SACW | May 12-13, 2008 / Bangladesh: Govt sensitive to Mullah's / Pakistan Supreme court gag's media / India: Chattissgarh State Terror/ Pakistan-India: Bomb care or Health Care

Harsh Kapoor aiindex at
Mon May 12 22:20:08 CDT 2008

South Asia Citizens Wire | May 12-13, 2008 | Dispatch No. 2515 - Year 
10 running

[Please note, SACW dispatches are going to mostly remain interrupted 
between 16 May - 1 June 2008] 

[1] Bangladesh: Sensitive to Mullahs govt retreats from pledge on women's seats
[2] Pakistan: Capital madressahs (Tasneem Noorani)
    +  Pakistan Supreme Court moves to silence media (CPJ)
[3] Sri Lanka: The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna Split (Jayadeva Uyangoda)
[4] India: India's cultural divide (Ranjona Banerji)
[5] India: Hindu right led Chattissgarh leading the way to curb 
democratic space
    (i) Chhattisgarh Has Lost The Plot (Siddharth Varadarajan)
    (ii) No Country for Good Men (S.P. Arun)
[6] Bomb Care or Health Care - news report Pakistan peace coalition 
seminar against arms race
  + News Report on meeting of India-Pakistan Soldiers' Initiative for Peace
[7] The God delusion - The film 'Khuda Kay Liye' etc (Harsh Mander)
[8] India: NGOs campaigning against the BJP in poll-bound Karnataka 
in trouble with authorities
[9] Announcements:
(i) an evening of readings and conversation with Intizar Hussain 
(Karachi, 14 May 2008)
(ii) 'Artists for Human Rights', an evening of protest & solidarity 
with Dr Binayak sen and other prisoners (New Delhi, 14 Nov)
(iii) SANSAD invites you to a Press Conference on the unjust 
detention of Dr Binayak Sen (Vancouver, 14 May 2008)



The Daily Star
May 12, 2008

Women's Reserved Seats in Local Govt

by Shakhawat Liton

In a surprise move the caretaker government has retreated from its 
earlier pledge of reserving 40 percent seats for women at all tiers 
of the local government system for three consecutive terms.

It is widely believed that the government has buckled in the wake of 
violent protests by hardliner Islamist groups against the National 
Women's Development Policy 2008.

The pledge however was made to effectively empower women at all 
levels of the local government system.

On March 23, the council of advisers approved in principle two 
ordinances regarding formations and functions of city corporations 
and municipalities with the provision for reserving 40 percent seats 
exclusively for women.

The government also had a plan to incorporate the same provision in 
other upcoming laws regarding formations and functions of union, 
upazila and zila parishads, the sources added.

But an Ulema Committee formed by the government to review the women's 
development policy, on April 17 in its recommendations to the 
government, strongly opposed the policy and asked the government to 
scrap the provision for increasing the number of reserved seats for 
women in the local government system, representatives to which would 
be elected through direct elections according to the earlier proposal.

Following the recommendations of the ulemas, the council of advisers 
at a special meeting on April 24 finalised the two ordinances 
regarding city corporations and municipalities scrapping the 
provision for reserving 40 percent seats for women.

The finalised ordinances however propose to continue the current 
provision for reserving one-third seats for women in city 
corporations and municipalities, which is expected to be promulgated 
as a law by the president soon, handing over a whopping victory to 
the Islamist hardliners in the country.

According to the existing provision, Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) has 
90 wards headed by as many commissioners. In addition, there are 
provisions for 30 women commissioners. Each woman commissioner is in 
charge of three wards. So in reality each ward has two commissioners 
-- one generally elected commissioner and the other a woman 
commissioner who is also elected by voters of three wards. This 
system leads to conflicts in sharing responsibilities as generally 
elected commissioners are often found to be non-cooperating with the 
specially elected women commissioners. Similar power sharing systems 
exist for other city corporations, municipalities and union parishads.

But the proposed law suggested 40 percent of the total 90 wards of 
DCC be reserved for women. So, there would be no dual 
commissionership in any ward. Such reserved seats for women were 
supposed to be in place for three terms totalling in 15 years. After 
that the government was to make a fresh decision on whether the 
reserved women's seats would exist or not.

Defending the government's back flip, LGRD Adviser Anwarul Iqbal on 
April 27 claimed to the media that the provision for reserving 40 
percent seats for women had to be scrapped, since it would come into 
conflict with a court verdict.

A government formed expert committee on strengthening local 
government institutions led by incumbent Health Adviser MM Shawkat 
Ali, which came up with the original proposal, however did so after 
reviewing the High Court verdict.

The committee found nothing wrong in reserving 40 percent seats for 
women for the next 15 years, instead it argued that the constitution 
does not discourage making special provisions for women's development.

Referring to the High Court judgement on a writ filed by some women 
ward commissioners elected to reserved seats in Khulna City 
Corporation, the LGRD adviser said the provision for reserving seats 
for women should not be a permanent system.

The petitioners filed the writ to avoid being marginalised in the 
name of being assigned with 'special duties'.

In fact according to the High Court's verdict, representatives 
elected to reserved seats for women cannot be officially assigned 
with 'special duties' in local governments and they must be treated 
as equals to other elected representatives.

The High Court verdict actually said nothing about the percentage of 
seats to be reserved for women.

Meanwhile, in line with the government's latest reversal of 
decisions, the LGRD ministry already drafted a law regarding 
formations, elections and functions of union, upazila and zila 
parishads without keeping the provision for reserving 40 percent 
seats for women, who would be elected through direct votes, sources 
in the ministry said.

The draft ordinance proposes to continue the current provision for 
reserving three seats for women in each union parishad, having 
jurisdiction over nine general wards, a source said.

Meaning, each elected woman to reserved seats in a union parishad 
will have to share her authority with three other elected members, 
running the risk of being marginalised.

At upazila and zila parishad levels, instead of reserving 40 percent 
seats for women, the new draft law proposes to keep one-third of 
total posts reserved for women, who will be elected through indirect 

Women, who are already elected to reserved seats at lower tiers of 
the local government system will only be able to contest in elections 
to upazila and zila parishads, and an electoral college of already 
elected women to reserved seats at lower tiers will elect from among 
themselves the representatives to reserved seats for women in upazila 
and zila parishads, says the draft law.

The LGRD ministry draft however proposes to create a post of a 
vice-chairman in each upazila and zila parishads, which will be 
reserved for women elected through direct votes.

Currently there are around 14,500 women representatives elected to 
reserved seats in over 4,000 union parishads, 6 city corporations, 
and the municipalities.


[2]  Pakistan:

The News
May 8, 2008


by Tasneem Noorani

We have been at the receiving end of some suicidal angry people who 
are convinced that this land is infested with infidels and lackeys of 
the West who need to be taught a lesson. The newly acquired weapon of 
suicide bombing is proving more effective, than the wildest dreams of 
the perpetrators.

There is a lull, as if these extremist handlers are watching the 
change in government, giving the new team time to settle in. Perhaps 
their intensity of discontent is tempered due to the hope that 
Musharaf and his policy may finally be on their way out. The recent 
spate of agreements with activists in Swat and Waziristan do indicate 
to them a change in the air and they perhaps think that the 
government has come around finally to take their own decisions rather 
than blindly take dictation from the West. But is this respite a 
sustainable one, or a lull before the storm?

The mosque where I go to say my Juma prayers, is located in the most 
posh part of Islamabad, I usually have children from the ages of five 
to 15 around me during namaz. Some so young and cute that you want to 
tweak their cheek and cuddle them. These are healthy and good-looking 
little things wearing white caps. Hailing from the NWFP or the 
Northern Areas, they are in Islamabad of all the places (better known 
for deals and extrajudicial takeovers) to learn Islam.

The Imam often uses the captive audience of the Juma devotees to 
invite one of the boys to do tilawat, in order to impress the 
audience with the good work he is doing and then ask for assistance 
to sustain his venture.

Now, these are children who are growing up, learning the Quran by 
heart, in a neighbourhood with which they have nothing in common. 
They see the luxury cars, well-fed and -clothed children, decked up 
aunties living in big houses who not only never invite them to their 
homes but, as a matter of fact, make a face to indicate that they 
wish these children never existed. The imam in all probability could 
not be speaking with a warm glow about the inmates of these posh 
houses. There is a complete mismatch. The poorest have been planted 
in the midst of the richest at an impressionable age. These children, 
after spending 15 or so years in these environs, will naturally feel 
they have a stake in the town, and at the same time resent the people 
who never accepted them all these years.

On the other hand, what the children are being taught in the mosque 
is only rituals and hardly the essence of Islam. They rock while they 
recite the Quran as loudly as their small lungs allow them to, 
without an idea of what they are reciting. The mental, educational 
and intellectual level of the imam is so limited as to obviate the 
chances of any educated child coming out of the mosque school.

Fifteen thousand or so madressahs exist in the country. More than 
seventy are located in Islamabad, most without any legal permission 
from the local administration.

The manpower that is coming out of such institutions is unlikely to 
find a regular job in the government or the private sector, because 
the graduate of the madrassa knows nothing but to recite the Quran 
and perhaps some history of Islam duly slanted to the sect the 
madrassa belongs to. The degree/sanad is unlikely to allow him to 
enter the job market. With the result that he has to strive to either 
"capture" a mosque or a madrassa or make one himself. Thus, we have a 
self-propelled mosque-/madrassa-proliferation system in place.

The government since 2001 has been trying to rein in the madressahs. 
Long negotiations have been held with the representative of the 
Wifaqul Madarris to induce them to register, to teach other subject 
besides Islam. A madrassa Education Board, I understand, has also 
been set up. Earlier, there was a scheme to set up a few model 
madressahs to show the existing ones how to become what the 
government expects them to become.

But to the best of my knowledge the impact of all these efforts is 
zero. Madressahs guard their independence jealously. They do not want 
any government interference. The government is mainly in the dark 
about the funding sources of most such institutions. The madrassa 
managers are not willing to share this information with the 
government at any cost. The government claims to have registered a 
large number of madressahs, but to what use that registration is 
being put to by the government is not known.

In Islamabad the madressahs are like Trojan horses. Thousands of 
children, who do not understand their surroundings and look at the 
citizens of the city with dislike and contempt at following infidel 
values, are growing up in the midst of this city. The unresolved 
story of the Lal Masjid is just the trailer.

No regular school in Islamabad is allowed to have a boarding house in 
residential areas. Madressahs are exempted. The harshness of the CDA 
is confined to regular schools, most of which are under notice to 
leave residential areas and relocate to special plots sold to them in 
special zones. No such scheme for the madressahs.

I have heard the new education minister, Ahsan Iqbal, saying his 
priority is to have a uniform education system in the country, as 
against the current elite English-medium along with the Urdu-medium 
government school stream. I wish him luck in this Herculean task that 
he has taken upon himself. I only hope he has also taken the merging 
of the religious education stream into the mainstream into account. 
We should be under no illusion: without mainstreaming the madressahs 
we are sitting on a ticking time bomb.


Committee to Protect Journalists.


New York, May 12, 2008-The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on 
the Pakistani Supreme Court to drop its efforts to control media 
coverage. The court today ordered Geo TV, the country's most popular 
private broadcaster, and its print affiliate, Jang Group, to present 
all video clips and news articles dating to November 3, 2007, on the 
controversial issue of reinstating judges sacked last year by 
President Pervez Musharraf.

The court set a May 22 deadline for Geo and Jang to meet the demand 
or be held in contempt of court, according to Pakistani media 
reports. The court said Geo and the Daily Jang, the group's flagship 
Urdu-language newspaper, had erroneously reported that Supreme Court 
Justice Muhammad Nawaz Abbasi had taken part in a recent meeting 
between government ministers and high court justices. The court, 
which issued the order on its initiative, is currently controlled by 
Musharraf appointees.

The court did back down from an earlier, more far-reaching order. On 
Friday, it directed Geo TV and the Jang Group to stop reporting 
entirely on the judicial reinstatement issue. The court vacated the 
original order today after a raucous hearing in which several 
journalists vowed to disobey the directive.

"The Supreme Court's decision threatens to reverse the movement 
toward renewed media freedom that came after elections three months 
ago," said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator. "The court 
should be working to uphold freedom of the press, not silencing it 
whenever a controversial issue emerges in Pakistan."

Soon after today's hearing, Minister of Information Sherry Rehman 
told Mazhar Abbas, secretary-general of the Pakistan Federal Union of 
Journalists, that the government did not support the court's decision 
and would work to resolve the issue. She made the statement on Abbas' 
political discussion program on ARY One World TV.

The judicial issue is a sensitive one in Pakistan. The new coalition 
government led by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani has split over 
the issue of reinstating the judges. Former prime minister Nawaz 
Sharif, who supports reinstatement of the judges, has left the 
cabinet as a result of the split but has not withdrawn his party from 
the coalition.

The split has threatened Pakistan's move back to democracy after 
eight years of military rule under Musharraf. At the same time in 
November that Musharraf sacked 60 judges who had resisted his 
government, he closed down all private news broadcasters-about 40-all 
of which are distributed by cable. Geo was the last major broadcaster 
to resume broadcasting after it resisted government pressure to sign 
a code of conduct.


[3]  Sri Lanka:

Economic and Political weekly
May 3, 2008


by  Jayadeva Uyangoda

The radical, Sinhalese nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna has 
split, the real reasons for which are not yet clear. Among the 
various possible reasons are the mainstream jvp's unease with a 
breakaway faction's Sinhalese-Buddhist nationalist project and the 
collision of the Sinhalese nationalist and class struggle lines 
within the party. It is also a dispute about coalition strategies 
that has spilled on to the domain of personal relations. For now, the 
Rajapakse administration is the beneficiary.




Daily News and Analysis
May 09, 2008


by Ranjona Banerji

The Delhi High Court has done both India and art an enormous favour 
by dropping three obscenity cases against the 91-year-old artist, MF 

As is well-known, India's most famous artist has spent almost two 
years in self-imposed exile, ever since he was threatened for his 
'obscene' portrayal of Hindu  goddesses and mythological figures and 
his works were vandalised by Hindutva fundamentalists.

Yet, at every art venue, Husain's works have continued to sell for 
top dollar - he remains India's most coveted painter both at home and 
abroad. In his quirky, whimsical manner, he has also given the idea 
of an artist new impetus. His obsession with a series of Hindi film 
actresses, his delightful forays into film-making, his keen interest 
in current affairs, and his own unique way of transferring that 
interest into his art add to his greatness.

Husain has had his share of controversy within the art world as well 
and that is inevitable given his long career and body of work. But it 
is the controversy in the outside world that is truly shameful.

That he should be hounded and attacked by  obscure groups looking for 
cheap publicity and that the idea of offending 'sentiments' should 
stop the law from being implemented is one of independent India's 
less salutary episodes in upholding freedom of  expression.
Because whatever the ferocity of the religious organisations which 
have attacked him, the government of India should have stood up to 
them with courage rather than cowardice.

Instead, we are unable to truly understand the significance of 
'freedom of  expression' - of artistic expression as well as of 
poetic licence. In all societies, popular culture rules over 'high' 
art. But in most societies, 'high' art is revered - it does not have 
to bow down to popular culture.

Rather, the popular strives to reach higher. We seem to have turned 
that wisdom on its head. As more of us get 'voices', we register our 
outrage at everything that offends us and even more at what we do not 

Some of this anguish has been expressed by Justice Sanjay K Kaul of 
the Delhi High Court. He said in his judgment, "We have been called 
the land of the Kama Sutra. Then why is it that in this land we shy 
away from its very name? Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder and 
so does obscenity." He went on to say, "It's most unfortunate that 
India's new Puritanism is being carried out in the name of cultural 
purity and that ignorant people vandalise art."

In the second sentence lies the crux of the matter. When art critics 
or art lovers have objected to Husain - and they have -it has been on 
the basis of his art and that alone.
When the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti launched the vicious campaign 
against  Husain, it did not consider his work as an artist. It 
understood neither context  not subtext but went straight for obvious 
pictorial representation. Even by itself, the right of these 
neo-Puritan saviours of  'cultural purity' to be offended would 
stand. But they went beyond intellectual  discourse into physical 
intimidation,  destruction of artworks and vituperative public 
campaigns. Dissent is essential in a democracy; threat, extortion, 
blackmail and violence are not.

The judge has gone back to both ancient Indian culture as well as 
contemporary art traditions and rued that the people who have 
attacked Husain are not familiar with either. He has pointed - 
perhaps inadvertently - to a singularly divisive fault line in India 
today. The cultural divides  between an open and cultured elite and a 
neo-puritanical middle class obsessed with maintaining 'cultural 
purity' are extreme and silly. The recent debate over the 
cheerleaders in cricket matches exposed both.

The fault lies in a society which makes no effort to create space for 
both popular and high cultures. If your ideas of Indian mythology, 
for instance, are based solely on Hindi potboilers or televised 
mythological serials, then it is hardly surprising that Husain's 
interpretations would offend you. If you have never read any of 
ancient India's many eye-popping and enlightening texts, but have 
relied solely on word of mouth, then definitely Husain's 
interpretations would offend you. This ignorance is not deliberate 
but it is a natural corollary of a system where once the elite kept 
everyone else out and today, technical education is given more 
prominence than the humanities. Interestingly, it is the techies of 
Bangalore and the US's Silicon Valley who are the biggest supporters 
of India's religious fundamentalist groups.

By mentioning what is known but rarely publicly stated, the Delhi 
High Court has pushed intelligence to the  forefront over 
obscurantist rantings. It  can only be hoped that now Husain will 
come home again and India will start a  reasoned debate on how to 
disagree in a civilised manner.


[5]  [All SACW subscribers are invited to join citizen protests on 
the International Day of Solidarity with Dr Binayak Sen on 13 May 

o o o

The Hindu
May 13, 2008


by Siddharth Varadarajan

One year after jailing the eminent doctor, Binayak Sen, State 
authorities have arrested another leading civil liberties activist, 
journalist and filmmaker, Ajay T.G.

A file picture of Dr. Binayak Sen with his patients in Chhattisgarh.

On May 5, the Chhattisgarh police announced the arrest of Ajay T.G., 
a Raipur-based journalist and filmmaker, under the State's draconian 
Special Public Security Act (PSA). He has been charged with sedition 
under the Indian Penal Code and with having unlawful contact with a 
banned organisation, the Communist Party of India (Maoist), under 
Sections 3, 4 and 8 of the PSA. Like Binayak Sen, who was arrested 
last year on May 14, Ajay is a leading member of the People's Union 
for Civil Liberties. He is also a prominent social worker whose 
contribution to the education of young girls from poor slum-dwelling 
families is well known. The circumstances leading to his arrest are 
so bizarre and reflect so poorly on Chhattisgarh's approach to 
dealing with the naxalite problem that they bear recounting in some 

During the Lok Sabha elections of 2004, Ajay was part of a 
fact-finding team that visited a number of interior villages in the 
Dantewada region of the State to study the reaction of ordinary 
villagers to the Maoist call for a poll boycott, on the one hand, and 
heavy CRPF deployment, on the other.

The team went through several deserted villages before arriving at a 
village around 4 p.m. As Ajay started taking photographs of a 
deserted polling booth, the team was surrounded by a group of angry, 
young Maoist villagers. The youth accused the group of being police 
agents and detained them for several hours. They were eventually 
allowed to leave late in the evening but Ajay's camera was 

For Ajay, the loss of his camera was a real blow. His only source of 
income was the freelance filming he did as a mediaperson. His family 
was also terrified at the thought that the Maoists believed him to be 
a police agent and decided not to file an official complaint with the 
authorities. But as word spread in Raipur about the threats to which 
the fact-finding team had been subjected, the Maoist leadership in 
the State moved to control the fallout and declared that it would 
compensate him if the camera was not recovered. The fact that this 
incident occurred and that Ajay and his colleagues were the victims 
of Maoist high-handedness is public knowledge because the media 
covered it in June 2006.

A year-and-a-half later, on January 21, 2008, the Chhattisgarh police 
intercepted an alleged arms drop by two Maoist women. When the house 
of one of the women was searched, they recovered a letter addressed 
to the Maoist spokesman by Ajay on the letterhead of the "The 
Campaign against Child Labour" (an organisation of which he is 
convenor). The letter, written in 2004, was about the return of the 
same camera. When the police arrived at his house to question him, 
Ajay, in the presence of lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, readily acknowledged 
authorship of the letter and also explained the unfortunate 
circumstances in which it had been written. Nevertheless, the police 
seized his computer.

Since filmmakers these days rely as much on their computers as on 
their cameras, Ajay moved the local courts for the return of his PC. 
His case was posted for hearing on May 10. Five days before that, 
however, the police came and arrested him, invoking the Public 
Security Act which was not even in force in 2004 when the letter was 
written. Incredibly, stories are now being planted in the local press 
about how the police only discovered he was the author of the letter 
after going through his computer and conducting "handwriting 

Think about this for a second. Here is a journalist who was actually 
the victim of a crime committed by the Maoists. For weeks, the family 
fretted about what the Maoists would do to Ajay since they seemed to 
believe he was a police agent. And now, the same police steps in to 
victimise him again, this time with perhaps deadlier consequences 
since the grant of bail under the PSA - as Dr. Sen has learned - is 
well-nigh impossible. The irony is that the police are prosecuting 
Dr. Sen for his alleged connections with the naxalites without 
pausing to ask why, if he was so well connected, a fact-finding 
mission of which he was a member was illegally detained by the 
Maoists in 2004.

The fact of the matter is that both Dr. Sen and Ajay T.G. are being 
targeted because of their association with PUCL. And PUCL is under 
attack because it is one of the organisations inside Chhattisgarh - 
besides the Communist Party of India (CPI), the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram 
of Gandhian worker Himanshu Kumar, and others - that have been trying 
to expose the ugly reality of Salwa Judum, the State-run vigilante 
death squad that has led to the death of hundreds of civilians and 
the forced displacement of tens of thousands of adivasis. CPI leaders 
in the State are routinely harassed. Himanshu of the VCA, a long-time 
associate of the late Nirmala Deshpande, is being threatened with 
eviction from the land on which his ashram was legally built for 
documenting Salwa Judum atrocities. Courageous local journalists such 
as Kamlesh Paikra and Afzal Khan have also been attacked and 
intimidated for exposing state-sponsored violence. When CPI MP 
Gurudas Dasgupta tried to travel to Dantewada to support the protest 
of local adivasis against the expropriation of their land for a big 
industrial project, he was denied entry by motivated mobs with the 
police a silent spectator.

Despite the growing ranks of those critical of Salwa Judum, the 
Bharatiya Janata Party government in Chhattisgarh continues to brand 
its critics as "naxalites" or as persons influenced by the 
"psychological war machinery of Maoists" - a claim the Chhattisgarh 
DGP Vishwa Ranjan made about Ramachandra Guha and Nandini Sundar in 
an interview to the Pioneer on April 3. The Maoists' psywar machinery 
is clearly formidable because among those it has now managed to 
"influence" is an expert committee of the Planning Commission, which 
includes former IB Director Ajit Doval as member, the Veerappa Moily 
Committee on Administrative Reforms and the National Commission for 
Protection of Child Rights, all of which have documented the Salwa 
Judum's excesses or called for it to be disbanded. The Chhattisgarh 
government should realise that countering an armed insurgency 
requires tact, and intelligence. The arrest and intimidation of 
prominent critics such as Dr. Sen and Ajay show the utter 
non-application of mind on the part of its police force. The Salwa 
Judum is doomed; its withdrawal can be delayed a little but not 
prevented. The sooner it is withdrawn along with draconian laws like 
the PSA, the better.

o o o


Samar 29, published online May 13th, 2008



There is an alarming trend in India of arresting and detaining 
without bail human rights activists that challenge state
authority. The unjust imprisonment of Dr Binayak Sen is the latest example.

by S.P. Arun


[6] From South Asians Against Nukes Mailing List - Year 10 / Dispatch 1119


(The News International, by our correspondent, 12 May 2008)

Speakers at a seminar titled "impacts of nuclearisation on social 
development" organised Sunday at the Pakistan Medical Association 
(PMA) office by the Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC) urged the adoption 
of people-focused policies. The nuclear arms race, coupled with 
militarization, has led to distortions in socioeconomic development 
and has undermined the democratic process, they said.

Dr Syed Jafer Ahmed, Professor of Karachi University, said the arms 
race in South Asia had distorted the socio-economic policies. It also 
led to negative nationalism based on hatred instead of developing 
identity on self-assertion and good within the country. Same sort of 
nationalism had also developed in India where the BJP's emphasis on 
culture also contained imperial design.

Stressing a need for changing the curriculum to promote healthy 
worldview about things, Dr Ahmed said arms procurement was also 
largely responsible for violence, extremism and aggression in the 
society as the people think that they can get anything through use of 
brute force. He believed that nuclear ambitions had also caused 
destruction of democracy by ensuring dominance of ambitious military 
generals on politics. He said less significant role of civilians in 
decision-making was also visible from the fact that among around "15 
phases" of "nuclear command and control", the prime minister is 
supposed to be consulted in one phase only.

He said the USA was using Pakistan's nuclear programme for 
black-mailing the government to continue support for its War on 

He said there was need to go beyond confidence building measures 
between India and Pakistan with focus on people's oriented policies, 
which could address the masses problems. He said the Kashmir dispute 
still remained unresolved because of lack of people's focus policies 
as its debate was restricted at foreign offices of both the countries.

He also regretted that efforts of NGOs lack linkage and urged 
coordinated efforts among them. Dr Ahmed also underlined the 
importance of creating culture of debate and discussion at academic 
institutes for demilitarisation of minds.

Karamat Ali of the PPC said possession of nuclear arms instead of 
decreasing demand for conventional weapons had in fact increased it 
for five times recently. He said South Asia topped in arms 
procurement in the world while number of the poor was also high 
there. He said 76 per cent poor live in India while 70 per cent poor 
live in Pakistan. He said nuclearisation and militarisation had not 
only put economic burden in both countries but it had also weakened 
democratic institut[ion]s. He claimed that now the Indian army was 
also determining certain policies there. He cited the Indian army 
chief's intrusive role to block the agreement between India and 
Pakistan for making Siachin as the world's biggest peace park in 2004 
in this regard.

Zahida Hina talking about US's interference in Pakistan's politics 
since 1947 said that the situation had now come to such pass that 
Richard Boucher, US official was deciding matters between leaders of 
two mainstream parties in London.

She said since last over eight years, the people of Pakistan had been 
suffering and now their hopes from the present government were also 

Abdullah Baloch, a Baloch activist, said nuclear tests in 
Balochistan's "Rast Koh" (straight hills) had brought devastated 
consequences there. He claimed that underground water had decreased 
from 60 feet to over 400 feet. He said prior to nuclear tests, there 
used to be rains in each year but since then, no rains had occurred 
there, leading to drought.

B M Kutty of Piler; Osman Baloch, Adam Malik, Aijaz Malik, Prof 
Salman and others also spoke.

o o o

The Daily Times
May 13, 2008

May 13, 2008


NEW DELHI: Retired army men from Pakistan and India on Sunday 
attended a meeting in Mumbai to promote peace between the two South 
Asian neighbours.

The India-Pakistan Soldiers' Initiative for Peace (IPSI) organised 
the two-day meeting, which was also attended by a 24-member 
delegation of the IPSI (Pakistan chapter). IPSI (India chapter) 
President Lieutenant General (r) Moti Dar told the meeting that India 
and Pakistan had to move towards collective security and strong 
economic ties as well as peace.

"The two countries can become an economic and political force," he 
said, adding a good start could be made by resolving the Siachen 
issue. "The resolution of this issue can boost peace efforts and 
mutual trust," he added.

He said that by 2050 India would be the most populous country in the 
world and that Pakistan would be the third-most populous country, 
adding that such a population would put water and food resources 
under tremendous pressure leading to problems.

Political will: Pakistan Army's Lt Gen (r) M Naseer Akhtar said a 
political will was required on both the sides to resolve issues, 
adding that nothing new could be introduced with an old mindset. app




by Harsh Mander

Hindustan Times, May 12, 2008

There is today a world-wide resurgence of the politics of identity, 
separateness and divide. This has been spurred by declarations of an 
ongoing global 'war on terror', consummating in bloody military 
enterprises that have casually decimated vast helpless civilian 
populations. Religious texts as well as democratic principles have 
been reinterpreted to justify violent reprisals and to deny 
democratic rights. Democratic governments have felt it fit to label, 
place under surveillance and, in many cases, detain, torture and even 
exterminate people held in suspicion primarily because of their 
religious faith. But the greatest battle of all has been in the 
hearts and minds of people, in the everyday discourse of homes, 
classrooms and work-places, where the people of one faith have been 
demonised globally for their allegedly violent histories, and their 
alleged pervasive contemporary sympathies for terrorism.

It is inevitable that this battle would spill over also into the 
songs we sing, the poetry we recite, and - in particular in this part 
of the world - in the films we make. This cinema is notoriously 
unrealistic in its literal depiction of people's lives. But because 
of the special emotional resonance of films with people in South 
Asia, they are often authentic as reflections of popular 
consciousness. It is, therefore, instructive to observe the evolution 
of the depiction of Muslim people in Indian cinema. In the relatively 
idealistic early decades after Independence, Muslim people were an 
essential element of the 'formula' of popular Hindi cinema, 
homogenised as gentle, friendly, benign neighbours, or people of 
exceptional culture, grace and poetry. In more recent times, their 
metamorphosis was precipitous, into shadowy, sinister figures: mafia, 
criminal, traitor, regressive, people who always initiate riots, are 
fundamentalist, violent. But many recent films have challenged these 
troubling, false stereotypes, and several have received enthusiastic 
audience endorsement.

Important among these is a popular Pakistani film, Khuda Kay Liye. 
Although flawed as cinema, it is a moral document of unusual 
humanism. The film attempts a brave, searching exploration of the 
struggles that people of faith in Islam are embroiled in, as they 
strive to sift right and wrong in a world which holds them 
responsible for the reprehensible crimes of a few who claim to defend 
their faith. It tries to make sense of the teachings of some leaders 
of their faith, who interpret its texts in ways that deny its 
syncretic humanist traditions, and who justify the oppression of 
women and the bloody often random extermination of not just people of 
different faiths but even liberal and progressive political 
persuasions. It also tries to understand the compatibility of Islam 
with Western sensibilities of dress and music.

The film endorses one of the most profound truths of our times: that 
the central battle is not of Islam with other faiths. The real war is 
between humanist and liberal interpretations and practices of faiths, 
and versions that advocate division, patriarchy, hate and violence. 
This war is by no means restricted to Islam, but people of Muslim 
faith in every country are forced more than any other to constantly 
make public choices about which side they stand on in this battle, 
because much of the world assumes that they are on the side of 
loathing and shedding of the blood of innocents. They shout their 
dissent, and sometimes pay for it with their lives, but few hear 
them, as they find themselves condemned because of the faith to which 
they are born.

The film has the quality of anguished honesty: as it tracks this 
turmoil within Islam, it holds up its own truths for scrutiny by the 
rest of the world. And yet the truths it captures are universal. The 
film is not a portrayal of contemporary Islam alone; it is a mirror 
to fundamentalist resurgence in every major faith today. The bids of 
the Muslim cleric in the film to 'rescue' women who wish to marry 
outside their faith by abducting them and forcing them into weddings 
with men of their own religion could be the mission of a Babu 
Bajrangi in Gujarat. The endorsement of retributive violence against 
'other' peoples echoes Bush's doctrine of 'collateral damage' and his 
and Blair's frequent reference to 'crusades', or Modi's resort to 
Newtonian physics to justify the post-Godhra massacres.

The cleric's mocking of NGOs in the court scene of Khuda Kay Liye 
could have been Modi caricaturing 'five-star' NGOs or K.P.S. Gill's 
indictment of human rights groups. The harrowing portrayal of cruel 
torture of a Muslim man under police detention after 9/11 in Chicago 
resonates chillingly with many testimonies of torture and illegal 
detention of Muslim youth in Gujarat after 2002, or in Hyderabad 
after the bomb blasts last year. It is not the truth of Islam, of the 
'other' out there that the film recreates; it is the picture of all 
of us, if we have the courage and compassion to see and hear it.

My main quarrel with the film is its resolution. In its climax, the 
services of a 'good' cleric are recruited, as he offers his 
interpretation of Islamic scriptures, not just to justify music and 
Western dress and culture (which it could be argued was legitimate), 
but also to affirm that a woman cannot be forced to marry and have 
sex with her husband against her will. I feel troubled that judges of 
the court in the film rely on his interpretation of scriptures as 
clinching evidence, rather than reference to the undisputed facts, to 
reason and the secular law of the land; to gender equality, tolerance 
and the respect of adult choice.

The court is dealing with a grave crime, of clerics motivating a 
young man to abduct, marry and rape his cousin to prevent her from 
marrying a white Christian man. By subjecting this crime to 
interrogation by faith rather than law and secular notions of 
justice, the film in the end compromises its universalistic, liberal 
and modernist premise. There is an attractive finale of the young 
protagonist back in his jeans and jaunty cap, defiantly confronting 
the disapproval of the hardline cleric by delivering the call to 
prayers in the mosque. But before he does that, I would have felt 
reassured to see him jailed for abducting and raping his cousin.

There have been some as honestly introspective films about Hindu 
fundamentalism in India. The best recent example is Parzania, which 
tracks the heart-breaking search of parents for their child who 
disappeared in the 2002 carnage in Gujarat. It is as agonisingly 
scrupulous in its portrayal of Hindutva politics, and ends far more 
reassuringly, with the resolve of the survivors to fight against all 
odds for justice in the courts of law. Equally important is Shaurya, 
which courageously admits to communalism in the armed forces, and to 
human rights abuses against children in Kashmir. The Muslim officer 
who defends the civilians against the atrocities by his brother 
officer in uniform is viewed with suspicion because of his faith. The 
'loyalty' test that Muslim citizens often find themselves subjected 
to was also illustrated in one of the most popular films of last 
year, Chak De! India, in which a Muslim hockey coach is believed to 
have deliberately thrown a match against Pakistan. In both films, 
audiences backed the Muslim who was unfairly labelled.

All these films revive hope, that ultimately in the battle of hearts 
and minds - that rages in the name both of global crusade against 
terror, and the political mobilisation within India around religious 
identity - justice, truth and compassion still have a chance.

Harsh Mander is  the convenor of Aman Biradari



 From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 19, Dated May 17, 2008


A coalition of 150 NGOs campaigning against the BJP in poll-bound 
Karnataka have run afoul of the State Election Commission, reports 

POLITICAL PARTIES are not the only ones engaged in a pitched battle 
in election bound Karnataka. People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) - 
a statewide coalition comprising 150 NGOs that work on a range of 
issues from Dalit and women's rights to farmers' issues, caste 
politics and labour - is actively engaged in campaigning against what 
it calls the BJPs 'communal agenda'. Says KL Ashok, a PAD convenor, 
"We have no doubt that the BJP is a communal party committed to 
treating Dalits, Muslims, women and the working masses as 
second-class citizens. We have seen what they did in 20 months when 
they were in power in Karnataka. We are saying - never again!"

Headed by prominent cultural figures such as UR Ananthamurthy, Sara 
Aboobacker and Gauri Lankesh, the coalition has framed for itself a 
precise agenda - to ensure defeat of the BJP in the coming Assembly 
elections and to demand accountability from other political parties 
seeking to represent the people. It had undertaken a massive public 
awareness campaign including 'jeep jathas' across 100 towns in 
Karnataka and wide-scale distribution of a 'people's manifesto', 
backed by about 50,000 posters. The campaign had just started to make 
waves when it ran into trouble with the Karnataka State Election 
Commission (SEC) and the police, which stepped in to halt it.

A Election Commission of India (ECI) directive issued to the 
Karnataka SEC on April 7, 2008 stipulates that "no wall writing, 
pasting of posters/papers, erecting of cut-outs, hoardings, banners, 
or defacement in any other form shall be permitted on public 
property" and that any local law applicable should be strictly 
enforced. Accordingly, MN Vidyashankar, Chief Electoral Officer 
(CEO), Karnataka issued strict orders to the police for "criminal 
cases to be booked against those flouting the directive."

On April 12, activists belonging to PAD were detained and arrested by 
police in Madikeri (Kodagu district), Mulbagal (Kolar district) and 
Bangalore as they attempted to paste posters urging voters to say no 
to the BJP. In Jamkhandi (Bagalkot district), police authorities 
denied permission to hold a public meeting. In Bangalore, activists 
were detained and posters seized. "Everywhere the police demanded 
that we produce permission letters by the State Election Commission. 
No matter how many times we told them that we weren't a political 
party, they would not listen," says AMM Shaafi of PAD.

For the State Election Commission too, this was a difficult 
proposition to buy - a non-political party coalition working to 
defeat the BJP and distributing copies of its own manifesto. When 
Shaafi along with other convenors approached the CEO Vidyashankar 
three days after the arrests, he said, "We want to ensure that they 
were not indulging in surrogate canvassing. The content of the 
posters have to be cleared." The CEO insisted that the coalition 
submit translated copies of publicity material to the ECI and wait 
for clearance, citing an April 2004 Supreme Court judgment.

When the coalition obtained copies of the SC order, they found that 
it had nothing to do with their case, and instead pertained to cable 
television advertisements by Gujarat political parties during 
elections. When PAD representatives reverted to the CEO, he was 
apologetic but held that having submitted the poster for clearance, 
they had no choice but to wait for the ECI'S decision. With first 
phase of polling starting on on May 10, the coalition representatives 
are infuriated, but so far the only reply they have received from the 
SEC is that the matter is pending due to delays with the ECI in New 

ELECTION COMMISSIONER Dr SY Quraishi, told TEHELKA that, "PAD is free 
to do their campaigning; provided they don't say that BJP is a 
communal party. That is a specific allegation. But they are free to 
ask voters to not vote for communal parties." He also categorically 
stated that the ECI had conveyed this to the Karnataka SEC during 
their last visit to Bangalore. But Karnataka's Joint Chief Election 
Commissioner BV Kulkarni, says they are "still waiting to hear from 
the ECI."

Shabnam Hashmi, member, National Integration Council, who has 
undertaken similar campaigns in Gujarat, and who also wrote to the 
ECI on the PAD issue, believes that the organisation should simply 
get on with the task. "For eight months we carried a strong anti-BJP 
and anti-Modi campaign. There were cases against us. You can't keep 
rushing to officials to get their stamp of approval every time."

PAD is doing just that. Tired of official dillydallying, they have 
proceeded with their campaign - albeit in different ways.




Join us for an evening of readings and conversation with Intizar Hussain
Date: 14th May 2008  |  Time: 7:00 pm

Intizar Husain came into prominence with the upheavel filled days of 
1947, as the newly emergent country of Pakistan was affected by the 
displacement of people on both sides of the border. These became the 
themes of Intizar Husain's early fiction writings and his concern 
with the destiny of this country has deepened in his subsequent work. 
Intizar Husain is a well recognized figure on Pakistan's literary 
scene and many of his works have been translated into English.

Intizar Husain will read selections from from his work and will 
answer questions from the audience. The session will be moderated by 
Asif Farrukhi.

Date: Wednesday, 14th May 2008

Time: 7:00 pm

Suggested Minimum Donation: Rs. 100

Venue: The Second Floor (T2F)
6-C, Prime Point Building, Phase 7, Khayaban-e-Ittehad, DHA, Karachi
538-9273 | 0300-823-0276 | info at

Seats are limited and will be available on a 'first come, first 
served' basis. No reservations.




Dear Friend,
You are cordially invited to 'Artists for Human Rights', an evening 
of protest by Arundhati Roy, Ashok Vajpayee, Danish & Mehmood, Gauhar 
Raza, K.Satchidanand, Manu Kohli, Nageen Tanveer, Rahul Ram, Vishnu 
Nagar and many other artists, poets, writers and cultural workers 
demanding the release of Dr Binayak Sen and other political 
prisoners. 14 May 2008 marks the first anniversary of the arrest of 
well known health and human rights activists Dr Sen by the 
Chattisgarh government.

     Time: 6 PM onwards
     Date: 14 May, 2008
     Venue: Rabindra Bhawan Lawns (Opposite Mandi House), Copernicus
Marg, New Delhi

In Solidarity
Committee for the Release of Dr Binayak Sen
New Delhi

Anivar Aravind
Free Binayaksen campaign



SANSAD invites you to a Press Conference
International Day of Protest
Demanding Unconditional Freedom for Dr. Binayak Sen

Wednesday, May 14, 2008
3:30 p.m.
In front of the office of the Consul General of India
325 Howe Street, Vancouver

A Statement of Concerns and a Charter of Demands will be handed over 
to the Consul General.

It was on May 14, a yaar ago,  that Dr. Binayak Sen was arrested by 
the government of Chattisgarh State in India under the highly 
draconian and repressive Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 
2005 (CSPSA) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 2004 (UAPA) 
on charges of sedition, conspiracy to wage war against the state and 
conspiracy to commit other offences.

To mark the anniversary of the uncalled-for detention, protest 
activities are going on this day all over India, and also in many 
cities of North America and Europe, especially in front of Indian 
Embassies or Consulates: Baltimore, Boston, Houston/Dallas, London 
(England), Paris, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Fracisco, Stockholm, 
Washsington DC - in addition to here in Vancouver.

For the last three decades, as a practicing pediatrician and a Public 
Health specialist, Dr. Sen has been promoting community rural 
health-care centres, and providing health care to some of most 
marginalized sections of society. He was principally instrumental in 
setting up the unique Shaheed Hospital as well as carrying out 
community-driven health care work through Jan Swasthya Abhiyan 
(People's Health Movement).

On April 21 this year, Dr. Sen  was awarded the 2008 Jonathan Mann 
Award  by the Global Health Council which he is supposed to receive 
on May 29 at the International Conference on Global Health in 
Washington, D.C., (see:

Dr. Binayak Sen is also a prominent human rights activist as the 
State Secretary of People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) for 
Chattisgarh, and a Vice President of PUCL's national body. Over the 
years, PUCL has exposed a vast array of human rights violations, poor 
conditions of prisoners, custodial deaths and extra-judicial killings 
- especially those committed by a state-sponsored, heavily armed, 
vigilante group by the name of Salwa Judum, which has been 
terrorizing the local people struggling to defend their lands and 
their rights against the large-scale encroachment  by big capital and 
multi-nationals. For a PUCL analysis of Dr. Sen's case, please check:

For a report on the Salwa Judum vigilante group (When the State Makes 
War on its Own People) please click:

For an understanding of the economic realities of the resource-rich 
land of Chattisgarh and why the State machinery, directly or through 
the Salwa Judum militia, is determned to serve the interests of local 
and international big capital and to repress people struggling for 
their lands and livelihood, please see:

Internationally renowned intellectuals have been arguing for almost a 
year for an unconditinal release of Dr. Sen (see

A few days ago, 22 Nobel laureates have come out openly demanding an 
unconditional release of Dr. Sen. Among them two got the Nobel for 
Economics, two for Physics, nine for Chemistry, and nine for 
Physiology or Medicine. See the link:

For a fuller version of Dr. Sen's work, and the legal aspects of the 
case slaped on  him, you could look at this Medico Friend Circle 

Although Dr. Binayak Sen has acquired a high profile - both 
nationally and internationally - it should be pointed out that he is 
only one among a large number of human rights activists and 
journalists, all across India, who have been incarcerated under one 
or the other provision of highly repressive laws. There are : Lachit 
Bordoloi, a human rights activist from Assam; Prashant Rahi, 
journalist from Uttarakhand; Govindan Kutty, editor of People's March 
in Kerala; Praful Jha, a journalist from Chhattisgarh; Vernon 
Gonsalves, an activist from Nasik; Arun Ferreira, Ashok Reddy, 
Dhanendra Bhurule, Naresh Bansode, activists from the Vidarbha 
region, have all been charged under the UAPA and kept under prolonged 
detention without bail.

Please join us at the Press Conference, and a visit to the Consul 
General's office to hand over a Statement of Concens and a Charter of 
Demands. Wednesday, May 14, 3:30 p.m., 325 Howe Street, Vancouver.

Hari Sharma, president
(South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy)

Suite 435, 552-A Clark Road
Coquitlam, B.C., Canada V3J 0A3

ph: 604 - 420-2972; fax: 604 - 420-2970
e-mail: sansad at


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