wants the government to
remove Norway from the role of facilitator.
While these controversies are likely to go on unresolved, they also
highlight the difficulties in the path to negotiated peace in Sri Lanka.
Primary among them is the increasing gulf that exists between Tamil
nationalism as represented by the LTTE and Sinhalese nationalism of the
JVP and JHU. These Sinhalese and Tamil nationalist projects are mutually
At present, there is no constructive dialogue possible among them. In
this mutual hostility and exclusivity, there exists a peculiar logic for
their co-existence too, in the sense that one exclusivist nationalism
nourishes, and provides legitimacy to the other. This, of course, is the
strange logic of identity politics. Unless Sinhalese and Tamil
nationalisms move away from reactionary identity politics of excluding
the other and re-locate themselves in democratic emancipatory politics,
no meaningful dialogue among nationalisms – Sinhalese, Tamil as well as
Muslim – can conceivably take place.
Absence of Dialogue
The impossibility of dialogue among nationalisms is grounded in the old
politics of ethnicity within which Sinhalese and Tamil nationalist
projects in Sri Lanka, continue to operate.
Many Sinhalese nationalists continue to believe in the political
hegemony of the majority community over ethnic and religious minorities.
They see in the unitary and centralised nation-state, the best model of
political organization for Sri Lankan society. Their conviction that
political power in a democracy should be unevenly and hierarchically
distributed among majority and minority communities has not gone through
any significant change, even after two-and-half decades of
ethno-political civil war.
The war in a sense has reinforced these structures of consciousness
concerning ethnic hierarchies while reproducing with vigour ethnic
prejudices, fears and practices of demonising. The enduring opposition
to power-sharing, regional autonomy and federalism regularly articulated
by Sinhalese nationalist parties, politicians, lawyers and intellectuals
demonstrate that the post-colonial Sinhalese nationalism has not grown
up much since the 1950s. It remains stagnant in the old world of
ethnic-majoritarian democracy. It can talk to minority political
projects only from a position of hegemony and domination.
The Tamil nationalist project is also stuck in time and space, being
unable to democratise itself in any significant way. The separate state
project, conceived in the late 1970s and executed by means of an armed
insurgency from the early 1980s onwards, has now reached a historical
turning point. It is a goal that cannot be achieved by military means.
The Tamil nationalist insurgency for secession has only succeeded in
establishing a huge, effective and awesome military machine for the
Tamil nation. From the Tamil nationalist perspective, the LTTE through a
protracted war has produced a status of military parity with the Sri
Lankan state. But, Tamil national struggle is not about military
achievements alone. It has to deliver political emancipation in the form
of independence or autonomy, political democracy, social justice and
The inability of the LTTE to move in this direction effectively and
without delay constitutes some major historical limitations of the Tamil
nationalist project. In the following pages, I explore these limitations
of the Tamil nationalist project.
The fundamental challenge that the Sri Lankan Tamil polity faces today
is about how to ‘liberate’ the nationalist vision, for political
emancipation from the secessionist project, as conceived in the late
1970s and early 1980s.
The armed struggle for separation was essentially a concept belonged to
a particular historical period, the 1970s and before. That was the
period of the idea of ‘national liberation.’ The liberation as
conceptualised in that period had a limited objective, achieving
separate statehood for ‘oppressed nations’.
The idea of national self-determination was thus limited to either
separate statehood or regional autonomy. It merely accorded juridical
status to claims by nations or nationalities.
Beyond that were of course issues of political democracy, ethnic and
political pluralism, human rights, multiculturalism, and the rule of
law. But the conventional notion of ‘national emancipation’ did not
address any of these issues of post-nationhood. It is quite significant
that all the critique of the LTTE politics today is mostly about the
issues of political emancipation in a post-nationhood phase. They are
indeed valid issues to which the LTTE does not seem to have any new answers.
Their answer is an old one: national liberation first, and political
democracy later. This is an eminently outdated concept of political
emancipation. As long as the LTTE remains within this paradigm, it will
not be able to be the agency of political emancipation for the Tamil
nation beyond military victories. This is the LTTE’s most crucial
This problematic is further highlighted by the conscious policy of the
state to think and behave like a state. In a way the LTTE has
established a parallel state in the areas under their control. It is a
state existing at a primary level. It has accumulated immense military
power and established an administrative system, with the institutions of
judiciary, customs, the police and departments for economic development
Military and coercive institutions are the most effective agencies of
this parallel, emerging state. It fundamentally lacks democracy,
pluralism and the rule of law. The ‘state’ that the LTTE is maintaining
is an exceptionally militarised one. Its militarization has taken place
in a context of protracted and intense civil war. When the LTTE thinks
and acts like a state, it thinks and acts like a militarised state. This
is the most crucial area of vulnerability of the LTTE when it seeks
political engagement with the Sri Lankan state, negotiated settlement to
the conflict, or legitimacy and acceptability by the international
In this sense, transition from a militarised sub-national state to a
democratic sub-national state is the key challenge for the LTTE. The
LTTE’s inability, or extreme slowness, in this transition is an area
where the LTTE’s critics have more often than not been proven correct.
Tamil as well as Sinhalese opponents of the LTTE make an important point
concerning a negotiated settlement between the Sri Lankan government and
the LTTE. According to this critique, even an interim administration
under the LTTE would only legitimise and extend the LTTE’s undemocratic,
This is a point that cannot be easily dismissed as irrelevant. Even
those Sinhalese ‘peace groups’ that have been defending political
engagement with the LTTE have not adequately thought about this point.
Their de-emphasis of the issue of democracy and democratisation in Tamil
polity has made them quite vulnerable to Sinhalese nationalist attacks.
However, the question of democracy, human rights and pluralism in the
Tamil polity is much more complex than the way in which critics have
been posing it.
Among Sinhalese nationalist forces, there is a world-view to argue that
democracy in the North needs to be imposed by the Sri Lankan
‘democratic’ state after the ‘fascist’ LTTE is militarily defeated.
For them, war and military victory over the LTTE are essential
preconditions for the democratisation of the Tamil polity. Some
anti-LTTE Tamil groups also share this position. This in no way
constitutes a prudent path to democratic transition in the Tamil polity.
Democracy from above, or by means of a war of conquest, can hardly be a
democratic project. (To be continued).
o o o
FUNDING THE 'FINAL WAR':
LTTE Intimidation and Extortion in Tamil Diaspora
A Report by Human Rights Watch - March 14, 2006
The Tamil translation of the entire report can be found at:
And the Tamil translation of the Press Release can be found at:
Le Monde diplomatique - English edition
The stories of people of no importance
INDIA'S HISTORY FROM BELOW
Historical debates generate passionate responses in India, where three
disagreements over the past became major headlines stories last year.
The historians of subaltern studies have a novel approach: they care
about the voices of those who have been traditionally silent.
By Partha Chatterjee
Shri Lal Krishna Advani, then president of the Hindu rightwing Bharatiya
Janata party (BJP) and leader of the opposition in the Indian
parliament, visited Pakistan last June. He quoted a speech by Pakistan’s
founder, M A Jinnah, made just before independence in August 1947, in
which Jinnah called for equal civic and religious freedoms for all
Pakistani citizens, Muslim, Hindu and Christian. Advani said this speech
showed Jinnah was at heart a secular politician, a remark that sent
shockwaves around the BJP, which has always held Jinnah responsible for
the division of the Indian subcontinent along religious lines. As a
result Advani had to resign as head of the party, and stepped down in
A few days later the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, received an
honorary doctorate from Oxford University, and in his acceptance speech
said that though British rule in India had been economically
exploitative, it had also had beneficial effects: legal institutions, a
professional civil service, a free press, modern universities and
research laboratories (1). This speech provoked vigorous debate: some
claimed that the prime minister had sullied the memory of those who had
given their lives for India’s freedom; others argued that it was a mark
of India’s self-confidence as a nation that it could now accept its
colonial past without guilt or shame.
There had been another row in July, when the board of trustees for Sunni
Muslim places of worship claimed ownership of the Taj Mahal at Agra,
which is a historic monument in the care of the Archaeological Survey of
India. The Sunni Waqf board claimed that under the Mughal empire, the
tomb was an imperial religious trust, and that prayers have been held
there every Friday since the 17th century. Therefore it was not a
historical monument but a mosque. The claim has been challenged by
several historians who are curently delving into the Mughal imperial
archive. This controversy about state ownership of religious places of
historical importance is likely to continue.
The most burning debate concerns the historical antecedents of the
16th-century Babri mosque in Ayodhya, a small town in northern India.
Hindus and Muslims clashed over it as early as 1955. Since then the
controversy has led to many violent events across the country, thousands
of deaths, the rise and fall of more than one government, and legal and
There have been many other debates of national and regional
significance: over textbooks, monuments, films and novels, festivals,
observances, the naming of places or institutions, the national flag and
the national anthem. Indian public life is full of historical controversy.
Schools of history
Thirty years ago there were two main contending schools of modern
historiography. One group, mainly historians based at Cambridge
University, argued that Indian nationalism was a bid for power by a few
Indian elites who used the traditional bonds of caste and communal ties
to mobilise the masses against British rule. Meanwhile Indian
nationalist historians believed that the material conditions of colonial
exploitation created the ground for an alliance of different classes in
Indian society, and that a nationalist leadership inspired and organised
the masses to join the struggle for national freedom.
There was a postcolonial intervention in the 1980s from a third group of
historians who decided to specialise in what they called “subaltern
studies”, which became the title of a series of publications (2).
Inspired by the writings of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci, these
historians denounced both the Cambridge and the nationalist schools as
representing either colonial or nationalist elitism (3), since both
assumed that nationalism was wholly a product of elite action, and
neither had any place for the independent political actions of the
subaltern classes (rural peasants or urban workers).
Since the 1980s debates about modern Indian history have been mostly
framed by these three approaches: colonialist, nationalist and
postcolonial-subaltern. One set of debates was about the role of the
peasant masses in the nationalist movement. Subaltern studies argued
that while it was true that the subaltern classes had often entered
nationalist politics, it was just as true that in many instances they
had refused to join despite the efforts of nationalist leaders, or had
withdrawn after they had joined. The goals, strategies and methods of
subaltern politics were in every case different from those of the
elites. Even within nationalist politics, the nationalism of the elites
was different from the nationalism of the subaltern classes.
The first phase of subaltern studies was dominated by peasant revolt
(4). Scholars associated with the project wrote about peasant resistance
in different regions and periods of South Asian history. They were able
to discover sources in which the peasants told his or her own story, but
there are few such sources. New strategies for reading the conventional
documents on peasant revolts were far more productive. The subaltern
historians found several ways in which reports of peasant rebellion
prepared by officialdom could be read from the standpoint of the rebel
peasant, and used to explore the rebels’ consciousness. They also showed
that when elite historians, even those sympathetic to the cause of the
rebels, sought to ignore or explain rationally what appeared as
mythical, illusory, millennarian or utopian in rebel actions, they
missed the most powerful and significant elements of subaltern
The often unintended consequence of this was to fit the unruly facts of
subaltern politics into the rationalist grid of elite consciousness. The
autonomous history of the subaltern classes - distinctive traces of
subaltern action in history - were lost in this historiography.
Distanced from politics
The subaltern studies analysis of peasant resistance in colonial India
made a strong critique of bourgeois-nationalist politics: it argued that
the postcolonial nation-state had included the subaltern classes within
the imagined space of the nation, but distanced them from the actual
political space of the state. Subaltern historians were at first
compared to the “history from below” approach popularised by British
Marxist historians, and it was obvious that they eagerly borrowed from
the work of Christopher Hill, EP Thompson, Eric Hobsbawm or the History
Workshop writers their methodological clues to popular history.
But they refused to subscribe to the historicist orthodoxy that what had
happened in the West was bound to be repeated in India. They rejected
the framework of modernisation as the necessary plot of history in those
countries that had been colonised. And they were sceptical about the
established orthodoxies of both liberal-nationalist and Marxist
historiographies. In their writings they resisted the tendency to
construct the story of modernity in India as an actualisation of the
modernity imagined by the great theorists of the western world. This
resistance, apparent even in early subaltern studies, was later
expressed in arguments about other modernities.
With the publication of the fifth and sixth volumes of Subaltern Studies
in 1987 and 1989, the approach changed. It now acknowledged, with far
greater seriousness than before, that subaltern histories were
fragmentary, disconnected and incomplete: subaltern consciousnesss was
split within itself, made of elements from the experiences of both
dominant and subordinate classes.
The subjects of inquiry became the autonomy shown by subalterns at
moments of rebellion, and the forms of their consciousness of everyday
experiences of subordination. After that, subaltern history could not be
restricted to the study of peasant revolts. The question was no longer
what was the true form of the subaltern, but how was the subaltern
represented (“represent” meaning both “present again” and “in place
of”). Both the subjects and the methods of research changed.
The new research began a critical analysis of texts. Once “the
representation of the subaltern” came to the fore, it opened the entire
field of the spread of modern knowledge in colonial India. Subaltern
studies historians investigated in new ways such much-studied subjects
as the expansion of colonial governance, English education, movements of
religious and social reform, and the rise of nationalism.
A product of its conditions
Other fresh directions were the modern state and public institutions,
through which modern ideas of rationality, science and the regime of
power were disseminated in colonial and postcolonial India. Subaltern
studies tackled such institutions as schools and universities,
newspapers and publishing houses, hospitals, doctors, medical systems,
censuses, the industrial labour process, scientific institutions and
In more recent subaltern studies, a major argument has been developed
about alternative or hybrid modernities, focusing on the dissemination
of the ideas, practices and institutions of western modernity under
colonial conditions. Modernisation theory invariably turns the history
of modernity in colonial countries into a narrative of catching up; as
Dipesh Chakrabarty said, such societies seem to have been consigned for
ever to “the waiting room of history”.
The universalist pretensions of western modernity erase the fact that,
like all histories, it is a product of local conditions. What happens
when the products of western modernity are domesticated in other places?
Do they take on new and different shapes that do not belong to the
original? If they do, should we treat the changes as corruptions,
deviations from an ideal? Or are they examples of a different modernity?
To argue the latter is to provincialise Europe and assert the identity
of other cultures, even as they participate in the presumed universality
of modernity. Dipesh Chakrabarty, Gyan Prakash and Gayatri Spivak have
explored aspects of this process of translation of modern knowledge,
technologies and institutions (5), and tried to show that the encounter
between western forms of modernity and colonised non-western cultures
was not a simple imposition of the one upon the other. Nor did it lead
to corrupt or failed forms of modernity. Rather, it produced different
forms of modernity whose marks of difference still remain subject to
unresolved contestations of power.
Different strategies, same goal
The postcolonial interventions of subaltern history have often provided
a different perspective on contemporary historical debates in India. The
political debate on the place of religious minorities has usually been
between two opposed groups: Hindu chauvinists versus secularists. The
research of subaltern historians has shown that the debate between
secularism and communalism (as represented by Hindu chauvinists) is in
no way a struggle between modernity and backwardness. The rival
political positions are both firmly planted in the soil of modern
government and politics.
The two groups simply use different strategies to pursue the same goal:
consolidating the regime of the modern nation-state. Both strategies are
elitist, but involve different modes of representation and appropriation
of the subaltern. Faced with these rival elitist strategies, subaltern
groups in India are devising their own independent strategies for coping
with communal as well as secularist politics.
The second question on which there has been recent discussion is caste.
The politics of caste in India has been transformed since the 1990s. It
is clear that the supposedly religious basis of caste divisions has
completely disappeared from public debate. The conflicts are now mostly
centred on the relative positions of caste groups in relation to the
state. The debate over whether to recognise caste as a criterion for
affirmative action by the state reflects two different elitist
strategies of representation and appropriation of the subaltern, one
insisting on equality of opportunity and selection by merit, the other
arguing that a phase of affirmative action is needed to compensate for
centuries of deprivation suffered by the lower castes.
Subaltern groups, in their efforts to establish social justice and
self-respect, also devise strategies of resisting the state and using
the opportunities offered by its electoral and developmental functions
(6). Alliances between castes at the middle and bottom rungs of the
ritual hierarchy and other oppressed groups, such as tribal and
religious minorities, have produced significant electoral successes. But
with the creation of fresh political elites from subaltern groups, the
questions of “who represents” and “to what end” are being asked with a
Another debate is about the social position of women. In one sense, all
women living in patriarchal societies are subalterns. Yet they are also
identified by class, race, caste and community. Just as it is valid to
analyse the subordination of women in a society ruled by men, so it is
necessary to identify the way that the social construction of gender is
made more complex by the intervention of class, caste and communal
identities. Recent discussions on this have focused on the Indian social
reform movements of the 19th century, especially the legal reforms to
protect the rights of women, in the context of the colonial state and
nationalist politics. Subaltern feminist writings have questioned the
adequacy of an agenda of legal reform from the top when the challenge of
reforming structures of patriarchal power within local communities that
flourish outside the reach of the law (7) has not been faced.
Recent subaltern history writings from India have been productively
referenced in the history of modernity in other parts of the formerly
colonised world, including nationalism and gender in the Middle East and
the politics of peasant and indigenous groups in Latin America. Having
migrated from Italy to India, the idea of subaltern history has produced
a widely available methodological and stylistic approach to modern
historiography. It could be used anywhere, a welcome means of rethinking
such old modernist ideas as nation, citizenship and democracy.
Original text in English
Partha Chatterjee teaches at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences
in Calcutta; he edited volumes VII and XI of ‘Subaltern Studies,
Writings on South Asian History and Society and Community, Gender and
(1) See Seumas Milne, “Britain: imperial nostalgia”, Le Monde
diplomatique, English language edition, May 2005.
(2) Postcolonial studies aim to re-evaluate the histories of countries
that were once colonies, outside conventional conceptual frameworks
inherited from the colonial powers. India’s subaltern studies
researchers are part of this movement, focusing on the histories of
people of no importance.
(3) The Subaltern Studies series has so far published 12 volumes of
essays: Ranajit Guha, ed, I-VI, 1982-89; Partha Chatterjee and Gyanendra
Pandey, eds, VII, 1992; David Arnold and David Hardiman, eds, VIII,
1992; Shahid Amin and Dipesh Chakrabarty, eds, IX, 1996; Gautam Bhadra,
Gyan Prakash and Susie Tharu, eds, X, 1999, all at Oxford University
Press, Delhi; Partha Chatterjee and Pradeep Jeganathan, eds, XI,
Columbia University Press, New York, 2001; and Shail Mayaram, MSS
Pandian and Ajay Skaria, eds, XII, Permanent Black, Delhi, 2005.
(4) A key text is by Ranajit Guha, Elementary Aspects of Peasant
Insurgency in Colonial India, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1983.
(5) Gyan Prakash, Another Reason, Princeton University Press, Princeton,
1999; Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason,
Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass, 1999; Dipesh Chakrabarty,
Provincialising Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference,
Princeton University Press, 2000.
(6) Shail Mayaram, MSS Pandian and Ajay Skaria, eds, Subaltern Studies
XII, Permanent Black, Delhi, 2005.
(7) Nivedita Menon, ed, Gender and Politics in India, Oxford University
Press, Delhi, 1999; Flavia Agnes, Law and Gender Inequality: The
Politics of Women’s Rights in India, Oxford University Press, Delhi
2001; Nivedita Menon, Recovering Subversion: Feminist Politics Beyond
the Law, Permanent Black, Delhi, 2004.
English language editorial director: Wendy Kristianasen - all rights
reserved © 1997-2006 Le Monde diplomatique.
10 March 06 - 16 March 06
INDIA GETS US NOD ON NUKES:
MK GANDHI WOULD NOT HAVE TAKEN INDIA NUCLEAR, NOR SOUGHT THE ATOMIC
BLESSINGS OF THE US
by Kanak Mani Dixit
South Africa’s Gandhian, Nelson Mandela said no to nuclear weapons.
How much of the satisfaction of being ‘India’ can present-day India
take, if there is cause for satisfaction, that is? Much of the heritage
of what is today the nation-state of India derives of course from the
‘Indian civilisation’ to which the contribution has been made by regions
as far afield as (present-day) Tibet and Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Burma.
But there are certain actions for which discredit must go solely to
nation-state India, the post-1947 phenomenon. Such as the nuclear
weaponisation underway, to which George W Bush has recently given his
unipolar superpower blessing. The ‘smiling Buddha’ nuclear explosion of
1974 at Pokhran and the BJP-engineered Pokhran-II explosions of 1998
were actions that went against the civilisational attributes of the
This need to go nuclear has emanated from an incomprehensible and
unjustified sense of inferiority harboured by the Indian power elite.
Unhappy with the ‘third world’ stigma that represents the reality of the
majority population, it has reached out for artificial markers of
modernity that are brittle and unconvincing. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
would not have supported the 1974 test nor the 1998 explosions. He would
most likely have gone into a protest fast and satyagraha against their
regressive message. Rabindranath Tagore would have written a ballad
against the misuse of the name of the Sakyamuni to announce the fission
Boy, are the strategic thinkers happy to be part of the nuclear club, to
be able to discuss ‘throw-weights’ and ‘mutual assured destruction’,
‘delivery vehicles’ and ‘failsafe systems’. The world has been there,
done that but the boys with their toys are thrilled.
Among them is one elevated to be president of the republic. Having grown
up as brown sahibs, here is the opportunity to actually be a sahib. They
wouldn’t care to acknowledge to their minions that going ‘nuclear’ no
longer requires great technological capability. Any half-capable
university physics department could manage an atomic explosion.
There are many countries in the southern hemisphere capable of
developing nuclear weaponry but which have decided to forgo this lethal
arsenal. India should be shamed by the forebearance and abstinence of
the Australias, Malaysias, Indonesias or Egypts. In 1994 Argentina,
Brazil and Chile brought into force the Treaty of Tlatelolco and agreed
to forgo their existing nuclear programs. South Africa under Nelson
Mandela took the most Gandhian step of the nuclear era by relinquishing
its existing nuclear weaponisation program.
The decision-making classes and opinion-makers of these southern
countries did not have the level of self-questioning that they needed a
nuclear weapon to provide confidence before the world.
Meanwhile, what of the anti-nuclear proliferation cacophony that
emanated prior to 1999 from Indian diplomacy and intelligentsia?
Suddenly, the reference to Gandhian ahimsa as the Indian gift to the
world has disappeared from addresses by New Delhi’s representatives at
the UN in New York. Now, it is all realpolitic and India has more or
less stopped speaking for the South at large.
The nuclear anointing of India, at the cost of nuclear
non-proliferation, is the most recent manifestation of American and
western understanding of what India is becoming and what the West wants
India to be. The first hints of the changing fortunes of the Indian
upper classes, in terms of wanting to be part of the sophisticated
worldly set, came when the manipulative corporatised Miss World and Miss
Universe competitions decided to place their respective crowns on a
Sushmita Sen or a Aishwarya Rai. The process of co-optation had begun.
Since then, the economic growth of India has made those within the
Washington Beltway suddenly keen to co-opt those within the New Delhi
Ring Road. As for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, who cares for
the destruction of an entire international regime when the short term
agenda of George W Bush dictates otherwise?
Bush and his vainglorious administration can be expected to do few
things right and the Indian power elite have simply decided to take
advantage of this situation for the sake of their own short-term goals
which goes in the face of their Southasian civilisational heritage. Who
are you going to use those nuclear-tipped missiles against? Do you
really need them to become a world power and would you
not become a better world power when your children are better fed?
The Times of India
March 15, 2006
The clamour for fatwas against the perpetrators of the twin blasts in
Varanasi is gaining ground. It is not just intellectuals and activists,
but Muslim religious heads who are making the demand.
Clerics in Lucknow and Hyderabad have taken the lead and come up with
four separate fatwas condemning the attack and prohibiting the use of
Allah and Prophet's name by militant outfits.
One cannot agree more when they say that Islam does not support violence
and that those behind these attacks are inimical to the country's
But that they should use the instrument of fatwa to come down on
terrorism makes little sense in a modern democratic society. The attacks
need to be condemned in a secular idiom.
Why should religion be invoked to condemn a senseless act of terror? The
problems of the day — terrorism being one — have to be tackled through
modern socio-political interventions, not through divine injunctions and
A fatwa, a religious diktat, goes against an individual's liberty to
think for himself. Such commandments are antithetical to a modern
Much like POTA, which tried to seek legitimacy from the Constitution but
ended as a draconian law, these fatwas deriving authority from divine
injunctions could end up as a remedy worse than the disease.
The attempt to give these fatwas legitimacy is dangerous and must be
resisted at all costs. Advocates of these divine decrees ought to
realise that fatwas are not going to deter terrorists but could be
misused by them once they become a legitimate instrument of intervention.
Terrorists could obtain fatwas at gunpoint justifying their acts of
violence. The use of fatwas and counter-fatwas by various Muslim sects —
Shias, Sunnis, Ahle-Hadis, Barelvis, Deobandis — could give rise to new
complications, dragging in elements who have so far kept away from such
Mixing religion with politics is always dangerous. Religious injunctions
should not be used to inspire or forbid acts of terrorism.
Experience of the last two decades has shown that religious mobilisation
on national issues has done enough harm to the social and political
fabric of the nation. Let's not fall into the trap yet again.
March 11, 2006
FISHING IN THE TROUBLED WATERS:
ADVANI'S (W)RATH YATRA FOR'NATIONAL (DIS)INTEGRATION
We at visualsearch work on a wide range of social issues using film as a
medium of communication. We believe that films can inspire, inform and
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marginalized and dispossessed. We produce issue-based films and actively
try to reach out to people in order to create space for social action.
We are enclosing a list of films distributed by us along with synopsis.
We request you to buy a set of our films and make use of them in your
List and synopsis of our films:
The 4-minute anti-war music video is a satirical but severe indictment
of America’s role in escalating world conflict. Originally written
following the post-9/11 bombing of Afghanistan by the USA, and developed
to address the occupation of Iraq, the song comments on various aspects
of the American empire - its stockpile of nuclear bombs, its cozy
relation with fanatical and dictatorial regimes, and in fact, the very
notion of American peace and liberty.
2. The Time After the Tsunami
Testimonials of the survivors of the deadly tsunami that struck the
coast of southern India at 9:30 am on the 26th of December 2004.
3. Redefining Peace - Women lead the way
A film that captures the work of some among a thousand women from all
over the world that were nominated by networks of women's groups for the
Nobel Peace Prize 2005. .
4. Ilayum Mullum (Leaves and Thorns) (87 Mts)
A feature film on the social and psychological violence on women in Kerala.
5. The Wings of Kokkrebellur (31 Mts)
A film on the conservation values of the villagers of Kokkrebellur,
Karnataka, who protect painted storks and grey pelicans as a part of
their ongoing culture and life.
6. A Valley Refuses to Die (41 Mts)
A documentary on the social and environmental issues caused by the
Narmada dams and the subsequent people's movement of the adivasis and
farmers in the Narmada valley.
7. The Source of Life for Sale (70 Mts)
A documentary on the impact of privatisation of water bodies in India
and the subsequent struggles of the local people against the sale of
rivers in Periyar, Malampuzha, Attappadi, Sheonath, Kelo, Ganga Canal
and the River Linking Project and the protest of the local people
against the impact of Coca - Cola production in Plachimada, Shivganga
8. Development at Gunpoint (36 Mts)
A documentary film on the social and environmental impact of bauxite
mining in Kashipur, Orissa, and the subsequent struggle of the adivasis
in the region.
9. In the Name of Medicine (26 Mts)
A documentary film on the problems of banned and bannable pharmaceutical
drugs in India. The film brings out the anti-people practices of
pharmaceutical production and its implication on health in India.
10. Voices from a Disaster (35 Mts)
A documentary on the testimonies of the local villages that expressed
their concerns through the Indian Peoples' Tribunal (IPT) organised in
different areas of the affected population after the Gujarat Earthquake.
11. Living in Fear (36 Mts)
A documentary on the radiation hazards caused by the Indian Rare Earths
Ltd., Alwaye, an undertaking of the Department of Atomic Energy, in its
efforts to produce thorium, a fuel for the fast breeder technology in
Our films are available at the following rates:
For individuals - Rs 250/- per VCD or Rs 2500/- for the full set of films.
For organizations and institutions - Rs 500/- per VCD or Rs 5000/- for
the full set of films. Please add Rs 65/- for packing and postage plus
Rs 20/- for outstation (outside Bangalore) cheques.
Visual Search,Bangalore. (Ph: 0-9945282056/0-9449350275)
For further information, please check: www.visualsearch.org
THE OTHER FAIZ
A collection of prose writings reveals another side of the legendary poet.
By Amir Zia
Culture and Identity: Selected English Writings of Faiz
by Sheema Majeed
(Karachi: Oxford University Press)
The poet in Faiz Ahmed Faiz outshines and eclipses all the other aspects
of his personality: Faiz, the journalist, the teacher, the trade
unionist, the left-wing intellectual. However, a glimpse of other
dimensions of Faiz leads one to a greater appreciation and understanding
of his poetic genius, and his character as a whole.
Culture and Identity - Selected English Writings of Faiz, a
recent book published by the Oxford University Press, offers readers a
chance to peer into the mind of this great genius of our times through
some of his little known and forgotten writings and essays. These works
remain as important and relevant to our age as they were when Faiz wrote
them. They reveal a part of his personality as well as his views on
issues of culture, art, literature, society and politics. An encounter
with Faiz's prose can be as fulfilling, and intellectually and
emotionally stimulating, as one with his poetry.
Sheema Majeed - a renowned literary researcher of Pakistan -
has done a commendable job as the editor of this book by compiling the
poet's writings from a range of varied and scattered sources.
The book, which also includes Faiz's only published
English-language poem, 'The Unicorn and The Dancing Girl', is certainly
not just a gift for Faiz fans, but a great reference for scholars and
researchers as well. His lucid style and simplicity of expression hook
the reader to his observations on varied topics.
The autobiographical section of the book, which opens with
'Faiz by Faiz,' is a treat to read. It is a slightly edited version of
an extempore talk delivered by Faiz to the Asia Study Group in Islamabad
just eight months before he died in March 1984.
Here Faiz reveals how he helped the British organise
Communist Party-like cells in each unit of the Indian army to bolster
war efforts among Indian soldiers against the Japanese and German forces
during World War II.
He was awarded the Order of the British Empire for this feat,
rising within a short span of three years to the rank of colonel - the
highest position an Indian could attain at that time. He ran the
propaganda machinery of the entire Indian army on all its fronts until
the war ended.
Another interesting account in this section is about the
much publicised Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case in which Faiz was arrested
along with several military officials and had to spend four years in prison.
"Nothing had happened, you see, nothing was going to be
done," said Faiz. In what Faiz called "a very stupid way," he along with
two civilian friends went to attend a meeting of 14 to 16 army officers
at the invitation of General Akbar Khan to plan a coup. The participants
did discuss ways to overthrow the government, but towards the end of the
meeting realised that it was impractical and "not on." So the decision
was that nothing had to be done, but this "thought-crime," as George
Orwell would have termed it, resulted in one of the most famous cases in
Faiz's stint in prison, however, proved productive for his
poetry. He came out with two books which turned him into an "even
greater celebrity than before."
This section also contains Faiz's account of his father, who
rose from the ranks of a landless peasant to serve an Afghan monarch, as
his chief secretary and minister, went on to Cambridge University for
education and became a barrister before settling for good in his
"I was born in the house of a gentleman who was a 19th
century adventurer, who had a far more colourful life than I have had,"
Faiz said while giving his family background.
Faiz's eight articles on culture raise many issues and
questions, which not only remain relevant to this day, but highlight
those anomalies and contradictions that grip Pakistan even now.
He attempted to identify and understand the essence of the
culture of peoples living in Pakistan, the impact of imperialism on
their lives and the burden imposed on them by primitive tribal and
"Before independence, the only radical change which
occurred in our economic and social structure was under the impact of
British Imperialism," he wrote in an article - 'The Quest for Identity
in Culture' - published in Viewpoint in February 1976.
In his articles on culture, Faiz focused on raising
questions rather than providing answers. He pointed out various
interpretations on issues such as language and tradition, rather than
drawing a definite conclusion. He attempted to understand the basic
cultural problems of third world countries by applying the Marxist
yardstick for understanding history.
"Very broadly speaking, these problems are primarily the
problems of arrested growth; they originate primarily from long years of
imperialist-colonialist domination and the remnants of a backward,
outmoded social structure," he wrote in the article titled 'Cultural
Problems in Underdeveloped Countries.'
He, however, does not shy away from accepting the massive
social change the imperialist powers brought into their colonies, nor
does he hesitate to point out the flaws and inherent weaknesses of
feudal and tribal societies.
"The culture of these ancient feudal societies, in spite of
much technical and intellectual excellence, was restricted to a small
privileged class and rarely intermingled with the parallel
unsophisticated folk culture of the general masses. Primitive tribal
culture, in spite of its childlike beauty, had little intellectual content."
The readers get a flavour of Faiz's concept of beauty -
both external and internal - and its elusiveness and tangibility in the
brief section on art in which there is also an article on "The World of
In the section on literature, containing 16 articles, he
provides a bird's eye view of the literary heritage of Pakistan - from
the Arab and Persian influences to the contemporary age - and discusses
the work and art of our literary giants including Ameer Khusrau, Mirza
Asadullah Khan Ghalib and Sir Allama Mohammed Iqbal.
In the three separate articles on Iqbal, Faiz discusses his
poetic technique - on which, according to him, "very little analysis has
been done"- as well as the four key distinct phases of poetry starting
from his youthful days to the final phase of philosophical humanism.
Faiz describes Iqbal's final phase as "most mature and most valuable,"
saying that his approach and exposition of themes was abstract and
philosophical which frequently gave rise to contradictory expositions by
his followers and admirers.
"To understand Iqbal correctly… it is necessary to keep in
mind that his work reflected all the inner intellectual contradictions,
all the conflicting impulses, all the confused dreams and aspirations of
the middle strata of Indo-Pakistan Muslims during the first three or
four decades of this century and it is precisely because of this that
his work is popular among progressives and reactionaries alike and make
for his title as the national poet of Pakistan."
Faiz's interpretation of Iqbal stands in contrast to the
official and widely accepted line in which our philosopher- poet is
being read and understood in Pakistan.
The three articles on social issues include a short and
very moving piece on Sir Ganga Ram - one of the greatest philanthropists
Lahore has produced to date. 'No Holiday From Virtue' was published in
the Civil and Military Gazette in March 1961 and tells of how Faiz found
Ram's samadhi in an utterly depleted, filthy and neglected state. Yet,
it was home to many of the homeless and wretched of the world.
"The needs of the living, I thought to myself, must have
precedence over reverence for the dead, even though it comes to this,"
wrote Faiz as he found a woman's cauldron bubbling over the place where
the dead man's ashes lay buried. "They have sheltered here, homeless,
nameless, disinherited, dehumanised, because no one else would give them
shelter, except this dead philanthropist."
The final section on politics contains nine pieces by Faiz,
including a compact, crisp and commanding article titled 'Disgrace.' As
with some other pieces, the editor of the book does not mention the
source and date of publication of this article. This remains one of the
most irritating flaw of this otherwise fine collection.
"We have learnt with horror and surprise that a political
detainee, who has recently undergone a serious eye operation, is
receiving medical attention in the Mayo Hospital handcuffed to his bed.
The detainee in question is Mirza Mohammed Ibrahim, the labour leader,"
wrote Faiz, questioning the authorities.
"We hold that any police or executive functionary who
considers that he is serving Pakistan by aping Hitler's Belsen Guards,
anyone who thinks that he is securing the interests of the State by
indulging in unnecessary brutalities, is no friend of Pakistan."
The advise proferred by Faiz decades ago remains pertinent
and potent even now - and will be in the days to come. This collection
of writings is an important one and a must-have for all Faiz lovers -
from all the former and serving comrades, to those in a state of
political hibernation and, above all, those who simply adore him for his
poetry, its romance and its immortal message..
Recently Published by Orient Longman Pvt Ltd
THE FINANCIAL FOUNDATIONS OF THE BRITISH RAJ
by Sabyasachi Bhattacharya
The theme of this work is the economic aspects of the theory and
practice of the colonial state. The focus is on the ideas and interests
and contestations which went into making the policies of the Raj in the
formative period following 1857, the years which saw the appointment of
the first finance minister of India, the introduction of the budget
system and other innovations like the paper currency and income tax.
Sabyasachi Bhattacharya has been Professor of Indian Economic History at
the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi since 1975, the Vice-Chancellor
of Visva Bharati University at Santiniketan in 1991-95, and earlier held
teaching and research appointments in Jadavpur University, Kolkata,;
Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata; University of Chicago; St.
Antony's College, Oxford and El Colegio de Mexico.
(Hardback / pp 400/ ISBN 81 250 2903 6/ Rs 695)
Distributed by: Orient Longman Ltd <http://www.orientlongman.com>
Also available through
The Bookpoint <the.bookpoint at gmail.com>
Manohar Books <manbooks at vsnl.com>
DK Publishers and Distributors <dkpd at del3.vsnl.net.in>
Ram Advani Bookseller <radvani at sancharnet.in>
Contact us on <the.bookpoint at gmail.com>
Orient Longman Pvt Ltd.
Hyderabad 500 029
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