SACW | Mar. 3-5 , 2009 / Fundamentalists attack Cricket
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Thu Mar 5 02:43:35 CST 2009
South Asia Citizens Wire | March 3-5, 2009 | Dispatch No. 2610 - Year
 Pakistan: Fundamentalists attack on Cricket
- This attack struck Pakistan's last redoubt of national pride
- Visiting Pakistan Peace Activists in India for joint fight against
- Terrorists Aim for Destabilisation, Media Attention (Beena Sarwar)
- Lahore Murder Mystery (Ali Sethi)
- A match abandoned or a battle lost? (Jawed Naqvi)
- Lahore attack shows urgency of joint action on terror (Siddharth
- Terror unlimited (Editorial)
 Afghanistan: Lost in holy translation (Nushin Arbabzadah)
 Sri Lanka: The value of dissent (Shanie)
 Nepal Maoists 'recruit thousands' (BBC)
 India: 'Media constantly targeted by fundamentalists' (Nandita
 India: 'Hindu rashtra' is against Constitution: judge (The Hindu)
 India: Who Speaks For Muslims? (Arshad Alam)
 India: Online Petition Against Attacks on Women in Karnataka
 Gandhi items' owner wants India to value health over defense
(i) Ashis Nandy Lecture 'The Demonic and the Seductive in Religious
Nationalism' (Stanford, 6 March 2009)
(ii) Public Meeting On Binayak Sen (London, 10 March 2009)
(iii) Film Screening: 'The Other Song' a film by Saba Dewan (New
Delhi, 12 March 2009)
(iv) “Jan Manch” on Employment Guarantee and the Right to Information
(New Delhi, 21 March 2009)
4 March 2009
THIS ATTACK STRUCK PAKISTAN'S LAST REDOUBT OF NATIONAL PRIDE
In a country accustomed to horror, we cling to a different narrative,
where cricket is heart and soul. Today, that lies in tatters
by Kamila Shamsie
On a bright morning in March 2004 I heard a cheer so loud it drowned
out all conversation in the stands of Karachi's National Stadium. I
looked immediately to the field, thinking the cricketers must have
walked on to warm up before the game commenced. No one but cricketers
could draw that kind of cheer from such a heterogeneous Pakistani
crowd. But the field was empty, and for explanation I had to turn
towards the entry to the stands, where a large group of spectators
had just walked in, carrying with them the largest Indian flag I had
ever seen. The cheers for those Indian spectators and their flags
went on all through the day, and when the nailbiting game ended in an
Indian victory, every Pakistani still left smiling. "Cricket won
today," someone told me. "The nation won today," someone else said.
When anyone claims cricket is "just a game", I always point back to
that bright Karachi day and try to explain the euphoria that raced
through those stands, the sense of history pausing in its tired, war-
mongering steps and considering another route. Observers, both
national and international, correctly analysed that the cheers for
the Indians revealed the deep desire of "the average Pakistani" (a
term synonymous with "cricket fan") for the governments of both
nations to put aside their jingoism and bellicose posturing.
But there was something else at play in Karachi that day. The
citizens of that bloodied, resilient city were sending a message to
cricket boards worldwide which had long deemed Karachi too unsafe to
play in, often scheduling tours that excluded the National Stadium.
The message was this: "Come and play here; we are not terrorists."
Pakistan is not a country that attracts international audiences and
participants from the world of arts and culture. So, all my life,
cricket has been the only truly high-profile opportunity for the
world to see televised images of Pakistan that are not about politics
or terrorism - or, increasingly, the grim overlap between the two.
Cricket is front and centre, heart and soul, of the "alternative
narrative" of Pakistan, the story that isn't about destruction and
terror but rather about all the aspects of life in Pakistan worth
celebrating, and also, just as crucially, about all the aspects of
life in Pakistan as unremarkable and harmless as a ball tapped to mid-
on for no run in the last session of a dead rubber.
With the attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore, that
alternative narrative lies so wounded it's hard to imagine how it
will ever recover. How can we ask anyone to visit us, if even
cricketers aren't safe? How can we feel safe ourselves when we have
seen one of our most glorious cricket pitches turned into a helipad
for the army to airlift players out to safety?
The attack on the Sri Lankan players and their security detail is not
an isolated horror, nor is it the worst thing to happen to Pakistan
in the last few months. The bombing of girls' schools, the attack on
civilians by the armed forces in their failed attempts to curb
militancy, the defence of "honour killings" by members of the
government - all these crimes speak to the rot in the system in a
profound way. But the reason so many of us are knocked sideways by
this particular attack is that the terrorists have reached into that
place we always thought of as refuge, that place in which Pakistan
could compete with the best in the world, that place where we had
space to believe that a man running in to throw a red sphere at
another man holding a piece of wood was the most vital matter to
which the nation had to attend.
"Perhaps, though, if we are to try desperately for a silver lining,
we can say ..." one of my friends ventured, in response to the
attacks, before her voice trailed off into gloomy silence.
But I knew the end of her sentence. "When a group attacks cricket it
ensures that the whole nation will turn against them, rise up against
them. So if people believe it was the Taliban or the Lashkar-e-
But the sadder truth at the heart of Pakistan's psyche is that we
have been made so cynical, so mistrustful of the world that there is
unlikely to be agreement about who sent the gunmen. The government is
already saying the attack was meant to destroy Pakistan's
international reputation (which every Pakistani recognises as code
for "India did it".) And if the Taliban or the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba
or any other group is blamed, there will be many who'll say that
cricket is so beloved that the attack is just a set-up to harden
public opposition to those groups and justify any action the
government takes against them.
A couple of weeks ago in Karachi, I was being interviewed on a
talkshow. "What are the three things you want for Pakistan?" my
ebullient host asked.
"Get rid of the Taliban. Overhaul the political system so we don't
see any of the old faces again. And please, find someone willing to
come here for a cricket tour."
As of yesterday, I have to take that last hope off the table.
• Kamila Shamsie's new novel Burnt Shadows is published this week
o o o
4 March 2008
PAKISTAN TEAM FOR JOINT FIGHT AGAINST TERROR
— Photo: Rajeev Bhatt
Pakistan peace delegation members (from left) Karamat Ali, Zulfiqar
Shah, Amina Zaman, Syed Iqbal Haider and social activist Swami
Agnivesh interact with media in New Delhi on Tuesday.
NEW DELHI: A visiting Pakistani peace delegation has called for a
coordinated action by India and Pakistan to beat terrorism.
Talking to journalists here on Tuesday, Karachi-based trade union
leader and peace activist Karamat Ali said the attack on the Sri
Lankan cricket team in Lahore on Tuesday and the Mumbai attack on
November 26 last year showed that terrorism knew no borders and it
required a coordinated action by the two countries to curb such
“The Mumbai-like attack in Lahore is an indicator that there is no
guarantee that such incidents will not recur. In fact, we apprehend
an escalation in the coming years,” Mr. Ali said.
Terrorism was a common enemy that had dismayed people in Pakistan as
it had Indians. It had reversed the bilateral negotiations between
the two countries and set back the forward movement on various issues
made under the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
The 12-member delegation is visiting India as part of the joint
signature campaign initiated by civil society organisations in India
and Pakistan simultaneously. The campaign, launched after the Mumbai
terror attack, was against terrorism and war posturing and for
promoting cooperation and peace between the two countries. Hundreds
of organisations working on a large number of issues in different
parts of the sub-continent participated.
The issues highlighted are zero-tolerance to religious terrorism in
the two countries, setting up of joint investigation agencies and
carrying out probes by mutual assistance and totally ruling out war
as a possibility as it was not in anyone’s interest. Further it
demands from the SAARC member States ratification of a convention
signed in 1987 to fight terrorism in the SAARC region.
The petitions, on which the signatures were obtained, will be
presented to the President, Vice-President and Prime Minister of both
the countries to pressure the respective government to bring about
“The destinies of the two countries are inextricably linked and
therefore the people should take up the issue themselves. Otherwise
important problems like poverty, illiteracy and security will take a
back seat,” Mr. Ali pointed out. Here, the media had an important
role to play by showing restraint instead of creating war hype and
indulging in jingoism, the delegation said.
o o o
Inter Press Service
TERRORISTS AIM FOR DESTABILISATION, MEDIA ATTENTION
by Beena Sarwar
KARACHI, Mar 4 (IPS) - South Asia seems to be caught in a vortex of
violence as the countries that form this region - from Sri Lanka at
the southern-most tip, Bangladesh to the east, Nepal crowning the
north, Pakistan along the west and India in the middle - deal with
internal nightmares that their governments routinely blame on
Wednesday’s armed attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in the
historic city of Lahore in Pakistan has sent shockwaves through a
country already racked by regular suicide and other attacks.
Eight Pakistani policemen died and several were injured saving the
Sri Lankan cricketers, eight of whom were wounded in the attack.
At the other end of the sub-continent, Bangladesh is still reeling
from the shock of a border guards’ mutiny over pay and working
conditions, resulting in soldiers massacring over 70 officers,
including some of their wives.
Some analysts fear that the horrific incident might elicit copycat
responses elsewhere too, where soldiers are unhappy with the tasks
they are made to do.
Meanwhile, India has yet to recover from the horror of the attacks in
Mumbai that claimed some 180 lives. New Delhi had, as a direct result
of the attacks, called off participation of the Indian cricket team
in the Pakistan tests.
Sri Lanka, in the last stages of a heavy-handed army operation
against the Tamil separatists who have been fighting a guerrilla war
against the state for over two decades, could hardly have imagined
that its cricket team would come under fire in Pakistan, a friendly
Still, as the Sri Lankans told journalists after the Lahore attack,
they had come here "well aware of the risks".
Analysts point out that Tamil separatists are unlikely to be
responsible for the attack, given the back foot that they are
The Sri Lankan team, in Lahore for a five-day test match where they
already played for the first two days, were en route from their hotel
to the stadium early in the morning on Mar. 3 when the gunmen attacked.
The firing reportedly began from three directions as the van slowed
down near a roundabout close to the red-brick cricket stadium. Shaky
television footage showed men with guns and backpacks taking position
and firing. Their first target was the police escort.
According to the van driver, one of them flung a hand grenade which
rolled under the van without damaging it. He said that the cricketers
flung themselves to the floor of the van as he accelerated to escape
the gunfire, managing to get the bullet-riddled van with the
cricketers to the stadium.
There is universal condemnation for an act which many believe is an
attempt to further discredit and isolate Pakistan. Many are praying
for the quick recovery of the injured cricketers who were airlifted
to Sri Lanka.
"They were our guests, they came to Pakistan when most people were
not willing to come," one man in Peshawar told a television journalist.
"We are a friendly and cricket-loving nation," said another passer-
by. "Now no cricket team will want to play here."
The incident has more or less put paid to Pakistan’s aspirations of
hosting the next World Cup in 2011, say observers.
The attackers struck at a sport that is hugely popular across South
Asia, a quick throwback to a common colonial past (for all the
countries except Nepal which was never under British rule), a legacy
that includes the English language, administrative systems and railways.
In normal times, India and Pakistan’s cricket teams on the wicket
pitch elicit responses akin to surrogate battlefields. A Pakistan-
India game is referred to in parts of India as 'Qayamat' (doomsday).
Despite the keen rivalry, love of the sport is a unifier. ‘Cricket
diplomacy’ has featured among the permissible people-to-people
contacts that have grown immensely over the past decade or so.
"Cricket is not the bone of discord between the two countries," Gul
Hameed Bhatti, group editor sports of the country’s largest media
group, Jang told IPS. "Basically the problem is the tensions between
both countries, and cricket becomes the casualty. This incident has
thrown cricket and other sports back into the dark ages. I don’t see
anyone agreeing to come and play here now."
Bhatti added that he had long "feared that this was a disaster
waiting to happen because the situation in the rest of the country is
so volatile. It was unrealistic to think that sportsmen could remain
isolated from it’’.
Nor, say analysts, can other areas of society, like culture. In early
November, explosions on the penultimate night of a major
international performing arts festival in Lahore caused panic. There
were no casualties although some people sustained minor injuries.
Artists, foreign and local, defiantly rallied around to make the
festival’s last day a resounding success.
Ironically, the festival was held in the cultural complex next to the
Gaddafi cricket stadium where the Sri Lankans were headed when they
Most people, said Bhatti, "had become complacent, thinking they would
never target sportsmen."
They included Pakistani cricket hero turned politician Imran Khan who
shortly after the Mumbai attacks categorically told an Indian
newspaper, "There is no problem about the security of cricketers in
Pakistan. The terrorists will never target cricketers knowing that
they will then lose the battle of hearts and minds of the people.
Cricketers are safe in Pakistan."
The audacious attack in an upmarket Lahore locality is now being
compared to the Mumbai attacks, where ten gunmen targeted symbols of
national strength. Police are saying that about a dozen gunmen were
involved in the Lahore attacks.
Cricket is an area where Pakistan has traditionally shone as a global
power with a huge fan following around the world.
Security fears have, however, massively dented enjoyment of the sport
as many foreign teams have over the past years cancelled tours,
including India after the Mumbai attacks that similarly cast a shadow
over ‘India shining’, raising doubts about internal security.
Pakistan, already beset by multiple political problems, has for some
time been facing a deadly threat from the ‘jehadi’ forces - regional
players like the Taliban (from Afghanistan and Pakistan), the
international al-Qaeda, and local militant outfits like the banned
Laskhar-e-Tayyaba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed, many of whom with roots
in the southern Punjab and links to Pakistan’s intelligence agencies
that nurtured them during the Afghan war of the 1980s.
Following the events of 9/11, these forces have converged, to emerge
as a greater threat than ever before, not just for Pakistan, but for
world peace, say analysts.
Their agenda is not just to enforce what they consider to be an
Islamic system, but to overrun and destabilise the state itself.
Pakistanis have suffered heavily under this agenda, paying a heavy
price for the policies of military rulers - who have run the country
for more than half its 60 years of existence - that civilian
governments have been unable to change.
These policies include cultivating ‘Islamic warriors’ to fight
against the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan during the 1980s,
supporting the Taliban in order to create ‘strategic depth’ in
Afghanistan (citing the threat of a hostile India on the eastern
border), and using some of these elements to bleed India in the
disputed region of Kashmir.
No elected government in Pakistan has ever completed its tenure. They
are routinely overthrown either by the army or dismissed by various
Presidents using the powers invested in that office by the military
dictator Gen. Ziaul Haq who also got himself appointed as President.
The current elected government, say analysts, is the first that is
actually serious about fighting the jehadi threat which it recognises
as endangering the country’s very existence. "But it appears that
various elements within the establishment are still bogged down in
the old policies and are unwilling to give democracy a chance," said
Just as enraged Indians had "jumped on the blame Pakistan bandwagon"
immediately following the Mumbai attacks of November, "some here are
now blaming the Indian hand," says Bhatti.
Many see the attack on the Sri Lankan team as an attempt to take
‘revenge’ for Mumbai and an attempt to isolate Pakistan internationally.
Lt. Gen. (retd.) Hameed Gul, former head of Pakistan’s shadowy Inter
Services Intelligence (ISI) and a known hawk, was on television
saying that "India wants to declare Pakistan a terrorist state". The
attack on the Sri Lankan team, he declared, "is related to that
The Pakistan government itself has been more circumspect as have
other analysts, including retired army officers like Maj. Gen. (retd)
Jamshed Ayaz Khan who cautioned against such accusations "without a
The Sri Lankan government’s response has been conciliatory.
"Pakistan's cricket team was willing to visit our country when others
weren't because of security worries," said Palitha T.B. Kohona, Sri
Lanka's foreign secretary, "and his government was pleased to
reciprocate. The game must not be affected by a lunatic fringe".
Ironically, media proliferation, particularly the 24/7 television
news channels, has increased the intensity and probability of such
dramatic high-profile attacks, say analysts. Terrorism thrives in the
media spotlight which terrorists successfully attracted in Mumbai
last November and now with the Lahore attack.
Ultimately, those who suffer the most after such incidents are
ordinary people in India and Pakistan, say observers. The Lahore
attack is bound to generate further tension between the two countries
which have still not resumed the composite dialogue process stalled
after the Mumbai attacks in November.
Rather than cooperating to solve a common problem, India and Pakistan
remain prisoners of their hostile pasts. The ultimate winners in this
game, note analysts, will only be the terrorists whose aim is
destablisation and creation of tension around the world.
o o o
The New York Times
LAHORE MURDER MYSTERY
by Ali Sethi
March 3, 2009
YESTERDAY afternoon, Ali Raza went to the hospital. A 25-year-old
constable in the Punjab police department, Ali Raza was accompanying
an old man who needed an M.R.I. scan. In the reception area, he
noticed that the waiting patients had abandoned their chairs and were
standing around the television. They had been watching the same
images all day: a dozen unidentified gunmen, two wearing backpacks,
firing at a van near the Liberty Market roundabout. The intended
victims, the TV stations had reported, were members of the Sri Lankan
national cricket team, in town here to play Pakistan. The dead: eight
Pakistanis, including six of Ali Raza’s fellow police officers.
“Everyone at the hospital was saying the same thing,” Ali Raza told
me later that night, as we stood in line at a brightly lighted stall
selling paan — a mild stimulant made with betel nuts — near the Main
Market roundabout, just a short walk away from the site of the
attack. “They were saying that this was done to show the Indians that
we in Pakistan are also the victims of terrorism.”
“You think our own government did it?” I asked.
“No one else could get away with this kind of thing,” he insisted.
He described the attackers’ feat: they appeared out of nowhere at one
of the city’s busiest intersections and fired for more than 20
minutes at the van carrying the players to Qaddafi Stadium, and then
fled in rickshaws.
“I know the kind of precautions we have to take when we are in a
V.I.P. motorcade,” the young officer told me. “And this was a
‘V.V.I.P.’ motorcade. Every house in that neighborhood was surrounded
by the police. My friend was there and he told me the attackers
didn’t receive a single wound.”
A young man in a T-shirt who was standing next to us at the paan
stall asked, “Was your friend hurt?”
Ali Raza said, “He is fine, by the grace of God.”
This kind of talk was not limited to paan stalls. There had been all
sorts of opinions expressed on the privately owned TV channels, which
now bring live video and commentary from the sites of terrorist
attacks to much of Pakistan’s urban population. The governor of
Punjab Province, who last week ousted the elected provincial
government on the orders of President Asif Ali Zardari, was on camera
immediately after the attack, and compared it to the terrorist
attacks in Mumbai, India, last November.
Others were more specific: a member of the opposition Pakistan Muslim
League said he “had no doubt” that this was the work of the Indian
intelligence agencies. A former head of Pakistan’s security service,
the I.S.I., agreed with him. An analyst from Islamabad, discussing
the attack later in the day on a popular chat show, said that “from
every angle” it was evident that India, by attacking a foreign
cricket team in Pakistan, had gained. “Who benefits?” she said. “You
have to ask who benefits.”
Another guest on the show, an elderly sage in a dark blue suit and a
bright blue tie, wearing spectacles and speaking with slow, slotting
movements of his hand, said that the blaming of one country by
another was always counterproductive because, in the end, it took the
focus away from domestic troubles. He gave the example of Benazir
Bhutto’s assassination, which had immediately led to conspiracy
theories but was still awaiting a proper inquiry. “When there is
confusion,” he said, “the only people who benefit are the miscreants.”
A former intelligence official I know had a different theory. He said
he had seen a report some weeks ago warning of exactly this kind of
attack in Lahore, possibly against a cricket team. He said it came
from the rumor mill that “leads back to Waziristan” in Pakistan’s
tribal areas. “So this is a security failure,” he said. “But it’s not
an intelligence failure.”
Later at night it was reported that the government had found bags
that held guns, hand grenades and almonds. This was followed by the
televised funeral of one of the slain policemen. His female relatives
were sitting around his corpse, wailing and beating their chests. His
father, surrounded by cameras, was looking at the floor and saying
that he was proud of his son for serving his country.
Again at the paan stall, now surrounded by listeners, I asked Ali
Raza if he thought there was a chance that the attack was the work of
terrorists or criminals. “There is a chance,” he admitted. “But it
could be the agencies. It could be the government. It could be India
I asked, “What about other people?”
“Which other people?”
I said, “The people who kidnap journalists and bomb the homes of
politicians and slit the throats of government spies.”
He was thinking about it.
The man operating the paan stall was lining moistened betel leaves
with spices and condiments. He had on a tattered apron, which is worn
by men like him to keep the notoriously messy paan juice from
staining their clothes. He smiled at us and said, “Whoever has done
this has a lot of intelligence.” He paused. As he did, I looked over
the crowd, and thought that for all our various theories, it was a
point we could agree on. And then he finished, “For poor people,
everything is the same.”
Ali Sethi is the author of the forthcoming novel “The Wish Maker.”
A version of this article appeared in print on March 4, 2009, on page
A27 of the New York edition.
o o o
05 Mar, 2009
A MATCH ABANDONED OR A BATTLE LOST?
by Jawed Naqvi
Sri Lanka playing the match to the finish it would have be the best
way to lead the counter attack on terrorism. — Reuters/File Photo
Had the Sri Lankan players not been so jolted by the vicious attack
in Lahore, I would have wanted them to go and play the match to the
finish for that would be the best way to lead the counter attack on
The din of the applause would be enough to pulverise the terrorists
in their lair. Abandoning the match was the easier option, but then
we are used to more grievous compromises.
We have abandoned elementary civility, not to speak of basic human
rights or higher purposes of democracy, in our search for an antidote
to the scourge of religious terrorism. Fear of sounding facetious
will not stop me from likening the current overall anti-terror
strategy to the hunt for a bandicoot that turned an agreeable home
into a pile of wreckage.
Not everything happening on Pakistan’s borders with Afghanistan can
be explained by recourse to religious metaphors. Any school kid who
wrote the Senior Cambridge history exam would remember the question
repeated year after year: The retreat became a rout, the rout a
massacre — who said that and why? I think it was Stanley Lane-Poole
who said it, and he said it in the context of one of colonial
Britain’s disastrous campaigns in Afghanistan. In that outing the
rented troops — you can still read their names on India Gate — were
routed and only a solitary English doctor survived to tell the tale
of the nightmare.
The Pakhtuns were even then devout Muslims and their adversaries in
the battlefield mainly Christian with a motley sprinkling of Sikh,
Hindu and Muslim soldiers. Did anyone call the British campaigns a
crusade or the resistance a jihad? Afghan women still observed hijab,
perhaps more voluntarily than they do in today’s Saudi Arabia. And if
the Taliban were so insufferable why were they received so warmly in
1997 in Houston by the then Texan governor George W. Bush? There’s
something we are missing in the narrative.
I do not know how others saw it, but from New Delhi middle-class
Pakistanis looked a nicely liberal lot, convivial to a fault and with
social graces that were missing in some other civilised societies in
the neighbourhood. India was feting a great Pakhtun leader from
Pakistan whose secularism was unimpeachable. This is where it seems
the fine balance between tradition and modernity was upset by a
Pakistani general and his American minders. They contracted him to
carry out the world’s first completely outsourced war, and called it
From the way the world is now concerned about the Taliban menace, it
seems that all other routes to return to the cave days have been
safely blocked. This is obviously a fallacy, particularly when we
know that countless attempts were made, and more are still being
considered, by the supposedly civilised hemisphere to destroy the
world many times over. Remember that the two world wars were fought
way before Muslim zealots arrived on the global centre-stage. The
next one, if our luck fails, would be a nuclear one.
But Pakistan is in trouble, serious trouble today. A spokesman for
India’s Congress party, speaking after the Lahore attack, described
it as a Somalia of South Asia. It was a comment bereft of any
historical context and seems to have been inspired by communal
rhetoric before the general elections in India.However, the
unnecessary and concocted debate between tradition and modernity
reminds me of the actual battle-line in Iran in 1978. The Shah had
projected himself as the saviour of modernity in Iran. He together
with his American gurus missed the undercurrent of resentment against
western-backed intrusions on a largely conservative society.
In a nutshell, religious fanaticism in the duplicitous world of high
sentence and underhand diplomacy is not only good but also desirable,
as long as it does not threaten some of the world’s more powerful
nations. The Iranian mullahs soon found themselves not just leading a
campaign for Islam but one that was essentially against the West.
Is that not the lesson to draw from the American support for Saudi
Arabia and its simultaneous rejection of the Iranian revolution? What
is the worst-case scenario if the Taliban do take over Pakistan, as
President Asif Zardari fears they could? Would there be Islamic law
in Pakistan? Is that the worry? But then the western hemisphere had
shored up Gen Ziaul Haq with his views on Islamic law in the same
Pakistan, and with great aplomb.
Much of Pakistan’s steel frame system was indoctrinated with zealotry
in its mission to fight Soviet communism in Afghanistan. If the world
can live happily with the medieval laws of Saudi Arabia, and if it
could engineer out of virtually nothing the fanatically driven
leadership of Gen Zia then why this current fuss about the Taliban?
It’s true that their ways are medieval, but there is so much
medievalism that is already a core part of the stable world order.
If the Taliban do get to rule Pakistan, of which there is a very
remote academic possibility, they will have followed the route of
Iran’s Islamic rulers. Imagine that the CIA coup against the moderate
Iranian government of Mohammad Mossadeq in 1953 was replicated in
Pakistan by the hanging of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1979.
Against this backdrop, can we regard Gen Pervez Musharraf as the
modernist Shah? Both were secular and arrogant about their self-
perceived invincibility. The Shah fell after a combination of social
classes opposed him, with the help of the pro-Soviet Tudeh party of
Nooruddin Kianoori. There were pro-China Maoists — the Mujahideen-i-
Khalq — and, of course, the mullahs, followed by a large number of
pro-democracy liberals who rallied against the Shah. Does that have
an eerie resemblance to the lawyers’ movement in Pakistan, which
toppled Musharraf? The lawyers too commanded support from the Left to
the Right of the spectrum.
In this replication of an Iran-like scenario, someone has to play
Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan who followed the Shah. After his deal
with the Taliban in Swat, Zardari does look more like this Iranian
leader. Bazargan was a genial man with friends within the Iranian
clergy and among the liberal lot. Another liberal who claimed even
greater proximity with the mullahs eased him out. That was Abol Hasan
Ban-Sadr, who was soon dispatched to exile in France.
Where does India stand in this? On a wider canvass within the Muslim
world, India has shifted its loyalties from Iran to Saudi Arabia at
someone’s behest. The very principles that prompted the sea change
would propel it to support the Taliban if that is what American
policy dictates. In other words, there are no great principles
underpinning the Indian decision to oppose the Taliban takeover of
Swat. It is just a convenient posturing that would be directed not by
New Delhi but by the exigencies of the White House.
By abandoning the cricket match in Lahore and also signalling that no
international team would visit Pakistan in the foreseeable future the
world has shown its readiness to accept the worst in its battle
against otherwise ordinary bandicoots. Every abandoned match betrays
a willingness to accept defeat.
o o o
4 March 2009
Joint efforts in South Asia needed to tame the monster
The latest attack on Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore is yet another
grim reminder of how flawed policies have turned the security
scenario in South Asia so precarious. At this critical juncture it is
not only important to beef up security, look for security lapses and
probe why the cricket team of Sri Lanka, which itself is bogged down
by its own war battered regime, became the target. There is need to
move beyond these tried, tested and failed rituals and instead make
earnest efforts for a longer lasting solution. There is certainly no
room for knee jerk reaction, belligerence or half baked flip flops.
While repressive measures that tend to victimise people on basis of
community or ethnic identity need to be dispensed with, elements that
seek to use this is a legitimate reason for glamourising and
romanticising the gun also need to be discouraged, whether they are
state players or non state players. First of all, there is need to
understand that terrorism today is not isolated to certain pockets.
It has become a widespread phenomenon all over South Asia, India
being no exception. In fact in the post 9/11 scenario, it has
menacingly proved to be a global phenomenon with flawed US policy
encouraging more and more attacks of terror and not containing or
controlling them. Therefore, all saner elements and countries that
wish to progress towards democracy and not get steeped into the
darkness of such senseless violence have to join hands and make
sincere efforts to win over each other's trust. This assumes
significance in South Asia where petty politicking and wrong policies
are what have lead to the creation and nourishment of such acts of
terror which begin as not very menacing insurgencies and then grow
into monsters that become absolutely difficult to tame. Pakistan,
especially, appears to be sitting on the tinder box, and it may have
much to blame its own policies of the past for the present crisis it
finds itself in, though its neighbouring countries and geo-political
interests of the big powers especially United States in the region
have also played a detrimental role in adding fuel to the fire.
Pakistan which began to first support the Taliban in Afghanistan as a
knee jerk reaction, then turned into an US ally in the post 9/11
scenario, has been in the horns of dilemma for a long time and all
its bid to contain the terror acts to certain pockets that have been
the cause of discontent due to deprivation and repressive acts of the
country are fast turning out to be futile. This despite the fact that
for over a decade, and much before the 9/11 scenario, intelligentsia
within the country had been warning Pakistan against such an
eventuality. The country's ruling elite have either been blissfully
ignorant or in absolute denial even though it is an admitted fact
that section of its intelligence agencies and forces have been
fomenting trouble both in Afghanistan and Kashmir. India seems to be
repeating similar follies by militarising civilian space so
enormously in the conflict zones that trouble begins to pilfer
outside. The entire policy of arming civilians or forming a complex
network of informers from among civilians, and lack of accountability
and transparency about the number of arms and weapons seized during
operations, may yield some short term gains. But eventually it only
tends to romanticise the gun, forcing the other side to equally
glamourise it. The tendency to ignore the involvement of a section of
intelligence agencies or security forces, as has been amply
demonstrated in some cases of terror activities, has instead been
brushed under the carpet. India, unlike Pakistan, at least has the
advantage of learning from the mistakes its neighbour has committed,
and should immediately begin the process of undoing the similar
wrongs in its own territories. Besides, both Mumbai and Lahore
attacks have once again proved that there is need to desist from
blame game or indulge in condescending or belligerent rhetoric.
Rather, there is need for joint efforts and an immediacy to begin
building up mutual trust so that earnest efforts can begin to leash
the monster that is becoming a collective threat for not just India
and Pakistan but the entire sub-continent. Any bid to covertly and
overtly play up to the gallery of the fundamentalist elements,
irrespective of their religious identities, who only fan the fire of
terror acts, will only land us in more trouble. Restraint but
alertness may be the only key to the problem, besides oodles of
patience and trust.
o o o
Lahore attack shows urgency of joint action on terror
by Siddharth Varadarajan
Pakistan's militants ready for more
by Syed Saleem Shahzad
4 March 2009
LOST IN HOLY TRANSLATION
An Afghan's 20-year sentence for an 'offensive' translation of the
Qur'an highlights the country's descent into theological chaos
by Nushin Arbabzadah
The Taliban leader Mullah Omar recently asked his fighters to stop
the violence in Pakistan. According to Pakistani media outlets, the
mullah told his soldiers not to kill innocent Muslims because it
gives jihad a bad name. Could this be the first step towards homespun
turbans and a Salt March through the Hindu Kush? Far from it.
The mullah hasn't lost an inch of his belief in war, only he wants it
in Afghanistan not Pakistan. And so, last week, he told his troops
that if they want to do jihad, they should only do it in Afghanistan.
This in turn raised eyebrows in Kabul, with commentators asking the
obvious question: what about the Afghans? Aren't they innocent
Muslims too? But this is Afghanistan, a country where Muslims have
been fighting their fellow Muslims for the last three decades. This
internal jihad has been running parallel to the official jihad
against the Soviet army and now Nato. The current version led by the
Taliban not only targets "infidels" but also Afghan Muslims –
teachers and tribal leaders, women's rights activists and imams.
The sheer violence and absurdity of such a jihad has finally
encouraged Afghan intellectuals to try to salvage religion from those
who are destroying it. Ghows Zalmay, a celebrated journalist turned
self-appointed religious reformist, is one of them. As he understood
the issue, if Afghans were able to read the Qur'an in their own
language, they would become less prone to manipulation by firebrand
mullahs and also better Muslims as a result. So it was that in the
summer of 2007, Zalmay arranged for the pious people of Kabul to be
given free copies of the Qur'an in Dari translation. "You are now in
possession of your own Dari edition. Read it and remember us in your
prayers," he wrote in its preface. But if anybody did pray for
Zalmay, their prayers went unheard and on 27 February a court in
Kabul sentenced him to 20 years' imprisonment on charges of blasphemy.
Accused alongside Zalmay was Qari Mushtaq Ahmad, the imam of the
Tamim Ansar mosque in Kabul, who prior to its publication had read
the translation and confirmed its accuracy. In the preface to the
translation, Moshtaq had stated, "I, Qari Mushtaq Ahmad … the
preacher of the Tamim Ansar mosque, confirm that when the Dari
edition of this pure and heavenly book – which has been translated in
America by Ustad Qudratollah Bakhtiarinezhad – was placed at my
disposal, I read it in full and found the translation to be accurate,
and God forbid, with no change." In other words, the translation had
been checked by a man of authority who, in turn, made his approval
public by having his signature printed beneath his declaration.
So why the blasphemy charges? Here lies the crux: the translation had
omitted the original Arabic text. According to orthodox precedent,
the Qur'an is not the Qur'an unless it appears in the original
Arabic. Approved translations are acceptable only as long as they are
printed beside the Arabic text. For reasons unknown, Zalmay ignored
What happened next was predictable. Offended piety led to angry
demonstrations in which Zalmay was compared to Salman Rushdie. The
rumour merchants then did their bit to add fuel to the fire. The
translation turns haram into halal, they said. It omits some verses
and willfully mistranslates others. It approves of homosexuality.
Zalmay must be killed, they demanded. The magnitude of his problems
finally dawned on Zalmay, and with his brother he got hold of a pair
of army uniforms and, disguised as officers, they set off for the
Pakistani border at Torkham. There he was caught and arrested. It
turned out the notoriously hard to control border was easy to control
That was in early November 2007. In the year between his arrest and
sentencing, Zalmay almost entirely disappeared from the news. When he
finally appeared in court in Kabul two weeks ago, he was dressed in
traditional attire, wearing a chapan gown and an oversized turban. In
remorseful mood, he admitted to having made mistakes. He pleaded for
forgiveness, but in vain: he received a 20-year sentence. It was 365
days more than the term given last year to Abdullah Sarwary, the head
of the communist-era secret service agency responsible for the
killing and torture of hundreds of mujahedin during the 1980s.
Despite its ending, Zalmay's story is no cautionary tale. On the
contrary, it is symptomatic of a broader trend towards religious
individualism in Afghanistan. In theory, such democratising of Islam
is positive as it empowers the disadvantaged. But in reality, it has
led to theological chaos and social fragmentation as rival
interpretations of Islam compete for followers and clash with each
other, sometimes violently, as more and more people employ Islam as a
means of social and political empowerment.
Ghows Zalmay and Mullah Omar are both Afghan Muslims, yet their
understanding of Islam is radically different. Omar's Islam is a
transnational religion, appealing to an Arab, Pakistani and Afghan
following alike. Zalmay's Islam, by contrast, has a more
nationalistic character, seen in his attempt to encourage Afghans to
read the Qur'an in their own language. A Pashto translation was also
planned, but didn't materialise after the reaction to the Dari
translation. If 20 years in prison seemed a lot for translating a
book, then buried in the sentence are the implications of replacing a
single transnational Arabic Qur'an with a plurality of national
versions of it.
 Sri Lanka:
28 February 2009
THE VALUE OF DISSENT
(Notebook Of A Nobody) by Shanie
E. Saravanapavan, managing director of Tamil language newspaper
Sudaroli, gestures as he describes the arrest of his editor
Vidyadaran at a funereal parlor in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Thursday, Feb.
26, 2009. Sri Lankan police arrested the editor of a Tamil-language
newspaper in the middle of a funeral Thursday, accusing him of aiding
a rebel air attack on the capital last week. (AP)
I have raised the questions, daughter
which you and your kids must ponder.
I feel guilty I did not sooner
in my lifetime urge them stronger.
And now, ere I answers provide
I may in cold blood be buried.
Have I your futures compromised?
Ken Saro-Wiwa was a Nigerian writer and activist, a leader of the
minority Ogoni people, who was tried in a sham trial by the then
military regime and hanged in 1995. He wrote this poignant poem for
Zina, his daughter, shortly before his execution. This poem is
included in an excellent series of booklets under the title ‘The
Value of Dissent’ put out by the Civil Rights Movement of Sri Lanka
between 1991 and 2000. The poem has relevance today to an alarming
growth of a culture of intolerance in our country. It is not only the
state authorities, but also various armed groups and individuals act
with impunity by resorting to violence against those who dissent and
who disagree with them. This week’s arrest of the Sudar Oli editor
Vidyatharan was the latest in the harassment and intimidation of
journalists and dissidents. Vidyatharan may or may not be guilty of
the charges being made against him, but the manner of his arrest
raises several questions and doubts. It is similar to the arrest of
journalist Tissanayagam, his incarceration for several months, and
the ‘charges’ made against him in a trial that is still going on.
The CRM’s publication also reproduces an extract from a 2nd Century
BC Pali text ‘Milinda Prasna’ a conversation between King Milinda and
the Buddhist monk Nagasena:
The King said, "Bhante Nagasena, will you converse with me?"
"Sire, if you will converse with me under the fashion of the wise, I
will. But if you converse with me as Kings converse, I will not."
"And how, Bhante Nagasena, do the wise converse?"
"Sire, when the wise converse, whether they become entangled in their
opponent’s arguments or extricate themselves, or whether they or
their opponents are shown to be in error, and whether their own
superiority or that of their opponents is proved, none of these
things can make them angry."
"And how, Bhante, do kings converse?"
"Sire, when Kings converse they put forward a proposition, and if any
should oppose it they order his punishment, saying, ‘Punish this
"Bhante, you are right. I will converse as the wise do, not as kings
do. Let your reverence converse with me in all confidence. Let your
reverence converse as unrestrainedly as if with a Bhikku, a novice, a
lay disciple or a keeper of the monastery grounds. Have no fear!"
In an introduction to this series, the CRM stated that the
publication originated in the context of the appalling violence that
had disfigured Sri Lanka, accompanied by a terrifying rise of
intolerance. The CRM identified as a priority the need to promote
understanding of not only the right to dissent but also the intrinsic
value of dissent. ‘Threats to the free exchange of ideas certainly do
not come from government alone. They can and do come from other
sources too; from various social and political groups, from communal
and individual attitudes, even from majority public opinion. Indeed,
the suppression of opposing views by the state is often with the
support of society at large; governments in many ways reflect
society’s prejudices. However, intolerance from whatever source is
dangerous to society, and must be identified and opposed.’
The CRM’s warnings are even truer today with growing threats,
intimidation and even killing of dissidents. Despite President
Rajapakse’s attempts at damage control, these petty ‘potentates’
continue to act with impudence and impunity. These ‘fascist
tendencies’, to borrow Michael Roberts’ phrase, must be exposed and
opposed, for the sake of the future of democratic rule in our
country. As fellow Island columnist Tisaranee Gunasekera has stated,
the rule of law must not be allowed to be replaced by the law of the
The helplessness of the civilians
The current conventional phase of the war rumbles along nearing its
inevitable end. Tens of thousands of non-combatants however continue
to lie trapped in the conflict zone. Apologists for the two sides,
not caring a damn for the helplessness of these civilians, engage in
shameless rhetoric. One set of apologists deny the brutality of the
LTTE and deny that these trapped people are being used as human
shields. The other set of apologists seek to justify the harsh and
uncaring attitude towards these civilians. When they argue that those
remaining in the LTTE controlled territory are LTTE sympathisers and
deserve what they are being subjected to, they are in effect denying
the claim that LTTE is using them as human shields.
The situation is compounded by the de facto censorship imposed on the
media in the country. The ordinary people are deprived of independent
information about the actual ground situation for the civilians. All
this is sadly polarising our people as never before. The Tamil
diaspora is fed an exaggerated story of the otherwise genuine
suffering of the civilians and also a pro-LTTE slant to the real
ground situation in the Vanni. This in turn is relayed via the
internet to the middle class Tamils in the country and which then
filters down to the ordinary Tamil people. Sinhala supremacist
propaganda is readily made available to middle classes and the masses
via both the electronic and print media. Naturally the result is a
major polarisation between the Sinhala people and the minorities on
how they perceive the current political position. This polarisation
was more than evident in the way the people voted at the two
Provincial Council elections held recently. Radhakrishnan of the
Upcountry People’s Front stated that his Party which enjoyed
substantial support in Nuwara Eliya-Maskeliya and which contested
with the UPFA failed to win a single seat because the plantation
workers, subject to harassment under the guise of security measures,
voted against the Government. That was the ground situation for the
minorities. War rhetoric and controlled war news however worked to
the advantage of the Government among the Sinhala voters. The
intimidation and de facto censorship may prove effective in the short
term but in the longer term, history has repeatedly shown that it is
The Final War?
One vocal Sri Lankan diplomat has claimed that the current is the
final war – the war to end all wars against LTTE terrorism in our
country. He dismisses the fear expressed by many that once the
present conventional phase of the war lends and LTTE loses all
territory it controls, LTTE will revert to their former guerrilla war
strategy. Another diplomat in Vinayagamoorthy Muraltharan, alias
Colonel Karuna, now an Honourable Member of Parliament, disagrees.
(We refer to this gentleman as a diplomat because he was officially
issued a diplomatic passport by the government and allowed to travel
under his incarnation as Kokila Gunawardena.) This gentleman predicts
that the war will continue for twelve to eighteen months even after
the LTTE loses all its territory.
Who is right will probably depend on whether the LTTE supremo is
captured, killed or goes underground. Being a largely monolithic
outfit, the LTTE will probably disintegrate if he is no longer there
to provide leadership. But as Karuna predicts, the second tier of
leadership may carry on an underground guerrilla war for some months.
But if Pirapaharan himself goes underground, then we will have to
brace ourselves for a prolonged and uncertain guerrilla war.
The success or otherwise of such a guerrilla war will depend largely
on how the Government of Sri Lanka handles the aspirations of the
minorities. If it comes up with political package that ensures that
the Tamils, Muslims and other minorities feel that they are equal
partners with the Sinhala people and are being treated with justice
and dignity, then there is no potential for the LTTE or any other
militant group to exist and enjoy popular support, a sine qua non for
the success of a militant underground movement.
NEPAL MAOISTS 'RECRUIT THOUSANDS'
The Times of India
3 Mar 2009
'MEDIA CONSTANTLY TARGETED BY FUNDAMENTALISTS'
by Nandita Sengupta, TNN
NEW DELHI: Fundamentalists are not only increasingly targeting the
media but also getting away without punishment, say three editors who
recently arrested on charges of hurting public sentiment.
"Before arresting anybody, the authorities must determine whether the
law should be applied at all. Only then they should consider
prosecution", says Ravindra Kumar, editor of Kolkata's The Statesman.
Kumar was arrested on February 8 in Kolkata under IPC's Section 295A
to pacify a group of protestors. IPC's 295A forbids "deliberate and
malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings." Kumar's
crime? He had published an article by Johann Hari first carried in
The Independent on January 28. The piece, "Why should I respect
oppressive religions?" is a comment on how the space for criticism of
religion is getting alarmingly squeezed.
B V Seetaram, editor of Mangalore daily Karavali Ale (Coastal Wave),
says banal invoking of 295A has become a tool of harassment. Seetaram
was handcuffed and hauled before a court on January 4, arrested on a
two years old defamation case. Subsequently, the police foisted eight
cases on him under Section 295a to extend his detention by a month.
"The Bajrang Dal is out to make coastal Karnataka a mini Gujarat," he
says. "The continuous harassment we face by police and the Bajrang
Dal are only because we uphold secular values. We castigated them for
the Church attacks and the animosity began in right earnest," says
Basavaraj Swami, editor of Kannada daily Suddi Mole (Source of News)
faced religious hooliganism for the first time on February 20. A
small group lodged a complaint against a children's story, Mohammed
the Merciful, the Raichur paper published objecting to a sketch along
with the story. "We agreed to publish a corrigendum, and I even read
it out to them," says Basavaraj. But the small group swelled to a
2,000-strong mob which attacked his offices soon after.
"There is no place left for dialogue," says Basavaraj, finding in
local religious leaders the tendency to create mischief. The police,
he says, are all too easily outnumbered and the mob has to be appeased.
The editors were in the capital on Monday to attend a seminar titled,
"Is religion beyond media scrutiny?" Speaking during the seminar,
Justice J S Verma said that the interpretation of the law is just as
crucial. There are clear strictures on freedom of expression, and
while desisting from commenting on the current cases, Justice Verma
said that there must be punishment for malicious prosecution as well.
HINDU RASHTRA IS AGAINST CONSTITUTION: JUDGE
Mumbai: It is one thing to form a Hindu organisation and quite
another to speak of forming a Hindu state, which is not in keeping
with the Constitution, the special court under the Maharashtra
Control of Organised Crimes Act noted on Wednesday.
“Forming an organisation is fine, but wanting to create a Hindu
‘rajya’ [state] is against the Constitution. We are working under the
Constitution,” judge Y.D. Shinde said during a hearing in the
Malegaon blast case.
The judge’s remark came when counsel Shrikant Shivade, arguing the
case of bail for an accused, Lt. Col. Prasad Shrikant Purohit, said
there was nothing wrong with his vision of a Hindu ‘rashtra.’ “If I
say, ‘remove the word secular and insert the word Hindu,’ there is
nothing wrong in that,” counsel said.
The charge sheet reveals that the blast accused were led by the
ideology of forming a Hindu ‘rashtra.’
The transcripts placed on record highlight Lt. Col. Purohit’s
contempt for secularism and the Constitution.
26 February 2009
WHO SPEAKS FOR MUSLIMS?
It was rather rich of the VHP to ask the Deoband madrasa if Muslims
regard India as their homeland. But, even more dubious was Deoband
actually replying to such a question asked with an obvious malicious
by Arshad Alam
The VHP recently wanted to know from the Deoband madrasa if Muslims
regard India as their homeland.
It was perhaps extremely disappointing for them to learn Deoband's
answer that for the Muslims, India is not Dar al Harb (Land of War).
Neither is it Dar al Islam (Land of Islam) since India is not as
Islamic state. For the Deoband, India is Dar al Aman (Land of Peace)
since Muslims here are allowed complete religious freedom.
There is nothing new in this formulation; it has been the stated
position of Deoband since the 1920s when it argued for composite
nationalism; for Hindus and Muslims to come together to overthrow the
British rule. In its 150 years of existence, the Deoband has accepted
the principle of a secular state and has remained content with
operating among Muslims with its own understanding of Islam.
Most of Deoband's Islamic politics is veered around the notion that
Indian Muslims are lax in obeying the commands of Allah. Deoband
takes it as their duty to tell Indian Muslims what is right and what
is forbidden in Islam. Theirs is thus an internal Muslim politics of
religious reform having no express agenda to capture state power. In
fact, in the Indian context, even radical Islamists like the Ahl-e-
Hadis and the Jamat-e-Islami do not have this agenda, at least in
principle. This has gone down very well with the Indian state.
And yet, time and again, they have been asked to prove their loyalty
to the country. Strangely enough this time it was done by the VHP, a
criminal, lumpen organization of the Hindu Right. These marauding
thugs have been responsible for killing scores of Muslims, looting
their property and raping their women. Their own vision of their
motherland is not even remotely connected to the idea of India. They
have no conception of tolerance and pluralism, practices which are
deeply embedded in the Indian ethos and which in many ways make this
land unique. Theirs is a caricatured conception of the European idea
of a nation: one nation, one language, one religion; an idea which
has wrecked violence and hatred across the world. It seems very
dubious therefore for an organization of this despicable nature to
want to know from Deoband if it loves the fragrance of India. It
seems even more dubious when Deoband actually replies to such a
question asked with an obvious malicious intent.
By attempting to test the patriotism of Indian Muslims, the VHP wants
to pose as the custodian of Hindu faith. It wants to portray itself
as the sole defender of Hindu interests, a position which it has been
claiming ever since its inception with limited success. But if this
is the case with the VHP, the Deoband has not lagged far behind in
trying to claim the mantle of being the sole spokesman for Indian
Muslims. The question posed by the VHP offers it another opportunity
to position itself as the representative of Indian Muslims. After all
the VHP asked the Deoband to clarify Muslims' conception of a
homeland, assuming that the Deoband represents all Indian Muslim,
something for which the Deoband will be thankful to the VHP.
But the reality is far too complex for both the VHP and Deoband to
acknowledge and understand.
Although it would be hard for Deoband to acknowledge, but Indian
Muslims are extremely plural even in terms of their religious
orientation. These differences are interpretative, but have spawned
communities with different versions of Islamic understanding. Deoband
is one, just one of such many interpretative communities. This may
come as a surprise to many, but Deoband's interpretation of Islam is
not followed by the majority of Indian Muslims. Rather the majority
of Indian Muslims identify themselves as Sunni Barelwis, having a
radically different understanding and practice of Islam.This is not
the occasion to write about what the differences are, but it must be
underlined that despite the best efforts of Deoband for the past 150
years, it has not been able to wean away the majority of Indian
Muslims to their Islamic vision.
Adding to the plurality of Muslim landscape are other interpretative
communities such as the Ahl-e-Hadis, the Jamat-e-Islami, etc having
their own version of Islam, not to forget that within these broad
divisions there are further internal divisions. The Deoband thus is
as unrepresentative of Indian Muslims as the VHP is for Indian Hindus.
Moreover, both VHP and Deoband share the same vision for the
respective religions they claim to represent: to homogenize otherwise
extremely plural religious traditions. Thus we have a classic case of
two unrepresentative and undemocratic bodies laying claim to
represent their respective religious communities.
Ordinary Hindus have always questioned the VHP's claim that it
represents all the Hindus. It is time someone asked Deoband the same
 SIGN THIS ONLINE PETITION AGAINST ATTACKS ON WOMEN IN KARNATAKA
Attacks on Women in Karnataka
1 March 2009
Over the last one week, several women have been violently attacked in
• On 28 Feb at 10.30 pm, Sanjana got hit by two men on a bike who
slowed down, socked her on her jaw and fled away.
• On 24 Feb, Lakshmi was attacked at around 9 pm by four men who
punched her, hit her, and abused her for wearing jeans.
• On 17 Feb, two men chased Geetanjali’s car at 1.30 pm. One chased
her with a large stone as she ran to a friend’s house for refuge.
• That week, Jasmine was attacked by four middle-aged men at 11.30 am
when her auto broke down. They physically assaulted and tried to
disrobe her while yelling obscenities.
More than 80 attacks and cases of moral policing have been reported
from all over Karnataka in the last six months. Two women have
committed suicide after humiliation from right-wing forces. On 12
Feb, Vanita killed herself after Bajrang Dal activists attacked her.
On 11 Feb, Ashwini killed herself after Venur Bajrang activists
attacked her and her friend Salim.
The police have not taken meaningful steps to stop or prevent this
violence, to arrest the perpetrators, or to ensure the safety of all
women in Bangalore and Karnataka. On the 2nd of March when a group of
concerned citizens protested outside the Police Commission Shankar
Bidari’s office, urging him to take action to make the city safer for
women he blatantly denied the fact that these attacks have been
taking place and said Bangalore is one of the safest cities for women
and that there was no law and order problem.
These attacks are crimes against women. They are legal offences. They
are neither isolated events nor trivial incidents of ‘eve-teasing’.
They are part of a series of attacks inflicted on women in the name
of ‘morality’, attacks that are escalating as women resist and fight
It is the core responsibility of the state and city police to ensure
that public spaces are kept safe for all. Women across class barriers
– from powrakarmikas to garment factory workers to students and young
professionals in the corporate sector – have today become vulnerable
targets on the streets of Karnataka.
As an organization fighting for the rights of all women, we demand
that the Bangalore and Karnataka state and city police immediately:
• Take punitive action to ensure that the attackers are punished by
• Take preventive action to ensure that no more women are attacked in
Bangalore and Karnataka;
• Take enabling action to ensure that streets and public spaces in
Bangalore and Karnataka are safe for all women to use and enjoy as a
matter of right.
The Times of India
5 Mar 2009
GANDHI ITEMS' OWNER WANTS INDIA TO VALUE HEALTH OVER DEFENSE
by Chidanand Rajghatta , TNN
Washington: An American ''peacenik'' in possession of items relating
to Mahatma Gandhi has offered to withdraw them from a scheduled
Thursday if the Indian government shifts its budgetary priority from
military spending to health care.
In a brief one-page proposal sent to India’s Consul-General Prabhu
Dayal in New York, James Otis, the Los-Angeles-based peace activist
and film maker also wanted, alternatively, ''financial support'' and
the good offices of Indian embassies and consulates for educational
events that use the Gandhi items to promote Gandhian ideas.
Such events, he suggested, could take place in 78 countries around
the world, one for each of the number of years Gandhi lived.
Otis' note was headlined PROPOSAL TO THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA FROM
GANDHI’S POSSESSIONS TO GANDHI’S ACTIONS.
Dayal and his aides are still studying the ''proposals'' and
conferring with Washington and New Delhi, uncertain about whether
Otis is playing for time and money or is a well-meaning peacenik.
The initial feeling when Otis met the CG and his aides for nearly two
hours this morning was that he was pushing the envelope for a bigger
return than the $20,000-$30,000 (the floor price at the auction) that
the Indian government was ready to offer. But Otis called on the CG
again in the evening with a draft proposal to show his good intent.
Some officials though felt Otis’ proposal was just too vague and he
was just playing for time to forestall any other move the Indian
government or the US authorities could make to prevent the auction.
In any event, the Indian team spent significant length of time with
Otis and his friend Prof Lester Kurtz, an academic at Virginia's
George Mason University, explaining to them the emphasis in recent
Indian budgets on health and education and the India's security needs
that necessitated a modest military expense.
It was also conveyed to them that a sovereign country could not sign
any agreement (which he insisted) with individuals on budgetary
matters. However, New Delhi in principle had no differences with his
views on greater social sector spending.
Although Otis told Indian representatives that he ''anxiously''
looked forward to the Indian reply and to ''working out details with
you tomorrow if there is some agreement to either of these
proposals,'' the auction house Antiquorum confirmed to TOI that the
items would go under the hammer at 2 p.m. Thursday.
Sources privy to the talks told TOI late Wednesday night that the
Consul General had forwarded Otis's ''proposal'' to New Delhi and was
awaiting instructions. Separately, a representative of Otis said they
would wait till the morning to hear from Indian officials before
deciding on a future course of action — or auction.
The Center For South Asia
presents a lecture by
THE DEMONIC AND THE SEDUCTIVE IN RELIGIOUS NATIONALISM
Friday, March 6, 4:30 p.m.
334 Education (Cubberley)
co-sponsored by The Stanford Humanities Center
Dr. Nandy is a political psychologist and social theorist whose
path-breaking work has revitalized scholarship on political
psychology, the Indian encounter with colonialism, mass violence,
nationalism and culture. In 2008, he was listed as one of the top
100 public intellectuals of the world by the journal Foreign Policy,
published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. One of
his most celebrated books, The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of
Self Under Colonialism (1983), is currently being honored as it comes
out in its 30th edition.
- - -
PUBLIC MEETING ON BINAYAK SEN IN LONDON
Date: Tuesday, 10 March 2009.
Time: 7.00 p.m.
Venue: SOAS main building (room 4421), Thornaugh Street, Russell
Square, London WC IX 0XG
Speakers: Professor Ilina Sen (feminist scholar, human rights
activist, wife of Binayak Sen); Kavita Srivastava (People's Union For
Civil Liberties, India); Ramesh Gopalakrishnan (Amnesty
International); Professor Jonathan Parry (London School of
Economics); Mike Marqusee (writer, activist).
Binayak Sen, doctor and civil rights activist, has been in prison
since 14 May 2007, when he was arrested under the Chhattisgarh
Special Public Security Act (which allows arrest up to 90 days
without charge) on suspicion of 'involvement' with Maoist insurgents.
The mineral-rich central Indian state of Chhattisgarh has seen
massive forced displacement of adivasi (tribal) people to make way
for the exploitation of resources by private companies in recent
years. In this context, a civil war-like situation has emerged in the
state, marked by brutal conflict between the state and the Maoists,
who control significant stretches of territory. Binayak and Ilina Sen
have been campaigning for human rights in Chhattisgarh for many
years, and have been outspoken opponents of the Salwa Judum, a state-
sponsored paramilitary terror initiative, which has involved arming
local people 'against Maoists' and thus unleashing even deeper strife
in the state. Soon after helping expose police involvement in the
killing of 12 tribal people on 31 March 2007, Binayak Sen was
targeted and imprisoned. His applications for bail have repeatedly
been rejected by Indian courts.
Sen is nationally and globally known for his work in community
health. In 1983, he was instrumental in setting up the community-
based Shaheed Hospital for mine-workers, and, later, was a member of
the state advisory committee initating community-based health
programmes across the state. Recently, while in jail, he was awarded
the Jonathan Mann Award by the Global Health Council for his work
with impoverished communities and his commitment to human rights.
Sen's advocacy and activism, in the fields of both health and civil
rights, have been a persistent thorn in the side of the Chhattisgarh
government and, at a deeper level, the Indian state and its neo-
liberal agenda. The embarrassingly flimsy 'evidence' on which he was
arrested was his visits to a Maoist leader in jail, visits he had
undertaken as state general secretary of the People's Union for Civil
Liberties, to provide medical and legal assistance, with the full
knowledge and permission of the jail authorities. It is impossible to
see his arrest, and the continued refusal of bail, as anything other
than a very deliberate attempt by the state to thwart dissidence
expressed in any form, and to avert uncomfortable questions about its
role and agenda.
For further details contact: Subir Sinha (ss61 at soas.ac.uk), Nandini
Nayak (nandini at soas.ac.uk), Aditya Sarkar (bhochka at gmail.com,
bhochka_81 at yahoo.co.uk)
- - -
(iii) India Foundation for The Arts invites you the the Inaugural
'The Other Song'
a film by Saba Dewan
Date: Thursday 12 March 2009
Time: 6:45 PM
Venue: Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi
In 1935 Rasoolan Bai the well known singer from Varanasi recorded for
the gramaphone a thumri that she would never sing again - Lagat
jobanwa ma chot, phool gendwa na maar (My breasts are wounded, don't
throw flowers at me).A variation of her more famous bhairavi thumri -
Lagat karejwa ma chot, phool gendwa na maar (My heart is wounded,
don't throw flowers at me), the 1935 recording, never to be repeated,
faded from public memory and eventually got lost.
More than seventy years later the film travels through Varanasi,
Lucknow and Muzzafarpur in Bihar to search for the forgotten
thumri.This journey opens a Pandora's box of life stories, memories,
half remembered songs and histories that for long have been banished
into oblivion. It brings the film face to face with the enigmatic
figure of the tawaif, courtesan, bai ji and the contested terrain of
her art practise and lifestyle. To understand the past and present of
the tawaif the film must unravel the significant transitions that
took place in late 19th and early 20th century around the control,
censorship and moral policing of female sexualities and cultural
Duration: 120 minutes
Language: Hindi / Urdu / English / English subtitles
Directed by: Saba Dewan
Camera: Rahul Roy
Editing: Reena Mohan / Khushboo Agarwal / Mahadeb Shi / Anupama Chandra
Sound: Asheesh Pandya / Gissy Michael / Vipin Bhati
For more information: sabadewan at gmail.com
(iv) ANNOUNCEMENT: “JAN MANCH” ON EMPLOYMENT GUARANTEE AND THE RIGHT
TO INFORMATION (NEW DELHI, 21 MARCH 2009)
A “Jan Manch” on Employment Guarantee and the Right to Information
will be held in New Delhi on 21 March 2009, in anticipation of the
forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. At this Jan Manch, representatives
of all political parties will be invited to present their party’s
position on these two crucial issues, and to respond to public
demands or queries.
This event is being convened under the joint banner of People’s
Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG) and the National Campaign for
People’s Right to Information (NCPRI). A draft charter of basic
demands on employment guarantee, based on a preparatory meeting held
on 26 February, is attached. It will be finalized on 8 March by the
“charter committee” in the light of any comments received; please
send any comments you may have to janmanch09 at gmail.com.
This charter of demands will be sent to political parties, and
circulated widely, in advance of the Jan Manch. A similar charter
relating to the right to information is being prepared by NCPRI.
The Jan Manch will be held on the lawns of Constitution Club (Rafi
Marg) in New Delhi, from 10 am to 4 pm. About 1,000 participants are
expected to attend from all over the country. You are cordially
invited to participate. If you are coming in a group, please inform
the organizers in advance by sending a line to janmanch09 at gmail.com.
All participants are expected to make their own arrangements for
travel and lodging.
Jan Manch “charter committee”
(Annie Raja, Dithi Bhattacharya, Jean Drèze, Nikhil Dey, Radhika
Menon, Ramit Basu)
S o u t h A s i a C i t i z e n s W i r e
Buzz for secularism, on the dangers of fundamentalism(s), on
matters of peace and democratisation in South
Asia. An offshoot of South Asia Citizens Web: www.sacw.net/
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