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22 December 2002
EXCERPTS: Voice of the Muslim nation
By Claude Markovits
How is Jinnah now seen in retrospect by historians? Claude Markovits
gives an insightful analysis.
When detailed attention was paid to the question of Muslim separatism
by Indian historians, the dominant theme was that of missed
opportunities, of an outcome which had been the result of an
accumulation of human errors, rather than of structural factors. That
the use by the Congress, including by Gandhi, of Hindu symbols
facilitated the mobilization of Muslims by the Muslim League was a
point generally missed by Indian authors.
There were, however, dissenting voices, mostly outside academics:
some Marxists, taking a leaf from CPI ideologue Adikhari's synthesis
of Stalin and Jinnah, and influenced by W. Cantwell Smith's views,
believed the Pakistan movement was a genuine bourgeois nationalist
movement; on the other hand, those who were close to a Hindu
nationalist point of view saw in it the continuation of a deep-seated
Muslim conspiracy against Hinduism and Mother India.
For the left-leaning 'secular' historians who dominated the field in
India in the 1970s and 1980s, there was, however, an added element:
Muslim communalism, far from being either an authentic bourgeois
movement or the mere result of an imperialist conspiracy, was an
expression of false consciousness and basically reflected the class
hegemony exercised over the Muslim masses by a narrow elite of landed
magnates and big traders who feared that the development of a unitary
mass movement of Hindu and Muslim peasants and workers would endanger
their material interests.
Sumit Sarkar, in his authoritative Modern India, tended to take this
view and to dismiss the League's claim to represent the entire Muslim
community. But to these authors also, the Pakistan movement and
partition were a diversion from the main struggle against
imperialism. They seemed to think that it was the weakness of the
Left in India which had allowed the diversionary forces of
communalism to move in.
What I want to stress, however, is that, in spite of wide differences
of opinion between Indian and Pakistani historians, and even within
the academic communities of each country, a kind of basic consensus
could be identified, around a few key points, such as the crucial
role given to the dynamics of Muslim politics and to Jinnah's
personal intervention.In 1983, R.J. Moore, an Australian historian,
could still write: "In an age sceptical of the historic role of great
men there is universal agreement that Jinnah was central to the
Muslim League's emergence after 1937 as the voice of a Muslim nation;
to its articulation in March 1940 of the Pakistan demand for separate
statehood for the Muslim majority provinces of north-western and
eastern India; and to its achievement in August 1947 of the separate
but truncated state of Pakistan by the partition of India."
The emphasis in Pakistan on Jinnah's historical role had nothing
surprising about it, but even in Indian accounts he occupied a
prominent place. Apart from divergent appreciation on the personality
of Jinnah, there was a high degree of consensus on the fact that the
creation of Pakistan as a separate state was basically his work, even
if the idea of Pakistan was known to be somebody else's brainchild
(and here accounts diverged, some singling out Iqbal, others Chaudhri
Rahmat Ali). A Pakistani historian expressed a widely-held view when
"After March 1940, Jinnah's course became clear. The Muslim League
had adopted the conferment of independent status on contiguous Muslim
majority areas, i.e., Pakistan, as its goal, and he strove for its
achievement with the same tenacity of purpose and single-mindedness
with which, some years earlier, he had pursued his dream of
Hindu-Muslim unity. All his efforts after that day, his interviews,
his speeches, his negotiations, and his strategic moves were inspired
by one idea - to achieve this end."
By contrast with Jinnah's relentless pursuit of a definite goal, all
other actors, be they British statesmen or Congress leaders, appeared
to have been fumbling, unclear about the objectives they sought. In
particular, the role of the Congress was seen as largely reactive.
Although Pakistani indictments of Nehru's intransigent attitude
towards the Muslim League at the time of the formation of the
Congress provincial governments in 1937 were not totally without
echoes in India (and received partial confirmation from the
publication in 1988 of the expunged passages in Maulana Abul Kalam
Azad's memoirs, India wins freedom, first published in 1958), nobody
in India dared yet blame Nehru for the increasing gap which opened up
between the Congress and the League after 1937.
In Pakistan, a lot of criticism was also directed at Sardar Patel,
whose strong hostility to the Muslim League got particular notice.
Indian historians were not at ease with the attitude of the Congress
leadership in 1947, particularly with the open divide between Gandhi
on the one hand, and Nehru and Patel on the other, but by
concentrating heavily on Jinnah, they managed to largely avoid the
The part played by the British was one of the most controversial
points. Both Pakistani and Indian authors were very critical of
British attitudes and policies, but they directed their criticisms at
different aspects. Indian authors, taking a long-term view, stressed
the fateful consequences of the 'divide and rule' policy followed by
the Raj and in particular of the institution of separate electorates
in the Morley-Minto reforms of 1909. But they did not gloss much over
Mountbatten's crucial role in expediting things.
Pakistani historians, wary of recalling the Muslim League's friendly
attitude to the British between 1940 and 1946, preferred on the one
hand to evoke the role of Muslims in the 1857 uprising and on the
other hand to concentrate on the attitude of Mountbatten at the time
of partition and on his indubitable pro-Congress bias. While
Mountbatten was generally acknowledged as the midwife of the
partition (Jinnah being its putative father), he nevertheless got a
better press in India than in Pakistan.
This appears paradoxical, but can be explained in part by the
adversarial relationship he had with Jinnah during the last
negotiations which led to the actual partition of the Indian Empire.
Some also stressed the crucial role played by V.P. Menon, Patel's
close adviser, in framing the actual partition plan.
But beyond the endless squabbles about precise responsibilities,
there was a deeper consensus between Indian and Pakistani historians
about the fact that the division of British India was the result of
the growth of a specific political movement amongst the Muslims of
the subcontinent. Whether labelled as Muslim 'nationalism' by
Pakistani authors, or by Indian authors as 'communalism',
'separatism' being interestingly used both by supporters and
adversaries of the movement, the fact is that Muslim political self
assertion was seen as the key factor in the whole chain of events.
Divergences existed as to the causes but not as to the fact.
Pakistani historians, trying to give substance to the 'two nation
theory' formulated by Jinnah, sought to muster all possible evidence
on the existence over a long period of a sense of cultural and
political separateness among India's Muslims. Indian historians, less
preoccupied with cultural arguments beyond general statements about
the existence of a 'composite' culture in the subcontinent, preferred
to locate the origins of Muslim 'separatism' in the machinations of a
Raj on the decline, a position which was supported by a lot of the
Outside the subcontinent, the few historians who dared tackle the
Pakistan movement and the partition, being less preoccupied with
matters of state and of political legitimacy, focused particularly on
the role played by religion.
Some, of whom Paul Brass was the most outspoken, stressed how
religion had been instrumentalized by elites, both Hindu and Muslim;
to give legitimation to a fight over positions and power, especially
in the context of Northern India. Others, while taking more seriously
the claim of a struggle for Islam raised by the Muslim League,
stressed the existence of a complex combination of factor.
* * * * *
Paradoxically, it was from within this elitist historiography that
the most effective challenge came. Although (Ayesha) Jalal's
preoccupations were strictly with the haute politique of the
partition, her iconoclastic study of Jinnah helped nail the coffin on
the elitist historiographical project. Jalal located herself firmly
in the camp of those who took the view that, in the story of the
Pakistan movement, religion had been instrumentalized.
She concentrated entirely on Jinnah's political activities, paying
little attention to his attitude towards religion, which remains a
very controversial subject, particularly in Pakistan, and more
generally to the question of his 'Muslimness'. Her considerable
critical faculties, supported by a great deal of research in still
partly closed archives, helped her make hash, in particular, of the
widely held and somewhat self-evident notion that Partition was
Jinnah's original goal.
Jalal argued that Jinnah was actually aiming at a federal India in
which the League would have shared power with the Congress, and that
it was the frustration of that aim which led him to accept partition
as the only way to avoid Hindu domination over the whole of undivided
India. Jalal put the onus of partition squarely on the refusal by the
Congress, with British implicit support, to make the concessions
which could have satisfied Jinnah's demands.
Jalal's book got a mixed critical response, but it undoubtedly helped
change the terms of the debate. Both Pakistani and Indian historians
saw some of their most cherished myths challenged. Jinnah, although
portrayed rather sympathetically, was shown as having had feet of
clay. He had often miscalculated, had relied too much on the British
remaining as arbiters, and when faced with the evidence of their
decision to depart quickly, had seen his weakness exposed.
This had led him, the most constitutionalist of all Indian
politicians, to go for 'mass action', an exercise for which he had no
skill, and in which he was outmanoeuvred by the wily Suhrawardy,
whose intervention at the time of the great Calcutta killings had had
disastrous consequences. Eventually, he had been forced to accept in
1947 the 'moth-eaten' Pakistan, from which East Punjab and West
Bengal had been carved out, that he had so contemptuously rejected in
July 1944 on the eve of his inconclusive conversations with
Gandhi.Jalal's Jinnah was not the supreme politician of earlier
accounts, but a man who had gambled and partly failed and had no
choice but to collect his gains to avoid complete defeat. He had to
constantly battle on three fronts, against regional Muslim leaders
pursuing their own agendas, against the Congress leadership, and
against the British, in particular the last Viceroy Lord Mountbatten,
and in spite of his considerable intellectual powers, had not always
proved equal to the task.
But, if Jinnah came out somewhat diminished from Jalal's account, as
a tragic and pathetic figure, the Congress leaders, including Gandhi,
emerged in a frankly unfavourable light. Jalal's view was that they
were the ones who had actually chosen partition by their refusal to
accept the prospect of a diminished centre, which alone could have
been the basis of a compromise with the Muslim League. By lashing out
equally at all the major actors (Mountbatten was not better treated
by her), Jalal helped discredit the approach 'from above' which had
dominated the field in the previous period.
Claude Markovits is senior fellow, Centre for the Study of India and
South Asia, Paris.
Soofia Mumtaz is chief of research, Pakistan Institute of Development
Jean-Luc Racine is senior fellow, Centre for the Study of India and
South Asia, Paris.
Imran Anwar Ali is Dean, Lahore University of Management Sciences.
The Preface, a lengthy Introduction and 13 papers in this volume were
prepared for a Pakistan-French seminar in Paris. They focus on
diverse issues pertaining to Pakistan. These include the
historiography of partition, the ongoing sectarian and ethnic strife,
the constricted role of political parties, the women's movement,
economic strategies, and relations with Afghanistan and India.
Excerpted with permission from Pakistan: the contours of state and
Edited by Soofia Mumtaz, Jean-Luc Racine and Imran Anwar Ali
Oxford University Press, 5 Bangalore Town, Sharae Faisal, Karachi-
Narendra Modi, future PM
SWAMINOMICS/SWAMINATHAN S ANKLESARIA AIYAR
[ SATURDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2002 08:28:04 PM ]
Too many journalists have proved guilty of projecting wishful
thinking as analysis. Despite widespread media criticism, Narendra
Modi won a landslide victory in Gujarat. Many journalists are now
trying to explain lamely why they were wrong, and some hope he will
be tamed or diminished in his second term.
I see things differently. I see Narendra Modi as a future Prime
Minister of India, possibly even the next one. The prospect does not
fill me with joy, but analysis is not about joyfulness. Just look
around for young politicians who can move the masses, who can be more
than regional leaders and make a national impact. I see no new faces,
in or outside the BJP, to match Modi.Atal Behari Vajpayee is in poor
health, and some believe LK Advani will soon take over from him,
maybe in the next general elections in 2004. But Vajpayee might not
step down. He might outlive Advani: there is little difference in
their ages. Nobody can say who will pass away first.
By contrast, at 52 Narendra Modi is has many decades ahead of him.
After his Gujarat victory he is obviously the star vote-getter of the
party, leaving far behind older aspirants like Murali Manohar Joshi.
Bhairon Singh Shekhawat may have some rival claims, but is an aged
gentleman that has been kicked upstairs already. Besides, Shekhawat
constantly needed help from others to form coalition governments. By
contrast Modi won with a crushing two-thirds majority in Gujarat. You
may hate him, but you cannot deny his vote-getting power.
Expect Modi to be a leading campaigner for the BJP in coming
elections in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, and expect the BJP to win.
Drought and fiscal bankruptcy caused by the Pay Commission award have
made Congress governments in these two states very vulnerable anyway.
Expect this weakness to be exacerbated by communalism, spearheaded
The BJP no longer has to incite communal riots to inflame passions.
Jehadi elements are doing it anyway, and handing over public
sentiment on a platter to the BJP. Witnesse temple attacks in Jammu
and Akshadharm. Expect more such attacks, and not on temples alone.
Expect each attack to strengthen the BJP and weaken its rivals.A
paradigm shift has taken place in Indian elections. The old aphorism,
that all politics is local, now rings hollow.
International Islamic militancy, with or without Pakistani support,
has suddenly become a major issue, whether secularists like it or
not. Nobody knows who the temple attackers in Gujarat and Jammu were.
A half-competent police would have stunned the militants with some
device, captured them alive, and used interrogation to unearth the
underlying plot. But our incompetent police killed them. The BJP
claims they were Pakistani agents, and this is widely believed.
I have no doubt that the temple attacks greatly aided Modi's victory
in Gujarat, just as the Pakistani attack on Kargil ensured Vajpayee's
victory in the general election of 1999. In India, the quality of
governance is so indifferent that incumbent governments tend to be
voted out. But when a major security threat arises, when the state
seems under attack by foreign forces, the incumbent is suddenly in a
strong position to rally support provided it sends out an
appropriately jingoistic message. The BJP is fully capable of this.
The Congress is not. The Marxists are not. And so secular forces are
losing out, while communal ones are gaining credibility.
International Islamic militancy has taken root in our neighbourhood.
The Taliban may have been ousted in Afghanistan, yet the city of
Khost is being bombarded by al-Qaeda forces located in the autonomous
tribal regions of the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan.
President Musharraf has lined up behind the USA, but Pakistan
contains strong pockets of support for jehadi groups. Al-Qaeda is
believed to have a major operation going in Karachi. Islamic
militants have bombed churches and killed foreign businessmen,
diplomats and local politicians. President Musharraf is trying to
hunt with the hounds and run with the hares. He seeks to crush al-
Qaeda and other extremists who want to assassinate him, yet he wishes
to feed the militancy in Kashmir.I do not know who will win the
internal struggle in Pakistan. But clearly the struggle will be long
and bloody. Which means that we can expect constant new jehadi
attacks on Indian temples and state institutions. Every time that
happens, Narendra Modi will begin to look a prophet and crusader, and
secular forces will find it difficult to gain the initiative. That is
why I view him as a future Prime Minister.
Let me not exaggerate. India is a large, complex land with many
social and economic problems that have nothing to do with militancy
or Pakistan. Many of these other issues will dominate from time to
time, which is why I do not expect the BJP to have a monopoly of
power at the Centre or the states. Others will win from time to time.
But unquestionably the jehadi phenomenon has created a bright future
for the BJP, and for Narendra Modi.
A STAFF REPORTER[ SATURDAY, JANUARY 04, 2003 02:49:56 AM ]
VK Dewan chairman, UP Jal Nigam on making provisions for potable
drinking water in the state
How is Jal Nigam planning to ensure that people get potable drinking
water all over the state?
Jal Nigam is primarily responsible for construction of major water
works in the state. We construct tube wells, install hand pumps, set
up sewage treatment plants, carry out other ancillary work and hand
it over to local bodies for maintenance. Hence to ensure that people
get potable drinking water we will install hand pumps in both rural
and urban areas. As per instructions from the Govt of India, the
water being supplied to people, especially in rural areas should be
For the purpose we will now set up India Marker-2 (hand pumps) in
every area with a population of 150 instead of 250 persons.
There is a also group water supply scheme under the recently launched
Swajal Yojna which will give a new dimension to construction of hand
pumps and potable water supply to people.
How do you propose to carry out these tasks?
We are attempting to enhance the quality of work being carried out
and to make sure that what ever has been constructed is maintained as
well. According to plans, the government will provide 90 per cent of
the monetary aid for setting up of the India Markers but we are
trying to get the local bodies like the panchayats to come up with
the remaining 10 per cent of the cost. So it will be a joint effort.
We have already decentralised the process of maintenance of the new
hand pumps as well as the existing one million.
A lot of stress is being laid on installation of hand pumps but with
ground water levels receding what good would that be?
Yes, we are aware that there is a problem of receding ground water
levels, but a lot is being done to take care of the problem by
different agencies— both government and non-government. It is now
mandatory to have rainwater harvesting in homes that are being
constructed. We too are making efforts to spread awareness about
water conservation and plan to organise seminars and workshops to
educate people about water management in various towns in UP. A lot
of water is wasted when it is discarded as sewage, when it can be
recycled and used in gardens etc. Effort will be made to educate
people about that as well.
Bouquets and brickbats for UP
TIMES NEWS NETWORK[ SATURDAY, JANUARY 04, 2003 12:58:09 AM ]
LUCKNOW: UP came under a barrage of both bouquets and brickbats on
Friday, as entrepreneurs, industrialists and bureaucrats while
lauding the potential of the state, blasted the government for
unnecessary delays and the poor packaging of its resources. This also
became the underlying theme for an interactive seminar on
the `Promotion of perishable food exports from UP: Issues, concerns
and solutions', held in the state capital on Friday.
Organised by Assocham, Ficci, Apeda and the state government, to
highlight the problems faced by the export sector, the seminar also
discussed in detail, the potential of the state, which was amongst
the best in the country. In his introductory address, agriculture
production commissioner SN Jha said, "Since the sector has unlimited
opportunities it is imperative that the state government provide more
and more facilities for entrepreneurs". He also underlined the need
to expedite methodology, as almost 40 per cent of the state's
agriculture produce goes to waste because of poor infrastructure and
He also pointed out how, in the 10th Financial Plan, Rs 50 crore had
been ear set aside for industrial development. He also exhorted
industrialists and exporters to make concerted efforts alongwith the
state government, so that both parties could benefit mutually. Later,
the minister of state for export promotion Seth Kishan Lal Baghel
said that in the chain of benefits emanating out of exports, everyone
should benefit, including the producer and the farmer.
Speaking on the occasion, Rai Singh, principal secretary
(agricultural export promotion) discussed in detail various schemes
that were on, to help in promoting exports from the state. In his
spirited address, Anil Swaroop, the chairman of Apeda said that
nothing was impossible for UP, as it has so many facets to showcase.
Reminiscing his visits to the east Godavari district (poultry
products) and a village near Bangalore, where small-time farmers with
help of an intermediary, had set up a facility for exports, he
pointed out how the same success stories could be repeated in UP. The
need of the hour, he underlined, was providing accessibility to
exporters and a time-bound programme for the completion of projects
and for the reply to queries from farmers.
Happy New Year
We are sending importent article .
Health Watch UP-Bihar Team
|Dec 22, 2002|
Welcome to Sadhauli Kadeem block in Saharanpur district of Uttar Pradesh. The primary health centre here is proud of its staff's innovative spirit. In place of the high-precision pneumoperitoneum insufflation equipment that pumps air into the abdomen of women undergoing laparoscopic sterilisation surgery, they use a bicycle pump!
A dai (traditional midwife) attaches the tube to the laparoscope and pumps away. The surgeon taps the bloated abdomen of the patient to gauge the quantity of air pumped in. He gets on with the operation, paying scant attention to the guidelines of the Union health ministry that specify the pressure, speed, quality and quantity of air to be pumped in.
Innovative best: A laparoscopic sterilisation surgery in progress at the primary health centre in Pandari block of Mirzapur district
The cycle pump is a standard substitute for the medical pump in almost all primary health centres in western Uttar Pradesh. It is a success as far as the doctors are concerned but the fact is that no one has bothered to get feedback from the patients. Many complain of cramps, pain and belching for months following the operation.
Over to Pandari block in Mirzapur district. The tiny room in the primary health centre is packed with women. They ring the narrow examination table, and in the process block the door. For 25-year-old Krishnavati, that is her sole source of privacy. She reclines with her knees hunched up, and her petticoat thrown back. Susheela Devi, the lady health visitor, pulls Krishnavati's legs apart and pushes in her gloved hand for a pelvic examination. In a split second the exercise is over.
Susheela rinses her gloved hand under a running tap. Then, it is Jagwanti's turn. Infection is not much of a concern as Susheela does not change her glove. There are not enough surgical gloves around, she reasons. In fact, the same glove is used for all the 35 women operated upon at the sterilisation camp that day.
Outside the 'operation theatre', an auxiliary nurse midwife is ordering women to lie down on a mattress spread in the passageway. The nurse gingerly steps across each woman, quickly injecting a test dose. She has filled the syringe with enough medicine for all. After each jab she dabs the needle with a cotton swabÑa feeble attempt to disinfect it. She has to give five shots to each patient before they enter the operation theatre.
The agony is not over yet: Women lying down in the corridor outside the operation theatre after they have undergone sterilisation. A scene from Vijaypur block
The bottom line is the number of cases done in an hour, even though the national population policy now advocates a target-free approach. The numbers game played out in sterilisation camps across Uttar Pradesh under the Reproductive Child Health Care Programme has no rules. Human dignity and value for life are the biggest casualties in the programme that is aided by the Centre, the World Bank and some foreign agencies.
Prem Singh is a peon at the Pandari primary health centre, where it is 'Camp Day'. He has to double as ward boy and operation theatre attendant besides running errands. The gynaecologist has just arrived. Prem puts a bowl of water on a single-flame gas stove. The boiled water is to be used to sterilise equipment used during the operation. The boiler and autoclave meant for the purpose are operational but seldom used.
Upturned stools are tied to one end of the operating tables to raise them to an angle. Krishnavati is ready for surgery. She is still in her street clothes, mildly sedated. This time her petticoat has been pushed up and tied round her neck. On an adjacent table lies Jagwanti, exposed to all. The door is ajar with Prem still carrying things in.
The doctor is giving instant training to an assistant nurse on how to use a laparoscope. The three-minute lesson over, she gives herself a wash and moves to the operation table. It is not high enough for her. Bricks are pushed under the stool to raise the bed further without a care for the norm that the angle should never exceed 15 degrees. The doctor then calls for a pump for insufflation (pumping air into the patient's abdomen to locate the fallopian tubes from the fat lumps). The door is flung open and Prem rushes out to get one. In a minute and a half, the surgery is over. A nurse moves in to stitch up Krishnavati.
The doctor hands over the used laparoscope to another nurse who dips it in a bowl of yellow solution, fits it with another ring and hands it back. By then the doctor has already given Jagwanti a cut. She uses the same laparoscope to tie up Jagwanti's fallopian tubes. Meanwhile, another woman has replaced Krishnavati, legs up and petticoat tied round her neck.
Outside the room, standing apart from those putting their thumb impressions on sterilisation consent forms is Asha Devi, wife of Monu Kumbar of Singhora village. There is no one to help her. In 1997, Asha had filled in a similar consent form and undergone bachcha bund karne ka operation (operation to stop pregnancy). Recently, she gave birth to a child. "Wo bhi ladki (that too a girl)," she laments. Auxiliary nurse midwife Bimla, who had persuaded her to undergo the operation, looks on helplessly. She would rather have Asha hold back her tears. Today she may scare off the other 'cases' Bimla has collected for the 'family planning operation'. Bimla cannot afford to slip up on the 25 women per year quota she has been assigned by the chief medical officer.
For namesake: Syringes and needles being sterilised in Pandari
More than 200 people have assembled at the primary health centre in Vijaypur block of Mirzapur district. It is 4 p.m. and they have been waiting for the doctor since morning. As many as 75 women are scheduled for operation and the doctor is getting late.
Relatives of the women scheduled for operation sport worried looks. The nurses ask them to be patient. "The doctor works with great speed," an auxiliary nurse midwife assures them. "He will finish the job within two hours."
As soon as the doctor's car is sighted there is frenzied activity. The midwives assemble their cases. Physical examination, blood test, urine analysis and test shots are rushed through.
In another room a doctor stamps cards certifying the patients fit for surgery. There is no time to wait for lab results. Only if a woman is pregnant will she be turned away.
"Get me lights," shouts a nurse who is busily injecting women in fading daylight. A peon arrives with a bulb, orders a woman off the stretcher, climbs on to it shoes and all to reach the socket.
Inviting trouble: A woman putting her thumb impression
on the sterilisation consent form in Pandari, little knowing
that her travails are about to start
In the operation theatre, the doctor lives up to his reputation. He is through with 20 patients in the first hour. The theatre has three tables and given the speed at which operations are rushed through, it is well nigh impossible to either change blood-stained sheets or sterilise the equipment.
The surgery over, the women are laid out on the bare floor of the corridor which serves as post-operative care hall. Eyes closed, heads lolling and supported by their relatives, they are on their way home barely 15 minutes after the operation. Auxiliary nurse midwife Maya says she will check on them after 48 hours. But where are the follow-up cards? Not available, she says.
The ground reality at the primary health centres makes a mockery of the guidelines issued by the Union health ministry in October 1999. "Standards define what is expected of service providers," says the foreword to the guidelines. "Prescribing standards facilitate the monitoring of inputs and quality of care. In the field of sterilisation, quality of care is critical." But who is listening?
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In the interest of a few seats here and there, the CPM has given a
certificate of secularism to the Congress. This theoretical abankruptcy of
the CPM is also reflected in Sitaram Yechury's article. Secularism as an
entity emerged only in the 3-400 years back, but Sitaram Yechury has hailed
Asoka as a secularist. Tolerance for other religions is not secularism .
Babar also cautioned Humayun about the culture and customs of Hindus, that
did not make him a secularist. It was Bhagat Singh etc who vowed to keep
religion away from the political arena. Earlier Vidhyasagar had also
advocated the teaching of John Stuart Mill etc as opposed to Berkley which
he said was available in Indian Philosophy.
Sitaram Yechury while equating RSS to Muslim League, has also conveniently
forgotten that the erstwhile CPI had lent support to the Muslim League's two
nation theory . While decering that the congress hass moved away from the
progressive viosion it espoused , the CPM still has hopes that it will ct as
the bulwark of secularism.
In this connection, I would like to mention that was a meeting in Udaipur
organised by the PUCL and Centre for Study of Society and Secularism. In
the talk given by Azghar Ali Engineer, after giving a good description of
the 'soft Hindutva' stand of the Congress during the elections, he also
mentioned the strange silence by the secular forces in Gujarat, singling out
some members of the movement for Secular democracy that he knew. He however
failed to mention anywhere the efforts of SUCI , which has been widely
publicised in Gujarat Development . He came out
with the conclusion that the Congress is frightened of Hindutva agression,
citing the personal attacks on Sonia and the fact that she was not allowed
to meet Ehsan Jaffry's wife. He suggested that the secular forces should
push the Congress into taking a bolder stand.
This approach of his vehemently opposed by asection of the group. In
response he mentioned that he is not a supporter of the Congress. if the
left could defeat the BJP he would be all for it, but the fact of the case
are that they
cannot do so. Relgion draws votes whether we like it or not , it is not a
cry for employment that will attract the masses. This was refuted by
somebody who mentioned that Indira Gandhi won once on the Garibi Hatao
I mentioned that all along he was saying that we need a united force to
defeat the BJP. The Congress has lost. We however also lost an opportunity
to present before the people with an alterative, which wouod have been the
case had the left parties united to jointly fight both communal forces. When
it has become very clear that the BJP planned Godhra and what happened
afterwards as a respose to the failure of its so called soft stand on
Hindutva in UP, why were the secular forces flat footed on the issue ?
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Saturday, December 28, 2002 5:18 PM
Subject: [FoUP] A march towards fascism
Saturday, Dec 28, 2002
A march towards fascism
By Sitaram Yechury
Only a frontal, secular confrontation can now stop this communal
juggernaut from seeking to metamorphose India into a fascistic "Hindu
THE BJP'S phyrric victory in Gujarat and the consequent
`Modification' of India that it is seeking to undertake brings into
sharp focus the ongoing battle between alternative visions that was
sculpted during the course of our freedom struggle. Intense debates
took place on what should be the character of independent India. This
ideological churning during the 1920s produced three distinct
visions. What was later to become the main stream of the people's
movement represented then by the Congress envisioned independent
India to be a secular, democratic republic. This included federalism,
social justice and economic self-reliance as highlights. Distinct yet
not antagonistic was the Left vision which suggested that independent
India cannot stop with the attainment of the Congress vision but
needed to proceed further to convert the political independence of
the country into a truly economic independence of our people, i.e.,
establishment of socialism.
Distinct, antagonistic and conflicting with this was the right-wing
vision which envisaged independent India to be a country whose
denomination and definition would be defined by the people's
religious affiliations. This vision found a twin expression - the RSS
that advocated its fascist "Hindu Rashtra" and the Muslim League
which advocated a separate Islamic state.
In fact, the RSS vision was articulated even before its formation by
V.D. Savarkar in 1923 in the pamphlet, "Hindutva: Who is a Hindu?".
The RSS was founded in 1925. In his Presidential Address to the Hindu
Mahasabha on December 30, 1937, Savarkar said: "There are two nations
in the main: the Hindus and the Moslems in India". Mohammad Ali
Jinnah propounded his two-nation theory in 1939. In this very year,
the then RSS chief, M.S. Golwalkar, chillingly articulated the
fascistic character of the "Hindu Rashtra" in his treatise, "We, Or
Our Nationhood Defined".
Having declared that all others except Hindus are foreign elements,
Golwalkar proceeds to state: "there are only two courses open to the
foreign elements, either to merge themselves in the national race and
adopt its culture, or to live at its mercy so long as the national
race may allow them to do so and to quit the country at the sweet
will of the national race... There is, at least should be, no other
course for them to adopt. We are an old nation; let us deal, as old
nations ought to and do deal, with the foreign races, who have chosen
to live in our country."
And how should `old nations' deal? "To keep up the purity of the Race
and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country
of the Semitic Races - the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been
manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it
is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to
be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in
Hindusthan to learn and profit by."
Jinnah's vision divided the country, harmed the community that he led
and with the break up of Pakistan in 1971, it completely exposed the
falsity of the two-nation theory.
Hindu communal fanaticism claimed the life of Mahatma Gandhi when,
after Partition, the Congress continued to adhere to its vision of
the Indian republic. All through these years, however, these communal
forces remained active waiting for an opportunity to advance their
objective. The recent events in the country resoundingly vindicate
The Left vision was not merely an extension of the Congress vision.
It simultaneously contained its critique. The objectives, laudable as
they may be, were contained in a vision that was simply unsustainable
unless backed by radical economic reforms sweeping away feudal
vestiges. This was not possible under the stewardship of the
Congress, which for its political survival allied specifically with
the very elements that prevented such profound economic changes. The
Congress' political compulsions to remain the ruling party laid the
seeds of negation of the very vision that it espoused.
The resultant popular discontent amongst the people led not only to
protest against the policies of the Congress but more importantly
developed a sense of disenchantment with the Congress vision itself.
It is this that engendered the rise of the communal agenda.
The sharpening all-round crisis reached a decisive stage in the
mid-1980s. The seeds of economic liberalism were laid in the later
half of this decade, to become all embracing in the 1990s. The crisis
also engendered sharp decline in political morality. In order to
retain political power, the Congress adopted disastrous shortcuts.
On the other hand, the consequent growing discontent and
disenchantment continued to feed the RSS activities in the later half
of the 1980s when it started mounting a fresh offensive. In order to
meet this offensive, one of the disastrous shortcuts the Congress
employed was an appeasement of communal forces. The reopening of the
locks at the Babri Masjid, the shilanyas undertaken by Rajiv Gandhi
at Ayodhya, and the appeasement of the Muslim community in the by now
infamous Shah Bano case - all projected the Congress as a pale
The subsequent vacillation of the Narasimha Rao Government at the
time of the Babri Masjid demolition and the refusal to mount a
secular confrontation of communalism in the recent Gujarat campaign
have only reinforced this direction. Further, an autopsy of the
election results in Gujarat shows that in as many as 36 seats the
result would have been the opposite had only the Congress worked for
a `one to one' contest.
Thus, a secular confrontation of communalism which was the hallmark
of the Congress during decisive phases of the freedom struggle has
now been replaced by a communal onslaught against secularism led by
the RSS. It needs to be underlined that secularism for us, in India,
is no western concept borrowed in modern times. Way back in the third
century B.C., Emperor Asoka commanded in his edicts, "Whosoever
honours one's own sect and condemns other sects, out of devotion to
one's own sect, intending to glorify it, in acting thus injures his
own sect the more."
The RSS never tires of accusing all modern elements, particularly the
Communists and the secularists, of having borrowed western concepts.
Never mind that they are today wielding control over state power in a
system of parliamentary democracy borrowed entirely from the west.
Further, if there is any ideology that in the 20th century was
defeated by a people's upsurge, it was fascism. It is precisely this
ideology of fascism that the RSS has appropriated for itself in
India. Golwalkar's hero was Hitler while Moonje's hero was Mussolini.
The latter played an important role in the formation of the RSS in
1920s. The former gave the RSS both its ideological construct and the
organisational linkages to achieve their objective.
Humanity paid a heavy price to defeat this menace. The decisive force
in liberating humanity from fascism has been that of the Soviet Red
Army and the Communist underground resistance in many of these
countries. Similarly, in India, the people are already paying the
price for this march towards fascism. However, as the experience of
the 20th century shows, these forces are destined to be defeated. The
tragedy, however, will be the immense loss of innocent life and
destruction of property that this fascist monster will gurgle.
Finally, it needs to be underlined that Savarkar coined the term
"Hindutva" as a political slogan. He, in fact, states: "Here, it is
enough to point out that Hindutva is not identical with what is
vaguely indicated by the term Hinduism."
In this context, it is necessary to remind ourselves once again that
it was a majority of Indians, a majority of whom belong to the Hindu
fold, that rejected the RSS vision of a "Hindu Rashtra" and embraced
the secular, democratic, republican Constitution. It is only such a
frontal, secular confrontation that can now stop this communal
juggernaut from seeking to metamorphose secular, democratic India
into a fascistic "Hindu Rashtra".
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Date: Sat, 04 Jan 2003 20:17:04 -0000
Hinduism in danger?
If Hinduism is in danger today, the main source of that danger may
lie within and not outside it.
SOME OF the most vivid recollections of my childhood go back to the
Great Calcutta Killings when as a boy of 11 or 12 I had to travel by
bus and tram between home and school in an unsafe city. I did not
have a clear understanding of what was happening, but something from
those days that echoes in my memory is the phrase `Islam in danger'.
The phrase had different connotations at home and in the school. At
school I came to befriend a number of Muslim boys whose social and
political orientations were very different from those of my home.
They spoke Urdu and English rather than Bengali. They were a couple
of years older than me, took a keen interest in politics and were
passionately attached to the idea of Pakistan which in 1946 seemed a
fantasy to me. They had obviously been taught at home that in India
there was a serious threat not only to the Muslims as a minority but
also to Islam as a way of life.
My home environment was quite different. The place where we lived at
that time was not my parents' home but one to which my mother, born a
Bengali Hindu, was closely attached by ties of fictive kinship. It
was a liberal, secular, middle-class Bengali home, strongly attached
to the idea of a single India and strongly opposed to the two-nation
theory. The most articulate member of the household, who was a humane
and broad-minded nationalist, became my mother's political mentor. I
remember him explaining to us with great clarity and conviction that
the idea of Islam in danger was wrong and pernicious and that it
would bring great suffering to the Muslim minority for whose
predicament he had deep and genuine sympathy.
The wheel seems to be turning full circle now, and more and more
people are beginning to feel and say that Hinduism is in danger. If
someone strongly opposes that view, he may be denounced as a
pseudo-secularist, even if he happens to be the Prime Minister of
India. Surely, it is this growing hysteria about the danger to
Hinduism that has led members of his own parivar or extended family
to describe even the stout-hearted L. K. Advani as a
The hysteria about Hinduism in danger is growing and spreading, and
it tends to catch liberal and enlightened Hindus on the wrong foot.
This seems now to be the most serious challenge not only to the
religious minorities but to Indian society as a whole and, indeed, to
Hinduism itself. One would expect Hindu intellectuals, whether they
are secularists, pseudo-secularists or plain honest Hindus, to oppose
the spread of this hysteria which is being nurtured by persons whose
main motivation is revenge for real or imagined injuries inflicted on
their co-religionists in the past or the present. Yet one sees very
little intellectual opposition to it from within Hinduism.
At the time of Independence Hindu intellectuals were by and large
free from the kind of paranoia that characterised many of their
Muslim counterparts, and this continued into the years of Nehru's
prime ministership and beyond. But the tide may now be turning. Hindu
intellectuals appear less confident about the prospects of a modern,
secular and democratic political order in India than they were when
the Republic came into being in 1950. Some if not many of them have
begun to feel that Hinduism is in danger not only from other
religions but from secular modernity itself. The attack on
pseudo-secularists comes not only from those who are opposed to other
religions but also from those who are opposed to secular ideas and
Is Hinduism really in danger? On the evidence, objectively
considered, the presumption will be that Hinduism is far less
endangered in independent India than Islam was in India before
Independence. But that is not really the point, for the objective
evidence of danger is one thing and the feeling of being endangered
is another. It may well be that the number of Muslims now in Pakistan
who feel that Islam is in danger is larger than the number of those
who felt in that way in undivided India. The partition of India did
not reduce the feeling among Muslims on the Subcontinent that Islam
was in danger, it probably enhanced it.
Where is the danger to Hinduism believed to come from? Does it come
from other religions within or outside the country? Or does it come
from the ascendance of secular ideas and institutions which tend to
be represented by both Hindu and Muslim traditionalists as godless
There has been some agitation in recent times over conversions from
Hinduism to other religions. Various things may be said for and
against religious conversion. But surely, one is not going to argue
that the conversion of a few hundred, or a few thousand, or even a
few hundred thousand Hindus to Islam or Christianity or Buddhism will
bring about the collapse of an ancient, complex and vibrant religion
such as Hinduism. Hinduism has withstood conversion on a far more
massive scale in the past. It is most unlikely that conversion on
that kind of scale will ever take place in the future.
It is said that Hindus are no longer safe in their own country since
their temples are now open to assault. The assault on places of
worship of no matter which religion is a criminal act which does not
weaken religious faith and observance as much as it challenges the
legitimacy of the secular state whose responsibility it is to protect
all places of worship.
Acts of competitive vandalism aimed at the desecration of sacred
places are on the increase. Sometimes they are undertaken with the
open or tacit encouragement of popular religious functionaries. Today
it is those who engage in such acts who are likely to raise the
slogan that their religion is in danger. But the sad thing is that
they are not the only ones. Those who first raised the slogan of
Islam in danger in pre-partition India were not all vandals. Some of
them were educated, even cultivated men. Indeed, intellectuals always
play a part in creating channels for the expression of popular
passions. They do not always do so with evil intentions, but they are
easily intoxicated by their own ideas when they find that those ideas
resonate among the masses of people.
The disquiet about the future of Hinduism seems to be more widespread
among Hindu intellectuals than it was 50 years ago. How far this
mirrors the disquiet among those who speak for the minority
religions, and how far it is based on autonomous and independent
causes, it is not easy to determine.
As the strains created in society by secular modernity become
increasingly apparent, more and more Hindu intellectuals are
beginning to believe that their religion and way of life are
endangered. They are less confident about it than they ought to be in
view of its demonstrated vitality, resilience and adaptability. One
consequence of this is that the internal critique of Hinduism which
began in the 19th century and continued for well over a hundred years
seems to be drying up. This is unfortunate because the vitality of a
religion depends upon a continuous critique of it by its own
reflective members. Some years before he died, the Marxist economist
and writer, Ashok Rudra, published a critique of Hinduism in Bengali
entitled "Brahminical Religion and the Mentality of the Modern
Hindu". I wonder how many such books are being written today in Hindi
which is the most widely used among the Indian languages.
Enlightened Hindus in the 19th century felt free to attack the
corruption and decay in their own religion and among their own
religious leaders. Their present-day counterparts find it more
convenient to train their guns on secular intellectuals than on their
own religious leaders whose intolerant and vengeful acts do far
greater harm to Hinduism from within. If Hinduism is in danger today,
the main source of that danger may lie within and not outside it.
Jan 3rd, 2003
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FREDERICK NORONHA <fred@...> wrote:
Happy new year! For 2003, we at Bytesforall are launching a list
that will focus exclusively on ICT in agriculture. This came about
after a recent workshop at ICRISAT, where it agriculture -- where a
lot of possible through low-cost ICT interventions (including the
simple sharing of information) -- is a neglected area.
Dr N Sandhya Shenoy, nss@..., the moving spirit behind
the gateway to Indian agriculture, has graciously agreed to
volunteer her help in giving this network a boost. Being entirely a
volunteer-run venture, BytesForAll seeks your support (time,
energies and ideas) to take us closer towards our dream of focussing
on ICT technologies that work, in a sustainable and affordable
(The Agricultural Gateway to India is a web site managed by Dr N.
Sandhya Shenoy, Senior Scientist, National Academy of Agricultural
Research Management (NAARM) in Hyderabad, India, in collaboration
with the AIM (Agricultural Instruction Media) Lab of the University
of Illinois. It is a very comprehensive site. See
To join the new list, simply send an email to
In a little while, we hope to see some activity at the group home
Send your ICT-for-agri related postings to
group email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay in touch... and send in your suggestions.
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Mohammad Imran <imran@...> wrote:
Date: Sun, 29 Dec 2002 19:04:10 -0500
This is another article on the contamination of environment by GM seeds.
We have to get the full report published by the British Government
whenever we can and then circulate it. Looks like we will be eating
animal proteins with our vegetables, and pesticide genes with our oils
GM crops are breeding with plants in the wild
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
29 December 2002
Alarming new results from official trials of GM crops are severely
jeopardising Government plans for growing them commercially in Britain.
The results, in a new Government report, show for the first time in
Britain that genes from GM crops are interbreeding on a large scale with
conventional ones, and also with weeds.
The report is so devastating to the Government's case for GM crops that
ministers last week sought to bury it by slipping the first information on
it out on the website of the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural
Affairs (Defra) on Christmas Eve, the one day in the year when no newspapers
are being prepared.
Even then, the department published only a heavily edited summary of the
main report. Unusually, the full report, which will contain much more
devastating detail, was withheld from publication on the website. Defra said
it was available on request, but when The Independent on Sunday tried to ask
for it last week, the department said no one was available to provide it.
The report, the result of six years of monitoring of GM crops in Britain, is
particularly politically explosive and it gives the first results from the
official farm-scale trials, which ministers have been running to test the
suitability of growing GM crops in Britain.
The Government has repeatedly said that the results of the trials would
settle the question of whether GM crops endangered the environment but
perhaps because it knew what the research had found it has been
downplaying their significance in recent weeks.
The trials originally set up to buy time in the face of strong public
hostility to the crops were not designed to look at the possibility of
genes from GM crops contaminating nearby plants, but focusedon the effects
of different uses of pesticides on GM and non-GM plants. But, after this was
criticised, studies of this "gene flow'' were bolted on.
The report covers true studies carried out between 1994 and 2000 by the
National Institute of Agricultural Botany and the Laboratory of the
Government Chemist. It shows that genes from GM oil seed rape, specially
engineered to be resistant to herbicides, contaminated con- ventional crops
as far as 200 yards away.
Equally alarmingly, GM oil seed rape that escaped from a crop harvested in
1996 persisted for at least four years, until studies ended in 2000.
In another case, the report adds: "It was found that some combine harvesters
were not cleaned after the harvesting of the GM crop,'' and "subsequently
flushed out'' the GM seed on to ground intended for conventional crops
"causing contamination of this field.''
Most worryingly of all, the report shows that the GM crop readily interbred
with a weed, wild turnip, giving it resistance to herbicides and thus
raising the prospect of the development of "super weeds".
The report concludes that the research "indicates that commercial-scale
releases of GM oil seed rape in future could pollinate other crops and wild
Other studies from elsewhere in the world have shown that interbreeding
occurs, and English Nature, the Government's wildlife watchdog, has said
super weeds will "inevitably'' emerge in Britain if GM crops are grown
In a commentary also published by Defra on Christmas Eve, the official
advisory committee on releases to the environment said that the
contamination was "entirely within expectations''.
The committee added that "in itself'' gene flow did not constitute a risk to
the environment. But Pete Riley of Friends of the Earth said the results
showed that if GM crops became widespread, almost all similar crops would inevitably become contaminated, severely threatening organic agriculture. He added: "It is not surprising that the Government has tried to cover up this report.
"It shows that we need to know a great deal more about these issues before we even contemplate growing GM crops commercially.''
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Behind United Nations Sanctions Against Iraq
Scylla And Charbydris
An Interview with Dennis Halliday
by Nyier Abdou and Dennis Halliday
Al Ahram (Z-Net)
December 30, 2002
In the vast machinery of the behemoth that is the
United Nations, even a high-level figure is just a
worker bee. Or so it seems after talking to Denis
Halliday, who four years after resigning his post as
chief UN relief co-ordinator for Iraq still seems to
relish the liberty to speak freely about the notorious
failings of the sanctions regime. Upholding a sense of
justice, keeping one's faith in the various conventions
that make up the body of international law -- these are
not the purview of humanitarian leaders working under
the umbrella of the blue flag. As for the colony, even
the secretary-general is not the queen bee.
In an interview with Al-Ahram Weekly, Halliday
described the limitations on his autonomy during his
tenure as the UN assistant secretary-general as those
of an "international civil servant". "I mean, I was
contracted; I was subordinate to the secretary-general
and I was not in a position to criticise the work of
the Security Council, the member states -- they were my
bosses. The secretary-general is a servant of the
council. I was the servant's servant."
Halliday's formal demeanour and fluent expression of
indignation mask a dry wit and fiery zeal with respect
to the failure of sanctions in Iraq and the
disproportionate influence of the US in the functions
of the UN. Candid, thoughtful and instinctively
precise, Halliday has been a standard-bearer of
international efforts to end sanctions in Iraq. More
recently, he has been a prominent figure opposing
another war in Iraq.
Noting that his efforts to expose the devastating
impact of sanctions on the people of Iraq shook the
ground under the UN establishment -- and, by extension,
his job -- Halliday has no regrets. "Of course, that's
when the pressure came for my removal, and when I
decided that I had made some changes; I'd made some
difference in Iraq, and maybe I could do better by
leaving the organisation." With liberation from the
fetters of UN diplomacy came the freedom to "go public,
go worldwide with the crimes being committed in Iraq".
Those crimes, he says, have their bedrock in the
sanctions regime, but they are also derivatives of what
Halliday clearly identifies as "war crimes" committed
by the US during the Gulf War. Among these, he singles
out the purposeful destruction of water systems, which,
despite being a contravention of the laws of war, "very
deliberately kill the children of Iraq". The escalating
calamities that have proliferated under sanctions,
Halliday suggests, can be traced to a combination of
direct war damage, the use of depleted uranium and
"chronic and acute malnutrition".
It is striking that with such high-profile defections
as that of Halliday and his successor, Hans von
Sponeck, not to mention the persistent struggle of
former UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter to debunk US and
British half-truths about the threat from Iraq, the
sanctions regime remains in place. In Cairo last week
for a conference launching the International Campaign
against US Aggression on Iraq (ICAA), both Halliday and
von Sponeck condemned the crippling of the Iraqi
economy, the prevention of health care and soaring
infant and child mortality rates in Iraq as nothing
short of genocide perpetrated by the very organisation
founded to protect the humanity and sovereignty of its
"Genocide" is a strong word; and one that, it could be
argued, is used too freely. But Halliday does not shy
away from every implication the term carries: from the
institutional methodology, to the systematic execution,
to the racial hatred. In his address to the conference
last Wednesday, Halliday defined sanctions as "warfare"
and "consistent with war crimes". Speaking of US
President George W Bush's determination to invade Iraq,
Halliday denounced the administration's war plans as
"obscene". "It's criminal," he said, "and I believe
While Halliday maintains that sanctions -- provided for
in the UN charter -- are a legitimate device to force
the hand of leaderships, he is pointed about the
punitive nature of sanctions in Iraq, noting that he
thinks given its experience in Iraq, the United Nations
"is rethinking, and hopefully will never use open-
ended, comprehensive sanctions again". But he adds that
the mistakes made in applying sanctions in Iraq have
been well acknowledged, justified, compounded and
sustained. "The fact is, the UN Security Council has
allowed these sanctions on Iraq to drag on for 12
years, and this is not happenstance; this is deliberate
decision-making. That's why I've determined it to be a
Asked if there are sanctions "smart" enough to be
defensible in Iraq today, Halliday says we are too late
in the game. "I think at this late date, after 12
years, that is collective punishment; that is, as I
said, genocidal. That's unacceptable. That's got to
come to an end," he says. "We've got to get the economy
back on its feet, get people back into their jobs,
restore health care, education -- I mean, give Iraqi
people back their lives. That's the least we can do.
Give them their economic and social rights back."
The question that emerges out of this call is whether
we can, or should, reinstate systems that meet those
needs under the leadership of Saddam Hussein. Within
this question nests the dilemma all anti-war and anti-
sanctions activists must labour under: can we defend
the people of Iraq without defending Saddam Hussein?
Does fighting for the end of sanctions and the
sovereignty of Iraq carry with it the necessary
consequence of propping up Hussein's regime?
"That's a decision for the people of Iraq," says
Halliday. "I don't believe in regime change, or
assassination. I believe if the Iraqis had their
economy, had their lives back and had their way of life
restored, they would take care of the form of
governance that they want, that they believe is
suitable for their country." Pointing to the model of
Indonesia, where a "largely bloodless" revolt started
by students managed to oust a "genuine dictator" like
Suharto, Halliday argues that Iraqis "are certainly
capable of doing the same thing. We've got to give them
Far from crippling Hussein's regime, sanctions have in
fact strengthened Hussein's hold on power. Meanwhile,
notes Halliday, sanctions have "weakened the very
people who think about democracy or think about multi-
party systems, or think about change of government or
governance". The end result is that "we have sustained
a regime that apparently we don't like, and we've
denied the opportunities for change.
The US and Britain, says Halliday, are well aware of
damning reports by the secretary-general that spell
genocide. "This is a tragedy for the United Nations. Of
course, there's a much bigger tragedy for the people of
Iraq. And we're all responsible. The United Nations is
us, and we are bound by the resolutions of the Security
How bound? It's a tricky question. Can one argue that a
resolution of the Security Council goes against
international law, when it is the Security Council
itself that codifies international law? Halliday has
raised this predicament before, asking whether we are
expected to swallow a resolution that is incompatible
with the UN charter and the declaration of human
rights. The answer, he feels, is obviously no. "The
Security Council is out of control," he says. "There's
no device in the UN structure to oversee the work of
the council, to monitor its decisions, to monitor the
impact of those decisions, and their compatibility, or
otherwise, with other aspects of international law.
There's no Supreme Court. There's no review, it's part
of the reform discussion that many of us carry out."
Numerous reports have condemned the sanctions regime as
institutionalising the Iraqi people's dependence on
aid. Though the Oil-for Food (OfF) programme,
authorised by UN Resolution 986 in 1995, has brought
some moderate improvement, it did not do the job of
eliminating Iraq's humanitarian crisis -- mainly
because it was never designed to be a substitute for a
normally functioning economy. OfF can only salve the
most egregious suffering caused by sanctions, but it
cannot possibly address the long-term impact on health
standards, infrastructure and social life. It does not
help Iraqis help themselves.
Asked if he thought sanctions were ever meant as a
method of bringing Iraq back into the international
fold, Halliday is evidently unconvinced. "No, I think
the Gulf War, the invasion of Kuwait -- which was
supported by the United States, and encouraged by the
United States -- was all part of a plan to crush Saddam
Hussein, and crush Iraq -- perhaps the only country
showing leadership potential in the Arab world," he
says. Sanctions, he argues, were part of this. They
built on the destruction of the war -- the use of
depleted uranium, the bombing of civilian targets, the
destruction of water systems and electric power. It was
"horrific" back in 1991, says Halliday, "and, I think,
we have very deliberately been genocidal in our
endeavours since then until today."
The loudest condemnation of US war plans is of course
that US policy on Iraq is solely determined by oil.
"Well it's certainly not about weapons, because there's
no threat from Iraq," responds Halliday. "We know that
in this neighbourhood, and the Americans know it
perfectly well. It's a game being played by Mr Bush, a
very dangerous, nasty game." Halliday notes that the
CIA and the Pentagon have indicated to Bush that there
is in fact no military threat from Iraq. "So it's about
oil. But it's also about oil and Israel, Israel's
position, Israel's representation of American interests
in the Middle East. I think that's certainly got to be
part of the problem."
"But I think it's also about this desire for influence
and power and presence throughout the world, including
the Middle East," he adds. "And it gets back again and
again to the need to control oil resources, which are
of such importance to the survival of the economy of
the United States. And I think that Washington is very
insecure in its relationship with Saudi Arabia; they're
not at all sure what's going to happen in the years
ahead, and they want a reserve tank. And the reserve
tank, unfortunately, is called Iraq. It's sitting on a
120 billion barrels, it's cheap and easy to obtain, and
all it needs is a friendly regime in Baghdad that will
cow tow to American interests and American demands, and
I think that's the name of the game of the attack, the
war, the bombing, the invasion, [and] the occupation of
Iraq that Mr Bush clearly has in mind. It's part of a
strategy to dominate world affairs, world economy, to
dominate world globalisation that is designed to
support and enhance the lifestyle of Americans."
In the West, however, knowledge of the human face of
sanctions is poor, and it grows poorer the further West
you travel, suggests Halliday. "I think in Europe and
Britain there's much more knowledge and understanding
and empathy for the Arab world, Arab peoples; there's
more travel to and from this part of the world, there's
more visitors from the Middle East. There's awareness.
But there isn't, I think, a real understanding of the
impact of sanctions on people, on their families, of
social consequences. On women, on professional women,
on all the daily concerns of life, of education, of
health care, of elderly parents, the complete collapse
of the high standards of human values that Iraq enjoyed
-- the introduction of corruption, all of this. The
isolation, intellectual and otherwise, all of this is
not well understood in Europe, or in Britain."
In the United States, where Halliday lives part of the
year, "it's much worse". "There's almost total
ignorance there," he says. "The media is not very
helpful. The Americans themselves don't read, or don't
look outwards; they're focused more on domestic issues
-- inward-looking people, unfortunately. Of course
there are many exceptions to that, but the great
majority of Americans really don't know what's
happening in Iraq, they're not aware of their foreign
policy, [and] they're certainly not aware of their
responsibility for the foreign policy in Washington."
It has been argued by the US and Britain that the money
brought in by OfF has been misused by Hussein and that
this accounts for the continuing humanitarian
difficulties in the country. But Halliday maintains
that no money coming from OfF ever made it into the
hands of the Iraqi government. Proceeds went from UN
accounts to contractors assembled by the ministries of
trade and health to provide the basic supplies allowed
under the sanctions regime. "There may have been some
kickbacks on contracts, who knows?" concedes Halliday.
"But it's very small money in a country of 23 million
people being fed every day by this programme. This is a
hugely dependent society."
As to illegal trade, Halliday says that everyone knows
that there's been trade across the Turkish and
Jordanian borders, and perhaps with Iran and Syria as
well. "This has brought in additional money," he
admits. "This money has been used perhaps unwisely or
wisely, I don't quite know, but it's legitimate as far
as I'm concerned. The only weapon that Iraq has is oil
and its revenues. They're entitled to use that weapon
any way they can see fit, whether it's through Syria or
into Turkey, or whatever. We can't deny them that; they
have a right to defend themselves." Calling on Iraq's
sovereignty, Halliday adds that Iraq also has a right
to keep weapons of defence as well. "There's no right
for the United States of America to bomb this country
as it does under this no-fly zone rubbish -- for which
there is no resolution of the United Nations. Iraq has
a right to defend its people and its territory, and
they should do so."
Predicting a heavy loss of life in the event of another
war in Iraq, Halliday warns that there could be a total
breakdown of civil society already considerably
weakened by years of sanctions. "I think, and perhaps I
even hope, that there will be a huge outrage in the
Arab world," he adds. "That the people will convince
their governments that this is grossly unacceptable."
Ideally, he says, that decision would be taken now. "We
really need to see Arab governments refusing to
collaborate with the United States of America in its
war to crush the people of Iraq. This is criminal, you
know, this is hypocrisy."
Halliday was keen to make the same point in talks last
Tuesday between himself, von Sponeck and Arab League
Secretary-General Amr Moussa. While Halliday praised
the moves made by Moussa within the network of the Arab
League, he implored him to do more. Halliday stressed
the importance of co-ordinating a unified Arab stance
on a governmental level, noting that there is a big gap
between Arab opposition at the popular level and at the
level of government. Along with von Sponeck, Halliday
impressed upon the secretary-general that there cannot
be any kind of resolution to the conflict in the Middle
East should the US decide to attack Iraq. Comparing the
US stance to that of British colonialism in the last
century, the two identified the role of the Arab League
as crucial to the Iraq debate.
"That, to me, is part of the tragedy for all of us,"
Halliday told the Weekly. "That we look at the Arab
world, we see the potential, we see the history -- the
great, great history of this part of the world ... And
we're standing back and allowing the United States to
totally demolish this potential. It doesn't serve
anybody, and the Arab governments, above all, should
see it and should do something about it, and have the
courage to do so. And we Europeans who are gutless,
should support you, should support the Arab
leadership." Pausing to insert a sly jab, he added, "We
think Mr Bush is a moron -- like the Canadians. We know
While there is no panacea for Iraq, Halliday certainly
has a clear picture of what could be done to set the
country on the road to recovery. "The first thing to do
is to end the economic embargo, to allow the economy to
be rebuilt, to get people back to employment, housing,
education, health care, agriculture, water systems -- I
mean, all the things that have been damaged, broken
down, through the 12 years." Next, and perhaps most
important in terms of regional stability, Halliday
calls for the implementation of paragraph 14 of UN
resolution 687, calling for the removal of all WMD from
the entire region. "That of course means stripping
Israel of its nuclear weapons -- that would ease a lot
of tension, I believe, and it might be a move in the
right direction for ultimate, I would say, world
disarmament." He adds: "We've got to sanction the arms
producers. The five permanent members of the Security
Council alone produce 80-plus per cent of the weapons
sold in the world today. We need to stop the
availability of cheap weapons."
Finally, Halliday says that we will have to ask Baghdad
to address some of its own issues, "particularly, I
think, the ethnic rights of the Kurds, and their role
in the greater Iraq". Human rights, as well as civil
and political rights, will also have to be on the
agenda. "They need to work with their neighbours and
restore full relations with the Kuwaitis and the
Saudis, work within the Arab League and begin to use
their great resources," says Halliday.
But his vision doesn't end there. Once Iraq has fixed
its oil production capacity and rebuilt its
infrastructure, its social and economic participation,
then Iraq should start to look outwards -- "to use its
great wealth to improve and enhance the other peoples
of the Arab world who don't share this sort of income.
Income distribution needs to be looked at in the Arab
world, and I hope an Iraqi example of generosity and
investment in the Arab peoples where oil wealth is not
present might encourage the other wealthy countries,
like the Saudis and Kuwaitis and others, to take their
money out of Wall Street and put it in the Arab world."
UN RESOLUTION 661 issued on 6 August 1990, placed Iraq
under comprehensive economic sanctions. These sanctions
remain today. Although the United Nations has
instituted a number of reforms regarding sanctions, the
Office of the Iraq Programme (OIP) has been
deliberately separated from the Office for the Co-
ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) such that
sanctions reforms over the last five years do not apply
in the case of Iraq. In 1996, the introduction of the
Oil-for-Food programme was intended to help alleviate
the unintentional suffering of the Iraqi populace. But
even with the modifications made in May of this year,
the effects of the sanctions regime remain devastating.
-- An average of 250 people die every day in Iraq due
to the direct effects of sanctions (UNICEF, 1998).
-- According to the UNDP, 49 per cent of families do
not earn enough money to meet their basic needs.
-- Iraq's ranking in UNDP's Human Development Index
fell from 96 in 1990, to 126 in 2000.
-- In October, the UN's Office of the Iraq Programme
found that 1,528 approved humanitarian supply
contracts, worth about $2.84 billion, are without
-- For every seven children in Iraq, one dies before
the age of five -- an estimated 5,000 excess child
deaths every month above the mortality rate in 1989,
before sanctions were imposed (UNICEF, 1999).
-- Of children under five, 32 per cent (some 960,000
children) are chronically malnourished -- a rise of 72
per cent since 1991. Almost one quarter (23 per cent)
are underweight -- twice as high as the levels found in
neighbouring Jordan or Turkey (UNICEF, 1997).
-- The total value allocated to each person in Iraq
under the UN Oil-for-Food programme amounts to less
than 49 cents per day.
-- An estimated 110,000 Iraqi civilians died in 1991
from the direct health effects of the Gulf War
-- In September 1989, 123 children died from diarrhoea.
In September 2001, the number was 2,932 -- an increase
of 2,284 per cent.
-- It will take an estimated $7 billion to bring Iraq's
power sector back to its 1990 capacity country-wide
-- In July of 1995, average shop prices of essential
commodities were 850 times July 1990 levels (March 1999
-- And estimated 14-16 million Iraqis -- some two-
thirds of the population -- are solely dependent on
food rations for their survival (UN Office of the
Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq -- UNOHCI).
Noam Chomsky,Tariq Ali and Gilbert Achcar
Dec 29, 2002
Today's a wonderful time to reflect upon the interactive
thoughts of these three wise men. It's amazing that someone
pulled them together and sad that it was broadcast in Turkey
and not here. I hope you can take advantage of this rare
meeting of fine minds. Enjoy, and consider signing on to
Sunil's excellant choices in his email service. One of Santa
Rosa's treasures, with a great sense of humor. Check his sign
off, at the bottom. -Ed Peartl
Three prominent anti-war activists recently discussed the
impending US war on Iraq and the global mass movements for NTV
-- a 24 Hour Turkish Television Channel.
Transcript. Outlook India (on-line); December 24, 2002
** Editor's Note: Noam Chomsky needs no introduction to folks
on this list, suffice it to say he's America's leading
dissident activist/intellectual. Tariq Ali is a renown
novelist from Pakistan whose work includes Shadows of the
Pomegranate Tree, The Book of Saladin, and The Stone Woman. He
is also author of The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades,
Jihad, and Modernity (Verso, 2002), required reading. Gilbert
Achcar teaches politics and international relations at the
University of Paris-VIII. His newest book is The Clash of
Barbarisms: September 11 and the Making of the New World
Disorder (Verso, 2002), which I haven't read, but there's a
great excerpted essay from the book in the September 2002
issue of Monthly Review which suggests it's well worth picking
up: http://www.monthlyreview.org/0902achcar.htm It seems that
"The Clash of . . ." is becoming an overused title. Perhaps a
thesaurus should be consulted for an alternative.
The changing contours of Dalit politics
TIMES NEWS NETWORK[ SUNDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2002 02:30:02 AM ]
NEW DELHI: Shambhu Nath, the Dalit whose house was razed to the
ground by a local BJP strongman in Sonia Gandhi's Amethi, appears
to have acquired celebrity status overnight, thanks to Priyanka's
new avtaar as a crusader against atrocities in Uttar Pradesh.
The poor man, who is literally left with nothing, is now the
cynosure of all eyes. Congressmen have already offered to rebuild
his house through shaman. Different NGOs have rushed
forward with promises of monetary aid. And Chief Minister
Mayawati's district officials are waiting to welcome him with open
arms, should he agree to abandon the Congress route and come to
the state government directly with an appeal for help.
Indeed, there are reasons why poor Shambhu Nath is being put on a
pedestal symbolically by almost all the warring political forces
that matter in the region.
First, Priyanka's espousal of the Dalit cause during her latest
Amethi visit has had a stunning impact on the electorate in
general and otherwise demoralised Congressmen in particular.
Secondly, Udit Raj, who likes to be referred to as the second
Ambedkar, has floated a new political outfit, called the Justice
Party, threatening the Bahujan Samaj Party's monopoly of the Dalit
Priyanka's quasi-political move in Amethi was perhaps enough to
rattle the establishment in Lucknow. Condemning the actions of
Priyanka, who had stormed into the local thana to get Shambhu
Nath's FIR registered, Mayawati made it a point to mention that
the Dalit's house was, in fact, built on a plot of land owned by
the BJP strongman.
And nobody - not even a Dalit - could be allowed to overturn the
law of the land, she said, adding Shambhu Nath could be given an
alternative plot of land if he appealed to the government
Indeed, Dalit politics looks all set to change its contours in the
home state of the Nehru-Gandhis. It is significant that Udit Raj's
organisational approach is almost similar to that of Kanshi Ram,
who had launched the BAMCEF (Backward and Minority Employees
Federation) and DS-4 before re-christening his outfit as BSP.
Those who follow Dalit politics know it for certain that Udit Raj,
a former revenue service official, does have a considerable
following among the Dalits in government jobs. His resignation
from the revenue service is meant to develop a focussed mass base
for his party. Little wonder then that the BSP's
latest political rivals declared at a rally at Ram Lila Maidan
here earlier this week: "We are launching Udit Raj as our leader
because we know he would not betray our support by joining hands
with the killers in Gujarat. We are also sure the Justice Party
would never strengthen the hands of the Manuwadi perpetrators of
the caste system in this country."
Nobody was surprised when many of those who attended this huge
rally attacked Mayawati's political honeymoon with the BJP.
"The Pianist" in Berlin
By Mark Solomon
The Odeon Theater in the Schoneberg section of Berlin specializes
language films. On a blustery Saturday night in mid-November, I
group of expatriate Americans and Brits, along with German friends
Odeon to see Roman Polanski's "The Pianist." Berlin had been
the film which had already won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes
transpired was stunning, moving, and thought provoking.
The film, scheduled for release in the US in early January, is
adapted from a
1948 memoir by Wladyslaw Szpilman, a noted Polish-Jewish pianist
the Warsaw Ghetto and the Nazi occupation of Poland. Szpilman, who
2000 at age 87, was born into middle class comfort and substantial
status. His entire family was thrown into the ghetto and
at Auschwitz. He survived -- largely because many around him, from
Capos to antifascist Poles, declined to let the gifted artist
"The Pianist" conveys the horrors of Nazism with haunting
attacks heart and brain with quiet, relentless authenticity. Its
seemingly casual brutality convey the arbitrariness and near
dehumanization and genocide -- showing what it means for an
consider fellow human beings as little more than vermin to be
destroyed with no more moral concern than one would have for
cockroach underfoot. A few scenes based on fact drive home that
without comment: an old man in a wheelchair who is unable to rise
for the SS
who invade his apartment and is thrown from a balcony; penned in
to be allowed to cross a forbidden Polish street that intersected
are forced to engage in humiliating pseudo-comic dancing for the
of Nazi soldiers; a Nazi policeman casually shooting now
laborers in the head and they lay face down on the ground. Such
tenaciously to memory.
("The Pianist" inevitably invites comparison with Spielberg's
List." The latter, for all its positive qualities, suffers from
comparison. Unlike "Schindler's List," the primary focus of
is upon victims and resisters, not upon a conscience-stricken
slave labor, nor does it end in a splash of color with a
politically charged march of a questionably large number of
survivors to a
Zionist homeland. "The Pianist" tells a more complex story of
resignation and resistance, and of remorseless racism and human
It unflinchingly portrays deep schisms of class which carried over
Jewish life in Poland into the early ghetto before annihilation.
It was then
that the wealthy profited in relative comfort from smuggling and
collaboration with Nazis while the poor died in the streets from
disease. Unlike the Schindler story which did not stress armed
"The Pianist" portrays the painstaking effort to accumulate arms
the Warsaw Ghetto uprising -- and makes it clear that the
largely organized and led by working class communists and
does Szpilman's story neglect the courage of anti-fascist Poles
their lives to shelter Szpilman, or the deeply religious anti-Nazi
officer Wilm Hosenfeld who helped Szpilman -- giving the lie to
that the compulsion to commit genocide is somehow rooted in
nationality and culture.)
Drama was not only happening onscreen. Sitting among two or three
Germans, I could not help wondering what that audience of
professionals, and workers was thinking and feeling while viewing
wrenching depiction of horrors wrought by Nazism. During the
was not even the occasional crunch of a candy wrapper. As the
out of the theater, I had never before witnessed such somber,
silence âEUR" punctuated by sobs among more than a few of the
While those attending an English language film are of course not
representative of German society (for this film, German subtitles
provided, presumably expanding its audience), there is little
doubt that the
doleful viewers that night reflected significant political
present-day Germany. Conversation over time with a fairly wide
Berliners of all ages leaves an indelible impression of broadly
and progressive values. Despite occasional grumbling from some
Holocaust guilt tripping, many Germans today, especially the
generation to the present, have responded to Nazism and its legacy
paralyzing angst, and certainly not with indifference, but with
indivisible commitment to oppose all forms of oppression. Younger
particular fiercely oppose anti-Semitism while steadfastly
Palestinian rights - a logically consistent viewpoint with roots
fundamental allegiance to justice.
Such currents do not depend solely on upon generalized humanism.
For many, t
heir commitments spring from tough-minded analyses of corporate
(including the pernicious role of German capital), from the
elements of US leadership to forge a post-cold war New Roman
Empire, from the
oppressive divide between Global North and Global South, from
near-universal resurgence of institutional racism and the threat
fundamental human rights embedded in the "war on terror," and, of
from the growing danger of war emanating from Washington. A good
Berlin was eerily depopulated the weekend of November 9-11 when
descended on Florence for the Social Forum and the massive march
global capital and war.
The European peace movement has called for large demonstrations
continent on Saturday, February 15 to protest the obscene march to
Iraq. Here at home, the United for Peace coalition has called for
outpouring in New York City in solidarity with the European
the many aspects of resistance to Bush's drive to war, the
dimension is among the most important. The unified voice of a
community has the potential of surrounding the mobilization for
complicating the process, and depriving the Bush group of the
cover of a
coalition. We owe it to ourselves and to the global community to
solidarity to those principled progressives in Europe and
elsewhere who weep
at inhuman destruction and who fight with consistency and clear
vision for a
peaceful, just world.
(Mark Solomon is a national co-chair of Committees of
Correspondence for Democracy & Socialism - CCDS.)
Reforms fail to push Uttar Pradesh economy up
RAJIV RANJAN JHA
TIMES NEWS NETWORK[ MONDAY, JANUARY 06, 2003 12:11:05 AM ]
LUCKNOW: Curtailment of government expenditure, freeze on creation
of new posts and sizable cut in non-plan expenditure has, though
arrested the downward slide of economy in Uttar Pradesh to an
extent, is yet unable to push it on to a high pedestal.
Though tax collection has slightly gone up, the plan expenditure
is running much behind the schedule and, till now one fourth of
the expenditure is not incurred. This will, according to experts,
considerably retard the growth of economy and the state will not
be able to achieve a growth rate of 13 per cent, envisaged by
One of the major failures on the part of the government is that it
has not made sincere efforts to improve the tax-GDP ratio which
will adversely hit the growth of Uttar Pradesh, says noted
economist AK Singh.
Even then the government could pat its back for a state like Uttar
Pradesh which used to depend on overdrafts for more than 200 days
in a year, has been able to ward it off till now. Frequent
divisional and review meetings motivated the officials to achieve
the target of resource mobilisation, says the economist.
But the real problem will arise now when the government will be in
a hurry to spend as much as possible to avoid lapse of funds by
the end of March, says a government official.
According to a report published by the Economic and Political
Weakly, the fiscal scenario in Uttar Pradesh is showing a definite
sign of deterioration and part of the reason for slow growth of
capital income is the state's inability to raise resources. But
the government's inability to allocate funds for productive
development has compounded the situation, says the report. Many
other states which are at the middle level are making greater
efforts at internal resources mobilisation. Per capital state own
tax revenue in Tamil Nadu in 2000-20001 was Rs 2,014 as aginst Rs
665 in Uttar Pradesh. In Kerala the same stood at Rs 1,988 and in
Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh the same was Rs 1,745 and Rs 1,415
respectively. In other words, if UP could achieve the same
taxation level as that of Tamil Nadu, it could increase its tax
revenue by Rs 22,ooo crore more, almost double its own revenue,
EPW report pointed out. The pronounced policy to downsize
bureaucracy by 2 per cent every year might not have materialised
but the government did not sanction any new posts and also reduced
its its non-plan expenditure by 25 per cent in the last six months
to achieve its target of a growth of 13 per cent in the year. Last
year till September, the government's bill on salary of the
employees stood at Rs 240.13 crore and it came down to Rs 222.4
crore this year. The government also curtailed 25 per cent of
expenditure on travelling allowances of the employees. But it did
spend Rs 30 lakh on secret funds against Rs 54.66 lakh incurred
under this head last year.
Will these steps intended to boost the economy of the state help
to achieve the growth rate when roughly 10 per cent of the
tax-revenue is spent on meeting the salary bills of the employees?
According to official information, the government failed to
achieve a tax revenue of Rs 13,255 crore this year. Against the
target, the government has collected Rs 6,743 crore (till
October), though this is more than the amount collected by the
government last year. Last year the government had collected Rs
57.62 crore by the end of October.
The collection of indirect taxes by the government also fell short
from the target fixed by the government. Against a target of Rs
1,942 crore, the state collected Rs 709 crore. In the collection
of trade tax, the government also collected less.
The government collected Rs 4,201 crore against a target of Rs
7,378 crore. In the stamp registration head, government collected
Rs 1,465 cr gainst target of Rs 2,084 crore.
The Hindustan Times
Sunday, January 5, 2003
Ambedkar versus Moditva
The ideology of the Sangh parivar is a bundle of thoughts that are
elastic that they can fit into all circumstances. The common
in this intellectual opportunism is that its protagonists are
bereft of any moral bindings.
Vinay Katiyar, the BJP's Uttar Pradesh chief and Barjrang Dal
stormtrooper, said while unleashing his Moditva type of campaign
Varanasi this week that Dr B.R. Ambedkar was against the Muslims.
also said that the ideas of Ambedkar were akin to those of
Hedgewar, the RSS ideologue for whom Adolf Hiter was the role
In the past, the BJP and its hydra-headed fronts have never dared
coopt Ambedkar's ideology. They have mustered the courage to do
now only because they have entered into a shaky alliance with
BSP. Katiyar is of the opinion that his party would continue the
caravan, where they left it in the hate-filled fields of
It's visible. He has crossed all limits when it comes to
lies, slander, conspiracy and shame.
The BJP, under his leadership, has started a campaign against
Muslims citing so called cultural nationalism. Ambedkar was
against the Muslims; instead, he was emphatically against
'Manuvaditva' and what goes by the current xenophobia of
Katiyar is correct in saying that Ambedkar was never in favour of
Partition of India. Ambedkar wrote in the book, Thought on
that he was against Partition and even if it took place, Muslims
Hindus should go to their respective countries because of the
that if Muslims stayed back, they would be treated like the
varna or devils (mleksh) by the upper caste Hindu caste society.
believed that the Muslims would have no future in a Brahmanical
This is exactly what is happening in contemporary India.
never said that Muslims were terrorists and they should be
of their voting rights. This is a lie manufactured by Katiyar,
has claimed from the figment of his warped imagination that
wanted the liberation of Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura. Next they
claim that Babasaheb wanted a Hindu Rashtra.
Ambedkar held the view - as per the Constitution - that on all
questions, status quo should be maintained, as of 1947, at all
Indian Muslims have been time and again asked to prove their
to the nation by these sectarian anti-socials, despite the fact
not only rejected Pakistan, but have been as patriotic as you or
Not one Muslim from India crossed over to Afghanistan to fight
Sociologists have time and again proved that the majority of
Muslims are different in content and character; their Indianness
secular democracy makes them different from Muslims in other
theocraicies. They too have fundamentalists in their midst, but
majority is deeply syncretic, patriotic, multicultural, plural
secular, with deep faith in India and its future.
Let's not fudge the truth. Indian Muslims are as patriotic as you
me. They have fought for the country's freedom, sacrificed their
in the wars, worked for the progress of the nation in every field
from business and politics, to arts, academics and sports. Why
the 150 million Muslims of India prove their patriotism to the
of Katiyar, an extremist rabble rouser?
Katiyar's ancestors in his party did not even fight in the
movement; instead, they allied with the British, as the
pleadings of Savarkar to the British clearly proves. Besides,
don't believe in equality, modernity or progress. All they believe
is communal carnages and hate campaigns, to score electoral
victories. And the action-replay of lies and falsities.
Why is Katiyar silent about Ambedkar's categorical statement
Hinduism was not a religion but a conspiracy to subjugate the
oppressed and dalits? Is he not aware that Ambedkar burnt the
Smiriti, the Sangh parivar's holy book? Didn't Ambedkar reject
Brahminical oppression and adopt Buddhism with lakhs of Dalits?
Indian Muslims have always stood with Ambedkar. When the
pitted a Dalit against him, the Muslim League helped him by
Jogender Nath Mandal to resign from Nowakholi in his favour.
was given the opportunity to get elected. Ambedkar, in his
Mission, wrote that the upper castes (Brahmans, Kshatriyas and
Vaishyas), were basically outsiders. He said that the
including the minorities, were the original inhabitants of this
country. He vowed to hand over power to these 'aborigines'. This
his dream - of a new, egalitarian, secular India.
Ambedkar fought an incessant battle against the ideas which are
being propogated by the Hindutva parivar. When he finally
that the Brahmanical social order was not going to change or
he quit Hinduism along with lacks of people in 1956 and adopted
Look at the parallel. When thousands of Dalits wanted to adopt
Buddhism in Delhi on November 24 last year, who tried to
unsuccessfully block, crush and smash their spirit - the VHP,
patronised by the Vajpayee-Advani regime.
The BJP has dared to malign Babasaheb Ambedkar because Mayawati
its new comrade; she campagned for it in Gujarat, despite the
genocide. The Sangh has taken for granted her and the fact that
will allow Ambedkar to be used against the Muslims to stick to
This is a dangerous game because the BJP knows that the BSP is
on the edifice of Ambedkar's philosophy. This will create
All progressive, liberal, tolerant, peaceful Indians, including
Dalits and Muslims, must teach a lesson to the BSP and Mayawati
this dangerous sellout. The BJP's final gameplan is to pitch
versus Muslims in a bloody battle. But in UP, the Gujarat card
fail. This is because the Dalits and Muslims will not fall for
Lord Gautam Buddha was repulsed by the prevailing
order of his time. He renounced his family and material life and
vowed to eradicate the philosophy of the Brahmanical social
Similarly, Babasaheb Ambedkar, with his relentless efforts -
mass agitations for entry of Dalits into temples and sharing the
waters of public ponds, etc - liberated the Dalits from the
slavery of Hindutva. He wanted to get dignity for the oppressed,
he was opposed tooth and nail by the Manuwadis, like the
Togadias and Giriraj Kishores of contemporary India.
Ambedkar had to suffer discrimination despite his high
stature and ability. He was thrown out of his rented house. He
employed in the state of Shivaji Gaekwad, but his peon used to
files on his table from a 'safe' distance - why? So that there is
physical, polluting contact with an 'untouchable'.
Had a personality like Dr B.R. Ambedkar been alive in these dark
times of of Manuwadi rule in India, in all probability he would
been killed. We have a large number of examples from our
history: Sant Ravidas, Brihdrath, Charwak, several Buddhist monks
unrecorded reformers and rebels - they were all eliminated.
only crime was that they stood against Manuwad, perhaps the most
intolerant philosophy in the world, as expressed in the words
deeds of Narendra Modi and his vangaurd.
Katiyar has tried to equate Ambedkar with Hegdewar. Can anything
more shameful than this? Mayawati is party to this crime. Her
followers should ask her: who has created the ground for the BJP
murder the philosophy of Babasaheb Ambedkar? It is she, who,
the Gujarat genocide, and despite her election promise not to go
the BJP, allied with the BJP for power.
Now she will have to pay the price for the desecration of
memory by her Hindutva comrades.
(The writer is Chairman, All India Confederation of SC/ST
Public Hearing on Right to Food
The Support Group of the Right to Food Campaign is
organizing a public hearing on 10 January, 2003 at the
sports stadium of Delhi University. The public
hearing on 'Living with Hunger' is a major attempt to
place various aspects of the invisible and
unconscionable situation of pervasive hunger within
the public eye and conscience. A panel of women and
men from vulnerable communities, with economist
Amartya Sen and writer Mahasweta Devi among others
will listen to testimonies of people living with
hunger, as well as the perspectives of experts.
Particular attention will be given to recent instances
of "starvation deaths" in different states. First-hand
testimonies of these events, and of the living
conditions that prevail in the affected communities,
will be presented at the hearing. Going beyond this,
the gathering will focus on the enormity of hunger in
contemporary India, and the diverse ways in which it
blights people’s lives.
The public hearing will primarily focus on three
aspects of the problem. First, a look at utterly
impoverished communities, which routinely live with
A second theme of the hearing will be the debilitating
impact of drought, especially on already vulnerable
A third thread of the hearing will be on the
consequences of the collapse of livelihoods of poor
people, and its effects on chronic hunger.
As you know, despite 50 million tonnes of foodgrain
sitting idle in public warehouses, India has one of
the highest rates of undernutrition in the world. The
prevailing drought (now in it’s third year in some
parts of the country) has exacerbated the already dire
situation, with reports of extreme hunger and even
starvation deaths becoming increasingly common. This
reflects the failure of the State. The hearing seeks
to put this in perspective and put hunger on the
The programme is being organized by the Support Group
of the 'Right to Food Campaign' . The Right to Food
Campaign is a decentralized network of groups and
individuals across India, committed to realizing the
'right to food' through a variety of democratic means.
The Support Group consisting of Colin Gonsalves, Jean
Drèze, Harsh Mander and Kavita Srivatsava got together
to facilitate a public interest litigation [PUCL Vs
UoI and Ors] in April 2001.
Please join us at this public hearing. If you are
interested in covering the event, please contact us
for a media kit. More information on the campaign is
available at our website: www.righttofood.com
Reetika Khera & S Vivek
(For the Support Group of Right to Food Campaign)
C O N T A C T D E T A I L S
Support Group of the Right to Food Campaign,
C/o. Centre for Equity Studies
C – 88, South – Extension – II
New Delhi – 110 049
Reetika Khera (O) – 27666533-5
S Vivek (R) – 26341925 (O) – 8640571
THE TWENTY-SECOND PUCL 'JOURNALISM FOR HUMAN RIGHTS' AWARD of Rs. 20,000/-, Citation, and a Plaque
Deadline for entries is Monday, 20th Jan., 2002
Entries should reach Dr. Y.P. Chhibbar, 81 Sahayoga
Apartments, Mayur Vihar Phase-I, Delhi - 110091
The Peoples Union for Civil Liberties annually invites entries for
the TWENTY-SECOND PUCL 'JOURNALISM FOR HUMAN RIGHTS ' AWARD of Rs.
20, 000 plaque, and a Citation.
THE SECOND BEST ENTRY IS AWARDED Rs. 5,000/- and a SPECIAL MENTION.
Reports on human rights situation in the country, published in the
calendar year in any language in any newspaper, magazine, or journal,
etc., in India are eligible. Essays, books, letters to the editor,
etc., are not considered.
Reports published in a language other than English must be
accompanied by an English translation and the original, stating the
date and the name of the journal, etc., in English. It is better to
send entries in A4 format.
The report should depict the human rights situation and not human
conditions in general.
Violation of human rights by private groups of the rights of their
members or others are also relevant.
The problem investigated should be of general significance.
Weight is also given to follow-up.
Eventual effect of the story is also kept in mind.
The risk that the writer has borne by doing the story is kept in mind.
The record of the writer over a longer period is important.
Entries should be accompanied by a short professional data of the
The jury may make its own recommendation not limiting itself to the
Entries should reach Dr. Y.P. Chhibbar, 81 Sahayoga Apartments, Mayur
Vihar Phase-I, Delhi - 110091 by Monday, January 20, 2003
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[ THURSDAY, JANUARY 02, 2003 12:00:38 AM ]
Hunger lurks unseen in every village and city of our country. Yet it
surfaces into public consciousness only transiently, in moments when
there are troubling media reports of starvation deaths. What goes
unrecognised is that death by starvation is only the most dramatic
manifestation of a much more invisible malaise — of pervasive,
stubborn, chronic hunger — and that there are millions of forgotten
people in India who live routinely at the very edge of survival, with
hunger as a way of everyday life.
Among these are entire communities, utterly disenfranchised and
assetless, like the Musahaars, a proud but savagely oppressed Dalit
community in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, who own not even the land on
which their tenuous homesteads are built. Many months in a year they
scour the harvested fields of the landlords for stray grain that may
have fallen, or the undigested grain in the dung of cattle. The
Sahariyas, classified as a primitive tribal group, have been cheated
of 90 per cent of their land, and forests which sustained them in the
past are completely felled or degraded, leaving them tragically
In addition, in all communities, chronic hunger and destitution are
endemic in certain perennially vulnerable social groups, such as old
people without care, young children without adult protection, single
women-headed households, poor families with one or more disabled
members, and people who live with stigmatised illnesses like leprosy,
mental illness and AIDS. Traditio-nal community support systems have
frayed, often collapsed, and even the meagre support of the past has
vanished as the state retreats under externally driven pressures for
fiscal prudence and structural adjustment.
In a glittering metropolis like Delhi, more than 3,000 people die
lonely, anonymous deaths on the streets each year, mounting the
cold uncaring official statistics of `unclaimed bodies'. Many of
these are of destitute people — reduced to begging as the only means
of survival — for whom the only official state response is to declare
begging a crime and to periodically round them up for incarceration
in beggar's jails. Of an estimated one and a half lakh people who are
forced to live under the open sky in the capital city of India, the
state provides barely habitable night shelters to less than four per
cent, and emergency food support to none.
Even in ordinary times, undernutrition levels in India are among the
highest in the world. About half of all Indian children are
malnourished, a quarter severely, and half of all adult women suffer
from anaemia. In a drought year, of the kind that has convulsed large
tracts of rural India for three consecutive years, hunger intensifies
pitilessly, and threatens the very survival of poor families.
Mounting state and societal indifference to chronic hunger in our
midst is all the more unconscionable, because the nation stocks
mountains of foodgrains in public godowns — more than 63 million
tonnes, at last count. This is far in excess of the quantities
officially required as buffer stock — around 17 million tonnes — for
food security and price stabilisation. The excess represents more
than one tonne of grain for each household below the poverty line.
Instead of ensuring that grain from these overflowing stores reaches
people living with hunger, state policies have resulted in stocks
being devoured by rodent or allowed to rot to a point where it's
unfit even for animal consumption. The state prefers to spend vast
resources on storing mountains of decaying foodgrain, rather than on
feeding its famished multitudes. This, along with state complicity in
the death of a section of its people in Gujarat, represents fully the
crisis of governance in India today.
The famine codes, written in colonial times, delineated state
responsibility in preventing starvation in times of famine. Even as
recently as the last countrywide scarcity in 1987, employment was
guaranteed to every person who sought work with wages in foodgrain,
in massive public works in affected districts across the country. But
today even these colonial standards for protecting vulnerable people
from hunger in times of distress are being abandoned in the dazzling
glitter of a globalised Indian economy. Central and state
governments, meanwhile, claim their inability to muster resources for
more than 3 to 5 days of work a month for its millions of
Predictably, the situation is worse for destitute old people, widows,
disabled people and children. The coverage of schemes for these
groups is so meagre as to leave gaping holes in the social security
net, allowing large numbers of women and men, girls and boys to slip
through unseen and unmourned. In the rare times that their deaths
come to public notice, it is left to officials to debate whether they
starved, or were merely malnourished and succumbed instead to
preventable diseases to which they could offer no
resistance. For the rest, they remain people who are utterly
Activists have petitioned the Supreme Court for the right to food for
every citizen, through work for all able-bodied people, and as direct
food transfers for other vulnerable groups. However, the political
feasibility of such a scheme remains in doubt, despite the fact that
its costs are relatively modest, food resources abundant and rotting,
and preventing hunger and abject destitution the paramount duty of
every modern state. The reasons for this are simple, namely, the
utter powerlessness, invisibility, political irrelevance and lack of
organisation of the people who live with hunger.
PUCL Bulletin, December 2002
Police atrocities on Dalits and Adivasis in Varanasi and
neighbourhood areas In U.P.
-- A summary by Neelofar Haram
Click here for the full report
Click here for the interim report, June 2002
The Indian People's Tribunal on Environment and Human Rights (IPT)
panel headed by Justice K Sukumaran (Retired Judge, Kerala and Mumbai
High Courts) accompanied by Dr. Kusum Singh (Professor in Gandhian
Studies, Media and Social Change), Deepika D'Souza (Co-convenor of
the IPT), Sunil Scaria & Devlyn Newnes (Joint Coordinators of the
IPT) visited Varanasi & Chandoli districts between February 16 - 17,
2002. They visited the villages of Narketi, Babatpur and Belwa. On
February 17, 2002 a public hearing was held in Varanasi at which
people from Piyari Gaon deposed.
17 February 2002
The team began their inquiry at the Badepur area of Belwa village.
The team spent about two hours in recording the statements of the
people. After the inquiry at Belwa, the team visited the residence of
Sashikant Pandey, the president of the Sanyukta Kisan Sangharsh
Samiti (SKSS) at Babatpur. Some women gave their statements to the
panel about the happenings on the 21st of May 2001. The persons who
were shot showed the scars of their wounds to the team. Then the team
left for Varanasi.
At 3:00 p.m. Justice K. Sukumaran met with the press. After the press-
meet there was a public meeting held at Gandhi Vidyapeet Bhawan,
which commenced at 4:00 p.m. The Public hearing was attended by
people from the villages of Narketi, Belwa, Babatpur, and Piyari.
Depositions were made before the tribunal by people from these
villages as well as by Vijay Kumar Jaiswal and Mukundi Lal.
Socio-Economic Condition of Narketi
Narketi is located in Eastern Uttar Pradesh surrounded by hilly dense
forest. A majority of people here are Adivasis and backward castes
like Kols, Manji, Chamar, Mushar and Kalvaar. The people are engaged
in collection of tendu patta (leaves used for the making of bidi or
indigenous cigarettes) honey, dry twigs and herbs, to make the two
ends meet. Some families have small land holdings where they grow
mostly paddy, and at times grow vegetables.
Dependence on seasonal work, landlessness, and lack of education have
plunged these villagers into poverty. Such that often during summer
and monsoon they do not have enough to feed their families. For
example, in Sonebhadra region in the Babhani Development Block in the
villages of Randah, Hathiyaar, Chapki, Jiganva, Kuba, Pokhra, Chaina,
Machbandva and Asandih during March and April, the calorie intake is
2400, but between July and September it comes down to 1500 calories
(Survey by PVCHR, 1998).
According to this survey, in recent years, a massive exploitation of
forest wealth has taken place. Forest trees, sand from the banks of
the river Son and stone from the surrounding hills are being removed.
Illegal felling of trees has increased tremendously since 1980. For
example, in the Naugadh region, the forest had decreased from 45% to
40% between 1960 to 2001. Illegal mining of sand from the banks of
the River Son has resulted in the lowering of the ground water level
and cracks in the upper layer of the ground. Further, stones are cut
from the surrounding hills which are used for making stone slabs, or
are crushed into small stones or gitty which are used in making
According to the people, a mafia gang of contractors with political
backing and the support of corrupt officials are responsible for
carrying out these illegal activities. It is alleged that the chiefs
of this gang include Brijesh Singh and politicians like Hari Shankar
Tiwari. in order to facilitate their illegal activities, Section 20
of the Indian Forest Act has been declared notifying the It is also
alleged that area as a Reserved Forest. This prevents the tribals
from the freedom of collecting from the forests, food and other non-
timber items on which they are dependent for their livelihood. This
has given the local officials and forest guards an opportunity to
exploit and harass the people. Corruption among Government officials
and employees is well known, but in these remote areas far from the
scrutiny of city-based media and human rights organisations,
exploitation of any sort goes unnoticed and the cries of the poor and
the marginalised remain unheard.
It is this exploitation and the absence of law and justice that
brought about the so-called "naxalite menace." The governmental
administration uses the excuse of curbing the naxal menace to unleash
a reign of terror and violate basic human rights like the freedom of
expression and the freedom of association of these people. The cause
of the people was taken up by the Left parties and by a people's
organisation called the Mazdoor Kisan Morcha & Voice of Partners
(VOP). Between 1980 and 1990 the CPI (Communist Party of India) and
the CPM (Marxist Communist Party) stepped in. Near Chakia, close to
the Majirathi Bandh, the Communists forcefully occupied 4,000 bighas
of land. In Naugadh, South Chopan and North Duddhi area, the
influence of the CPI (ML), CPM and Maoist Communist Community (MCC)
has been increasing. In Sonebhadra, the influential CPI (ML), MCC and
PWG has taken up the cause of the people.
The mafia gangs of dishonest contractors are earning crores of rupees
from this region through unhindered exploitation of forest wealth.
They do this under the very nose of the administration and police
officials, who are given a percentage of this illegal earning. It is
alleged that every truckload of sand earns the forest officials
approximately Rs. 500 of corrupt money. The mafia of contractors
makes large contributions to politicians and political parties, to
ensure patronage of their illegal activities. Even the collection of
tendu leaves is in the hands of the contractors who pay a very
nominal amount, which is arbitrarily arrived at, while they
themselves earn atleast ten times that amount.
The naxal presence in this region is a great hindrance to the illegal
activities and the exploitation of the people, which is why the
police have been asked to eliminate the naxalites. However, a corrupt
police force led by corrupt police officials, without any knowledge
of the forest or jungle warfare, is no match for the trained MCC
cadres. Thus to please their political bosses, they turn on the
innocent villagers. This is precisely what seems to have occurred in
Narketi between 16 and 19 May 2001.
Incidents from 16th May to 19th May, 2001 as narrated by the
Villagers of Narketi
On 16 May 2001, a few MCC members came to Narketi village and
summoned all the villagers for a meeting. Around 100-150 villagers
were present at the meeting. The meeting was held under the tree near
the village temple. The purpose of the meeting was to call for a
strike on the collection of tendu patta which the villagers sold in
the market to supplement their income. The purpose of calling a
strike was due to non-payment of dues owed to the villagers by the
Forest Corporation over the past year. The Forest Corporation owed
the villagers of Narketi Rs. 50,000/-, while in the entire block the
balance due to the people was approximately Rs 17/- lakh. Another
demand was for a raise in the wages paid for the collection of the
leaves from Rs. 32/ to Rs. 40/- per bundle. (Each bundle consists of
100 bunches of 80 leaves each). The MCC told the villagers that the
U.P. government was giving far less than other states like Madhya
Pradesh and Bihar where the wages are as high as Rs 50-60 per bundle.
Also present at this meeting were three persons from the Forest
Department viz. Kamlesh Upadhyay (Vandaroga) Forest Officer; Kushi
Ram Dubey, Forest Guard; and Ram Lal, Watcher. At around 11:00 a.m.
the meeting with the villagers came to an end, and the MCC sent the
villagers back to their houses. The MCC continued to hold discussions
with the Forest Department personnel. One of the villagers narrated
the following: "Around 11 a.m. the naxalites ended the meeting and
told us to go for lunch. They continued talking to the Forest
Department people. We were making preparations for lunch when the
police came into the village. Initially I heard one shot, but I don't
know where that came from, whether from the MCC people or the police.
After that there was a lot of firing by the police".
The villagers stated that the police began firing without giving any
warning. Around 25 rounds were fired. The MCC people who were present
fired in retaliation. The MCC took the three Forest Department
personnel and left the village. The police too left the village.
After about three hours, the police returned in five or six vehicles
and began beating those villagers who were returning to the village
from the forest. They then left the village after taking Nakhru, one
of the villagers, into custody. He was released the next day on 17
It may be mentioned here that on 17 May 2001, the bodies of two of
the employees of the Forest Department, Kamlesh Upadhyay and Kushi
Ram Dubey, who appeared to have been abducted by the MCC the previous
day, were discovered about 9 km away from the village. The third, Ram
Lal, had apparently escaped from the MCC on the night of 16 May 2001.
The violent rampage that the police went on the next day appears to
have been in retaliation to the death of the Forest Department
The following day i.e. 18 May 2001, the police returned to the
village. The villagers hid in their houses out of fear. But the
police forced their way into the houses, went on a rampage, beating
people, destroying everything that was in sight and looted whatever
was of worth. While beating the people, the police rebuked them for
holding a meeting with the "naxalites", by which they meant the MCC.
Nauhar, a lady from the village describes the police actions
thus,"The police personnel came straight into our houses, where we
were hiding in fear. They pulled us out and began beating us. They
used abusive language and beat everyone. They took away my
Purushottam, a resident of the village describes his experience with
the police on that day. "As I came out of the house the police began
beating me. They asked me to take them to Chandrabhan's house. When I
took them there we found Lachmi, Shyama, Ramchander (Pradhan),
Ramkisan, Pattu, Ghura, Dulare and Rammurat gathered at the entrance
to the house. They beat all of us and broke the roof of Chandrabhan's
Statements given by other men and women from the village during the
site visit by the panel and the Public Hearing are recorded below.
Bimla: The police dragged me out of the house. One caught my neck and
the other my hair. They beat me till the stick broke. They just
wouldn't speak to us or give any answer to our questions as to why we
were being beaten.
Phuljari: I was pregnant at the time and still I was beaten. My
abdomen was also probed with a stick. My 5-year-old daughter was
beaten severely on her hands.
Pattu: I was beaten by the police till I fainted and blood began
coming out from my mouth. They left me alone only when they thought I
Radhe Shyam: I was tending the goats and was not in the village. When
the police found me they began beating me. It was a group of around
15 policemen who beat me.
Laxmi: We wanted to welcome the police, to offer them water. Instead
the police came and began beating us straight away. We tried to ask
them the reason for them beating us, but we got no answer. I was
beaten very badly. My son has been arrested. I was pulled out of my
house, and beaten over a distance (of about 200m). The police kept
asking whether I knew the naxalites. There is nobody to help us other
than God. We went to see Sadyaprakash Sonar, a local MLA, but he too
did not intervene. Sometime in October or November of 2001, the
police again approached me and questioned me about the naxalites. I
said I had no information. The police abused me, took the stick with
which I was tending the cattle and beat me.
Rambart: The police broke into his home. His father was ill and they
insisted that the father come out of the house saying that he was
merely making a fuss. His father was pulled out of the house and
terrorised. A month later his father died. The police also stole
poultry and goats from the village and broke their few possessions
and damaged their houses. The houses that were most damaged were
those of Jaganath, Arjun, Dhunkdhair, Chandraban, Dhola and Phuljari.
That day the police beat men, women and even children. Anjani,
Phuljari's 5-year-old girl was severely beaten on the hands by the
police. She has been so terrorised that for months she would run away
if any stranger approached the village. They destroyed the houses of
those villagers whom they suspected of having links with the MCC.
They took away chickens, farming implements, a bicycle, and broke
household items such as pots, utensils and plates.
The police took twelve people of the village into custody. Their
names are listed below:
Adivasis arrested on 17 May 2001 and released the following day
Adivasis arrested on 17 May 2001 and still in prison as on 16
Ramvriksh, one of the twelve put in jail, stated that they were
interrogated several times, and also beaten. At 3:00 a.m. in the
morning he could hear Shyama (another person who was taken into
custody) begging for not to be beaten (is it better than saying, -
screaming, "don't beat me sir"., what you say?) The following day six
of them were released while the other six were detained and have been
in jail for nine months now.
When asked by the Tribunal what the villagers' demands were, Guhira
from the village succinctly summed up and voiced the feelings of the
villagers by saying "the police should leave our six people and ask
them to leave us alone." An incredibly small demand for a village,
from a government that has not provided them with a school,
irrigation facilities, roads or health posts. Inspite of all the
damage done by the police, the villagers themselves did not voice the
demand for compensation.
The only thing they requested from the administration was peace and
freedom from the exploitation of the police.
At Babatpur, the administration acquired agricultural land from
farmers for the purpose of constructing Varanasi airport. The land
was acquired from three adjoining villages viz. Mangari, Baikundpur
A farmer's organisation called "Sanyukta Kisan Sangharsh Samiti"
(SKSS), comprised of farmers from these three villages, negotiating
with the District Administration over the final payment of lands.
With this, S.K. Pandey president, SKSS and District Magistrate DM
reached an agreement on April 30, 2001. But on May 14, 2001, SKSS
filed a petition protesting against the slow implementation of the
agreement they have arrived at.
Incident on 22 May, 2001
As the administration started constructing boundary wall on May 22
2001, several women in the presence of ex-Pradhan (Karmi) and Pradhan
(Baikantpur) obstructed their work. They lay on the ground and
demanded that the administration should make final payments to the
At this, the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) called for the police
force. The police arrested both the Pradhans. The women present
there, resisted Police from taking their leaders. At this police
reacted and went on a lathi charge led by SHOs of Badegaon, Phulpur,
SDM Pindra, the Director U.P. Singh and C.O. Sholapur. The women
present were being chased by the police and were brutally beaten by
the butts of their rifle. Some of the women were even stripped. The
incident led to the flowing in of people from nearby villages. The
police opened fire without giving warning. While one person (Mewa
Lal) died others were injured in the encounter. Several people got
wounded in the chest and leg.
Two injured men showed their bullet marks to the tribunal. The IPT
met SKSS president, Mr Shashikant Pandey. The team also met Shanti
Devi who had lost all her land.
Village Belwa in Varanasi District has a population of about 7,000.
The village has 8 purvas (Divisions), but only one Government School,
which is not at all sufficient to meet the education demands of the
village. In the Badepur purva of Belwa village, people eligible to
vote are around 1,900. There are no high caste people; those living
here are mainly Patels, Mushahars, Kohars, Lohars and Nuuts.
There has been segregation of village communities along caste lines.
Generally the upper caste, i.e. Brahmins, Kshatriya and Vaishyas live
together, while the lower castes, i.e. the Dalits and others live on
the outskirts of the village. Traditionally, Dalits were not allowed
upper castes dominated areas, nor could they use any facilities like
community wells, hand pumps etc available there. If they did, the
Dalits were punished and the upper castes would wash the "defiled"
item in the Ganga to cleanse it.
Punishment for the Dalits translated into punishment for the whole
community, but in the case of the upper castes, only the individual
or the group of individuals concerned was punished.
Dalits are still living in segregated communities. Their locality has
no modern facilities with regard to education, health, etc. All
government development schemes are cornered by dominating higher
caste who ensure that all-important posts are controlled by the
people of their caste.
For example in Village Belwa, a Brahmin named Mr. Rajindra Tiwari
controls the post of Pradhan for 20 years. During his tenure, he
prevented the people of Badepur from voting and getting their photo-
identity cards made. When the Women's Reservation scheme was
introduced, he manipulated things in such a way that his wife Radhika
Tiwari became the Pradhan. Ms Radhika being a traditional, homely
woman was not fit for the job. She never comes out of her home and
she has not held any meeting in the village since the day she joined
office. Her husband's intention was to continue to exercise control
over the Panchayat through his wife.
Meanwhile, he prevented any school from being set up for the Dalit
community or any other development projects from being implemented in
the Dalit area. In the recent Vidhan Sabha elections he once again
prevented the entire Dalit community from exercising their right to
vote. Apart from this, Dalits without their ration card, do not have
access to the subsidized items available in their ration shops.
Mr Rajinder Tiwari has been running his own private school in the
Government Health Centre in the village where the fee is too high and
cannot be afforded by children of Badepur. However, there is a
government school about 1 km away from the village with approximately
200 children but only 2 teachers. As a result, the quality of
education leaves much to be desired.
The Dalits cannot hope for fair treatment from the Government or the
Police, which are usually dominated by the upper caste. Local groups
affirmed that even in the judiciary, if the judge happens to be a
Dalit, manipulation is done to transfer the case to an upper caste
But now Dalits are getting more aware of their rights, and are
organising themselves to fight for their rights. The upper castes
feel threatened, and is becoming more violent both towards the Dalit
and people's organisations, as is evident from the increased amount
of threats received by People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights
Incident on 12, November, 2001
On 12 November 2001, the local community at Badepur organised a
street play with the assistance of PVCHR. Apart from education, the
misdeeds of Mr Rajinder Tiwari were highlighted in the play. The
following day, armed men of Rajinder Tiwari attacked Mrs Durga, the
Coordinator of the Savitri Da Phule Women's Forum, and her husband Mr
Durga: On 12 November 2001 we had a street play on education in the
village. The next day, early in the morning when I went to toilet,
some goons of Rajendra Tiwari attacked me. I shouted for help. My
husband who was nearby came to my rescue. They attacked him and he
was seriously injured in the head. I was attacked because we had
demanded a school. Then we went to the police and lodged an FIR at
Phulpur police station. The officer asked us to take my husband for
an x-ray as his head injury was very serious. After getting the x-ray
report, we went back to the police station. There my husband was kept
in police custody overnight. It was only when I informed the PVCHR
the following morning that they went to the police station and got my
By the evening of the same day, three members of the group that
attacked Durga were sent to jail. However the police, under pressure
from political patrons of Mr R. Tiwari, had held Mr Adya, Durga's
husband, in jail for more than 24 hours. Only after a lawyer had
applied for bail was he released.
Other persons in the gathering also explained the situation to the
members of the Tribunal.
Parmanand: At present Rajendra Tiwari runs his own private school in
the Government Health Centre. We don't want to send our children
there as the fees are high. The government school is about 1.5km
away. There are around 200 children and only two teachers.
Kailash: I am a farmer. The Pradhan, Rajendra Tiwari has not done any
developmental work for the last 25 years in our area. He and his wife
have been leaders of the Gram Sabha through illegal means and booth
capturing. The polling booth is placed near his house and his goondas
surround the area and do not let non-supporters voteInspite of our
names being on the voter's list we have been denied ration cards and
a school. We are discriminated because we are from backward castes.
We want a primary school and we want a Primary Health Centre and the
land of the Gram Sabha that has been illegally taken over by the Gram
Pradhan. Ever since we started our school the goondas have been
harassing us. The local goondas include Mohan, Daula and Vidya Sagar-
all supporters of Baba Singh (Block Pradhan).
Incidents of bonded labour were also brought to the notice of the
Tribunal. Bothu Mushar working in a brick kiln related his condition.
He had taken a loan of Rs 20,000 under Indira Awas Yojna. He was told
that the house would be built of cement, but it was built of wood and
has since collapsed. Since he is indebted, he now has to work as a
bonded labourer in the brick kiln. He stated that there are over 100-
250 people who work in the brick kiln and are bonded to the Gram
The following report about the incident at Piyari village has been
compiled from written records (presented to the Tribunal of the
incident and a deposition made by Lalman, a resident of the village,
during the Public Hearing.
In Piyari village, the Gram Sabha passed a unanimous proposal of
setting-up a statue of Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar in the Harijan Basti on
the village land near the pond.
After the statue had been set up, Nepali Singh former Pradhan of the
village, procured orders from the S.D.M. office to have the statue
removed. A few days prior to the incident of March 26 2001, he was
excavating sand from the pond near the Dalit Basti. The Dalits
objected to this and he had to stop the activity. Around 8:30 p.m. on
26 March 2000, the officer in charge of Chaubepur Police Station
Pramod Tripathi and several constables including a lady constable
arrived in Harijan Basti. At this, Nepali Singh and Juit Singh along
with Nepali Singh's sons reached there. At the same time the officer
in charge of Sholapur Police Station along with his constables
arrived at Harijan Basti.
The two officers along with the constables, and Nepali Singh and his
group, went to the site where the statue was located and began
removing it. Villagers from Harijan Basti explained to the police
about how the statue was erected after a consensus was reached in
Panchayat. And requested if there was an order for the statue's
removal, they should do so without damaging it. Despite their
requests the police and Nepali Singh uprooted the statue and damaged
its dais before loading it in a tractor. At this, Harijan Basti
residents demanded handing over of the statue to them but the police
refused. The Dalits then stood in front of the tractor. The officers,
as well as the constables, and others who had gathered there began
heaping vulgar abuse on Dalits. The officers threatened the Dalits
saying that they would break their legs and implicate them in false
Suddenly, the police, and Nepali Singh along with his gang lathi-
charged all the residents of Harijan Basti. They chased the Dalits
and beat them with sticks. Even those who had tried to save
themselves by hiding in the houses were not spared. The police, and
Nepali Singh and his gang, broke down the doors and beat-up everyone
in the Basti, injuring them severely. They also looted their money,
jewellery from the houses, and smashed other things like television
sets, weaving machines. Nepali Singh was also seen taking away
chickens and hens from the Basti. Also to implicate the Harijans, he
set fire to the police jeep (this is a serious accusation, it has to
be put carefully, may be - the villagers alleged that Nepali Singh
took away chickens and hens and set the police jeep afire in order to
implicate them). This mayhem continued for an hour or so. Some of the
villagers began throwing stones to protect themselves and leaving
police and the villagers injured. Several villagers were seriously
injured including women and children. To cover up for this bedlam,
the police arrested around 20 persons, some of whom were below the
age of 17 years.
Due to the police atrocities, the villagers fled from the village in
fear of return visits by the police as well as Nepali Singh, as a
result no FIR was filed immediately by the villagers in the local
Public Hearing At Gandhi Aydhyanpeeth, Varanasi
A Public Hearing was held at 3:00 p.m. on 17 February 2001 at Gandhi
Vidyapeeth Bhavan, Varanasi. Shortly before the Public Hearing,
Justice K Sukumaran met with the press. Around two to three hundred
people who were the victims of police atrocities from Narketi, Belwa,
Babatpur, and Piyari villages came to depose the tribunal. Also
present were Vijay Kumar Jaiswal and Mukundi Lal who came and deposed
before the Tribunal. The statements given by the residents of
Narketi, Belwa and Piyari have been recorded in the sections covering
the report on these areas. The depositions made before the panel by
Vijay Kumar Jaiswal and Mukundi Lal have been recorded here.
Vijay Kumar Jaiswal
Deposition made before the tribunal at the Public Hearing
My name is Vijay Kumar Jaiswal alias Kullu. I am a tempo driver and
carry construction material in my tempo (I think we could say,- We
are six brothers).. There is a dispute going on between we brothers
regarding the division of land and house. Three of us brothers,
Bholanath, Satyaprakash and me share a cordial relationship. We have
differences with Chhote Lal, Dilip Kumar and Pradeep Kumar, our other
brothers, who are well off. On 31 January 2001, due to in connection
with our dispute, two of my brothers entered my house in my absence
and badly beat up my wife and children. My wife later called me on
telephone. I was at the tempo stand at that time. As soon as I
reached home, two constables from Hanuman Phatak Police Station
arrived at my place and without saying anything caught me by hair and
dragged me away. When I protested they began hitting me with lathis
and the rifle butt. On the orders of S.H.O. Adampur, I was send to
jail. The S.H.O. Mr. Anil Rai said that he would take up my matter in
At around 1 o'clock in the night, an intoxicated S.H.O. Rai arrived.
He had me removed from the lock up Ttwo policemen on his orders took
me to a pillar within the precincts of the police station spread my
hands on the… pillar and the two policemen caught my hands. Then I
was brutally beaten like an animal with a hockey stick. As a result
of the beatings I became unconscious whereas my elder brother
Satyaprakash who was also in prison fell senseless to the floor.
After being beaten around 100 times with the hockey stick, my skin
peeled off in several places. One kind-hearted constable gave me tea
in the police station. The next morning I was released. Due to
financial problems I was able to get a medical check up done at the
District hospital only on 2 February 2001.
On 2 February 2001 my story was published in the newspaper "Aaj".
After the newspaper article, Anil Rai has been looking for an
opportunity to murder me. Anil Rai has taken bribes from my brothers
and continues to threaten me saying that he will show me the real
meaning of Section 151. Due to his inhuman beating my mental
condition as well as my physical condition is upset. When Anil Rai
was beating me he kept saying, "My name is Anil Rai and due to my
beating, people either depart from the town or this life." The
injuries are so bad that I have difficulty in sitting on the tempo
seat. Morning ablutions are also very painful. Anil Rai has claimed
that nothing can be done to touch him. The SSP is his close friend
and he has powerful political security.
Vijay Kumar also showed the panel photographs of his wounds. The
report of the inquiry conducted by the SSP, into the complaint by
Vijay Kumar Jaiswal of custodial torture, (Annexure III) prepared in
compliance with the order of the National Human Rights Commission,
was also looked into. After reading the report the panel found that
there were major contradictory situations that emerged from the
statements given by the people in the report.
The most conspicuous contradiction is the date of arrest of Vijay.
Vijay claims that he was arrested on the evening of 31 January 2001,
while the statements of all the other persons have it that he was
arrested on the morning of 1 February 2001. The statement of
Satyaprakash gives no dates. While the stories of both Vijay Kumar
and Satyaprakash concur with the fact that Vijay was not arrested
along with Pradip and Satyaprakash, and was not present at the time
of fight due to the unloading of the cement. However, statements of
other witnesses, the constables and also the entry in the register
indicates that Vijay was present at the scene of the fight when the
constables arrived. Vijay Kumar, was arrested together with Pradip
and Satyaprakash on the morning of 1 February 2001. The inquiry
report makes no effort to verify this contradiction. The statements
of the wives of Satyaprakash and Vijay have not been recorded.
The second contradiction concerns the injuries suffered by Vijay.
According to his claim and statements, the injuries were due to
police torture while in custody. This is borne out again by his
brother Satyaprakash. While the statements of the other witnesses
claim that Vijay was involved in the fight that took place between
the brothers, Vijay claims that he was not present at all. Setting
aside this discrepancy, yet another variance is seen in the
statements recorded in the inquiry report. Some of these same
witnesses go on to state that Vijay had abscesses on his hip, and due
to the fight the abscess burst and there was blood oozing from his
hip. However, in his statement, Head Constable (HC) 58, Shiv Pujan
Singh, Police Post Hanuman Phatak, PS Adampur, Varanasi, has said
that the accused complained of body pain but did not show any
external injury or express desire for medical examination, hence
there appeared no necessity for medical examination. This has also
been verified by SI / Incharge of Police Post Hanuman Phatak, PS
Adampur, Varanasi, Kamleshwar Singh.
The team heard the statements of Mukundi Lal who tearfully narrated
his story. According to Mukundi Lal, his son Satyendra was killed in
a false police encounter. The root cause of the trouble appears to be
a love affair between Satyendra's brother, a Dalit and a girl from
Upper Caste Srivastava family. The Srivastava family being high caste
landlords found this match impossible and had Satyendra's brother
killed in connivance with the police. Then Satyendra filed a case
against the Srivastava family in Sahabganj police station.
Subsequently, it appears that the police and the Srivastava family
had falsely implicated Satyendra in 8 different cases under IPC,
Cr.P.C., and Arms Acts. Finally, on 07-09-2001, he was declared a
naxalite and killed in a fake encounter.
On the fateful day of 7 September, 2001 Satyendra Harijan had come to
the Varanasi District Court at Kanchehari in the morning for the
hearing of his case (Ref:- Session Trial No. 78, Year 1994, - State
vs Satyendra and others, Nyayalai Shriman Duithia, Doothgami
Nyayalai, Varanasi, Thana Sahabganj).
Three persons, Marachhu, Boojharath, and Mewa accompanied him. After
the hearing, at around 1 p.m. the four walked towards the Eastern
Gate of the Court premises, with the intention of going home. However
on reaching the gate, they found the S.O. of Adampur Police Station,
Bhulan Yadav and the S.O. of Ramnagar Police Station, Pradeep Singh
Chandel, waiting with some men in a jeep. Amid abuses they forcibly
grabbed Satyendra, dragged him into the jeep and drove away. The
three persons accompanying Satyendra witnessed the whole incident.
One of them, Mr Marachhu, immediately sent a telegram to the S.S.P.
at around 1:50 p.m., informing him about the forceful seizure of
Satyendra. At 4:30 p.m., the Ramnagar Police announced the killing of
Satyendra in an encounter near Bhiti Village under
Ramnagar Police Station of Varanasi.
Though invitations were sent to the police, district authorities, and
the State Government to attend the Public Hearing, none of them
attended it. At the end of the Public Hearing, the panel was informed
that a packet had been delivered by a policeman containing the police
version of the happenings at Piyari village and the incident related
to the killing of Satyendra S/o Mukundi Lal in a police encounter.
Lalman of Piyari Village narrated the incidents that occurred at
Piyari on the night of 26 August 2000. This has been included in the
Chapter covering the incidents at Piyari
Findings Of The Panel
The IPT Tribunal in the various site visits and the public hearing
found a certain pattern when it came to the relations between Dalits,
the state and the upper castes.
1) A Delibrate Attempt To Keep The Dalits Backward And In Poverty
All the Dalit villages visited were extremely poor, inspite of being
eligible for numerable government schemes and benefits like schools,
pumps, health services and government loans. It is impossible that
there has been an oversight, or that the government machinery has
failed to reach those areas in all the villages. The IPT team is of
the opinion that this is deliberate. If these schemes had reached
these people, they would have made use of them long ago as a stepping
stone to uplift themselves and fight the oppression of the upper
This view is further reinforced by the observations and depositions
made before the Tribunal. For example:
a) Breaking Resistance: In Narketi the police which is supposed to be
neutral and an arm of the State, involved in maintaining law and
order, seems to be in direct collusion with the local contractors.
The raid on the village and the subsequent beatings and terror
unleashed on the village was more to break their resistance and their
strike for a raise in wages. If the raise in wages were to be
granted, it would detrimentally affect the income of the petty
contractors, and marginally improve the livelihood of the villagers.
b) To Illegally Take Over Land Illegal Acquisition Of Land: In the
case of the acquisition of airport land in Babatpur, it is clear that
even though the people did not protest against the acquiring of their
land, the State, instead of giving them their rightful dues, was
intent on taking over the land illegally. When the people protested,
led by the women of the village, the police had no hesitation in
firing on them, and beating them mercilessly. It is questionable if
the same would have happened if the land were acquired from an upper
caste village. The IPT was not able to go into this but it would be
useful and necessary to study the varying possibilities for land
acquisition that were before the State, and whether this land was
deliberately chosen because it belonged to a lower caste community.
c) Denial Of Basic Rights Like Education: The Tribunal found the
Belwa case particularly serious, where a mild demand of building a
school was met with such opposition. It is obvious that the local
Pradhan and the upper castes in that area fear that once the
villagers are educated, their power over them will be threatened.
Therefore, all attempts are being were made to shut the school, and
to prevent the village from accessing their rights granted to them in
a democratic country.
d) Demolition Of Cultural Symbols Of Empowerment: This observation
made by the Tribunal was further re-inforced in the case at Piyari
village. In this incident, a statue of Dr. Ambedkar, one of the
greatest Dalit leaders who institutionalised Dalit emancipation in
the Constitution of India, was pulled down by the police in collusion
with the local upper caste mafia without giving any notice or reason
as to why the statue should be removed. There too the police were
responsible for unleashing a reign of terror, beating women and
children and looting household items and even poultry.
2) The Mafia In Uniform
It is apparent that the police in this area of the country are not
involved in protecting law and order or in protecting the weak from
the strong. In each case the Tribunal saw a clear indication of
collusion of the police with the local upper caste mafia and actually
being agents to implement the illegal activities of the upper castes
in the region.
a) The Police have clearly violated their Service Rules, the SC/ST
Act, the Constitution as well as International Covenants like the
United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. There is no
law in India that allows the police to arbitrarily arrest people,
beat children, or terrorise and insult old people as was narrated in
all the cases presented before the Tribunal.
b) In Belwa, when the goons of the Pradhan beat up the local
activist, her husband was taken into custody inspite of there being
no complaint against him. It is strange that the police should arrest
and punish the victim, unless the police was hand in glove with the
c) In Babatpur and in Piyari Gaon the Police have acted contrary to
human rights provisions laid down under the Constitution and by the
United Nations Covenants.
d) Similarly, in the cases of Mukundi Lal and Vijay Kumar Jaiswal,
the police have been used as agents by the rich and the powerful to
settle personal scores by eliminating and torturing those who come in
the way. The inquiry report submitted by the Senior Superintendent of
Police (SSP) of Varanasi in compliance of the order of NHRC is not
acceptable appears flawed as there are contradictory statements, as
has been pointed out in the body of this report.
e) The people who deposed before the Tribunal see the police
as 'goondas'; a force to reckon with rather than a force for good.
f) In all cases, the people mentioned that the police have been
directly responsible for looting, pillaging and destroying their
homes, and stealing their poultry and cattle. This is yet another
instance of the criminalisation of the police force.
3) Is A Dalit Entitled To The Privileges Of A Democratic State?
After 50 years of independence, none of the privileges of living in a
democratic state seems to have been given to the Dalit community.
This has taken place in a country that, on paper, has one of the
finest Democratic Constitutions in the world; a Constitution where
Dalits are entitled to special concessions and privileges. The
reality, in villages across Uttar Pradesh, and other parts of the
country, is very different. For example:
a) A Feudal System Of Punishment: In cases like the Narketi case,
where some of the people are alleged to support the MCC, the entire
village is punished. This seems to be a common practice when it comes
to "so called" crimes of the Dalits - communities are punished and
not just the individual. However, when it comes to higher castes,
individual punishments are meted out for individual crimes.
b) Complete Disregard Of Legal Procedures. The inquiry reveals that
people are arrested and not brought before the magistrate, kept in
custody without reason, and families are not informed that they have
been taken into custody. The latter is in complete violation of
Supreme Court guidelines in D. K. Basu's case (Annexure VII). Police
firing is done without notice. Homes, statues are demolished without
providing any notice. Innocent people are regularly tortured and
exterminated. The most shocking of these incidents being the killing
of Mukundi Lal's son. Mukundi Lal's son was picked up unarmed by the
police, and his disappearance was noted in a telegram to the
authorities. A few hours later his death was announced as
an 'Encounter Death" - deaths which police justify as the death of an
armed criminal whom the police had to kill in order to defend their
c) The Right To Vote Denied: In the village of Belwa, the very right
to vote was denied to the people for years. The evidence discloses
that even when they did try to vote they were beaten up and the booth
was repeatedly captured.
d) People Centric Local Governance Non-Existent: Inspite of the
Panchayati Raj provision and the powers of local governance given to
the villages of India, the Gram Sabha either has no say in the local
policies or a local upper caste goon uses the funds and the powers to
maintain his feudal base
4) Basic Human Rights Are Violated
We are not getting into the debate of how the State can or cannot
control the use of arms for armed struggle. But, even in wars, human
rights of the people are respected. During the visit, in the cases
inquired into, the Tribunal found that the human rights of the people
have been absolutely disregarded.
The people are paid no compensation for the loss they suffer due to
the terrorist acts of the police.
The only association with the State is in the form of the police -
the villagers used the word 'Prashashan' when referring to the
police. Their only encounter with the State has been in the form of
violence and repression, not in the form of any manner of welfare or
service. For these people (according to their statements before the
Tribunal), the State does not mean a post office, a hospital or even
a ration shop. The State represents itself to them in the form of
police who invade their homes, rob their poultry and cattle, and
destroy their resources.
No complaint mechanism for redressal in case of human rights
violence. The state of U.P. does not even have a State Human Rights
Recommendations Of The Tribunal
An immediate judicial enquiry needs to be conducted against the
police officers involved in the various atrocities and police
firings. Those involved must be punished.
The people who have been victims of these atrocities must be provided
adequate compensation. This includes those who have lost a family
member, those injured, as well as those whose property and household
goods have been looted and destroyed. (List of items lost, people
injured annexed in annexure I and V). Such payments are in tune with
legal principles and judicial decisions.
It is only proper that the Government causes an impartial and
independent inquiry to take place. A thorough investigation by a body
like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) needs to be conducted
into the alleged collusion of the police with the local goons.
Stringent punishment has to be meted out to the police as well as the
upper caste mafia.
A State Human Rights Commission needs to be put into place
immediately and provided with the necessary budgetary provisions and
infrastructure if it is to function efficiently. It must have
effective powers and those practices which have been set in place in
states that do have such Commissions should be studied and followed.
The Guidelines provided by Justice. D.K. Basu on arrest and detention
must be strictly followed. (A summary of the guidelines have been
annexed in annexure VII).
Under no circumstance should people be tortured. The practice of
community punishment must be stopped immediately.
The powers of the Gram Sabha should be upheld when it comes to
implementing local policies.
The Scheduled Tribe Commission should be notified about the fact
thatelsewhere in India, Kol, Mushar and Kharwar, are notified as
Scheduled Tribes but here they are Scheduled Castes. This is
important as Scheduled Tribes are entitled to special privileges
which at the moment they are denied.
Basic amenities like land titles, irrigation, water, schools and
health facilities must be provided to these people. A review of
existing government schemes which provide such facilities with
inspections by responsible offficials should be conducted
periodically, to ensure that these people are not denied access to
The villagers should be made aware of their rights and judicial
decisions. However if the entire village is illiterate, this poses a
massive problem. The Tribunal came across villages where there was
not a even a single literate person. In the village of Narketi for
example, even the Pradhan and his father who was Pradhan before him
were not literate. This emphasises the necessity for literacy
measures to be taken ensuring total literacy among all sections of
It is important that these steps are followed and the government
punishes those guilty of victimising the weak and the underprivileged
if faith in the Rule of Law is to be restored. If not people will be
pushed to become extremists and take up arms and the very fabric of
the society will be threatened.
To be able to live under the rule of law is a citizen's basic human
right. This right, which the citizens of a democracy take for
granted, has been fought for, in the world, over a long period of
time spanning many centuries. Even while acts of great and heinous
illegalities are committed, the candle of hope for the enactment of a
just rule of law should never be allowed to be extinguished.
One of the great indirect benefits of British rule was the spread and
popularity of the idea of the rule of law among the people of India.
This came about because, for a century before British power was
established, the rule of law had collapsed in many parts of India.
Slowly and steadily the British built up an infrastructure of a rule
of law, which is neutral, and not subject to the capriciousness of
individual rulers or favouritism and deference shown to men of status
or wealth. At the end of British rule the founding fathers of the
modern republic of India did not go back to the ancestral or
religious laws of the Hindus and the Muslims. They put their trust in
the rule of law as they had learnt from a Western power, the British.
The impressive Constitution of India bears witness to this historic
India belongs to the community of democratic nations that honour the
rule of law. There are, however, some dangerous developments that
should not be overlooked. In some states like Bihar, Gujarat and
Uttar Pradesh powerful landlords willfully murder vulnerable lower
caste villagers; men of astounding wealth that could only have been
accumulated by ill-gotten means may be charged but somehow avoid
appropriate punishment; ordinary humble people are still over-awed by
the cold and distant majesty of the law. The forces of law and order
are far too brutal in their dealings with the ordinary people; and
unscrupulous politicians are allowed to get away with organising
a "rent a mob" crowd, equipped with guns, to intimidate their
A continuous monitoring of both the equity and efficacy of the
process of procedures is vitally necessary for maintaining a
civilized rule of law in India. At the local level it should begin
with immediate restitution of property and provision of justice to
the people of Naketi, Belwa, Babatpur and Piyari Gaon as well as
individuals like Mukundi Lal and Vijay Kumar Jaiswal who have
suffered grievously in the hands of the police
A Hindu Rashtra? Sangh Parivar is daydreaming
Nation: a group of people with the same language, culture and
history, who live in a particular area under one government
This standard definition of a nation may be difficult to apply in our
situation. Even Dr B.R. Ambedkar had observed that there are many
nationalities in our nation, and the main reason for this is the
But more recently, the Sangh Parivar has sprouted a new concept of a
rashtra or nation, the basis of which is religion. But is religion
alone a sufficient factor to fulfill the requirements of a nation?
More so, when the religion the Sangh Parivar is talking about is
based on discrimination, hatred and selfishness. Besides, if they
demand a Hindu Rashtra the minorities may ask for their own nation.
The Sangh Parivar is contemplating a monolithic culture and religion.
It is dreaming with its eyes open. In his book, Why I am not a Hindu,
Dr Kancha Illiaha opines that Dalits and Backward Castes are not
Hindus by either custom, tradition, food habits or even the deities
that they worship. So under these circumstances, is it possible to
create a Hindu nation? If it was, our society would never have been
pluralistic in the first place.
What led to pluralism in our society? The Manuwadis (those who do not
believe in equality and democracy) allege Christian and Muslim
conspiracies behind the conversion of Hindus. Till today, the Sangh
Parivar has not accepted the fact that it is Hinduism itself which
has given birth to this phenomenon. Take, for instance, the shila
daan at Ayodhya. Sangh Parivar leader Ramchandra Paramhans refused to
hand over the shilas to the commissioner because he was a Gupta, a
Bania (a member of the business community). This, when the Banias ran
the RSS and other outfits of the Sangh Parivar and are funding the
outfit till today. How can the Sangh Parivar dream of creating a
Hindu Rashtra when it cannot even treat its staunchest supporters
with equality and respect.
Around the world, there are a lot of Hindus. But Nepal is the only
official Hindu nation. Consider the plight of the Dalits there. They
are voiceless. Not a single Dalit can enter the Nepal Parliament, nor
can they errect houses above those belonging to the so-called upper
castes. They want to create a nation in which the life of a cow has
more value than that of a human. This same mentality was displayed by
VHP leader Giriraj Kishore when those Dalits were killed in Jhajjar
for skinning a dead cow. At least Dalits, OBCs, minorities and
progressive Indians would not like to live in this Manuwadis' nation.
So what are the possibilities of a Manuwadi nation. Minorities are
not going to join it. Some OBCs may seem to side with them but it is
just a temporary phase. The BJP is opposed to the interests of OBCs.
If it is in power today, it is mainly by opposing the Mandal. The
majority of Dalits stay away from them. The uneducated and poor can
be soft targets, but in the final stage they will move away.
Rationalists, patriots and progressive Indians would also not side
If the V.P. Singh Government had not implemented the Mandal
recommendations, the Sangh Pariwar would never have got an
opportunity to rise to power. They attained power in Uttar Pradesh,
and that led to the demolition of Babri Masjid. The plank of social
justice finally hit the Muslims.
So what does that leave the Sangh Parivar with? The Parivar
represents a microscopic minority of Hindus. Any attempt to create a
Hindu Rashtra will be countered by other nationalities. Look at the
present situation in Nagaland, Punjab, Kashmir and other troubled
states. If anything, the creation of a Dalit Rashtra is more likely.
Such a movement would mobilise the support of 50 per cent of the
population. The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes comprise 25 per
cent of the population; about 85 per cent of Muslims and 95 per cent
of Christians are from Dalit stock; and Dalit Sikhs, Buddhists and
most backward castes sharing the same or even lower socio-economic
status also form a substantial part of the total population. Little
wonder then that Dr Ejaz Ali, leader of the All India United Muslim
Morcha, has been advocating the formation of a Dalit Rashtra, as a
counter to the Sangh Parivar's Hindu Rashtra.
A critical outlook at the Sangh Parivar's agenda gives nothing but a
feeling of division and temporary gain. Ever since the Sangh Parivar
vitalised its activities, Dalits have begun to feel uncomfortable.
And it has become noticeable. In public meetings, whenever some Dalit
leaders talk of a separate nation, there is applause from some
corners. These leaders often refer to the separate electorate granted
by the British in 1932, which finally ended up with reservation. This
is a warning to the Sangh Parivar and BJP that they should not play
with the unity and integrity of the country. Gone are the days when
it was possible to divide and rule. Whatever has not been achieved in
a millennium, is being attempted to be achieved in a decade's time.
But their formula is not going to work. On the other hand, their
attempts are hindering basic issues like education, health, social
harmony, development etc.
The nation about which they are talking cannot be a Hindu Rashtra
because they represent a microscopic stock of Hindus. It is highly
unfounded and objectionable to use ''Hindu'' or ''Hindutva'' for the
Sangh Parivar since it will then encompass those Hindus who are not
their supporters also. So, the Sangh Parivar 's nation can never be a
reality but a Dalit Rashtra can be a reaction to their demand.
(The writer is the chairperson of the All India Confederation of
The Indian Express
31st December , 2002
Shaji John K
B-1635 Indira Nagar
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In These Times (Chicago)
January 3, 2003
Broken People, Broken Promises
Dalits face a new threat from India's Hindu nationalists.
By Jehangir Pocha
Stick-wielding Hindu mobs rampage through Gujarat last March. The
riots left 2,000 dead.
Audiences in Bombay's derelict Art-Deco cinema halls often hoot and
whistle when their hero vanquishes a villain. Made to formula,
Bollywood movies often end with the hero punching up a local thakkur,
an upper-caste landlord, for the many injustices he perpetrated
against the peasants during the preceding three hours. When the
battered villain finally begs for mercy between sobs of guilt and
remorse, the hero usually shows his softer side and reprimands the
landlord. At this point, a police officer magically appears to
handcuff the chastised villain and thank the hero for fighting the
good fight: "Now the law will give him his punishment," the officer
says, as the curtain comes down to cheers.
But Bollywood is a fantasy.
In a 2,000-year-old hangover from one bad idea, India's 250 million
"untouchables," who call themselves Dalits, and tribal people still
endure crushing oppression and political manipulation from upper
castes. The category of "untouchables" was officially abolished in
India more than half a century ago, but despite affirmative action
that has led to considerable gains for the group-two Indian
governments have been led by Dalit parties-discrimination and
persecution of Dalits are still rife. Human rights groups estimate
that hundreds of thousands of caste-based crimes occur in India each
year. Very few of these are reported. Only a handful are ever
Caste conflict does not produce many soundbites or banner headlines.
The stories of these silent sieges are buried in local newspapers and
dusty police logs in remote Indian villages. They are about the grim,
persistent denial of basic human rights to about 250 million people,
and the regular but unspectacular injustices perpetrated against them
by oppressors who consider them the lowest human life form. The
dehumanizing nature of these crimes reveals more about the problem
than sheer numbers.
* India's National Human Rights Commission reports that, in
some areas, Dalits are still forced to live in segregated colonies
and work in inhuman conditions. They are "denied the use of the same
wells and the same temples as caste Hindus, and are even forbidden to
drink from the same cups in tea stalls," says Dr. K. Jamnadas, a
leading Dalit activist.
* In the aftermath of a 2001 earthquake in Gujarat, relief
agencies were forced to mark their supplies of blood with the caste
of the person it came from, or else people would not use them.
* That same year in Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, a low-caste
woman named Sukhviri Devi was stripped naked and beaten to death by
two upper-caste men. Her sin was to cross their path while carrying
an empty pail-an inauspicious act. The attack occurred just days
before President Clinton's visit to the city.
* In Bareilly, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, a local
official, Shabbir Ahmad, beat to death a low-caste teen-ager in 2000
for plucking flowers from his garden.
* Last year in Lucknow, also in Uttar Pradesh, in a grotesquely
medieval version of a classic romantic tragedy, a lower-caste girl
and upper-caste boy were publicly lynched by their families, who were
incensed at the "impure" relationship. Hundreds watched and applauded.
Even as many Dalits and tribals struggle for access to the full legal
rights granted to them in 1950, they face a new and insidious threat
from India's Hindu nationalists-a threat that could subvert their
fledgling political movement, unleash new waves of violence, and trap
them once again onto the lowest rungs of the social hierarchy.
On October 15, as people all over India celebrated the Hindu festival
of dusherra, five Dalits were arrested by local police in the Jhajjar
district of the state of Haryana. Their alleged crime: killing and
skinning a cow in public. (Cow slaughter, in deference to Hindu
sensibilities, is banned in most of India.) When news of the arrests
spread, a mob broke into the police station and lynched the five men
in the presence of more than 50 policemen, city magistrates and
government officials. Later, police admitted that there was no
evidence against the men.
Ethnic tensions had been high in Jhajjar since 33 Dalit families
converted to Islam sometime in August. Historically, many Dalits have
converted to Buddhism, Christianity or Islam to escape the "badge of
dishonor" orthodox Hinduism placed on them. Local NGOs and political
parties charged that the attack had been politically motivated by the
Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, two Hindu fundamentalist
The attack brought into sharp relief the escalating tensions between
Dalits and the Sangh Parivar, the Hindu nationalist movement that
encompasses the government's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The
Sangh Parivar wants to unite all India's ethnic groups against
Muslims and Christians. In what has been described as a "war for
souls," the Sangh Parivar has launched an aggressive campaign to
convince Dalits and tribals to surrender their traditional identities
and follow mainstream Hinduism.
The BJP's artful manipulation of Hindu-Muslim divisions brought it to
power in 1998 as the head of a coalition government, but it has never
won an absolute parliamentary majority. Suspicious of the BJP's
campaign for law based on Hindutva, an orthodox set of Hindu
principles, India's 250 million Dalits have found greater common
cause with India's 120 million Muslims and other minorities. Their
alliance, thus far, has limited the BJP's ability to further the
Hindu nationalist agenda.
The Sangh Parivar's efforts to convert untouchables and tribals is a
cynical attempt to fracture their sense of solidarity with Muslims.
"The party wants to direct the combined force of this massive vote
bank against Muslims and Christians, whom it despises, and transform
secular India into a Hindu state ruled by Hindutva," says Radhika
Desai, a professor at the University of Victoria in Canada, who works
with tribal communities in Gujarat.
The Sangh Parivar claims that their efforts to absorb these people
"back" into Hinduism is an attempt to ameliorate the caste
differences that have separated Dalits and tribals from mainstream
society in the first place. But a closer look at the Sangh Parivar's
conversion programs reveals a different agenda. In recent years, it
has begun to establish a network of religious schools and development
centers across India's remote and tribal areas.
Funded extensively by the Indian expatriate community in the United
States, these schools are the Trojan horse of the Hindu right. Luring
credulous and desperately poor Dalit and tribal youth with promises
of education and social uplift, the Sangh Parivar preaches a radical
version of Hindu supremacy that gains strength at the expense of
Indian Muslims and other minorities.
Desai and others charge that the Sangh Parivar, leveraging the
devotional fervor of these unsophisticated new converts, is using the
former "untouchables" as shock troops in their violent anti-Muslim
Evidence of this emerged after the March 2002 riots in Gujarat-riots
that were widely believed to have been orchestrated by the Sangh
Parivar. The riots, which were retribution for an earlier attack by
Muslims on a train carrying Hindu fundamentalists, left 2,000 dead
and 100,000 homeless. Witnesses and investigators said the local BJP
government and Sangh Parivar groups systematically trucked
intoxicated mobs into Muslim areas, directing them via computerized
lists to destroy Muslim property. Within hours, a state renowned for
its ancient citadels and verdant hamlets lay blood-drenched, scorched
According to the People's Union for Civil Liberties, areas where
large numbers of youth are enrolled in tribal development centers
experienced some of the worst violence against Muslims. As smoke
still billowed from burning cities and scorched fields, K.K. Shastri,
chairman of a Sangh Parivar group in Gujarat, publicly praised
rioters from an area where his group runs a tribal development
center: "They have done an amazing job."
"The irony of it all," says Deepika Chadha, an activist in Gujarat,
"is that the most backward community, the tribals, were being
manipulated into battering the next most backward, the Muslims, at
the behest of the most privileged."
Despite promises to the contrary, critics say, the converts from the
Sangh Parivar religious schools are not treated as equals in their
new faith. In an ingenious move designed to retain the basic
principles of caste superiority, Dalit and tribal converts are
assigned to worship only the minor gods of Hinduism, like Hanuman,
the warrior monkey-king who served Ram, but not major gods like Ram
himself. "Making tribals and Dalits worship a minor god who was a
disciple of their own god is not a way of giving them a place, but a
way of showing them their place," Desai says. "It's like Christian
missionaries seeing new converts as somewhat unworthy of worshipping
Christ and teaching them to worship Peter instead. It's not
conversion, it's subversion."
While aggressively pursuing its own "conversion strategy," the Sangh
Parivar and its allies are sponsoring state-level legislation banning
religious conversion. Legal experts say that the legislation is
written in such a way that it uses the Sangh Parivar's definition of
Hinduism to delegitimize Dalit conversions to Islam or Christianity,
while allowing Dalit conversion to Hinduism. Recently the southern
state of Tamil Nadu, which is governed by a BJP ally, became the
first state to pass such a law. More states are poised to follow,
even though restrictions on conversion defy India's constitution.
To curry support from the electorate, the Sangh Parivar is packaging
its call for a homogenous Hindu identity around the age-old argument
that divisions within Hinduism weaken India. It claims that it is
protecting India and Hinduism, which it sees as synonymous, from the
"foreign influences" of Islamic Pakistan, Communist China and the
To further isolate Muslims and Christians, the Sangh Parivar is also
pressuring India's non-Muslim and non-Christian minorities-Sikhs,
Jains and Buddhists-to embrace the Hindutva platform. In a sweeping
and novel definition of Hinduism, the Sangh Parivar claims that all
people and faiths with "roots in India" are Hindu. In this view,
Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism are merely Hindu sub-sects.
The situation reveals the complex tessellation of caste and religion
that is driving India's increasingly ethnic politics. "The BJP's main
aim today is to try and gloss over historical differences within
Hinduism and mold Hindus into a single vote bloc it can control,"
Desai says. "But the Sangh Parivar's vision is not of a faith where
all are equal. It is of a faith where all others agree to abide by
the orthodox rules of a select few. ... It is Brahminism revisited."
Jehangir Pocha, a native of Bombay, is an international journalist
based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Effects of globalisation on Indian children
TIMES NEWS NETWORK[ SUNDAY, JANUARY 05, 2003 12:33:02 AM ]
NEW DELHI: Fifty students huddled together in a makeshift school in Debitola
block of Dhubri district in Assam are part of a single-teacher village school
which has been in existence for fifteen years.
The school, however, has received absolutely no aid from the state government.
The teacher functions without a salary. The school comes under the category of
the Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha’s Lokshal Programme for the Universalisation of
Elementary Education, under which a school can be started by any individual.
The teacher is running the school in the hope that some day, it may get
recognition from the state educational authorities. Meanwhile, its attendance
register is being used to swell primary school educational statistics to meet
the diktat of the World Bank to achieve 100 per cent literacy.
The first State of the Nation Report on the impact of globalisation on Indian
children brought out by an NGO, Haq: Centre for Child’s Rights, takes an
overview of how the country’s 370 million children are faring. Educational
expert Anil Sadgopal says pressure from the World Bank forced the government to
reduce the span of elementary education from eight to five years.
‘‘Article 45 of the Constitution has unambiguously declared that primary
education would be spread over eight years and an eight-year curriculum was
drafted at Wardha Conference in 1937. Not only has this been changed, but also
the newly-introduced Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan or the Education Guarantee Scheme has
reduced the duration of primary education to three years,’’ says Sadgopal.
Experts are equally critical of how earlier educational commitments have been
[ WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 01, 2003 10:28:10 PM ]
He is one of India's great maverick minds. But political psychologist
Ashis Nandy is also a keen student of Indian politics. Responding to
the Gujarat results, he tells Suman K Jha that India as a society
must tap traditional sources of amity rather than harp
Is the verdict in Gujarat a manifestation of regional self-esteem, or
is it something else?
I'm afraid it's mostly a victory of fear and hatred. At the same
time, while elections give play to the myths and fears of people, the
results also reflect the power relations between different social
groups, communities and interest groups. They are never a single-
Like the majority suffering from a minority syndrome.
Absolutely. The pre-poll survey, conducted by the Centre for the
Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), showed that most Gujaratis,
including highly educated ones, believe that Muslims constitute more
than 20 per cent of the state's population though the census says
they are less than 10 per cent. Clearly, Muslims loom large on middle-
class Gujarati Hindu consciousness.
Would the BJP then reinvent its original charter and replicate the
Gujarat model elsewhere in the country?
Well, the BJP is only 60 per cent of the NDA. Unless it is willing to
give up power at the Centre at this point, it cannot afford to
antagonise its allies. Moreover, it just cannot bounce back to power
at the Centre on its own in a diverse country like India. Actually,
its all-India vote-share has never been high. In this respect, it
will be naive to compare Gujarat with other states. Gujarat witnessed
massive violence followed by elections. That too in a context where
rioting has been going on for thirty years, interrupted by brief
periods of peace. Also, it is one of the most urbanised states today
and communal riots in India have a strong urban connection. Gujarat,
though a small state, has about 50 cities, a communalised middle
class, and a massive floating population, ever willing to make a
living out of violence.
Is this somewhat reminiscent of the Shiv Sena experiment in
Maharashtra: its nativism and its perpetual search for the "Other"?
On the whole, yes.
What do you think of Narendra Modi's prospects after the polls?
In the short run, Mr Modi will find an increasing number of
supporters in the BJP. The RSS, the VHP and its offshoots would rally
behind him. In the event of any intra-party factional battle, Mr Modi
may even challenge the party's central leadership. In the long run,
however, the ideology he represents cannot win nationwide support.
Though he might think that it can.
Do the Gujarat results prove that secularism is in crisis in our
Secularism as a modern ideology has been in crisis in India for the
last 20 years. And believe me, it doesn't have much future either.
Everyone knows it; but only a few admit it. Tell me the name of one
hero of secularism who can be called a secularist except the
currently-unfashionable Jawaharlal Nehru — Kabir? Akbar? Shah Latif?
Gandhi? Narayan Guru? Would Kabir have been Kabir if he
was "secular"? Had he heard of secularism? This is the tragedy of our
times. We have not built on the ideas, worldviews and traditions of
the likes of Kabir who encouraged and nurtured inter-religious amity
and peace. These are ideas and worldviews that make sense to our
people. Our intellectuals want to impose on them their ideas, which
are actually second-hand western ideas. This is ridiculous.
But is our political class well-equipped to build on those ideas? For
instance, Congress's Sonia Gandhi and Shankersinh Vaghela launched
their campaign from the Ambaji Temple. And then came out with two
different manifestos. Wasn't the Congress the B-team of the BJP?
Despite all their faults, the political classes are in better touch
with the people. After all, their livelihood depends on it. Only,
they lack the communication skills to articulate their experience.
The brighter ones among them have always interpreted secularism
loosely and, sometimes, used other, more rooted ideas of mutuality
Do you think there has been a rightward shift in our polity in the
last two decades or so?
Not really. It's only that the forces of religious chauvinism and
jingoism have got the space to get better-organised. We have allowed
small groups of fanatics, who have never won a majority of Hindu
votes except in small pockets, to speak on behalf of one billion
Hindus of the world. In these modern times, when "rootlessness"
and "desperation" have taken epidemic forms, "management of hatred"
is the greatest challenge we face. Which explains why we must try to
tap our cultural resources to fight conflicts.
How does one now ensure the protection of dignity and lives of
minorities in Gujarat?
When institutions of the state are unavailable or biased, the natural
response should be to use the means still available — the judiciary,
the NGOs, leading religious thinkers, creative writers and artists,
even international laws on genocide and crimes against humanity. Many
are working along these lines and I am very proud of them.
Community in elementary education
A K SHIVA KUMAR
[ TUESDAY, JANUARY 07, 2003 11:16:15 PM ]
Elementary education has been in the news recently for some very good
reasons and for some misunderstood ones.
The good news first. There is an unprecedented sense of urgency to
make elementary education free, compulsory and universal.
Parliament recently gave the nod to the Bill making free and
compulsory education a fundamental right for every child. The Bill
has been described as the second revolutionary step after adult
Over the past few months, many state governments, complying with the
Supreme Court directives, have introduced cooked mid-day meals in
schools. Early reports point to many positive effects especially in
terms of attracting children, girls, in particular, to school. Mid-
day meals are also proving to be a boon to poor families.
Additionally, strong aspirations, particularly among the poor, back
the drive for good quality education. For example, even in
educationally-backward states, the PROBE survey (in 1997) found that
in response to the question `is it important for a child to be
educated?', the proportion of parents who answered in the affirmative
was 98 per cent for boys and 89 per cent for girls.
Clearly, the bottleneck in terms of achieving universal elementary
education is not on the demand side. It is almost entirely on the
side of supply. The lack of an adequate number of schools, crumbling
buildings, leaking roofs, overcrowded classrooms, few teaching aids,
high teacher absenteeism, inadequate training, little supervision and
much less accountability, indifferent community support, and an
oppressive curriculum deny many children quality education. These
features also kill the joy of the minimal learning that takes place
inside the classroom.
The recently-published Pratichi Education Report provides the results
of a detailed investigation of a number of primary schools and shishu
shiksha kendras in West Bengal, and presents a picture of systematic
neglect that may well be the case in other parts of India as well. An
unfortunate consequence of the poor quality of education in schools
is the growing phenomenon of private tuition. For many parents in
cities, rich or poor, in government and private schools, arranging
private tuition for their children has become inevitable.
The Pratichi Report found a wide prevalence of private tuition among
primary school-going children in villages as well. In the sample
studied, 45 per cent of children in the primary schools surveyed were
taking private tuition. Equally disturbing is the finding that the
proportion of children in classes three and four who could write
their names was only seven per cent for those who did not have the
benefit of being privately tutored.
Commenting on this feature, Amartya Sen, in his introduction to the
report writes: ``There is perhaps no better indicator of the
underperformance of primary schools than the use of private tuition
on which most students whoever can afford it seem to rely. In effect,
successful primary education has ceased to be free, and this is
nothing less than a violation of a basic right guaranteed by the
Constitution. It is also an immensely discriminating system, in which
the foundational principle of equal entitlement to primary education
is violated, against the interests of children from the poorer and
less privileged families.''
It is on private tuition that Amartya Sen's views seem to have been
misconstrued in some quarters. He does point out that the
availability of private tuition makes richer parents less interested
in doing their bit to influence the operation of primary schools.
They are not dependent on primary schools and do not try to do much
to remedy the system. How-ever, despite identifying several arguments
in favour of restricting private tuition, Mr Sen does not recommend,
everything considered, a ban on private tuition.
The Pratichi Report does, however, rightly favour banning
schoolteachers themselves teaching their own students outside the
class for payment. It outlines policy reforms that would make private
tuition redundant in elementary schools, and through that overcome
the evil of private tuition. Central to the reform package is giving
parents' bodies decisive power in the running of schools, reforming
the nearly defunct system of school inspectors, and arranging for
effective consul- tations and cooperation in the system of elementary
This also suggests a greater role for the community in ensuring
accountability and improved performance of schools. Returning to the
central issue, however, of universalising elementary education, whom
do we look to for solutions? Teachers are a good starting point. Many
teachers act with remarkable commitment and their dedication can be
enhanced through more consultation, larger facilities, regular
inspections and the operation of a good incentive system. Thousands
of teachers function under extremely difficult circumstances. Despite
these adverse conditions, there are many who are deeply committed to
The way forward is not to regard teachers as scoundrels as some do.
Instead we ought to tap their potential for positively, creatively
and effectively improving the performance of schools.
Begging the Question
TIMES NEWS NETWORK[ MONDAY, JANUARY 06, 2003 11:12:40 PM ]
A recent Delhi Police notification directs motorists, on pain of
paying hefty monetary fines, not to buy anything or give alms to
beggars at traffic junctions. The ramifications of the move are
however not confined to Delhi. The National Task Force on Vendors has
submitted similar recommendations to the Centre.
Meanwhile, several NGOs have raised the issue of the livelihood of
street children. Amod Kanth, a joint commissioner with the Delhi
Police and a founder member of Prayas — an NGO which works with
street children — discussed the relevant issues with Tripta Batra:
How do you view the notification?
The idea behind it is to make the city presentable, and I have
nothing against that.
However, we already have laws to deal with traffic, the conduct of
motor vehicle drivers, and begging and vending on the roads. What's
more, this notification affects child vendors, above 14 years of age,
When some police action impinges upon people's livelihood, a holistic
view needs to be taken. You can't take a partial view. How would you
have gone about it?
No doubt the police should be concerned about the safety of children
at intersections. At the same time, the children are driven by
certain situations. They can be told to be careful, but to remove
them lock, stock and barrel is something else. I am convinced that
child beggars should not be on the road.
But regarding vendors, I have a different view. Vendors, including
child vendors, operate all over the world. I had an
opportunity to travel to a few countries recently, and I found
vendors everywhere. The police have to be cooperative, have to be
humane, and look at the situation in its totality.
How many children do you think are selling on the streets of Delhi,
particularly at intersections?
It's very difficult to say. There are about 200,000 children out of
school on the streets or otherwise in Delhi. Those who are homeless
or hanging around here and there would be about 60,000 to my mind.
And a good number of these would be selling at traffic intersections.
Has such a direction been issued anywhere else in the country?
I am not aware of it. However, under the Indian Police Act and/or the
local municipal laws, the police does, from time to time, act against
vendors or beggars in other cities. For instance, the Bombay (Mumbai)
Beggars Act is applicable to Delhi as well as other cities.
How many motor vehicle drivers have been fined since the direction
came into effect?
The police have prosecuted a couple of hundreds maybe. Initially,
there were complaints about children being roughed up, but after NGOs
made representations to the police commissioner, the police have
adopted a more humane attitude.
Is the issue any closer to resolution?
NGO representatives have met the Delhi chief minister. She has shown
interest in drawing up a comprehensive scheme for child vendors. In
fact, the Centre is also interested in a national scheme for vendors.
For vendors, this is a livelihood issue — a fundamental right.
For the police or municipal authorities, the issue is one of keeping
the city clean and the traffic running smoothly.
Basically, these are contradictory demands. I'm myself facing a
predicament on how to reconcile the demands of police
work with the needs of the vendors.
As a member of the National Task Force on Vendors (NTF), what issues
linked to the present row have you managed to address?
I am a co-opted member on the NTF. I represent the police point of
view to a certain extent. But I have also voiced the concern
of child vendors, thanks to my association with Prayas. And it is
partly due to the latter that I've been inducted into this
Under the NTF, vending and non-vending zones have reportedly been
designated. Are traffic intersections part of non-vending zones?
Not yet. This has to be done area-wise. The proposal we have given is
that every city — big or small — will have a committee to
decide these issues. The committee will include representatives of
vendor associations, local organisations, municipal bodies, police
and others. They will decide what is to be done. Broadly, in the NTF
report we have submitted to the government, we have talked about the
identity of vendors; they have no means of identification, no voting
rights. There has to be some security for them in livelihood terms.
They have to be given some kind of insurance and rehabilitation
We have looked at the problems of vendors in a holistic way. They are
said to run 60 per cent of India's economy. In any
case, about 90 per cent of India's labour force is
unorganised. This sector makes a major contribution — you
cannot overlook that.
To what extent do you think the recommendations of the NTF will be
The vendors' associations are becoming active. They have also formed
a representative body. I presume they will compel the government
to implement it (the NTF recommendations). The issue
affects the entire unorganised economy — children, women,
workers, the homeless. The role of NGOs is also very important.
New York Times
December 30, 2002
Hijacking India's History
By KAI FRIESE
While some of us lament the repetition of history, the men who run India are
busy rewriting it. Their efforts, regrettably, will only be bolstered by the
landslide victory earlier this month of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the
Western India state of Gujarat.
The B.J.P. has led this country's coalition government since 1999. But
India's Hindu nationalists have long had a quarrel with history. They are
unhappy with the notion that the most ancient texts of Hinduism are
associated with the arrival of the Vedic "Aryan" peoples from the Northwest.
They don't like the dates of 1500 to 1000 B.C. ascribed by historians to the
advent of the Vedic peoples, the forebears of Hinduism, or the idea that the
Indus Valley civilization predates Vedic civilization. And they certainly
can't stand the implication that Hinduism, like the other religious
traditions of India, evolved through a mingling of cultures and peoples from
Last month the National Council of Educational Research and Training, the
central government body that sets the national curriculum and oversees
education for students up to the 12th grade, released the first of its new
school textbooks for social sciences and history. Teachers and academics
protested loudly. The schoolbooks are notable for their elision of many
awkward facts, like the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by a Hindu
nationalist in 1948.
The authors of the textbook have promised to make revisions to the chapter
about Gandhi. But what is more remarkable is how they have added several
novel chapters to Indian history.
Thus we have a new civilization, the "Indus-Saraswati civilization" in place
of the well-known Indus Valley civilization, which is generally agreed to
have appeared around 4600 B.C. and to have lasted for about 2,000 years.
(The all-important addition of "Saraswati," an ancient river central to
Hindu myth, is meant to show that Indus Valley civilization was actually
part of Vedic civilization.) We have a chapter on "Vedic civilization" — the
earliest recognizable "Hindu culture" in India and generally acknowledged
not to have appeared before about 1700 B.C. — that appears without a single
The council has also promised to test the "S.Q.," or "Spiritual Quotient,"
of gifted students in addition to their I.Q. Details of this plan are not
elaborated upon; the council's National Curriculum Framework for School
Education says only that "a suitable mechanism for locating the talented and
the gifted will have to be devised."
More recent history, of course, is not covered in school textbooks. So we
will have to wait to see how such books might treat this month's elections
in Gujarat. They were held in the wake of the brutal pogrom of last February
and March, in which more than 1,000 Muslims were murdered and at least
100,000 more lost their homes and property. The chief minister of Gujarat,
who is among the leading lights of the B.J.P., justified this atrocity as a
"natural reaction" to an act of arson on a train in the Gujarati town of
Godhra, in which 59 Hindu pilgrims lost their lives.
The ruling party's subsequent election campaign was conducted against the
rather literal backdrop of the Godhra incident: painted billboards of the
burning railway carriage. The murdered Muslims were not accorded the same
tragic status, although their pleas for justice created a backlash that
played neatly into the campaign theme of Hindu Pride. It was, of course, a
The carefully nurtured sense of Hindu grievance has been nursed rather than
sated by acts of mob violence: the destruction of the 15th-century mosque in
Ayodhya, for instance, or the persecution of Christians in earlier pogroms
in Gujarat's Dangs district. The B.J.P., along with its Hindu-supremacist
cohorts, the R.S.S. (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and the V.H.P. (Vishwa
Hindu Parishad), has a seemingly irresistible will to power. (The R.S.S. and
the V.H.P. are not political parties but "social service organizations" that
have served as springboards to power for B.J.P. leaders like Narendra Modi,
chief minister of Gujarat.)
In vanguard states like Gujarat, thousands of students follow the
uncompromisingly chauvinistic R.S.S. textbooks. They will learn that "Aryan
culture is the nucleus of Indian culture, and the Aryans were an indigenous
race . . . and creators of the Vedas" and that "India itself was the
original home of the Aryans." They will learn that Indian Christians and
Muslims are "foreigners."
But they still have much to learn. I once visited the bookshop at the R.S.S.
headquarters in Nagpur. On sale were books that show humankind originated in
the upper reaches of that mythical Indian river, the Saraswati, and
pamphlets that explain the mysterious Indus Valley seals, with their
indecipherable Harrapan script: they are of Vedic origin.
After I visited the bookshop I stopped to talk to a group of young boys who
live together in an R.S.S. hostel. They were a sweet bunch of kids, between
8 and 11 years old. They all wanted to grow up to be either doctors or
pilots. Very good, I said. And what did they learn in school? Did they learn
about religion? About Hinduism, Christianity?
They were silent for a few seconds — until their teacher nodded. A
bespectacled kid spoke up. "Christians burst into houses and make converts
of Hindus by bribing them or beating them."
He said it without malice, just a breathless eagerness, as if it were
something he had learned in social science class. Perhaps it was.
Kai Friese is a journalist and magazine editor in New Delhi.
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The AgBioIndia Bulletin
Presenting the Real Picture
09 January 2003
Sub: India rejects GM food from USA
India's rejection of the 1,000 tonne food aid consignment from the United States comes at a time when the country is saddled with more than 51 million tonnes of foodgrains, much of it stacked in the open for want of adequate storage space. And yet, the US is trying desperately to arm-twist India into accepting the consignment of genetically modified food. Senator Christopher Bond was recently in India, trying to exert political pressure for lifting the ban.
What has not been reported is that the food consignment was actually part of an attempt by the US to dump unhealthy food onto unsuspecting societies all over the world. And that too as aid and relief consignments. What a clever and sophisticated way to dump rubbish all over the world.
Food analyst Devinder Sharma says that this is not the first time that what India is likely to receive from the US is unhealthy. In fact, all food consignments to India, including those under the PL-480 in the first three decades after India's Independence in 1947, were of food stuff that was either 'cattlefeed' or sub-standard. US has been trying to push in
genetically modified soyabean into India since the year 2000. Interestingly, when the US imports food from developing countries it uses the sanitary and phytosanitary standards to reject food containing even a fraction of the allergens or pathogens saying that it will be harmful for human consumption. But the soyabean that it has been trying to force on India comes with 15 diseases, seven of which are viral diseases. It also contains one dreaded nematode species -- H.glycerine -- which is not reported from India and is
known to travel with even seed samples. But then, the US is telling India that these diseases and pathogens are not harmful !!
It is also time the Indian government (as well as the international community, including the FAO) makes it mandatory for relief agencies to follow the example of World Food Programme (WFP). This UN agency buys food stocks from India for distribution to the vulnerable groups within the country.
1. India rejects US food consignment -- Hindustan Times
2. Need To Have A Clear Policy On Accepting Food Aid -- Financial Express
3 Rejected GE corn dumped in Australia -- GenEthics Press Release
4. Japan's Starlink corn find could hurt US -- Reuters
1. India rejects US food consignment
Hindustan Times, Jan 6, 2003
By Srinivasa Prasad
Bangalore: India has rejected a large consignment of soya-corn blend from the US on the ground that it might contain the genetically modified and controversial StarLink corn which is suspected to cause allergy and which has been banned in that country.
The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of the Union Ministry of Environment rejected the 1,000-tonne shipment last month, saying it lacked any "proper certification" to say the corn was not genetically modified.
The Indian arms of two US-based global NGOs, CARE and CRS, were importing the soya-corn blend from US firms to make food for poor schoolchildren in India. The shipment was to be the first in a series.
GEAC chairman A.M. Gokhale, an additional secretary in the ministry, told the Hindustan Times that the decision was taken not to allow the shipment "until and unless" the US government "gives it in writing", saying the corn in the food blend is not StarLink or any other genetically modified and harmful variety.
Instead, the US has appealed to an appellate authority saying the committee has not properly provided the reasons for rejecting the shipment. The appeal is expected to be taken up for consideration on January 28, says joint secretary D.D. Verma.
Meanwhile, last week in a parallel development that may have nothing to do with this decision, Gokhale was transferred to the Food Corporation of India. His successor Meena Gupta is yet to take over.
The consignment was the biggest of the three that US companies sent to India in recent months. Two other shipments, crude soya oil and refined soya oil, were earlier approved on condition that they fulfilled health checks in India, "a formality that has either been fulfilled or is in the process of being completed".
Asked whether the committee rejected the soya-corn blend simply because the corn was genetically modified, Gokhale said, "Not at all. We are not dead set against bio-engineered food." He pointed out that the committee had recently approved genetically modified Bt cotton.
Gokhale explained that there were half a dozen varieties of genetically modified corn and one of them, StarLink, was banned. "We didn't want to take chances. All we wanted was an undertaking from an appropriate authority saying that it was not StarLink," he said.
2. Need To Have A Clear Policy On Accepting Food Aid
Financial Express, New Delhi, Jan 6
By Ashok B Sharma
Indian government's recent rejection of a large shipment of food aid from United States is much in news these days.
This consignment was reported to be containing genetically modified (GM) maize and soya products. According to a foreign media this shipment was a part of $ 100 million US government's annual food aid to parts of India that suffer from chronic malnutrition. The US while appealing against the Indian government's ruling has said that it cannot guarantee that any shipment of maize to be free of GM content since GM foods are regularly mixed with non-GM foods in that country.
This situations, if true, should compel India to have a clear cut policy on not only accepting food aids from foreign countries or foreign agencies but also have a clear cut policy on labelling of GM foods for imports. The country should also have a clear-cut policy on transgenic biotechnology, which it unfortunately does not have as yet!
A pertinent question also arises - Do we still need food aid from foreign countries when we are surplus in food? The government says that its godowns are flooded with a stock of 51 million tonne of foodgrains and also admits that there is hunger, poverty and malnutrition in this country. Does not this situation exposes the government's inept management and distribution of food stocks?
If we are really surplus in food should we still pretend to be beggars of food aid?
The government can take the pretext of accepting food aid as relief measures in times of natural calamities. This again raises another question - Have we not yet learnt to manage natural calamities on our own? Remember! In quite recent past Japan was hit by a terrible earthquake. Sympathies came pouring in from the world over and many countries and foreign agencies came forward to rush food and medical aid, but Japan said that it can manage everything on its own. This is the sense of national pride!
Yes, if foreign countries and foreign agencies are willing to help us on their own should we not say politely to them to use the food already available in our country for distribution to the needy? The World Food Program (WFP) which conducts such relief measures procures the food available in this country for distribution. Should not the other foreign agencies follow this example?
In the time of recent super cyclone in Orissa, a foreign agency which came to the rescue is reported to have asked the state government to float a global tender for food. But the state government refused to do so saying that there is ample food in this country.
It is not a issue of compelling the donor. It is rather a cost effective operation and quicker in process than to wait for the food aid shipments to arrive!
Food procured locally for distribution can better cater to the tastes of affected people.
Another issue may crop up - whether the imported foods are more nutritive in value than the local foods. This can be better answered by assessing the number or percentage of the healthy people in this country who consumes local foods. Surely! there are a good number of healthy people in this country who consume local foods.
Now the issue of labelling of GM foods for imports. India has recently rejected the US consignment of food aid containing GM products. It is a stern rejection indeed! The grounds stated for such a rejection is that it may be hazardous to health and environment. If this is so, should not India be a little more sterner and say that that all imported GM foods should be labelled and all GM foods should be tested at the points of entry? The
labelling of GM foods will definitely give the consumers an informed choice!
Should we not have a clear cut policy on transgenic biotechnology? We should decide on which crops we should allow transgenic technology. This would help those corporate houses involved in commercialising this technology to plan their investments. There are ample lessons from transgenic biotechnology available in the countries were they are already adopted. There are reports of both its advantages and disadvantages. It is time to weigh the pros and cons of this technology before taking a final decision!
(This article appeared in the FARM FRONT Column in the Financial Express)
3. Rejected GE corn dumped in Australia
Press Release by GenEthics, Australia
Jan 8, 2003.
Fifty thousand tonnes of US corn containing genetically engineered (GE) varieties arrives in Brisbane today on the Ocean Emperor (into Newcastle and Melbourne later) for use as chicken feed. The Gene Technology Regulator licensed the cargo even though some GE lines have not been assessed or approved in Australia.
"Japan and Europe reject US corn over environmental, human, and animal health concerns, and India and Zambia will not accept it as food aid," says GeneEthics Network Director, Bob Phelps.
"We therefore call on the Australian government to send this ship and its suspect load back to the USA," he says.
"US GE corn is not needed here as animal feed, even for drought relief, as 350,000 tonnes of imported GE-free wheat and sorghum are also approved and Australian grains are available," he says.
"GE corn also poses economic risks for Australian food exporters as Europe and some Asian markets reject foods (meat, milk, eggs and honey, etc) from animals fed GE grains. For example, breeding sows in the USA fail to conceive when fed GE corn containing insect toxin, which the Regulator is still assessing. Send this GE corn back to the USA till it's proven safe and saleable," Mr Phelps concludes.
"Products from animals fed GE would be labeled in Europe but not here. GE corn imports affront the 68% of Australians who want to reject foods made with gene technology," he says.
"And the 93% of Australian shoppers who want all GE foods labeled are outraged by the lack of meaningful labels on any GE products here. "Though the corn will be processed on arrival, so it may not contaminate Australia, full public assessments of the animal and human health issues should have been required before the licence was granted," he says.
4.Japan's Starlink corn find could hurt US
December 30, 2002
Reuters [via Agnet]
TOKYO -- A senior source at a major Japanese grain importer was cited as saying on Monday that U.S. corn sales to Japan, the world's biggest importer of the grain, could suffer after traces of the banned StarLink biotech variety were found in a cargo from the United States last week, adding, "We still can't know, but the possibility that things could become the same as two years ago is high."
The story says that StarLink genetically modified corn was detected in a U.S. corn shipment bound for Tokyo's food supply in a vessel docked at Nagoya harbour last Thursday, renewing fears that major trading partners may once again turn their backs on U.S. crops.
The return of StarLink corn comes as the United States tries to convince reluctant trading partners that genetically modified crops are safe for consumers.
Japan's Agriculture Ministry said on Friday that trace amounts of StarLink had been detected.
It said the fate of the corn itself remained undecided but that Japan would take steps to beef up its monitoring of U.S. corn imports. The Health Ministry issued a similar statement.
Starlink fiasco was reported first time when in October 2000 traces of this Aventis GM corn [maize] showed up in taco shells in the U.S. even though it was approved only for animal feed and not for human consumption. It led to a massive recall of over 300 U.S. food brands. The 'StarLink' gene also showed up unexpectedly in a second company's corn adding to GM contamination problems that have had a major impact on U.S. grain exports. [see the SEEDS OF DOUBT (Sept 2002) report - Download a pdf version for FREE from http://www.non-gm-farmers.com/]
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Friday, Jan 10, 2003
Amartya Sen warns against exclusivism
By Anita Joshua
NEW DELHI JAN. 9. The Nobel laureate, Amartya Sen, today spoke out
against the growing tendency within the country to project itself as
an exclusive society, and stressed the need to protect the openness
that has been the hallmark of India since time immemorial.
Speaking at the first plenary on `India and the Diaspora - Forging a
Constructive Relationship' at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas here, Prof.
Sen warned Indians against adopting a ``frog-in-the-well'' attitude,
and made out a strong case for valuing, defending and fighting for
the spirit of openness in which Indian civilisation blossomed.
Particularly critical of the efforts to appropriate certain
mathematical principles and Sanskrit as India's exclusive
contributions to the world, the economist said such claims ignore the
fact that both flourished and were enriched by contacts with the
Though Prof. Sen did not elaborate on the reasons for raising an
issue that has preoccupied public debate in India before a
predominantly NRI audience, the delegates got a taste of the issue
the Nobel laureate was addressing in the second plenary with the
Union Minister for Human Resource Development, Murli Manohar Joshi.
At the outset itself, the Minister sought to drive home the point
that India had a brilliant tradition in science and technology;
something that even Prof. Sen did not dispute. However, lamenting the
fact that few people were aware about India's age-old scientific
temper, Dr. Joshi claimed that India was privy to various scientific
principles in the pre-Christian era , that Indians were the pioneers
in mathematics, physics and astronomy, and that zero was an Indian
While Prof. Sen did not once deny the fact that ancient India was
rich in knowledge - be it mathematics, Sanskrit or astronomy - and
conceded that ``we have reason to be proud of our tradition'', his
contention was that ``we should remember that it was an open and
And, he anchored his argument on the fact that the greatest Sanskrit
grammarian, Pannini, was an Afghan. Similarly, while acknowledging
that astronomy flourished in India, he said there can be no denying
outside influences in this area as elsewhere which, according to him,
helped India become the vibrant and dynamic civilisation the world
knows it to be.
Though Prof. Sen drew a fuller house than Dr. Joshi, the two
consecutive sessions provided the overseas Indians a fleeting glimpse
of the debate on ``saffronisation'' with the economist celebrating
India's ``unity in diversity'' even as the Minister sought to show
modern India's effort to become a knowledge superpower as just an
attempt to regain lost ground.
09, 2003 | 18:07 IST
Nobel laureate Amartya Sen was joined by dignitaries from around the
world to warn India not to destroy its cultural diversity, but to
celebrate it and make it a model for the rest of the world.
The Hindustan Times
Friday, January 10, 2003
A great movement is born
The just-concluded Asian Social Forum (ASF) saw a unique confluence
of grassroots social movements, people's organisations and radical
NGOs which interrogate globalisation and counterpose equality, human
rights and justice to the shop-worn agendas of transnational big
Even for a city of contrasts (consider Nizamshahi or information
technology vs abject poverty or child labour), what Hyderabad
witnessed this past week was unparalleled: on the one hand, a 'global
partnership' summit of the Confederation of Indian Industry caucusing
in a five-star hotel; and on the other, the Asian Social Forum, with
15,000 activists from all over the continent celebrating the spirit
of solidarity in the Nizam College grounds.
The first event was dominated by a select group of dark-suited
business potentates, foreign officials and Indian ministers from L.K.
Advani downwards. The second was a riot of colours and a melange: of
grassroots campaigners on livelihood issues and human rights,
environmentalists and feminists, trade unionists and seed-conserving
peasants, people's science-movement and healthcare activists,
peaceniks and anti-displacement campaigners, writers and social
scientists, radical theatre-people and filmmakers.
The first group came from leading corporations in India and the West,
known for their successful brands and fat profit-lines; the second
from the North-east, Asia and Afghanistan, Palestine and Pakistan,
Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, as well as India. It comprised people
known for their work against foreign military bases and occupation,
for freedom from debt, for the right to food and free speech, for
It is a telling commentary that when 400 volunteers from the second
group peacefully picketed the venue of the first, they were arrested
by the police of India's most business and IT-savvy chief minister.
The ASF began with a plenary addressed by firebrand activist Medha
Patkar and ended with one presided over by former President K.R.
Narayanan. Between the two were eight major conferences, 160
seminars, 164 workshops, scores of cultural events - and countless
processions, demonstrations and tableaux. This sums up the awesome
range and scope of the ASF and its rainbow-coalition character better
than anything else.
The common theme running through these was grassroots democracy, the
fight against exclusion, the imperatives of equality, global justice,
human emancipation and people-(not profit)-centred development. In
one line, the message was: the anti-globalisation movement is here,
and for real!
The ASF is part of the great global justice movement that began at
Seattle in 1999, and took an organised expression through the World
Social Forum's meetings in Porto Alegre, Brazil, with the slogan,
"Another world is possible!"
The global justice movement is one of the most spectacular mass
mobilisations of our times. The WSF is a powerful forum of
interaction between social activists and the liberal-progressive
intelligentsia. The movement has shaken the leaders of global capital
and its managerial institutions (the World Bank, IMF, G-8, OECD, etc).
But the ASF's own roots lie in the Asian soil, in the numerous
movements which have grown over the past quarter-century or more in
the continent - for survival with dignity, for peace, gender
equality, decentralisation, for direct democracy, Dalit rights, for
ecologically sound development and social liberation. These movements
have reshaped societies from South Korea to Nepal, geopolitics from
the Persian Gulf to the Malacca Straits and development policies from
Japan to the Philippines.
India occupies a special place here. As the great historian E.P.
Thompson would say, India has witnessed an avalanche of people's
movements and civil society initiatives like few other countries
have. India is also the site of especially lively, organic, two-way
interaction between popular movements and the radical intelligentsia.
However, there was a disproportionate number of Indians at this
'Asian' event: only 780 of the 14,426 registered participants came
from abroad. One reason for this is that New Delhi cussedly delayed
granting visas to hundreds of delegates. The worst example of this
was the systematic deletion (by Advani himself) of well-known
Pakistani activists' names from the almost-approved list, including
Asma Jehangir, Pervez Hoodbhoy, I.A. Rahman and A.H. Nayyar.
Ironically, they happen to be among the staunchest and best-known
critics of Islamabad's hawkish policies - a point that couldn't have
been missed by New Delhi's own hawks!
A valid criticism of the ASF programme is that it was far too
India-(or India-Pakistan)-centric. Another is that the ASF workshops
were so physically dispersed (which Indian city can accommodate
15,000 people in multiple conference centres located close to one
another?) as to lack connectedness and a centre of gravity. Yet, the
ASF was a tremendous learning process.
It is hard to summarise the rich diversity of its deliberations -
stretching from the sharing of experiences of different struggles
against neoliberal economics and privatisation of natural resources,
and for the defence of livelihoods, to drawing up alternative
perspectives and programmes.
The ASF uniquely offered four platforms: the first-ever large-scale
interaction between India's established mass organisations and its
'New Social Movements', a dialogue between them and movements from
the rest of Asia, a forum to evolve common analysis and strategy, and
a high-energy cultural intercourse that took on the appearance of a
gigantic mela, a week-long festival celebrating some of the greatest
causes of our times.
The ASF was a landmark event, an exhilarating beginning. It needs to
be followed up - both through further dissemination of its core-ideas
to grassroots levels, and laterally, through replication elsewhere,
even as the Porto Alegre process maintains its own integrity and
distinct identity. One sign of a great social movement is the variety
of messages and appeals it contains, and the many organisational
forms it can assume. Going by that criterion, the movement against
unequal globalisation, and for a just world, has a great future - not
least in Asia.
Not Frog, But Falcon
[ THURSDAY, JANUARY 09, 2003 01:57:37 AM ]
On the occasion of the largest meeting ever of the Indian diaspora
(the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Delhi), it is worth asking what we
Indians - living in India or abroad - have reason to be proud of. The
sceptic might, of course, doubt whether there is anything at all to
make us proud to be Indian. That is exactly the point of view of
petty officers in minor consulates across the world, who keep us
waiting in long queues before giving us a visa to visit their
country, while preoccupying us with such uplifting questions as: "How
do you actually manage to earn a living? Or do you?"
It is not, however, silly to ask: What, if anything, should we be
proud of? Is it that we are very special and have done great things
on our own, in splendid isolation? I would argue exactly the
opposite. We have a long tradition of being globally interactive and
of enjoying it. Our ability to be simultaneously receptive and
creative is, of course, well illustrated by recent achievements in,
say, science and technology, in world literature, in global business.
Indians have been able to give even as they have received. What needs
emphasis today is that this give and take is not new, even though
some cultural separatists do their best to pull the shutters down.
There is a warning in a parable about a well-frog - the kupamanduka -
which occurs in several old Sanskrit texts, such as Ganapath,
Hitopadesh, Prasannaraghava, and Bhattikavya. The kupamanduka is a
frog that lives its whole life within a well, knows nothing else, and
is suspicious of everything outside it. Interactions have been part
and parcel of Indian civilisation - from very early days. Consider
Sanskrit. The generally agreed understanding that in an early form
Sanskrit came to India from abroad in the second millennium BC, with
the migration of Indo-Europeans, and then flourished here in India
should not diminish our pride in that great classical language and in
the exceptional richness of the literature, culture and science that
found its expression in Sanskrit. And yet there are organised
attempts right now to eradicate this alleged "blot" of foreign
connection by concocting some fairy tale of an indigenous origin as
officially approved history.
As it happens, it is also the case that the greatest grammarian in
Sanskrit (indeed possibly in any language), namely Panini, was an
Afghan, who describes his origins on the banks of the river Kabul.
Indeed, interactions have enriched as well as spread Sanskrit across
the world over thousands of years. The seventh-century Chinese
scholar I-tsing learned his Sanskrit in Java (in the city of Shri
Vijaya) on his way from China to India. The influence of interactions
are reflected in languages and vocabularies throughout Asia from
Thailand and Malaysia to Indo-China, Indonesia, the Philippines,
Korea and Japan. And China too.
It is not often realised that even such a central term in Chinese
culture as "Mandarin" is derived from a Sanskrit word,
namely "Mantri", which went from India to China via Malaya. The first
printed book in the world was the Chinese translation by Kumarajiva
(a half Indian, half Turkish scholar) of a Buddhist Sanskrit text,
To take another subject, viz mathematics, there is no need to invent,
as is being attempted, some imaginary "Vedic mathematics" - allegedly
pursued with great sophistication and in resplendent isolation in the
second millennium BC. Indian mathematics and astronomy actually
flourished particularly in the first millennium after Christ. Arabic
and Persian writers are extremely generous in acknowledging what was
achieved in India then - a long list including the development of the
modern form of the decimal system, the emergence of trigonometry and
Aryabhata's identification of the diurnal motion of the earth.
But all this was going on in an interactive world, in which Indians
mingled with Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Iranians, Chinese and others. For
example, the Sanskrit astronomical work Paulisa Siddhanta focused its
attention on longitudes at three place in the world: Ujjain, Benares
and Alexandria. Not only were there interactions between Chinese and
Indian astronomers in the seventh and eighth centuries, an Indian
astronomer, Gautama, became president of the Chinese board of
astronomy, and produced the great Chinese compendium of astronomy
called Khai-Yuan Chan Ching.
Or consider the basic trigonometric concept of the "sine". Why is it
called that? There is clear evidence that the concept of "sine" found
its early formulations in the hands of Aryabhata in India in the
fifth century, who called it jya-ardha ("chord-half"). Arab
mathematicians derived from jya the word jiba, which, following
Arabic practice of omitting vowels, was written as jb. However, since
jiba is not an Arabic word, the Arab mathematicians soon started
reading the consonants jb as jaib, a word that means a bay or a cove
When, around 1150, the Italian mathematician Gherardo of Cremona
adopted the idea of the sine, he translated the Arabic word jaib
as "sinus", which is the Latin term for a bay or a cove. Thus came
the word "sine". India has been in the middle of global associations
for a very long time. There are reasons for us to take pride in
India's role not as an imaginary culture in static isolation, but as
a dynamic civilisation interacting vigorously with the world. We do
not have to seek our pride in the fanciful world of a flourishing
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