SACW - 14 Jan 2018 | Pakistan: Opposition party allies with ‘Taliban seminary’ / South Asia: Murderous Majorities / Sri Lanka: Rural Economy / Bangladesh: Rohingya marriage ban / India: Learning to Love Nehru / The NGO Game: Post-Conflict Peacebuilding

Harsh Kapoor aiindex at
Sat Jan 13 15:34:13 EST 2018

South Asia Citizens Wire - 14 January 2018 - No. 2967 
[via South Asia Citizens Web - since 1996]

1. South Asia: Murderous Majorities | Mukul Kesavan
2. Tariq Ali writes about Tassaduq Sohail and the Partition of India
3. The last Armenians of Myanmar | Andrew Whitehead BBC
4. Video: North Korea is "the most dangerous crisis since the Cuban missile crisis" says nuclear expert Zia Mian
5. India: BJP’s artful illusion - Actually the fringe reinforces the mainstream, and the mainstream nurtures the fringe | Pavan K Varma
6. India: Aadhaar Leaks? vulnerability of citizens’ data repository
7. India: Penalizing for Poverty – Public Sector Banks Should Stop Extorting Money Over Minimum Account Balance (MAB) Requirement
8. India: Peoples Alliance for Democracy and Secularism Condemns Casteist, Patriarchal and anti-Secular Comments of a BJP Minister 
9. Recent on Communalism Watch:
 - India: Coming Karnataka Assembly Elections - Will communal politics be on the margins?
 - India: Gandhi’s last battle | Apoorvanand
 - Advancing Majoritarianism in India | Papia Sengupta
 - Bangladesh: When books preach lies | Myat Moe Khaing
 - India: Politics of love vs 'Love jihad': Will celebrate Valentine's Day, says Mevani
 - India: DMK leader Kanimozhi speech at the World Atheist Conference rattles the Hindu Right
 - Rumana Hashem: Has rape become a weapon to silence atheists in Bangladesh?
 - India: BJP’s communal Karnataka campaign must be called out for its toxicity
 - India: Insecure of BJP efforts, churches in Meghalaya are getting into electoral politics
 - BJP's cocktail of instant talaq and ‘gau raksha’ | Rohit Prasad
 - Babri Masjid and Its Aftermath Changed India Forever​ | Thomas Blom Hansen
 - India: Why Does the UGC Want to Drop the ‘M’ from AMU? Laurence Gautier
 - India: Bhima Koregaon - Dalit Assertion and Hindu Right [Search of Icons from History] | Ram Puniyani
 - India: Rajsamand is no faraway place - And the Shambhulals know they can get away with murder | Syeda Hameed
 - India: Citizen Shambhulal Is the New Face of Hindutva | Shiv Visvanathan

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10. Disasters Bring Upheaval to Sri Lanka’s Rural Economy | Amantha Perera 
11. Pakistan’s main opposition party allies with ‘Taliban seminary’ | Kunwar Khuldune Shahid
12. Bangladesh court upholds Myanmar Rohingya marriage ban
13. In India, hate crimes are invisible and under-reported | Harsh Mander  
14. Pakistan - India: The Jadhav affair challenges the media | Jawed Naqvi
15. Indian doctors protest against plan to let ‘quacks’ practise medicine | Michael Safi
15.1 India: NMC Bill - A conspiracy to undermine modern medical practitioners  | Faraz Ahmad
16. India: Aadhaar is surveillance technology masquerading as secure authentication technology | Javed Anwer
17. India: Learning to Love Nehru | Aatish Taseer
18. H-Net Review Stubbs on McMahon,'The NGO Game: Post-Conflict Peacebuilding in the Balkans and Beyond' 

The ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya is a particularly vicious chapter in a long history of majoritarian nationalism in South Asia. Unless that history is acknowledged and its legacy contested, more tragedies lie in store.

In October, soon after the seventieth anniversary of Indian independence and the partition of the subcontinent, the Pakistani painter Tassaduq Sohail died in Karachi. The anniversary was celebrated with dazzling military displays: the centrepieces in both Delhi and Islamabad were nuclear missiles. Partition is history now, tales grandparents tell, but for Sohail and others who experienced it first-hand, the memories have never lost their force.

One of the oldest churches in Myanmar, also known as Burma, is struggling to keep going - its congregation only occasionally reaches double figures. But the opening up of the country to outside investment and tourism is offering new hope.


BJP’s artful illusion . . .The fringe reinforces the mainstream, and the mainstream nurtures the fringe. They are two sides of the same coin. One should have no illusions on this score

THE Tribune exposed the vulnerability of citizens’ data repository guarding about a billion Aadhaar IDs. Crucial information is being sold by unscrupulous people for a paltry sum of Rs 500. The buyer could be anyone — an irksome telemarketer, a cunning hacker or a cyber criminal operating from a remote location. The buyer can take full advantage of the inundating information because the government is hell bent on linking virtually everything with this 12-digit number. Based on its diktat, citizens are forced to link their PAN cards, bank accounts, provident funds etc with their Aadhaar numbers.

Banks charging a penalty for not maintaining a monthly average balance directly affects the poor in India, who are often unable to maintain the minimum balance because of their financial compulsions. These customers are being doubly burdened, as the people who are not in a position to maintain a minimum balance are being penalized by the banks through imposing a fine for it.

It is well known that Hindutva is against secularism. It considers secularism detrimental to the interests of the religious majority (which they falsely claim to represent); and a means of appeasing religious minorities. Many broad-minded people who oppose the anti-Muslim and anti-Christian politics of Hindutva also think that secularism is a doctrine concerned only with protecting minorities. This is a limited understanding of secularism. India needs to be secular not only for the security and protection of minorities, but because no true democracy can function without secular values, and a state which does not follow secularism will be against interests of every Indian.

 - India: Coming Karnataka Assembly Elections - Will communal politics be on the margins?
 - India: Gandhi’s last battle | Apoorvanand
 - Advancing Majoritarianism in India | Papia Sengupta
 - Bangladesh: When books preach lies | Myat Moe Khaing
 - India: Politics of love vs 'Love jihad': Will celebrate Valentine's Day, says Mevani
 - India: DMK leader Kanimozhi speech at the World Atheist Conference rattles the Hindu Right
 - Rumana Hashem: Has rape become a weapon to silence atheists in Bangladesh?
 - India: BJP’s communal Karnataka campaign must be called out for its toxicity
 - India: Insecure of BJP efforts, churches in Meghalaya are getting into electoral politics
 - BJP's cocktail of instant talaq and ‘gau raksha’ | Rohit Prasad
 - Babri Masjid and Its Aftermath Changed India Forever​ | Thomas Blom Hansen
 - India: Why Does the UGC Want to Drop the ‘M’ from AMU? Laurence Gautier
 - India: Bhima Koregaon - Dalit Assertion and Hindu Right [Search of Icons from History] | Ram Puniyani
 - India: Rajsamand is no faraway place - And the Shambhulals know they can get away with murder | Syeda Hameed
 - India: Citizen Shambhulal Is the New Face of Hindutva | Shiv Visvanathan
lar dreams and our plural worlds. Credit: Bharath Joshi/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) On December 12, I read
 - Christmas Celebrations and its opponents
 - India: Communalism and Hate Crimes | Ram Puniyani

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by Amantha Perera
(Inter Press Service)

PERIYAKULAM/ADIGAMA, Jan 5 2018 (IPS) - Last year was an annus horribilis for 52-year-old Newton Gunathileka. A paddy smallholder from Sri Lanka’s northwestern Puttalam District, 2017 saw Gunathileka abandon his two acres of paddy for the first time in over three and half decades, leaving his family almost destitute.
The father of two had suffered two straight harvest losses and was over 1,300 dollars in the red when he decided to move out of his village and look for work in nearby towns.
“What am I to do? There is no work in our village, all the fields have dried up, everyone is moving out looking for work,” Gunathileka told IPS.
He was left to work in construction sites and tobacco fields for a daily wage of about five dollars. When jobs became scarcer, his wife joined the search for casual work. The couple, who have been supporting their family off casual work for the last four months, is unsure whether they will ever return to farming despite the drought easing.
Gunathileka is not alone. Disasters, manmade and natural, are increasingly forcing agriculture-based income earners, especially small farmers, out of their villages and into cities looking for work.
In the village of Adigama, in the same district, government officials suspect that between 150 and 200 villagers, mainly youth, have left looking for work in the last two years. Sisira Kumara, the main government administrative officer in the village, said that the migration has been prompted by harvest losses.
“There was no substantial rain between October of 2016 and November 2017. Three harvests have been lost. Unlike in the past, now you cannot rely on rain patterns which in turn makes agriculture a very risky affair,” he said.
“In Sri Lanka, poverty, unemployment, lack of livelihood options and recurring climate shocks impact the food security of many families, resulting in migration to find secure livelihoods,” the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said last year in a joint communiqué with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation to commemorate World Food Day.

Climate shocks have been severe in Sri Lanka in the past few years. In 2017, a drought affected over two million people and floods impacted an additional 500,000. The vital paddy harvest was the lowest in over a decade, falling 40 percent compared to the year before. The UN has termed the 2017 drought as the worst in 40 years..
According to M.W, Weerakoon, additional secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, paddy farmers have to work throughout the year just to stay above the poverty line. He estimates that a paddy farmer needs to cultivate 2.6 acres without a break just to make the 116 dollars (Rs 17,760) needed monthly for a family of four to remain above the poverty line.
“That is not possible with the unpredictable rains, so farmers are moving out,” he said. Around 20 percent of Sri Lanka’s population of 21million are internal migrants, according to government statistics, and experts like Weerakoon say that this movement is heightened by climate shocks.
Staying in their native villages and continuing to farm pushes victims further into a debt trap. Last August, when the drought was at its peak, a WFP survey found that the family debt of those surveyed had risen by 50 percent compared to a year back. And as formal lenders like banks shy away from lending to them, these farmers tend to seek the help of informal lenders.
Human-made disasters are also pushing the poor out of their homes to seek jobs elsewhere. In Sri Lanka’s North and East, ravaged by a deadly civil war till 2009, high poverty rates are forcing vulnerable segments of society like war widows to seek work elsewhere.
In the Northern Province where the war was at its worst, female unemployment rates are almost twice the national rate of 7 percent, at 13.8 percent. There is no data available for single female-headed households of which there are at least 58,000 out of the provincial total of 250,000.

Last year, the Association for Friendship and Love (AFRIEL), a civic group based in the province, located 15 women stuck in Muscat, Oman, after being sent there by job agents. At least four were from the war zone and none had been paid for months and were being moved around the Omani capital daily working in odd jobs.
Nathkulasinham Nesemalhar a 54-year-old war widow who was part of the group, said that they were being sent for casual work by the job agents to recoup costs. “All of us could not work in the households due to various issues, so for three months we kept doing odd jobs, so that the agents made their money,” she said. The group was finally brought back to Sri Lanka after the government intervened.

AFRIEL head Ravidra de Silva told IPS that women like Nesemalhar were among the most vulnerable due to almost zero chances of jobs in their villages. “So they will take any chance that is offered to them. What we need are long-haul policies that target vulnerable communities.”
Unfortunately, there have been few such interventions since the war’s conclusion.
The IOM office in Colombo said that climate-driven migration was fueled by complex and diverse set of drivers and required multi-dimensional risk assessments and interventions.
Government official Weerakoon said that one of the main ambitions of the government in 2018 was to increase the planted extent of paddy and other crops. The government also plans to introduce measures to increase value addition among farmers who remain by and large bulk suppliers of raw produce.

(Asia Times, January 11, 2018)

Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf and Darul Uloom Haqqania have agreed on an alliance on 'ideological' grounds, presenting a new threat to secular forces

Supporters of opposition leader Imran Khan's PTI political party attend a celebration rally in Islamabad on July 30, 2017, after the Pakistani Supreme Court disqualified prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Photo: Reuters / Faisal Mahmood

In a significant move bound to raise international concerns, Pakistan’s leading opposition party, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), is formulating a joint electoral strategy with Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Sami (JUI-S), insiders in both parties have told Asia Times. General elections are just a few months away.

JUI-S is the political wing of the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary, renowned for being the alma mater of Taliban leaders of past and present. It is led by Sami-ul-Haq, the Islamist cleric known fondly as the ‘Father of the Taliban.’

In November, PTI chief Imran Khan met with Sami-ul-Haq to discuss a potential alliance in Khyber Pakhtunkhwala (KP) province. The two have been in touch throughout the past month and a half, sources confirm.

“Imran Khan has ensured that the PTI’s rallying cry will be the implementation of Sharia law,” a PTI member told Asia Times. “We want to create an Islamic welfare state, and that is what the JUI-S wants as well.”

JUI-S Secretary General Abdur Rauf Farooqi confirmed that the creation of an Islamic state is a “joint agenda” of the PTI and his party.

“It is our mission to support jihad and Islamist freedom movements, and also to clarify misconceptions about jihad,” he told Asia Times.

“While we continue to support the struggle overseas, it is important to implement a truly Islamic system in Pakistan as well. And in PTI we have a willing partner that has already taken steps towards Islamization in KP.”

PTI currently allies itself with the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) in KP, and the two have collaborated to revise educational curricula in the province. “The removal of secular references and the Islamization of  syllabuses, and overturning secular references and mentions of non-Muslims [instituted by a previous coalition government that included the secularist Awami National Party (ANP)] government was one of the first demands of the JI before joining us,” confirms another PTI leader.

In June 2016, the PTI-led KP government gave a Rs 300 million (US$2.7 million) grant to Darul Uloom Haqqania, prompting criticism from many quarters. Imran Khan later claimed the grant was in exchange for reform within its madrassa. However, sources inform Asia Times that the funds have gone on upgrading a high school affiliated with the controversial seminary and not the madrassa itself.

“[That spin] is how the JUI-S is protecting against a potential crackdown,” says a KP government official. “But considering that the PTI chief Imran Khan himself came out and justified the money actually going to Darul Uloom Haqqania, we all know where it is actually going.”

JUI-S Spokesman Yousaf Shah insists the KP government has spent money on many educational institutions and questions why there is such alarm about funds for the “Haqqania school.”

“Darul Uloom Haqqania does not need any funding, and all conspiracies against us should stop,” Shah says. “It is a centre of excellence in Islamic studies where many Taliban (students of Islam) have graduated from.”

Shah adds that the JUI-S will continue to support the Taliban’s struggle.

“The Afghan Taliban are fighting foreign US occupation, and every Muslim should support their struggle. The next step is proper Islamization of Pakistan and eradication of secular forces,” he says. “In this regard, we have an ideological alliance with the PTI as well, in addition to the political cooperation.”

While PTI has admitted to the new political alliance, its leaders maintain the ideological commonalities are a “matter of interpretation.”

“We both agree that Pakistan should be an Islamic welfare state, but the JUI-S has their own interpretation and we have ours,” PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry told Asia Times.

JUI-S insiders maintain, however, that the meeting between Sami-ul-Haq and Imran Khan establishes thorough Islamization as a common agenda of both the parties.

“The changes made in the KP curricula are something we would want for the rest of the country as well,” says Yousaf Shah. “We would want Pakistan’s ideology to be in line with Darul Uloom Haqqania.” 

(BBC News - 8 January 2018)

Image caption Bangladesh has not recognised marriages involving Rohingyas since 2014

A court in Bangladesh has upheld a law which bans Rohingya Muslims from getting married in the country.

The 2014 law forbids registrars from officiating at unions with Bangladeshi nationals and between Rohingya couples, after the government said it was being abused to obtain citizenship.

More than half a million Rohingya fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar in 2017.

The case was raised by a man whose 26-year-old son had been evading police since marrying an 18-year-old Rohingya.

Police had been searching for Shoaib Hossain Jewel since October, when they found out about the marriage, according to local reports.

Mr Jewel reportedly met the Rohingya woman while her family were sheltering at a local Muslim cleric's house. He was said to have travelled hundreds of kilometres to find her in a refugee camp after her family were moved on from his village, before the couple got married.

At the time it was reported to be the first known union between a Bangladeshi and a Rohingya since an upsurge in violence in Myanmar against the persecuted ethnic minority forced hundreds of thousands to flee across the border.

Explaining the law in 2014, government officials said they believed wedding certificates were being used to try and claim legal documents including Bangladeshi passports.

Under it anyone found to have married a Rohingya can be sentenced to seven years in prison.

Mr Jewel's father, Babul Hossain, was outspoken about his support for his son's marriage and filed a petition against the law.

"If Bangladeshis can marry Christians and people of other religions, what's wrong in my son's marriage to a Rohingya?" he told AFP news agency in October.

The High Court in Dhaka dismissed his challenge on Monday, and ordered him to pay 100,000 taka (£885; $1,200) in legal costs.

It also rejected a request to protect Mr Hossain's son from arrest.

It was unclear if the couple were set to face further action following the ruling.

(The Telegraph, January 08, 2018)

Ever since the country's traumatic partition, India has never been as divided as it is today. The growing gulf of resentment, suspicion and hostility among its peoples will take generations to bridge. And, yet, this profound challenge to the country's domestic peace, fraternity and unity is not matched by even enough acknowledgment, let alone resistance.

India is swiftly transforming into a republic of hate and fear, especially for its religious minorities and disadvantaged castes. The response of the ruling establishment to rising hate crime is cynical, combining strategic silences and official denial with tacit encouragement and incitement of hate speech and violence, and patronizing vigilante groups and militias.

The culpable silences that surround mounting hate crimes are societal, political and official. Troubling is the scarcity of compassion and solidarity with victims of hate crimes. That the political conspiracies of silence around hate crime span the ideological spectrum was reflected in the Gujarat elections of the winter of 2017. Except for the independent candidate, Jignesh Mevani, all political parties chose to avoid mentioning Muslims and the violence.

The dogged official silence and the denial by the State strike hardest at India's constitutional values. An otherwise voluble prime minister responds to hate attacks with strategic silences and unspontaneous anguish. Instead, we hear rationalizations by chief ministers and senior ministers and runaway hate speech by the entire gamut of the ruling establishment, from ministers and legislators to 'fringe groups', which are actually mainstream. All combine to legitimize, nurture and embolden pervasive social bigotry and hate violence.

This coalesces with barefaced official denial of the scale of hate violence. In response to a question in the Rajya Sabha on December 27, 2017, the Union home minister claimed that in 2017, until July, there were just two cases of mob lynching in the country, one in Maharashtra and one in Rajasthan. This patently false claim has not been challenged within or outside Parliament, even though on its veracity hinges hopes of the security of the country's vulnerable minorities.

This conforms to the claims of the government and its supporters who maintain that the numbers of hate crime are inconsequential, and that a few stray incidents are blown out of proportion by vested interests to defame the government. This denial was especially remarkable in a frightening year scarred by hate attacks so gruesome that they penetrated even the generally reticent mainstream media.

Official denial is aided because although India's National Crime Records Bureau collates information on a wide range of crimes, it does not count hate crimes. This helps make these crimes invisible, thereby erasing any State accountability for these. This contrasts with mandatory duties that have been established in democracies with diverse populations like the United States of America and the United Kingdom, where the State is required to publish regular reports on hate crimes. For instance, the Federal Bureau of Investigation counted 6,121 hate crimes in the US in 2016. Another official body, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, reported that the number of hate crimes was many times higher, at around 2,50,000.

In India, if we are to hold our governments to their constitutional duty to control hate crimes and ensure justice for the victims, we must not only demand that the NCRB count and report hate crimes but also that the State fund a well-staffed independent agency to do the same. But there is likely to be no political will for this in the present administration (nor sufficient resolve in the Opposition to compel it to do so).

This places high duty on the independent media and civil society to estimate the numbers and nature of hate crimes. A national newspaper did establish a hate crime tracker, which listed over 150 hate crimes, but it was pulled off. A credible non-profit data media portal, IndiaSpend, collated cow-related mob attacks after 2010 reported in the English-language press. It found that 97 per cent of these occurred after Narendra Modi assumed office in Delhi, 86 per cent of the persons killed were Muslim and 8 per cent Dalit. It reports further that 2017 recorded the highest death toll (11) and the most number of incidents of hate violence (37) related to cows and religion since 2010. A civil society coalition, Citizens against Hate, studied 30 such cases of lynching and vigilante violence, and confirmed that an overwhelming majority of these attacks were against Muslims, and, sometimes, against Dalits. Many attacks relate to alleged smuggling, slaughter and eating of cattle. Inter-faith couples and their relatives have been the target of many attacks, but some Muslims have been lynched without attributing any specific offence to them.

The United Christian Forum for Human Rights recorded 216 incidents of attacks on Christians in 2017, including violence against priests, nuns and shrines. There have also been many hate attacks on Dalits in 2017, including the burning of a Dalit settlement in Saharanpur, a Dalit boy being thrashed for sporting a moustache and the lynching of a Dalit man for attending a garba dance - both in Gujarat villages - and attacks on African nationals and people from India's Northeast.

I am convinced that the numbers of hate crimes recorded by all these agencies are only a tiny fraction of those that actually occurred. In September 2017, we undertook a journey for atonement and solidarity to families struck by hate violence in eight states, which we called 'Karwan e Mohabbat'. We visited 55 families, but our discussions with communities revealed that the actual numbers of hate crimes would run into thousands. We have, therefore, resolved to continue this journey through this new year, visiting families bereaved by hate attacks in at least one state every month, beginning with Bengal in January and Odisha in February.

There are many reasons why hate crimes in India are so invisible and under-reported. Most sections of both mainstream media and civil society organizations self-censor reporting hate crimes and extending humanitarian and human-rights support to the survivors, partly in fear of official retribution if they were to report the truth. The police are neither trained nor motivated to distinguish hate crimes from ordinary crimes, and rarely charge them under criminal sections associated with hate crimes. Hate crimes, such as communal taunts, pulling beards, harassing women in burkas, or communal and caste bullying in schools, public transport and workplaces have become so common that these are mostly endured, never reported. Survivors and victim families have little faith that they will secure justice from state administrations that are nakedly hostile to their minority residents. Therefore, unless there are deaths, they do not file or pursue police complaints. The police most often side with the hate criminals, and frequently register criminal charges against the victims instead, charging them as cow smugglers and killers, criminals, love jihadis or missionaries making dubious religious conversions. Worse, we have found instances in which the police described men lynched by mobs as cow smugglers killed by rash driving, thereby erasing the lynching entirely from the record.

If India is to pull back from becoming a land in which people live with dread only because they worship a different god, or are born to disadvantaged castes, or look different or eat differently, then we must fight to shatter societal, political and official silences and denials. We must restore compassion to and solidarity with public life. We must compel parties that claim commitment to secular democracy to not compromise with majoritarian politics. And we must fight the official denial of hate violence, beginning with developing a robust tracking of every hate crime in the country.
Published here:

(Dawn, 9 January 2018)

IT is a given that truly professional journalists can be a troublesome quantity for any recalcitrant state. Drum-beaters of the state are just that — drum-beaters, and on occasion, the cat’s paws for their minders with a nefarious intent. When it comes to the little explained but widely embraced idea of ‘national interest’ we register a spike in this genre of delinquency among journalists on both sides of the divide, usually.

The malaise is of course global. British journalists are or were considered a cut above the rest, but they were the ones who tamely fell for the ministry of information, a British innovation for thinly veiled censorship, intelligence gathering and propaganda. The ruse was the war with Hitler when the BBC was on the ministry’s payroll. The institution of information ministries continued through peacetime in post-colonial societies. India and Pakistan are prime examples where journalists are doled out privileges unrelated to their work, such as subsidised land for housing.

How were the American drum-beaters any different, who came up with an unabashedly cooked up testimony against Saddam Husain, laying fictitious grounds to justify his bizarre removal from power and eventual execution? Tenacious journalists, on the other hand, got Richard Nixon impeached and exposed Tony Blair as an artful liar. American and British journalists have unearthed the horrors of their governments’ foreign policies too, including their stories on the torture chambers of Abu Ghraib or about Israeli brutalities in occupied Palestine.

Both types exist in India and Pakistan in varying degrees. Pakistani newshounds who refuted their government’s spontaneous but senseless denial of Ajmal Kasab’s nationality were particularly good journalists. They stuck to the truth against the state’s might and marshalled evidence showing that the young terrorist was indeed an indoctrinated Pakistani and not a Martian. An Indian journalist abandoned his safe sanctuary of ‘national interest’ and reported the destruction of an alleged Pakistani dhow in the Arabian Sea by the Indian Navy. Reportedly the naval commander wanted to save on the cost of the food that the arrested crew would otherwise be given in jail. Naturally, the government slammed the report as a lie or some such thing.

Sadly such journalists come to us more often as an exception than as an inviolable rule. How does one figure out the truth between Indian and Pakistani claims of contested events of which there is already a surfeit? The drum-beaters have a field day on most occasions with their complete and exclusive access to state-controlled and state-backed instruments of news dissemination. The truth is very often not far to seek yet it remains elusive even if there’s nothing quite complex about a simple quest. For example, one may ask: was there an Indian military raid inside Azad Kashmir or was Prime Minister Modi making a mountain of a molehill, a routine outing that was not quite as dramatic as it was portrayed to be to tweak his nationalist appeal. The Congress party contested the Modi claim, not the media. Who starts the spiral of cross-border firing and to what avail? There are good arguments on both sides, but arguments need not lead to the elusive truth. It is not Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, where there are many sides to a story, including an occult explanation for a tragic event. Who can cross-check for us an Indian claim of Pakistan breaking the ceasefire and vice versa?

Consider a more current issue that lacks clarity, purposely, one suspects. Pakistan has issued a video of Kulbhushan Jadhav in which the man convicted as an Indian spy praises his captors for arranging an emotional meeting with his mother and wife recently. He also blackguards the Indian diplomat — who I know as a gentleman who discussed with me ideas about peace between India and Pakistan. The Indian diplomat apparently riled Jadhav with alleged shouting at the women after the meeting where he was present in a separate cubicle. Indians have not surprisingly dismissed the video as doctored and therefore unreliable. Has Jadhav become a pawn on the larger India-Pakistan chessboard? Or has he become a victim of the Stockholm Syndrome whereby prisoners become enamoured of their captors?

In most countries that practise free press, the wife and the mother would be the first destination of intrepid journalists who want to know and publish what transpired at the meeting. (I would add a caveat: do nothing that could physically harm or prejudice the prisoner’s chances of fair play.) In this pursuit, there could be a demand from Indian journalists (as distinct from drum-beaters) to be given access to Jadhav if he so wishes. This would help prevent reckless and harmful stories like the one published by The Quint, a web-based news portal that inexplicably retracted its report on the condemned prisoner. Let’s see which country blinks. We can quickly, without demur, arrange a team led by Rajmohan Gandhi from India and I.A. Rehman from Pakistan. Or both could nominate a journalist from their country or even from the other side. Let similarly credible joint teams have access to areas of concern to both countries (in the absence of the undermined UNMOGIP) along the Line of Control and also to Srinagar and Muzaffarabad if that helps. As things stand, the people on both sides are being forced to divine the truth with their eyes blindfolded, eardrums bursting with poisonous and shrill propaganda.

Nationalism can trip up the most seasoned exponents of journalism, however. I remember the first delegation from Pakistan, including senior journalists, coming to Delhi after the military standoff of 2002. At their meeting in Delhi, led by senior Indian journalists, the Pakistanis said they were embarrassed about the mistakes their country had made by seeking to harm and abuse India. The Indian interlocutor, a much respected journalist who is no more, smiled self-righteously, and said: “You are absolutely right.” Could the Jadhav affair change some of that attitude?

(The Guardian, 2 January 2018)

Indian Medical Association says short bridging courses for traditional healers will lead to ‘army of half-baked doctors’

 An Ayurvedic doctor checks a patient’s pulse. Traditional healers are already allowed to dispense medicines in some parts of India. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Indian doctors have accused the government of seeking to “sanction quackery” by proposing to allow homeopaths and others trained in alternative remedies to practise conventional medicine after taking a bridging course.

Doctors at private hospitals held protests on Tuesday while their counterparts in public facilities wore black armbands in opposition to the proposal, part of a sweeping overhaul of medical governance.

Aimed at addressing a severe shortage of doctors, particularly in rural areas, the bill would allow people who dispense Siddha, Ayurvedic and other traditional Indian remedies to practise medicine after taking a course, the length of which is yet to be decided.

A similar law already in place in Madhya Pradesh state licenses traditional healers to dispense and prescribe 72 medicines after taking classes for three months.

The Indian Medical Association has criticised the plan, saying it will “lead to an army of half-baked doctors in the country”, according to the association’s president, KK Aggarwal.

“The government is giving sanction to quackery,” he said. “If those doctors make mistakes and people pay with their lives, who is going to be held accountable?”

SS Uttre, the president of the Maharashtra state medical association, said the proposal would dilute medical education and provide a “back-way entry into medicine”. He added: “We are going to oppose it tooth and nail.”

Although India has more than 400 medical schools producing tens of thousands of high-quality graduates annually, the country has about 12 doctors, nurses or midwives per 10,000 people – less than half the World Health Organization benchmark.

Thousands of graduates each year prefer to take their skills to the US or UK, or are drawn to well-paid jobs in the burgeoning private health industries of big cities such as Delhi or Mumbai.

As a result, research three years ago found more than 2,000 primary health centres around the country lacked even one doctor to treat patients, with shortages of surgeons and specialists even more acute.

Many Indians turn instead to traditional remedies such as Ayurveda – treatments prepared according to recipes from ancient Hindu texts – or to “quacks” who present themselves as doctors but lack any medical qualifications. About 57% of purported Indian doctors are thought to fall into the latter category. 

Similarly, according to a 2014 study, traditional healers already carry out clinical care in as many as one in three primary health centres in rural or tribal areas.

To address the shortage, state and federal governments have experimented with licensing non-specialist doctors to carry out caesarean sections or administer anaesthetics.

Village social workers and “quack” doctors have also received formal training in basic medicine, while under a health ministry proposal, traditional healers will soon be permitted to deliver babies, carry out non-invasive abortions and treat certain noncommunicable diseases.

Ayurveda, yoga and other traditional practices have been championed by the current government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party, which in 2014 established a ministry to promote alternative remedies. At least 65 Ayurvedic “hospitals” have been established in the past three years, with more planned.

Rules for rigorous testing of Ayurvedic products have also been relaxed or waived, despite the concerns of medical scientists who say there is insufficient evidence to recommend their use in clinical settings.

Another state, Gujarat, has sought to alleviate the doctor shortage by equipping some children with stethoscopes and allowing them to administer Ayurvedic treatments for “minor diseases” to their classmates.

The government bill under scrutiny also proposes to scrap the doctor-run Medical Council of India and replace it with a new organisation overseen by health officials and free of the taint of corruption allegations, which have dogged the council.

Doctors’ groups say the proposed changes are undemocratic and shift power from medical professionals to regulators who are without experience in the field.

Medical groups said they would return to work after the government agreed to send the bill to a standing committee in parliament for further examination. Uttre said doctors would fight the proposal for bridging courses in any form and appeal to the supreme court if necessary.

(Faraz Ahmad's blog, January 8, 2018)

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi was furtively attempting to win back his Hindut6va constituency (including the upwardly mobile urban Hindu middle class, whom the Sangh has, over these last few decades, considerably succeeded in saffronising, but which appeared slightly disenchanted with Modi in the Gujarat assembly elections), by bringing in the Triple Talaq Bill to show the insolent Muslim his place in Hindu Rashtra, his government slyly slipped in the National Medical Commission Bill, seeking to undermine modern Medical profession in the country and with it the prospering career of doctors who till the other day swore by Modi.

On December 29 Union Health Minister J P Nadda introduced in Parliament the National Medical Commission Bill which seeks to replace the National Medical Council, formed under an Act of Parliament in 1956 with the stated objective of standardizing modern medical education in India.

This Government has come, as Union Skill Development Minister Anath Kumar Hegde confessed publicly the other day, to demolish and destroy every institution and every remnant of the Congress rule in India or rather whatever Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and his successors did in India since independence. The Medical Council of India is only one such institution.

But even more important the Bill surreptitiously sneaks in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)/ BJP agenda starting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself who have tremendous aversion to intellect. Already the Modi Government has announced that it plans to allow Ayurveda Vaids and Hakims and even Homeopaths with some bridge course and issue licences to them to practice modern medicine. There is no dearth of quacks in this country. People with Nursing and Pharmacy courses and even peons in hospitals are donning the doctor’s white coat and with a stethoscope around their neck are happily killing the gullible people giving them medicines at will, even performing operations in their ‘clinics.’

This Bill seeks to give a free run to persons with no study of modern medicine and surgery to do as they choose. Such was an uproar against this Bill from the doctor community all over the country that several MPs from BJP/NDA who are qualified doctors had to vocally oppose the Bill in Parliament and eventually the Government which had got it cleared from the Union Cabinet, had to step back and send it to the Standing Committee of the ministry to be reviewed thoroughly.

The idea of replacing the Medical Council with this Commission was conceived by the Niti Ayog where no doctor was involved in consultations, least of all deliberations. Obscurantists, bureaucrats and sundry others sat and conceived this Bill. But it is evident who could be behind this idea. After all when we have a Prime Minister and his party colleagues who proudly proclaim that the elephant head on Lord Ganesha is the evidence of how plastic surgery had advanced in India in the Vedic era, what respect such a set of people could have for anything genuinely modern? Thanks to the indoctrinaton at the Shakhas they genuinely believe that we were flying Pushpak Vimans across the universe.

Anyway, to the Bill!. The doctors all over the country went on a one day strike on the call of the apex body of doctors, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and came out with serious criticism of the proposed NMC on each count that the Bill proposed. This Bill proposes that the NMC shall create an Ethics and Medical Registration (EMR) Board along with a Medical Assessment and Rating (MAR) Board as also two other bodies Undergraduate Medical Examination (UGME) Board and a PGME Board to assess Post graduate medical examination.

The IMA pointed out that Section 31(8) of the Bill says that the EMR Board shall maintain a separate National Register including the names of licensed Ayush Practitioners who qualify the bridge course. By an explanation in the Biill, Ayush practitioner has been defined as a person who is a practitioner of Homeopathy or of Indian Medicine. Section 49(4) contemplates bridge courses even for the practitioners of homeopathy “to enable them to prescribe such modern medicines at such level as may be prescribed .”

The IMA pointed out that Section 2(j) of the Bill defines ‘medicine means modern scientific medicine in all its branches and include surgery and obstetrics but does not include veterinary medicine and surgery. Thank Modi for small mercies otherwise RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat would have been heading this NMC for after all he is a qualified Vet. The IMA pointed out that these are the floodgates that have been opened up in terms of the statutory provisions for backdoor entry into  medical profession entitling them to practice modern medicine.

That is only one glaring example what this Government proposes to do by abolishing the MCI and creating NMC instead. But that is not all. It also seeks to use its discretion to allow all those who have studied abroad say in Russia, China, Nepal or in one of the Central Asian Republics, to practice medicine in India with0out going through the currently mandatory examination in India. On the other hand the doctors with MBBS and MD/MS degrees would have to undergo yet another test set by the UGME or the PGME Boards as the case may be, without which their MBBS or MD/MS degree would not entitle them to practice medicine. Shows a degree of hostility towards qualified doctors. Perhaps that is why there is hardly any representation of the doctors from elected bodies in the Commission or its many bodies whereas it is going to be full of bureaucrats and other Government nominees.

The stated objective is to end corruption allegedly being indulged in by the MCI. True that the former MCI President Dr Ketan Desai was arrested for allegedly accepting bribe for allowing opening of a private medical college. Also Ketan Desai was given a clean chit by Gujarat administration under Modi which enabled him to return to medical profession. So that plea holds no water. Moreover this Bill gives even more leeway to private medical colleges keeping the Government’s regulation only at 40 per cent allowing 60 per cent discretion to the college be it in the matter of admission or deciding fees. Thus it will keep the poorer or not so rich children from entering medical  profession. In fact the IMA pointed out that the provision of this Bill are highly discriminatory towards poorer and children coming from backward background particularly those coming from North East.

Recently a judge was charged with involvement in giving recognition to a private medical college. That person has been arrested but simultaneously another scam broke involving some senior embedded TV journalists and the top notch of the ruling party as well as of Health ministry for allowing a private medical college in Haryana. The matter was hushed up, but not before the journalists concerned were made to quit their jobs.  Besides this so-called anti-corruption party has successfully covered up the Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh which ruined the career of thousands of young boys and girls aspiring to enter MBBS course. However the names of the top brass of the MP government and the RSS whose names also figures in that scam have gone scot free. The NMC Bill may now make all that legal and above board.

(Daily O, 09-01-2018)

Aadhaar didn't start as surveillance technology. While the concept of a unique ID for all was fuzzy even in the beginning — around 2009 — it was meant to be an authentication technology that would plug leaks in India's welfare schemes. The idea behind Aadhaar seemed well-meaning, but the way it was designed and hurriedly pushed made it evident to keen observers that it was not going to end up well. There were many problems with it, but of particular note was the way Aadhaar would give the government and bureaucrats unnecessary power over individual citizens. Instead of being a tool of inclusion, Aadhaar would be a tool of exclusion.

Even in the early stages, it was difficult to imagine that one day the Aadhaar would turn into Frankenstein's monster. In 2018, it has become a tool that has the potential to put every citizen in this country under surveillance. The argument that Aadhaar is a tool to end corruption in India surfaced earlier this decade.

After 2012, and exceedingly after 2014, Aadhaar grew in ways it was not meant to when it was conceived. This has happened as the UIDAI — the agency in charge of the Aadhaar programme — acquired unaccountable power over the people of India, and made its operations as secretive and opaque as it can.

Fun fact 1: Do you know that under Aadhaar Act 2016, the UIDAI has virtually no accountability, but has provisions that stop Aadhaar users, that is ordinary Indians, from filing any complaint against it in court for the misuse of the UID?

Arguably the world's biggest surveillance apparatus that a country has built to keep an eye on its citizens.

Fun fact 2: Do you know Aadhaar was never meant to be an ID card? In the initial days, Aadhaar was linked to government's welfare schemes. For instance, it was made mandatory for issuing ration to all those who held a ration card. This despite the fact that the Supreme Court, in its interim order, told the government that having the Aadhaar card cannot be made mandatory in any way.

Post-2015, all hell broke loose. By now, Aadhaar is no longer just technology to authenticate the identity of those entitled to benefits under government welfare schemes. It transformed into an authentication technology for almost everything Indians do. In 2018, if you go by the directives issued by the government, you have to link your Aadhaar to almost everything you own or do. Aadhaar is no longer required only for welfare schemes, like obtaining a ration card, but also if you want to continue using your phone.

It is “required”, although not yet mandatory, for availing banking services until March 31 because Supreme Court is hearing a challenge to it. Aadhaar is required for registering births in many parts of India, and even deaths. Aadhaar is required if you want an LPG connection, even if you don't intend to take subsidies.

And Aadhaar is required if you want to send your children to school or if you want your degree, and for treatment at many hospitals — even if you are an accident victim and are brought to the emergency with severe head trauma! This is just the beginning. If the Supreme Court dismisses the current challenge to link Aadhaar with every aspect of our lives, be ready to see more Aadhaar in your life.

Even simple tasks like buying airline tickets or making hotel reservations or renting homes will soon necessitate Aadhaar authentication.

It is important to understand why Aadhaar has become so pervasive. By linking the UID with children’s admissions in private schools, or by linking it with private data, such as your phone number, the government is not saving any money. It is not curbing or cracking down on corruption. It is just putting in place an infrastructure: arguably the world's biggest surveillance apparatus that a country has built to keep an eye on its citizens.

Sure, the United States’ NSA will still be bigger, but then NSA for now watches only non-Americans.

In the recent years, Aadhaar has metamorphosed into the perfect surveillance tool. It allows the government to collect and record every piece of data that Indians generate as they go about their lives. By storing this data in one place, with Aadhaar as its key, the government will be able to theoretically track and build profiles of every Indian with the UID.

There is the argument that we already leave a digital trail whenever we use a phone, carry out a banking transaction, book an air or train ticket or get an LPG connection, and so it doesn't matter that Aadhaar is linked with the service. That is true. But by linking every detail of our existence with Aadhaar, the government puts all of this data in one place and makes it incredibly easy to monitor, record and use.

Across the world, governments seek to gain more control over citizens. When they have achieved some level of control, they also abuse it, as history tells us. Even if the original intent is benign, never in the history has a government built surveillance apparatus and not abused it.

If we allow Aadhaar to grow unchecked, controlled and managed by an agency with no accountability — and it is the UIDAI that filed an FIR to go after people who pointed out Aadhaar flaws — the results are not going to be pretty.

PS: The headline of this article has been taken from a tweet often used by some Indian Twitter users to highlight the perils of Aadhaar. The full tweet is: "Repeat after me: Aadhaar is surveillance technology masquerading as secure authentication technology.

(The New York Times, January 4, 2018)

Jawaharlal Nehru awaiting his sister at the airport in Palam, India, in 1954. Credit Alkazi Collection of Photography

NEW DELHI — I grew up with an aversion to India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.
He was the towering figure of the postcolonial world. Harrow and Cambridge-educated, he was one of the architects of the Non-Aligned Movement, which sought a third way through the odious binaries of the Cold War. In India, he dominated the political landscape and is credited with laying the foundation for our country’s democracy.
The cult of Nehru continued through his heirs. His daughter, Indira Gandhi, and grandson, Rajiv Gandhi (no relation to Mahatma Gandhi), both went on to be prime minister. Nehru died in 1964, and by the time I was growing up, some two decades later, the brand of socialism he had championed was failing. The impression that came down to me of this father of Indian democracy was of a fey creature, embarrassingly Anglicized, making grandiloquent speeches in an Oxbridge accent about light and freedom and “trysts with destiny.”
By then, India was changing. The economic reforms of the 1990s had empowered a new class of Indian, less colonized, more culturally intact. We entered an age when authenticity was prized above all else, and Nehru, by his own admission, was not authentic, not culturally whole. He was a hybrid, forged on the line between India and Britain, East and West. The reputation of Mahatma Gandhi, though he was no less a hybrid, survived the change. Nehru’s did not.
Nehru today is a figure of revulsion on the Hindu right, which governs India. The era of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party is in every respect a repudiation of Nehru. Mr. Modi represents authenticity and Indianness; Nehru is the quintessential foreigner in his own land.
Every year, around Nehru’s birthday on Nov. 14, a battle rages in which the bedraggled remains of India’s left try to defend the first prime minister, even as an increasingly louder chorus of voices on the right portray him as having been soft on Muslims and having betrayed the interests of the Hindu majority.
His ease with Western mores and society is a liability, for it implies an apparent contempt for Hindu culture and religion. Nehru comes to seem almost like a symbol of a country looking at itself through foreign eyes, and in a newly assertive India, his legacy is being dismantled. In at least one B.J.P.-controlled state he is being completely written out of textbooks; he is maligned daily on social media, with hashtags like #knowyournehru.
Which brings me to an embarrassing confession: Nehru is one of those people I thought I knew without ever feeling the need to read. He was among the great literary statesmen, and his output was prodigious: letters, speeches, famous books like “The Discovery of India” and “Glimpses of World History.” And there is his autobiography, “Toward Freedom,” in which he truly comes alive.
I have at last been reading Nehru, now at this hour when his stock is at an all-time low. And I have yet another embarrassing confession to make: He’s wonderful. It is not just a question of the peerless prose — the American journalist John Gunther was quite right to say that “hardly a dozen men alive write English as well as Nehru.” Nor is it simply that he is a man of astonishing reading, intellect and sensitivity. What makes Nehru so compelling is his acute self-knowledge. There is practically nothing you can say against him that he is not prepared to say himself.
Consider him on the subject of his own deracination. In “Toward Freedom,” he writes: “I have become a queer mixture of the East and the West, out of place everywhere, at home nowhere. Perhaps my thoughts and approach to life are more akin to what is called Western than Eastern, but India clings to me, as she does to all her children, in innumerable ways.” He continues: “I am a stranger and alien in the West. I cannot be of it. But in my own country also, sometimes I have an exile’s feeling.”
Nehru, unlike Mr. Modi — who is decidedly not a reader and who has an almost childish regard for the Indian past — can look hard at himself and his country. “A country under foreign domination seeks escape from the present in dreams of a vanished age, and finds consolation in visions of past greatness,” he writes in “The Discovery of India.”
Nehru is never more prescient, seeming truly to speak across the decades, than when he addresses the nationalism that will one day endanger his vision of India. “Nationalism,” he writes in “Toward Freedom,” “is essentially an anti-feeling, and it feeds and fattens on hatred against other national groups, and especially against the foreign rulers of a subject country.”
I was stunned, reading these lines at a moment when Mr. Modi’s Hindu Renaissance has proved to be precisely the “anti-feeling” Nehru described: a culture war against two enemies, Westernized Indians and the country’s approximately 170 million Muslims.
If Mr. Modi stands for authenticity, Nehru forces us to question the premium we place on it. He forces us to ask ourselves if purity is even desirable, and whether India’s true genius does not lie in its ability to throw up dazzling hybrids, like Nehru, who seem, in intellect and sophistication, vision and worldliness, to be every bit Mr. Modi’s superior.
Mr. Modi has certainly ushered in an age when the “Indian soul” — like the German and Russian soul before it — is finding utterance. But what is it saying? Last month, in Rajasthan, a state whose government is run by the B.J.P., we were given yet another sampling of what Mr. Modi’s brand of authenticity looks like: a Hindu man axed to death a Muslim man, then set the body alight, while asking his nephew to film the murder.
The killer posted the video on Facebook. He wanted to send a message that the “Love Jihad” — a baseless B.J.P.-promulgated conspiracy theory in which Muslim men lure unsuspecting Hindu women into marriage and conversion — would not be tolerated. The response of the B.J.P. leadership was, as it usually is after such killings, strategic silence.
Rajasthan, in recent months, has become a byword for this kind of religious murder. It also happens to be one of those states where last year Nehru was erased from school textbooks. Otherwise the eighth graders there might have grown up with these words of his, which the historian Ram Guha quoted last month in an essay for The Hindustan Times: “If any person raises his hand to strike down another on the ground of religion,” Nehru said on Gandhi’s birthday in 1952, “I shall fight him till the last breath of my life, both at the head of government and from outside.”
Time may have trifled with Nehru. But time will also reveal him to be the giant that he was.

Aatish Taseer (@aatishtaseer) is a contributing opinion writer and the author, most recently, of the novel “The Way Things Were.”

 Patrice C. McMahon. The NGO Game: Post-Conflict Peacebuilding in the Balkans and Beyond. Ithace: Cornell University Press, 2017. 238 pp. $89.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-5017-0923-4; $24.95 (paper), ISBN 978-1-5017-0924-1.

Reviewed by Paul Stubbs (The Institute of Economics, Zagreb)
Published on H-Diplo (December, 2017)
Commissioned by Seth Offenbach

Patrice C. McMahon’s The NGO Game articulates a very clear and consistent thesis that in postconflict environments and beyond, although nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have been seen as a kind of magic bullet fostering sustainable peace and development, their impact has been much exaggerated. At times, McMahon goes further to suggest that the unintended consequences of their activities result in them actually doing more harm than good on the ground. She is particularly concerned with the distorting influence which international NGOs have on local organizations whose growing numbers are a product more of instrumentalized relations than of burgeoning civil society. A general conclusion is, therefore, that the international community’s faith in NGOs as a kind of peacebuilding panacea, primarily by Western donors, is essentially misplaced and even akin to a form of colonialism.

Most of the empirical evidence for this is drawn from the author’s own extended, if intermittent, fieldwork, over a long period of time, roughly 2000 to 2011, in Bosnia-Herzegovina (which throughout the author calls Bosnia) and Kosovo, presented in chapters 3 and 4 of the book, respectively. In addition, reference is made in the introductory chapter to the author’s fieldwork in Vietnam and Cambodia. Throughout the book, and particularly in the concluding chapter, the author uses work by others on, inter alia, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iraq, East Timor, Libya, Haiti, and postcommunist Russia.    

McMahon in some ways is faced with a dilemma, in that when she began her work on NGOs in peacebuilding, the literature was generally positive about their impact, although lacking detailed empirical validation. However, by the time she wrote the book, an opposite orthodoxy, a kind of complete volte face as it were, was in place, substituting for a more nuanced and complex understanding of the diverse impacts of diverse NGOs in different places at different times. In a moment of reflexivity, the author notes that her own initial discussion of NGOs in Mostar was “incomplete and somewhat misleading” (p. 89), although no direct reference is provided to the text or texts in which this supposed error is manifest. This does not lead McMahon to embrace the open and contradictory roles of NGOs, individually and collectively, over time, within postconflict environments. Instead, she repeats frequently what I want to term the new common sense about their negative impacts, sometimes giving the book an air of superficiality.

Although there is a general agreement that research on peacebuilding and postconflict reconstruction needs to be multidisciplinary,[1] the book appears to be focused primarily within the discipline of international relations (IR). In fairness, an early criticism in the book regarding the statist bias of IR and the concomitant failure to address the role of NGOs and other nonstate actors in international politics leads to McMahon, rightly in my view, suggesting that “IR scholars have a long way to go to catch up with their peers in sociology, anthropology, and even comparative politics, who have all interrogated NGOs more thoroughly” (p. 19). Unfortunately, subsequent reference to, in particular, anthropological work which is extremely well placed to provide a more nuanced account and to address the gap between what NGOs say they do and what they actually do on the ground, is rather haphazard, however. A great deal of important anthropological work on realities in contemporary Bosnia-Herzegovina by Čarna Brković, Andrew Gilbert, Elisa Helms, Azra Hromadžić, Stef Jansen, and Larisa Kurtović, to name a few, for example, is entirely absent.[2]

The author’s invoking, throughout the book, of “institutionalism” as a key conceptual lens through which to address the roles of NGOs in peacebuilding is problematic. McMahon does not explain which type of institutional theory is being preferred (at different moments, rational choice institutionalism, historical institutionalism, and discursive institutionalism seem to be influential). She also does not explain how to conceptualize the relationship between individual agency, organizational form, and macro-level power structures in “determining” NGO practices.

At times, it is not clear whether it is the faith in NGOs as a quick, effective and, above all, cheap substitute for direct, long-term engagement in postconflict reconstruction by international (read Western) intergovernmental and bilateral actors which is the main target of McMahon’s criticism or, rather, any attempt to intervene from outside, through the establishment of protectorates or semi-protectorates. The best parts of the book, in my view, are those which address the complex, and ever lengthening, chains of relations between different agencies and the complex, and often competing, roles of the United Nations and its agencies, the European Union, the World Bank, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and other key actors in aid and development. l would argue that what Mark Duffield termed a new security and development agenda, linking humanitarianism, peacebuilding, biopolitical interventions, and forms of social and political engineering “from above” within a developing “Duty to Protect” (D2P) frame is more of an issue than the role of NGOs per se.[3] At the same time, linking the faith in NGOs not only to “liberal peace,” which is discussed in the book, but also to “neoliberal restructurings” and “new public management” approaches, which are not, could also have taken the book in an interesting direction. What if the projectization, NGOization, and, even marketization and subcontracting (for-profit actors, including consultancy companies, are not given enough attention in the book), traced here are part of more general global restructurings?[4]

Regarding McMahon’s sources, I am concerned with the rather uncritical use, at times, of Robert Kaplan’s Balkan Ghosts (1993) and Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (1996). Both works tend to reinforce a kind of “West is best” ideology which, in other places, the author is keen to reject. At the same time, Kaplan’s invocation of “ancient ethnic hatreds” in the Balkans is a prime example of what Milica Bakić-Hayden has termed “nested Orientalism.”[5] Thus, McMahon’s work is in danger of negatively comparing supposed “exotic” elsewheres with a mythical “civilized” West, as well as buying into a thesis that Kosovo is at risk in terms of the spread of “radical Islamic ideas” (p. 162). Favorably quoting Huntingdon for his “cogent” analysis in which “future violence” is caused by “issues of identity and culture” (p. 31) is far from an understanding of the causes of the wars of the Yugoslav succession through categories which are not essentialist but which relate to the contested claims of political elites in complex political economies. Following the work of Michael Pugh and, more recently, Karla Koutkova, any simplistic and binary division between “local” and “international” actors and organizations is difficult to accept.[6] While McMahon does recognize the thriving civil society in Kosovo, explored in Howard Clarke’s Civil Resistance in Kosovo (2000), she fails to pay similar attention to a nascent civil society of women’s, student, and artist groups in parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1980s.  

The NGO Game appears to be aimed at US readers (the book is marked by a noticeable US-centrism) who still believe in the panacea of NGOs in international assistance, if such straw persons exist. Unfortunately, as someone deeply involved in activist-oriented research on peacebuilding and on the role of NGOs in the post-Yugoslav space, I may be far from the book’s ideal reader. At the same time, the empirical work charting the rise of NGOs in chapter 2 is very much worth reading and shows the author’s grasp of the shifts which occurred in both the framing and practice of partnerships with nonstate actors by a large number of diverse supranational organizations. The argument in the conclusion of four “gaps” undermining NGO work in conflict environments—the “funding gap,” or the failure of most development assistance to actually reach local actors; the “empowerment gap,” in terms of the false rhetoric of “partnership” with local actors; the “accountability gap,” in terms of the failure to involve end beneficiaries; and the “motivation gap,” in terms of the reluctance of powerful actors to change the status quo—is extremely interesting and could, and perhaps, should have been more central to the book.


[1]. See Francisco Ferrandiz and Antonius Robben, eds., Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives on Peace and Conflict Research: A View from Europe, (Bilbao: University of Deusto, 2007).

[2]. See, for example, Čarna Brković, “Scaling Humanitarianism: Humanitarian Actions in a Bosnian Town,” Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology 81, no. 1 (2016); 99-124; Andrew Gilbert, “Legitimacy Matters: Managing the Democratization Paradox of Foreign State-building in Bosnia-Herzegovina,” Sudosteuropa 60, no. 4 (2012); 483-96; Elisa Helms, Innocence and Victimhood: Gender, Nation, and Women's Activism in Postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2013); Azra Hromadžić, Citizens of an Empty Nation: Youth and State-Making in Postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina (Phiadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015); Stef Jansen, Yearnings in the Meantime: 'Normal Lives' and the State in a Sarajevo Apartment Complex (New York: Berghan Books, 2015); Larisa Kurtović, “The Strange Life and Death of Democracy Promotion in Post-Dayton Bosnia-Herzegovina,” in Unbribable Bosnia-Herzegovina: The Fight for the Commons, ed. Damir Arsenijević (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2014), 97-102.

[3]. Mark Duffield, Global Governance and the New Wars: The Merging of Development and Security (London: Zed Books, 2001).

[4]. Paul Stubbs, “International Non-State Actors and Social Development Policy,” Global Social Policy 3, no. 4 (2003): 319-48.

[5]. Milica Bakić-Hayden, “Nesting Orientalisms: The Case of Former Yugoslavia,” Slavic Review 54, no. 4 (1995): 917-31.

[6]. Michael Pugh, “Protectorates and Spoils of Peace: intermestic manipulations of political economy in South-East Europe,” Copenhagen Peace Research Institute (2000); Karla Koutkova, “‘The King is Naked’: Internationality, informality and ko ful statebuilding in Bosnia,” in Negotiating Social Relations in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Semiperipheral Entaglements, ed. Stef Jansen, Čarna Brković, and Vanja Čelebičić (New York: Routledge, 2016), 109-21.


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