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Himal South Asian Volume 15, Number 6, June 2002 Dixit, Kanak Mani Jun 30, 2002

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me nepaii army ana
human rights
e Disappointment
in Islamabad
r Slicing India: The 1954
Kumbh Mela
Indian and Pakistani media on India and Pakistan
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Within a short span of its introduction
the network of Druk Air increased to
link Paro with New Delhi, Bangkok and
Kathmandu. From two destinations in 1983
today Druk Air operates from Paro four
times a week to Bangkok and Calcutta,
twice to Kathmandu and Delhi
and once a month to Dhaka.
■nath Marg, Kathmandu, Nepal
777A -410089 419637,  Fax: 977-1-423143 Email:
Vol 15 No 6
O    U    T   ■ H ASIAN
June 2002
Missing Signal
The latest round of India-
Pakistan tensions is another
stark example of how both
countries fail to see each
other as 'normal' societies.
The media in each country
has taken on the task of
state cheerleading, following
a narrowly-defined script
that encourages confrontation. With the region poised
on the cusp of war once
again, Himal assembled nine
leading media professionals
from India and Pakistan to
discuss journalism in the two
countries and debate the
proper role of journalists in the
South Asian nuclear age.
Armageddon of arrogance
India-Pakistan: Line of no control
by Marcus Moench
Sri Lanka- The battle for peace
by Jehan Perera
Innocents and insurgents
by Kanak Mani Dixit
Less to Mushanaf than meets the eye
by Mustafa Nazir Ahmad
Good cops, bad cops, and the
World Bank
by David Ludden
Confused, bewildered, frightened
by Farid AMe
"Slicing India": New perspectives
on India since 1947
by Robin Jeffrey
Kanak Mani Dixit
Contributors to this issue
Associate Editor
Thomas J Mathew
Contributing Editors
Calcutta    Rajashri Dasgupta
Colombo    Manik de Silva
dhaka       Afsan Chowdhury
Islamabad  Adnan Rehmat
Karachi      Beena Sarwar
new delhi    Mitu Varma
Prabhu Ghate
n. America Tarik Aii Khan
Editorial Assistant
Andrew HM Nash
Design Team
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Bilash Rai (Graphics)
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Farid Alvie is a Pakistani journalist based in West Asia.
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The Island.
Marcus Moench, of the International Centre for Social and Environmental
Transition in Kathmandu, has been working in South Asia on water, environment and social change issues since 1984.
Mustafa Nazir Ahmad is based in Lahore and works with South Asia Partnership-Pakistan.
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Armageddon of arrogance
The tragedy in the northern-western quarter of
South Asia came closer to being converted into
a catastrophe for all of South Asia during the
month of May. For, let us accept this as fact, the
tensions of India and Pakistan have very little to do
with life outside of the Hindi-Urdu belt. Two peoples
across the borders of Punjab have the deepest dislike
for each other because they are so like each other, and
this is what gives fuel to the India-Pakistan
animosities which could easily turn all of the rest of
us into cinder. These two twin peoples, to cover up
their visceral dislike, use the cover of religion to defy
and denigrate each other. Allah and Ram are
exploited for the sake of nationalist pride. The excuse
of less than a million Kashmiris in the Vale is
considered by Islamabad and New Delhi to be reason
enough to drag 1400 million South Asians (counting
1000 million Indians) to the brink of nuclear war.
This lack of imagination is stupefying but sadly real.
What is the use of going to war over Kashmir, or
forever using it as the excuse to call up war, when
both Islamabad and New Delhi know that the
Kashmiris themselves would prefer to be autonomous
from both? Only an imperfect democracy like Tndia
would deliver an entity such as the Bharatiya Janata
Party, so cynically capable of drumming up war fever
to put the naked shame of post-Godhra Gujarat behind it. And only the under-educated strategists who
today control all our collective fate would advise
raising the rhetoric to such a level that any terrorist
group could have the privilege of starting a nuclear
war that will kill millions - the room for manoeuvre
has been so restricted by loud talk out of New Delhi
that India will have to go to war if there is, god forbid,
another vicious terrorist attack on innocents or an
assassination of a national poiitical personality.
Lacking the self-confidence to address the problem of
Kashmir and its separateness, even as recognised by
Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, the political
elite of India find it comforting to dare a smaller
neighbour that has a massive inferiority complex.
Such is the state of immature democracy that the part
of this elite that makes up the media and the political
opposition cannot speak up in the face of war hysteria, for fear of being labelled anti-national.
Meanwhile, what of the neighbour that is not even
a democracy, which is shack-led by a theocratic state
ideo-logy, and nurses an infantile grudge against
India that is larger than India itself? De-fined by a
brittle superstructure which relies on the alertness of
one man, a general metamorphising into a politician,
Pakistan is an unstable adversary at the best of times.
The post-11 September scenario makes it only much
more insecure. This is a country which for a long time
openlv allowed jehadis to operate training camps,
and abetted infiltration across the Line of Control to
defile the very nature of Kashmiriat, knowing fully
well the catastrophic whirlwind this may reap. It is a
country which can propound the atavistic principle
of first-strike, and which will test three missiles over
three days in the middle of the most tense stand-off
ever. It is better for New Delhi to talk to such an unstable adversary than to display a bellicosity which
can lead to all-out war.
To repeat, this is really a war between similar
peoples across the Punjab border. It is time for the
Balochi, the Sindhi, the Bengali, the Tamil, the
Asamiya and the Nepali to refuse to go along with
someone else's angst and agenda. Both New Delhi
and Islamabad must get the message - if we should
all survive this bout to live another day - that representative and responsible government means speaking for all the people. The firefight between New
Delhi and Islamabad will not serve the interests of all
the people of India, Pakistan and South Asia. The
war of words has come awfully close to being a
war of warheads. It is time to come to collective
]$y     our senses, \
Who can go further in South .Astct?
This image has been used by Himal whenever the
India-Pakistan nuclear envy in South Asia rears
itself. We will continue to use it until such time as it
is no longer necessary.   	
2002 June 15/6 HIMAL
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War, if it
happens, is
likely to be
intense and
could involve
the use of
THE POTENTIAL for war between India
and Pakistan in the coming days appears
increasingly great. Tensions between the
countries have been high for months.
Neither country wants - or can afford - a
war, but it appears that someone or some
group is doing its best to start one. It will
take only one match to start the fire - and
neither India nor Pakistan has full control
over the matchbox.
If a war occurs, it is unlikely to be
confined to the disputed region of Kashmir.
Sentiment among many sections of India's
population has been growing in favour of
decisive action, even all-out war, in response to the militancy that has been going
on since well before the attack on
India's Parliament last December.
Now, domestic political factors, intensifying Hindu-Muslim tensions
and America's treatment of India and
Pakistan in relation to the 'global war
on terrorism' have created conditions
for full-scale conflict. New Delhi had
earlier recalled its envoy to Pakistan,
and now it has expelled his Pakistani
counterpart to India. The troops of
both countries are poised on their
respective borders. The monsoon will
arrive in less than two weeks. If war is to
occur, it will do so before rains make the
roads impassable. Villagers have left
vulnerable locations on both sides of the
border, hoping to be out of the way if war
starts. Britain has sent Jack Straw on an
urgent mission and the US is sending
Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage,
and its Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld. But why the delay?
War, if it happens, is likely to be intense
and could involve the use of nuclear
weapons. Pakistan is reported to have
readied its nuclear arsenal during the Kargil
conflict in 1999. With little strategic depth,
it has strong incentives to try to use such
weapons for a devastating first strike. Public
sentiment in India is also disturbingly
unconcerned about the prospective use of
nuclear weapons. Well-educated, interna
tionally experienced individuals - early
leaders in India's environmental movement
-have expressed the sentiment that it wrould
be worth losing a few cities to 'settle' the
dispute with Pakistan once and for all.
Others state that Pakistan's nuclear 'bluff
needs to be called; it is not something India
can live with. There is little mass awareness
of the effects that nuclear fallout would have
across the plains of India and Pakistan, and
to most members of the public, nuclear
weapons are just "big bombs". India may
try to confine the war to the disputed
territory of Kashmir, thus avoiding actually
attacking Pakistani territory and catalysing
a full-scale conflict. But, even if it does
so, avoiding escalation will be difficult.
Furthermore, there are strong tactical
reasons for any attack to occur directly
across the border of Punjab or Rajasthan.
Such an attack could well provoke a nuclear
response from Islamabad.
India's government is facing heavy
domestic pressure to attack Pakistan.
The leading member of India's coalition
government, the right-wing Hindu-nationalist BJP, did poorly in recent state elections.
In the three months since then, Hindu-
Muslim riots in the state of Gujarat, the only
state now that is governed exclusively by
the BJP, have caused over 800, mostly
Muslim, deaths and led to extensive
criticism of the BJP's leadership at both the
state and central levels. The BJP government
at the centre needs to shore up its support.
It was apparently persuaded not to
attack Pakistan in January following
promises of effective action by the Musharraf government to reign in militants. But
then militants killed the families of Indian
servicemen at Kaluchak in Kashmir even
as Christina B Rocca, the US Assistant
Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs,
was visiting New Delhi. Targeting the
families of servicemen is like killing police
- it stirs intense desire in the armed forces
for direct retribution. India's government
cannot afford to appear soft on Pakistan.
Also, both the BJP and the opposition are
upset by their perception that the US has
double-standards on terrorism. Bush's
focus on Al Qaeda and the Taliban cuts little
ice in India, where Pakistan is seen as the
safe harbour and home for such activities.
And what of Pakistan? General Pervez
Musharraf is walking a tightrope. In the
aftermath of the attack on the Indian
Parliament, Musharraf moved against the
HIMAL 15/6 June 2002
 a. ft ' i<
f a
sentiments of a significant number of his
citizens and ordered the arrests of leaders
of many Islamic militant organisations.
Some of these, including a leader of Lashkar-
e-Taiba, have since been released and only
recently re-arrested following the attack in
Kashmir in May. This, of course, adds to
the perception in India that Pakistan is not
serious about controlling cross-border
attacks. There are other subtle symbols.
Pakistani news reports in mainstream
English language papers refer to the
'deaths' of Indian civilians and the 'martyrdom' of the attackers.
Is India serious about attacking Pakistan? New Delhi is reportedly considering
high-profile actions it can take that stop just
short of war. According to The Hindu, these
include withdrawal of most favoured
nation status to Pakistan, an abrogation of
the Indus Waters Treaty and calling on the
UN to enforce Resolution 1373, which
mandates nations to control terrorism. All
such actions have their own complications
and are likely to be perceived as inadequate
within India. The threat of war seems, as a
result, very real. One can only hope that
such analysis of the likelihood of hostilities
is wrong. /
-Marcus Moench
THE NUMBER of lives saved in Sri Lanka
in the past five months of ceasefire probably
amounts to about 1500, given an average
death toll of 10 per day of conflict. The
ceasefire has had other benefits as well; the
fear of sudden bomb blasts does not disrupt
day-to-day life anymore. A general sense of
improved security pervades public life. But
with the passage of time the benefits of peace
appear to be slipping out of the public
debate, as the recent focus of both political
and media attention has been on the shortcomings of the peace process. A commonly
voiced complaint is that the government is
giving in to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE) without getting back anything
in return, leading to a feeling that the LTTE
is getting the better part of the deal. The
bottom line is whether the country is
prepared to pay the price of war again for
extracting more concessions from the LTTE
than Colombo has so far been able to get.
Certainly, there are major persistent
problems, some of which have even been
aggravated in this time of ceasefire. For
instance, international monitors have
issued a ruling critical of the LTTE's refusal
to open the A-9 highway to Jaffna to
uninterrupted passenger traffic. Human
rights organisations have challenged the
main actors in the peace process for not
doing enough to put a halt to continuing
human rights abuses, including the recruitment of children by the LTTE. There has also
been a failure on the part of international
monitors in giving advance notice of the
movements of the LTTE and Sri Lankan
armed forces.
On the one hand there are all these
issues that threaten the long-term sustainability of the ceasefire. On the other hand,
the benefits of the ceasefire are being taken
more or less for granted, and even being
dismissed as unworthy. One of the most
important benefits of this period of
peace has been that the growth of
ethnic polarisation has been halted. In
addition, thanks to the ceasefire agreement, most roads in the north and east
have been opened to passenger traffic
and the markets are beginning to
function, helping revive the formerly
embargoed LTTE-controlled Wanni.
The high degree of politicisation in
Sn Lanka ensures that considerations
of party politics enter every nook and
cranny, be it in media or civic organisations. On the political front, the
inability or unwillingness of the government to get the mainstream opposition on
board the peace process is a major impediment to progress. It leads pro-opposition
sections, who might otherwise be supportive of the peace process, to find reasons
to oppose it on behalf of their political
parties. The government's strategy up to
now appears to have been focussed on
getting its own way in Parliament by
pushing through the 18th Amendment,
which weakens the presidency by taking
away its power to dismiss parliament after
one year. Even though there are signs that
the passage of this constitutional amendment is not a certainty, it can be anticipated
that sections of the media and civil society
that are pro-opposition will continue their
aggressive campaign to discredit a peace
The Number of
lives saved in
Sri Lanka in the
past five
months of
amounts to
about 1500.
2002 June 15/6 HIMAL
 /■-. ■y. ■'•■ -^ -■ ■■■ ■•■■ ■■-, ■,.. -,■■ -.. .-: ft; .". /^ :&■ ft.
India may be
concerned that
Sri Lanka not
offer its Tamil
separatists a
degree of
autonomy that
far exceeds
anything that
India is
prepared to
give its own
process that is being taken forward
by a government formed by a rival
political party.
Public attitudes
However, tbe infighting among politicians in Colombo is not necessarily
illustrative of opinions throughout the
country. The overwhelming victory by
the United National Party (UNP)
government in the local government
elections of 20 May was a public
vindication of the peace process.
An attempt made to assess opinions on the ground bv the National
Peace Council revealed three important aspects of public attitude towards
the peace process, the first being the
general absence of overt anger or
hatred among Sinhalas against Tamil
people or even the LTTE. There appears to
be the acknowledgement of another group
(or nation) of people who had their own
cause and their own valid reasons for
fighting, dying and killing. There is private
pain, sure, but there is no evidence of
community-based anger or hatred towards
the other.
The second observation is that the people
interviewed in the survey were by and large
very well informed about political affairs in
Colombo. They knew, for instance, of
President Chandrika Kumaratunga's forays
abroad where she had spoken in favour of
the peace process, and her contrasting
words and behaviour in Sri Lanka. They
were also aware of the issues surrounding
the proposed 18th Amendment to the
constitution, especially its main objective of
curtailing presidential power. It is evident
that mass media, in particular radio and
television, has the capacity to penetrate the
farthest reaches of the country, taking the
debates in the capital to the countryside.
The third observation is that in instances when the debate in the capital is itself
weak or non-existent, people elsewhere are
equally in the dark. This is the case with
issues pertaining to the sharing of power
and the form of the possible political
solution in a multi-religious and bi-national
society where Sinhala nationalism has been
confronting Tamil nationalism for the past
five decades. These are issues that are not
systematically or rigorously discussed
either in the mass media or even academia
in the capital. It is therefore inevitable that
the people at the grassroots level will also
not be conversant with these issues.
Pressures, internal and external
Obtaining the cooperation of the opposition
in the peace process may not be as difficult
as anticipated by the government. It must
not be forgotten that the former People's
Alliance (PA) government made strenuous
efforts to convince people about the need
for a political settlement to the ethnic
conflict. PA stalwarts frontally confronted
nationalist sections of the Sinhala population who opposed the devolution package
the PA government had put forward as the
base of its solution to the ethnic conflict.
They were vilified, but, undeterred. The PA
government launched massive propaganda
campaigns to promote constitutional reform
that sought to abolish the unitary constitution and take the polity in the direction of
a more suitable federal one.
The major political grievance of the
opposition appears to be the government's
effort to marginalise President Chandrika
Kumaratunga. As a popularly-elected
president who has not yet even completed
half of her term of office, President Kumaratunga is theoretically entitled to share power
with the UNP government and have it
reflected in practice. The president appears
to be getting important international
backing for her position, as was indicated
during her recent trip to India, w-here the
welcome she received suggests that the
Indian government would like her to play a
more participatory role in the country's
governance. This Indian expectation becomes more relevant in light of the government's announcement that the Indians are
offering some form of technical assistance
to Sri Lanka in the fashioning of political
arrangements pertaining to the peace
process, such as in the interim adminis-
HIMAL 15/6 June 2002
tration for the north and east.
It is entirely plausible that the imminent
appointment of an interim administration
for the north and east headed by the LTTE is
causing concern in Indian circles. It is
reasonable to believe that Tndia will be
concerned about the demonstration effect
that an interim arrangement in Sri Lanka
might have on Indian separatist groups.
Further, India may be concerned that a
government headed by Wickremesinghe
will be less inclined to resist LTTE demands
for maximum autonomy. India may also be
concerned that Sri Lanka not offer its Tamil
separatists a degree of autonomy that far
exceeds what India is prepared to give its
own separatist groups. In this regard,
ensuring that President Kumaratunga gets
back to the centre stage as a partner in the
peace process who will be more prepared
to strike a harder bargain with the LTTE
may seem to be an attractive option for
South Block.
Certainly the main credit for the rapid
progress of the peace process in the
past five months needs to go to Prime
Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and
the UNP government. But the prospects for sustaining the support for
the peace process in the long term,
especially amongst the Sinhala
population, would be tremendously
boosted with the participation of
President Kumaratunga and the PA
opposition. A government-opposition
memorandum of understanding that
provides both sides with mutual
guarantees is inescapably necessary
if the peace process is to succeed in
the long term. A bipartisan approach
will not only help to unify the negotiating position of the mainstream
polity and provide a sense of security to the
Sinhala population - it will also help to get
partisan political and media critics of the
peace process on board. h
-Jehan Perera
A government-
memorandum of
that provides
both sides
with mutual
guarantees is
necessary if the
peace process is
to succeed in the
long term.
Vacancy Announcement
The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) is seeking to recruit qualified persons for
the following vacant international and regional level positions for which applications are invited.
□ Senior Ecologist
10 years' experience in integrated natural resource
management and research
□ Senior Environment/ Resource
10 years' experience in economic development work
focusing on promotion of income generating
enterprises and activities
Q    Agricultural Resources Policy Specialist
8 years' experience in sustainable agricultural
systems' research
□ Coordinator.   Community-Based   Advocacy
5 years' experience in advocacy and capacity building
of CBOs and/or NGOs
□ Programme & Project Development Specialist
5 years' experience in programme and project
development preferably in a bilateral or
multilateral funding agency, a granting agency, or
international NGO
Public Relations / Media Officer
3-5 years' experience in PR, media environment and
promotion of development activities
□    Web Knowledge Management Specialist
2-3 years' experience in web work and researches
Further information on the vacancies including Terms of
Reference for the positions can be found at or can be requested from the address
below. Applications with complete curriculum vitae together
with the names and contact addresses of three referees
should be sent to the following address by 30 June 2002.
Personnel Officer, ICIMOD, GPO Box 3226, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel: (00977-1) 525313;   Faxr (00977-1) 524509 / 536747
2002 June 15/6 HIMAL
 A session in the hills
 — The India-Pakistan media retreat	
Himal and Panos South Asia organised an India-Pakistan Media Retreat
at Nagarkot, Nepal, on 11-12 May 2002, bringing together editors,
reporters, columnists and politicians from the two countries to discuss
the pitfalls and opportunities before media in their coverage of bilateral
issues. These are people at the frontline of news production and opinion-
formation, individuals who through their proximity to news events have a
heightened understanding of the geopolitical dangers that stare South
Asia in the face today.
At the retreat, participants undertook to discuss a variety of issues
that determine the way India and Pakistan figure in each other's media.
Also under discussion was the role that the media plays or can play in
either reducing or inflaming the conflict that has dominated South Asia for
sometime, and dominates world news today. Through these and various
other exploratory discussions, a perhaps unprecedented exercise was
carried out: here is Indian and Pakistani media on Indian and Pakistani
media.The result is an illustration of the processes of journalism and a
revelation of the tensions that inform and emerge from the practise of this
difficult trade in this difficult region. We reproduce an edited transcript of
the discussion held in the belief that it will be of interest to a large section
of our readers. We hope that this exercise will provide new ideas that will
eventually contribute to improving the role of media in a perennially conflict-
ridden, nuclearised Subcontinent.
Market forces and coverage
Siddharth Varadarajan: The volume of coverage of the
Pakistani point of view in the Indian press is very
limited. There is a degree of reprint, but that is not done
through any formal arrangement. Only the Indian
Express has a formal arrangement with the Dawn. But
the Indian Express excerpts invariably tend to concentrate on the macabre, the foolish and the obscure - like
news about a man who stabbed his sister and burnt his
wife because he wanted to marry someone else. That is
the kind of snippet that is usually picked up. The Asian
Age carries much more nuanced coverage but its
circulation is low.
Barkha Dutt: Is the coverage of Pakistan in India
completely defined by the market? Even if it were so,
the coverage ought to be extensive since Pakistan is one
story which the market has a lot of interest in. Can it not
be presumed that people would read excerpts from
Pakistani newspapers much more than thev would read
many other stories that appear everyday?
Siddharth: Newspaper managements insist that
Pakistan is the single most important foreign story as
far as readers are concerned. But this must be looked at
in the overall context of lack of space and the
compulsion to accommodate news about spot develop-
HIMAL  15/6 June 2002
 ments in Pakistan. The main problem is that the Times
of India and the Hindustan Times, which dominate in
Delhi and Bombay, lack physical space. When very
important national news has to be compressed into 50
or 100 words, there is very little space left for Pakistan
qua Pakistan. Besides, the media marketers have
decided that at least one-third of the international page
must consist of pop snippets such as a Britney Spears
concert or something similar.
When the front page cannot accommodate more than
300 words in a main story, and marketing departments
have decided that you cannot have stories continuing
into later pages, we not only have a problem of absolute
space but also of relative prominence for news from
Pakistan. But even when there is space, perceptions,
prejudices and lack of sensitivity come into play.
Rehana Hakim: Is editorial content being driven
entirely by market forces in India? How much autonomy
Rehana Hakim, editor Newsline, Karachi.
and independence does the editorial department have
within the publication?
Siddharth: Perception of what the market wants
determines the broad structure, the pagination, the
amount of space and so on. In most newspapers the
advertising department provides a grid which is
invariably 70 percent advertising and 30 percent news.
Editorial departments operate within that. There is also
a 'market-led' view of world news. So every day the
editors are forced to include at least one science story
and one pop story. So, the rest of world news, in which
Pakistan has to be covered, unless it is on the front page,
must be made to fit within the remaining space. In such
a situation, given a choice between stock news which
conforms to the competitors' view of what news is,
which usually is "6 stabbed in Karachi" or some
extremist speech made by somebody, even a fairly
sensitive news desk will settle for the more sensational
than the sober and serious story.
Kaipana Sharma: Large circulation papers set certain
trends by defining the market for the media. But actually
these are just priorities that they have decided for
themselves. Within this falls not just India-Pakistan
relations but also things happening within Tndia,
which get marginalised. The Hindu would not have been
the second largest circulating newspaper if the market
did not want to read the kind of things that it publishes.
And, more ironically, The Hindu is published from a
very conservative part of the country in the south. And
the kind of news it has carried and its editorial criticism of the BJF, has invited furious letters to the editor.
But the paper's circulation did not decline for that reason. The market is therefore just an excuse behind which
other kinds of priorities are being met.
The absence of coverage on real issues in Pakistan
cannot be justified on the ground that the readers are
not interested. Coverage can actually improve and having someone in Pakistan makes a difference. Within
the existing pattern of priorities, a correspondent stationed in Pakistan will have to work within the dictates of an existing definition of news and events, and
hence will have to focus cm security-related issues. While
such events are highly visible, they are occasional occurrences. And whenever such security-related issues
are absent, the correspondent in Pakistan can do different stories that break perceptions not just of Pakistan
but also of what news about Pakistan is. But a change
in such perceptions can come only if large circulation
papers make the effort. Till that happens, Indian media
will labour under the self-imposed restriction of coverage to Kashmir and security related issues, to the exclusion of other equally important events. To some extent
a change can happen if correspondents are stationed
in Pakistan. The physical presence of a correspondent
may not suffice but it does make a difference.
Mani Shankar Aiyar: The market validates the stereotype. There is an idea of what is 'Pakistan' and what is
a 'Pakistani' and what is a 'Pakistani view'. And whatever appears in the Pakistani press that validates the
stereotype is picked up and reproduced. What invalidates the stereotype is only occasionally reported. The
Asian Age is plays a role in invalidating the stereotype,
Mani Shankar Aiyar, Member of Parliament and
columnist, New Delhi.
2002 June 15/6 HIMAL
Issues of Access
- Siddharth Varadarajan
THE RECIPROCAL availability of respective media
in India and Pakistan has two dimensions. One is
the access Indians and Pakistanis have to each other's
media and the other is the access each media has to
the other country. There are problems on both counts.
As regards the first issue, the main problem is access
to print, TV and Internet is limited for legal, technological and political reasons. Apart from film magazines, there is no serious readership for Indian print
publications in Pakistan at the mass level. Officials
and journalists access magazines and dailies on
the Internet. Here there are actual and potential
problems. Even though the Internet as a media is
not easy to restrict or censor, there was the problem during the Kargil war when the Indian
government instructed VSNL, which is the main
gateway, to block access to Dawn for     	
at least a month and a half. Alongside that of course there was a ban
on Pakistan's state run channel PTV.
In Pakistan, there is no problem accessing Indian websites, but since 13
December, 2001, the government has
banned Indian TV channels. The ban
in Pakistan will not be lifted until
Pakistani private channels can establish themselves.
There is a lack of symmetry in TV     -—	
penetration in the two countries. Indian channels,
despite the ban, are still watched in Pakistan but with
a degree of scepticism. In India on the other hand,
PTV is the only Pakistani channel presently available
and this seriously affects the projection of Pakistan
in India, providing a very blinkered view for the
average individual. PTV today lacks the kind of
programmes once popular in India in the 1980s when
the country's state-run channel Doordarshan offered
only staid, bureaucratic fare. If new Pakistani channels
like Indus Vision and ARY are able to pick up and if
they project credible news, they could provide a useful
window on Pakistan for the average Indian viewer.
This could help shape a different popular Indian
perception of Pakistan.
India and Pakistan are not reported about as
normal societies in each other's medias. Indian
coverage of Pakistan is almost exclusively restricted
to bilateral issues, and official concerns, such as terrorism and jehad dominate coverage of these bilateral issues. Even when some attempt is made to delve
India and
Pakistan are not
reported about
as normal
societies in each
other's medias.
into Pakistani society, there is very little attempt to      on schools in Pakistan
deviate from these standard tropes. This is true of
Pakistani coverage of India as well. The kind of
stories picked up tend to reinforce negative stereotypes.
There are several reasons for this. The first is a
lack of sensitivity on the part of journalists, publishers, owners and, to an extent, readers. Prefabricated
and routinely invoked formulae determine what the
most important issue is. This problem will not go away
simply by granting people more visas. Were the
Pakistan or Indian government to be more liberal
about visas, there will simply be a larger number of
people with a preconceived mindset travelling back
and forth.
On the second issue, that of media's access to the
other country and its people, there is a very serious
problem. Prejudice is compounded by the problem of
physical access. Visiting Indian or Pakistani journalists are restricted to a maximum of one or two cities
and to a week-long trip at the very most. Invariably
these visits are not at a time of the journalist's choosing. Typically, visas are issued when there is a major
bilateral or multilateral event. Consequently, they descend on a city within the confines
of a narrowly defined news event and
within the confines of a competitive
news environment. Professional compulsions limit coverage to the official
news event, even if much of it may be
inconsequential. During official
events such as a SAARC meeting, a
journalist cannot deviate too far even
physically from the official delegation. The officials so tightly control
       the outflow of news that unless you
are within a ten-foot radius of the spokesperson, you
are likely to miss the news. This leaves very little time
for other stories that break the mould. In this sense
the problem of access and visas affects coverage and
feeds prejudice.
The technology, the discourse of news, and the
idea of what constitutes news also make a difference.
Three years ago 1 went to Pakistan and did a story on
an industrial group that had set up a foundation for
running schools for under-priviledged kids. 1 visited
one such school outside Lahore where poor kids were
being taught for a very nominal fee. The teacher was
very proud of her wards. She wanted to impress upon
me that all these kids knew English. So she drew a
circle and said, "kids what is this?" They all shouted,
"sarcal". She then drew a square, and they shouted
"saquwaruh", just the way it would be pronounced in
the Indian Punjab. I sent in this story including the
idiosyncrasies of diction, lt never saw the light of day.
The man at the desk told me "people do not want to
read about schools in india, and you are filing a story
HIMAL 15/6 June 2002
 but as a consequence of that, perhaps only a few thousand copies are sold.
But there is an incident I can recall which can shed
light on deviations from the norm. In 1994 I had
published a book called Pakistan Papers, consisting of a
set of articles, including my last despatch from Karachi. On a visit to Karachi in 1997 I was astonished to
learn that Jung had carried translated extracts from it in
30 installments. They took the utmost care to say that
they had nothing to do with the views expressed, but
apart from that they carried the whole thing. And why?
Because it was a slightly eccentric view of Pakistan. It
suggested that there could be an Indian who actually
liked them. I think it was partly because I had lived in
Pakistan and many of the people involved knew me
personally and I happened to have lived in Pakistan at
a time when the Pakistanis were extremely disillusioned
with themselves. It was the time when Bhutto was
hanged and there was a lot of introspection going on.
Perhaps that stimulated a desire to look across and see
whether there was something they could pick up to
make there own lives a little happier. Curiously, when
the book was launched I came in for a lot of criticism
from the Indian press for hugging Riaz Khokkar, the
Pakistan ambassador to India, who I had ^_^_^__
got to release the book. There were letters
to the editor for days on end saying why
is Mani Shankar Aiyer hugging this chap
as if he is the baraat just arrived. I think
Riaz himself was a little embarrassed. He
was terrified of what would happen to
him in Islamabad. None of this proves
anything, but perhaps there is a hint there
of two different perceptions.
Om Thanvi, editor, Jansatta, New Delhi.
The regional language press and
Om Thanvi: In India, regional language
papers have a much wider reach than
the English media has and this is an area
of concern as far as coverage of Pakistan
is concerned. In the regional papers,
including Hindi newspapers, barring
indispensable news of Pakistan politics,
in the treatment of which there is an
evident and obvious bias, India's largest
neighbour finds no mention.
In the
regional papers,
including Hindi
news of Pakistan
politics, in the
treatment of
which there is an
evident and
obvious bias,
India's largest
neighbour finds
no mention.
Mani: From my experience as a diplomat, I can say that
Urdu papers in India do station correspondents in
Pakistan. The result is that, since 99 percent of the
people who read Urdu are Muslims, some of our Muslims get information through this channel. The only
other exceptions were the occasional Indrajit Bhadwar
and of course the more frequent Kuldeep Nayar, who
anyway always kept coming and going. He stays more
in Pakistan, and sometimes in India and that too
with great difficulty. But Hindustani correspondents
hardly ever go to Pakistan. Of the people who stay a
few days, observe with some attention, speak to people
and then write, the majority are from the Urdu press.
For the rest you are absolutely correct, because nobody
from any of the regions in India ever goes to Pakistan.
Om: The situation in the Hindi press merits very serious discussion precisely because of its dismal cover-
^^^^^^^^ age of Pakistan. National newspapers
like the Nav Bharat Times do not even
send a correspondent over to Pakistan
the way the TOI sometimes does. And
this despite the fact that Nav Bharat Times
sells more than the Times of India. The
situation is really dismal in the Hindi
press. The fastest growing Hindi papers,
the Dainik Bhaskar, or Rajasthan Patrika,
have a circulation several times larger
than that of the English papers. It is
another matter that because of this
English hangover in India, the Hindi
press does not have the same visibility
as the English media. But it is necessary
to pay attention to the Hindi press
because of the way their character is
evolving. Take papers like Dainik
Bhaskar and Rajasthan Patrika, which are
being published out of every district.
Bhaskar brings out a Chandigarh edition,
a Yamunanagar edition, a Sirsa edition,
    a Hissar edition. Because of their specific
areas of circulation and their structure they have no
place for hard Pakistan stories. For the Yamunanagar
edition international news will be considered unnecessary news. Pakistan news will figure only if it is
the kind that, say, will show Pakistan in a bad light,
and which will enable the paper to show that it is more
patriotic, more nationalistic.
Rahul Dev: A count of just the large Hindi chain newspapers will give some indication of their popular influence. Nav Bharat Times has only two editions. By con-
2002 June 15/6 HIMAL
Between the
battle lines
- Barkha Dutt
ABOUT A year ago I started a weekly reporting programme called "Reality Bytes" on New Delhi Television. Some time ago I did a couple of stories on this
programme which illustrate the challenges for a journalist, particularly a television journalist, covering
conflict who does not want to be identified with any
camp. The title of one of these stories "Between the
Battle Lines" reflects one of these challenges, namely
the frustration of a reporter on Jammu and Kashmir
(J&K) caught between two kinds of expectations from
the audience. It is basically a story of two women
widowed in the conflict, the wife of Jalil Andrabi, the
Kashmiri human rights activist who was killed by
an Indian army major, and the wife of a policeman
who was killed by militants. The other story I want
to discuss is one on the build-up of troops along the
India-Pakistan border in December. Together they
demonstrate the difficulties and complexities of detailed reportage, especially when the story primarily
concerns the army. What do you do then?
Despite all my efforts at achieving a balance, after
these episodes were screened I was criticised by both
sides. People in the army were extremely angry with
me for doing this story; after Kargil perhaps they had
thought I could be counted on to say 'the right thing'.
They felt that I had given more space to the first story
on Jalil aAndrabi than to the killing of the policeman.
On the other hand, in the border story which was
just a narrative based on 'facts', there was criticism
from liberal opinion that this kind of reportage could
worsen an already tense situation. This is something
to be factored in when looking at the impact of
In the context of multiple truths and lies and
perceptions of coverage, the danger of slotting is not
confined to just the viewers. Perceptions on the
ground could be coloured and come in the way of
reporting from a conflict zone. A story that I filmed at
Kashmir University is a case in point. This was after
the war against the Taliban had commenced. This
seemed like a good enough context to look at the
changing nature of the movement in Kashmir, which
I personally believe has happened. From being a
homespun political movement it is now a movement
which the people who started it do not recognise
anymore as their own creation. When we reached
Kashmir University there were about 200 people in a
pro-Osama rally. Being very conscious of this stereotype that dominates international coverage, of Muslims everywhere rallying behind Osama, we really
did not want to cover it. But these people told us to
take footage of their rally and we agreed and did an
interview with them. At the end, the man who was
interviewed turned around and said, "1 know you
are an agent of India and you are going to give me
less space and you are going to give the moderate
voice more space."
We moved on to the mass communication department of the university, which is reputed to be a more
liberal kind of centre. Students there told us that there
was no pro-Taliban sentiment on campus. Meanwhile somebody went and reported this exchange to
the pro-Osama group, who then accosted us and demanded our tape. When I refused, they accused me
of being an agent of the Indian government who wanted to project the Kashmiris as moderates. Our camera was broken and I escaped with the tape. The next
day a local newspaper in Kashmir printed a story
saying that a lady reporter of Star News had egged
on students to raise slogans against Pakistan and
when they refused there was an altercation in which
her camera was broken. We eventually aired the story in a raw, pretty much uncut kind of form, just
showing what these people had to say. And once
again I got slammed by both sides. In Kashmir, there
are these kinds of stories where you cannot aggregate
and balance out an overall reality. There is a little bit
of reality here and a little bit of a reality there. Every
angle of a story has one truth attached to it and one
lie. A reporter's job is to sift through the various truths
and lies and glean something worthwhile from both
This raises questions about objectivity in reporting. My attempt at objectivity is defined not so much
in the traditional way, which would suggest leaving
your own subjective perception of the situation outside the story. My definition is to be allowed to tell
every side of the story with my own subjective perception because I do not believe that it can be left out.
If there is an emotional engagement with the story,
as there often is when reporting J&K, then there
should be the scope to report with the same degree of
emotional empathy for the story on either side. Of
course that kind of luxury is only available in the
format of a longer programme. For those reporting
within the framework of a 1 minute 40 second slot in
the main news bulletin, this kind of formula where
you can tell both sides of the story is not possible.
This problem is more acute reporting something very
specific like a troop build-up at the border. The only
option is for a reporter over time to throw in an array
and variety of stories and build up a reputation of
being independent.
HIMAL 15/6 June 2002
 trast Bhaskar has some 15 editions in
Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan Punjab
and Haryana. Dainik Jagran has about
18 editions in Uttar Pradesh, MP,
Punjab and Haryana. Hindustan has
probably nine editions, mainly in UP
and Bihar. Rajasthan Patrika has seven
editions just in Rajasthan. And there is
Amar Ujala, which is published mainly
in UP and Haryana. The reason these
are important for us is their lack of
coverage or their prejudiced coverage of
D::kistan. That, plus the minds and
-inubilities and perceptions of their
owners, editors and journalists. They are
very important. The mindset of
the public at large is made by these
papers and not by the English papers.
Moreover, their writing is also influenced by their own constituency. So
both reinforce each other's prejudices
and stereotypes. And because the language reader is
not exposed to a lot of other influences and realities
which a typical English reader is exposed to, interest in
external matters in general is very limited. But this tendency on the part of the regional press should not distract attention from the general tendency in the Indian
media to focus on and accent the juicier stories to the
neglect of deeper social stories. You notice that kind of
mindset in relation to all our neighbours. It is not just
Pakistan that is ignored. Every neighbour is ignored.
Stories from the West, from the US and Western Europe,
command more space in the Indian media - even soft
stories like fashion or even crime. A big crime story from,
let us say, America, would get a bigger display than a
similar story from Pakistan or Bangladesh or Sri Lanka.
So this general Indian or Asian obsession with the West
and the US in particular is the broad context in which
coverage of Pakistan must be looked at.
Om: Some complaint has been voiced about the shrinking of space in the English media, that stories now get a
maximum of 450 words. But in the Hindi press even
these 450 words will be wasted if they are going the
way of Punjab Kesri. The other point is that discussion
of the Indian media cannot be complete without mention of what the non-Hindi regional press is doing. More
attention must be paid to it.
Mani: If you look at the papers from Tamil Nadu, there
is more about Sri Lanka, and if you look at Punjab Kesri
there may be more about Pakistan. And it is likely, that
a paper from Bihar will have more about Nepal. And
Bangla papers will have more about Bangladesh.
Rahul: This may perhaps be true of Tamil Nadu. But it
is not true that Punjab Kesri prints more news about
You are trying to
depict an emotion at a certain
point of time,
to convey a sentiment on the
ground. How
much should you
censor that because you may
not make viewers comfortable?
Siddharth: What Punjab Kesri prints
cannot be called news.
Objectivity or balance
Kaipana: The question of objectivity
repeatedly crops up in media discussions. It is important not to confuse the
two separate issues - equivalence and
objectivity. For instance, in the case
of the Gujarat coverage, people kept
talking about the equivalence between
Godhra and and the carnage in the state.
That is not the issue. Equivalence of coverage is not objectivity. And in television even the question of equivalence is
compromised by the subject. People in
seemingly similar situations come
across very differently, so that equivalence is not entirely in the hands of
the reporter.
Siddharth: Tactically I can see that in covering a certain
kind of story it might be necessary to provide another
story from the other side, as in the case of Andrabi and
the policeman. But that is purely tactical. I have a sense
of unease with the need to achieve a balance because
that balance is unattainable because of the very facts of
the case. Andrabi's killing, from the point of view of
Indian democracy, was an act of premeditated murder
by an agent of the state, whereas the killing of the policeman, tragedy though it no doubt is, belongs to a
different category. Showing both stories is a compromise of packaging. But the dictates of packaging should
not force us to draw too theoretical a conclusion about
so-called balance or objectivity.
Barkha: Every individual story cannot have an internal balance. Particularly in Kashmir where there are
very few people who are not with one camp or the other. Stories of this kind cannot be set out by some conscious road map of being balanced, with the result that
someone watching the story on the border could feel
Barkha Dutt. reporter and anchor NDTV, New Delhi.
2002 June 15/6 HIMAL
 that this is just one side, that it creates
an atmosphere of war and so on. These
are the actual problems that a reporter
can face when covering a conflict. For
example, on a border story I did my figures were based on data from the Indian
army. It was my own assessment of what
to use and I could make mistakes. Those
figures could have been doctored. But at
that point 1 am not actually going to necessarily be able to balance it in that theoretical way.
I think it is legitimate for a reporter to
do a 30-minute programme just on the
situation on one side of the border
without someone, say, the Pakistan
High Commisisoner in Delhi, suddenly   	
deciding that this is an exceptionable act by someone
who is otherwise a fairly liberal voice on Kashmir. Or
liberals in India voicing misgivings about the intentions
of the programme. There are certain stories that are valid
as news stories. If there is troop build-up, that has a
legitimacy of its own on which there is no way to do a
mirror image from the other side.
Kaipana: I personally do not believe that there is any
objectivity in anything that we report because after all
we are all socialised into believing certain things and
this comes in with the selection of facts. In all the facts
we have, what we choose to highlight is based on our
beliefs and what our papers choose to highlight - these
are pressures which are far from objective. So I think
In a war
situation, you are
free to shoot and
talk about only
one side of the
story. It is physically impossible
for you to talk
about and show
both sides.
Journalists can at best try to be fair, as
distinct from being objective. In conflict
situations, charges are often thrown
against the media that a particular report
is too soft on the separatist lobby or too
soft on the government, and this is one
dimension of the impact of the coverage.
The constant deconstruction of media
reports is part of the impact and almost
amounts to propaganda of a kind. Independent coverage must be allowed to
steer clear of this. The media, in this
sense, is a whipping boy. It is naive to
expect the media to perform a role which
is defined by one point of view or the
we should just set aside this matter of objectivity. When
you take up any issue of this kind, whether it is Kashmir or sectarian violence in India, there is no way that
you are going to please all sides.
Barkha: The point is not to try to please everyone The
issue of balance is tied up with the impact of coverage.
Siddharth: We are in a sense paying for the past sins of
our profession, because the Indian media was not bold
enough in the early stages on Kashmir. The Andrabi
case should have been treated transparently by the
media when it happened- The very act of recall now has
somehow to be justified by packing it along with other
Barkha: The larger aim of the story was not so much to
expose Jalil Andrabi through an ex post facto media
exhumation. On a visit to Kashmir the two stories of the
women just came up in front of me in the same week
and it was just a coincidence. I do not think it was a
conscious attempt to balance. But I think you are right
to the extent that I would have had a tough time if I had
done just the Andrabi story.
Mushahid Hussain Sayed: Your story on the border
had a visual of the Indian farmer on the border
demanding the elimination of Pakistan. Now is that
not something that could inflame popular passions?
Barkha: That is a valid point, but the same principle
could be applied to the shots of the women in the
Andrabi story beating their chests and saying "azadi"
Mariana Babar: But that is a liberation struggle how
can you compare that with the farmer at the border?
Barkha: Doubtless these are elements which are potentially inflammatory in both cases. Both have a certain
rhetoric to them and both are rooted in a reality. In the
border villages there is an overwhelming anger about
being dragged through the ritual of moving their homes
every now and then, and so they want something to be
done once and for all. That may be nonsense for some,
but it is a sentiment. Similarly an angry, alienated Kashmiri can also have an extremely heightened and often
exaggerated sense of hurt, but that is his or her perception. It is a judgement one makes in representing the
HIMAL 15/6 June 2002
 Media during
intense conflict
- Rehana Hakim
IN 1998, when Nawaz Sharif was prime minister,
editors from all over the country were invited to Islamabad to offer their opinions on Pakistan's nuclear options. India had tested at Pokhran and Nawaz
Sharif wanted to know how Pakistani journalists felt
about the issue. I suspect the decision to go in for the
tests had already been taken but the government
wanted to know the media reaction. What was
surprising was that 90 percent of the journalists were
for a commensurate response from Pakistan. There
were journalists present who said, "if you do not go
ahead with the blasts your authority will wane".
There were a group of us from Karachi and Hyderabad
who tried to point out the political and economic
ramifications of the Bomb and how it would
adversely affect Pakistan. At that point the country's
foreign exchange reserves were dangerously low, the
level of external debt was very high and we thought
that this was really going to create a lot of problems.
But nobody was willing to listen. In fact, the
overwhelming reaction to our opposition was that
Karachi people speak like banias, they cannot get out
of the accounting mind set.
Soon thereafter Chagai happened and for many
journalists it was a sobering moment. There were
many lessons to be learnt from it, particularly on the
question of whether the media can defuse tension. It
seems to be quite evident that most of the time the
media is not driven by noble intentions. More often
than not, they are just chasing a story. That is the
ground reality. But having said that, I also find that
there is a certain change in Pakistan-India coverage
that has come about gradually. I would like to believe
that it has a lot to do with the interaction and dialogue between Indian and Pakistani journalists meeting over the years at various conferences. I think one
of the first of such conferences was in Kathmandu
and I remember being very irritated when an Indian
journalist asked me whether we are allowed to wear
sarees in Pakistan. Sunil Sethi was one of the first
journalists who did a detailed cover story on Pakistan and he seemed to dwell at unnecessary length
on the meat eating habits of Pakistanis. But I think
those were the initial days and as we met over the
years things improved.
One change in particular is striking, In the past
when it came to domestic issues the Indian media
had very divergent points of view but on foreign policy issues they followed the establishment point of
view. On Kashmir, too, the Indian media seemed to
disregard the fact that a problem did exist. This went
on for some time. But of late one sees much more independent reporting on Kashmir. It is also heartening
that there are some individual journalists who are
willing to go on record in Pakistani publications with
their critical views.
A question that repeatedly comes up during conflict
situations is how to cover issues like the Gujarat
carnage or the Babri Masjid demolition. Are passions
going to be inflamed in Pakistan by covering these
issues? 1 feel that these stories have to be told no matter
what. Newsline's coverage of Gujarat was by an Indian
journalist. We thought about it and wondered if
Newsline would be accused of inflaming passions. We
eventually went along with the story and I feel that
we did the right thing. But the reaction is often a cause
for concern. Newsline did a story on Dawood Ibrahim
and it was used by Indian foreign minister Jaswant
Singh to make a diplomatic claim on Pakistan. In response, Pakistan demanded that 20 people based in
India be handed over. Such reactions make us wonder if we are doing the right thing.
There are no definitive rules and a responsible
media has to go by its instincts. The media cannot
prevent war largely because the government does not
much care what the media feels on these issues. But
the media can certainly publicise the consequences,
for instance, of a nuclear war, by covering the human
aspect, the economic aspect, the refugee aspect. But
there are so many divergent views, there are different
media with differing compulsions and motivations.
The Urdu press in Pakistan is far more conservative.
The English media is often criticised for being very
liberal and pro-India. But such criticism should not
be allowed to come in the way of fulfilling responsible
The media is placed under enormous strain during
periods of intense conflict. The capacity for objective
reporting can be a casualty when patriotism rises to
the surface. People do tend to take sides and the media
is not an exception. Besides, access to information is
limited. Journalists are not allowed to investigate
independently and so they have to rely on the
government. But usually, and of late, once the event is
over, there is a fair bit of introspection, as happened
in the case of the Kargil war. By contrast, in the case
of the Bangladesh war, the Hamoodur Rehman
Commission Report was released only 30 years later.
Because of these changes, there is ground for optimism
and hope that the media can mitigate the effects of
conflict even if it cannot prevent one. Nevertheless,
there are still certain areas where the mindset needs
to be changed. I am not certain it is possible in any
comprehensive way, but it is still worth trying for.
2002 June 15/6 HIMAL
perception. You are trying to depict an emotion at a
certain point of time, to convey a sentiment on the
ground. How much should you censor that because
you may not make viewers comfortable? These were
the kind of arguments that were used in Gujarat too on
the grounds that the footage could provoke retaliatory
Rehana: Your story on Andrabi and the policeman had
a bit on the graves of militants from other countries
who had been active in Kashmir. You also talk about
how the movement had been hijacked. Don't you think
this was diverging from the main trend of your story,
namely the human costs? Why did you feel the need
to add this particular bit? Was it also part of the
Barkha: I actually felt that the stories of
both these women intersected and not
just because of their personal tragedies.
Both of them, though one represented a
separatist voice and the other represented a policeman's point, were uncomfortable with the Kashmir of today. What I
was trying to do was to interweave a
macro situation.
Rehana: It appeared to me that by showing the grave of the militant from Birmingham you were trying to highlight
fact that the movement in Kashmir had
been hijacked bv militants from outside.
Barkha: That is my subjective assessment of the situation. I may have failed
to interweave the two points. This was a domestic political movement of resistance in 1990 which was transformed radically into an unrecognisable form and shape
by 2001. That is what I believe. If the connection did not
come through then that is a failure of the narrative.
Mariana: Any non-Indian journalist who had taken a
camera to the graveyard would not have missed the
other graves and maybe would have said that along
with these Kashmiris who died in this freedom struggle, even these foreigners have joined and died.
Barkha: That particular graveyard is demarcated just
for foreign militants. And I am saying unabashedly that
what I showed was my sense of what was happening,
which is that foreign militants have taken over.
Mariana: But they have been fighting alongside the
Kashmiris for a long time,
Barkha: But they control it at this particular point of
time, in fact since 2001.
You also see what
you are looking for
You do not only
see what is shown
to you. There is
no such thing as
objectivity. All the
facts are out there
and you pick the
historical fact that
you want to pick.
Mariana: I still feel that your showing of only the graves
of foreign militants was terribly unfair to the others who
have been killed for the same cause, good bad or ugly.
You simply sidelined them.
Mushahid: You asked some young boys whether they
empathised with the foreign militants despite the fact
that they were not Kashmiris. One of them said that
these men "after all are Muslims" and hence there was
no problem of acceptance. That showed the sentiment
of the Kashmiri people. I thought that legitimised their
Mani: The small boy saying "after all they are Muslims", legitimised their cause in Mushahid's eyes. It
delegitimised it in mine.
I think the point that emerges from all this is that
^^^^^^^^ you also see what you are looking for.
You do not only see what is shown to
you. There is no such thing as objectivity.
All the facts are out there and you pick
the historical fact that you want to pick.
That choice itself compromises any kind
of hundred percent objectivity. What
struck Mushahid was how provocative
it is for that Indian peasant at the
Kashmir border to say finish-off
Pakistan. He did not at all find it provocative that his guns have gone and
smashed the poor fellow's house. And
so you come to back to what is truth,
suggesting Pilate who would not wait
for an answer.
     Cross-border television
Moderator: What is the impact of programming aimed
at an Indian audience, packaged in New Delhi and
actually meant for an Indian audience but also watched
in Pakistan?
Mushahid: One example of an Indian programme
which is watched very widely among the educated people in Pakistan is BBC World's Question Time India,
which is produced by NDTV. It often focuses on Kashmir
and Pakistan-related issues. It is an instructive programme for the insight it gives into the thinking of the
educated Indian middle class. In general, the kind of
freedom in India and the diversity of its news reportage
is appreciated in Pakistan. There is a certain resonance
because they feel that the truth is being told, truth operationally defined as the criticism of the officially certified truth on a particular issue.
As for the impact of the Indian channels, if there is
overt propaganda, I do not think it has such a lot of
impact in terms of shaping perception or changing
views. It is taken with a pinch of salt. For instance, in
the case of the hijacking of the Indian Airlines flight in
1999, or the 13 December incident, many Pakistanis felt
HIMAL 15/6 June 2002
 Mushahid Hussain, columnist and former information minister.
that it was state-managed despite what Indian
channels had to say on the matter
In fact, the question of impact can be asked in the
reverse. What is the impact in India of coverage of Pakistan-related issues? aAJl channels had carried reports
about 13 December being an ISI operation. That affects
the average Indian's perception of Pakistan
Barkha: With the Parliament attack I do not see how it
can be otherwise. When Parliament gets attacked, the
questions come later, when the chargesheets are filed
or they pick up somebody and the case does not quite
cut it. But immediately the instinctive response in the
newsroom is to draw a connection to Pakistan. It is
unfair and I think there are enough people in the Indian media who would argue that militant groups cannot be equated with the Pakistan government. And with
something like the Parliament attack or the Srinagar
State Assembly attack it is very difficult to get an average viewer to distinguish between a militant group and
Mariana: When Musharraf spoke after the Srinagar
Assembly blast he condemned it unequivocally. He in
fact said that the blast could not be equated with action
for a freedom struggle. Was that carried in the Indian
media? That was an interesting point because I do not
think he has ever made such a strong statement.
Barkha: It was carried. The sequence of the bulletin
that day was Srinagar Assembly attacked; 40 people
dead; Jaish-e-Mohammad claims responsibility in the
morning and withdraws it by afternoon; Pakistan President condemns attack. What is the viewer going to take
from this? I am just asking the question, not representing the viewer.
Rahul: Doordarshan runs a programme, a series called
PTV Ka Sach, twice or thrice a week. These are two or
three minute programmes. They pick up a PTV story,
which is usually full of the usual rhetoric and spin, the
kind which says that Indian soldiers have committed
this or that atrocity. This programme then picks up
factual holes in that story.
Mariana: That would suggest that PTV programmes do
have an effect on the Indian audience. Was there any
comment in the Indian media on the ban imposed on
PTV in India and has there been any comment on the
ban of Indian TV in Pakistan?
Mani: The ban on PTV was criticised. There has been
some comment on the ban in Pakistan, but it really did
not become a big issue, perhaps because it was not an
act in itself. It was part of a package of measures which
was supposed to have been taken at a time of high national crisis. And those in India who believe that there
was a credible Pakistani threat to India which required
a credible response must have been delighted with all
this. And people like me who did not believe there was
a credible threat from Pakistan, and therefore our response was excessive, wondered why these jokers were
harming themselves by doing this.
Siddharth: In terms of the impact of programming, there
was an interview with Sushma Swaraj on PTV which
had quite an impact. It did not convince anybody of
India's point of view on Kashmir. But many people in
Pakistan told me that the ease with which she handled
the questions showed the calibre of the grassroots
Indian politician. In Pakistan, they said, after Zulfikar
Bhutto and perhaps not even him, nobody would have
that kind of skill, since they are not used to dealing
with people and questions and getting into the hurly-
burly of politics. That seemed to impress people more
than the specificity of whether she projected India's
case better or not.
Mani: To restore internal balance in this story, Ashraf
Jehangir Qazi, the Pakistani High Commissioner in
Delhi, did an outstanding job of carrying conviction
with regard to his point of view from public platforms
and television. He was very convincing. It shows, I
think, that if you are able to put the opposite point of
view in reasonable language in a way which carries
conviction then the other side at least begins to start
listening, even if it is going to be a long, long time before
some of them begin to agree. I saw Sushma Swaraj do
this in Islamabad, where Ghower Ayub went into how
he was at The Doon School at the age of 12 and how he
saw all this massacre taking place between Ambala
and Amritsar and how at that time he realised what a
vicious lot we were and so on. I think she replied by
saying that she could not match the story because she
was not born at the time of Partition but that her mother
told her that their house was opposite the Hyat Khans'
and fruit was always coming from there so they believed
themselves to be safe. But there was a mob attack and
her grandfather was killed and the mother burnt the
body in the courtyard, picked up the ashes, and as they
2002 June 15/6 HIMAL
 crossed the Ravi into India she dropped the ashes into
the river. There were tear jerkers on both sides. Both
were I think reflections of a reality but it did enable one
to move the argument beyond these episodic instances
of past brutality and into a rational form of discussion.
Television in Pakistan
Moderator: Perhaps some idea of the difference of the
new private Pakistani satellite channels will indicate
the possibilities in this direction: is there any possibility that they will be watched as much in India as Indian
private channels are being watched and how much freedom will they get?
Mushahid: The new aspect that has been added by the
coming of these private channels is the increase in news
and current affairs programmes. They may not go
against the government but they will accommodate the
opposition point of view which is lacking in the
state channel. In that sense they will be widely
Mariana Babar. The News, Islamabad.
Mariana: The News is starting a channel called Geo
from August 15. They are aware they may come under
pressure from the state but because they hope to beam
in from London and Dubai the intensity of the pressure
may be minimised. I think such channels will make a
difference if they are beamed into India. I think that
will balance out what PTV has done.
Quest for credibility
IN PAKISTAN-India coverage, both the market and
the nation-state converge to an extent in the expectation of the audience. India is not just another foreign
country in Pakistan. There is a special aspect to the
relationship, and coverage is coloured to the extent
that both states largely define each other as adversaries or even 'enemies'. Nationalism and the so-called
national interest, what I call the officially certified
truth, take precedence. The market represents wThat
consumers want and there is a passion for Pakistan-
India news. When Musharraf visited .^gra he got the
kind of coverage in India that even Clinton did not
get. That was because he happened to be the President of Pakistan. It was the same when Vajpayee came
to Lahore. The special relationship is therefore an
element of the market.
But there are other ways in which the market comes
into national considerations. When I was in government, we launched FTV World. An important factor
for us wTas that Zee TV was getting a lot of Pakistani
advertisements in the Gulf area. Pakistani advertisements were going to 'the other side'. In that sense
the market factor is important. But in a fundamental
way, political considerations and the so-called
national interest, and not economic factors, take
Since Indian news has a certain allure in Pakistan
there is the question of how to counter it, how to make
ourselves more credible. That is one of the reasons
- Mushahid Hussain Sayed
private channels have been licensed and this will to
some extent redress the television imbalance between
the two countries. This is the change that could
potentially manifest itself on the airwaves. It has been
basically motivated by competition with India, but it is
not economic competition. It comes out of the quest for
credibility and the need to reach out to the Indian
audience. The emergence of private channels will also
drive the market forces, but it is useful to remember that
trade between India and Pakistan and pure commercial
considerations are way behind political factors.
That being the case, some specificities of politics are
significant in influencing coverage. It is interesting to
note that there is a similarity of pattern in the coverage
of the military regimes of Zia ul-Haq and Pervez
Musharraf. Military regimes elicit a particular kind of
coverage, especially in the Indian media. Because they
are not legitimate, they tend to reach out more.
Musharraf is a very media-friendly person. He loves to
talk to the Indian media. Zia, who was carrying so much
excess baggage, used to do that too. He had hanged
Bhutto and his rule was quite oppressive. But despite
that he got reasonably good press in India.
This of course applies only to coverage in relatively
normal circumstances. Under conditions of tension, it
is a different matter altogether. There have been two
near-war situations, Kargil in 1999 and again continuing tension after 13 December. In such situations nationalism, even chauvinism come to the fore. There is
HIMAL 15/6 June 2002
 Rehana: If the publisher of a newspaper cannot withstand pressure, do you think it will make a difference
where the signal is beamed in from?
Siddharth: Besides, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority has some power to regulate content
if national security demands it. In India everybody now
uplinks from within the country. So it is very likely that
in Pakistan all these channels will eventually beam up
from within the country.
Mushahid: All those stations operating out of Pakistan
are affected.
Mani: There is the politician's point of view on
television exposure, which I think we need to understand in the context of state pressure and freedom to
operate. In India we tried for decades to prevent even
our state channels from reporting the voice of our
ministers, or what they had to say. Till the mid-1980s
our ministers either read out statements or were seen
cutting ribbons. They were not heard saying whatever
they had to tell. Now that these channels have come in
there is tremendous competition among politicians to
get on the channels. Even if the B)P does not want to
come out on the question of Gujarat they feel that they
have to accept the invitation of television channels, so
that the next time when they want to come on to project
some point of view on which they think they have the
upper hand, they will still have the credibility to come
on. So the debates that are not taking place in Parliament are now taking place on television channels and
that will happen increasingly in Pakistan to the point
where the politician will feel that it is in his own interest not to censor these channels.
Conflict and professionalism
Siddharth: In covering conflict, whether of the Kargil,
Kashmir or Gujarat variety, both television and print
often forget the basic rules of reporting. The tools of the
craft cannot be jettisoned in this casual fashion, no
matter what the general climate of opinion or the mood
little room at such times for so-called independence,
objectivity or even liberalism because that is deemed to
be unpatriotic. Nation, mindset and market come together in a particularly potent form on such occasions.
Because the nation-state commands the relationship
between the two countries, the attitude of the establishment becomes crucial, and in both the countries it
is very rigid, conservative and hard-line. ^^^^mmmmm
This can be a hindrance to greater media
access. At the time of the Lahore Declaration, one of the basic aims was to really
open up on the media front. There was a
lot of pressure from within Pakistan and
The coverage of
the war on
terrorism on
Indian government and using them against India. That
is legitimate propaganda.
The retaliatory mode is pointless. When the Musharraf regime banned Indian TV, 1 was one of the first
and one of the few to publicly condemn the ban. 1 said
this is not necessary; Paldstani viewers are capable of
making their own distinctions without having to be
^m^m^m^ supervised. 1 know of many Pakistani
households in which children are not
allowed to watch Indian TV because of
its proclivity to show half-naked girls
dancing in a strange manner and that
sort of thing. There is no doubt a lot of
India for more media exchange. We   AlT)@rJCan TV haS   ^at *n ^e intemational media too, but
considered visa exemptions for accredited
journalists cleared by both sides. But the
security establishments of the two countries came in the way. They objected on
the ground of security risks.
Because of all these reasons, between
India and Pakistan many of the conventional rules and protocols of journalism
do not seem to apply. The focus often is to
look for negative stories. The killing of
Muslims in Gujarat would be of interest.
Similarly, sectarian terrorism in Pakistan
is of great interest in India.
A certain mindset and world view by
and large influences media issues. In 1999, when the
Indians banned FTV there was a lot of pressure on me
as Minister of Information to do likewise with Indian
TV. Since the instinct is tit-for-tat, we do not often think
things through. Instead of banning Indian TV we
decided to counter the Indian point of view by taking
columns from the Indian press that were critical of the
been absolutely
offensive. No
Indian or Pakistani journalist
would stoop to
the levels that
journalists have.
Indian TV is of more consequence because the language is so much more
On the whole, despite periodic efforts
made by the leadership of both countries,
I see difficulties ahead in promoting
accommodation. There is an appreciable level of interaction but interaction
has to be a two-way street. A lot of
Pakistanis who went to the Agra summit came back with horror stories. So it
is clear that just interaction is not
enough. But the conflict between the two
countries notwithstanding, I think we
in South Asia have been far more civilised with each
other than most Western countries. The coverage of the
war on terrorism on American TV has been absolutely
offensive. No Indian or Pakistani journalist would
stoop to the levels that American journalists have. There
is a civilisational sophistication among South Asians
and that is a saving grace and a reason for hope.
2002 June 15/6 HIMAL
 in the country is. During Kargil, there was at least one
instance when everybody swTallowTed the government
version hook, line and sinker. This was on the alleged
torture and mutilation of five Indian soldiers by Pakistani troops. The most basic questions were not asked.
When the government argued that it wTould not release
the name of the victims because the sentiments of families concerned wTould be hurt, it was ^^^^^^^—
accepted even though one name was
subsequently revealed. The contradiction in the government's position was
obvious but nobody had anything to say
about it. The media was silent on the fact
that the families were not allowed to
examine the bodies before they were
cremated. The holes in the story were too
numerous to be ignored and invoking
the most elementary principles of the profession should have taken care of that.
But neither the story nor the violation of professional
standards was ever questioned. I know that a leading
news magazine in India actually suppressed stories of
Indian soldiers mutilating Pakistani soldiers. There
have been unconfirmed reports about the editorial
decision, taken in the national interest, not to publish
photographs of a couple of regiments having pinned
the heads of some Pakistani soldiers to a tree. In these
It seems to be
quite evident that
most of the time
the media is not
driven by noble
ing, critical and challenged the official Indian version
of the mutilation, because that was very central to the
way in which the war was then hyped up and projected.
Barkha: In Kargil, many editorial decisions were split-
second decisions taken on the run. They may have been
impulsive, or may have been taken with a lot of
mmmmmmmm^ma    discomfort. Often, what was done arose
from genuine confusion about how to
present a complex situation. It was a
personal struggle for every reporter
and not necessarily a sacrificing of the
rules of the profession at the altar of
Siddharth: 1 am not making a plea for
an editorial line that is not nationalistic.
In a time of war no paper is likely
to write editorials opposing the government's general line on the prosecution of the war. But
in terms of news reporting, where possible, it is
absolutely crucial that ethical and professional norms
be maintained. The basic craft of the profession cannot
be compromised. Such norms can be the yardstick for
judging the quality of reportage. The fact is that the
standards of reporting are not very professional even
at the best of times. 1 do not say that the Americans are
matters, the media should have been more discriminat-      very professional. But at least they have a certain fetish
Censorship, information and
HAVING BEEN a government servant in the external publicity area where I was given the task of, a)
protecting the blameless Indian mind from nasty
propaganda, and, b) revealing the naked truth to the
other side, I found this wThole exercise of trying to
either defend our own minds from the other side or
inflict our point of viewT on the other side so naive. It
assumed that you could very easily change what the
other person's perception was or get your own perceptions so easily changed. The attempt to use intelligence information or the media for propaganda purposes is doomed to failure, especially in our countries. I was myself very deeply involved in trying to
see how we could use radio as an instrument of propaganda before television got so widespread. I had
just come back from Pakistan and was Joint Secretary, External Publicity. I was pulled into a group
whose idea was to use All India Radio (AIR) to spread
our message, and the message was always against
Pakistan. In Pakistan I had met a lot of people who
- Mani Shankar Aiyar
were extremely pleasant. I suggested that the most
effective way would be to use AIR to tell the Indians
what nice people the Pakistanis were. When the
Pakistanis discovered that we are saying nice things
about them, at least their hostility towards us would
get reduced. Thus, we could more effectively change
the situation in the Subcontinent than by attacking
them. But the suggestions were obviously dismissed
out of hand.
The attempt to use the media as an instrument of
state policy in relatively open societies is doomed to
failure and it is best for us to advocate against it. If you
want to resolve any India-Pakistan issue, the Indians
must get to know what the Pakistani point of view is.
aAnd reciprocally, the Pakistanis must get to know what
is the Indian point of view, so that you get not an India-
Pakistan divide but a viewpoint on this side which has
some sympathy in Pakistan and a viewpoint on that
side which has some sympathy for India. From that a
rational solution may come. To put it very simply, the
HIMAL 15/6 June 2002
 fit: "M V'
«•  |'fli   ■     ■     'S|   -5     l:
lift™ ' a:'   . '■'.     tv
Siddharth Varadarajan, Times of India, Weiv De/hz.
for detail and they are much more methodical in a certain sense. But even their systems fail at a time of war.
But even so, during Kosovo and Afghanistan, maybe
not immediately, but three or four days after a particular incident occurred and the Pentagon had put its spin
you had a credible media giving an on-the-spot account
that did not tally with the official claim. There are examples of newspapers and television channels abroad
bucking the pressures of nationalism as far as professional reporting is concerned. I am not suggesting that things
will not improve in the Indian media the next time around,
but what is the basis of the belief that it will?
answer is to have a cricket team where we have five
Indians and five Pakistanis and get a Kashmiri to be
the captain.
There is precedent of how just the flow of information
can change perceptions. In the Vietnam War, which
began on a major scale from about 1965, the Americans
were absolutely delighted that technology had reached
the point where a large number of American cameramen, academics and print media journalists could go
into South Vietnam. Special arrangements were made
for them to travel along with the heroic army that was
going to defeat the reds. The stories came into the US in
such a way that initially there was a huge upsurge of
support for the American cause in Vietnam. But in time
this same lot of media people started telling other bits
of the story, which would otherwise never have reached
America. And at the end of the day, two schools had
developed, for and against fighting the communists in
Vietnam. Over a period of time there was such a huge
amount of information that had spread that many
people had more information than either only their
conclusion or their prejudices justified. So they began
to see that the other side could hold a completely
different opinion. A process of getting this kind of
information across, which is usually blocked, will
eventually weaken the idea that this is a fight between
India and Pakistan and perhaps legitimise the idea that
this is really a struggle between the preservation of
Barkha: I think we have acknowledged mistakes that
were made inadvertently or because there was not
enough time to make more considered choices. In that
sense we have to distinguish between an incident-triggered conflict and a conflict that spreads itself over time,
which is why we can be much more critical of the government on Kashmir even though that is also an issue
of national security. We have the time to go there and
analyse, assess and report. But Kargil was a limited
war and you were just running to keep pace with events.
Besides, there is the experience factor. There is that tone
that comes into your voice when you see a rocket launcher go off. I think the next time the tone will be different.
It will not be the same thing the second time around.
Novelty gives way to experience.
Television war
Om: Television coverage of Kargil was heavily influenced by nationalism. Unlike print media, in which
you could present some amount of criticism, TV was
overtly patriotic. I am not denying the need to cover
military and government briefings on the war, but news
does not have to be confined to just that.
Barkha: We must distinguish between a conscious
decision to nationalise reportage and subliminal
nationalism that creeps in. I also think that a television
reporter more often than not will describe what she or
human decencies and their violation. And the violation is done by both sides, as much as the preservations up to a point are by both sides. And that is why
I am against this censorship. Any attempt at using
the media as an instrument of state policy or preventing the other side from using their media as an instrument of state policy is ultimately self-defeating to
the state which propagates or indulges in censorship. We should really try to see whether the media
community of the two countries cannot make a greater contribution, simply by dedicating themselves to
their respective versions of the truth, being allowed
to function as much as possible and being heard on
the other side of the border.
What struck me when I was in Pakistan was how
much the Pakistanis have to say which makes sense
in terms of their perceptions, their realities, their national requirements. Therefore, we need to listen in
India. This is where the media could play an important role, since Indian diplomats in Pakistan spend
all their time reporting to Delhi what Delhi wants to
hear instead of reporting back to Delhi what Delhi
does not know, I am sure that applies reciprocally.
Which is why I feel that the truth, as seen by Pakistan, should come to India, and the truth as seen by
India, should go to Pakistan. Then we may arrive,
over a period of time, at a common understanding of
what is the truth.
2002 June 15/6 HIMAL
he has seen as a visual narrative being played out as
distinct from making a conscious decision to present
unfolding events in a particular manner. The circumstances on the ground will often dictate the course of
the narrative. If you compare Kargil and Gujarat, 1 do
not think there was any conscious aim to be nationalistic in the case of the former and critical in the case of the
latter. The complexity of the situation must come in
when analysing how stories are covered on television.
Om: The kind of coverage that you talk about cannot be
called nationalist. That is purely a professional act that escapes such adjectives. But, broadly speaking, the perspective of our channels was certainly nationalist in tone.
Rahul; We must remember that certain things are determined by the nature of the medium itself. In a war situation, you are free to shoot and talk about only one side
of the story. It is physically impossible for you to talk
about and show both sides. So you have got to be onesided. There is no other way. You cannot put yourself
mentally on the Pakistani side and try and tell your
viewers what is happening there. The dramatic nature
of television creates its own impact and the more dramatic the event the greater and deeper its impact.
Rahul Dev, newscaster, Doordarshan, New Delhi.
Rehana: Would it not have been possible to get footage
from the other side?
Barkha: When doing instant news that is pretty much
impossible, because footage can take as long as four
days to reach.
Mushahid: During the Kargil war, 1 was the Information Minister of Pakistan. Our view was completely
blocked in India. I requested Zee and Star to air our
perspective. Star agreed, Zee refused
Siddharth: A lot of the biases and skewed perceptions
emanate from the point of who defines the news event
and how the news event gets defined. In Kargil, for in
stance, even though you had people filing footage from
the frontline, that is not where the news event gets defined. The news event was being defined at the military's briefing headquarters. At the military end, news
was being defined by the briefing. And at the studio
end, news was being defined by what kinds of guests
were being invited to air their opinion. These were consciously defined. The dispatches from the field are not
necessarily consciously biased. But at the studio level,
that may not be entirely true.
Barkha: My belief is that a second war will be covered
very differently. It was partly because this was the first
war that was being covered by television. One of the
reasons why television failed in Kargil is that TV is still
a very young medium in India and it does not really
have very senior reporters. Though there was broadly
no difference between the tone and tenor of reportage
in print and television during the Kargil operations,
subsequently newspapers did more critical, investigative stories on what had gone wrong. Newspapers
did those stories because the realm of investigative
reportage in India still belongs to print. Television is
still functioning in the breaking news format more than
in in-depth reportage.
Media and the nukes
Sidharth: Newspapers in India were extremely
provocative immediately after India tested at Pokhran.
It almost seemed like they were keen to make sure that
Pakistan tested. K Subramaniam, the most hawkish
columnist in India, for instance, was constantly making
suggestions that Pakistan did not have the Bomb and
even if it did, it would not dare to test. Would that have
had an effect on Pakistan's eventual decision to test?
Mushahid: I think the decision to go nuclear was
Advani's statement on Kashmir on 17 May 1998. We
were in Almaty for a summit of the ECOA when the
Pokhran tests took place. This was on 11 May. We had
gone sightseeing in the mountains, and when we came
back we got news that India had tested. It was quite a
shock for us. My view was that we should wait and see
what the West comes up with, whether India would be
penalised or not, and whether we were given inducements or not. We were disappointed on both counts.
The Indian attitude was very haughty and arrogant.
Advani's statement that the geo-strategic realities had
changed and Pakistan must adjust accordingly and
change its Kashmir policy was particularly irksome.
Then there was the summit of the European Union
which did not come out with any kind of measures. Bill
Clinton subsequently made an offer to us of about 5
billion dollars on the fourth telephone call to Nawaz
Sharif. By that time we had already taken the decision
to go through with the tests. But we did want to have
consultations. That is why the journalists were called,
and as it turned out thev were of course very hawkish.
HIMAL  15/6 June 2002
 We wanted an honest debate and on television we had
both voices, those who wanted the tests and those who
did not want the tests. But the majority were against the
'peacenik' line. In my view, we took the right decision
because the West did not offer us very much and the
Indian attitude was insufferable. At the Lahore Declaration summit I asked a very senior Indian official what
the reaction in officialdom was and I was astounded
by what I heard. When the news of the Pakistan tests
came, Prime Minister Vajpayee turned pale, cancelled
the session of Parliament and called an emergency
meeting. They were in a state of absolute shock. The
official informed me that the official Indian belief was
that Pakistan did not have the bomb, and that even if
we had it we would not have the guts to test because
the Americans would not let us. But it is not the case
that we were provoked into it by the media. There were
various considerations.
Responsible journalism
Mani: In times of conflict, passions get inflamed in spite
of the press. The media comes into the picture because
passions have been inflamed. The job of the moment is
to tell it as it is seen. There is no reason to feel guilty that
it may be contributing to aggravating a tense situation.
The media might aggravate the situation at the margin
but it is never the cause of the situation.
Kaipana: That assessment is difficult to agree with if
we consider- the Gujarat case. Some of us did a media monitoring exercise of the Gujarat coverage in
the Bombay papers - English, Urdu, Hindi, Mar-
athi, Gujarati. When Godhra happened, Gujarati
newspapers carried exaggerated, unverified reports
about attacks on Hindu women. Three days later
they had small correction saying that these reports
were not based on facts. This was done deliberately. Therefore to say that the media cannot aggravate
the situation in times of internal or external tension
is not quite correct, 1 think the important point is,
regardless of what the mainstream newspapers do,
the impact of regional papers that have set out to inflame the situation is huge.
Broadly, the papers that do not believe in any norms
at all have very wide circulations and the biggest reach,
and shape mindsets even if they do not determine
policy. They shape mindsets which could ultimately
feed into policy because it feeds into politics. For this
reason, it is important for the mainstream media to
evolve some norm of responsible journalism.
Siddharth: 1 think it is far easier for newspapers and
channels to inflame a situation that has been created
than it is for them to douse the flames. In other words,
once Gujarat has started you can do your coverage in
such a way that Gujarat drags on and gets worse. Certainly, the Gujarati press did inflame passions. However, I would also like to believe that the English media
and the electronic media helped limit the death toll in
Gujarat. That is an unverifiable conjecture.
In moments of conflict between India and Pakistan,
even a responsible and critical media may not noticeably
alter the situation. At critical moments, the situation
commands the news more than a responsible editorial
stand can alter the circumstances, because the editorial
stand of a paper has a very limited impact in the face of
contrary news that cannot go unreported. The first week
after Pokhran the TOI took a stand critical of the tests.
But that was on the editorial page. The front page
continued to have news of leaders of all political parties
hailing the event, which automatically served to create
the feeling of a national consensus in favour of the
bomb. Responsible and professional journalism ended
up reinforcing the view rather than eroding it. As individuals, we may be able to provide space to the dissenting view, but the fact of the matter is that in India-Pakistan affairs the tone is always be set by the
official line. And a bad situation is made worse when
the media does not challenge the official line enough.
But all too often, when reporting an official claim
every rule of the craft that is usually applied for other news is jettisoned.
.An official claim is reported as news, instead of
attributing it as a claim. And this is very evident for
instance in reports that are filed on the basis of the
daily press briefings of the Ministry of External Affairs (MHA). Journalists who attend these and ask
difficult questions stick out like sore thumbs. Often
these briefings result in hilarious incidents that
ought to undermine the credibility of the official line,
but do not seem to. I can recount an instance of a
particularly absurd exchange at one such briefing.
The MEA plants questions at these conferences and
in this case it wanted to give a reaction to some new
statement by the EU on Gujarat. Since it felt that
making a suo mottu statement on it would be too
much of a slap in the face of the EU, the spokesperson had primed a journalist to ask her a question on
the ministry's reaction to the EU statement. Unfortunately for the ministry, this chap forgot the question. As the press conference proceeded and there
was no reaction from him, the spokesperson started
prodding him in rather an obvious way about some
question he had posed to her before the briefing began. This incident is an illustration of the attitude of
government officials, that journalists can be used
for planting stories. And this attitude would not
have come up in the first place if the press had not at
various points given the impression that it could be
used in this manner. Credibility of the media can be
restored only when journalists practice their craft as
they should. Otherwise, I agree that the responsible
media matters only at the margins, unlike irresponsible journalism, which seems to matter much more.     b
2002 June 15/6 HIMAL
The superficial oneness of
satellite television
SATELLITE TELEVISION rules our lives in a way
we could not have imagined just half a decade
ago. In the far corners of South Asia, populations
are being carried away by a societal tidal wave
whose power and the transitions it introduces
every passing day are not being studied and
understood. Societies are being washed by broad
cultural brush strokes, in a manner that is
reminiscent of what the Hindi film did to large
parts of South Asia over the second half of the
twentieth century. Only, this new intrusion is in
the living room, where it holds the youth in total
command. While not every aspect of this intervention is negative, there is surely a need to raise
a Subcontinent-wide alert so that the people's
interface with satellite television is better charted, and
not willy-nilly defined by the market. For that is how it
is at present.
To speak of the northern half of South Asia, there is
an incongruous mismatch - the reach of Hindi satellite
television does not consider political boundaries, and
the programmes are watched in Sindh, Gujarat, Bihar,
Nepal, Assam and Bangladesh alike.* And yet, the
programme content is aimed squarely at the Indian
middle-class market and audience. This is not only
because the powerful private satellite channels are
Indian-owned, and up-linked from India, but even more
importantly, because the programme content and slant
is dictated by advertising. This is where the mismatch
is most decisive. Because of the separation of markets
by national boundaries, the advertisers on Indian
satellite television cannot hope to sell their goods or
services in, say, Pakistan or Bangladesh. Hence, they
are interested in only India and Indians, which is what
defines the programmes they carry.
The cultural content of the programming on generic
Ringleaders of the North India satellite circus
Delhi's dishes: A truly trans-national enterprise
Hindi and Indian/English satellite television is
problematic because it is aimed at the English- and
Hindi-speaking consuming classes. Thus, there is
spatial as well as class dissonance. Everything, from
the context and use of the Hindi language in soaps, to
the nuances in the presentation of news, to the
inflections of news anchors, is dictated by this need to
serve up to the (relatively) upper echelons of a particular
nationality (Indian). It is in news and current affairs
that the dangers are most immediate, particularly when
the subject is geopolitical.
The challenge for satellite television news and
current affairs programming comes from its Subcontinent-wide reach. Ideally, it would need to address
Kolkata as much as Kathmandu but it is constrained
by its location, geographical and otherwise, in the one
city of the one country. It is an impossible task to try
and be relevant to as vast a region and market as the
Ganga plains in an evening news bulletin that is broadcast again the next morning. But that is the format of
much television programming today. Forget ever trying to reach the larger population that
lives beyond the Ganga plains, along the
Indus and Brahmaputra, up beyond the
Nepal Tarai and across the other national
boundaries; these things are not even considered.
Such is the pull of the Indian market
that even international channels have little
interest in considering themselves truly
'regional'. Thus, you will have BBC World
tailoring its programming to suit India's
urban upper classes - fashion, interior
design, automobile, and quiz programmes
beamed down exclusively for this category. The extent to which the Indian
market dictates content could be seen in
what the BBC channel thought fit to
broadcast in February and March 2002. At
HIMAL 15/6 June 2002
a time when India-Pakistan tension was at its peak and
the two armies were massed at the border (as they are
today) in hair-trigger readiness for war, the BBC was
busy showing a documentary serial titled 'Commando'. This saccharine glorification of
the Indian military's commando training
programme could be considered in as bad
taste as some of the downright insulting
language carried in anti-Pakistan spots
broadcast on, say, the B4U channel. Do the
producers - and the handful of media critics in India - even consider what reaction
is evoking across the Wagah-Atari border?
One could say positive things about satellite
television, of course For example, that it introduces a
shared sensibility and brings people together. International satellite channels provide introduction and
exposure to the English language, and programming
such as that of Discovery or National Geographic, which
would otherwise be out of reach. They also introduce
advanced videography techniques that educate the
South Asian public on cinematic grammar. Further, the
spread of Hindi, first through cinema and now
television, allows diverse linguistic popu-lations to talk
to each other across the table - have vou noticed that
most South Asians meeting around the table (except
the Maldivian and the Sri Lankan) can now understand
each other because thev all now have a smattering of
On balance, however, this spread of one-language
television across the face of northern South ,<\sia - and
the absence of alternatives - is unwelcome. What is forfeited in the loss in cultural diversity across the Indus-
Ganga-Brahmaputra plains is far more serious than that
which is gained by the superficial oneness that satellite
television does introduce. Moreover, at present, this
superficial oneness is mostly on behalf of the centralised
Indian State, and represents the upper and upper-
middle classes of the Hindi heartland.
There is only one way to overcome this upper and
upper-middle class Indian, Hindi-centric market
monopoly of the satellite airwaves - accelerate the process through which diversity is introduced and make it
possible for a hundred channels to bloom. Simply put,
there must be more voices, more stations, more languages, and more of what in India are called "regional
broadcasters". This diversity must be encouraged not
only so there may be more choices across national
boundaries but, as significantly, within countries. Even
Bangladesh's surface demographic homogeneity hides
so much diversity. What is required is a variety of channels addressing different mixes of audiences - rural-
urban, regional, by dialect, by economic category, and
so on.
The ushering of such diversity in stations, channels
and voices is of course easier said than done, and it will
not happen unless the market - particularly the advertising industry - finds such variety to be in the interest
of delivering profits. It is important to lobby for public
television for all of South Asia, and individually for the
various parts of South Asia, but that is a separate battle
to be taken up another time. For the time being,
because of the urgency, it is commercial
television that needs to be challenged. It has
to convert itself into a media for the people
of all South Asia rather than remain the
monopoly of the market leaders of India.
Bringing about such change will require
real activism from those who feel the need
to shift satellite media from its present-day axis. These
would be activists who understand the dangers of the
'superficial oneness' in identity and spirit that satellite
television is forcing on all of us, and who want to change
the givens. These would be activists could work to make
sure that the diversity of satellite channels tries to reflect the diversity of peoples on terra firma. South Asia
and South Asians deserve no less, but there are as yet
too few people interested in forcing such change.
—Chhetria Patrakar
* Note: Indian satellite television has been officially banned in
Pakistan for the moment, though large parts still receive it.
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2002 June 15/6 HIMAL
ThesokB6fs"igl!^aiiflSttl*i IpQteaadi since the Nepali Emergency
was put in place six monthsi^ips dejtvered an unacceptable
volant c^W^^
matetamvfa$mer fee Ro^l^^lese Army as it goes about
irpig to pw0 the'iN^U:N9te#$c^ta^ Prachanda's followers.
HAS ISS&&I *4*. *T9MMtm
. 7'b     .    .   he hills of Nepal are alive with the sound of
'* ' -\..'     - gunfire. While the last few years have seenmainly
;;•: '"''..'ft."      the Maoists on the offensive, since end-November
2001, with the deployment of the Royal Nepalese Army,
:J;-ft::;;ft!Jierefthas been heavy combat between government
:-;lfr;b ■. -fyiaek "and the insurgents. With the politicians all having
fled the field to cower in district headquarters, roadhead
towns or Kathmandu Valley, it is the peasantry that is
b o.b.. ca^^tt in the crossfire and left vulnerable between ruth-
.■';,:; • ■'ieSS:""irss«rgents and soldiers just learning to fight. So
7:7-.i afar* Ijhe level of abuse - summary killings, disappear-
77':i .i'jask^r'fdcture - is only a matter of conjecture because
!;f;ft-:ftft^;-bite'i5 monitoring events on the ground. Civil society as a whole, and journalists and human rights
fljrdttps in particular, have turned timid after the State
M|8)»efgpncy was imposed by Prime Minister Sher Ba-
liftdur' Deuba on 26 November 2001. There is no one
looking out for the people when the army is Out,
whereas, earlier, the was quite a lot of watchdogging
cv -  ne police.
'" :i.        The villagers of Nepal find themselves trapped
:;!:."ir-ite^lween the demands of the insurgents and the soldiers'
HIMAL 15/6 June 2002
 imputations. A recent story published in a Nepali language fortnightly by the social critic Khagendra Sangraula sums up the situation - he tells of a man who
hides from the Maoists, only to be forcibly conscripted.
He escapes the Maoists' ranks, and returns home to be
confronted and killed by the soldiers. While fictional,
Sangraula's story was a composite based on information from the Maoist heartland district of Salyan, and
captures the terrifying reality of a rural populace caught
in a jam.
Simple peasantry living in subsistence conditions
is being asked to provide food, shelter and recruits to
an unflinchingly hard-headed insurgency that is feeling
the pressure of stepped-up military activity. Then there
are the soldiers, fighting for the first time in quintessential guerilla territory, with poor equipment and
inadequate logistical support, and little in the form of
intelligence to distinguish between innocents and
Nepal entered this blind alley in 1996, when far-left
politicians who felt excluded in parliamentary
democracy broke with the system and initiated an
uprising. Without doubt, it was the civilitin police that
gave the initial momentum to the Maoist war when,
following violent activities by the Maoists just beginning their underground activities, disgruntled
policemen sent on "kalapani duty" to the western
districts of Jajarkot, Rolpa, Rukum and Salyan went on
a rampage. The state terror in these districts provoked a
reaction in which were born the hardcore Maoists who
today form the backbone of the 'revolution'.
The cauldron of disaffection among youth all over
the country that was lit in the west by dark Maoist
romanticism soon set the whole country aflame. Visions
of storming Kathmandu and wresting state power offer
momentum to the insurgent rank and file, who
unleashed their own brand of terror against the police
as well as district and village-level politicians opposed
to them. The violence meted out by the followers of
Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal (aka Comrade Prachanda) in these far corners soon outstripped that of
the policemen, who have been on the run since late
1999 and so fearful of the retaliatory rebels that they
have dared not exhibit any bluster. The Maoists'
molestation extended to the full gamut of the possible,
from blackmail, extortion and looting to summary
executions, torture, maiming and use of civilians and
child soldiers in combat. Their original promise of social
reform lies in tatters as hooliganism has overcome the
movement, with commissars delivering gruesome
punishment to local politicians, teachers and others.
This is Pol Pot terrain in the making, and no amount of
revolutionary gloss and manipulative rhetoric can hide
the reality of the socio-economic dead-end that would
be the Nepali Maobaadi's gift to the nation.
No doubt, the Maobaadi of Nepal engage in anti-
humanitarian excess, but they are renegades, irresponsible and unaccountable. The government and its
institutions must have a higher purpose and deeper
responsibility. Nepal is still a functioning democracy.
The security forces, answerable to the civilian government, must respect the rule of law and due process even
in the most extreme of circumstances. But since the
imposition of the state of emergency, the civilian
government of Prime Minister Deuba has abdicated all
responsibility for bringing the Maoists to heel to the
security forces, and apparently does not hold them to a
high standard.
Because so little investigation or documentation is
being carried out, there is no comprehensive pool of
data to confirm the level of human rights abuse in the
hills and valleys. There is, however, enough evidence
to indicate that the situation is dire. The people of the
Maoist-affected hills, historically backward and
deprived of the socio-economic advances that the rest
of the country enjoyed in the last half-century of
development, are those who have found themselves in
the crosshairs. As perhaps happened more than two
centuries ago during the expansionary^ wars of the
House of Gorkha, subsistence farmers are burdened not
only economically, but also politically, having to
support one side or the other and fend off accusations
of being quislings and collaborators.
Disappeared watchdogs
There is little protection for the people, because the nongovernmental groups professing to be engaged in
human rights work went soft during the decade
following the restoration of democracy. After having
been gifted democracy in 1990 by King Birendra with
minima] activism, the human rights community reaped
a bonanza of foreign aid meant to support pluralism in
Nepal. However, the donors and recipients alike tuned
off civil and political rights and preferred to invest their
time and resources on 'human rights' defined indistinctly. The attention shifted to child rights, gender
rights, dalit rights, indigenous people's rights,
environmental rights, refugee rights, water rights... In
this flood, the right to life and liberty was relegated to
the background, and the attention of the NCOs got
diverted to such an extent that now when the people
are bleeding there are very few to take up their cause.
The few who remained focussed on "human rights"
specifically defined, who might have mediated between
the people, the Maoists and the state, were sullied by
their ideological bearings, which made them look less
than disinterested. Many from the human rights
community had compromised themselves earlier before
the public's eye by criticising everything the government did and clearly regarding the Maoists as true
'revolutionaries'. Given their anti-government stance,
these activists should have really been protesting once
it became clear soon after the emergency was imposed
that the human rights situation was deteriorating. But
they kept silent, and remain so today. Additionally,
while it had been clear for some years that the reluctant
2002 June 15/6 HIMAL
 army brass would ultimately be forced to enter the fray
in a fight that was originally between the Maoists and
the police, the human rights community did not do
enough to prepare themselves and the country for the
challenges that would crop up once soldiers were
deployed. Says Prakash Jwala, journalist and Salyan's
member of parliament till its dissolution in 22 May 2002,
"The activists should have shown some courage, but
they did not even put up a weak front.''
Together with the human rights activists, the press
too has been found wanting in its watchdog role. .At the
time the emergency was announced, much of the print
media had already been compromised. It had for long
pandered to the Maoist insurgency by providing
breathless coverage of its activities in the field. This
was accompanied by an unwillingness to challenge
the insurgents' deeper agenda of destroying the state
structure. This attitude did an about-
turn when with the clamping down
of the state of emergency, publishers
and editors vowed to support the
government's fight against the rebels.
Overnight, 'Maoists' turned into
'terrorists' in the news columns, only
because the government now defined
them as such. Thus compromised at
their topmost levels, most of the
newspapers were also unwilling to
test the limits of the government's
restrictions on press freedom.
Apart from media and human
rights organisations, other institutions of society too are not up to the
task of providing an overview. The
courts have been made irrelevant by
the state of emergency because the
rights contained in the constitution
(to freedom of expression, assembly
and movement, information, property, privacy and
constitutional remedy and against preventive detention)
have all been suspended. The civilian bureaucracy at
the centre and in the districts in any case exercises little
control over the security forces. Parliament was
suspended by Prime Minister Deuba in late May 2002 -
the fallout of the ruling Congress Party wrangle related
to the third extension of the state of emergency, reflecting
an intra-party power struggle between Deuba and the
party president, former prime minister, Girija Prasad
Koirala. As a result the institution of last recourse in a
democracy has itself disappeared.
"We have not been able to visit the major areas of
confrontation between the military and the Maobaadi,"
says Bhola Mahat, who runs the human rights group
INSF.C's field office in Nepalganj. "Special efforts are
needed in Kathmandu to persuade the army to allow
human rights groups to go in." But groups in the capital
are not losing much sleep over the issue - the most one
particular group did was to seek support from a foreign
Deuba and his shadow.
embassy to fly into the affected areas in a helicopter,
but even this was not entertained.
The security forces
The security forces of Nepal today are made up of the
Nepal Police, the newly raised Armed Police Force (APF)
and the Royal Nepalese Army (RMA). The civilian police have been on the run for at least three years, during
which time they have served as sacrificial offerings to
the Maoists as 'representatives' of the national establishment. The police force is today a weak player; most
of its personnel have been withdrawn from posts in
rural areas and are now concentrated in district headquarters and the larger towns. There is no doubt that
the policemen will seek extreme revenge once the Maoists are on the run - and that in itself will be a matter of
grave human rights concern when the time comes -but
for the moment there is little fear of
excess from this unmotivated force,
the only objective of its members being
to live to see another day.
The Armed Police Force was
raised in January 2001 as a paramilitary unit, by a government that
realised that the non-combatant Nepal
Police were not up to the task of
fighting insurgency. While the APF
will ultimately have the numbers,
weaponry and training to credibly
counter the guerrillas, it is today an
incipient force that wil! take a few
more years to mature.
It was the debacle at Dang in
November 2001, when the Maoists
broke away from talks with Deuba's
government and attacked and decimated an army garrison, that finally
forced the generals to enter the fray, lt
is the Royal Nepalese Army, with its logistics, automatic
weapons, heavy ordnance and helicopter support that
is now battling the rebels. However, the military did
not do so before it got the 'cover' of emergency which
would allow the soldiers to fight without shackles and
The soldiers, engaging for the first time in active
warfare, find themselves pitted against battle-hardened
Maoists who use all means fair and foul. While the
RNA is a force of 50,000, various duties and obligations
including guarding government installations, national parks, the royal palace, as well as serving in United
Nations peacekeeping operations, leave a force of perhaps no more than 20,000 to directly engage with the
rebels. Even though the primary focus of the Nepali
military's training over the years has been to fight a
reactive guerrilla war against an invading army (which
could presumably be either Indian or Chinese), against
the Maoists it has thus far been a largely sedentary force
that only responds to attacks.
HIMAL 15/6 June 2002
 The army is today spread out thinly over an
impossibly large and complex mountainscape that is
"designed for guerilla action", according to one
insurgency expert. Low budgetary allocation from
successive civilian governments over the last decade
has prevented the army from upgrading its equipment
and conducting tiaining exercises. In addition, the army
began its battle with the Maobaadi with practically no
intelligence, having done nothing to build up its own
information sources during six years of the 'people's
war'. This is a weakness the soldiers have tried to
overcome by extracting information from captured
The army has kept a deliberate distance from the
politicians during the 12 years of democracy, and the
royal palace has helped maintain this separation for
its own purposes. This lack of a relationship is all the
more critical today, when the soldiers are in charge of
the Maoist war and moves through the populated
hinterland. The government has abdicated its own
responsibilities of control and oversight, and there is
no institution or individual holding the soldiers to any
standard. Respect for humanitarian principles during
the fighting is something that is now completely
dependent on the uprightness and professionalism of
individual officers in the field. A senior officer says that
army training at Kharipati and Tokha training centres
includes Red Cross courses on humanitarian principles
and law, but he also admits that the entire six months
of engagement with the Maoists has not seen one
instance of a soldier facing reprimand for excesses
committed. For being the commander-in-chief of a force
that is out among the people, Gen Prajwalla Shumshere
Rana has not made a single statement that indicates
sensitivity towards the human rights of the people -
his only public pronouncement consisted of a harangue
against the political parties.
Prime Minister Deuba, as the head of government
as well as defence minister, has not shown great enthusiasm to guide the generals. While he is vehement in
expressing outrage at the "betrayal" of his effort by Maoists since he had gone the extra mile to talk to them
upon taking up office last year, he seems unconcerned
about the niceties of a respect for human rights in the
larger battle that he has to fight as head of government.
As someone who spent nine years in prison fighting
the Panchayat system and who has himself suffered
torture, it can be presumed that the prime minister has
no stomach for state terror. However, he has done little
to hold the military to humanitarian norms. It was only
in an interview to The Kathmandu Post on 29 May 2002
that he responded to allegations by Amnesty International saying, "If we find that there are deliberate
human rights abuses by the security personnel, we will
take action against them after proper investigation."
Given the tussle he is currently engaged in with Koirala,
it is not possible to read Deuba's statement as anything
more than an expression of intent by an otherwise
King Gyanendra, Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the RNA.
preoccupied prime minister.
The lack of sensitivity of Deuba's government to the
finer issues of human rights was laid bare when a few
weeks ago it placed a price on the heads of Maoist leaders caught "dead or alive" - NRs 50 lakhs for the top
leaders, NRs 25 lakhs for the field commanders, and so
on down the line. The fact that apart from a few murmurs of protest, the national human rights community
did not vocally protest against such an outrageous pronouncement - in a country where the death penalty is
actually illegal - shows both an exasperation with the
Maoists as well as an ambiva-lence towards principles
of civilised governance. One minister, in fact, announced that people seeking the bounty could bring
the head of a Maoist in a bag, and take the cash back in
the same bag.
Levels of sympathy
When the ENA was fielded a little over six months ago,
the government did three things simultaneously - it
declared a nation-wide state of emergency, promulgated a Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Control and
Punishment) Ordinance, which granted wide powers
to arrest people involved in 'terrorist' activities, and
declared the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) a "terrorist organisation". All these were what the army wanted in order to be able to engage the Maoists without the
shackles of accountability.
During the first three months of the emergency, the
average death toll of insurgents killed, as announced
2002 June 15/6 HIMAL
 by the government, averaged about five a day. After the
state of emergency was renewed for the first time in
February, the deaths of alleged insurgents in defence
ministry press releases have averaged 10 a day. The
casualties during the first six months of the Emergency
culled from official sources totals 2850 'Maoists', 335
policemen, 148 soldiers and PM 'civilians'. Who really
are the 'Maoist' dead? How much terror in the hills do
these deaths represent? (n short, what is the level of
human security for the villagers in the hills of Nepal at
a time when the army is out patrolling the terraces even
while the Maoist have free range of large parts?
In the beginning, the soldiers were given the benefit
of doubt from most quarters, and no one questioned the
high calibre of the officer corps, whose presence it was
believed would prevent excesses to a large extent. But,
as the army's engagement intensified and the soldiers
began to suffer casualties in attacks by hardened Maoist
cadre, the care with which civilians were treated seems
to have decreased. Not-for-attribution discussions with
army officers in the field, interviews with district and
national-level politicians, talking with the odd human
rights activist who has actually visited vulnerable areas,
and with mofussil journalists close to the action, present
a bleak scenario as far as the situation of the hapless
peasantry is concerned. The picture that emerges is one
of grievous and regular excesses by an armv forced to
battle a harsh insurgency
In the course of reporting this article, human rights
activists, international monitors, as well as journalists
and politicians were asked a question: from all the information that they have access to, would they say
that the human rights situation in Nepal now is: a)
very bad, b) not as bad as might have been expected,
ancl c) can't say. All answered 'a'.
"there are many grave instances of misbehaviour
towards the people by the security forces," says
Mandira Sharma, a member of the group Advocacy
Forum, who has visited the Maoist heartland in western
Nepal since the emergency was put in place and the
army activated. "There is a state of terror in the villages,
but the news is not coming out. There is little pressure
on the army to improve its record. Hundreds have been
held incommunicado, not receiving even the right to
justice which is available under the emergency."
Such observations extend beyond the human rights
community. Sangeeta Lama, a journalist who has been
monitoring media reports during the emergency period for the Khoj Patrakarita Kendra (Centre for Investigative Journalism) in Lalitpur, says that even with the
subdued coverage, there is substantial evidence to prove
that large-scale human rights abuse is the order of the
day. "Often the stories are kept away from the front
page, and the papers try to play it down so that the
authorities do not crack down on them, but there is
credible reportage pointing to lack of accountability
among the soldiers."
Sushil Pyakurel is one of the four members of the
National Human Rights Commission set up by the
government in June 2001, an institution with little
manpower and resources but which is nevertheless
evolving as a repository for complaints against authority. Circumspect because of his public position, Pyakurel
says, "Ihe situation is not good, and we in the human
rights community have not been adequately on guard
to prevent abuse."
"I fear there is a high level of abuse", says a diplomat who monitors human rights for a Western embassy in Kathmandu. "There is no rule of law, and civil
society has ceased to function. You arrest reasonably
prominent people in Kathmandu and the rest shut up.
In the villages, the Chief District Officer just has to tell
people to shut up and they will. Under such circumstances, the conditions are ripe for maltreatment by the
security forces."
Referring to the Royal Nepalese Army, the same
diplomat says, "The KNA was originally clean because
it had never seen action. But once the rot sets in and
mistakes begin to get covered up, the RNA will lose its
lustre. It must learn to discipline itself in the new
conditions. Unsystematic mistakes should never be
allowed to become systemic."
Meanwhile, one retired army officer is convinced
that fielding the RNA has been a "set-up", with the
political parties sending in the soldiers to do the dirty-
job of "finishing off" the Maoists. Says the retired officer,
"The RNA had better be careful, for the political parties
will try to come out of it unblemished, putting all the
blame on the soldiers. It is a trap, and the only way to
respond is by ferreting out the real Maoists, otherwise
it will lose the respect of the people in the long run."
Speaking of sympathy, there is a lot of it tor the
solciiers among the powerful diplomatic community in
Kathmandu, particularly among those who have been
helicoptered out and have seen the conditions in the
field. Says one European diplomat, "Here is a country
that is Serbia times twenty, readymade for insurgencies.
And you ask the soldiers to fight on the cheap with
inadequate and low-grade equipment, whether in
gunnery, clothing, diet, communications or transport.
Under such circumstance, of course the possibility of
gross abuse increases. A well-equipped army fights
more humanely."
Adds the diplomat, "The Maoist strategy of attacking
all over the country has forced the RNA to spread itself
thin. The army cannot then spare officers everywhere,
which means that trigger-happy foot-soldiers are
patrolling the trails on their own, and they are more
liable to take drastic action."
Hari Roka, a leftist activist from Khotang district in
the east of Nepal, says that while there is no doubt about
the many problems confronting the soldiers, the
impunity with which they are conducting their
operations is unconscionable. "Many who are dying
cannot be considered Maoists even in the wildest
imagination. They are political activists of the main-
HIMAL 15/6 June 2002
 stream parties," says Roka, adding, "But no
one is protesting because the activists have
all abandoned their saahas (courage)."
In December 2001, a delegation from the
main opposition group Communist Party of
Nepal (L'ML) met with Prime Minister Deuba
to alert him that the security forces had
misused their emergency powers in Dang,
Dolakha, Ramechap, Makwanpur, Rolpa,
Sankhuwasabha and Solukhumbu districts.
People visiting health posts for treatment,
returning from tlie market, or simply participating in community festivals or pujas, had
been targeted by the security forces, they said.
Unfortunately, the expressions of concern -
either by political parties, activists, community groups, or the diplomatic and aid
community - have been sporadic and reflect
the ambivalence they all share towards a
group as renegade as the Maoists are increasingly proving to be.
Maoist rebels amidst the public in Jajarkot distnct. western Nepal,
Ways of the soldier
The level of violence and lack of accountability exhibited
by the army is a direct reaction to the savagery of the
rebels when they have attacked police posts and army
garrisons. The KNA and the police both have an unstated take-no-prisoners policy as far as 'hardcore
Maobaadi' are concerned. The officers in both forces
are dismissive of the principles of war that demand the
humane treatment of combatants, maintaining that this
is a response to "Nepali reality", excused by the
brutality exhibited by the Maoists when they have
attacked police and army posts. Red Cross instructors
who have conducted courses with the soldiers say they
find it a challenge to explain why the RNA cannot behave
like the Maobaadi.
Using the letters of the Nepali alphabet, a police
inspector serving in Dang Valley, the staging ground
in west Nepal for the security forces, says, "We just
don't keep those who are in the 'ka' and 'klw' senior
categories, those Maoists in the central or regional command. We just kill them. But we tend to be more lenient
towards those at the district level and even more so at
the village or ward levels. But do not expect us to show
mercy towards the hardcore when we know thev are
out to kill us."
The fact that the daily ministry of defence news bulletins refer only to dead insurgents, and rarely to the
"captured wounded", is also proof enough that few
prisoners are being taken. These killings often take place
during staged encounters, and there are many incidents
reported where individuals rounded up from a village
one day are said to have been killed in an 'encounter'
in another village the next day. According to one
calculation, in the half-year of the emergency the government has announced the capture of only 60 wounded Maobaadi during action by security forces and the
death of nearly 3000 'Maoists'.
"The soldier is taught to engage the enemy differently, in a way that is bound to raise the number of
innocent deaths", says a police officer in Dang. "As
policemen, we have to live in the community and so we
have to be selective even when we shoot to kill. The
soldiers, on the other hand, will shoot first and ask
questions later." Whereas a policeman may flee or
surrender - particularly under today's conditions -
soldiers socialised into a buddy system are more likely
to become aggressive when one of their own gets killed
or wounded. Trained to fight the invader, says the police
officer, the soldiers shoot across the terrain with their
automatic weaponry, whereas Nepal's policemen
cannot do as much harm even if they want to, with
their World War 11 vintage single-fire rifles.
An officer who has seen action in the western
districts disagrees with this assessment: "In our case,
the major or colonel himself leads his men, whereas
among the police you rarely find an inspector in
vulnerable posts in the field. The higher motivation of
the officers, from the lieutenant level up and their
broader worldview means that they exhibit more
responsibility in the field. Tlie automatic weaponry
makes the soldiers more confident, so there is less
possibility of mistaken deaths."
The killing of innocents
While the effectiveness of the army against the Maoists
is already being demonstrated, the military man's
assurances are not borne out at all times in the field
where innocent villagers and Maoist 'supporters' are
being killed in large numbers together with the militants. The critical problem is the difficulty of distinguishing between 'villager', 'left supporter', 'Maoist
supporter' and 'Maoist'.
All the army officers interviewed suggested that the
reporter not be taken in by the rhetoric of Nepal's left
2002 June 15/6 HIMAL
politicians in particular, and that, barring a few exceptions, those killed by the soldiers are all Maoists. Said
one soldier based in Surkhet Valley in the west, echoing the sarcasm of his fellow officers, "They are all innocent villagers or UML supporters by day and Maoists
by night." The fact is, it is difficult to distinguish between villagers who may have by force of circum-stanc-
es become Maoist supporters, and who are actual Maoist cadre. There is also an understanding among many
that Maoist supporters are fair game, even if they do
not carry a gun, for the sustenance they provide the
Many villagers who are being killed for being
Maoists are peasants with no ideological grounding to
be class warriors, roped in as supporters through
coercion and blackmail. Others have turned to the
Maoists only because the state - in the form of the
administration and police - has been absent for so long
from their villages that they have had no choice but to
turn to the Maoists. Many village headmen have been
unilaterally declared heads of the "people's government" at the village level by the rebel leadership in the
districts. These are all considered Maoists bv default,
individuals who do not by any stretch of the imagination deserve to die at the hands of the security forces.
Says Hari Roka, the left activist, "Are we to call all
villagers 'Maoists' because they give support to the
rebels in the total absence of the government in their
areas for years on end? Just because a poor villager
responds .to a plain-clothes soldier's Ial salaam' greeting with a Tat salaam' of his own, does that justify
taking him in for torture and abuse?" Howsoever
difficult it may be, the army is duty-bound to make the
distinction between who is a fighter and who is not,
says Roka.
While the loose understanding of 'Maobaadi'
leading to death and abuse is a matter of major concern,
what also must get attention are the numerous incidents
where innocent villagers have been killed by security
forces in the pursuit of the real Maobaadi fighters. These
instances (perpetrated by the army as well as the police)
add up to a regular, if not as yet systematic, killing of
innocents, and there are just too many of these instances
for them to be brushed aside as exceptional incidents.
• 30 November 2001 In Khumel village of Rolpa, a
group of peasants was doing communal puja to the
deity Baraha when some Maoists nearby shot at an
army helicopter flying overhead. The army helicopter, one of those which have attached machine
guns to the fuselage, swooped down and opened
fire on the villagers, killing six, including a child
and two elderly,
• 24 February 2002 At Kotwara village in Kalikot,
more than 34 labourers working at an airport site
were pulled out of their dwellings and shot for being
Maoists. Many of them were from the Tamang and
Chepang communities, brought west from Dhading
district by a labour contractor.
• 27 April 2002 At Chieuri Danda village in Khotang
district, a group of four Maoists were fleeing an army
platoon. Two slid into the jungle, while two joined a
group of Rais fishing on the Sapsu River. Everyone
put their hands up in the air, but the guns opened
on all of them. All six present died, including the
two Maoists. Among the dead were the supporters
of the Nepali Congress and the UML. "What is the
sense of this anti-Maoist action when only one in
four killed are Maoists?" asks a politician from
Khotang. "Why do we have to be part of a country
called Nepal, if this is the kind of atrocity we have to
• 1 May 2002 In an incident reported both by Scott
Baldauf of The Christian Science Monitor and Gunaraj
Luitel of Kantipur daily, a group of soldiers and
policemen arrived at the village of Thulo Sirubari,
Sindhupalchowk district dressed as Maoists. They
called out with the Maoist greeting of "Lai salaam,
comrade" and took away those who responded,
regarding them as Maoists. Altogether six men were
shot in the woods nearby while trying to escape,
said the security forces. Villagers at Thulo Sirubari
say that those killed were just farmers, shopkeepers,
and family men with no interest in either the Maoists
or the government
These examples, say activists, reflect the general
picture of large parts of the hilts where confusion, terror
and heartbreak have become the order of the day. Many
of those killed as Maoists may be non-combatant Maoist
sympathisers, but an equally large number may not even
be that. "How is it that 15 people get killed in an incident and only three guns are recovered and a few socket bombs?" asks one activist, referring to the homemade
grenades used by the Maoists.
Besides deaths during patrols or in 'encounters' that
are real or faked, the majority of the deaths occur during
offensives by Maoists on police and army positions.
While it cannot be said with certainty that the Maoists
make blatant use of a "human shield" of innocent
peasants from nearby villages during their assaults,
there is no doubt that they do field untrained supporters
in the front line (often plied with drinks and drugs, say
army sources), who are followed up by the militia and
trained fighters. In such instances, during the heat of
battle, it would be impossible for the soldiers to
distinguish between the insurgent and the innocent-
There are, certainly, examples of 'close encounters'
where the alertness of army officers has kept innocents
from falling to the bullet. At the Kulekhani reservoir
southwest of Kathmandu Valley a few months ago,
some Tamangs coming down a hillside at night with
flaming torches in their hands after a puja were nearly
mowed down, but for the presence of mind of the commanding officer. Last month, in Rolpa, soldiers were
keen to use long-range guns against a suspicious look-
HIMAL 15/6 June 2002
 ing group coming up the trail. The army officer asked
his soldiers to hold their fire against what turned out to
be a group of villagers walking single file. While in
themselves heartening, these two examples set out a
scenario showing how easy it is for innocents to get
killed in the trails and terraces of Nepal.
Nepal Television footage of the 'Maoist dead' shows
many in non-combat gear, indicating that at least some
of these may have been mere 'supporters' and not Maoist
fighters. But in the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil atmosphere
of Kathmandu Valley, these deaths - if indeed innocent
to whatever degree - are seen as acceptable collateral
damage in the fight to finish off the Maobaadi and get
the country back 'on track'. While government would
like the people to believe the figures announced daily
by the radio and television as to the Maoists killed in
action, there is increasing scepticism about these reports
in the urban centres of Nepal, and particularly so in the
affected hill regions.
According to Mandira Sharma, in the hills of Dang
where the Maoist 'jana sarkar' continue to function, there
is no credibility attached to the numbers. "They do
believe the number of people announced as dead, but
not that they are Maoists", says Sharma. "So many have
been killed in those villages, who everyone knows to be
non-Maoists, and yet the radio announce them as
The military's attitude towards the Maoists is clear
in the way that the bodies of the dead Maoist are
handled. In a country where there remains a sensitivity
and respect towards the bodies of the departed, the
footage on nightly Nepal Television news - said to be
edited and packaged by a military officer on duty at the
station - has been grievously insensitive. Bodies of dead
rebels in shallow graves, hastily buried by their
comrades after battles, are dug out with picks, turned
around by boots, slung on poles, dumped like sacks of
salt, and left to putrefy in the open until, often, villagers
themselves rally to bury them.
Says an officer at the army headquarters, "The army
is able to see the Maoists for what they are, whereas the
politicians' opportunism keeps them from being
honest." This officer says that the motivation level
among the soldiers is high: "We used to be a ceremonial army, but quickly we have realised that we do have
fighting ability. There is a sense of purpose and achievement among the rank and file. They realise the Maoists
are pests out to destroy our nation, and that they are
not wanted."
There are those who say that the behaviour of the
army in the villages is better than that of the policemen
before they fled the Maoist onslaught. Even so, the
treatment at the ground level seems to depend on the
rank and character of the commander in the field. In
general, the more senior the officer, it is said, the higher
the possibility that he will be cool-headed and hold fire
Army's battle plan, Achham district, west Nepal.
during tense moments. There are instances of capable
officers building bridges to community leaders, being
sensitive to local concerns, and sowing enough
confidence among locals to be able to recruit them in
the fight against the Maoist. "But that is the exception",
says a reporter from the far west who has trekked extensively in the western hills meeting Maoists and ar-
mymen alike. "The armyr officers tend to be haughty
and keep a distance from the people, so the villagers
will never trust them nor share with them the information they have in their possession which would
finish off the Maoists in two months."
The army, while it might have its own internal mechanisms to check abuse, has not opened up to human
rights defenders. Neither has it indicated - more than
six months into its deployment as the all-in-all force in
the Nepali hinterland - an understanding for the human rights concerns that are rapidly building up among
Nepal's national- and district-level politicians. Human
rights activists based in west Nepal, where the army is
headquartered for the all-important western front at
Nepalganj town, say that they have not once been approached by the military. Once, the army did provide a
helicopter tour of the western .^nd central hills to American and British journalists, and later to a group of parliamentarians (those that oversee the army's budget and
expenditure), but Nepali journalists and human rights
2002 June 15/6 HIMAL
monitors remain shut out.
So, who will the army listen to? In a country as beholden to foreign aid as Nepal is, it is the donors who
would seem to have significant clout - in peacetime
and wartime. An European Union statement, representing the view of all parties did caution the government
on the excesses. The Americans are said to have been
vehement, that human rights abuse is a "no-no" even
as the government goes about battling rebels. The United
States does hold inordinate clout over the army because
of the moral support it has provided the men in fatigues
in their war against the insurgents, and, more so, because the RNA would be the primary beneficiary of the
USD 20 million that the Bush administration has requested from Congress for a beleaguered Nepali government fighting the Maoists. And yet, the concern of
the embassies and the donor institutions does not seem
to be enough to move the government or the military
top brass to take a second look at their actions and reevaluate their strategy for bringing the Maoists to heel.
In the latest instance, on 29 May 2002, the US Senate
Appropriations Committee, while expressing support
for the request by the Bush Administration, said that it
"remains concerned about human rights violations by
the Nepalese Armed Forces".
If nothing else works in sensitising the 'Nepalese
Armed Forces' from reworking their present strategy of
containing the Maoists and the collateral damage that
it is exacting, in a condition where a prime minister is
busy with power politics and all governmental and nongovernmental institutions are supine and silent, the
only recourse may be the royal palace. While playing
scrupulously by the book and remaining above politics
as demanded by his role as constitutional monarch,
King Gyanendra could perhaps play a part, given the
importance the monarchy holds in the RNA's scheme of
things. Having just emerged from his one-year ritual
mourning following the massacre of 1 June 2001, the
monarch may consider having a talk with the generals
about the safety and security of the Nepali people. Given the incongruous situation in Kathmandu, where
even the human rights community is sitting back and
waiting for the Western governments to speak up for
human rights in Nepal, the new king may feel that this
is an area where his role may come into use on behalf of
the people.
The killings during the Kilo Seirra II police operations
in the western hills in 1998-99 were "modest"
compared to what is happening all over the country
today, says one human rights monitor. "The nationwide activation of the security forces has multiplied
manifold the chances of non-combatants and innocents
being killed", he says. During Kilo Seirra II, police units
from Kathmandu moved into Rolpa, Rukum, Jajarkot
and Salyan districts, and the instances of disappearances, summary killings and torture increased
dramatically. There is little doubt that it was that period
of state-sponsored terror that gave fillip to the Maoist
movement. Thereafter, it was the Maoists who converted
the whole country into a terrain of mass death. Today,
with the Nepali army being allowed to conduct its
activities without challenge, it can be presumed that
unless there is indeed more circumspection, the very
nature of Nepali society and culture will change as the
seeds of deep-set and long-term animosities and hatreds
are sown.
Ingrid Massage, who has followed the happenings
in Nepal for Amnesty International for the last decade,
is extremely worried about the long-term implications
of the killing of innocent villagers. "It may not ever be
possible to make a full assessment of how many
unlawful killings are happening in breach of international humanitarian or human rights standards. In
most investigations of killings, it is the body that will
provide most of the clues, but in Nepal there are no
bodies or post-mortems." The absence of investigation,
according to Massage, means that Nepal will find it
that much harder to return to normalcy when the
Maoist problem has been 'solved'. "This also means
that at least parts of possible future truth processes,
which have been so important in other countries to
reinstate peace after a conflict is over, will not perhaps
be very meaningful here. The truth about these killings
will never be able to be told, which in itself could be an
obstacle to peace and a contributor to further violence."
The fact is, Nepal never was a human rights Shangri
La to begin with, as far as authoritarianism is concerned.
Historically, the public-at-large was once removed from
centre so that it did not suffer directly from state terror -
but they were exploited instead by the administrative
satraps appointed by Kathmandu's rulers. The
Panchayat era, all too easily forgotten, was a 30-year-
penod where the population was cowed down by the
weight of the autocracy. After the People's Movement
of 1990, a kind of a 'truth commission' know as the
Mallik Commission was established to study human
rights abuses during the end-run of the Panchayat era.
The commission submitted a report and recommended
action against police, administrators and politicians
who had abused power.
Implementation of the Mallik Commission's report
would have cleansed the polity, but instead it was
buried, mainly because Kathmandu's establishment is
too small with familial and other inter-connections. A
clear message was thus sent out, that human rights
violations could and would be condoned under the new
democratic dispensation. This pattern of unaccount-
ability continues, and the primary reason the RNA was
unwilling to come out and fight in the absence of a state
of emergency was also that it did not want its hands
tied by any future accounting process. It is a measure of
the failure of the political class that, while the Maoist
problem was still on the rise, it was unwilling to use all
its efforts - in particular, overcoming the reluctance of
HIMAL 15/6 June 2002
 a king who held the key - to have the army do the
civilian government's bidding without the cover of an
It is against such a background of historical
unconcern for human rights that the Maoist war visited
unexpected violence and abuse on the people. This
conflict has by now had myriad effects on the countryside. Religious festivals and age-old rituals that
provided identity to the hill people have been disrupted,
crops have gone unplanted, and increasingly large
numbers of young men slip across the southern border
into India to escape Maoist kidnappings and/or army
action. As despair sets in, progress in education and
public health has been forgotten, and the overall socioeconomic development of society has been set back by
years. However, despite these broader tragedies, the
most critical issue remains that of life and liberty of the
"There is a question that keeps nagging me", says
Sushil Pyakurel of the NHRC. "What wall the world say
when it finds out of what is happening in Nepal? We
will be shamed."
Ambivalent kingdom
Outside observers tend to be nonplussed at the lack of
righteous anger among the Nepal' educated classes
against clear evidence of excesses committed by the
security forces. For all their bellicosity when the going
was easy, civil society, human rights-^aZ/a/zs and
politicians have not made the kind of remonstrati
one would have expected of them. While this may
partly have to do with the lack of saahas, there is another reason for this ambivalence.
To begin with, one does not hear enough reaction
against human rights abuse by the army because it is
still a relatively new phenomenon, and under the
conditions of the state of emergency credible information is hard to come by. But, more importantly, the ambivalence has its roots in the fact that the state committing the abuse itself is threatened by collapse because
of the Maoists. Unlike dictatorships that can easily be
upbraided for threatening the life and liberty of the people, here is a democratic state, still in its incipient stage,
forced to battle a extreme-left insurgency for its very
survival - in the process of which it is trampling on
human rights. Many of those who understand the issues seem to have decided to support the government
whole-heartedly until the Maoist problem is tackled,
even if some innocents get caught in the middle - as the
lesser of two evils.
"What is wrong with that argument is that democracy cannot be saved by shutting yourself off to
villagers who are dying", says Prakash Jwala. "The
government as well as the army have a duty to take
care, and they cannot get away by pointing to the record
of the rebels." Indeed, no one doubts that large numbers
of innocent villagers and 'Maoists by default' are being
victimised in the hills .^nd valleys even as of this writing.
ft ■ -3ismmKmmmmmmimmiKmsses^^
Army airlift, Achham.
2002 June 15/6 HIMAL
 Says Jwala, "An unwillingness to consider the issue as
serious will vitiate the atmosphere throughout the
kingdom for the long term. When elections are held and
a new government comes into place, those who hold
the reins of government will find it very difficult to
control a populace which has had such a horrific
experience at the hands of authority."
As experience from all over the world indicates,
killing of thousands of innocents creates lakhs of
disaffected, who tomorrow will rise as different kinds
of militants, though not necessarily 'Maobaadi'. In The
Killing Terraces, a documentary on the rise of the Maoists
in Rukum, Rolpa and Jajarkot by filmmaker Dhurba
Basnet, a child of eight whose parents were killed by
the police during the Kilo Seirra II operation says to the
camera, tears flowing down his grimy cheeks, "I want
to drink the blood of their hearts", referring to tlie police. Revenge and despondency will rule the land if the
army, the government and the educated classes do not
wake up to the need to fight Maoists rather than target
simple villagers.
The blame for today's 'collateral damage' can, in
some ways, be laid at the door of the privileged and
their rush to restore order. The killing of innocents has
its origins in the impatience of the elite who, distraught
at the way that the economy has crumbled following
the boom period of just a few years ago, want it back.
There were many who believed, with reason, that the
Maoist organisation would collapse the moment the
army was released to tackle them, after which the
country would coast back to normalcy with minimal
bloodshed. That is not quite how the scenario has
played out and the quick-fix military solution has also
proved to be somewhat more difficult than expected.
The reality is that the Maoists had been allowed to become too big over too long a period by the time the establishment woke up to the need to tackle them with
its full force.
Kathmandu has always looked away, and it does
so now, while violence continues to extract a price from
the rural society to a degree thought unimaginable even
just a year ago. Today, Nepalis look askance at their
own souls, to see how they have lost the ability to
empathise. The large death toll from a criminally
opportunistic insurgency and an army in single-
minded pursuit has made the inhabitants of towns and
villages lose the sensitivity they thought they had. As
the police inspector in Dang explained, "The Nepali
people have become like goats at the temple courtyard
awaiting sacrifice, which show no concern even as their
companions are getting slaughtered all around."
The conclusion is inescapable - the life of the villager is considered expendable in Nepal by those who
matter'. The Maoists do not value the lives of ground-
level policemen, the soldiers and politicians, and the
army and police in return do not \ralue the lives of the
Maoists or whoever is caught in between. Given that
the Maobaadi are underground, the death of innocents
is made possible when the military goes after them. The
lives and livelihood of poor villagers are simply seen
as the necessary price to pay for ridding the country of
The government of Sher Bahadur Deuba today - out
of preference - exercises little control over an army
whose soldiers only quite simply go about the task asked
of them. It has asked the generals to deliver a country
where the Maoists have been decimated, and a
negotiating window does not seem to have been kept
open. Perhaps Prime Minister Deuba has a plan, and
perhaps he understands the long-term repercussions
of the forces he thus unleashes, which go far beyond
the current bout of Nepali society versus the Maobaadi.
It is, of course, impossible not to blame the Maoists
for having started it all. They have weakened Nepal
economically and geopolitically as no 'anti-nationalist'
could have, and they have created the conditions for
soldiers to emerge from the barracks, to be used in all-
out war against their fellow citizens. By forcing the army
to become so overwhelmingly active, the rebels may
have helped create a place for the army in the national
equation that it did not have before. The upshot of this
history may be that the soldiers and the executive in
government will become unacceptably more powerful
in the future.
There was perhaps a way out of the cul de sac if
Prime Minister Deuba had decided to activate the army
on the basis of existing anti-terrorist provisions rather
than imposing the state of emergency. By retaining the
political institutions of state right down to the local
level, and taking the civil society and the press along
with it, the government would have been able to isolate
the Maoists through a judicious mix of military and
political approaches. This would not have exposed the
RNA to the thankless task given it, and the credit would
have been shared across the institutions of state. By
having let one institution - the military - monopolise
the war against the Maoists, the soldiers become the
fall guys if things do not work out quite as planned.
The next six months, till the general elections
announced for 13 November, are critical for Nepal and
Nepali democracy. This will be a period when there are
no institutional safeguards in a country that will be
dealing with both a state of emergency and an election
campaign. There is no parliament and there are no
courts; the bureaucracy, civil society and media have
proven ineffective as checks on authority. History will
therefore judge the period up ahead on the basis of the
action and inaction of the government and its army.
They can still wake up to the need to fight a war in
which the insurgents are differentiated from the innocents, however difficult and time-consuming it may be.
They owe it to democracy and to the people, and quick
fixes and mass deaths will not work. There is a nation
and a population in trauma out there, in need of
healing. b
HIMAL  15/6 June 2002
■ ^^4 I      I 7....,bb m %>
Regional Impact Assessment Co-ordinator
ActionAid Asia Regional Office is seeking a dynamic, thoughtful and highly skilled impact assessment practitioner to
join their team. The post holder will offer specialised expertise in monitoring, evaluation and impact assessment
methodologies and advise ActionAid programmes in Asia on appropriate systems and frameworks for monitoring and
assessing the impact of ActionAid's and its partners' work.
Impact Assessment within ActionAid has made great strides over the last few years. ActionAid's accountability and
learning system is promoting greater transparency and accountability to ActionAid's beneficiaries as well as to its
ActionAid Asia Regional Office is a devolved and decentralized part of ActionAid UK and ActionAid Alliance (including
Ayuda en Accion, ActionAid Ireland, ActionAid Hellas, Azione Aiuto). ActionAid Asia has presence and country programmes
in Bangladesh, China, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Vietnam. ActionAid Asia currently has some pilot programmes in
Cambodia and Myanmar and is in the process of developing longer-term programmes and presence in those countries.
ActionAid Asia Regional Office is based in Bangkok.
Within the overall framework of ActionAid's global strategy - Fighting Poverty Together, the work in Asia is focused on
;he rights and entitlements of poor and marginalized people- such as landless, small farmers, Dalits, women, children,
bonded labour, homeless urban poor, trafficked women, sex workers. The work in Asia is also focused around the
following prioritized themes and campaigns- food security, education, gender equity, governance, anti-trafficking of
women and girls and HIV/AIDs.
This is a senior position based in Bangkok reporting to the ActionAid Asia Regional Director. The post holder will be
expected to travel extensively within the Asia region and other parts of ActionAid. The person will have the following
broad areas of responsibilities:
to advise ActionAid's Asia region on effective and appropriate methodologies and frameworks for measuring
impact and monitoring and evaluation
to ensure optimum levels of learning, reporting and accountability
to provide an overview of the Asia regions performance and capacity in impact assessment
We are looking for someone with at least 5 years' experience in participatory monitoring and evaluation and/or impact
assessment skills with a solid grounding in both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. You will ideally have experience
working in a team across a large organisation and possess good interpersonal skills, especially ones related to relationship
building An understanding of issues related to rights, poverty, human development, gender equity and advocacy work is
also desirable.
Contract duration - 2 years
Closing date: June 10th 2002, Email CV's and covering letter to:
 Less to Musharraf than
meets the eye
He is playing with the constitution like Ayub, he
held a referendum like Zia, and he is as power-
hungry as Nawaz Sharif and Benazir - ladies and
gentlemen, Gen Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan.
by Mustafa Nazir Ahmad
When Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's
government was dismissed by Chief of the
Army Staff Gen Pervez Musharraf on 12
October 1999, most Pakistanis were overjoyed, ,<\s Gen
Musharraf disembarked from his 'hijacked' PIA airliner
to issue the necessary orders, it hardlv mattered to most
whether the replacement wore khaki or a sherwani.
Sharif's three-and-a-half years had become an affront
to democracy: the prime minister was blatantly
maximising his power through constitutional amendments, stifling freedom of expression, and suppressing
judicial independence.
Those expecting a change for the better soon realised
that a democratically-elected government is better than
a military dictatorship for the long term stability it
represents. With Gen Musharraf's record before us, the
obvious conclusion is that despite their much hyped
propensity for corruption, it is politicians who must
run the country - and long enough to be able to make a
difference. This they have never been allowed to do.
Pakistan has never experienced true democracy, and at
best, has had 'controlled democracy'.
Analysing Pakistan's political history, it is difficult
not to conclude that the army as an institution has been
the major hurdle to resolving problems of governance
and development. With defence gobbling up a major
portion of the budget, key sectors like health and
education bear the burden. Those who suffer are the
ordinary people - more and more continue to fall below
the poverty line in the trade-offs made to support the
The buck does not stop at what is allocated to defence
in the annual budget. The system of 'legalised
corruption' eats up a major share of the country's
limited resources. Officers are allocated plots in posh
localities for throw-away prices, and their children get
the best education for free. Their families receive
excellent health services without paying a penny,
besides furnished accommodations, domestic help and
rations all at no charge. To ensure these luxuries,
resources are often diverted from the social sector to the
military through covert avenues.
The argument that the military deserves all this for
patriotic service rendered to the country's defence has
long worn thin. It is received wisdom that the Pakistani
military's discipline and professional capability is of
"world standard", but then it would be difficult to locate
a country on the map which did not consider its military
to be the best in the world. All the self-propagated myths
associated with the military point toward the generals'
desire to remain unaccountable before other institutions
and the public at large. Stories are legion of large-scale
corruption within the military establishment; most
organs of the military empire are running at a loss
because of graft and inefficiency (see box). The bogey of
'patriotism' is trotted out whenever the army feels the
need to make its case forcefully.
The military's 'holier-than-thou' attitude towards
other institutions is reflected in an extreme form in the
government of Gen Musharraf. To give just one example,
almost all the major government and semi-government
departments are today headed by retired or serving army
personnel (see box 2). This more than anything else
demonstrates the regime's lack of confidence in the
ability of "bloody civilians" (as officers are known to
refer to the general populace) to efficiently7 run national
affairs. By thus sidelining the civilians, Gen Musharraf
is merely slipping into the shoes of his predecessors,
generals Ayub Khan and Zia-ul-Haq.
Gen Musharraf knows how to charm with his
apparent earnestness, winning over development
activists and donor agencies by speaking their
language. Meanwhile, careful use of the state media at
home has created the image of a 'true soldier' fighting
the just fight against 'corrupt' politicians. In fact, he
has had something to offer everyone. He impresses the
West and the moderates at home with his secular stance
even while allowing state agencies to covertly work
with the religious parties and sectarian organisations to advance the military's agenda abroad and
But not everyone has bought into the General's
HIMAL 15/6 June 2002
 image. There are those who from the very beginning
saw through his veneer, and found a rehashed version
of Gen Zia. Those who still reposed some faith in
Gen Musharraf found their hopes dashed after he
subordinated the judiciary through the Provisional
Constitutional Order, which granted him extensive
powers and made him unaccountable before any court
of law. Similarly, while apparently there is more freedom
of expression and of the media than ever, there is also a
corresponding amount of self-censorship; a few
journalists who stepped out of line were quickly taught
a lesson - if not officially, then unofficially. A few
concrete steps taken by the regime, about which the
president-general brags at every forum, come with
enough qualifications to make them more of a
disappointment than harbingers of real change. These
include raising the number of women's reserved seats
in the national and provincial assemblies - an overall
increase in number, but no increase in proportion.
Another step is the restoration of the joint electorate
system, which enables the country's religious minorities
to vote for candidates of other faiths, which had been
barred under the separate electorates introduced by Gen
Zia, However, the last couple of decades of religious
intolerance and discrimination have sapped the
confidence of the religious minorities; they and the
country's human rights groups have been demanding
dual voting rights, which would allow the religious
minorities to vote for candidates from their own faith
as well as from the majority community, in order to
ensure a representation in the assemblies of various
religious communities.
Rigged mandate
Any lingering hopes that Gen Musharraf was good for
Pakistan's future were dashed once and for all with the
rigged referendum of 30 April, rightly termed "the
biggest scam in the history of the country" by the
outspoken economist S Akbar Zaidi. The shameful
insistence by the general that the referendum was
transparent proves just how far he has moved from
reality and how much he disregards public and media
opinion. His promise that the general election in October
will be no different, is in the circumstances, not very
Consider two of the clauses of the Referendum
Order, 2002:
(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the
Constitution or any law for the time being in force, if
the majority of the votes cast in the referendum are
in affirmative, the people of Pakistan shall be deemed
to have given the democratic mandate to general
Pervez Musharraf to serve the nation as president
of Pakistan for a period of five years to enable him,
inert alia, to consolidate the reforms and the
reconstruction of institutions of State for
the establishment of genuine and sustainable
democracy, including the entrenchment of local
The military-commercial complex
As Chief of Staff of the Armed Staff (COAS) Musharraf
presides over a vast industrial, commercial and real
estate empire, with assets and investments of at least
USD 5 billion. This military-commercial complex is
a little-known network of four foundations that were
originally created to promote the welfare of retired
servicemen, but have since branched out into
numerous money-making ventures manned by
18,000 serving and retired military officers. The
biggest of these, the Fauji Foundation, is the single
largest conglomerate in Pakistan, with assets worth
USD 200 million. The Foundation operates 11
enterprises ranging from cereal, cement and fertiliser
companies to sugar-mills and oil storage terminals.
Three other foundations - Shaheen, Bahria and the
Army Welfare Trust - run everything from banks
and insurance companies to airlines, all under the
control of the Defence Ministry or one of the three
In addition to the foundations, the armed forces
also control a variety of large independent business
activities, notably the National Logistics Cell, which
is a trucking and transport giant; and the Frontier
Works Organisation, which has a virtual monopoly
in road-building and construction. Both were
established to serve military needs, but grew so fat
with military contracts that they moved into the
civilian economy and have gradually squeezed out
most private competitors. In her study, Soldiers in
Business, defence analyst Dr Ayesha Siddiqi Agha
demonstrates that most of these ventures have been
suffering losses that are covered by financial
injections from the defence budget or various public
sector enterprises vulnerable to military pressure.
She also points to the opportunities of corruption
from the military business empire's exemption from
"even a trace of public accountability".
government system, to ensure continued good
governance for the welfare of the people, and to
combat extremism and sectarianism for the security
of the State and the tranquility of society.
(2) The period of five years referred in clause (1) shall
be computed from the first meeting of the Majlis-e-
Shoora (Parliament) to be elected as a result of the
forthcoming general election.
The phrasing of the Order itself reflects contempt
for democracy, even though the stated intention is the
"establishment of genuine and sustainable democracy".
A mandate is being sought to "ensure continued good
governance" while destroying the very institutions of
state which can deliver such governance. It is all too
clear that the officials at the National Reconstruction
Bureau who suggest such flavour-of-the-month terms
to Gen Musharraf are also losing touch with reality.
The best part is that the president's tenure will start
2002 June 15/6 HIMAL
from the first meeting of parliament, thus extending his
current rule if the next general election is postponed
Before the referendum, Gen Musharraf had sought
to make a distinction between those serious people who
supported the referendum and the irresponsible ones
who opposed it. Ironically, this distinction has helped
civil society more than the general, by enabling one to
distinguish between genuine activists and political
opportunists. Meanwhile, the ordinary Pakistani has
begun to see in the general the same craving for absolute
power and position that he so vociferously decries in
civilian politicians.
The local government elections held in four phases
from December 2000 to July 2001 that the general was
so proud of, were exposed threadbare when the 'elected
representatives' thrown up by that exercise participated in vote-rigging during the recent referendum.
Their support for the general spoke loudly of their own
aspirations in a future setup.
These opportunists used the referendum to meet
their personal ends - they supported the ill-conceived
idea with a target in mind. Even someone as senior as
the Governor of Punjab, himself a general, saw in it a
chance to prove his loyalty (in this case, his own
suitability as a candidate for heading the country as
prime minister). This sychophantic trend trickled right
down to the grassroots, with even local councilors
supporting Musharraf under the impression that there
will be rewards for loyalty.
The trend of co-option continues at all levels. Gen.
Military men in power
Here is a partial list of retired and in-service army
personnel holding key administrative and political
posts in Pakistan (other posts not mentioned here, but
where army men serve, include diplomats, provincial
ministers, chairman of sports boards, director generals
and managing directors of various authorities, vice-
chancellors of universities and so on): General Pervez
Musharraf (Chief Executive, President and COAS),
Major General (Retd) Muhammad Anwar (President,
Azad Kashmir), Lt Gen (Retd) Khalid Maqbool
(Governor, Punjab), Lt Gen (Retd) Syed Iftikhar
Hussain Shah (Governor NWFP), Lt Gen (Retd)
Moinuddin Haider (Federal Interior Minister), Lt Gen
(Retd) Javed Ashraf Qazi (Federal Communications
Minister), Col (Retd) SK Tressler (Federal Minorities
and Culture Minister), Lt Gen Hamid Javed (Chief
Executive's Chief of Staff)/ Major Gen Muhammad Yusuf
(Chief Executive's Deputy Chief of Staff), Major Gen
Rashid Qureshi (President's Information Adviser), Lt
Gen Munner Hafeez (Chief of National Accountability
Bureau), Major Gen Usman Shah and Major Gen
Shujaat Zameer (Deputy Chiefs of NAB), Major Gen
Abdul Jabbar Bhatti (Chief of RA^Punjab), Air Vice
.Marshall Zakaullsih (Chief of RAB-aNJWFP), Maj Gen Tariq
Bashir (Chief of RA^Sfndh), Maj Gen Owais Mushtaq
Musharraf has made possible the creation of an alliance
of six parties, a 'king's party' made up of groups with
no support at the mass level. The alliance is led by
corrupt, turn-coat politicians of the kind, it is now clear,
Gen. Musharraf would like to have in the next
Parliament. He clearly fears that genuine politicians
will not let him have his way.
Constitutional amendments aimed at increasing the
role of the military in national affairs are also on the
cards, peddled as necessary for checks-and-balances
in the future dispensation. It is expected that a National
Security Council (comprising the president, the prime
minister, the chiefs of the three armed forces and the
four governors as permanent members) will be formed
to monitor the performance of the government. With
the power to appoint governors and the service chiefs
remaining with the president, the probable scenario is
that, except for the prime minister, all the members of
the NSC will be Musharraf appointees. This is the
general who speaks so glibly of "genuine democracy", "good governance", "accountability" and
The present warlike scenario has given the
Musharraf regime an excuse for delaying the general
election and, most importantly, increases in defence
expenditures. With India's stance becoming ever-more
aggressive, it has become difficult for media, civil society
and opposition politicians to campaign against the
latter. According to reports, the defence budget for the
next year is being increased from PKR 131 billion to PKR
150 billion.
(Chief of RAB-Balochistan), Lt Gen Syed Tiinvir Hussain
Naqvi (Chief of National Reconstruction Bureau), Lt Gen
Hamid Nawaz (Secretary, Defence), .Air Marshal (Retd)
Zahid Anees (Secretary, Defence Production), Lt Gen
(Retd) Saeedul Zafar (Secreteiry, Railways), Lt Gen (Retd)
Zulfiqar Ali Khan (Chairman, Water and Power
Development Authority), Major Gen (Retd) Agha
Masood Hassan (Director General of Postal Services),
Major Gen Farrukh Javed (Chairman, National
Highway Authority), Rear Admiral KB Rind (Director
General, Ports and Shipping), Rear Admiral Ahmad
Hayat (Chairman, Karachi Port Trust), Rear Admiral
Sikandar Viqar Naqvi (Chairman, Port Qasim
Authority), Vice Admiral Tauqir Hussain Naqvi
(Chairman, National Shipping Corporation), Major
Gen (Retd) Muhammad Hassan (Chief of the National
Fertilizer Corporation), Lt Col (Retd) Afzal Khan
(Chairman, Pakistan Steel Mills), Lt Col (Retd) Akbar
Hussain (Chairman, Export Processing Zone
Authority), Major Gen Shehzad Alam Khan
(Chairman, Pakistan Telecommunications Authority),
Air Vice Marshall Azhar Masood (Chairman, National
Telecommunications Authority), Brig (Retd) Muhammad Saleem (Chairman, National Database and
Registration Authority). Source: "The generals in
power," The Friday Times (26 April - 2 May 2002).
HIMAL 15/6 June 2002
 Trouble on the horizon
One can safely predict that there will be limited
provisions for the social sector in the forthcoming
national budget. According to economists, there will be
no development budget for education and health, and
the government might not even have enough resources
to pay the salaries of existing staff. Large lay-offs are on
:he cards for government departments, with the figure
predicted to be as high as 20 percent. This blow to an
impoverished population already facing endemic
unemployment, will, however, come as good news to
the international financial institutions which want
structural adjustments.
This also deflates all claims of improved economic
performance. The increase in foreign reserves - the quid
pro quo for the support provided to the United States in
its war in Afghanistan - has not helped Pakistan's poor
in any way, and it remains to be seen who corners the
benefits. All estimates hint at the increasing incidence
of both human misery and economic deprivation. One
also wonders from where all the money required to
realise the extravagant promises Gen Musharraf made
during his referendum rallies, will come from.
The general never tires of comparing his performance with his predecessors', both civilian and
military, in order to prove how different he is. It is
increasingly difficult to identify any noticeable
difference. He is playing with the constitution like Ayub;
he has held a referendum like Zia; his lust for power
matches that of Nawaz Sharif and or Benazir Bhutto.
Futher, Gen Musharraf seems to misled even more
by his opportunist cronies than were his derided
All of which presents a very bleak national picture
in which one only discern trouble and chaos on the
horizon. The country's scarce resources are the bone of
contention between institutions of the state, and the
military which believes in 'might is right' presently has
the bone within its grip and will not give it up. It is
obvious that until the limits and roles of all state
institutions are clearly defined, such conflicts will
continue to arise between and among them. Some of the
analysts refer to the ouster of Nawaz Sharif as a classic
example of this phenomenon - they believe that his
removal was a result of his peace overtures towards
India that would have ultimately led to a reduction in
defence expenditures.
At this crucial juncture in the history of Pakistan, it
is important that all sections of society collectively take
action to keep politics from slipping further from the
grasp of the people. Political parties need to develop a
code of conduct for the future, based on respect for each
other and internal democracy within each of them.
Meanwhile, one hopes that media and civil society will
continue to express themselves even as the going gets
tough as it seems it will. b
Social Science Research Council
South Asia Regional Fellowship Program
Second Announcement, June 2002
The Social Science Research Council (SSRC, New York) is pleased to announce the availability
of short-term fellowships (3-4 month) for research in any discipline of the social sciences and
humanities related to the theme of Resources and Society. Twenty research felloyvships are
available for junior and senior scholars from South Asia to begin new research, continue ongoing research or write up completed research. The objective of the SSRC Regional Fellowship
Program is to strengthen the link between teaching and research; the competition is open to all
full time university and college lecturers, readers and professors. Eligibility is restricted to faculty with PhDs presently teaching in an accredited college or university in South Asia. Fellows
will be expected to attend a workshop in January 2003 before they begin their fellowship
period. Junior fellows will receive up to $2,200, senior fellows up to $3,000. Application materials and more information can be obtained from the SSRC wrebsite
fellowships/southasia/. The deadline for receiving applications is August 3, 2002. Announcements of fellows will be made in October 2002.This program is supported by a grant from the
Ford Foundation.
 ood Cops, Bad Cops,
the World Bank
The war against terrorism used to include a battle against poverty.
The "war on terror" seems to have dumped that creditable cause.
by David Ludden
When leaders of the institutions that guide
global economic development set 2015 as a
target date for reducing by half the number
of people who live in extreme poverty, thev did not
anticipate 11 September 2001. The subsequent war on
terrorism has altered the character of the campaign
against poverty more dramatically than might appear
at first sight, however. After 4/11, military men certainly did become more prominent in the project of protecting globalisation against its enemies, but reducing
poverty had previously gained support in rich countries as a means to combat terrorism. Major new funding for a global campaign against poverty now seems
hostage to military campaigns to pacify a world of insecurities aggravated by globalisation.
In the US, particularly, the stage was set for current
military campaigns well before 9/11. Military security
already topped the global agenda in the 1990s, when
real US military expenditure remained as high as it was
in the 1960s at the height of the global war on
communism. In the 1990s, as the world's rich became
rapidly richer and extreme poverty increased along with
global inequality, American anxieties about the
instability attending globalisation also increased.
Robert D Kaplan detailed this anxiety in his influential
1994 essay in the Atlantic Monthly, entitled "The Coming
Anarchy: How Scarcity, Crime, Overpopulation,
Tribalism, and Disease Are Rapidly Destroying the
Social Fabric of Our Planet". Bill Clinton's presidency-
saw numerous attacks on US military installations that
foreshadowed the attack on the Pentagon, and
car bombers had attacked the Twin Towers once
before 9/11.
American popular anxiety about foreign threats increased in the context of new immigration, some of it
critical for the economic boom in America in the 1990s,
especially of Asians in the hi-tech sector. Public
suspicion of foreigners lurks in multi-cultural America,
where the long war against communism promoted
hatred for un-American aliens. The internment of
Japanese-Americans in World War II suggests a
tendency to conflate foreign and domestic enemies, as
do purges of Marxists and "communist fellow travellers" during the Cold War. The fear of foreigners has
historically tended to peak in times of high immigration. As immigration boomed again, the Iranian Revolution produced a new alien menace, Islam. By 1990 and
the war on Iraq, fanatic Muslims had replaced rabid
communists in American demonology.
In American popular opinion, the war against
terrorism resembles a war on crime on a global scale.
Popular ideas about criminality support global police
action by the LIS military. The American political system
has habitually criminalised behaviour deemed unacceptable to the voting majority, such as drug use, sex
work, and other deviant activities that other countries
often treat as problems for medical attention and social
reform. The crime problem also appears in the public
eye as being most intense in poor ethnic communities
in urban ghettos, now mostly African-American and
Hispanic, but in earlier times filled with Italian, Irish,
and Chinese immigrants. Racial stereotypes of poor
people in poor neighbourhoods often mingle in
discussions of crime. Local police commonly target
young, poor, non-white men for special attention. Racial
profiling by police is common practice. US prisons hold
a hugely disproportionate number of poor people from
minority communities.
In this cultural context, the public can readily
imagine that global attacks on civilised society arise
primarily from alien ethnic groups living in poverty,
whose criminal behaviours include opium and coca
growing, drug smuggling, honour killings, abusing
women, rioting, corruption, and bombing American
warships in the Gulf of Aden and US embassies in
Africa. Amidst poverty and ignorance, fanatics seem to
learn terrorist trades in schools of primitive hatred. Bill
Clinton articulated this vision of the world in one of his
last presidential speeches, when he said, "we have seen
how abject poverty accelerates conflict, how it creates
recruits for terrorists and those who incite ethnic and
religious hatred, how it fuels a violent rejection of the
HIMAL  15/6 June 2002
 economic and social order on which our future
Two figures represent complementary strategies in
the fight against crime in America: the "good cop" and
the "bad cop". A good cop brings a smiling face to patrol
bad neighbourhoods teeming with poor youth. Good
cops support local development initiatives by "keeping
kids off the streets" and by leading them instead into
schools, churches, sports, and other learning centres
where they can improve themselves and stay out of
trouble. Meanwhile, the bad cop patrols the streets with
a mean face, gun in-hand, poised to arrest criminals
and, if necessary, to shoot-on-sight dreaded enemies of
the law.
In American national politics, Democrats and
Republicans broadly typify good cops and bad cops,
respectively. Democrats typically see crime as a
symptom of poverty; and thus they promote social
welfare and economic development schemes to reduce
the lure of crime. Republicans typically see crime as an
infraction of civil norms demanding punishment; and
thus they promote strict law enforcement, tough
sentencing, and harsh penalties to get criminals off the
George W Bush is a life-long bad cop Republican.
As governor of Texas, he signed more death penalty
authorisations than any governor in American history
Since 9/11, his snarling self-image as the fierce leader
of the global war on terror has been an everyday media
spectacle. Such media displays are strategic, because
like Genghis Khan, a bad cop seeks to compel
compliance with fear.
Bill Clinton is now a good cop Democrat, who seeks
to promote civility with economic development. In his
first major post-presidential speech on US foreign policy
(14 December 2001), he spoke to an audience in
England, where Bush's bad cop ally in the war on
terrorism, Tony Blair, is also Clinton's good cop friend.
Clinton's speech indicates the link between the military
(bad cop) war on terrorism, (good cop) concerns for the
poor, and the new global anti-poverty campaign led by
the World Bank. He described 11 September as "the
dark side of global interdependence". He went on to
warn his audience that "if you don't want to live with
barbed wire around your children and grandchildren
for the next hundred years then it's not enough to defeat
the terrorist. We have to make a world where there are
far fewer terrorists."
Creating such a world is not a military mission.
Rather, in Clinton's view, it requires "wealthy nations"
to acquire "more partners" and "spread the benefits
and shrink the burdens" of globalisation. This is a job
for development agencies. James Wolfensohn, President
of the World Bank, is one of its leaders. He has said
that, "On September 11 [2001], the imaginary wall that
divided the rich world from the poor world came
crashing down", and that the Bank's campaign against
world poverty supplements the war on terrorism as a
means to secure globalisation. He says that we can no
longer view as normal "a world where less than 20
percent of the population dominates the world's wealth
and resources and takes 80 percent of its dollar income".
In his new anti-poverty campaign at the Bank,
Wolfensohn echoes one of his predecessors. Robert
McNamara left his office as US Secretary of Defense
thirty years ago to start an earlier anti-poverty
campaign at the Bank to combat communism at its roots
among people in poverty. McNamara's agenda fell by
the wayside in the 1970s under the influence of
structural adjustment policies that dominated Bank
activity for the next two decades. When communism
had quit the world stage, and when structural
adjustment had subjected poor countries to world
market discipline and to rich country policy dictates,
poverty gained favour again at the Bank, under
Wolfensohn's leadership.
The "millennium development goals" now endorsed by all the major institutions in the world
development regime include a 50 percent reduction in
people living on USD 1 per day, primary school for all
children, a 67 percent reduction in child deaths, a 75
percent cut in maternal deaths, and halving the number of people without clean water - all by 2015. Many
world leaders have joined the 2015 campaign, and, like
UK Chancellor Gordon Brown, promote a "new deal
between developed and developing countries", having
accepted the idea that the critical issue now "is whether we manage globalisation well, or badly; fairly orN
The scale of the 2015 campaign is unprecedented,
and its future, uncertain. The UN convened a Financing
for Development Conference in Monterrey, Mexico, on
18-22 March 2002, where it sought to raise requisite
funds, but financial commitments from rich countries
were meagre. Monterrey witnessed a unique gathering
of big players in global development, including the
World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the
World Trade Organisation, 171 heads of state, and
representatives of civil society and business.
9/11 gave the 2015 campaign new urgency but also
gave military initiatives firm control of public opinion.
Fights against terrorists attract more public attention
than efforts to alleviate poverty. The military and its
support services - including education for specialists
in subjects critical for global security - now receive more
new funding than development programmes. Recession has also undermined prospects for new
development funding. 2015 is 13 years away. The clock
is ticking. Since the 2015 campaign began two years
ago, more people have surely been driven into more
desperate poverty in Afghanistan and Palestine than
have escaped extreme poverty in most poor countries.
Funding for a global campaign against poverty now
seems more hostage than ever to military budgets buttressed by national fears aggravated by globalisation.
2002 June 15/6 HIMAL
Confused, bewildered, frightened
As a Muslim, Farid Alvie finds himself constantly having to clarify that
he is a "moderate", knowing that there is just that hint of disbelief that
any of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims can be anything but "fanatic".
by Farid Alvie
Over a decade before the tragedy of 11 September
occurred, I first encountered a phenomenon,
which, until then, I had only read about in newspapers or heard bandied about by visibly irate members of assorted political, religious or social organisations. For the first time in my life that day, I was slapped,
without having done anything, with a "label".
Walking down Main Street (and that is exactly what
it was called) in "Ruralville", Pennsylvania, that winter evening, minding my own business, I got called a
wide variety of names by a group of half-drunk, halfwitted university students, probably on their way back
from a fraternity party. Among the many labels that
were generously thrown my way that evening, two still
stand out in memory. One was "Commie Cuban ****"
(asterisks denote the word that rhymes with duck) and
the other was "Stinky Pedro".
There were others as well, but these two epithets
confused me more than they angered mc. Here I was, a
17-year-old Pakistani Muslim student, who had spent
more years living in the Middle East than in my native
Pakistan, being told to go back home to Papa Fidel or to
my vast ancestral estate spread out all over central and
South America. All because of the colour of my skin
and the way I looked.
Ever since, I have always marvelled at how casually, intelligent and seemingly well-educated individuals indulge in the practise of labelling other individuals, cultures, religions, nations, concepts and systems.
Labels are almost always assigned with nary a thought
as to what they might actually infer in relation to the
subject in question; they are oftentimes simply a convenient way of hiding the sheer laziness and ineptitude
of our own intellect. I am, for example, as Cuban as
former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani is Afghan, but
then again, labels are not meant to have any tract with
truth or fact, or even with how and what things/peoples/religions/nations are.
After the tragedy of 11 September, labels, it appears,
have become our security blankets. They seem to be the
only "real" concepts, which help us deal with the uncertainty and insecurity that surrounds us these days.
We cling to them like the desperate (and utterly irritating) Leonardo Di Caprio hung on to jagged wooden
planks in the last scenes of that moving cinematic experience, Titanic. Unfortunately, we fail to realise that
the incredible power of a label to help us through a
crisis (or even a minor unpleasant social or political
hiccup), only leads us towards the same fate faced by
young Leonardo as he sank, frozen, to the bottom of the
As 1 switch from one international news channel to
the next, scan one front-page headline and move to
another, I am inundated with newsprint and television
screens throwing labels my way with a cruelty that
leaves my eyes, ears and ego bleeding profusely and
begging for mercy. Or at least for a long commercial
pause in hostilities on humanitarian grounds.
"Is he/she a 'moderate' Muslim?" the media asks.
"Pakistan is a 'moderate' Islamic state," they tell us
authoritatively. "Can President Pervez Musharraf guarantee that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal rests within the control
of the 'moderates' in his government?" they worry.
That's one of my favourite labels these days: "moderate". As a Muslim, I must walk around with the assumption that all non-Muslims believe that all 1.3 billion Muslims are fanatics (despite the many patronising assurances given us to the contrary by that insufferable member of parliament who lives rent-free at No.
10, Downing Street). Thus, I must always include the
word moderate into any business introduction that I
might need to make in future. ("Hello, my name is Farid
Alvie. I'm a moderate Muslim journalist. I can provide
your newspaper with a weekly column on the Pakistani entertainment scene for an incredibly cheap rate,
if you're interested?")
No one in the media ever asks what catastrophe
Ariel Sharon, the extreme rightwing, "democratically"
elected prime minister of the nuclear state of Israel,
might wreak on the rest of the world in pursuance of
his political goals. Shouldn't the Israeli "moderates"
be better suited to keep permanent control of all of that
country's strategic military assets? Should the "moderates" in India be similarly sanctioned to wrest control
of that state's nuclear arsenal from the Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government?
But then the BJP and its fundamentalist, saffron-clad
political allies might be forgiven their blatant fanaticism because the people of India have "democratically" elected them. Much as the current White House incumbent was democratically elected, despite losing the
"popular" vote two years ago. But these, perhaps, arc
HIMAL 15/6 June 2002
 irrelevant, minor details with no bearing on reality.
Which brings us to another neat label: democratic.
This bewilders me even more than being called
"Stinky Pedro". I sincerely believe in the concept of democracy as a system of governance. I believe in it just as
much as the next guy. Unless the next guy is a bigot, in
which case I believe in it even more. This sort of "freedom to choose one's government" is an excellent concept, and gives the ordinary Joe Bloggs (or Ali Khan in
the "moderate" Pakistani Muslim world) a sense of
participation, of controlling one's own destiny. I am
just a little confused about its definition.
If a polity has a frequently-held exercise that allows
its citizenry to stuff ballot boxes with names of political
organisations printed on it, it is entitled to being called
"democratic". So when someone like Jorge Haider wins
in a "democratic" election in Austria, why must Israel
and the United States threaten to withdraw their
ambassadors from that democratic country? Jorge
Haider is an odious choice no doubt, but did he not
come in through the ballot box fair and square?
So perhaps the etiquettes of this enterprise called
democracy need to be enunciated more clearly. Voters
must be clearly instructed to make acceptable choices,
and not unacceptable ones. Participants must never
show favour towards an anti-Semitic candidate, but
give benefit of the doubt to an Islamophobe hankering
for their vote. Presidential candidates in northern Africa
must always win 90 percent of the vote in every election if they live along the Nile, and command the region as a pharaoh-democrat. And any candidate sporting a beard in neighbouring Algeria must not be allowed to assume power, even if the ballot box gives
them the legitimate right to do so.
Lest you think I get confused only when the strong
and the powerful seem baffled by the complexity of
labels, let me assure you that that is certainly not the
case. Even the weak and the poor are label-conscious.
Sample the following, from an email I received regarding
the Taliban: "Please note, that the following is NOT a
defence of the Taliban government in Afghanistan, nor
are we supporters of the regime, due to them being
shadeed Hanafees, and mu'tassib, and having incorrect
Aqeedah about Allah and Islam (they follow the ways
of the Sufiyah and the Deobandiyah, and not that of the
Ahlus Sunnah).''
Since I am an ordinary, "moderate" Muslim, and
not well-versed with the multi-faceted schismatic complexities of the Islamic faith, with which an infinitesi-
mally tiny, email-sending variety is concerned, I confess that I cannot be of much help in deciphering the
many "labels" contained within the lines quoted above.
Suffice it to say that my Label Lexicon is greatly enriched by the following: "shadeed Hanafees", "mu'tassib",
"Deobandiyah", "Ahlus Sunnah", "Sufiyah". Some of
these labels arc used to denounce the Taliban.
However, what I find absolutely incredible is the
primary rationale used to criticise the Taliban, They
are denounced, not because of their appalling violation and utter disregard for human rights and human
life, but because they allegedly follow the Deobandiyah
and the ways of the Sufiyah and are shadeed Hanafees, and possess incorrect Aqeedah! They are condemned not for the brutal treatment of human beings
(and women are human beings first, no matter what
other labels men might ascribe to them) within their
care, but first and foremost for belonging to the wrong
And this from the followers of a religion that says
"to save the life of one human being is comparable to
saving all of humanity". And this from the followers of
a faith whose holy book begins with the words: "In the
name of Allah, the most merciful and the most compassionate". And this from the followers of a God who told
tlis Prophet that He was merely a messenger of the
Divine Message, and not a warden over the people to
whom this message was given.
Of course there are innumerable other all-encompassing labels. Some of them are constantly being used
by "civilised", "good" people to describe "psychotic"
"cave dwellers" in remote parts of the world. As a moderate Muslim human being, I am bewildered by the rhetoric I hear emanating from a big white house with huge
pillars, as well as that being emitted from outside a
crumbling cave. Labels galore yet again. "Crusade" is
matched by "holy war" or "jehad", "infidels" is countered with "evildoers", and both sides order us to declare our allegiance: we must decide if we are with them
or with the "evildoers/infidels".
Labels: evildoers, terrorists, freedom fighters, good
guvs, bad guys, fundamentalist, extremist, moderate,
infidels, democrats, Blacks, Orientals, natives, Arabs,
Jews, gays, liberals, pinkos, militants, commies, gentiles, hawks, radicals.
Plain, simple, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multicultural, multi-purpose nametags. Bred in insecurity,
narrow-mindedness, bias, just as much, perhaps, as
our own anxiety and the uncertainty of the world
around us. Not only are they useless, but dangerous as
well. Is it easier for us, as ordinary people, to defer to
the comfort zone of a pre-determined, pre-judged idea
of someone else's second-hand experience? Perhaps.
Meanwhile, I remain a moderate Muslim, 30-some-
thing, Pakistani journalist who Wves in West Asia, has
a whole host of Arab, black, white, infidel friends, loves
Afghan cuisine, Woody Allen and Cohen Brothers
movies, the music of Echo and the Bunnymen, Dido,
Pathan-e- Khan and Vivaldi, the words of Maulana
Rumi, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Arundhati Roy, Chin-
ua Achebe, Ernest Hemingway and Faiz Ahmed Faiz,
and utterly fail to comprehend prejudice, war, self-righteous cultural, racial, religious arrogance, and the appeal of country western music.
1 wonder if old Fidel's still got a place for a much-
labelled soul like me in his backyard? b
(Originally carried hy
2002 June 15/6 HIMAL
Slicing India
New perspectives on India since 1947
If we had a clearer picture of how India changed after independence,
we might have a better sense of where it is going today. But how to
encompass half a century's history of hundreds of millions of people?
Like a geologist analysing cross-sections of strata to understand how
rock was formed and what may lie beneath, "Slicing India" examines the
people, institutions, movements and diversions that were prominent in
five specific years - the years of the Kumbh Mela when most of north
India turns its attention for six weeks to Allahabad: 1954, 1966, 1977,
1989 and 2001. The last Kumbh Mela under British rule was in 1942, held
at the same time that Singapore fell and as the Japanese were advancing
through Burma. By 1954, India had been free for nearly seven years ...
by Robin Jeffrey
The Kumbh Mela of 1954, intended to be a
celebration of the new India, became the greatest
single day of death since the partition of 1947.
On the main bathing day of 3 February, a crowd vastly
greater than expected, estimated at between two and
four million people, moved towards the confluence of
the Ganga and Jamuna (the sangarn) to bathe. When
processions of holy men, demanding privileged right
of way, became entangled with the crowds, frightened
pilgrims ran, tripped, fell and tumbled down embankments made muddy with winter ram. Officially, 14
children, 49 men and 253 women were killed and
thousands injured. Though the Prime Minister and
other "VIPs" watched from the ramparts of Allahabad's
famous Fort, the size of the crowd was so great that the
stampede was not evident and they did not learn of it
until late in the afternoon. This was a stark metaphor
for the new India: the rulers standing on the walls of an
ancient fortress able to see the people, yet unaware that
the people were surging to their deaths.
In the aftermath, one of the accusations was that
politicians and officials had sought a record-breaking
Kumbh Mela crowd to demonstrate the vitality of the
new India. The chairman of the inquiry denied the
allegation. "Hundreds of thousainds of people have been
coming to Prayaga to bathe in the Sangam for thousands
of years from all over India", he wrote. Their "irresistible
inner urge and undying faith"  meant that  "no
propaganda is needed to induce such people to come".
And in this year, "the news ... spread and reached every
corner of the country" that "this year's Kumbh was of
extraordinary significance", a particularly auspicious
occasion, happening only once every 144 years".
The Mela in 1954 united two different impulses: the
"irresistible inner urge" of ordinary Hindus and the
visions and ambitions of the men and women trying to
remake the Indian state. Even the author of the inquiry
report conceded that the way in which the Kumbh Mela
elicited a common do-or-die spirit in so many people in
so many parts of India represented "a valuable asset in
the national character of a people," because it did not
need government incitement.
There was little doubt that government and leaders
sought to make the Kumbh Mela a great event. The
railways promoted their special trains to the festival,
and officials in charge of arrangements were said to
have been "animated by the feeling that the 1954 Mela,
being the first big Kumbha at Prayaga after independence ... should be made a grand success". The
Planning Commission took the opportunity to bring
"home to millions of people" the virtues of the First
Five-Year Plan "through Charts, Models, Maps, Radio
Talks and Film Shows" at the Mela. And leading
politicians and their associates made well-publicised
plans to attend.
HIMAL 15/6 June 2002
 Clash of great words
Great words clashed in the Kumbh Mela and its
aftermath. "Democracy", "modernity" and "tradition",
and the way characteristics of each might blend into
the new India, were examined and questioned. The Mela
seemed a potent force for "mobilising the masses" since
it drew millions of people to a single place with very
little government effort. Surely this was an expression
of the popular will and should be welcomed and used.
Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) told parliament that he
went to the Kumbh Mela "to meet the people of India
who had gathered there in mighty numbers."
He always "made it a point," however, "to abstain
from bathing." The "modern man" aimed to use
the "age-old sentiment" to communicate with "the
This tension ran through the year and the time.
Newly-elected politicians and legislatures sought to
uplift the masses, revive Indian culture, expunge the
stains of colonialism, make a mark on world affairs,
reward themselves for years of suffering in the freedom
movement - in short, to create a new India. There were
various road maps and plans of how this might be done,
but all were charts of unknown country. No one had
ever tried to make democracy work in a country as large
and diverse as India, whose population in 1954
approached 400 million people.
Democracy itself seemed to sit uneasily with
the requirements of crowd control and the intense
emotional experience that even the Home Minister of
the Government of India felt "connected him with his
ancestors of a thousand years ago who had attended
past Kumbhs". The huge crowds were "the people", as
many of "the people" as anyone could ever envisage
seeing in one place at one time. They were entitled to
respect; but they also had to be managed. "On account
of independence", wrote the responsible police officer
to his subordinates before the Mela, "every citizens [sic]
of our country expects his due from the Police". He
emphasised that all policemen must be honest, polite
and dedicated because that was what free India now
expected. But the desire "to please too many people"
could lead to "the sacrifice of the cardinal principles of
traffic control".
For the British, management of the Kumbh Mela had
required attention to law, order and public health.
Bands of holy men, or sadhus, posed a threat to order,
but they could be contained. "During the British
regime", the police officer told the inquiry after the disaster, "the Sadhus obeyed orders more readily than
they were prepared to do now". The British "could be,
and were, very firm with the Sadhus". But now,
wrote the chairman of the inquiry, himself a very
British sort of official, administrators had "the
feeling that they must be careful lest the Sadhus
should enlist the sympathy of some political or politico-
religious organisation ... which might get them into
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Probably the largest religious gathering in the world,
the Kumbh Mela in .Altahabad is held at the junction
of the Ganga, Jamuna and mythical Saraswati Rivers
when the planets, according to astrologers, .are in a
particular constellation. This occurs every7 11 or 12
years. Pilgrims come from throughout India to bathe
at the sangam over a number of. weeks but especially
on the single most auspicious day. The origins of
the Kumbh Mela are often described as "ancient,"
but some historians argue that its unchallenged
supremacy* as a centre for mass pilgrimage dates
from the late nineteenth century. In 2001, official
estimates claimed that as many as 30 million
pilgrirris bathed on the most auspicious day.
New elites at an old mela
The Kumbh Mela no doubt had always had political
potential. But in a practising democracy its potential
and fascination grew. The country's leading politicians
were keen to attend: the president .and prime minister
of India, the governor and chief minister of Uttar
Pradesh, the governor of Punjab, the chief minister of
Madhya Pradesh "and a number of Union and States
Ministers, and scholars and religious leaders from
abroad". The president brought with him his wife and
elder sister, the latter in a wheel chair but intent on
bathing on the auspicious day.
2002 June 15/6 HIMAL
Already, then, there was a conflict. Some elected leaders may have
attended to meet the people; but
others were believers who attended
to seek merit and who used their
positions to get privileged access. In
a democracy, was this right and fair?
The ex-judge who chaired the
inquiry was a product ofthe colonial
civil service and a sceptical democrat, if a democrat at all. Floating
loftily above the rustics caught in the
crush at the sangam on 3 February,
he nevertheless disliked a new kind
of privilege that he detected. A new
term, "an unfortunate expression ",
he wrote, "gained currency". The term was "VIP"
"".-=-'- tQ&&l^^®&?<2>**«msi?.°**'
At the 1954 Kumbh
Mela, the Planning
Commission took the
opportunity to bring
"home to millions of
people" the virtues of the
First Five-Year Plan
"through Charts, Models,
Maps, Radio Talks and
Film Shows".
These letters of the alphabet, 1 am told, stand for
the words "Very Important Persons". I do not
know when and how this expression came into
vogue. Perhaps it is one of those phrases which
became current during the last war. Be that as it
may, we have had to hear a good deal about it
during this enquiry.
He disapproved of the way in which "V1F" had been
embraced and used to describe various politicians. Yet
he rejected the allegation that the police and civil
authorities were so preoccupied with the needs of
"VIPs" that they neglected their duties. The old England-
returned elite recognised a need for elites like itself; but
it did not welcome upstarts of the kind who embraced
the term "vip" or were ready to live in something called
the "VIP Camp". The truly distinguished, he pointed
out, stayed at Anand Bhavan (Nehru's family home) or
the governor's residence.
Here was one of the problems of the new democracy. It had an old bureaucratic elite, typified by the author of the inquiry report, that resented upstart politicians. It was creating a political class of tens of thousands of legislators and aspirant legislators. Yet everything was to be done in the name of "the people". After
the stampede at the Kumbh Mela, one writer mused
about whether it is wise to allow such vast congregations, but if it is the people's wish, how can vou say
"no" in a democracy? "... is there anything wrong in
helping the simple masses to satisfy a traditional religious urge? This is surely for the people themselves to
Open electoral politics were a fact. In the winter of
1951-52, India had held the largest elections in history
with more than 120 million people casting ballots {46
percent of eligible voters). A correspondent on Republic Day, 26 January 1954, rejoiced that "the foundations
for a democratic welfare State, where the people will
live in contentment and happiness have been well laid".
Some of the old freedom fighters disputed how the
magnetism of the Kumbh Mela
should contribute to the new India.
JB Kripalani (1888-1982), whose life
provides a long thread in the warp
of Indian experience, attacked the
"political capital" that Nehru's
Congress Party made out of the
Mela. Instead of propelling India
into the future, such celebrations
"tried to take the country back to
the middle ages by making the Mela
Lean and ascetic, Kripalani was
born in Sindh, educated in Bombay
and teaching in a college in Bihar
when he encountered MK Gandhi
in 1917. Thereafter, he was never far from the frontlines
of the nationalist movement, becoming president of the
Congress from 1946-48 before resigning and eventually
forming his own party. By 1954 it had become part of
the Praja Socialist Party which Kripalani led in
parliament, where he delivered his scornful attack on
the uses to which the Kumbh Mela had been put.
Democracy, he argued, was tempting people to do
foolish things. The 1954 Mela, he asserted, was
widely advertised and all and sundry were
assured of travel and other facilities. This was
never done by the former Governments, which
had rather warned people against the conditions
that were likelv to be created. It was also
advertised this year that high dignitaries of the
Congress and of the Government would be
present at the Mela.
In the past, even princes when they attended the
Mela had gone on foot to the sangam, but today's politicians came in cars.
We are asking our country to go back to the
middle ages and its forms and rituals in the name
of Indian culture. We do all this to make ourselves
popular with the masses so that they may keep
us in power, And because we do these things
without faith, our efforts fail as miserably as they
failed at the Kumbh Mela and the country is
plunged into gloom. Let us beware in time for the
sake of our country and for the love of our
The speech angered some members of the Lok Sabha, but when the deputy speaker sought to restrain Kripalani, Nehru supported Kripalani's right to continue.
Nehru seemed to share the uneasiness about the attraction and the potential of the Mela.
The magnetism of the Mela offered temptations: a
way of capturing "the people's" attention and
energising them for the task of building a new India. So
HIMAL  15/6 June 2002
 IP "  1
many statements recognised that "a new social and
economic order cannot be built without popular
enthusiasm." To remodel the countryside, it seemed
necessary "to approach every individual villager" and
make "him [sic] an active participant in the development
effort". The energy infusing the Kumbh Mela and
captivating "the people" could be harnessed for such
The men and women who evicted the British took
over a deeply embedded administration. They faced a
conflict adapting a system they knew, understood and
had been trained to operate - perhaps in spite of themselves - to accord with their proclaimed ideals about
empowering the people and reforming the state. How
much of the old regime should be retained?
How much of "organic, Indian India"
that was practised and understood in JSK^
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and itself reformed to accord with
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new kinds of leaders /    ^Tf;ni j x£i      ^3K- ".""".'
would have to come^ ~' »■—*||rLr^i ~\    .■
from    among    the l*£rf^:^Qr^C__ \ ":.-■■ft;I;
people. The leaders who watch-     Vj?£ ■■ Y""  ft-:   ".-'Vt
ed but could not see the stampede    ^S^^£o." - ■> ^"-tf^TZ.
at the Kumbh Mela were high-caste,   '^gJZJnb....
English-educated lawyers from an %?=   ".'---.■
elite that had formed in the nineteenth cen-     I««»,~;
tury around the institutions that the British   fe4 ss
laid down - law courts, administration,   |
schools and hospitals. Three, Nehru, GB
Pant (1887-1961), the chief minister of UP, ^p|
and KN Katju (1887-1968), the home minister,     j ^ Y
were Brahmins. The fourth, Rajendra Prasad -\»C   j[
(1884-1963), the president, was a Kayasth. But
higher-caste Hindus were no more than a quarter     v^
of all the people who lived in India, though they "s^r '}
formed a disproportionately large number of
political leaders.
Political stonemasons
On 30 March 1954, as the inquiry into the Kumbh
disaster was hearing evidence in north India, a new
chief minister was installed in Madras State (today's
Tamil Nadu). K Kamaraj (1903-75), a Nadar, a caste
considered "low" and often associated with cultivation of the palmyra palm and with liquor-making,
supplanted C Rajagopalachari (1879-1972), the intellectual Brahmin nationalist and last governor general
of India, as the chief minister. Kamaraj was as corpulent and rustic as Rajagopalachari was ascetic and urbane. Kamaraj knew little English and had left school
as a boy. Rajagopalachari translated religious works
and theorised about nuclear war.
This transition from one leader to another suggested that India's encounter with democracy mightbe more
than a flirtation. In contrast, as it was happening, a
democratic endeavour came apart within weeks in
neighbouring Pakistan. In East Pakistan (today's
Bangladesh), the aged AK Fazlul Huq led a united front
to a big victory in provincial elections in March. He
formed a government that lasted only two months before
its secessionist-sounding rhetoric provoked its dismissal by the central government in West Pakistan.
The situation in India was different, but the social
and linguistic diversity out of which Kamaraj rose had
some similarities. The Congress Party had not done well
in Madras in the general elections of 1951-2. Rajagopalachari was able to form a government only with the
support of independents and smaller parties. In
~~lj addition, a resilient anti-north, anti-caste, anti-
:if   Hindi movement campaigned for local autonomy,
ill defined but possibly extending even to inde-
|jp    pendence. If Pakistan, why not Dravidistan (land
sbst      °^ ^e southem peoples), some asked. In the face
."-:;-./-"--^ ,a-.fti.     of this, the rise
,,;.'...-.■<.-;■■•";'   of Kamaraj as
YC?°°*  a from-the-soil
- ^- 77^77Z7..:o leader renewed
._<•■_ -• •—      ?>J-„r^T' -77      the roots of the
dSsfe^i-a   =- - -S-SWjObio'-^    Congress in the
i IsQf v l   Tamil areas. Kamaraj
VaYraX '-'-'...oWJS^^W^   won two elections,
.^-fti * -;    ^  "      . V   held the chief minister
ship for nine years and
became president of the Congress
jTzL     - Party and the maker of two prime
"f~- ministers after Nehru's death. But when
7b if* he left Tamil politics to become president of
.; - the Congress Party in 1963, the Congress lost its
base in society. After Kamaraj, the Congress did
not win a state election again in Tamil Nadu.
,s i The struggle in Tamil Nadu, both within the
sw Congress Party and in social movements outside
H it, underlined the potential cleavages in a socially
complex place. People with visions and ambitions
tapped away with sharp-pointed chisels, seeching out
such cleavages to split off social constituencies for
political purposes. "A 'battle for religion' is on in Tamil
Nad [sic]", the Times of India reported,
iconoclasts relentlessly preaching godlessness
and godfearing people urging... the need for piety   .
and faith.
The din of this verbal "jehad" is heard even
in the remote corners of the city [of Madras] as
scores of lectures ... are held daily at every
available maidan or public auditorium either to
denounce God or sing His praise.
The provocateur was EV Ramaswami Naicker, who
had founded the anti-north Indian organisation, Dravi-
2002 June 15/6 HIMAL
K Kamraj and NT Rama Rao: Connected to the masses	
da Kazhagam, that went on, in muted form after his
ejection, to displace the Congress as the government of
Tamil Nadu in 1967, Though himself drawn into public life through the nationalist movement in the 1920s,
he became a thorn planted annoyingly in the side of
Rajagopalachari. In 1954, Ramaswami Naicker appeared on Madras streets to denounce the Ramayana
and "threaten to break icons of Lord Ram and make a
bonfire of books on the Ramayana". Rajagopalachari
was "generally regarded as the head of the other camp"
and was said to have given impetus to the anti-Ramay-
ana forces when he "began writing
a series of articles and giving radio
broadcasts on the Ramayana".
Ramaswami Naicker's assaults
extended to other south Indians.
He denounced the presence of far
too many Kerala people - Malayalis - in the public service inMadras
and promised to "fight against
them as I fought against the
One can see a political stone
mason, tapping away at a piece of
rock, listening and feeling for ways
that it will slice or split. The
political boundaries of the old Madras state provided
the rock, and the various language, religious and caste
groups - or indeed, "racial" groups if people were
prepared to respond to the threat from "the Aryans"
that Ramaswami Naicker held out - were the layers
and fragments in the rock. It did not fissure quite as
Ramaswami Naicker might have envisaged, though the
beneficiaries were his former associates (and filmmakers) in the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).
Nevertheless, he was testing a method of political
exploration that countless other politicians in India
experimented with in the second half of the twentieth
century in circumstances of "democracy" and elections.
In north India, too, similar, though less bold, probing
went on. Ram Manohar Lohia, an ill-disciplined yet
magnetic socialist, sought ways of "mobilising the
In 1954 a Pakistani prime
minister might still touch
down at Calcutta or Delhi
airport to have breakfast
and a chat with the Indian
prime minister, as
Mohammed Ali did in
January and February...
masses" by using close-to-the-bone sentiments like those of caste. Lohia preached a
nationalistic socialism that ridiculed the
communists as high-caste, out-of-touch and
unpatriotic. In 1954, such headway as
he made lay in disrupting the Praja
Socialist Party and supporting attempts to
"liberate" the Portuguese colony of Goa by
sending in bands of satyagrahis to offer civil
Surpassing expectations
Confrontations like Goa, and practices like
satyagraha, placed India before the world.
In a time of nuclear confrontation between
communism and the "Free World", Vino-
bha Bhave and the blwodan or land-grant movement
offered practical examples of Gandhi's non-violent
recipe. Foreigners came to observe the processions
through the countryside that solicited land for the
landless, and newspapers celebrated Bhave as the "Man
behind a Bloodless Revolution". The satyagrahis sent
into Goa did not undermine Portuguese rule, but they
brought the Portuguese presence to the attention of the
world. The French in 1954 had had enough. In Vietnam,
Dien Bien Phu surrendered in May, and on I November,
all the French territories in India merged into the Indian
Union after a vote of 170-8 by a conference of representatives elected
in the French territories.
International affairs provided
the examples where the new government could claim its greatest
successes. Partly, of course, such
claims were harder to dispute
since they did not affect "the
people" in the same way as the
availability of health care or the
prices of rice and wheat. The
success of India's foreign policy in
1954, one writer enthused, "surpassed the wildest expectations of
its most fervent supporters". According to this view,
India had reshaped the Commonwealth and made it a
body of equals. It chaired both the UN Repatriation
Committee created to help end the war in Korea and the
International Commission for Indochina. It embraced
the People's Republic of China with visits by Chou Enlai to India in June and Nehru to Beijing in October.
Even the great setback, the decision of Pakistan to accept
US arms and alliances, could be interpreted as a stand
on principle. When the US offered India arms and an
alliance, India and Nehru proudly rejected them. Even
a little noticed political party called the Jana Sangh
concluded, "India's foreign policy had already achieved
considerable success".
Economic planning was another aspect of the vision
of a strong, effective state working for the prosperity
HIMAL 15/6 June 2002
 and cultural fulfilment of the Indian people. In 1954,
the First Five-Year Plan was barely three years old. Its
achievements were awaited, but its problems were beginning to be felt. Often, the apparatus to execute proposals was missing. Funds could not be spent because
there were not the officials or the public pressure to
devise programmes, extricate money and then see
projects carried out. This was particularly true in rural
India, where the plan architects placed their hopes for
rapid transformation. "District plans are a vital stage
in planning from the village upwards in all those fields
of development which bear closely on the life of the
people." But it proved almost impossible to produce
district plans that were more than the product of harried
local officials manufacturing a document to satisfy their
Nevertheless, it was possible to point to economic
achievements. Bicycle production nearly doubled in two
years to 191,000 bicycles a year, a rate at which it would
only take 15 years to produce a
bicycle for every adult. The greatest
svmbol of economic dynamism,
however, was the inauguration on
7 July of the Bhakra canal system
to generate electricity from the
great Bhakra Dam in Punjab.
Nehru told a crowd estimated at
100,000 that was also perfectly
normal for a Pakistani
team to reach the final of
a Bombay soccer
competition - before
going down to a largely
Muslim team from
the former princely
state of Hyderabad.
today, the real gurudwaras and
churches were those places
where great construction works
were in progress. It was at these
places that toiling millions
were sweating for the benefit of
other human beings. What place of worship could
be more pure and more sacred? (Times of India
Another component of the vision of industrialisation lay in the factories that would use the power. Decreeing that factories would be built was easier than
establishing programmes of rural development. A factory was a project that engineers could plan and contractors could execute. The state took responsibility for
establishing a National Industrial Development Corporation, setting up a railway coach factory in Madras,
a cable factory in Calcutta, a steel factory at Rourkela in
Bihar. These enterprises celebrated not only purposeful economic development to eliminate poverty but the
competence of Indian know-how. When disagreements
with American engineers troubled the Bhakra project,
a writer noted in the Times of India that "surely there is
enough [Indian] talent available in the Punjab and other States to execute the Bhakra dam".
Terminated, not banned
State-generated institutions
were similarly welcomed
in cultural and administrative affairs. The central
government started an Indian Institute of Public
Administration to improve administration and three
national academies of literature, music and the arts to
"preserve the glorious traditions of the past and enrich
them by the work of modern artists". In radio, the
medium with the greatest potential to reach large
numbers of people, All India Radio (AIR) provided the
only service, through which it strove to improve the
people by a diet of high and serious culture. Film songs,
the minister of information and broadcasting told
parliament, were not banned; it was simply that most
film producers "had terminated their agreement with
the AIR". This, he implied, was not a bad thing since
film songs "generally appealed to children and adolescents, that is, those who do not understand things and
who can be attracted in the most primitive way".
The men and women who steered the post-colonial
state in 1954 exhibited a puritanical belief in the state's
duty to improve. In this respect, they
displayed qualities of the more conscientious British colonial official.
Radio, as a state monopoly, could
be painstakingly controlled and
used to better the tastes of the masses, but films, produced by capitalists, needed to be censored. The Central Board of Film Censors, founded
in 1952 and appointed by the government from people like vice-
chancellors and members of parliament, sought to purify the imaginations of the crafty directors and
producers of Bombay and Madras.
  "~   '      The latter, however, held their own.
"His passion plunged her into shame", shouted the
advertisement for Amar, directed and produced by
Mehboob Khan (1906-64), with Dilip Kumar, actor of
the year in 1954, in the role of the "honest, god-fearing
young lawyer Amar" who shelters a "young and beautiful milkmaid" who has run away "from a village wolf
[two-legged]". But Amar "fall[s] prey to a violent fit of
lust that seized him and plunged her into sordid
Political elites made much of chastity and austerity
and were troubled by their inability to rally the rural
masses. The film industry frothed, fantasised and
calculated its success by the profits of its films, measured
in the millions of tickets it sold. In March 1954, Filmfare,
the English-language magazine of the Times of tndia
group, staged the first Filmfare Trophy Awards, presided over by the US ambassador. It was a remarkable
choice, given that the Eisenhower government was in
deep disfavour with the Government of India after embracing Pakistan as an ally in the containment of
communism ". The decision to give this [military] aid
to Pakistan", Nehru wrote to Mohammed Ali, the Pakistan prime minister, on 5 March 1954, "has changed
2002 June 15/6 HIMAL
the whole context of the Kashmir issue, and the long
talks we have had over this matter have little relation to
the new facts which flow from this aid". The film industry, marching to a different, capitalist drumbeat, was
ready to do what was necessary to slip round state disapproval, if the results promised big audiences and
good returns.
In Tamil, film was an art form, a political message-
bearer and a source of funds for political parties and
social movements. The hit of the year, Manohar, could
be viewed as an historical epic, set in Chola times a
thousand years ago, or as a subtle tale underlining the
dignity of the Tamil people who uproot unrighteous
interlopers and restore rightful heirs. Written by M
Karunanidhi, a scriptwriter later to be three times chief
minister of Tamil Nadu, it was part of a range of films
bringing wealth and notoriety to men and women associated with the DMK. It marked
the way in which the film industry, more successfully than the political system, connected an elite
minority and masses of ordinary-
people. The Tamil film industry
became a base for political movements asserting local identities. In
Telugu, NT Rama Rao, later to be
chief minister of Andhra Pradesh,
produced his first film in 1954.
Toda Dongalu "flopped", but was
said to begin a new genre of realistic films about "little" people who
eventually give oppressive bosses
their comeuppance.
Making India modern
In 1954, India was still coming to
terms with the raw meaning of nation-statehood. This
openness showed itself in the ambiguity over Kashmir,
where discussion of a plebiscite was not officially ruled
out, even while puppet politicians talked of the irrevocability of Kashmir's accession to India. In 1954 a Pakistani prime minister might still touch down at Calcutta
or Delhi airport to have breakfast and a chat with the
Indian prime minister, as Mohammed Ali did in January and February. It was reasonable too for a Pakistani
team to reach the final of a Bombay soccer competition
- before going down to a largely Muslim team from the
former princely state of Hyderabad. Keamari Union of
Karachi beat Mohun Bagan of Calcutta, 1-0, in the semifinal of the 56th Rovers Cup Football Tournament in
Bombay on 2 November, but lost the next day in the
final to Hyderabad Police, who won the cup for the
fifth successive year. Underlining the diversity and
complexity of India, three-quarters of the players on the
field that day bore Muslim names.
The goal of being modern imbued the founders of
the new state, and India's diversity had to be moulded
to meet that goal. Matters of religion had therefore to be
At the Kumbh Mela in
January 1954, "ten
thousand saffron-robed
sanyasis broke their
meditation ... to pledge to
unite the people of India
against the proposed
US-Pakistan military
alliance". They vowed to
"bring about unity through
country-wide preaching."
addressed, and throughout the year, parliament struggled with legislation to codify the personal law of Hindus. The aim was to bring the vast complexity of
"Hindu-ism" in India within a single framework,
derived both from the writings and practices of people
called Hindus and the inherited priggery of Victorian
colonialism. The glacial pace at which various bills proceeded through parliament led Nehru to clash with his
own law minister. When the latter asked for a further
delay in then submission of a report on the Hindu Marriage and Divorce Bill, "Mr Nehru jumped to his feet"
and "excitedly opposed" the motion. If matters "go on
like this", Nehru complained, "then the Joint Committee will take 20 years to submit its report". Many members of parliament had an interest in leaving things as
they were. The very modest Special Marriage Bill was
finally approved by parliament in September after two
years of discussion. It did no more
than permit people of any religion
to register marriages and thereby
contract into various provisions
for divorce and inheritance. The
reasons for the codification of
personal law, according to Nehru,
were to overcome "the rigidity"
that British law had unnaturally
introduced into social practices in
India. Yet he and his colleagues
aimed for a new uniformity that
they saw as essential for nation
building. "In our building up a
nation in this country", he told the
Lok Sabha, "it is essential that we
should aim at certain uniformities.
If you do not break down the barriers, first of all in the Hindu community itself ... [and then] the others who live in this
great country, you will never build up basically that
national concept we talk about so much." Fie himself
favoured a common civil code for all Indians, "but I
confess I do not think that at the present moment the
time is ripe in India to try to push it through". A
supporter explained: "We should first put our own
house in order before we invite Muslims to join us."
Four other acts, which together made up legislation referred to as the "Hindu Code," took another two vears.
Attempts to order the law relating to social practices
went ahead at the same time that individual states were
wrestling with land reform, when many aspects of the
federal system were under review by the States
Reorganisation Commission. Entangled in all questions of federalism and the rights of states was Kashmir
and the developing relationship with Pakistan, in 1947
that relationship had been hostile, but at least it was
ambiguous and unformed and it therefore was possible
that it might become more friendly and co-operative.
Over time, however, hostility became institutionalised.
It was perhaps a sign of the way in which nation-states
HIMAL 15/6 June 2002
 HE'S THERE TO TAtt;^^7 '
HE HBSEF.THK     s$^
seek to reach citizens - and citizens seek to win the favour of
states -that at the Kumbh Mela
in January 1954, "ten thousand
saffron-robed sanyasis broke
their meditation ... to pledge
to unite the people of India
against the proposed US-
Pakistan military alliance".
They vowed to "bring about
unity through country-wide
preaching." Such gestures indicated that a perception of
Pakistan as something concrete
and adversarial would permeate widely and deeply through
the population and could be
made a way to mobilise voters.
When the next Kumbh Mela assembled in 1966, there would
be no Karachi football teams
playing in Bombay tournaments.
Faith in the fat horse
India's national elite in 1954
was reaching a crest on a roller
coaster of confidence and vision. There was widespread
belief in the ability of the state
to transform society, economy and political participation. "The people" needed to be mobilised, educated
and improved. India needed to develop "national", all-
India practices, based on the finest aspects of ancient
Indian custom and stripped of the worst accretions of
colonial rule. The English language was to be steadily
supplanted by a national language, Hindi, which All
India Radio and the Indian Army were already
adapting and propagating.
Amid the bustle and confidence were signs that expectations were too high. "Little ... has been done in the
last four and a half years" to spread Hindi, the Times of
India declared and doubted whether the target of replacing English by 1965 could be achieved. Editorial
writers lamented "democratic immaturity of both Authority and the people", exhibited in violent demonstrations and the inability of government to respond to
clearly defined needs. Even the opening of state
institutions on which hopes were pinned could provoke
agonising about the direction of the new India. The
inauguration of the Indian Institute of Public Administration led to expressions of hope that it might "help
stop the rot" that had turned the "steel frame" of
bureaucracy into "a bamboo frame ... being progressively eaten up by insects".
The drivers of the state sought to involve "the
people" yet frequently failed to do so effectively, as the
stampede at the Kumbh Mela frighteningly illustrated.
The triumphs of foreign policy, the foundation-laying
and the institution-building needed to make inroads
into the 83 percent of 400 million people who could not
read or write and among whom the infant morality rate
was more than 120 per thousand live births. The
cartoonist RK Laxman captured the complexity of innovation, hope and doubt in a reflection on the five-
year plan (see above). Laxman's Common Man pulls both
the politician and the fat horse called "The Plan". The
politician promises that things will get much easier once
the horse has had enough to eat.
By the time the faithful gathered for the next Kumbh
Mela in January 1966, faith in the fat horse called "The
Plan" had diminished further. India had fought two
wars and was enduring a near-famine, Nehru was
dead, and there were 100 million more common women and common men, living little better than they had
in 1954. "" -
Note: Most quotations tn the article are either from the
Times of India or The Hindu
(This article is the first in a series by the writer on the history
of modern India as seen through the lens of successive Kumbh
2002 June 15/6 HIMAL
Uncle Sam in South Asia
(Waiting for "imperial overstretch")
Jawaharlal Nehru would have been shocked. His
daughter Indira would have been outraged. Rajiv
Gandhi would have been paralysed. But the person in
charge of carrying forward the Nehru-Gandhi legacy
these days is Sonia Gandhi. Being born in Italy, Sonia
probably knows the literal meaning of the Green Berets'
motto, "De oppresso libre" - but as yet a greenhorn in
Indian politics, she is unlikely to comprehend the true
significance of an elite American corps' mission of "liberating the oppressed". It seems the saffronite dispensation in New Delhi has fully resigned itself to a subservient role even in South Asia, fhe United States of
America is now the real overlord this side of the Himalaya. Chacha Chaudhary in New Delhi, Mama Abdul
in Islamabad, Granny Bandarnaike in Colombo, Begum
Didi in Dacca and Sanu Bhai in Kathmandu, please
line up and applaud. Uncle Sam will presently take a
no time in doing an about-turn. He not only abandoned
the Taliban, but also actually joined America's 'War on
Terrorism' without a moment's hesitation.
The abruptness of this somersault in Islamabad's
strategy left South Block's design, of lumping the jehadis of Kashmir with Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda and
getting the Americans to fight them simultaneously in
.Afghanistan and Pakistan, in tatters. Colin Powell decided to tackle one enemy at a time, and Pakistan was
after all a frontline state in the 'War on Terror'. But the
larger Indian interest lies with India.
Apart from assuring the multinationals that it has
not ignored their interests in one of the biggest emerging markets of this century, the Americans want to keep
India in good humour for another important reason.
The Pentagon brass wants the second biggest defence
force of the world on board in its mission to ensure
peace in an endemically volatile region. Crudely put,
Fort Bragg was perhaps testing its sub-contractors in
the scorching pre-monsoon heat of Agra. Bush's boys
probably wanted to see whether they could depend on
an elite Indian corps raised on a staple of rati and anti-
Pakistan rhetoric.
The heartland
When Coca-Cola staged a comeback in the Indian
market, it chose to launch its products from Agra. And
when American paracommandos decided to conduct
their first joint exercises with the Indian Army, they too
opted for a site close to the Taj Mahal. Such coincidences are not uncommon; there is a precedence of the American army marching along in the footprints of US multinationals. Coca-Cola and Pepsi - along with
Microsoft, Murdoch and many other industrial motors
run by Wall Street investors - are here to stay in South
Asia. And so the US marines that will protect their
interests must come over for a recce, and a taste of the
mid-May loo.
Given the location, nature and timing of this joint
exercise, public opinion in India should have questioned the propriety of bringing in the Green Berets next
door to New Delhi. But much of the reporting in the
Indian media was celebratory. Comments of the
opposition leaders were congratulatory. And the
consuming classes of urban India seemed to revel in
this as a signal of America's support for India,
interpreted in India as a decline in America's support
for the land across the Wagah border. Very few appear
to be bothered about the long-term significance of GI
Joe and jawan Ram Singh parajumping arm-in-arm.
The new-found camaraderie between the Pentagon
and Raisina Hill is a direct result of the changed
circumstances since 9/11, although its origin does go
back to the arrival of Bill Clinton on Indian shores. Sensing an opportunity of setting an incensed Bush against
a cornered Mush, Jaswant Singh immediately expressed
willingness to help America every which way. But New
Delhi's calculations were off. General Musharraf took
Uneasy partners
The ruse of the two largest democracies of the world
being natural allies notwithstanding, the partnership
between Washington and New Delhi is not a long-term
arrangement. At best, it is a 'living together' experiment
that may or may not end up in a marriage of convenience. To wipe off the history of animosity that dates
back to the 1950s - when the Americans put their money
on Pakistan and India gravitated towards Moscow - is
not as easy as it seems. Already the more principled
among New Delhi academics who have chanted the
anti-American mantra through their professional lives
are finding it difficult to make this geo-strategic about-
turn, and are chafing at the collar.
For the present, however, there are four objectives
that the USA seeks to achieve by backing Tndia. First,
the Americans want to defuse the possibility of nuclear
confrontation in what George W Bush's predecessor
termed 'the most dangerous place in the world'. Second,
the Indian Navy can be a handy instrument for policing
the sea-lanes all the way from Saudi Arabia to Japan.
Arundhati Ghosh (the former firebrand South Block
warrior, not to be confused with the other more famous
Arundhati) once boasted to Saarcy that New Delhi considered the stretch up to the Malaccan Straits as its area
of influence despite the US base in Diego Garcia. Evidently, the Americans want the Indians to continue believing that fiction - the invitation extended to New
Delhi to participate in the East Asian security meet in
Singapore is an indication of this - so that they can
concentrate their energies in West Asia for the present.
Make no mistake though. The Indian Ocean is precious to America and while they may be intending to
hire a security service in the form of the Indian armed
HIMAL 15/6 June 2002
A monthly column by SAARCY
forces, they are by no means transferring
the title deed to the chowkidar. The third,
and perhaps most important, reason behind the infatuation is a desire to preclude
a bhai-bhai rapprochement between
Beijing and New Delhi. The distance
between Moscow and New Delhi has already increased and Washington DC
would be happy if the Indians had nowhere to go other than into the embrace
of its military-industrial complex for all
their future needs. The fourth strategy is
a long-term one that Chris Patten seemed
to sense when he visited the Indian and Pakistani
capital cities in May: the Americans are laying the
groundwork for the day when the European Union will
be competing for spheres of influence with them. Moscow itself may have forgotten the imperial directive,
but there are historically conscious strategists in London and Paris who realise the enduring importance of
Article vm of Peter the Great's will: "Bear in mind that
the commerce of India is the commerce of the world,
and he who can exclusively command it is the dictator
of Europe."
Goaded by the consuming classes and the influential Indian diaspora, the saffronites of New Delhi think
they have no choice but to take shelter under the US
security umbrella. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, for all his poetic abilities, lacks the vision to draft a
long-term strategy for Indian foreign policy. Jaswant
Singh, at the helm of foreign affairs, has a military background and cannot see beyond the reign of the generalissimo in Islamabad. If General Musharraf poured ghee
over the ongoing fire of conflict with his inflammatory
27 May address, the very next day Mr Singh added
some more verbal firewood to feed the inferno.
New Delhi seems to be under the impression that
the cowboy combatants of the 'War on Terror' may not
be against a direct assault on jehadi camps across the
Line of Control in Kashmir if such a campaign were to
be accurate, swift and successful. General Musharraf
too appears to have realised that the Americans are
getting impatient with his impotence in restraining
Islamic fundamentalists. It must be this realisation that
has made the general refer to his 'strategic weapons' so
often lately. Ironically, the more Mush talks of a nuclear war, the louder the alarm bells go off in Western
capitals, strengthening New Delhi's case that Pakistan
is on the verge of going renegade. Have you noticed
how, in the middle of all this, India has successfully
diverted world attention away from the state-condoned
pogrom against Muslims in Gujarat?
Enduring allies?
Elsewhere in South Asia, Americans already hold sway.
Sri Lanka is on the verge of signing a military pact with
the United States even as New Delhi pretends not to see
the emerging alliance. Earlier, when President Jayawar-
dane had tried to tow his tiny island to
the US dominated ASEAN, there was a
huge hue and cry in the Indian capital.
This time, American overlord ship is being
accepted as a fait accompli.
Despite the rise of Tahbangla
(the Bangladeshi version of hardcore
Islamists) in Dhaka, both the begums of
the country are committed to courting
Washington. Dhaka intellectuals openly
say that it is helpful to have the US on
their side in dealing with the domineering
power of the region. Besides, American
investors eyeing deposits of natural gas in the Padma
basin already enjoy considerable influence in the
corridors of military power in Bangladesh. Multinationals instinctively know who controls the real levers
of power in a poor, emerging democracy.
Even though precariously placed between Mao's
China and Nehru-Gandhi's India, Nepal remained
loyal to the West throughout the Cold War. (For almost
a quarter of a century, Kathmandu was the only South
Asian capital to have an Israeli embassy.) When
President Bush agreed to grant an audience to Prime
Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba in the White House Oval
Office and Prime Minister Tony Blair graced a
discussion between an aide and the visiting counterpart
at 10 Downing Street, conservatives in Kathmandu went
wild with joy. Perhaps it was the steroid of promised
Western support that pumped Premier Deuba into going
against his own party before mopping up the Maoist
insurgency, dissolving parliament and promising a
mid-term election even though the government's writ
runs no further than district headquarters in much of
the country.
To describe the strength of an empire unparalleled in
human history, the French have coined an apt term: the
USA today is not just the sole super power, but it is a
hyper-power. Forces opposed to it cannot cause the
downfall of a hyper-power. Rather, the world has to
wait for it to extend itself beyond its capabilities and
reach what the historian Paul Kennedy has identified
as the point of "imperial overstretch". Meanwhile, we
have no option but to put up with the imperious guest
in the region, credit for inviting the camel into the tent
going to the leaders of South Asia.
Now that dancing to the tune of Born in the USA has
become inescapable, all that we South Asians can do is
insist that the music be played on the tabla, flute and
sitar. The militarisation of polity, privatisation of
economy and McDonaldisation of culture that often
follow the Americanisation of society must be resisted
at all cost. Leaders of South Asia have failed to resolve
the internal conflicts of the region, making the entry of
the global hyper-power inevitable. It is left for the people and culture to bend \<\mrika' to their own image, b
2002 June 15/6 HIMAL
 Selected writings of Jotirao Phule
Edited and with an introduction
by GP Deshpande
LeftWord, Delhi, 2002
pp \n+247
ISBN SI 8749b 21 5
INK 450
Translated into English from the
original Marathi, this collection of
Jotirao Pilule's writings includes most of his major
works, including Slavery and Cultivator's Whipcord, although his poetry and personal correspondence are not
in this volume, Principally concerned with the "brah-
manism" of the ruling elite, Pilule spent his life as a
social reformer, educator and critic of the Hindu caste
system, and established the first school for dalit girls in
India. Writing that Phule was intimately concerned
with the "misery and melancholy of the Indian peasantry," GP Deshpande notes in his introduction Phule's
significance as the first major Indian thinker to break
with the moderate English branch of European liberalism and advocate revolutionary social reform in the
Mother, sister, daughter:
Nepal's press on women
Sancharika Samuha, Lalitpur, 2002
pp xx+268
ISBN 99933 648 1 9
No price recommended
Printed with the financial support
of UNIFEM, this collection of writings on women's issues in Nepal
bring together recentty published articles on a wide
range of topics, including culture, law, health and
sexual violence. Despite progressive legislative
measures included in the country's 1991 constitution,
discrimination against and exploitation of women is a
common feature of contemporary Nepali society, with
women oftentimes unable to access legal protections.
Published by Sancharika Samuha, a Nepali women's
advocacy group,Mother, sister, daughter is useful reading
for those interested in understanding the multifaceted
and evolving dynamic of femininity in Nepal.
Reshaping the agenda in Kashmir
By Sundeep Waslekar
International Centre for Peace Initiatives, Bombay, 2002
pp 51
No price recommended
Despite representing only one-quarter of one percent of the population
of India and Pakistan, Kashmir has
become the most dangerous flash point for relations in
the Subcontinent. Arguing that the present morass in
the divided land is a result of underdevelopment,
flawed Indian governance and Pakistani-backed religious militancy, Reshaping the agenda in Kashmir argues
for a new dialogue between India, Pakistan and the
people of Kashmir. The report is the combined result of
a study of international experiences and an assessment
of the situation on the ground in Jammu and Kashmir.
Hoping to "set the debate in a constructive direction",
the author of the report. Sundeep Waslekar, argues that
it is "necessary to take simultaneous steps for the resolution of conflict, reconciliation, and reconstruction of
socio-economic fabric", especially in the context of the
upcoming provincial elections next fall.
The singing bow: Song-poems of
the Bhil
Translated and with an introduction
by Randhir Khare
HarperCollins India, Delhi, 2001
pp xxv+262
ISBN 81 7223 425 2
INR 295
,.„„._,-..„-._,— j^ Bhil, India's second-largest
scheduled tribe, occupy extensive portions of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan, although they have been steadily losing their group identity for several decades. Translated by the poet Randhir
Khare, this assemblage of poems brings together basic
Bhil poetic beliefs concerning marriage, creation, nature and death. Writing in his introduction that "today, thev are a dispersed people, living in culturally
cross-pollinated pockets", Khare's work is an important artistic and cultural record of a people that are
quickly losing their heritage.
Nepal's tourism: Uncensored
By Diwaker Chand
Pilgrims, Varanasi, 2000
pp xxvii+283
ISBN 81 7769 078 7
NPR 632
Despite the traditionally fierce isolationism of the Kathmandu court, Nepal gradually opened to tourism in
the years after World War II. In this well-researched
work, Diwaker Chand explores the development of tourism in Nepat through the years of the 'open door' policy, panchayat state planning and the restoration of
democracy. Chand weaves the threads of history, economic change and socio-cultural challenges together
and offers analysis on the impact of the present Maoist
struggle on the country's tourism sector. b
Compiled by Deepak Thapa, Social Science Baha, Patan
HIMAL 15/6 June 2002
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in the valley.
Come feel the warmth of TIBETAN hospitality.
PO Box: 101, Lake Side, Pardi, Pokhara, nepal
Tel: 977-1-61-20853, 24553, 25153, Fax: 977-61-25206
xiking for a nice.
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and peaceful with authentic Tibetan
decor and within ten minutes'
walking distance from the tourist
shopping area of Thamel?
What better choice than Hotel Tibet!
Lazimpat, Kathmandu, Nepal
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TOURS, the Leading Tour
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website: www.tibcttravels.corn !:
Bead people don't play football
Two countries that cannot even play soccer
• propose to nuke each other, and we are al!
supposed to sit back and enjoy the show. At least
they could hold the fireworks here in South Asia
until the World Cup is over in East Asia. We will root
for Argentina, we will cheer for Senegal, and not
consider it at all incongruous that India and
Pakistan are not on the field - they probably never
will the way things are progressing. Irradiated
people make bad football players and vapourised
people are not even there.
Funny thing is, much of the Indus and Ganga
plains, where these fierce fighting people live, is
ideal soccer territory. It is flat, see. And it is a
terrible place to test your ballistic nuclear
missiles. Because it is populated, see. It is
not as if Noida or Orangi are empty like
Lop Nor or the Bikini atoll.
If only the great strategists on
Star News and PTV
discussed the
reasons why we
cannot make it
to the World
Cup... the.
the malnutrition, the
diet, the
facilities, the
training, we would
begin to get a glimmer
of the misplaced priorities. Hai
na? Lekin, till the bile rises up the gullet,
they will talk about "coercive diplomacy"
and nuclear throw-weight, kilotons and
Okay, the Americans and Brits - *ft/ /
and Scandanavians, Japanese, Untied     ■£*"" '
Nations staff, and
even the Koreans - ~^7A^7-
want their citizens out of
the confrontation zone and have already evacuated.
See how they value the lives of their citizens7 But
whoever said EU and ASEAN lives are more precious
than SAARC ones?
Sheikh Hasina - sorry, Begum Zia - should
immediately pick up the phone and call someone,
anyone, and order the evacuation of the millions of
Bangladeshi labourers, domestics and sweatshop
workers from Karachi, Gujranwallah, Delhi (both cis-
Jamuna and trans-Jam una), and Hissar.
Kathmandu's government should send out an
urgent travel advisory to all million-plus desbaas'ts
living and working in the arch from the apple terraces
of Himachal to the cages of Bombay. No better time to
return to the motherland. Better to starve slowly to
death than be incinerated instantaneously., unless you
think otherwise.
Actually, West Nepal is so close to the possible
nuclear theatre - the airforce base at Bareilly is just a
stone's throw away from the Tanakpur - that the
country should plan to evacuate its entire western half
and use night buses to ferry the Janata to the eastern
half. The latter is a good host for refugees, fortu-
*~*X nately, for this is where the Lhotshampa from
\ Bhutan have camped for a full decade now with
nary an untoward incident, as they say.
In the spirit of live and let live, I
propose that in the next week or
so, all Tamils, Kannadigas,
Malayalis and whoever
else with origins (and
family) south
.W* " Vindhyas
evacuate all
North India.
All Bengalis,
Assamese and
iving west of
Varanasi should
likewise pack up
/     and pull back. Since all
of Pakistan would
probably be gone, Balochis and
Pathans should head north to Afghanistan, which is
today the safest place in the Subcon. Sindhis can take
the boat out to the Gulf.
What is the purpose of all this? The purpose,
dear sir/madam, is to leave North India-
.-■ t~/      Pakistan populated only by those
who actually want a nuclear war,
and who believe that such a war is nice
and appropriate under the circumstances, and can
have the satisfaction of having fought one. They want
a nuclear Kurukshetra (the ancient equivalent of
modern day Armageddon) overlaid over exactly
where the first one was fought. Let 'em have it.
HIMAL 15/6 June 2002
& M %
tr>£ explore nepal ^roup
Vistas & Vignettes of Kathmandu Valley & Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve
(bBhojan Qriha... a grand old building restored and converted into the finest restaurant
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architecture of a cfNewari Temple with traditional decor to create the perfect ambience
ffioshi Tappu tybildlife Gamp...a remote luxury sfari tented camp in eastern cSNepalJor
exclusive sightings of rare wild water buffaloes & hundred of bird specie^Je like to bring
you more with our deep commitment towards restoration &. conservation.
W'7mh    m om  \m
Bhojan Griha
Koshi Tappu
Wildlife Camp
Kantipur Temple House
Post box; 536, Kathmandu, nepal.
Tel: 247078,247079,247081,226130 Fax;977vN22423j
 Being the first five-star hotel [n Kathmandu has its privileges. For
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Being part ofthe Taj Group has its privileges too. A history'of
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A combination thai seems to suit our guests perfectly.
Hotel de Is Annapurna
No. I Address in Kathmandu
Hotels Resorts
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Durbar Marg, P.O. Box: 140, Kathmandu, Nepal. Phone: 977-1-221711, Fax: 977-1-225236
E-mail: Website: -
S.-1. ii V O If V V^frfaatcPR


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