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Himal Southasian Volume 18, Number 1, July-August 2005 Dixit, Kanak Mani 2005-08

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Persian gas for
Southasian peace
 Sun, 600 million yea isold.
Sea, 6 million yeaisold.
Culture, 3000 years old.
Al in Sri Lanka.
There is year long beachcombing climate in Sri Lanka.
If you're not content just lounging in a deck chair,
there's water sports, deep sea diving and surfing.
However, you wouldn't be prepared for the
awe-inspiring spectacle of ancient Sri Lanka
and all its well-preserved remnants.
V o u ' r a  " u ■■■ w or id
^f SriLankan Airlines
Returning to our readers after a year's hiatus, we
bring you an issue which is all about building linkages - from gas pipelines to airways, cross-border
media to trade regimes - and which also projects
the shared democratic ideals from which some of
us are moving away, and others, towards. Like
Himal's south-side-up map at left, the essays and
articles in the following pages challenge us to think
'out of the map'. Mostly, they ask that we consider
the people.
Understanding India
Royal regime change
Heady days in Male
Jinnah: The fractured image
Cover Story
Persian gas for Southasian engine
by Kanak Mani Dixit
Burma-toTndia gasline
Bangladesh as Nepali saviour
The mechanics of peace
by Jehan Perera
Bangladeshi Maobaadis
by Afsan Chowdhury
Air travel takes flight
by Himali Dixit
Thimphu's new constitution
by Prashant Jha
The upcoming Bihar flood
by Dinesh Kumar Mishra
Who killed Siva
by Kunda Dixit
The kernel of Kashmir
by A G Noorani
Media outbreak
by Akash Banerjee
Manisha, take care
by N3ndini Ramnath
King Gyanendra and rule of law
by Az\z Huq
India abandons the refugees
by A C Sinha
India's NGO establishment
by Pandurang Hegde
E par Bangla, 0 par Bangla
by Dipankar Sinha
Muivah's road to peace
by Dolly Kikon
The trade regimes caged
by Posh Raj Pandey
Melancholy of May
by C K Lai
Time and a place
by Rajshri Dasgupta
The Pakistani Southasian
by Sardar AsefF Ahmad Ali
Re-writer of history
by Ajmal Kamal
Naipaul's Naxalites
by Amitava Kumar
Women, work and power
by Firdous Azim
Citizens as denizens
by Samir Kumar Das
The middle class and the ladder
by Sukumar Muralidharan
Books Received
 Vol IS Nol
Jul-Aug  ZOOS  www
Kanak Mani Dixit
Contributing Editors
Calcutta Raj ashri Dasgu pta
Colombo Jehan Perera
Delhi Mitu Varma
Dhaka Afsan Chowdhury
Karachi Beena Sarwar
Editorial Assistance
Prashant Jha
Himali Dixit
Creative Director
Bilash Rai
Kiran Maharjan
Bhusan Shilpakar
Business Development Manager
Keshu Arval
Sunaina Shah (General Manager)
Sambhu Guragain
Sales and Subscription
Shahadev Koirala
Customer Care
Raj Bhai Dangol
Himal Southasian is published and
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on behalf of The Southasia Trust
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Contributors    to    this    issue
AC Sinha is the former dean ofthe School of Social Sciences, North Eastern Hill University, Shillong.
Ajmal Kamal runs the City Press publishing and cultural center in Karachi.
Akash Banerjee is a Delhi based television journalist.
Amitava Kumar is the author of Husband of a Fanatic. He is currently working on a novel.
Aziz Huq is a constitutional and civil-rights lawyer in New York City who has worked with the
International Crisis Group on Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nepal.
Ben Ayers is an activist working to better the working condition ofthe hill porters of Nepal.
C K Lai is a Kathmandu engineer and columnist with the weekly Nepali Times.
Dinesh Kumar Mishra is convener of the Barh Mukti Abhiyan and is based in Jamshedpur.
Dipankar Sinha is Reader in Political Science at Calcutta University and concurrently
Honorary Adjunct Fellow, Institute of Development Studies, Calcutta.
Dolly Kikon is a member of the Working Group ofthe Northeast Peoples' Initiative, Guwahati.
FlrdousAzim in Head of Department of English at BRAC University Dhaka.
Hari Sharma is a political scientist and director of Social Science Baba, Kathmandu.
Jehan Perera, a human rights activist based in Colombo, is weekly columnist for The Daily Mirror.
Kunda Dixit, Regional Editor of inter Press Service in Colombo 1986-7988, edits The Nepali Times.
HI Ismail Khan is a development analyst based in Islamabad.
Nandini Ramnath writes on film and assorted subjects for Time Out Mumbai.
Pandurang Hegde is with the Appiko-Chipko Andolan, and works outofSirsiin Kamataka.
Posh Raj Pandey, a Kathmandu based economist, has particular interest in trade and
developing countries.
Rajashri Dasgupta is a freelance writer in Calcutta who writes extensively on societies in transition.
Rajendra Dahal is the editor of the Nepali fortnightly Himal Khabarpatrika.
Samir Kumar Das is a Reader in Political Science at Calcutta University.
Sardar AseffAhmad Ali was foreign minister of Pakistan in 1993 under the Pakistan People's
Party government.
Sukumar Murlidharan is a freelance journalist based in Delhi.
Cover image by Subhas Rai     Cover design by Bilash Rai
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Understanding India
If there is one word that has been used endlessly to
describe India's foreign policv, it is 'continuity'. For
almost four decades during tlie Cold War, the official
discourse in India centred around non-alignment
while the policv, in practice, maintained a distinct
pro-Soviet tilt. For an even longer period, South
Block had a clear framework with which to deal
with the immediate neighbourhood - Southasia was
India's business and other countries, including the
big powers, were expected to keep their hands off
the region, lt was, as a commentator once remarked,
India's Monroe doctrine - at least in relation to those
countries that did nol have the political or military
muscle to challenge India's self-proclaimed regional
superpower status.
While it is true that there has rarelv been a drastic
[ind sudden overhaul in the wav India conducts its
external relations, discreet shifts have ocurred during
critical    phases    which
have become apparent
over     time.     Such     a
process  of  redefinition
is    underway    in    the
post   9/1'J   period,   one
which   is   refashioning
India's   relations   with
the    global    hegemon,
powerful regional blocs
and erstwhile rivals all
at one go. It is essential
tor Snuthasia's smaller
countries - Bangladesh,
Nepal,       Sri       Lanka
- who share the fact of
complex and often bitter relationships with India, to
understand the evolving geo-political environment, if
they wish not to be left bereft of strategic options.
India's relations with each ot it1- neighbours is
multi-dimensional and has never been a strong point.
it has fought four wars with Pakistan (in 1948, 19(1?,
1971 and 1999) and one with China (1%2). It has
continuous skirmishes with Bangladesh. Sri Lanka
had accused it of sponsoring lamil separatism
and Nepal, despite the 1951! Treat}' of Peace and
Friendship which mandates ,m open bolder and
equal treatment of citizens, looks sit India's even
move with extraordinary scepticism,
India has her own litany of complaint'-, lt blames
Pakistan for having fomented trouble in Punjab and
for instigating cross-border militancy in jammu and
Kashmir, Bangladesh is considered ungrateful, ior
nurturing unreasonable grudges even though its
independence was achieved with Indian help. Sri
Lanka's acts of k't-dovvn are considered to be many,
for not having appreciated the repatriation ol Tamil
plantation workers or the sacrifices the Indian arms'
has made on Colombo's behalf. Nepal is seen as
unapprecialive ol all the assistance provided over
the years, including today when India is the main
supplier of amis to the Nepali armv .it a 70 percent
China card
The relationships thus, have been ones ot extremes,
with New Delhi's hegemonic regional aspirations met
bv paranoia and intense distrust of India among the
smaller countries. In the
mean time, two trends
have been continuous:
India's insistence on
not allowing any other
power to intervene in tlie
region on I lac one hand,
j\A the efforts ol the
others to el I-set India's
power by seeking to
build alliance^ with its
arch-rh ills, Pakistan
and (. hina, on the
olher. I his was most
starkly reflected in the
strategy ot Nepali's
King Mahendra to build a closer relationship with
China. In the I9MK. when Sino-lndia rivalry wasai its
peak, the use lit tlie "China card' worked anil the king
succeeded in preventing lhe Indian government irom
opposing, his rov ai regime.
Both these policv approaches, however, are on
the verge oi outliving their strategic utility. With
the Collapse of the Soviet Union, India realised the
nrcl to adapt to changed realities. It identified
Lurope <is a potential balancing power against the
.American lug. At the same time, it assidousk began
to build ties with the LS, .in initiative thai lias been
reciprocated bv the White 1 louse. India also emerged
as  the   leader of  the ibb'O   a  group  ol   developing
Jul-Aug 200 S I Himal Southasian
 countries that are seeking to end discriminatory
practices in the present global trade regime. It is now
among the primary contenders for a permanent seat
in the Security Council. Constant engagement with
global powers, the adoption of market reforms arid
the growing recognition of india as a possible pole in
the international system have all given the country
newfound confidence. This confidence is most clearly
reflected in its external affairs.
India is now ready to share the regional strategic.
space it was so possessive about till only half a
decade back. It is no longer apprehensive about
external powers playing a role in Southasia, as long
as the scope of intervention is defined and does not
alter geopolitical realties significantly. When Sri
Lanka decided to make use of Norway as a peace-
broker and facilitator in its talks with the LITE, New
Delhi not only supported the move but even assisted
the Norwegian-led Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission
(SLMM). During the Kargil war with Pakistan, India
willingly (even gleefully) permitted the United States
to play the defusing role.
New Delhi has also been willing to engage with
powerful countries, particularly the US and the UK,
on resolving the political crisis in Nepal, particularly
since King Gyanendra's February takeover. In the
past, attempts by Nepal to get third-country arms
had led to something as stringent as an economic
embargo, while now India helped facilitate the supply
of arms from overseas to the Royal Nepal Army.
Foes into friends
While India has re-oriented its foreign policy, the
smaller nation-states of Southasia have done little to
wake up to the changed strategic environment. These
countries have tended to look towards Pakistan or
China as countervailing powers to balance India's
overwhelming presence. Even here, or perhaps
especially here, great changes are underway. Tlie
India-Pakistan peace process now seems to be
irreversible, and so the space available for smaller
countries to gain leverage by exploiting a six decade-
long acrimony is diminishing fast.
India and China are fast becoming close strategic
partners and this process has gamed a new thrust
and momentum ever since China joined the WTO.
The two countries are jointly working on a 'twin
tower' policy on information technology: India will
be the leader in software while China will take the
top slot in hardware. As a part of growing friendship
and commercial cooperation, Beijing has finally
accepted Sikkim as an integral part of India and has
corrected all its official maps arid websites, and New
Delhi is not pushing for an immediate settlement of
the border disputes in Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai
These dramatic shifts of the last few years - the
importance of the United States in a unipolar world,
the rapproachment with China, the detente with
Pakistan - all have to be included in calculations
made by Bangladesh, Nepal arid Sri Lanka. What
is India? How to deal with it? If tlie neighbouring
countries are smart enough, they can make India
work for them. Otherwise, India will be pursuing
its own goals rather ruthlessly and at the cost of the
It is essential for India's neighbours to shed
the paranoia that has so often characterised their
attitude towards the larger country. New Delhi's
actions have indeed given reason for scepticism and
it would be wise for Southasia's smaller countries
to remain cautious. However, what is needed
is smarter diplomacy, with Colombo, Dhaka
and Katlimandu engaging New Delhi as equals,
instead of letting their insecurities diminish their
negotiating strength. Sri Lanka is already building
economic linkages with India on a mutually7
beneficial basis, and Bangladesh and Nepal too
must take advantage of India's economic boom, and
seek access to its burgeoning consumer markets and
technical know-how.
There are tectonic shifts underway in the global
and regional scenario. With a wary eye on what the
Delhi Durbar is upto, Southasia's smaller countries
would do well to join in the new Great Game.       ^.
Himal Southasian is looking for an Assistant Editor.
The responsibilities include supporting the editor in all
aspects of the bi-monthly magazine's production, from
editorial communications to research. There will be writing
assignments, but the primary skill required is the ability
to desk edit full-length articles. Applicants must have
a strong grounding in the social sciences and a keen
understanding of Southasian history, economics, culture
and geopolitics.
Work experience: substantial reporting, research, writing
and editing in mainstream media, though work with
academic journals is also relevant,
The position is based in Kathmandu. Salary
commensurate with experience and energy.
Application procedure: Send biodata and one - page
essay on the topic "Journalism and the face of Southasia",
or a relevant subject of your choice, to Kanak Mani Dixit
at Deadline: 15 July 2005
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Royal Regime change in Nepal
(JEfflL <a*W*Gf*r .4MJ»ril.WT1*^  CHART
Kir^ I
When King Gyanendra of Nepal conducted a
military-backed coup on "i February 2005, even
tkose who thought it was drastic and ill advised had
expected that he had 'a plan' by which he would
tackle the raging Maoist insurgencv. Kit her he was
aiming to bring the Maobaadi to heel bv making
the Royal Nepal Army effective, or he had a secret
arrangement with Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the elusive
Maoist chieftain. Indeed, all would be forgiven if
the king were planning for peace and were able to
deliver it.
Claiming to protect dcmocr-acv and to save the
Xepaii people from the Maoists, King Gyanendra
declared a state of emergency, suspended civil rights, muzzled the press, block-ed telephone and cellphone networks, and jailed hundreds of politicians
and activists. He went about dismantling the
many achievements of a dozen years of unfettered
democracy. Seeking a purely military solution to the
runaway insurgencv, he simultaneously weakened
the state. By coming down from the high pedestal of
the monarchy to play politics, he gambled with the
future of his dvnastv.
Five months to the day King Gyanendra took
over, it is clear that he had no plan. The main
purpose behind the royal coup seems to have been
to expand royal powers beyond those provided by
the 1990 Constitution of Nepal. And it is tlie people
of Nepal who have lost the most in this royal move,
with the successes of political pluralism achieved
since 1990 negated and the possibilities of social
and economic progress through a fully democratic
- if at times anarchic - system denied. Kathmandu
Valley's population of a million plus is coddled, but
the countryside is in shambles and human security
in the hills, plains and valleys at an all time low in
Lhe wake of the king's pustch.
It was differ the half-takeover of 4 October 2002,
when the King started appointing prime ministers
at will, that the Maoists spread from their mid-
western nerve centre across the tarai plains and to
the hills all over. In this interim, they went from
having a presence in less than 15 districts Lo more
than 70 of the country's 75 districts, defter the 1
February roval coup, when King Gyanendra also
Look over as chairman of the Council of Ministers,
the public has been without anyone whom thev
might call their representatives. This translates into
deep distress across the land, an anguish clearly
not appreciated by the palace in Kathmandu as
revealed in numerous cases of neglect over the past
five months.
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
 Feudalising state
Nowhere else in Southasia today is there
countrywide turmoil as there is in Nepal.
Nowhere such public disregard for rule of law, in
which a regime may maul an existing constitution,
and every self-aggrandising whim of the palace
may be implemented through fiat and ordinances.
"Maathi baata" - orders from above has once
again become a blanket explanation for all action
and inaction on the part of the army, the police or
the bureaucracy. The palace is seeking a return to
the Panchayat era of kingly rule, or as much of it as
it can revive amidst the chaos and confusion.
In no country of Southasia are senior most
mainstream politicians in jail, except in Nepal:
a former prime minister, a former deputy prime
minister and speaker of the House, ministers,
human rights activists - none of them the
radical extremists King Gyanendra seeks to
destroy. But for Nepal's king, no other head of
state and government travels to open-invitation
international fora to castigate his own country's
democratic experiment. No other Southasian
foreign ministry calls ambassadors of friendly
democratic countries with such consistency to
upbraid them for interference in internal affairs
when they speak up for multipairty democracy, or
the rule of law7.
If it is possible to take a country back 30 years in time, King Gyanendra is doing it in Nepal.
While officially the chairman of the cabinet, the
king has left matters of state in the hands of two
vice-chairmen, elderly gentlemen whose last
connection to government dates back to the depths
of the Panchayat era in the 1970s. One of them, in
fact, had spent a quarter of a century in Colombo
and Bangalore as a Jehovah's Witness proselvtiser
before being called back to be the supercilious face
of the regime. As for the king's other ministers,
they are to the last of them implausible individuals,
nobodies brought to do the palace's bidding.
King Gyanendra ascended the throne of Nepal
in June 2001, aged 56, without prior experience
in statecraft. He was an unknown quantity in a
country that had just been through its first decade
of democratic experimentation. But in his public-
utterances and interviews, the new king declared
his intention to be a more proactive monarch than
his murdered elder bother. The late Birendra's
retiring personality had suited the job description
of a constitutional monarch post-1990, even though
he had ruled absolutely for 18 years starting 1972.
The pronouncements of his successor brother
increasingly exposed the latter as ambitious and
arrogant, and a non-believer in pluralism and rule
by people's representatives.
In King Gyanendra's Nepal today, the economy
is in nosedive. The daily death count from political
violence is higher than before February 2005 and
even higher than before October 2002, Tlie value
of human lives and human rights is lower than
ever as Maoists become even more brutal and
the army is kept out of the range of reporting bv
district journalists, who have been cowed down
by threats and intimidations made on the basis of
notices from the king's Ministry of Information and
The king did Nepal's military a disservice by-
utilising the soldiers to implement his coup. In a
country where the army has been a ceremonial force
throughout its modern history, the king's action has
locked in a process of militarisation that can only
retard social, economic and political evolution.
While its current political duties have dimmed the
professionalism of the RNA and jeopardised the UN
peacekeeping assignments it prizes., the real danger
comes from the fact that army officers have become
the de facto administrators of their respective
regions and districts. Al no point in history have
the majors and colonels wielded so much power,
and the urgency of a return to democratic rule
by parliament is fuelled by the danger that this
The 26 million people of Nepal do not deserve
this atavistic return to autocratic rule at a time when
they should have been fine-tuning their system of
governance to make it more inclusive and corrective
of myriad historical ills and discriminations. Since
blaming all of history becomes meaningless it must
be conceded that the ills of today's Nepal hark
back to Lhe 30 years of the autocratic Panchayat
system put in place in 1960 bv the royal father,
Mahendra. Indeed, Lhe best argument against an
active monarchy is the fact that Nepal has already-
had tried three full decades of autocratic kingship.
The miscalcu lation of son Gyanendra on "I February-
was to think that the country's demography, media,
communications, mass awareness and middle class
structures had not changed in the intervening years.
This miscalculation now threatens the longevity of
the dynasty.
The Shah dynasty provides a continuous thread
that reaches back to the founding of Nepal in the
mid-18th century by King Gyanendra's tenth
ancestor Prith-vinarayan. The past 15 years of
pluralism, however, have confirmed that monarchy
is no longer an indispensable adhesive for unity,
and is therefore not essential for the survival of the
nation state. It can now merely serve as a useful
national symbol and a culturally potent instrument
to promote social and economic progress, provided
the person who wears the crown appreciates the
definition of 'constitutional monarchy'. In the
modern context, and given the spoilsport attitude
Jul-Aug 2005 I Himal Southasian
 of all kings of the modern era towards democratic
politics - Tribhuvan, Mahendra, Bire-ndra and
now Gyanendra - a 'constitutional monarch' must
be defined as one who is ceremonial and without
'residual' powers.
Lethal assistance
The palace was clearly taken aback by the international reaction to the royal takeover, and in
particular the responses of India, the US and the UK
- countries crucial in providing military support to
fight the rebels. Their condemnation was swift and
uncompromising, demanding an immediate return
to democratic rule and constitutional monarchy. Tlie
massive support being pro-vided to the RNA to battle
the Maoists was halted. The king had miscalculated,
expecting the Nepali 'war on terror' to provide the
cushioning for his takeover.
Lately, the Kathmandu regime has taken to
'threatening' the international community with the
certainty of a Maoist takeover if military support
re-mains withheld. Truth be told, the flow of arms
assistance at this stage is needed to provide political
legitimacy to the new dispensation. The talk of a
Maoist takeover is uncouth scaremonger ing, and
seems to have convinced no one but the American
ambassador in Kathmandu, who likes to talk
ominously about a rebel takeover, with khukuri
knives no less. It is important to call the royal bluff,
for the fact is that the rebels are not capable of
defeating the RNA in conventional warfare, which is
what would be required to take over the state. While
they do have the run of the countryside because of
the nature of Himalayan topo-graphy, the Maoists do
not hold any territory, nor any of Nepal's 75 district
The Maoists began their insurgency nearly ten
years ago against a functioning democracy. In the
interim, they have managed to weaken the state
geopolitically, pushing back the social and economic
development of a needy population, and dragging
the army out of the barracks. While it is true that the
Maoists are homegrown and that they propose a class
war rather than a more destablising insurgency based
on identity-led divisions, they are nevertheless a
lawless entity trying to force-fit a discredited ideology
into the Nepali hinterland. It is important to bring
this misguided insurgency to an end, and to try and
convert the brutal interregnum into an opportunity
for catharsis. This can only be done with the
participation of the political parties and their countrywide networks and grassroots linkages. In going it
alone and trying to crush the rebels by force of arms,
King Gyanendra has antagonised the very parties
that stand for rule of law and that have challenged
the Maoists longer than he or the army have. Today,
the army generals who had predicted a lightning
victory over the rebels might be re-evaluating their
Kathmandu does not look beyond the valley rim
long-standing animosities towards the politicians.
The army's anti-insurgency battle would have
gained both legitimacy and effectiveness if
the 'supreme commander-in-chief had decided to
cooperate with the politicians than throw them into
It is not as if the Royal Nepal ataiy has been
fighting an effective war. Brought reluctantly unto
the field in late 2001, the soldiers were unprepared
when confronted with a wildfire ins-urgency in
possibly the most rebel-friendly terrain in the world.
Deficiencies in training, logistics, motivation and
leadership have come to light in the RNA's inability to
go on the offensive against the elusive enemy. High
levels of extra-judicial killings and disappearances
have cast a pall over the army's record, as has a
willingness to lob mortar shells out of helicopters to
get at insurgents on populated hillsides.
A mechanism is required to inject 'politics' back
into the veins of the body politic, and tragedy of the
moment is that the person who holds the power of
the state is so vehemently disagreeable to the idea.
The way of autocrats is to grab a lot of power and
then make token gestures of redressal, such as King
Gyanendra's peculiar pronouncement of hold-ing
municipal elections at an undetermined date. It is
unlikely that such tactics will be acceptable to the
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
 people of Nepal, who have tasted freedom for a full
dozen years, and half of whom were born after 1990
and know not the Panchayat era of hukiuui sashan, or
rule by diktat.
King Gyanendra in his takeover proclamation
said lie would set things right in three years and
return the country to the people thereafter, lt is
certain that this will not deliver the return to 'total
democracy' that the political parties and civil
society are elam-ouring for. The ideal path to such
ti return is a general election to confirm people's
representation, but an election is impossible today
because of the Maoists in the bush and an autocratic
regime at the centre.
Things are extremely fluid in Nepal as we write
these lines. King Gyanendra has rejected outright
the united demand of the political parties lor a
reinstatement of the Third Parliament, disbanded
in May 2002. Such restitution, indeed, would
in one stroke resuscitate democracy, provide a
political challenge to the Maobaadi, make way for a
negotiated road to peace, give the beleagured people
back their representation, and place the monarchy
safelv back into its defined ceremonial/constitutional
role. Since King Gyanendra has publicly stated his
unwillingness to go along, and in keeping at bay the
very political forces that wish to work with him, he
has succeeded in releasing the forces of radicalism
in the mainstream of Nepali polity. Something has
to give in Nepal over the coming months of the
monsoon, given that the royal coup ol 1 February is
confirmed as a failed venture. £
Editors' notice
JS b8Ck! (Forgive us our earnestness)
1 limal Southasian, started in 1989 as a periodical of
the Himalaya, converted to a Southasian magazine
in 1996. At a ceremony in New Delhi to mark the
transition, we were done the honours by the late
Nikhil Chakraborty of Mainstream, an exemplary
Southasian for his humanity and empathy of spirit.
Himal halted publication temporarily in May 2004
because the economics of publishing a regional
review magazine was not keeping pace with the ideas
we were pioneering.
Southasia'as one word
Himal's editorial stylebook favours 'Southasia'
as one word. As a magazine seeking to restore
some of the historical unity of our common
living space - without wishing any violence on
the existing nation-states - we believe that the
aloof geographical term 'South Asia' needs to
be injected with something more. 'Southasia'
does the trick for us, albeit the word is limited
to the English language discourse. Himal's
editors will be using 'Southasia' in a!) our copy,
except where context requires retention of the
traditional spelling. We also respect the wishes
of contributors who prefer to stay with 'South
Asia,' which is why readers nray occasionally
see both spellings in use in Himal's pages.
We believe in the excitement of serious' journalism,
in which a liberal spirit that seeks harmony and
camaraderie is supported bv a sense ol practicality
informed bv social science learning and ground-
based research. We seek to be independent and extra-
nationalist in our approach lo looking at issues and
trends. We believe in being irreverent about others,
particularly those with political and economic power,
while not taking ourselves too seriously either. On
occasion, however, please excuse us our earnestness.
The possibilities of evolving a regional journalism
of Southasia have brightened over the last vear,
spurred bv the India-Pakistan rapproachmentin these
otherwise unsettled times. We used the past year of
1 limal's closure to gain a better understanding ot the
needs of editing, management and marketing. We
have done our homework, consolidated our vision
and work plan, and are ready to present our readers
across Southasia and overseas once again with a
magazine that thinks deep and writes smart. Have
we managed to do it7 You hold our reintroductory
July-August 2005 issue in your hands.
A bimonthly periodicity, we feel, allows us the
time to prepare the kind of articles we would like to
offer our readers. This frequency, also sits comfortably
with the fact of being a review magazine rather than a
newsmagazine. (Subscription information in page 4).
We have done our introspective overhaul. Please
join us once again in our journey to Southasia
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
Jinnah: The fractured image
The Founder of Pakistan, Father of the Nation, the
Great Leader, Quaid-e-Azam Muh-ammad Ali
Jinnah (1876-1948) is today the sentinel of Pakistan's
Islamic ideology. His portraits are everywhere, from
Parliament to the smallest police station, showing
him in sherwani and his trademark cap, his features
set in an expression of ideological censure.
Jinnah has been harnessed to a version of Islamic
ideology that was not his own. In order to maintain
Jinnah in this ideological posture, the Pakistani state
has had to modify many known details of the man's
life. Such as his beliefs, his family relationships, his
eating habits, his religiosity, his attitude towards
Partition and towards India, and his views on
minority rights.
In India, Jinnah has been reviled as a malevolent,
humour-less, politically ambitious man who wrecked
the dream of a united, secular India. Authors like H
M Seervai have tried to put the record straight, but
Jinnah-bashing continues in India, which has had
an impact on how the larger world views the Quaid.
Gandhi was Jinnah's contemporary rival but it was
young Nehru who was responsible for demonising
Unlike what the average Pakistani has been
led to believe, Jinnah never thought that India and
Pakistan would be hostile neighbours. The fact that
three institutions in India - including the Aligarh
Muslim University - were named beneficiaries in
Jinnah's will clearly goes against the state-sponsored
version of his life. Jinnah could have changed his will
anytime after he made it in 1929, more so after 1947,
but he did not. It is a different matter that none of
the three institutions in the end received money from
the Jimrah Trust which looks after the Quaid's estate,
funds which were instead diverted to -Pakistani
institu tions.
Perhaps the most drastic redrafting of Jinnah's
worldview has been in how he saw the minorities,
for Jinnah's vision of Indo-Pakistani relations itself
was based on bilateral regard for the minorities in
each country. However, particularly within Pakistan,
it was not a vision anyrone cared much for. Jinnah's
colleagues in the Muslim League were not willing
to treat non-Muslims equally, especially not the
Hindus of East Pakistan who formed one-fourth of
the population there.
Jinnah has had to be transformed because
Pakistan has set its face against his legacy. As author
Akbar S Ahmed says, "his behaviour reflected Anglo-
Indian sociology," but he was also a Muslim. The
tendency has been to emphasise the Quaid's Muslim
identity by juxtaposing it with the 'Flindu-ness' of the
Jinnah has been 'converted' by Pakistan till he can
no longer be recognised. Faking Jinnah has meant
a lesser Pakistan.
When the Sindh-born
Lai Krishna Advani of
the Bharatiya Janata
Party, on a visit to
Karachi, termed
Muhammad Ali Jinnah's
speech to Pakistan's
Constituted Assembly
"a classic exposition
of a secular state," it
made Southasians go
back to their history
books. Besides causing
a political avalanche
within his party and among his supporters,
Advani's remarks threw up a host of questions
about the period leading up to the events of 1947
and the political actors of the time. Was Partition
inevitable? Did the Quaid-e-Azam envisage a
secular Pakistan? Has the country lived up to
the ideals of its founder? Back in February 1998,
Himal Southasian had explored these ideas in
a special issue on Jinnah, with a lead article by
Lahore-based commentator Khaled Ahmed. Here
we print extracts to inform the current debate.
Congress as Pakistani historians saw it.
What Jinnah and Allama Iqbal had in mind was
a modern Islamic state, the 'modern' referring to
a secular state where all religions would coexist.
Contest with India, and the need at all times to
'separate' Pakistan's identity from India's, caused
the Muslim League politicians to firm up the Islamic
attributes of Pakistan till their prescription broke
away from Jinnah's vision. The new identity, which
Gen Zia-ul Haq called "tashakhus," inducted into the
task of law-making the very Islamic clergy which had
condemned Jinnah for visualising a separate state.
Today, the break from Jinnah has plunged Pakistan
into sectarian chaos. Jinnah's vision of a modern
state would have saved Pakistan from international
isolation and made it easy for the world to deal with
it. This isolation has complicated Pakistan's relations
with India. Getting rid of Jinnah's legacy has been
Pakistan's greatest tragedy, the consequences of
which are being felt as the country hurtles downward
in ideological chaos. jk
Himal Southasian | lul-Aug 2005
Heady days in Male
A letter written recently to the editor of an
independent Maldivian news portal identified
a minor crisis in the country's rapidly changing
political climate: the lack of terminology with which
to describe those changes in the local language,
Dhivehi. The writer lamented that journalists and
political activists were turning to Arabic for words as
simple as'protest'.
Indeed, the political climate in the Indian Ocean
atoll is unrecognisable from even a month ago. On
5 June, the ban on political parties was lifted, and
political entities are now able to register themselves
for the first time since 1953. Energy suppressed over
decades of autocratic rule has suddenly found a
legal outlet, leading to heady days in the Maldives.
Reformists are forcing open the political space,
allowed by the introduction of parties, to exercise
their rights to assemble and express freely. As parties
hold meetings and rallies, sign on members, and pose
open challenges to the government, the climate of
intimidation and oppression seems defused. Many
are sceptical of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's
motives in instituting these reforms, but it is clear
that whatever be his intentions, a watershed has been
reached in Maldivian political history.
The first party to submit forms for registra-tion in
Male was the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). This
group had been denied registration in 2001 and after
a series of threats and arbitrary detentions, had been
forced into functioning in exile starting November
2003. Its members are now busy discussing the details
of the formation of the party and will be announcing
their leadership this month. The MDP is believed by
now to have 30,000 signed members, a number that
constitutes one tenth of the country's population.
Gayoom has started his own party. The Dhivehi
Raiyithunge Party (DRP) - or the Maldivian People's
Party - is now in the final stages of registration and
claims 25,000 members. The DRP has been accused
of using state machinery to coerce people into
signing membership forms. Beyond this, a storm
of controversy erupted in mid-June, when it was
pointed out that according to the rules released
earlier in the month, "army personnel" and "police
personnel" were barred from joining political parties.
Under the 1998 Constitution, Gayoom is the head of
both the Maldivian army and the police force. Other
parties in the process of registration are the Maldives
Labour Party, the Islamic Democratic Party and the
Adhaalaath Party (Justice Party).
Cusp of transformation
Given the climate of euphoric dissent in Maldives
over the past few weeks, it would be hard to believe
that the atoll continues to be ruled by the man who
banned, threatened, detained and exiled his political
opponents for 27 long years. The walls of autocracy
seem to be crumbling, but there is much that must
change before a true multiparty democracy can be
achieved. The 1998 Constitution devotes a majority
of its articles to the powers and immunities of the
president. It grants Gayoom, as president, control
of both Parliament and the judiciary. The 31-point
reform proposal submitted bv Gayoom to the
People's Special Majlis - the body formed in January
with the mandate of amending the constitution - does
remove the judiciary from direct presidential control
but further strengthens the president's powers to
"appoint and dismiss" the prime minister, the chief
justice, the commissioner of elections, the auditor
general, the attorney general, envoys of the state and
atoll chiefs, and to appoint and dissolve the entire
council of ministers.
It is understandable that the president's proposed
reforms are viewed with scepticism by many. One of
the items proposes that the constitution guarantee
freedom of expression, but that it be restricted in
the case of calls for "...vandalism, and other similar
militant acts." The vagueness of this clause keeps a
door open for the sort of repressive tactics the Gayoom
government has long used to silence criticism ot its
decisions and actions. The Asian Centre for Human
Rights, a watchdog body based in New Delhi, says
that Gayoom's proposals, in themselves, constitute an
interference with the Special Majlis' mandate as thev
are prescriptive and do not provide the Majlis with
the opportunity to address the inadequacies of the
1998 Constitution.
And then there are the complaints with regard
to the Special Majlis itself. Essentially a constituent
assembly, it is made up of the Parliament's 42 elected
and eight appointed members, another 42 elected
politicians, and all the members of the president's
appointed cabinet. There were reports of irregularities
during the parliamentary elections in January, and
some reformist candidates could not campaign
because they were taken in beforehand. Nevertheless,
18 seats went to pro-democracy candidates who had
been endorsed bv the MDP in December, and this
was hailed by many as a victory for the democratic
The Maldives does seem to be at the cusp of
transformation, but it is important that the democratic
movement be wary of tokenism on the part of the
government. The fight for civil liberties, in particular,
will be a difficult one, given the dreadful human rights
record of the government in power. In recent record,
people arrested during the democratic protests of 12-
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 13 August 2004 were kept in unhygienic conditions in
cells measuring six feet by eight and beaten severely.
There have been deaths in police custody, the latest
being the case in early March of Muaviath Mahmood,
whose body showed signs of torture. People have
been imprisoned for terms ranging from 15 years to
life, for publishing magazines or putting up websites
critical of the government. They are still serving their
sentences, and their pictures continue to be flashed
on opposition websites. In refusing to release them,
the government fails to reassure the opposition of its
Free? Press?
A further impediment to the creation of a democratic
environment is the lack of a free press. The electronic
media is operated by the state, and the opposition
is not allowed airtime. The three major newspapers
- Aafathis, Haveeru and Miadhu - are owned by cabinet
ministers and the brother-in-law of the president.
The only Independent publication is the weekly
magazine called Adduvas, which continues to suffer
censorship. Recently, a cartoon of the president had
to be removed from its front page because of pressure
from the authorities.
Despite all this, things are clearly set to change in
the Maldives. In the aftermath of the tsunami disaster
of late December, Gayoom's request for USD 1.3
billion in foreign aid for long-term relief work was
met with resistance, such was the attitude towards
his autocratic ways. Activists called on potential
donors not to give a penny in aid that was not tied
to democratic reform. It is believed that the release
of pro-democracy demonstrators in November was
largely due to the pressure from the European Union
and Western governments. Many detainees were
released from prison but with travel restrictions.
Gayoom seems to want to introduce multi-party
democracy to the Maldives on his own terms. Unless
there is constructive dialogue with the opposition
and a mutually agreed path towards amendment
or replacement of the 1998 Constitution, the friction
between the government and the opposition could
escalate dangerously. The government should
announce a date for elections. Even better, It should
resign and put in place a more independent caretaker
government agreeable to the opposition that would
lead the process of constitutional reform and oversee
the first democratic elections.
As things stand, Gayoom's government is not
showing the leadership required to resolve the
outstanding issues with regard to the reform it
has promised, and this reinforces the opposition's
scepticism about its intentions. Since the advent of
democracy is inevitable - indeed, the process has
already begun - the government should finally
allow itself to be a part of, and not an obstacle to, the
movement for change in the atoll. ^
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Himal Southasian [ Jul-Aug 2005
The mechanics of peace
by [ Jehan Perera
Belying doubts expressed by
her detractors, President
Chandrika Kumaratunga has
stood by her pledge to work
with the Liberation Tigers of
Tamil Eelam (LITE) for tsunami
recovery in the northeast of
Sri Lanka. A 'joint mechanism'
envisages co-ordination betw-een
the government and the rebel
outfit for the distribution of aid
and relief material in areas where
the LTTE is .strong, besides proposing a decentralised system of
decision-making on the matter of
President Kumaratunga appears to be taking personal responsibility for the joint me-chanism
by signing an agreement before
presenting it to Parliament. This is
both a victory for her as well as an
achievement for those who have
actively supported constructive
engagement with the rebel outfit.
What is remarkable is that this was
done without recourse to extralegal methods of silencing the
opposition, an option exercised
by some previous leaders of
government, not to mention the
Despite the clear advantages of
the joint mechanism, the president
came under tremendous pressure
not to co-operate with the LTTE.
Two abortive fasts unto death by
prominent Buddhist monks ended
without Kumaratunga shifting
from her position. With the
janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP),
the junior partner in the ruling
coalition, threatening to withdraw
support if the joint mechanism
was approved, the very survival of
her government was put at stake.
However, "despite the political
risk, Kumaratunga decided to
work with the LTTE for post-
tsunami rehef. While this has led
to the JVP withdrawing support,
the government continues be in
power as the main opposition
party has decided not to use the
Standing tall.
The joint mechanism on
tsunami reconstruction
in northeastern Sri Lanka
embodies a spirit of
federalism that could be the
building block for the peace
that everyone now wants.
Not reckless.
issue as a political lever for one-
upmanship and partisan gains.
Miscalculating JVP
Espousing an ideology that is a
unique blend of Marxism and
Sinhalese nationalism, the JVP
had notched up considerable
electoral success in the general
elections of 2004. Formerly a militant outfit, the party came to
occupy an important place in the
government and was even able
to increase its popularity. There
were signs that the party might
moderate its extreme stance on
certain issues after attaining a
position of responsibility. Its
formal acceptance of the reality
of globalisation was one such
positive feature. However, the
trend towards moderation was
never unanimously supported
within the party, and the decision
to pull out of government clearly
reveals that the hardliners have
the upper hand.
On the issue of the joint mechanism, the JVP argued that an
agreement would pave the way
for a separate Tamil state headed
by the LTTE, on the basis of the
Montevideo Convention of 1933.
Had the JVP been less hamstrung
by adherence to such outdated
dogma and more aware of present
international trends, they may
have noticed that tire convention
is itself an ambiguous document.
It does not enable separatist
movements to form their own countries by pointing to the existence
of joint mechanisms.
The JVP leadership would
also have done well to realise
their grave strategic errors in the
contest with the president over
the joint mechanism. The party
got stuck in its own rhetoric when
Kumaratunga refused to comply
with its deadline to abandon the
proposal, and was compelled to
leave the government even before the deal with the LTTE was
actually signed. The JVP thus lost
an opportunity to use the influence
it commanded to negotiate changes
in the joint mechanism prior to its
Tlie unfortunate reality is that
the JVP's political wisdom and
maturity has not grown apace
with its increased voter base. They
have failed to understand that
federalism is about preserving the
unity of the country and democratic
accountability, a.s much as it is
about sharing of powers between
the centre and the regions. By
refusing to accept the possibility of
constructive engagement with the
LTTE, the JVP has actually eroded
its own political gains of the last
few years. Opinion-makers must
try to wean the party away from its
dependence on the outdated and
destructive ideology of Sinhalese
ulta-nationalism. The JVP, for its
part, must seek to understand
that the joint mechanism, with its
federal features, is a positive step
that could eventually help bring
the country under a system of
shared democratic governance.
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 Remarkable advance
President Kumaratunga's ability to
withstand the challenge posed by
death fasts, protest marches and a
pullout by her alliance's second
largest party was strengthened by
the overwhelming desire for peace
among common Sri I .ankans; the
mature, issue-based support of
the United National Pary (UNP),
the main opposition parlv; and
not least, a change in the attitude
ofthe l.TTF itself"
The government received a
boost after the UNI' leader Ranil
Wickremesinghe made it clear
that he would not utilize his
party machinery to oppose the
joint mechanism for partisan
political gains. For several years
now, Wickremesinghe has been
following a principled approach
to the ethnic conflict bv not
ind-ulging in reckless oppositional politics. He has consistently
refrained from attacking or
attempting to discredit his political opponents by restarting to
chauvinistic nationalism. Ihis
principled position, coupled with
a pragmatic assessment of the
present political situation., has
helped create bipartisan support
for the joint mechanism and the
peace process.
Ihe opposition also seems to
have realised that it would be
unwise to topple the government
at this time. No party today can
cobble together a stable majority
in Parliament due to political
rivalries and irreconcilable differences between possible coalition
partners on the joint mechanism.
It therefore makes sense to permit
Kumaratunga in her position as
the powerful 'executive president'
to take the lead in addressing
the issue without reference to
the numbers, or lack thereof, in
The marked shift in the attitude
of the L II 1ft is also another
significant development in the
evolving political equation. A
comparison of the joint mechanism provisions with those
of the Interim Self Governing
Authority (ISGA) proposed by the
LI "IT reveals a major shift in the
stance of the rebel outfit, ihe LIi H
claims to have become flexible
because the joint mechanism deals
with humanitarian issues arising
out of the December tsunami
tragedv. Nevertheless, the LITE'S
willingness to adopt a step-bv-
step approach to power-sharing
rather lhan a maximalist solution
is a remarkable development that
must be appreciated.
Crafting the consensus
lhe agreement on the joint mechanism is expected to give a push
to the larger peace process. Had
Kumaratunga caved in to the
pressure, the ultra-nationalists
and extremists of various hues
could have come to occupy
the centre-stage ot Sri Lankan
politics, projecting themselves as
representatives of the majority
will, lire government - LITE
understanding, on the other hand,
could be the nucleus of a new
system of joint governance that
appeals both to ethnic minorities
and the majority community.
ihe joint mechanism agreement
is a well-crafted document that
includes many safeguards and
incorporates checks and balances.
The one-year term, the two-
kilometer limit, minority veto
and international monitoring
provisions leave little room for
dangerous abuse of the system.
Instead, the proposal provides
an opportunity to forge bonds of
trust and partnership between the
main stakeholders, which are the
Colombo government, the LTTE
leadership, the Muslim parties, as
well as the other political parties
and civil society at the district
Work done in the six months
after the tsunami struck has
clearly revealed the close linkages
between the ethnic conflict,
issues of good governance, and
economic development. Despite
large sums of donor assistance,
the state structures have been
unable to provide adequately
for the speedy recovery ot people's livelihoods. This can be
attributed to the absence of
effective decentralisation to
enable affected communities to
take the initiative in the recovery.
The failure to decentralise, in turn,
stems from the ethnic conflict
and the reluctance to devolve
powers to the northeast. The joint
mechanism is a measure that
provides a way out, by giving the
affected population direct access
to resources and bv building
institutional capacity to assist
With the setting up ol the joint
mechanism, Sri Lanka will be
taking the first steps towards a
bottom-up system of governance.
The agreement provides for
decisions on projects to be undertaken at the district level
rather than at the central level.
At the district level, the decisionmakers will not be the distant
elites and bureaucrats but rather
local government officials, social
workers, politicians, and of course,
the LITE Under this mechanism,
local needs and realities would be
better understood and taken into
The working of the joint
mechanism will serve as a litmus
test for the LTTE's sincerity to
operate within the larger polity
in the future. The indications thus
far are that the rebel leadership
is willing to go in this direction.
But even while lauding the
positive spirit of the LTTL, it will
be important in the larger context
not to forget the role of the JVT
ill reconciliation. While the joint
mechanism will come through
despite the opposition of the JVP,
ushering in peace will require
working with the IVI'. The party
might not want to go along with
the spirit of federalism, but the
fact is that it will remain a major
political actor in Sri Lanka in the
days to come. Indeed, the JVT
has the ability to derail tlie peace
process by creating dissensions
within Parliament as well as by
mobilizing supporters on the
streets. Meanwhile, those who
wish for peace, development and
democracy in Sri Lanka must find
ways to engage simultaneously
with LITE "and the JVP, and
to encourage a dialogue between them. Howsoever remote
that possibility may seem at the
moment. A
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
The nearly secret
Red radicals of Bangladesh
have been at it for five decades,
but more than a law and order
issue their presence points to a
systemic failure of the state.
by j Afsan Chowdhury
Shiraj Shikder, the late Bangladeshi naxal
The man who stood before the television cameras
in bare feet and handcuffs was described as
a top leader of a Maoist terrorist group. He had
already been sentenced in absentia for the murder
of a politician from the Jatiyo Samajtantnk Dal (JSD)
party. Now in the mainstream, JSD too had once
warred against the state. The arrested man belonged
to the Purbo-Bangla Communist Party (PBCP), one
of the oldest armed Maoist clusters in the country
reaching back to times of East Bengal. On camera, he
explained without much emotion that in a country
where 90 percent of the people had nothing and ten
percent had everything, his group's activities were
justified. Media, political figures, the widow of the
politician he was accused of killing, and the general
public all hailed his capture.
The next day, newspapers reported the captured
man's death. The authorities said that his supporters
had engaged the police in a shootout while the latter
was on a hunt for his arms cache and that the man
was killed in the crossfire. His corpse made it on
television the next night.
The number of such "crossfire" deaths has
reached nearly 300 in the last six months and many
if not most of the victims have been members of
underground Maoist parties. Ihev are dub-bed
choromponthi (extremist) or shontrashi (terrorist)
and these terms are muddled together in the public
mind. The campaign afoot seems to be part of an
official pacification effort that various successive
governments have implemented against the Maoists,
who proliferate in the rural areas, especially in
several south-western districts bordering India.
There is little protest from within Bangladesh when
it comes to the Maoist deaths, though human rights
groups and several Western governments have
condemned the "crossfire" killings as extra-judicial.
"It's even possible that criminals are killed and then
dubbed 'choromponthi shontrashi' because people
seem to be more willing to tolerate actions against
them," says Prof Abrar Chowdhury of Dhaka
Maoists have no base among the middle class or
support in the media, whose members have been
their targets at the regional level. People living in
areas where the Maoists operate tell of extortion
rackets, killings, smuggling and other unlawful
activities. Though Bangladesh is reported to be a
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 den of armed Islamic insurgents, it is the Maoists
who kill or are killed every day. Disorganized, with
no power base, almost pre-ideological, and armed
with crude weapons, they seem simply to be hitting
out at all institutions and systems within reach. Yet in
spite of their high casualties, they have no difficulty
in finding recruits to fight and to die. As they have
done for the past 35 years.
Where do they come from?
The radical rebel tradition in the Ganga-Brahmaputra
delta began soon after the British conquest of
Bangladesh/Ben-gal. The colonial administration
produced clerks and school-teachers, but with the
babus came the bombers, the rebels of the disaffected
middle class. Terrorism became synonymous with
patriotism. Neither hanging nor exile to the Andaman
Islands 1200 km to the south of the Sundarban coast
could get these agitators to simmer down. Songs
extolling anti-British militant acts are still popular in
Bengal, and even today it isn't Gandhi the pacifist but
Subhas Chandra Bose the warrior who captures the
romantic-patriotic imagination of the Bengalis.
While ambivalent about its ideals,
the British too were appreciative of
communism's opposition to violence
at an indivi-dual level. But in the
end "patriotic violence" was simply
replaced by violence of the ideological
variety, as peasant rebellions in
Telengana in Andhra and Tebhagha
in the Rajshahi division of Bangladesh
The Communist Party was banned
in newborn Pakistan, but the peasant
movements continued. It was never
a stigma to be a communist in East
Padldstan and, indeed, the leftist
ideology added a significant element
to the persona of the 'idealistic youth'.
When the Soviet and the Chinese
communist parties parted ways at the international
level in 1962, the pro-Peking factions — Maoists —
mostly went underground and focused on peasant
uprisings, or "anti-feudalism". The Naxal movement,
with its belief in revolutionary terrorism, entered
Bangladesh from India. It had its origins in the area
of Naxalbari, very close to the Bangladesh border
near Siliguri. But the rise of the Awami League
as a centrist nationalist option swept others away
and the marginalisation of the Left began. For most
people, the main enemy was Pakistan and not the
feudal landlord as the communists would have it,
and the Naxal movement never found a place in the
The Left played a major role in the movement in
1969 to oust the military-backed Pakistani President
Gen Ayub Khan. This movement laid the foundation
for the 1971 war, but the Left did not emerge as
major players then. The 1971 liberation war found
most Maoists caught in the middle: The popular war
was being led by the Awami League and supported
by the Indo-Soviet alliance, the Maoists' archenemy.
China, the Maoists' ideological mother country,
was backing Pakistan's murderous agenda. Clashes
between armed Awami League supporters and
various Maoist factions were common at that time.
After the birth of Bangladesh, the Maoist groups went
underground and their activities became limited to
remote districts in the form of warlordism.
The Left as a whole saw better days in the early
1970s. It was then that leftist members of the Awami
League formed the JSD, which leaned towards Maoist
dogma even though most Maoist parties called them
"Indian agents". The JSD soon became the largest-
ever leftist group in Bangladesh's history, but after
a coup attempt in 1975 failed, its armed cadre was
wiped out in a harsh military campaign. The older
Maoists in the party ranks mostly joined Gen Zia-ur
Rahman's political front so as to support the enemy
of their enemy, the pro-Soviet Awami League. The
decline of the Left had begun in earnest.
Shiraj Shikder, the most charismatic leader the
Left had to offer, had established the independent
Maoist cluster called the Shorbohara Party in 1970.
It was the strength of the Shorbohara Party that
caused Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, then Bangladesh's
first prime minister, to unleash repressive action to
control the Maoists. Shikder was caught and killed in
1973, according to police sources, as he tried to flee
on an armed cache-finding mission. Before long, very
few old guard Maoists were left. They were killed in
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
 'encounters', died in internecine clashes, or went
'respectable'. Bv the earlv 1980s, the middle class
Leftist movement had come to an end.
While the Maoists disappeared from the cities and
campuses, thev never faded far from the villages.
There, there never was peace.
Old Maoists, New Maoists
Are today's Maoists motivated bv ideology1
Khaliqullah of Jessore District does not doubt that he
has the answer. He savs, "These Maobaadis are not
of the earlier kind. They have no education, learning
or ideology. Thev are just simple robbers who use
Maobaad." Khaliqullah belongs to a family that has
traditionally engaged in inter-district trade, and is
considered wealthy bv rural standards. His views are
also understandable in that his family was forced to
flee Jessore for the safety of Dhaka after refusing to
pay extortion money demanded bv the Maoists.
The earlier Maobaadi was a communist idealist,
driven bv a vision of "justice and class struggle". The
present Maobaadi is more of an armed rebel who has
emerged from among the rural poor and is without
the middle class exposure to ideology. He has no
stake in the system because the national politics that
sustains the establishment has nothing to offer him.
The problem of tbe rural poor lies in economics and
the politics that prevails in the country has not yet
come up with an answer to the crisis of extreme rural
poverty. Dhaka policymakers seek to explain Maoist
violence as a law and order issue, but its staying
power indicates deeper roots in endemic poverty.
Middle class commentators cite the Maoists'
criminal links in order to denigrate them. Research
shows, however, that crime is often viewed as a form
of livelihood. Their lack of ideology is one reason
why today's rebels do not fit into the traditional
imagination of the last generation of Maoists. One
such old-school Maoist was Abdul 1 luq of PBCP, who
graduated as a top student from Kolkata University
and who never even accepted Bangladesh but was
nevertheless admired by many in the Bangladeshi
middle class and whose passing was mourned in
Another would be Mufakkar Chowdhury, killed in
Dhaka last December in another "crossfire" incident.
Ihe Prothom Alo daily reported that the 65-vear old
had been warned of the raid and that when it came, he
had remarked, "A communist is not afraid of death".
Allegedly instructed bv the guru of the Naxalite
movement, Charu Mazumdar himself, to introduce
his brand of violent Maoism to East Pakistan in
the late 1960s, Chowdhury had never been caught.
Before his death, he was reportedly working to unite
the various Maoist factions in Bangladesh.
When the police raided Mufakkar Chowdhurv's
house, they had found hundreds of books. The
Maoists of today are not book readers who
spout theoretical arguments. Maoism to them
is a dogma of violent resistance, protest and the
ultimate rejection of the status quo in every form.
The enemies they confront include the police and
anyone who has money, but they also often include
each other. Today, the middle class is absent from
the Maoist rank and file; it is filled entirely by the
rural proletariat. Maoism has thus become (he
political recourse of the disengaged, angry rural
poor of Bangladesh. It is not part of anv 'national
liberation struggle'. The 'us versus them' mentality
of Maobaadi gangs does not allow them to engage
with the rest of the world.
Violent end
Extremist Islamic activists with links to the Al-
Qaeda organisation have been termed bv many
international commentators as the major threat
confronting Bangladesh today. Many within the
country, including the main opposition, the Awami
League, share this view. Indeed, there have been a
number of bomb attacks recently that have made
international headlines. These include a grenade
attack on 21 May 2004 that left the UK High
Commissioner Anwar Chowdhury injured while
killing three others. The most recent high profile
victim was Shah A M S Kibria, ex-Finance Minister,
leader of the Awami League and before that, a
senior functionary of the United Nations, who died
in a bomb blast during a party rally on 27 January
2005. While Sheikh Hasina was wounded in an
attack on top Awami League leaders on 21 August
2004, the leader of the party's women's wing was
killed alone with several others.
There have also been isolated cases of bombings
of cinema halls and circus tents in district towns,
and many argue that these point to bombers of
the Islamist variety, who target secular sources
of entertainment such as rural melas and circuses
where there are dancing shows. Whatever he their
identity, their weapons of choice are sophisticated.
A few individuals have been charged, but most
cases are still being investigated.
These tvpes of grenade attacks on political
gatherings or cinema halls do not occur every day,
and thev are the ones that attract the headlines.
But encounters with Maoists are almost a daily
affair in the country today, with no other political
organisation incurring such a high number of
casualties in almost a decade. It is obvious that
the authorities take the Maoists seriously enough
to chase them in remote areas, and that there is a
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 take-no-prisoners policy in place. The public apathy
with regard to these deaths in the rural regions is
therefore a matter of interest. "Media does report
on encounters with Maoists because they have killed
a number of journalists, but there is some narcotic
dysfunction about such reports. They don't arouse
much interest," says Enayetullah Khan, Chief Editor
of the United News of Bangladesh (UNB) news
agency in Dhaka.
In the neighbouring city of Khulna, where shrimp
cultivation and smuggling have led to a volatile
mix of money and violence, many Maoists are
reportedly on hire. But they also have their own
agenda and in order to enhance their clout, maintain
an active hit list of those to be eliminated, many of
them journalists. This is the main reason why the
Committee to Protect Journalists in New York City
considers Bangladesh - and Khulna in particular
- one of the most dangerous places in the world for
Proximity to the border with India allows the
Maoists a refuge when hunted by the police, another
reason why this place seems to be the favoured
haunt of the extremists. Several Bangladeshi Maoist
leaders have also died in India - either felled by the
Indian security forces or killed in internecine fights
across the border.
The common enemy
There is no record of how many Maoist groups
there are in Bangladesh, but the main ones are the
Purbo-Bangla Communist party (Marxist-Leninist),
the Biplobi Communist Party Jonojuddho, the Gono
Mukti Fouj - plus their many splinters and factions.
The Shorbohara Party and the Gono Bahini have
several shards still left, but they are all collectively
known as Shorbohara - the proletariat - and almost
all newspaper readers see them as rural criminals.
Authorities have sought to stamp out the Maoists
since 1972 and their actions, including extra-judicial
killings, are not contested vociferously by anyone. All
major parties have tacitly condoned the authorities'
action when it comes to dealing with the Maoists,
so they are certainly a common enemy. But the
fact is that these groups of rural poor, armed with
their crude weapons, have survived all attempts
at suppression, including mass amnesty offers,
arrests and killings. Their leadership largely comes
from the ranks of the rural poor itself. They flourish
in the border regions and in remote areas of the
delta. For a country without an official insurgency
afoot thev have drawn the attention of the state
and its armed agencies as a serious and continuous
threat. Says Khan of UNB, "What they have missing
is a cause." ^
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Himal Southasian j Jul-Aug 2005
Who killed Siva?
Political disquiet and the fervour of
revolution in Sri Lanka
by | Kunda Dixit
I had arrived in Sri Lanka in 1987 to help set up
the regional bureau of the news agency, Inter
Press Service. The favourite watering hole for my
colleague Richard de Zovsa and me was Beach
Wadia, which had not vet become the fashionably
gentrified seafood restaurant for Colombo's chic
category that it is today.
One evening in May 1988, Richard brought
along his friend Sivaraman Dharmeratnam and we
sat on the sand gazing out at the Arabian Sea waves
crashing on an offshore shipwreck and talking
about the Tamil liberation struggle. 1 was taking
tennis lessons then, and was trving to buy a good
racket. Siva sad he had a pair he could sell. The verv
next day, I bought two Slazengers from Siva for 50
dollars. We joked, wondering if Siva had passed the
money on for the purchase of a six pack of 71mm
mortar rounds.
Siva was taken from his home on the night of 28
May this year and killed soon after, his body found
near the Sri Lankan Parliament outside Colombo.
My old dog-eared Colombo address book is full of
names of people who are now dead. Siva was just
the latest. Richard himself was killed bv a suspected
anti-JVP death squad in 1989.
Sivaram, 46, was a Sri Lankan Tamil who was
different from other militant contemporaries still
alive today. For ore thing, he came from a family
of landed gentry. His grandfather was a member
of the State Council from Batticaloa during British
times. Siva dropped out of university in Kandy in
1982. ,<\fter being rescued by a Sinhalese friend
during tbe anti-Tamil pogroms of 198.3, he joined
the People's Liberation Organiation of Tamil Eelam
(PLOTE), one of the numerous militant groups
fighting for Tamil independence. Siva was the
Marxist conscience in PLOTE, but eventually fell
out with its leader Uma Maheswaran over the
group's involvement in an anti-Gayoom coup in
the Maldives in 1988.
What most friends in Colombo admired about
Siva was his sharp intellect, his passion for
bringing about social and political change and,
despite his Tamil nationalism which he wore on
his sleeve, a commitment to peace and justice in
the island he cherished. "He was accessible and
accommodative,"   says   ex-JVP   activist   Sunanda
Deshapriya. "He could sit down and have a drink
even with a Sinhala extremist."
It was his friendship with Richard de Zovsa that
got Siva interested in journalism anti, briefly, he wrote
analytical pieces for Inter Press Service and a popular
column in The Island under the pseudonym, Taraki.
In recent years.. Siva was tlie moving force behind
TamilNet, the Tamil news portal that was considered
by manv to be sympathetic to the Tigers. Siva had
himself often been critical of the Tigers, but saw them
as the only credible bulwark against the chauvinist-
influenced mainstream politics in Colombo.
"He was of that fine generation of Tamil youth that
refused to shirk its responsibilities," recalls another
contemporary, journalist Qadri Ismail. "He was by
any standard, brilliant." Davan Java-tilleke, another
maverick Sri Lankan politician and writer wrote in
m obituary: "No unarmed man deserves to be killed.
Those who do (so kill) are cowards. Sivaram was
unarmed and therefore whoever killed Sivaram...was
a coward."
Shedding of blood
Extremists are threatened more by the freedom of
those who stand for non-violence and reconciliation
than enemies with whom thev share the belief in
resolving conflict through the shedding of blood. As
in other countries in conflict, this makes it difficult
to identify the true assassin because the tanatics
can always blame each other. Siva had made many
enemies with his militant past, his politics and his
writings. Chauvinists and ultra-nationalists of all
types hated him equally. Who killed Siva? Was it the
Tigers' splinter group in the east led by Karuna? Was
it tbe JVP? Was it the ultra-nationalists in the military
retaliating for the Tiger's killings of its intelligence
officers? Was it the Tigers?
Siva wrote the following lines a few days before
he was killed: "Sri Lanka forces' excesses in the east
in the name of Karuna gang are on the rise. People of
the north and east remain without economic growth
or jobs. Scars of the war remain. Thousands of people
who have lost their homes, land and whole villages
to the Sri Lanka armed forces still live in desperation,
Tbe neglect of Tamil language continues. Many ills
likes this can be listed. The Tsunami has caused great
damage in addition to these difficulties. But there is
no solution in sight for any of these. These, however,
haven't created much political disquiet amongst
our people. They have not protested in anger that
solutions have not been forthcoming. They have the
fervour for liberation yet it is not to the extent that they
will mass together for political reasons."
Back in Kathmandu 1 looked for the old Slazengers
that Siva sold me 17 vears ago. Only one of them
remains, the handle are frayed and the strings
tattered. il
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 by | M Ismail Khan
Gwadar is a name to keep in mind for those who do not already
know it. Situated in Balochistan-by-the-sea, it consists of humble
fishing villages about to be transformed into a real estate gold
coast, lt all began when Pakistan's rich and famous started buying
rroperty in the peninsula which juts out into the Arabian sea, and
when China put down USD 250 million to build the Gwadar Sea
Entire swaths of barren land, sand dunes and craggy hills
on both sides of the newly built Makran Coastal Highway that
snakes in all the way west from Karachi have been sold out,
occupied or allotted. Money has been changing hands and many
peasants are suddenly millionaires, while the middlemen have
become billionaires. Today, villagers move about with their
goats in brand new pickups. One hears stories about unexpected
stacks of notes being stuffed into jute bags in adobe houses, and
livestock munching away at some of the cash. Never in their
wildest dreams would the Gwadarians have imagined that their
barren coastline might eclipse real estate values in Islamabad,
Lahore and Karachi.
But questions have begun to crop up about the validity of the
entire exercise. Does the acerage being picked up actually belong
to the sellers and developers, most of the latter from Karachi and
central Punjab? At the time of independence, Gwadar was not
even a part of Pakistan. The region was ruled by Muscat's royal
family and it was only in 1958 that it was sold to Pakistan for
a sum of 90 million rupees. The government of Pakistan ought
therefore to be the rightful owner of the real estate. This also
seems to have been the belief of a bench of Balochistan High
Court when a property case was brought before it.
Strategically located at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz, and
right next to the oil- and gas-rich Iranian border, Gwadar presents
tremendous opportunities as a future hub of trade and commerce
for the growing economies of West, South and East Asia and the
land-locked Central Asian Republics. That is why the Chinese
have built the port.
It is certain that Gwadar port will develop, but will the coast?
And will the local fisherfolk and tribes people benefit when the
boom finally arrives, whether in fact they do or do not own the
So much for
soft borders
by | Anonymous
... Just put down the phone after having
spoken to a very polite 'Khan Sahib' at
the Pakistan High Commission in New
Delhi (dialled 2611 0601).
R: Aslam aleikum! Aap kya tourist visa
dena band kar diye hain?
K: Wo to dono hukumat faisla karenge
R: Main nahi samjhi. Itne log cricket
dekhne gayen-aayen. Wo kis visa pe
K: Wo sirf usi time ke live special visa
tha. Dono mulk ka ye faisla tha.
R: To ab aap kis log ko visa de rahen
K: Sirf 'blood relations' ko.
R: Main to wahan ki kisika 'blood
relations' nahi hoon. Par mera shauhar
wahan hai. Mujhe aap visa nahi denge?
K: Aap ka shaadi kab hui thi?
R: 2002.
K: Aap ko to hak banta hai jane.
ka. Aapko hum kyun rokenge?
R: Kya aap business visa de rahen hain?
K: Han. Par uske liye Home Ministry se
permission lena padta hai.
R: Badi meherbani ji. Achha main kin se
bat kar rahi hoon?
K: Main Khan hoon.
R: Khuda Hafiz Khan Sahib.
K: Allah Hafiz ji.
So that's that!
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
Air travel
T^ T  Tf^ l—fT and variety, the region is being
X  LajJLvJT± JL JL   realised in new and novel ways.
Southasia is becoming smaller as
more people fly to more destinations,
within the region's countries and
across their borders. As people-to-
people contact increases in volume
by | Himali Dixit
From Chitral to Chittagong, Southasians are flying
in greater numbers than ever before. At a time
when aviation fuel prices have hit the roof, they are
taking advantage of airfares that continue to drop. In
India, no-frills budget airlines are drawing passengers
away from the Indian Railways. .And across borders,
private airlines are bringing new dynamism to routes
sectors once monopolised by state-run carriers.
The airways of Southasia are unrecognisable from
what they were just a few years ago. And the current
buzz of flight activity is only the beginning, for there
are scores of cities waiting to be linked, and millions
of the middle class who would fly if only a well-
connected airline would land at their local airstrips.
Indeed, there is still much to be done even in the
Existing cross-border air network of Southasia.
linking of the region's capitals: The best way to get
from Kathmandu to Colombo is via Bangkok or Newr
Delhi, and no one can get to Islamabad/Rawalpindi
without a stopover in Lahore, Karachi or Doha. But
as liberalisation of the cross-border and domestic
sectors is spurred on by a crucially important Indian
Ministry of Civil Aviation bent on opening up the
skies, it seems that the Subcontinent is set to become
smaller and smaller still.
Budget travel boom
It is in India, the aviation sector's biggest domestic
market, that the impact of liberalization is most
apparent. First, there is the number of airlines. A
decade ago, passengers arriving at the domestic
terminal of Delhi's Indira Gandhi International
Airport would see nothing but Indian Airlines'
red-tailed Airbuses and their hand-me-down first-
generation Boeing 737s in the non-descript livery of
Alliance Air. Today, the tarmac is a garden of colours
with Jet Airways' yellow sun, Air Sahara's green and
saffron stripes, and Air Deccan's open palms.
Then, there is the number of passengers. The
volume of travelers to pass through Indian airports
quadrupled between 1981 and 2003 from 11 million
to 44 million. The growth during the second half
of this period can be attributed entirely to private
airlines. Smaller carriers such as Jagsons have
been in operation for decades and there have been
companies such as East West Airlines and Modiluft
that had higher ambitions but failed to take off. The
real change came in the late 1990s, when Jet aAirways
and Air Sahara, with smart management and late-
model Boeing 737s, were able to pose a challenge to
the Indian Airlines monopoly. It is not so much that
the two carved themselves out a share of the market,
but they managed to expand the market itself. Jet and
Sahara were joined in 2003 by Air Deccan, and the
three carriers now share between them 61 percent of
India's domestic air traffic.
Jui-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 With Deccan came the dawn of budget air travel in
India. Ihe airline, whose chief executive G K Gopinath
calls it "the Udipi hotel in the airline industry" in
a reference to its economy and efficiency, has been
competing with the Indian Railways for custom,
targeting passengers who travel both air conditioned 1
and 11 class, lt is clear that budget airlines are drawing
customers who would never have flown before: Air
Deccan claims that about 40 percent of its passengers
are first-timers. With market studies showing that
the middle class boom is going to lead to demand for
more seats and more destinations in years to come,
business houses are lining up to register new airlines.
Indian companies were among the biggest spenders
at the recent Paris Air Show, where thev put down,
orders between them for a total of USD 1.3 billion on
150 new aircraft, all of which are intended for low-
cost carriers. One of the buyers was beer baron Vijay
Mallya's Kingfisher Airlines, launched in May with
the aim of being a budget airliner with frills,
Mark Winders, CEO of Royal Airways, the
company that owns Lhe new carrier SpiceJet, claims
that his airline's target is not the passengers of Jet or
Sahara, but what he calls the "real market," i.e. high-
end train travelers, who constitute a massive volume
of potential low-end air travelers. Deccan for its part
has ordered 30 Airbus-320s worth USD 1.8 billion and
is getting another30 A IK 72-500s to connect numerous
smaller airports. Gopinath does not worry about a
slump because the growth of air traffic, he says, "is on
an irreversible path."
The changed economics of air travel within India has
already led to the opening of air corridors to smaller
cities and towns. Manv of these are now connected
by direct air routes, thereby saving the passenger a
mandatory trip to the nearest metropolis. A trip from
Belgaum to Hubli within Maharashtra, for instance,
now takes half an hour, and in Madhya Pradesh one
can reach from Jabalpur to Bhopal in 50 minutes. With
trunk routes approaching saturation and locked up bv
jet, Sahara and Indian Airlines, newer carriers such as
the Banglore-based budget airline AirOne are joining
Deccan in connecting the smaller cities. Across india,
distances are shrinking as we speak.
Aviation infrastructure will be hard pressed to
keep pace with this continuing boom in air travel.
Recent moves to lease certain kev Indian airports to
private companies should mean that infrastructure
will be less of a check on the industry's growth. As
things sttind, however, India's radar surveillance
and anti-collision systems are antiquated. Ihis,
when Indian skies already include some of the most
crowded airspace in the world. The Calcutta-Delhi
corridor in particular is busy all night long with heavy
overhead traffic between East Asia and Hurope - this
was already the case in the mid-1990s (see Himal,
April 1996} and airways are now more congested than
ever before. Some dramatic midair collisions in the
recent past prove how bad things can get, and India
will have to act fast to keep its skies safe in the face of
the liberalisation-led boom.
Nepal's Cosmic
To get a glimpse of the ferment in the airways of
Southasiai beyond India, one can fly to Nepal for
a look. More people are flying for less in INepal ais
they are in India. North of the border, though, the
increase in number of airlines, seat over-supplv and
resultant fare wars are not the only reasons for this
change. In this insurgency-torn country, as frequent
bandhs anti highway firelights make travel bv bus
unreliable and insecure, Nepalis who can aiford it
are choosing to travel between the capital and major
towns by air. In the past, tourism was what sustained
Nepal's incredible number of private airlines. Today,
domestic travelers sustain the airlines, filing into the
cabins of Buddha Air's first-hand Beechcraft 1900Ds
or onto the ageing Twin Otters, Dorniers and Saabs of
the other airlines.
The most dramatic change in Nepal's aviation
sector, however, came with Cosmic Air's purchase
last vear of its first 110-seater Fokker 100 jet. Cosmic
now has a fleet of four of the aircraft and is siphoning
off passengers from airlines with smaller aircraft on
three domestic routes: Kathmandu to Biratnagar,
Bhairahawa and Nepalganj. The airline has also
taken the plunge and started traveling to cross-border
destinations. The inefficiency and stagnation of the
national flag carrier, Royal Nepal .Airlines, which
has but two Boeing 757 jets, has meant that Cosmic is
well-placed to take advantage of bilateral air service
agreements between Nepal and its neighbours.
Cosmic is already flying from Kathmandu to
Delhi and back two times a day and is increasing its
Kathmandu-Dhaka service - started in November
2004 - from three to live flights a week. By providing
the cheapest fares, this no-frills airline has created a
niche for itself in a short period. The Kathmandu-
Delhi airfare, which had remained artificially high
for decades during the Roval Nepal-Indian Airlines
monopoly, have fallen dramatically. Start-up Cosmic
claims to have captured 45 percent of the traffic
between the two capitals.
In July, the Cosmic hopes to begin flying Benaras-
Kathmandu, a route left unserviced after Indian
Airlines pulled out two months ago following
decades of maintaining the link. Cosmic has applied
for permission to flv to Calcutta and Lucknow, and is
also hoping to make it to Rangoon by way of Calcutta
utilising what are known as 'fifth freedom rights' to
pick up passengers irom Calcutta for the onward
journey. Nepal also has unutilised fifth freedom
rights that allow its carriers lo flv to Karachi by way
of Delhi. Now that private airlines are now crossing
borders, one can expect that routes with potential
will not be left unexplored for much longer.
Himal Southasian | Ju!-Aug 2005
 Air traffic as a CBM
Aside from the lowered airfares and the near-
exponential growth in passenger volume, the fact of
over-the-border flights has been the most significant
change in the aviation sector of the region. While the
ultra-sensitive India-Pakistan air corridors (between
Delhi, Karachi, Lahore and Bombay) are still reserved
for the flag carriers of the two countries, travel
between India and the other Southasian countries
has been thrown open to private carriers only over
the past year. With their dynamism and spurred by
profit motive, the private airlines are expected to
have the Southasian skies roaring with traffic as they
seek out viable routes.
The geopolitical benefits of an active Southasia-
wide air network are not hard to appreciate. The
more air routes connect the regional capitals and
metropolises, the more contact between the people
of the often antagonistic countries. The catalytic
f u nction of air travel wiU lead to increased trade and
development of common interests that can only help
defuse regional tensions. The development of air
corridors between Southasian capitals is in this sense
a great confidence-building measure.
While the state-run national flag carriers continue
to make cross-border flights between regional
metropolises, Sahara and Jet join them today in flying
very successful runs between Madras and Colombo
and between Delhi and Dhaka. The two airlines have
suspended flights on the Delhi-Kathmandu sector
due to Sahara's loss of pilots to new Indian carriers
and Jet's disagreements with the Civil Aviation
Authority of India, and the stiff competition that
Cosmic Air provided on that route to both. However,
spokesmen for both Jet and Sahara have said that the
carriers will resume flights over the course of the
2005 monsoon.
Southasian air corridors we would like to see.
Even as they seek to dig their heels deeper into
the Southasian market, Jet and Sahara and looking
outwards. They are already flying to Kuala Lumpur,
Singapore and London and India's open skies policy
will soon allow them to fly to anywhere in the world,
with the exception of West Asia. This is the only
sector that the Ministry of Civil Aviation in New
Delhi is keeping off limits for some years still, as a
protective measure in favour of Indian Airlines and
Air India, for whom the West Asian routes provide
substantial profits (see interview with Indian Civil
Aviation Secretary Ajay Prasad).
And more cross-border flights
Southasian civil aviation's most unhappy episode
has to have been the closing of Indian airspace to
all Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flights in the
aftermath of the December 2001 attack on the Indian
parliament. Not only were all flights between India
and Pakistan suspended, but PIA flights to other
Southasian destinations were affected as well, as
virtually every regional route requires flight over
Indian airspace. Reciprocal flight bans by Pakistan
also hit AirTndia and Indian Airlines very badly, as
the carriers were made to take half hour-long detours
over the Arabian Sea on all flights out west. Flights
between Pakistan and India resumed in December
2003, with the Indian authorities chastened by the
effects of their intemperate action.
Within Pakistan, PIA has been spearheading
massive price wars in the hopes of re-establishing
its command over the domestic market, at one point
setting fares in the Karachi-Lahore sector at one half
those offered by the private airline Shaheen Air.
State-owned PIA faces competition on both domestic
and international fronts by all-jet private airlines. Air
Shaheen and Aero Asia, another Pakistani private
sector carrier, are making use of bilateral air service
agreements with other countries in order to fly to
internationally. Though the two have West Asian
destinations covered from Muscat to Kuwait City,
they do not as yet fly to anywhere east of the Sindh-
Punjab border.
Given the current thaw in relations between India
and Pakistan, private airlines can be expected to be
flying the open skies between the two countries in
the near future. When this happens, perhaps we
can hope to see Punjab better connected within itself
than ever before, with flights operating from Lahore
to Jalandar or from Patiala to Multan. Beyond this,
the increased economic contact that more air routes
would provide would further the possibilities of
a lasting peace between the Subcontinent's most
cantankerous neighbours.
In Sri Lanka, the most successful of Southasia's
national flag carriers, Air Lanka, was partially
privatized in 1998. It now goes by the name of
SriLankan Airlines; the majority of its shares are held
Jul-Aug 2005 I Himai Southasian
No more overflight bans.
Ajay Prasad, India's Secretary of Civil
Aviation, on open skies and trends
within India and links to the rest of
Does your open skies policy include Southasia?
In fact our first decision on Indian private carriers flying
internationally was to open up the SMRC countries. As
a result Jet and Sahara started flying to Kathmandu and
Colombo. We are now gradually opening up to the Asean
countries and the West.
Are you satisfied with the SAARC connections?
To some extent. Pakistan is still not connected by private
airlines. The expansion of the Southasian network has been
between single destinations, i.e. Kathmandu, Delhi and Dhaka.
Traffic will have to determine how others may be connected,
for example Pokhara in Nepal or Chittagong in Bangladesh.
How about the national flag carriers?
The impulse came from the private sector but Indian Airlines
has stood up well to the competition. Air India is planning
Dhaka flights, and there will be more flights to the Maldives.
There is no reason why the private private airlines must fly the
tried and tested routes. There is no point in doing what Air
India has clone all these years.
Have the other states responded to India's open sky
Not to the same extent as yet, but we are looking forward to
more open regimes. Every country responds vis-a-vis its own
dynamics, and the pace of India's openness is dictated by our
own assessment of the situation. There is a lot of potential
for expansion of air travel with Pakistan. With Nepal, we are
ready with a fairly comprehensive package including new air
corridors. We have unilaterally given the rights to fly to many,
many destinations.
by the Sri Lankan government and a key portion is
owned bv Dubai's Emirates Airlines. The Sri Lankan
government announced in May that it would allow
two private sector carriers to flv alongside SriLankan
Airlines on international routes. 1 he contenders for
these slots include current domestic operators Aero
Lanka (formerly Serendib Air), Lion Air and F.xpo
Aviation as well as India's Deccan Air. A spokesman
for Expo Aviation has said recently that the airline
would like to begin its international operations bv
targeting Maldives and the South Indian market,
including Madras, Trivandrum and Trichy.
Druk Air, the national flag carrier of Bhutan,
remains the only airline in Southasia to make use
of fifth freedom rights. It uses these to increase its
passenger volume when its flies its Paro-Calcutta-
Bangkok route and its Paro-Kathmandu-Delhi route,
the first leg of which is perhaps the best mountain
flight of the eastern Himalaya, flying within 50 km of
four of the world's five highest mountains. Druk has
recently acquired two new Airbus A319s as part of a
fleet renewal programme.
Jet and Sahara, the large private airliners of India,
Why such magnamjnity towards Colombo?
We had decided originally to provide the freedoms to the
Asean countries, and Sri Lanka then asked for the same
facility. It is a fact that Sri Lanka is taking passengers from
India for onward journeys, such as to the Gulf. Of course this
creates some problems for Indian carriers, but you have to
fight it out in the market. Even at some cost to our carriers,
the opportunity has to be created for easy travel so that civil
aviation can contribute to the growth of trie economy.
What about airfare regulation?
We are not looking at any regulatory mechanism on pricing.
Earlier, fare schedules that required government approval, but
that has been done away with completely. We have the right
to intervene if there is predatory pricing, but we propose not
to do so unless compelled.
What are the trends in Indian air travel?
Our traffic grew by 13 percent between 2003 and 2004.
The following fiscal year, it grew by 24 percent, and we
have seen a similar trend this year. The fares are dropping
with liberalization, and travel has become affordable. Today,
air conditioned first class costs more than going by air, and
the airlines are even targeting passengers who take air-
conditioned second class.
Can civil aviation promote confidence building?
You cannot over-emphasise the importance of civil aviation
for confidence building among nations. Flying across borders
naturally promotes contact between people and helps deepen
relationships as common cultural values are allowed to come
to the fore. I would like to see more of this to happen, which
is why we must provide more access to the neighbours of
What about the overflight ban?
Personally, I would never like to see such bans again. It
caused inconvenience to our own carriers and fliers, it created
difficulties for others and it restricted openness. There were
compulsions, and we have now moved on. Today, there is a
thaw, and we even fly to Kabul over Pakistani territory.
have started big in their roles as international carriers,
with massive investment, advertising budgets anti
late-model aircraft types. Operators such as .Nepal's
Cosmic and Dhaka-based CMC Airlines are small
carriers that have taken on flying beyond domestic
routes as a challenge and are hoping to grow in the
CMC is Bangladesh's only private carrier. Named
for the initials of its founder's father, CMC's golden
deer insignia - a reference to a Bengali saving
and a song bv Rabindranath Tagore - is already
plying cross-border routes that connect Dhaka and
Chittagong with Calcutta. !n flying the latter route,
CMC has provided a service that flag carrier Biman
Bangladesh Airlines has failed to provide in its
three decades in the air. CMC has announced that
it is seeking to increase its flights to Calcutta and to
expand its operations to New Delhi, Bombay and
Madras. Meanwhile, it will soon begin flights on the
Dhaka-Colombo sector, where it will replace Biman
as the designated carrier of Bangladesh. CMC is also
expected to join Biman and Cosmic in linking Dhaka
and Kathmandu.
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
 What the private airlines such as GMG have been
able to do is to create markets where none seemed
to exist. Cosmic, for example, has managed to
attract Bangladeshi tourists who would otherwise
not have thought to travel to Kathmandu, just 50
minutes away, on holiday. When GMG starts flying
between Dhaka and Colombo, it will surely surprise
with the new passenger market that it is able to tap.
Likewise, it is thought that there would be enough
seats to sustain routes such as Lucknow-Kathmandu
and Dhaka-Guwahati. The best proof of Southasia's
readiness for new routes is in the many cities in India
currently being connected to Colombo: Bangalore,
Delhi, Trivandrum, Madras and Cochin.
Possibilities abound. Infrastructure in smaller
airports is a problem at the moment, but both
passengers and the industry would benefit, for
instance, if carriers were allowed to fly from Delhi to
Biratnagar or Bhairahawa in the Nepal plains, which
would also serve passengers in eastern Uttar Pradesh
and northern Bihar respectively. People seeking to
get to eastern Nepal from Delhi already make use
of the domestic airport in Bagdogra, near Siliguri.
At some time in the future, when other Southasian
countries share open borders of the sort that Nepal
and India enjoy, small towns in other regions as
well may benefit from the accessibility of airports on
either side of their borders.
The ultimate success of Southasian aviation will
be in the linking of smaller metros across the region's
national boundaries - when flights ply routes from
Multan and Hyderabad (Sindh) to Jaipur, Amritsar,
Ahmedabad or Indore. lt can be expected that as the
aviation industry continues to expand, there will be
a proliferation of such smaller routes. In India and
Nepal, the saturation of trunk routes by the larger
domestic carriers is already pushing the smaller
airlines on to sectors that connect smaller towns. In
a similar fashion, as regional trunk routes become
saturated with multiple airlines from either side
competing for custom, we should see an increase
in the variety of cross-border contact between the
people of Southasia's countries. Beyond making the
subcontinent's regions smaller within themselves,
the move away from capital-centric travel will
mean more interaction between regions whose
relationships have been overshadowed by state-
centric thinking.
More point-to-point routes between smaller
destinations will also be required in order to
decrease congestion along main air corridors. And
if the Ministries of Defense and Civil Aviation in
India were to open up new air corridors along which
passenger aircraft would be permitted to flv, planes
flying to Delhi would not have to stack for long over
Uttar Pradesh before thev are allowed to land.
Problems, and more possibilities
For cross-border traffic to enter new routes sectors,
air service agreements between the region's
governments would have to be revised. The seat
quotas allowed by the current bilateral agreements
- for instance, 6000 per week to carriers from either
side in the case of Nepal and India, and 4800 per
week in the case of India and Pakistan - do not
provide airlines with enough seats per week even
to service trunk routes between major cities. Cosmic
Air, for instance, uses 14 of its permitted 20 (lights
per week to India in Hying to Delhi alone. The
current air service agreements also only allow flights
to specific destinations in host countries and hence
do not allow for the flexibility in routing that private
airlines today seek.
National flag carriers have long flown between
the  region's cities,  but they  have other priorites
- illustrated, for instance, in Biman Bangladesh's
prestige flights to Luropean capitals - and even
Southasia's capitals are very poorly linked today.
The most egregious failure is the failure to link Delhi
to Rawalpindi/Islamabad, and the lack of flights
between Dhaka and Colombo, and Kathmandu
and Colombo are also significant. Domestic private
airlines are beginning to correct these failings, but
what is required is also a conscious attempt by
the governments to work to develop these capital
Clearly, air travel in Southasia is on a high roll.
Trends unimaginable just a few years ago are today
accepted as commonplace. The high volume of
passengers who are flying, the low airfares tn spite
of high fuel prices, the opening up of new air routes,
and the cross-border linkages by private airlines, are
all harbingers of even more changes in the future.
One such development could be the development of
a trans-nationally owned Southasian airline whose
sole purpose would be the linking of the Southasian
cities across borders - and the idea may not sound
that incredible a few more vears down the line.
But the most important development would be the
increase of cross-border connections. Once airport
infrastructure is improved and once pressure from
the private sector brings the region's governments
to further open their skies, there will be little to keep
the aviation sector from developing a vast and dense
network of routes across Southasian frontiers. There
may be concrete walls and barbed-wire fencing on
the ground, but air travellers flying across regional
countries by the tens of thousands, anti then
hundreds of thousands, would slowly undo the
psychological divide between the region's countries.
Once this happens, Southasia will have gone from
being a bunch of countries to being a region in
truth. d
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 Cover Storyl
Within Grasp: Persian Gas
for the Southasian Engine
Existing domestic networks and proposed international gaslines.
by ] Kanak Mani Dixit
Offshore Iran, in an area of the Persian Gulf
known as South Pars, lies a resource that could
redirect the course of history in Southasia, 3000 km
to the east. The resource is natural gas - essentially
methane - and its import has become necessary in
order to feed the demand for energy in faraway India.
And so a gas pipeline is proposed that will traverse
the Makran coast that Alexander walked during his
last, ill-fated campaign, traverse the Balochistan-
Sindh desert to Multan, and cross the Indus River to
arrive finally in Rajasthan - to quench the thirst for
energy of the Southasian economic behemoth. Along
the way, the gasline would also top up the energy
needs of Pakistan, whose own known reserves are
expected to run out in a dozen years.
Till only a couple of years ago, this was a pie-in-
the-sky project to all but a few visionaries - there is
no other word to describe them - who understood
how a long pipe carrying gas could also serve as
Will peace in our times be achieved
because methane from Iran is
allowed to enter India via Pakistan?
is it as simple as that? It is
beginning to look as if it is.
the mother of all confidence-building measures.
For tire passage of natural gas through Pakistan
to India, its price set at a fair level by Tehran and
its uninterrupted flow guaranteed by Islamabad,
will change the geopolitical landscape of the
Subcontinent. In one stroke, the joint stakeholding of
an economic resource will defuse the five and a half
decade long India-Pakistan hostility. Marry tightly-
wound bilateral problems, including the matter of
Kashmir, will suddenly become manageable.
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
 Indeed, the geopolitics of Southasia will be
transformed the moment the New Delhi housewife
is able to turn on the tap for cheap natural gas piped
directly into her kitchen, finally rid of the cumbersome
red cylinders of liquid petroleum gas ().PG) that
have been her burden for decades. Even more
significantly, natural gas via pipeline wil] provide
Indian industry with a massive boost in sectors
ranging from petrochemicals to fertilisers; electric
power production will increase dramatically and a
myriad of new commercial uses will be supported.
Once Pakistan begins to receive transit fees that could
run to USD 600 million yearly and Islamabad is asked
to give international undertakings not to turn off the
tap in any circumstance, a threshold will have been
crossed in India-Pakistan relations.
For long, hard-headed state-centric analysts in
Delhi and Islamabad regarded tbe pipeline proposal
as one prepared by and for romantics who floated
outside the perimeter of reality. Perceptions began
to change when the Federal Cabinet in Islamabad
approved the concept of a gasline to India and
President Gen Pervez Musharraf announced that
he would allow unconditional passage of Iranian
gas. The immediate reaction across the border was
skepticism fuelled by the inertia of the intelligence
and foreign policy establishments. Horrors! How
could Pakistan be entrusted with a resource whose
blockage would devastate a dependent Indian
economy? What if Islamabad turned off the tap?
"This project is a lemon," announced a New Delhi
heavyweight to his colleagues.
What sustained this undercurrent of attention was
a diligent reflective exercise, underway since 1995,
to study the economic feasibility of transporting
Iranian gas to India with an eye to the peace dividend
to be collected. Very few people outside of a close-
knit circle even knew of the Balusa Group, a 'track
two' effort that had been laying the ground for new
thinking. Rounded up by a brother-sister emigre
twosome born in India, brought up in Pakistan and
naturalized in the United States - one an energy
specialist and the other a senior foreign policy player
in Washington DC - the group had been engaged in
the study of India-Pakistan relations, with special
attention to natural gas linkages, for nearly a decade.
Like everything else, the gasline proposal has had
to ride the ups and downs of the turbulent India-
Pakistan relationship. For a long time, progress was
"out of phase," as one analyst put it, with India
turning a stiff upper lip when Pakistan was willing
to go ahead with the pipeline and vice versa. But
such was the unshakeable economic logic behind the
idea that it defied the unremitting bilateral setbacks.
The realignment of regional geopolitics following
the 9/11 attacks in the United States unexpectedly
threw up possibilities to jump start the peace process,
and the real breakthrough came in Islamabad on the
sidelines of the Twelfth S.<\d\RC Summit, when Gen
Musharraf gave Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee
an undertaking not to permit any territory under
Pakistan's control "to be used to support terrorism in
any manner." This commitment paved the way for an
inter-governmental 'composite dialogue' on a range
of issues, and along the way the 'track two' pipeline
project suddenly became kosher and was made part
of the official 'track one' process.
Not that the gasline was a new concept. As far back
as 1989, the head of the Tata Energy Research Institute
(TERI), R K Pachauri, had brought Iran's former
Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Shams Ardekani to
New Delhi to deliver a paper on the subject. Pachauri
recalls, "At that time, policy makers and others
thought erf it as nothing more than a pipe dream. But
what you need are rational thinkers and policymakers
who can identify win-win opportunities." Somewhat
before the India-Pakistan thaw of the last couple of
years, the Balusa Group had predicted, "Major shifts
in political relationships do sometimes take place at
baffling speed and in totally unexpected directions."
This is indeed what has happened. The Iran-Pakistan-
India pipeline is now within grasp, and with it the
hope that the continuous inferno of India-Pakistan
relations may finally be smothered under a blanket
of methane.
Interestingly, it was the prolonged military
standoff of 2002 that Rawalpindi-based 'activist-
general' Mahmud Durrani thinks has "convinced the
leader-ship of both the countries that war of high or
low intensity is no more a practical option." A Balusa
member from the start, Gen Durrani says, "While the
Indian and Pakistani people, in spite of the occasional
hysteria, have always wanted to live in peace, this is
the first time that 1 see a change in the thinking of the
establishments of our two countries. Understanding
of the cost of conflict and benefits of peace is finally
sinking in, which is why our pipeline proposal is no
more a pipe dream."
Iran, which has the largest natural gas reserves in
the world after Russia but exports only to Turkey, is
keen to open up markets eastwards in Pakistan and
India. But even the Iranians are quick to emphasise
the importance of the gasline to Southasian peace-
building. Tehran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi
said in Delhi in early February, "We are convinced
that the Iran-India pipeline through Pakistan will
benefit all three countries and substantially improve
the political and economic relations between India
and Pakistan." Pakistan's Prime Minister, Shaukat
Aziz, has no doubts on that score: "1 have always
said that if we create mutual linkages and mutual
dependencies, that helps the overall political
The optimist's timeline Pipeline gas is attractive
because of its competitive price and stable and long-
term supply. The extended multinational gaslines in
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
"Enmeshed economies will
bring us together."
Mani Shankar Aiyar, India's Member of
Parliament and Minster of Petroleum and
Natural Gas, was interviewed in his office
at Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi.
Himal: You are acting as if time were running out in
your search for energy.
Mani Shankar Aiyar: For energy security India must
maximize domestic production of oil and gas, but our energy
needs are so great that we need to look elsewhere as well.
Hence, the importance of pipeline diplomacy. In India, we
need energy so as to sustain high rate of growth in order to
realty get rid of poverty. Energy security is therefore at the
core of both economic growth and national security. And we
do not become more secure by avoiding Pakistan and denying
ourselves access to something that we need.
What about the obvious American distaste for the
whole project?
We have not been refuted when we have said that India has
civilisational linkages with Iran, or that this project is very
important for our economy. The pipeline is on track, though I
am not pretending that it will be smooth. The real US position
will emerge when we have a concrete agreement on our
hands. An expression of anxiety at this stage does not mean
that the pipeline is in jeopardy.
How can a gas pipeline be a confidence building
The pipelines from Iran and Myanmar would merge
India's economic interests with those of Pakistan and
Bangladesh, which would be the transit countries.
Sending ships with LNG on the high seas to Haldia or
Gujarat may satisfy our energy needs, but there would be
no peace implications.
Are already looking beyond to a Southasian energy
The future lies in all the countries of the region
being brought together, while respecting the political
independence and sovereignty of each. Our historical
truth is that we were one economy that was broken
up. So we must work for integration after the past
decades of disintegration. We need enmeshed economies
and people's interaction across the frontiers. Without
exaggerating the importance of the pipeline project as
a peacebuilding exercise, I have no doubt it will make a
major contribution.
operation, such as those from Siberia to Germany
and from Algeria to France, have already proven the
technical, economic and geopolitical viability of such
projects. Pakistan has had decades of experience
with its own domestic natural gas network, which
branches out to all regions from the gas fields of
Balochistan and Sindh. Natural gas is the fuel of
choice of the twenty-first century: it is cheaper and
cleaner than most alternatives and it is found within
easy reach in the outlying regions of Southasia, from
Burma to Turkmenistan and Iran.
Both the Indian and Pakistani economies are
expected to grow at more than six percent yearly
for the next decade. Their hunger for energy is
already acute and their own proven gas reserves
are quite modest in relation to projected demand.
India presently requires 120 million standard cubic
meters per day (mmscmd) of natural gas, which is
over one-and-half times the supply of 70 mmscmd.
The demand is expected to go up to 250 mmscmd by
2010, and rise to 400 mmscmd by 2015. An overland
pipeline being 30 percent cheaper than transporting
liquefied natural gas (LNG) by tanker ships, it is
obvious why the Iranian gas fields look so tantalizing
to the Indian energy planner.
It was only a few years ago that, in an environment
that stands in sharp contrast to the Indo-Pak bonhomie
of today, the gasline idea was stalled simply because
New Delhi did not want Islamabad to benefit from
the transit fee. And there were some in Pakistan who
did not want India to prosper through easy access to
Iranian gas. This dog-in-manger mindset also stalled
progress through the introduction of conditions: New
Delhi wanted road transport access to Afghanistan as
quid pro quo and also demanded the Most Favoured
Nation status from Pakistan; like-wise, Islamabad
was quick to link the pipeline with progress on the
ubiquitous problem of Kashmir,
In the improved atmosphere of today, with
political will evident on both sides, the issues have
been separated and the Iranian pipeline stands
alone  and  on its  own  merits.  Most importantly,
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
 the pipeline's chaperones in New Delhi's Ministry
of Petroleum and Natural Gas have managed to
convince the political front rank that the project
must be seen solely as a project for energy security,
vital for the economy's growth. Tilings are so close
to a breakthrough that India's Petroleum Secretary
S C Tripathi told reporters that if the negotiations
between Islamabad, New Delhi and Tehran went
smoothly, ground could be broken within two years
and the natural gas could actually begin to flow bv
October-December 2009.
India Demand for Natural Gas
1998-99     2001-02 (P)  2006-07 (P)   2011-12 (PI 2024-25 (P)
Source: India Hydrocarbon Vision 2025, GAIL
Even discounting such an optimistic scenario,
tlie peace-building potential of the gasline is already
beginning to kick in as the three countries start to
discuss the modalities of the project. The vital need
for natural gas imports is already informing rhetoric
in New Delhi and Islamabad and playing a part in
modulating positions. This trend will continue as the
construction of the pipeline proceeds and the facts of
an intertwined Indian and Pakistani economy are,
literally, created on the ground. And so, the scene is
set for a USD 5 billion project that would place a pipe
of 56 inches diameter and 2700 km length to carry gas
under pressure from the offshore South Pars gas field
to Delhi and Gujarat, carrying 3.2 billion cubic feet of
gas a day. The matter is no longer one of 'if, but' when'.
Bhai-bhai bonhomie
It is the coincidence of leaderships in Islamabad and
New Delhi that has delivered a permutation capable
of propelling the gasline project. Pakistan is ruled bv
a general president who is largely unencumbered bv
political obligations and who sees the achievement
of peace with India as a crowning glory that could
wipe away the stain of autocracy. The presence of
international banker-turned-prime minister Shaukat
Aziz enhances Gen Musharraf's understanding that
beyond bhai-bhai bonhomie, sustainable peace must
be built by means of permanent economic linkages
with India.
On the side of democratic India, the economist
Manmohan Singh was catapulted to the helm of
affairs when Q.ngress Party president Sonia Gandhi
unexpectedly declined the prime minister's chair
in May 2004. lhe architect of India's economic
liberalisation as finance minister under Prime
Minister !' V Narasimha Rao in the early 1990s, Singh
instinctively understood the value of the gasline
for India's expanding economic base. Being a non-
political animal, incongruously akin to the general
across the border, il was easy for Singh to follow his
professional instincts rather than be bogged down
by the heavy weight of geo-strategic cautionary
Manmohan Singh's choice for the Minister of
Petroleum and Natural Gas in the Union Cabinet has
been kev to the rapid developments on the gasline
front over the last vear. Mani Shankar Aiyar was a
foreign service officer from the Tamil south, a friend
of Rajiv Gandhi who emerged as a staunch loyalist of
his widow Sonia. The loquacious Aiyar, actually born
in Lahore in 1941, considers his three year stint as
India's consul general in Karachi as a defining period
of his life and was an unabashed advocate of bilateral
contact even during the worst davs of Pakistan-
bashing in India. Aiyar's confidence also comes from
the fact that he is an elected Member of Parliament
rather than a nominated elder of the Upper House.
Even his critics grant Aivar his flamboyance and
mental capacity.
When the United Progressive Alliance coalition
government was being formed following the rout of
the BJP in May 2004, Aiyar first took on the post ot
Minister for Panchayati Raj, local government being
an area of personal interest. Manmohan Singh had
also promised him a more 'heavy' ministry, while
Aivar was given 'temporary charge' of the Ministry
of Petroleum and Natural Gas. for some reason, no
one has told him to move on and, typically 'Mani
Shankar', Aiyar lost no time in pushing the idea
of the gasline. it was a stroke ot good fortune that,
together with Jaswant Singh of the BJI, Aivar had
been a participant in the Balusa conclaves and the
two had even made a joint report to South Block
in 1996 on the merits of the Iranian gasline concept
(see interoiae).
Aivar raided his former employer, the Ministry
of Externa] Affairs, and brought over a respected
diplomat named Talmiz Ahmad to his own ministry on secondment to serve as Additional Secretary
(Overseas). Ahmed was to organize and pacify
while Aiyar led the charge. With Indian industry
firmly on his side for the bonanza that Iranian gas
represents, Aiyar's challenge was to get Manmohan
Singh's ear and to keep at hay the security analysts
whose livelihoods depend on stoking the embers
of bilateral tension. Soon after he took office, he
provided the cabinet with a note on energy security,
arguing for pipeline imports. On 9 February 2005, the
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 cabinet gave him formal clearance to conduct what
Aiyar calls "conversations without commitment"
with Burma, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan,
Turkmenistan and Iran.
Another coincidence is the matter of Aiyar's
rapport with Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursid
Mahmud Kasuri: "a friendship which goes back to
7 pm, <S October 1961, Trinity Hall in Cambridge",
savs Aivar with his trademark tlair and memory for
detail. When Kasuri was in Delhi on 5-6 September
2004 to review the status of the composite dialogue
with Natwar Singh, he and his wife came over to
Aiyar's house for dinner. There, the college-mates
worked out a formulation that was incorporated
into the joint statement issued bv the two foreign
ministers at the end of Kasuri's Delhi visit, it was
during that conversation that the term 'hydrocarbon
cooperation' entered the bilateral dialogue. A lew
weeks later, in New York, Manmohan Singh and
Pervez Musharraf issued a statement which said
that "a gas pipeline via Pakistan to India . . . could
contribute to the welfare and prosperity ol the
people of both countries."
Being a pushy sort of person, all-powerful Soma's
conlidante, and willing to dare the system, Aivar
immediately made il a cause to promote not only the
Iranian pipeline but a veritable Southasian gas grid.
Before anyone con Id tell what was happening, he was
proposing the extension of the Iranian gasline all the
way east past the Ganga and Brahmaputra plains to
Yunnan to supply southern China. He visited Burma
and Bangladesh and convinced his counterparts
to cooperate on the building of a pipeline to bring
offshore Arakan gas to eastern India.
Aiyar's trump card as far as the nav-savers are
concerned is the energy projections, which juxtapose
an exponentially expanding Indian economy with
the fact of limited or uncertain domestic reserves.
His simple question is, "How are we supposeel to fill
in for the shortfall of energy?" Aivar likes to sav that
the twenty first century is going to be the century of
natural gas, just as the previous two were those of
petroleum and coal respectively. He wants India to
be firmly a part of the natural gas century.
Notable advance was achieved on the pipeline
front after Aivar visits Pakistan and Iran in early
June. In Islamabad, discussions were held with
Pakistan's Minister of Petroleum and Natural
Resources, Amanullah Khan Jadoon, where the
brass tacks of the gasline were discussed, including
transit fees, security guarantees and continuity
of flow. After a stopover in Baku in Azerbaijan to
attend the 12th International Caspian Oil and Gas
Pipeline Conference, Aiyar arrived in Tehran to sign
an agreement to buy LNG and to discuss the pricing
of the piped gas on offer. From both capitals, Aiyar
brought back understandings to proceed with the
planning of the gasline.
India-Pakistan Gas
Pakistan 'understands' natural gas as a resource
somewhat better than India does. It is decades
ahead of the rest of the region in its extraction
and exploitation ot thi.' resource - in pipeline
infrastructure, in transportation, and in industrial,
commercial and residential use. Whereas everywhere
else in the Subcontinent stand-alone industrial
generators run on diesel. in Pakistan luitural gas is
Ihe trie! ot choice, 1 lomemakers' in Pakistani have
never seen the ungainlv -leel I Pt i,misters that
must be lugged to and from kitchens in the rest ol
Southasja outside ot Bangladesh,
Pakisian got its head start with the discover., ot
a gas field in Sui of Balochistan in IL|ftl, which even
toda\ supplies 45 percent ot thecountn 's distributed
gas. lhe first pipeline, which went down io Karachi
along the Indus, was built in 1955, By the late 1960s,
two companies, Sui Southern and Sui Northern,
were providing service through a countrywide
network ot pipelines [hat extended from Peshawar
to I ahore to Multan. Bangladesh had a somewhat
later start in gas exploitation (Mani Shankar Aivar:
" I he country is floating cm a lake ot natural gas!"},
but neighbouring India has barely begun to wake up
to the possibilities of this fuel.
The fact that Pakistan is the Southasian path-
breaker in natural gas is clear from a comparison ot
pipeline networks. Altogether, Pakistan has 7900 km
of gas pipelines, whereas the much larger India has
no more than 4000 km of unconnected lines. What
goes for a grid in India is confined to one 1700 km
pipeline that connects 1 lazira in Gujarat with Delhi
and Haryana. The energy mix in the two countries is
also worth contrasting: in India it is 54 percent coal,
32 percent oil, nine percent natural gas and three
percent hvdropower. Pakistan presents an entirely
different picture, with 45 percent reliance an oil, 41
percent on natural gas and nine percent hydro.
Sui Southern and Sui Northern are considered
efficient parastatals fullv capable of involving
themselves in the Iranian gasline project from the
Pakistan side. The main producers of gas in India
are the Oil India Limited (OIL), which operates in
Assam and Rajasthan, and the Oil and Natural Gas
Corporation (ONGC), which works on the offshore
fields of the Arabian Sea. The Gas Authority of India
Limited (GAIL) was established in 1984 to handle
infrastructure and marketing ot gas and runs today's
modest network. It is expected to be the main cntitv
that will distribute the Iranian gas from the point
at which it enters Rajasthan. It is expected that the
gasline will bifurcate to feed the Gujarat and Delhi
Savs TKKI's Pachauri, "In India, the biggest impact
of piped gas at reasonable price on a large scale would
be seen on power generation and the production of
fertilizers and petrochemicals. Extensive distribution
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
 for residential use would probably not happen
right away. On power generation, India has plans
to add capacity of about 10,000 megawatts every
year and natural gas would be the fuel of choice."
TAP on tap
While Iran is the favoured source by which to fulfil
India's current and projected energy thirst, it does
not provide the only available. There have been
extensive negotiations and several memoranda of
understanding signed, for example, with Qatar
or Oman. But the route under the Arabian Sea is
considered impractical because of cost and unproven
t technology. The most obvious alternative to the
Iranian gasline is the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-
Pakistan (TAP) project. The three governments have
been in consultation on the matter since 1999, and a
detailed feasibility study has been carried out on a
line that would transport gas from the Dauletabad
reserves of Turkmenistan all the way to Multan.
The 'LAP line, as proposed by a UK company hired
by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), would have
a pipeline of 56 inches diameter running a distance
of 1680 km, with capacity of 3.2 billion cubic feet per
day. The cost of construction would be 3.3 billion
USD. Says the ADB report to the three countries,
"Based on the projected gas demand in Pakistan, the
TAP project is feasible and has high potential."
TAP is also known as the "old Unocal project".
During the time of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan,
the multinational company Unocal succeeded in
persuading the mullahs to consider the project.
Unocal put together a consortium in 1999 and opened
offices in Pakistan and India, signing agreements
also with vehement opponents of the Taliban in
Afghanistan's north. In 1999, as opposition to the
Taliban grew in the West and investors were made
nervous by the extended Afghan civil war, Unocal
withdrew from the project.
Says Gen Durrani in Rawalpindi, "If the GDP
growth of India is to be sustained you will need
more than one pipeline. Geographically, TAP is
the easiest, down through western Afghanistan
and Pakistan. Politically, the Iranian pipeline is the
simplest, because there is no turbulent Afghanistan
in between, and you are also dealing with one less
country. My own suggestion would be to first go for
the Iranian pipeline, and then for TAP, and after that
the Qatar pipeline which will have to come undersea
and then through Balochistan."
Mother of all CBMs
The maturity that has suddenly come to mark the
India-Pakistan relationship is hard to comprehend
given the acrimony of the past. But while confidence-
building efforts are welcome, feel-gooei measures that
merely emphasize the bhai-bhai nature of the India-
Pakistan interface will not be enough to stabilise
the relationship. Goodwill and atmospherics can
evaporate all too quickly in the aftermath of an
accident or untoward incident, leaving behind
bitterness and added distrust. To make an amicable
relationship stable, it is essential to have free
movement of people across the India-Pakistan border
with safeguards only to prevent mass migration. At
the same time, it is urgent to begin the process of
establishing economic facts on the ground that wil]
cement the newfound amity. The Iranian gasline, or
alternatively the TAP line extended to India, would
provide such a binding element, a cushion to help
the two government overcome the political ups and
downs that are bound to occur.
Much of the animosity towards Pakistan within
India is concentrated in the northern states of Uttar
Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab and Delhi,
which were most affected by the demographic shifts
and the violence of Partition. These northern Indian
states are the ones that would benefit directly from
the gasline from across the Thar Desert. It is hard
to underestimate the impact of the gasline project
as a confidence-building measure, or CBM. The
immediate benefit ot piping gas from Pakistan into
India would be to lock the two economies into an
embrace after decades of separation, closed borders
and the absence of economic reciprocity.
There is, intriguingly, no dearth analysts who sing
the praise of the pipeline idea, and these include the
hard-headed ones. Amitabh Mattoo is a political
scientist who serves on the Advisory Board of
India's National Security Council and was recently
appointed Vice Chancellor of jammu University.
He says, "If vou believe that the India-Pakistan
conflict is structural, then the onlv wav to defuse it
is to build a relationship of economic dependence.
Looking to the future, the gas pipeline can be seen
as almost the equivalent of the F.uropean Steel and
Coal Communitv, which served as the basis for
the European Communitv. The best confidence-
building measures are those where vou build
economic stakeholders, which the pipeline will do.
It will achieve in a vear what SAARC could not do
in a decade or more. In addition, there will be a
multiplier effect across the region as a whole if India
and Pakistan come together."
C Raja Mohan, an expert on strategic affairs
presently at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in
New Delhi, has been following the pipeline project
for more than a decade and is convinced that its
newfound respectability is based on sound logic. He
savs, "This is a transformatory project, and it will
fundamentally7 change the nature of interaction in the
Subcontinent. It will break the wall of suspicion by
promoting economic interlinkages, which will begin
to take hold once large corporations like Reliance get
active across the border. A frontier of conflict will be
converted into a frontier of contact."
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 Energy in the East
Not satisfied with its explorations westwards, India is
also looking to the east in its quest for energy security.
In January 2005, plans for a pipeline carrying natural gas
from the fields of Burma to India through Bangladesh were
approved, in principle, by the energy ministers of the three
countries, The gasline has been termed a 'win-win-win'
opportunity for all concerned, with Burma gaining access
to new markets, Bangladesh earning transit fees and India
quenching its ever-increasing thirst for energy.
While Burma is estimated to have abundant natural
gas reserves, India is already facing a massive shortfall in
supply (see graph on page 32). The gas in question would
be transported from the offshore Shwe fields in the Arakhan
province of Burma. The route of the pipeline, to be decided
on the principle of "ensuring adequate access, maximum
security and optimal economic utilization" would most likely
pass through the Indian states of Mizoram and Tripura,
entering Bangladesh at Brahmanbaria and crossing over into
West Bengal through the Rajshahi border.
An interesting aspect of the trilateral ministerial
agreement is that Bangladesh and India are allowed to use
the pipeline to "inject and siphon off their own natural gas."
This means that India would be able to feed gas from its
Tripura gas fields into the pipeline and then extract it once
the pipeline reaches West Bengal. And Bangladesh could use
the gasline to transport gas from the eastern Sylhet region,
where its reserves lie, to its west.
The project's benefits to Bangladesh Include about USD
125 million a year in transit fees. Dhaka is also assured of
supply of Burmese gas should its own reserves begin to run
out. The Burma gasline gains additional significance against
the backdrop of Dhaka's reluctance to export its own natural
gas to India, a reticence ascribed to both doubts about the
size of its reserves and the dynamics of Bangladeshi politics,
which make exports to India problematic. The Burma pipeline
could help relax such attitudes in Dhaka in the future.
The January agreement, meanwhile, has hit a patch of
bad weather, with a set of conditions set by Bangladesh
on India. As part of a quid pro quo, Dhaka wants Delhi to
provide it with transit facilities for import of hydroeiectricity
from Nepal and Bhutan, as vveit as measures to reduce
the trade imbalance between India and Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has also demanded access to a corridor
through India for trade with Nepal and Bhutan. With India
refusing to include bilateral issues in a tripartite agreement,
the signing of a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) in
April was deferred. The political risk involved in signing an
agreement with India on the eve of an election may be
weighing heavy on the minds of the ruling dispensation
in Dhaka.
There is also opposition to the gasline from Burmese
pro-democracy activists and some international groups.
They argue that the deal, pushed by Bangladesh and India
as Southasian democracies, would simply strengthen and
legitimise the authoritarian regime in Rangoon. With the
recent 'realist' tilt in New Delhi towards the Burmese ruling
junta, and given the country's energy needs, it is unlikely
that India for one will be swayed by the opposition. If this
situation holds, if Dhaka relents and if an understanding
does get formalised this year, officials estimate that
Burmese gas could be flowing to Calcutta industries and
households within five years, by Prashant Jha s>.
Mahendra P Lama and Rasul Bakhsh Rais, scholars
from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and
Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad respectively,
have no doubt that "gas pipelines for a common
future" is an idea whose time has come. Together,
they have written that "such a grid would generate
a chain of stakeholders at the level of policymakers,
institutions, consumers and beneficiaries, with
forward and backward linkages. This could be one
of the single biggest confidence-building measures
between the two countries, and would create positive
and permanent vested interests in South Asia."
The 'forward and backward linkages' of the
Iranian pipeline will reach into the deepest nooks and
crannies of the two economies. Beyond the industrial,
commercial and household-level advantages, the
gasline will also serve as a powerful symbol of
cooperation and interdependence. Gen Durrani says
of the prospects: "The peace dividend will begin to
flow the moment you sign the document. There will
be newfound confidence as you move into detailed
studies, construction, the to-and-fro between officials,
and so on."
The economic dividend that India and Pakistan
will reap from cheap and reliable Iraniain methane
will create stakeholders for peace in the economic
sectors of both the countries. The involvement of
industries large and small will lead to a vested interest
in geopolitical stability between India and Pakistan.
Take   the  example  of  Reliance  Industries,   India's
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
The issue is fundamentally settled."
Malimud Durrani, retired Major General of the
Pakistan Army, was interviewed in his home by
the 18-hole Rawalpindi Golf Course.
Himal: How did a general get into lobbying for
natural gas pipelines?
Mahmud Durrani: Shirin Tahir-Kheli is really the mother
hen of all this. I was still in service when I told her of
wanting to retire and devote my life to promoting India-
Pakistan peace. Within two years, she and her brother Toufiq
had organised a group of Pakistanis and Indians to discuss
energy cooperation. I attended the first meeting with the
backing of the Pakistan military and the government. There
was a feeling that we needed peace. There was even an ex-
RAW chief in our group.
Do you feel vindicated?
Now that the pipeline project seems within grasp, the
members of the Balusa Group feel redeemed. What we
had thought of as close to a dream is now close to reality.
The idea is do-able, it is economically feasible, and we are
Were you always convinced about the project's
In seeking to learn all there was to learn about natural gas
pipelines, I met with a representative of Reliance Industries
at the Indian International Centre in New Delhi. They were
already into gas, and felt that the pipeline would work. This
added to my confidence,
Were you not wary of meeting up with big businesses
such as Reliance?
I got over that kind of timidity long ago. One must respect
the private sector as a partner, and I had no problem meeting
with the Reliance people. For a peacenik, industry can be a
very strong partner.
Are there those
in Pakistan who will reject the
Only the narrow-minded extremists. The project will move
ahead on its own merits sooner than later, and the gas will
help develop stakeholders across the border.
Are we expecting too much from one pipeline?
The pipeline is not a magic wand that will resolve all problems
at one wave, but please understand that exporting gas is
completely different from exporting sugar or potatoes. Simply
put, a gas pipeline cannot be shut off, therefore it can provide
more stability than other kinds of cross-border exchange.
Are you worried about the troubles in Balochistan
affecting the pipeline?
There is disaffection in Balochistan, but this does not provide
the motivation to blow up a transit pipeline from Iran.
Nevertheless, adequate security arrangements will have
to be there. A lifeline for Indian industry cannot be made
Are you sure it will happen?
I think the pipeline wil! happen, not as a romantic but as a
realist India needs the gas and Pakistan needs the gas. They
have in the broader sense agreed to cooperate on this. The
issue is fundamentally settled.
petrochemical giant, which is expected to make
heavy use of the natural gas that comes through the
pipeline. It would be in the company's interest, once
the pipeline is in place, to have bilateral tensions low
so that its coffers remain full. The same would hold
true for all other industrial and commercial players.
The pipeline even has the power to restrain the two
countries on the issue of Kashmir, the key yardstick
by which any proposed India-Pakistan CBM must
be measured. Write Lama and Rais, "The pipeline
may ultimately de-prioritise the Kashmir issue
from the agenda of the political economy of India-
Pakistan relations." In New Delhi, TERI's Pachauri
has no doubts on that score: "If India gets large
quantities of gas at a reasonable price and Pakistan
benefits from the economies of scale and transit fees,
Kashmir and other bilateral problems would be seen
to be ridiculously trivial. If cricket matches and bus
sei"vices between the two countries can demolish
so many prejudices, surely the cementing of such
a large-scale economic relationship would create
unprecedented goodwill on both sides. There is a
potential for radically altering mindsets."
But can the hawks and ultra-nationalists on
both sides still gather enough energy to sabotage
the gasline proposal? Fakir Ayazuddin, a Karachi
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 businessman and commentator, thinks that the
momentum that has been generated will carry the
project past such obstacles. He says, "De-escalation
will begin the moment the pipeline deal is signed,
and the hawks will be sidelined. At that point, the
cynics and opportunists who work overtime to
poison bilateral initiatives will have no possibility
of open opposition. There is too much good in the
Toufiq Siddiqi is an environmentalist and energy
expert based in Hawaii. Shirin Tahir-Kheli is a political
scientist at Johns Hopkins University, currently
Senior Advisor to Secretary of State Condoleeza
Rice on United Nations Reform, who served on the
US National Security Council from 2003-2005. Born
in Hyderabad (Deccan) before Partition, the siblings
spent part of their childhood in Pakistan, after which
they became Southasian emigres in the US. In the
early 1990s, Siddiqi became interested in the energy
requirements of the Subcontinent, while sister Tahir-
Kheli maintained her interest in the region even as
she rose up the career ladder in Washington DC.
With support from the United Nations
Development Programme and the Rockefeller
Foundation, the brother-sister duo brought together
a group of Indian and Pakistani generals, politicians,
bureaucrats and others to discuss ways to bring sense
and direction to the India-Pakistan relationship. It
was this loose gathering that came to be known as
the Balusa Group, named after two adjacent villages
in Pakistani Punjab. (The group, labelled "a five star
track two effort" by one critic for the high profile of
its members, includes a few irreverent individuals
who enjoy such mischief as making the claim that
"Balusa evidently means peace in an ancient Indian
The group brought together by Tahir-Kheli and
Siddiqi first met in Singapore, which was followed
by gatherings in Bellagio (Italy), Muscat (Oman),
Udaipur, Rawalpindi and elsewhere. The latest was
a discussion on Kashmir held in Chandigarh in
February 2005. A leading figure in the Balusa Group
is Mahmud Durrani. While a serving general, he had
announced to Tahir-Kheli in 1994 his intention to
devote his imminent retirement to helping achieve an
India-Pakistan rapprochement. With the support of
some progressive-minded top brass in the Pakistani
military, Gen Durrani became active in the Balusa
conclaves. A firm advocate of economic linkages to
concretise peace initiatives, he believes the group
has been "way ahead of the curve" on the gasline
proposal, (see interview).
Recalling the beginnings of the Balusa initiative,
Siddiqi says, "Shirin and I have had a continuous
interest in promoting sustainable development
in the Subcontinent, and here was a concept that
The Balusa siblings
would represent a win-win economic situation for
the key adversaries, while also serving as a CBM. I
knew many of the energy and environment experts
in both countries, whereas Shirin knew many of
the policymakers. We understood that given the
magnitude of energy requirements, the natural gas
pipeline offered the greatest potential."
Yankee veto
The idea has never been this close to becoming a
reality, but a number of things could still go wrong.
Most significantly, the building of the gasline
depends on the absence of accidents along the way
that could derail the larger peace effort - a massive
militant attack, an assassination or anv other event
with potential to fuel nationalist reaction and tie the
hands of even the most clear-headed president or
prime minister. Other, less dramatic obstacles could
emerge as well: Iran could ask for too high a price for
its natural gas, or Islamabad could put an unrealistic
tag on the transit.
Militancy along the proposed pipeline(s) is a
source of worry for planners. The dangers for TAP
would be in the continuing troubles in western
Afghanistan, while the Iranian pipeline project is
threatened by brewing discontent in Balochistan,
through whose territory it would run for 750 km.
The source of possible trouble are Baloch militias
unhappy with the price their province is receiving for
Sui gas. The militias have been setting off explosions
along Pakistan's domestic pipeline network. Experts
in Islamabad, however, discount the level of the
threat to the Iranian line, which would have no
connection to the source of Baloch discontent. They
say that Pakistan as the transit state would have
to provide ironclad guarantees against disruption,
and that a dedicated patrolling force (perhaps the
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
 A Nepal-Bangladesh win-win
by | Rajendra Dahai
Just a decade ago, the roof racks of passenger
buses arriving in any one of Nepal's cities and
towns would be piled high with firewood. All
through the tracts of jungle along the highways,
stacks of firewood would be on sale. However,
no firewood is entering the cities of Nepal today.
What is it that has marginalised firewood?
The answer is cooking fuel. Earlier, the only fuel
was firewood. Then there was the shift to kerosene
tiuee decades ago, and after that, the rapid spread
of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) canisters. Now,
the red coloured LPG cylinders have become so
popular that they are even carried on porter-back
and mule-back to remote mountain villages.
Today, fhe forests of the mountains and jungles
of the plains are regenerating in large parts, as
is evident not only along the highways but also
along the Kathmandu Valley rim. While Nepal's
successful implementation of community forestry
has been given the credit for this sudden greening,
the role of reduced firewood demand around the
population centers must be acknowledged. In the
absence of alternative fuel, the efforts of local forest
user groups alone would not have been enough.
Even though scientifically un-proven and a
matter of conjecture, there is a common perception
that a lot of the monsoon flooding and siltation,
including in Bangladesh, is caused by the loss
of tree cover in the central Himalaya. With
kerosene and LPG already making such a difference
to Nepal's forests, one can visualise the situation
if natural gas were to arrive from Bangladesh by pipeline. Available for much cheaper
than today's LPG canisters,.natural gas would
accelerate    the    shift    awav    from    firewood,
which would further reduce deforestation.
The gasline to feed Nepal would reach out from
the north Bengal town of Bogra, cross 40 kilometers
of India's Chicken's Neck and arrive at the Nepali
border town of Chandragadhi across fhe Mechi
River. Chandragadhi could be the main depot,
from where, pending a pipeline to Kathmandu and
elsewhere, tanker trucks could distribute natural
gas around the country.
Indian and American multinationals have been
pressurising the Dhaka to export natural gas from
its Sylhet reserves to India. The official reason
cited for Dhaka's reluctance is its insecurity' about
the size of the national gas reserves. Because the
volume of Nepali demand would be relatively low,
Bangladesh should not be worried about excessive
depletion of its reserves. Besides helping green
the Nepali hillsides and - as the suggestion goes
- help reduce flooding, Bangladesh would also be
helping the population and economy of a fellow
SAARC member.
The project could also be a harbinger to greater
cooperation in the field of energy resources, with
Nepal subsequently exporting its own hydropower
to electricity-deficient Bangladesh. A gasline and
electricity linkage between the two countries
would also serve as an important element in the
larger Southasian energy grid that Indian Energy
Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, among others, is
The logic and benefit of a Nepal-Bangladesh
link are obvious and if serious efforts are made
by the two sides, sources say that India is unlikely
to create obstacles in use of its territory for transit.
The tripartite agreement between Bangladesh,
Burma and India of January this year, approving,
in principle, the export of Burmese gas to India via
Bangladesh territory also augurs well for increased
flexibility among all governments of the region
when it comes to grids and pipelines. Additionally,
if Bangladesh is unable to export its own gas to
Nepal, it would now be possible for the latter to get
access to the Burmese gas.
There will come a time when, with natural gas
changing the energy scenario, Nepali villagers
will stop entering the forests for firewood. The
mountain forests will turn even more verdant. As
Bangladesh exports gas to Nepal, Nepal will stop
exporting silt to Bangladesh. ^
Jui-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 Pakistan Army on contract) and high technology
remote monitoring would largely take care of the
The greatest worry by far with regard to the future
of the pipeline proposal, however, is not the Afghan
or Baloch tribesmen but the Government of the L'nited
States of America. Currently engaged in a jousting
match with Tehran with regard to the latter's nuclear
ambitions, the Americans have made it clear that thev
eye the possible deal between the Southasians and
Iran with distaste. At a press conference on 16 March
during her first trip to New Delhi after taking office
as Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice conceded that
Southasia had growing energy needs. But then she
added, "I think that our views concerning Iran are
very well known by this time. We have communicated
to the Indian government our concerns about the gas
pipeline cooperation between Iran and India." The
State Department once again growled, through a
spokesman, when India's Aiyar visited Pakistan and
Tehran in early June to push the gasline project.
The fact is that the sanctions America slapped
against Iran in 1984 following the extended hostage
crisis that brought down the Carter Administration
are still in place and prohibit American companies
from working with Tehran. In addition, there is the
Iran-Libya Sanctions Act of 1996, which provides
penalties even for third-country companies that work
with Iran. If they decided not to look the other way,
the Americans are in a position to lean heavilv on a
verv LS-dependentGen Pervez Musharraf and nudge
the gasline proposal towards the cliff.
Rice's statement sent shock waves through
government and industry in India and Pakistan, but
the official Southasian response has been marked bv
a show of bravado, one that could well dissipate if
the screws were to be tightened. Standing bv Rice's
side at the press conference, Indian Foreign Minister
K Natwar Singh said, "We have no problems of any
kind with Iran." Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar likes to
emphasise the civilisational ties India has with Iran
and the importance of Iranian gas for eradicating
poverty in Southasia as a whole. Across in Pakistan,
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has said that Pakistan
will make a decision on the project based on the
national interest ancl nothing else, while petroleum
minister Jadoon says Pakistan needs natural gas and
will look at all options of supply, including Iran.
It is possible, however, that the Americans will
not go all the way in opposing the project. One New
Delhi bureaucrat who is crossing his fingers likes to
point out that Rice did not actually raise the matter of
the Iranian pipeline in her bilateral talks with South
Block, and what she said was only in response to a
question from the press. Indeed, the US may not want
to be seen as coming out against a project that would
contribute directly to lasting India-Pakistan peace. Or
a project that would help uplift the economy of all of
Southasia, the most depressed populous region in
the world. Would Washington DC be willing to put a
spanner in the works of a project that practicallv has
a halo around it?
How far will the Americans go? Mani Shankar
Aiyar says we will not know until the project-related
agreements are signed. On the whole, the expectation
is that the LS will compartmentalize its attitude
and animosities towards Iran so that they do not
affect the Iranian gasline to Southasia. As Siddiqi
has written, "Were India and Pakistan to come to a
satisfactory deal and to jointly confront US policy on
a project which could change the face of South Asia,
Washington would indeed have to take a long hard
look." The Karachi commentator Fakir Avazuddm
is sitting back confident that the Indian umbrella
will provide adequate protection to the gasline: "It
is easier for the Americans to slap Pakistan than to
anger India. Fhe Indian lobby in Washington DC
will work to ensure that America doesn't stop the
Land of Southasia
On the basis of the rapprochement already achieved
hetween Islamabad and New Delhi, Aiyar's
successful trip to Islamabad and Tehran in early
June, and the unlikelihood of a US filibuster, it is a
near certainty that the Iranian gas pipeline will come
into being, confounding critics and promoters alike.
The gasline is exactly the interdependence-creating
project needed to protect the bilateral relationship
from being buffeted by accidents, aberrations and
opportunistic ultra-nationalisms on both sides.
The economic merits of the Iran-Pakistan-India gas
pipeline are clear to anyone who can prepare the
most basic economic model and forecasts.
It bears remembering that Southasia is a region
where the nuclear sabres were rattling just half a
decade ago, with talk of atomic annihilation. There
is no densely populated, poverty-stricken, fractious
region in the world more in need of a confidence-
building measure. It is a fair development that
governments who w^ere glaring at each other across
the barbed wire frontier are today talking of building
an umbilical gasline which would tie their two
economies together.
For Toufiq Siddiqi of the Balusa Group, the
argument for the project is simple: "The demand for
natural gas is expected to almost double in India and
Pakistan over the next decade. This cannot be met
through domestic production. The two countries
would need to import from neighbouring regions.
It is in the interest of India and Pakistan to import
natural gas via a common pipeline."
When simple arguments win the day, we will have
turned the leaf to the future. The land of Southasia is
poised at the start of a new beginning; this much one
can say without being accused of romanticism. $,
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
A centrally located hotel ottering traditional iibetan
hospitality. Well-appointed guest rooms with, multi.
channel TV. telephone and tlie only rooltop restaurant 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
August 15-19,2005, Kathmandu
New media technologies are rapidly changing the face of journalism, changing traditional professional paradigms of
news making and news dissemination. The online is no longer seen as a competitive medium or even as an adjunct
to the mainstream but a complimentary one. The World Wide Web is the site where print and broadcast converge and
open up innumerable possibilities-which are both affordable as well as implementable.
Panos South Asia (PSA) <> is organising a 5-day South Asian regional 'Online
Journalism and Web Publishing Training Workshop' for media practitioners in South Asia, from 15 -19 August, 2005
at its Media Centre in Kathmandu, Nepal. This training workshop has been devised to provide an understanding of
new media formats for text, audio, and video materials. The focus will be on the general issues of online publishing
and distribution, such as copyright and newly emerging roles in the field of online journalism. The programme will
demystify the technologies and make them accessible. On the practical side, participants will learn how to develop web
multimedia content, beginning with text-based material, then moving onto integration of audio and video material. The
outcome of the training will be a full-fledged mock multimedia portal, with interactive features.
Publishers, editors and journalists from print and broadcast media from South Asian countries may apply by 15 July
2005 to Kishor Pradhan by e-mail at PSA will cover all related costs of participation,
including travel, for selected participants from the region, Applications should contain a resume and a 300 word piece
stating how the workshop wili enable you or your organization to use new media technologies for effectively. PSA will
respond only to selected applicants by 27 July, 2005.
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 The Bangladesh
Health & Injury
Survey is a
study showing  that
injury is now a
leading killer of
children over one
year of  age.
For a copy of the BHIS in CDROM format
please contact
Kirsty Mclvor
Communication & Information Section
UNICEF Bangladesh
BSL Office Complex
1 Minto Road, Dhaka 1000
A  Sameeksha  Trust  Publication
• research articles in economics, sociology, political
science and other emerging disciplines
• scholarly commentary on topical developments
• in-depth reports on people's struggles
• regular columns by eminent social scientists
• book reviews
• weekly statistical updates on the Indian economy
• analytical review of company performances
• monthly review of the money market
• Review of Political Economy
• Review of Women Studies
• Review of Labour
• Review of Agriculture
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• Money, Banking & Finance
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■ Conees'Sfonal rates are availabie only ,n trcSa To avap of cdrice'ssioha; rates. Certificates frcrr, relevant institution are essentia!.,
Himal South Asian | Jul-Aug 2005
Media outbreak
by | Akash Banerjee
Call it the back to basics re-
olution if you will, but in
this so-called age of the internet
and cable television, India is
witnessing a strange phenomenon.
Defying international trends,
the Indian newspaper industry
is actually witnessing a healthy
growth rate. Slow penetration
and the cost factor have ensured
that electronic media continue
to play second fiddle to print.
With industry eager to tap into
the booming consumer market
through print advertisements,
Indian newspapers are engaged
in a fierce contest to grab a part of
the advertising pie. The epicentre
of this raging media battle is
presently the financial and
entertainment capital of Bombay.
Asian Age
Indian Express
Afternoon Despatch
and Courier
The Tiraas of India
Bombay's ad pie
The Times of India (TOI) has
enjoyed a virtual monopoly in
the city, with daily sales of more
than half a million copies. Distant
runner-up Mid-Day, an afternoon
tabloid, manages a circulation
figure of one-third of that. Given
that it was the only major Indian
metro that lacked a "second
newspaper culture," and given
the large influx of English-reading
migrants into the city, Bombay
was ideally placed for a media
The biggest challenge to the
dominance of the TOI will come
from the soon to be launched
Daily Neivs and Analysis, or DNA.
The unusually named daily is
backed by established companies
in print and television like Dainik
Bhaskar and Zee. DNA has a prepunch kitty of INR 600 million
and a war chest of INK 6 billion
to combat the Times for the next
four to five years. The paper's
confidence seems to come from
the fact that it is headed by former
Times marketing chief Pradeep
Guha, widely acknowledged
as having scripted that paper's
phenomenal marketing success
across India. Guha now aims to
unseat his old employer from its
cozy Bombay nest.
Still a month and a half from
its launch, DNA has already taken
over the cityscape with a high
intensity pre-launch campaign
that includes over 500 billboards.
"It is for the first time that the
Times is facing the heat," says
DNA marketing director Suresh
Balakrishnan. But TOI, veteran
of many a battle, is not taking the
challenge lying down. It recently
launched Mumbai Mirror, a tabloid
aimed at deflecting competition
and moving ad rates south, to
hurt upstarts like DNA.
Actually, DNA is just one of
the many newspapers seeking to
storm the Times citadel. Its main
competitor elsewhere in India,
Hindustan Times (HT) launches
its Bombay edition on the first of
July. With TOI having seriously
eroded HT's domination in Delhi
of late, the latter now intends
to return the favour in Bombay.
The Indian Express, too, plans a
massive INR 2.5 billion infusion
into its Bombay operations,
which includes an upgrade of its
marketing department. Finally,
The Telegraph of Calcutta has plans
to enter Bombay.
It is a battle of epic proportions
that will be played out over the
next few months in Bombay as
half a  dozen newspapers woo
readers and capture parts of the
IdMR 815 crore annual print ad pie.
This impending war, of course,
spells goods news for the
newspaper reader. From a daily
diet of a single newspaper, he
will now graduate to having
an entire buffet to choose from.
Prices too will fall - from the four
rupees that a Times of India copy
costs today, to one or two rupees,
which is tire price being promised
by new players. As for journalists,
Bombay has sucked up every
available editor, reporter, subeditor and sub-reporter. For a
profession in which salaries have
always been much below those in
the sendees industry, it's a sudden
take-off. On average, salaries have
increased 30 to 40 percent, and
some papers are even doubling
pa}r packages to retain employees.
As for who will win this media
war of Bombay, some experts
believe that there might be no
big losers at all. TOi's efforts to
overtake HT in Delhi resulted
in the entire market growing
between 1996 and 2004, and the
same could happen in Mumbai.
Girish Agarwal, director of Dainik
Bhaskar, believes that there is
great scope for expansion. "Some
seven lakh copies of English
newspapers are sold in Mumbai,
less than half of Delhi's 15 lakh.
Obviously the potential is huge,"
he says. Says DNA's Guha, "There
is a market, tliere are advertisers
ready to explore new avenues,
and there are readers." He is
confident that his paper will help
expand the pie and not only eat
into the existing one.
Mid-Day's chief financial officer
Manajit Ghosal is understandably
not ga-ga over the new entrants'
prospects. He believes that they
will have to rack up circulations
of at least two hundred thousand
copies a year to gain a foothold
in Bombay, and this may not be
an easy task for all. For the moment
though, there is an electric air of
anticipation in Bombay as readers
look forward to greater choice,
better quality and cheaper rates. ^
Jul-Aug 2005 [ Himal South Asian
ActionAid is an international social development organization with a mission to work with poor and excluded
people to eradicate poverty and injustice.
We have been evolving and learning from our experience in over 40 countries across Asia, Africa, Americas
and Europe since 1972. Our work focuses on equity, dignity and rights of poor and marginalized people and
communities on the core themes of Women's Rights, Education, Food Rights, Human Security in Conflict
and Emergencies, HIV/Aids and Governance. In Asia we have offices in India, Nepal, China, Afghanistan,
Bangladesh, Pakistan, Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Cambodia and programmes presence in Laos and
Myanmar. Our Asia regional office is located in Bangkok.
We are presently seeking competent and committed persons for the roles of Asia Communications
Coordinator and Asia Women's Rights Coordinator to support and coordinate our work in the given areas in the
Asia region.
Asia Communications Coordinator
*"= Asia Communications Coordinator will provide advice, resources and
:=oacity building support; facilitate links between communications staff
di'oss the organization and with the external media. She/He will have
'esponsibility for publications development: communications and media
•; ations, developing a media strategy to strengthen our campaign work
; :*2 with the concerned persons and provide media related training
■ft" 'squired.
The desired person will have a working experience of 10 years in the
media and related fields at a senior level both in Asia and internationally,
lands on knowledge and insight on development communications,
a,I aspects of organizational communications and running successful
:ampaigns. Any experience of having worked on the core six thematic
ssues mentioned above will be an advantage. She/He will also posses a
:rofessional qualification in journalism.
Closing date for receiving applications is 7th July 2005
Asia Women's Rights Coordinator
The selected person will support the delivery of ActionAid International's
Women's Rights goals from the region by leading, coordinating and
supporting regional women's rights policy advocacy and campaign work,
linking with women's movements, feminist organizations and other social
justice networks and movements against poverty and gender inequality.
She/ He will also assume specific responsibility for linking the governance
and the women's rights thematic teams.
The person we seek will have a minimum of 5 years working experience
in a similar post at a senior level along with appropriate educational and
professional qualification. She/He will be a women's rights activist and
political strategist with excellent analytical and writing skills with updated
and in-depth knowledge of current debates and thinking along with a
successful track record of effective policy and campaign work in the field
of women s rights and development. She/ He will have strong relationships
with women's movements, civil society and peoples' movements, networks
and alliances for the promotion and protection of the rights of women and
Closing date for receiving applications is 12th July 2005
General Notes
'.5 are interested in self-motivated persons able to work independently across countries and regions and committed to working on issues of poverty and
:~:s They should have excellent interpersonal, networking and communication skills and willingness to travel (30% to 50 %) within the framework of
'"£ ' responsibilities in Asia and globally Fluency in English (written and spoken) is essential and knowledge of Asian languages spoken in the countries
-ftre ActionAid works would be an asset. An experience and sensitivity in working in multicultural environments and knowledge of politics, economic
- nation and social processes ofthe region and skills in facilitation and influencing are highly desirable.
~-ie post is offered for two to three years initially on international terms and conditions and will be located in any of Action Aid's country programmes in
Please email your application with your recent CV and names of two referees to by the dates mentioned above indicating
the job title in the subject of your email application. We will be able to respond to the shortlisted candidates only. More information is available on
 The principle of the thing:
Nepal's king and the rule of law
Nepal's 1990 Constitution,
wounded by the royal
action of 1 February, must
be revived and Parliament
restored. The country
must be saved from
both the constitutional
waywardness of a
Pakistan and the
legislative faintheartedness of a United
States of America.
by | Aziz Huq
On 1 February 2005, Nepal's King Gyanendra
dismissed the government led by Prime Minister
Sher Bahadur Deuba. He justified this decision
by invoking Deuba's failure to hold elections and
his inability to tackle a Maoist uprising nearing
its tenth anniversary. Even as the king's televised
announcement came to a close, security forces seized
and imprisoned leaders of the Deuba government,
key political party figures and human-rights activists.
The king subsequently constituted a solidly royalist
ten-member Council of Ministers under his own
chairmanship and imposed a state of emergency.
Sweeping restrictions on the press followed, with
army officers appearing in Kathmandu's editorial
rooms to vet copy. In addition to the right to free
expression and publication, rights to peaceable
assembly, information and privacy and the right
against arbitrary detention were suspended.
The state of emergency was formally lifted on 29
April. Nevertheless, notable political leaders and
human-rights activists remain under arrest, decrees
curbing freedom of the press are still in place,
and peaceful political protest remains disallowed.
Some activists are still in exile, leery of returning
to Kathmandu. Most importantly, significant
changes have been brought about in the structure
of government and there is large-scale use of
ordinances to move matters forward in the absence
of Parliament and an elected government. The
king's 29 April announcement, in short, has had no
internal effect, suggesting that it was intended solely
for international consumption, as part of an effort
to mend the palace's credentials. For all practical
purposes, then, Nepal remains in the state of
emergency announced on 1 February. Any serious
discussion of political possibilities for Nepal's
short-term future, therefore, must treat the state of
emergency as de facto in force.
The emergency has done greatest damage in
the country-side. Relative quiet in Kathmandu
contrasts with an ominous silence from outside the
valley. There, the conflict between the Royal Nepal
Army (RNA) and the Maoist insurgency has intensified. Without the restraints imposed by an active
human rights community and an alert press - as
both sectors remain shackled and unable to fulfill
their functions - the combatants now fight free of
compunction. In the meantime, the government
has been culpable of supporting lynch mobs that
carry out attacks on aUeged Maoists, reminding
one of the move to create village militias a year ago,
which was thought to have been abandoned after
the public outcry against it. The Maoists continue to
inflict brutal and sadistic punishments on those who
refuse to acquiesce to their control, and have of late
also been guilty of attacks on public transport that
have killed scores.
It is thus Nepal's rural populace that suffers the
direct consequences of a state of emergency and its
chilling effect on speech: a deepening militarization
of a conflict that is unlikely to be settled by arms
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal South Asian
 The king's imposition of a state of emergency,
with and then without a formal imprimatur, lacks
constitutional sanction. It marks a rupturing of an
already-frayed constitutional order. Nepal's 1990
Constitution does not envisage the imposition
of a state of emergency without parliamentary
approval. King Gyanendra did precisely that on 1
February. Article 115, which outlines the procedure
for imposing emergencies, was violated in three
kev respects. First, Article 115 requires post hoc
ratification by the House of Representatives. No
Parliament has met since the May 2002 dissolution
of the House of Representatives, a move Prime
Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba certainly made with
the royal palace's blessing. Second, the right to
habeas corpus, which is constitutionally guaranteed
even in times of emergency, has been continuously
violated. Third, changes in fundtrmental structures
7 government, and the creation of a Council of
Ministers chaired by the king himself, are neither
anticipated nor permitted. Article 115 thus cannot
justify the king's 1 February decision.
The putative authority for the king's acts instead
rests on a lone ambiguous phrase in Article 127 of
the 1990 Constitution. This allows the king to issue
necessary orders to remove "any difficulty" arising
in implementation of the Constitution. Article 127,
however, stipulates that any such order be "laid
before" Parliament. Evidently, there has been
no such ratification. Nor can the coup be said to
implement the Constitution. The king has denied
a gamut of basic rights and radically restructured
political authority outside the Constitution's
bounds. Such changes run starkly against the letter
and spirit of the document he claims to defend.
The state of emergency is merely the culmination
of growing contradictions between Nepal's
Parliament and the palace since the adoption of
1990 Constitution. That document reconciled only
uneasily a long history of royal power with the
new democracy. Throughout the 1990s, the palace
pushed against democratic control, particularly
over the RNA and the appointments of officials
to key posts. Since October 2002, when King
Gyanendra dismissed the elected government led
by Prime Minister Deuba by invoking Article 127,
the palace had increasingly asserted power with
barely any pretense of democracy, the monarch
appointing and dismissing three prime ministers
in quick succession. The royal takeover, hence,
signals not a new direction in Nepali politics
but the entrenchment of an extra-constitutional
position. Far from a radical shift, the current state
of undeclared emergency is merely the visible and
manifest sign of a longstanding desire on the part
of King Gyanendra to wield power as he sees fit.
The questions presented by the continuing state
of constitutional crisis revolve around how deeply
the king intends to transform Nepal's political
infrastructure, and whether he will allow anv vestige
of democracy to remain.
Coups and metastasis
A constitution is a set of ground rules binding both
elected and unelected branches of government. The
document embodies a manifest preeommitment by
all future governments to a set of higher governing
principles and basic rights. It bars transitory majorities
and factions from entrenching themselves. It is also a
promissory note to all citizens, especially members
of vulnerable communities, that their fundamental
rights will be respected.
A state of emergency, jus-tified on grounds of
a threat to constitutional principles, is a mechanism that allows tem-porary circumvention of
such commitments. When ordinary processes of
government are too cumbersome to respond to a
threat such as an uprising with sufficient alacrity, a
state of emergency facilitates expeditious response.
The declaration of a state of emergency thus should
be conservative in the best sense of the word: it is
a vehicle to safeguard the
elementary    lineaments    of   The risk inherent in
the constitutional order. The states of emergency
ancient Roman constitution    jsttlat rathCr than
for   example,   allowed   the    .   . ..
n        a       .. t     being used to
Roman Senate to appoint a    """■=» «■«•" «»
dictator for up to six months.   Conservative CMlS,
The dictator could authorize they become means
a suspension of rights and for changing the
legal process in order to deal    po|j|jca, wder
with a threat of invasion or
insurrection.   According   to
one account, the measure of dictatorship was used
95 times over 300 years, but without destabilizing the
senatorial model of governance.
The risk inherent in states of emergency is that,
rather than being used to conservative ends, they
become means for changing the political order. Hard-
won liberties may be eroded. Checks on executive
power may slip into oblivion. Minorities may be
stigmatized and harmed. New executive powers may
be authorized, and a transient leader may entrench
himself in the seat of power. The successful Roman
model contained important internal restrictions
against this risk. There was a separation between the
bodv that imposed the emergency (the Senate), and
the person who exercised emergency powers (the
dictator). Like Cincinnatus called from his plow, the
dictator was archetypically a person of impeccable
public reputation with no aspiration to future public
office. The Roman model also provided a framework
that made the trajectory of an emergency predictable:
The constitutional fabric specified in advance the
powers of the dictator, the limits of these powers, and
how long the emergency would last.
Himal South Asian \ Jul-Aug 2005
 also provided a framework that made the trajectory
of an emergency predictable: The constitutional fabric
specified in advance the powers of the dictator, the
limits of these powers, and how long the emergency
would last.
The present situation in Nepal lies at quite another
pole. Here, it is the king who has imposed the state
of emergency (and continued with it, even if not in
nomenclature) and, as the chairman of the Council of
Ministers, wields the powers thereby created. Unlike
the Roman Cincinnatus, the king is not without
aspirations to continued power, for himself and for
his family. In fact, the 1 February rov<il takeover
seems to have been carried out in order to continue
on the throne with enhanced authority. The incentive
to amend the structures of government is not lacking
either. Indeed, subsequent actions bv the king, such
as the creation, with dubious intention, of a Roval
Commission on Corruption Control, and a slew of
measures taken under the umbrella of ordinances,
in the absence of a law-making Parliament, indicate
a palace bent on changing the form of Nepali
The present state of de facto emergency, then,
is open to transformative, as well as conservative,
ends. The king, broadly speaking, has two ways of
achieving structural change in the present context
while retaining a notional democratic framework.
These options are illustrated by the experience of
Pakistan and the United States. In Pakistan, change
has been imposed externally on constitutions by
means of army coups and judicial ratification.
The United States has suffered from a creeping
metastasis of emergency powers, initially contained
within narrow legislation. Pakistan's experience
shows how an arrangement introduced by a coup
can be putatively transformed into a legitimate'
government. The United States' history shows that
while a legislature is an essential bulwark against
executive over-reach, it is a requirement that a
legislature be jealous of its prerogatives and actively
resist presidential domination. In both cases, the
consolidation of power in the executive branch
has meant the weakening of the legislature and the
courts. Ultimately, the greatest losers have been the
Pakistani revolutionary legality
On four occasions during its half century-long
history, Pakistan's efforts towards democracy
have been stymied bv the suspension of elected
democratic bodies. In 1954, Governor Ceneral
Ghulam Muhammad dissolved the Constituent
Assembly even while it was drafting the nation's
first constitution. This constitution, approved in
1956, lasted only two years: on the morning of
8 October 1958, General .^yub Khan, abetted bv
President  Iskander  Mirza,   staged   another  coup.
Avub's successor, General Yahva Khan, attempted
the creation of a facade of democracy and held
national elections in 1970. His refusal to recognise the
electoral triumph of East Pakistan's Awami League
led directly to the horrors of the 1971 war.
Shamed into retreat after the debacle, the military
remained in the barracks during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's
seven years in office. On the night of 4 July 1977,
however, Gen Zia-ul Haq seized the reins ot power
for the army vet again, lhe dictator's mysterious
death in a plane crash opened a window to another
rough decade of fractious democracy, with the
Muslim League and the People's Partv now in
presidential robes and now in defendants' shackles as
thev bounced between elected office and the criminal
dock, where both parties' leaders faced corruption
charges. This democratic interlude ended in October
1999, when Gen Pervez. Musharraf removed Prime
Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif.
Time and again, emergency rule has been
legitimised and consolidated through judicial
ratification of extra-constitutional action, followed
bv constitutional amendment. Pakistan's existing
organs of democracy have thus participated in the
creation of ruptures in the rule of law. The pattern
was set during the conflict between the Constituent
Assembly and Governor General Mohammad in
the 1950s. Confronted with the Assembly's attempt
to strip him ol the power to dismiss ministers, the
Governor General dissolved the Assembly on 25
October 1954 and declared an emergency. The Sindh
High Court upheld a challenge to the closure of the
Assembly, but Pakistan's Supreme Court, led bv
a close ally of the Governor General, Chief Justice
Muhammad Munir, subsequently rejected that
challenge. The Court first curbed dramatically the
Constituent Assembly's powers and then invented
from whole cloth the legal doctrine of'state necessity.'
This unprecedented doctrine amounted to a rupture
in the constitutional fabric that allowed the executive
to take whatever extra-constitutional action it saw lit.
The Supreme Court's ruling created an open-ended
escape hatch for impatient executives.
To justify Avub's coup, Chief Justice Munir
conjured the doctrine of 'revolutionary legality'.
Under the doctrine, courts must endorse a coup that
"satisfies the test of efficacy and becomes a basic law-
creating fact." Such a formulation clearly implied
that might was right. Although 'state necessity'
and 'revolutionary legality' had a similar effect in
practice, the former at least preserved the fiction that
the constitution remained in existence. Bv contrast,
the new doctrine allowed the executive to bypass the
constitutional order, giving rise to questions about
whether a constitution was worthwhile in the first
place. Only after Yahya's fall from grace, subsequent
to the 1971 war, did the Supreme Court back away
from these shameful doctrines for a period of time.
Jul-Aug 2005 1 Himal Southasian
 State necessity, however, was invoked again to
vindicate the usurpations bv both General Zia and
General Ivlusharraf.
In its decisions ratifying Zia's and aMusharraf's
coups, the Supreme Court took the surprising
additional step of allowing the military ruler not onlv
to pass necessary laws, bu t also to make consti tutional
amendments. Neither Zia nor Musharraf was shy
about exercising this extraordinary authority.
For example, Musharraf's 12 August 2002 Legal
Framework Order purported to make changes to 29
articles of the 1973 Constitution. While mandating
changes to political parties' rights and the structure
of the legislature, the Legal Framework Order also
stated: "If there is any necessity for any further
amendment of the Constitution or any difficulty
arises in giving effect to any of the provisions of this
Order, the Chief Executive may make such provisions
and pass or promulgate such orders for amending
the Constitution or for removing anv difficulty as he
may deem fit." The parallel to Article 127 of Nepal's
1990 Constitution, at least as interpreted by the
Narayiinhiti Royal Palace in Kathmandu, is clear.
Pakistan's Supreme Court made token efforts to
limit the period of emergency rule by generals Zia and
Musharraf. In 1977, the Court invoked and relied on
Zia's promise that elections would be held as soon as
possible. But no polls were held until February 1985,
and the court did nothing in the interim to hold Zia
to his word. The Supreme Court has been similarly
ineffective in restraining Musharraf. Ratifying the
October 1999 coup, the court cautioned Musharraf
that he had only three years before he would be
required to hold general elections. Yet, in .April 2002,
the general announced a referendum on whether he
could hold the office of President for five years. The
court rejected legal challenges to the referendum,
even though it violated the spirit, if not the letter, of
its own ratification of the October 1999 coup.
Pakistan and .Nepal have telling similarities that
make the Pakistani experience difficult to ignore for
those concerned about Nepal's luture as a democratic
state. First, as in Nepal where king has justified his
coup as a necessity in order to tackle the raging
.Maobadi rebellion, interruptions of democracy in
Pakistan are justified in terms of security, stability,
and the national interest. Internal unrest, in
Balochistan and the North West Frontier Province,
and an external enemy in the form of India loom
large in the Pakistani army's public justifications for
the abrogation of democracy. Indeed, the Pakistani
Army, through quiet support for sectarian and jihadi
groups, has created a situation of simmering, low-
level crisis, in which some threat is always available
as justification for unilateral, anti-democratic action.
In Nepal, rather than the RNA, it has been the
palace that is bent on highlighting and exaggerating
the threats to the nation state in order to justify
King Gy:anendra's intervention in democratic politics. Furthermore, there have heen unconfirmed
allegations that Kathmandu's palace nurtured the
infant Maoist rebellion, perceptively recognizing a
lever to destabilize the 1990 democratic dispensation.
Whether or not these rumors are true, they do
provide some insight into the dynamics of recent
Nepali politics: the palace has found in the Maoists
an ideal foil for its anti-democratic aspirations. Even
as the Maoist threat was allowed to escalate out of
all manageable proportion, the palace used the rebels
successfully to augment its own power considerably.
Second, the Pakistani army has extended its
influence bv seizing control of commercial activities
and resources. The army has a well-documented,
substantial stake in the nation's economy through
ownership of large amounts of prime real estate and
commercial enterprises and services. Ihe RaNA is a
novice in this field, lt has a welfare fund from UN
peacekeeping earnings and runs .r few commercial
enterprises such as petrol pumps, but the attractions
of the Pakistani model are clear. In 2004, it announced
its intention to open a military bank, lt also appears
that the RNA is keen to enter the development sphere,
which would be a further dangerous precedent.
lire deeper the RNA's stake in commerce aind
development, the harder Nepal's transition back to
accountable democracy will be.
Third, the absence of democratic institutions in
Pakistan has allo-wed a dramatic shift of political
power towards the army. In Nepal, such a shift has
already taken place in the districts, where the captain,
major or colonel is the de facto ruler whose writ runs
through the hierarchy in the civilian administration,
the police force and government services. The
politicians are thus already far sidelined, and if the
trend continues, a shift of overt authority from the
palace to the barracks cannot be ruled out. For the
first time ever, the RNA is deployed countrywide and
enjoys a semi-administrative status. At some point,
the RNA may find it more effective to exercise direct
rule, relegating the king to a merely symbolic role -
so many formerly unthinkable departures have taken
place in Nepal in the last couple of years that this
cannot be ruled out. Advocates for democracy ought
to emphasise this possibility in their campaign for
the restoration of democratic institutions, including
the Parliament and the office of prime minister. The
fact is that without a prime minister in place, the
king is far more vulnerable to an army putsch and
the present incumbent may be unwise to believe that
historical loyalties to the dynasty will be enough to
keep military ambitions at bay.
Finally, Pakistan's military rulers have relied on
crucial external support in their efforts to buy off,
eliminate or marginalize opposition. Zia's coup
preceded the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan,
which made Pakistan an invaluable United States ally
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
 and conduit for arms. Afghanistan, like Kashmir, also
provided a forum and a release for radical groups
that otherwise might have disrupted the state. Two
years into Musharraf's troubled regime, the United
States again sought Pakistan's aid in Afghanistan
following the events of 11 September 2001. American
aid to Pakistan has not been limited to the military
sector. Pakistan has also benefited from favourable
trade facilities from the United States. Multilateral
institutions, such as the Asian Development Bank,
have been notably more generous toward Pakistan
since its re-energized alliance with the United States.
External relations, in short, have been an important
prop against the return to democracy in Pakistan.
In Kathmandu, King Gyan-endra's regime is
deeply reliant on external aid for the whole spectrum
of state activity, from budgetary support to military
assistance and development activity. Despite broadly
hostile international reactions to the 1 February
coup, the international community's support for the
democracy movement cannot be taken for granted.
The fact is that Pakistan has shown open support
and China would seem to be willing to go along
with the royal dispensation. Western democracies,
for their part,  have  been  ambivalent,  repeatedly
asking     the    opposition
Internal CriSiS, a   political parties to believe
powerful military in the kins's words, and
and external support In re"nt mon!hs' *he
United States ambassador
helped set the stage in Kathmandu has been
tor OMert Constitutional   making supportive noises
manipulation in   of February's royal move.
Pakistan. All these while the lndian forei8n
elements exist today in °ffi"\h*s j^icated its
distaste for the coup, a
Nepal BS Well   combination   of   players
from the Indian military
to erstwhile Indian royalty seem to want to support
the king, either due to an exaggerated fear of a
Maoist victory or to traditional sympathies towards
a remaining Southasian monarchy. ,As time passes, it
seems likely that strategic and geopolitical necessities
will shore up international support for the palace,
especially in the medium term.
In summary, internal crisis, a powerful military
and external support helped set the stage for
overt constitutional manipulation in Pakistan.
All these elements exist today in Nepal as well.
Strikingly, manipulation by the army in Pakistan
was accomplished with the open acquiescence of the
courts, which fashioned constitutional loopholes to
allow fundamental transformation of the state. The
Nepali judiciary has never been a bright spot in the
nation's governance, and has singularly failed to
enforce limits on the emergency powers granted by
Article 115. A recent address bv the Chief Justice of
the Supreme Court of Nepal, given to a gathering
of fellow judges in aAustralia, does not provide
much reassurance. The history of Pakistan's weak
constitutionalism must be seen as a warning bell for
the future of democracy in Nepal.
Legislative delegation and silence
Body blows to the constitutional framework achieved
by coups are not the only means by which a state of
emergency can be exploited. The rule of law can almost
as easily be eroded from within. Without changing
the constitutional framework, legislation can open
fissures through which unchecked executive power
can be projected. King Gvanendra has already shown
some inclination to this mode of change. New, post-
coup laws, for instance, include an anti-corruption
ordinance clearly targeted at independent-minded
politicians. An ordinance has also been proposed
that would impose further restrictions on the press,
and sleight of hand can be seen in the reconstitution
of the National Human Rights Commmission and
in the creation of new administrative positions
throughout the country. .Although the experience of
the United States does not have immediate parallels
with the present situation in Nepal, it does illustrate
some of the risks inherent in legislative acquiescence
to emergency powers.
The United States has the world's oldest written
constitution with an exquisitely wrought system
of checks and balances between the executive,
legislative and judicial branches of government. Since
1791, it has contained a Bill of Rights that protects
freedom of speech, religious liberties, and various
rights against governmental interference in the lives
of the citizenry. Since February 1803, the Supreme
Court of the United States has asserted, largely
undisputed, the right to enforce those constitutional
limits against the executive as well as the legislature
through judicial review. The US Constitution grants
no emergency powers. The sole provision applicable
in times of "Rebellion or Invasion," with the sanction
of Congress, envisages the unavailability of habeas
corpus writs, which are used to challenge detention.
aAgainst the backdrop of such a relatively successful
constitutional order, however, the past fifty years
have witnessed a surprising corrosion of checks
on executive power, sanctioned from within by the
This past century's international conflicts brought dramatic shifts in the traditional balance of
power between the three branches of the United
States government. Faced with threats posed by
Japan, Germany and later the Soviet bloc, the
American executive branch sought broader powers,
particularly in the arena of foreign affairs. In 1936,
the Supreme Court commented that the President
was "the sole organ of foreign affairs." This
comment, which gets only scant traction from the
text of the Constitution, proved a warrant for more
Jui-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 than 50 years of consolidation of presidential power
and an excuse for legislative deference. Indeed, the
extraordinary claims of plenary executive authority
made after the 11 September 2001 attacks on New-
York and Washington DC to ignore the Geneva
Convention, and to violate well-established federal
and international law on torture, flow directly from
that judicial comment. These aggressive assertions of
presidential power, which openly flout elementary
norms ol human rights, are antithetical to the
structure and purpose of the US Constitution. They
are tenable only because of continuous presidential
over-reach in the area of foreign affairs after World
War II.
Since 1950, the US Congress has routinely passed
laws on domestic policy matters that have heen
enforced bv the executive in a predictable, public
manner. Indeed, most public attention has focused
on the mundane details of such legislation and
the concomitant executive execution. Parallel to
this steady, boring diet of law-making, however,
Congress has enacted a series of acts granting the
president sweeping emergency powers. Largely out
of public sight, the executive has thus accrued an
alarming body of emergency powers, mostly for use
in the foreign affairs realm.
The trend began after World War IL In aApril
1950, the president's National Security Council
issued a comprehensive statement of military and
political strategy called Paper 68. This envisaged "an
indefinite period of tension and danger" with the
Soviet Union. Eight months later, President Harry
Truman endorsed the analysis contained in Paper
68 and declared a state of emergency in response to
the escalating confrontation in Korea. That national
emergency remained in place for almost tw^enty-
tive years. Thus, even as the normal legislative
process carried on, a continuous emergency, largely
unnoticed by either Congress or the public, enabled
a variety of extraordinary presidential actions. This
included President John F Kennedy's embargo
against Cuba in 1962.
Although emergency powers mostly concerned
matters of foreign affairs, President Richard M Nixon
also invoked these powers during a postal service
strike and in a balance of payments crisis in the early
1970s. Foreign affairs matters also impinged directly
on domestic civil rights. For example, the 1950
Internal Security Act authorised a person's detention
if the government had "reasonable ground" to
believe he "probably" would commit or conspire to
commit acts of espionage or sabotage. Such powers
anticipated by half a century the mass detentions of
Muslims and Southasians in the aftermath of the 11
September attacks.
Legislative states of emergency thus weakened
the constitutional framework of law-making by
joint action of the Congress and the President. They
allowed the executive instead to act without direct
congressional sanction. Rather than opposing this
dramatic and unprecedented rise of executive
power, the legislature continued through the 1970s
to enact statutes that delegated greater and greater
authority to the executive By the 70s, Professor Jules
Lobe I of the University ol Pittsburgh had counted
470 acts of Congress authorizing emergency
powers; none of the emergencies declared under
these acts had been terminal ted before 1976.
Efforts in the same decade to curtail presidential
power, such as the 1973 War Powers Resolution
and the 1976 National Emergencies Act, came too
late and were too weak. Thus, the provision of the
War Powers Resolution that required the President
to report the deployment of troops after 60 days
has been flouted in the case ot Southeast Asia, Iran,
Lebanon, several Central American states, Grenada,
Libya, and the Persian Gulf. Congress simply failed
to enforce its own will anti this acquiescence further
weakened its authority. The National Emergencies
.Act terminated all extant emergencies, but did
nothing to organise the massive grants of authority
that the executive had accumulated. Despite the
Act, the president still uses emergency powers
regularly to block foreign assets and to bar travel of
US citizens to certain countries. Consultation and
reporting procedures in the Act regarding the use
of emergency powers have been largely diluted or
ignored: Congress simply fails to meet to consider
whether an emergency declaration should continue
in force. Indeed, the US Constitution is functioning
and vigorous. Yet, it also has 'law-free zones'
within the framework of governing laws. These
anomalies in the constitutional order are the fruit
of an internal erosion of the rule of law, aided by 50
years of legislative delegation and silence.
What is the lesson of the United States
experience as far as Nepal is concerned? As the
major political parties have recently recognised,
the restoration of the Third Parliament, dissolved
in Mav 2002, is a vital starting point for recreation
of democratic rule in Nepal, Without a sitting
House of Representatives, scant progress towards
democracy is possible. Nevertheless, restoration
of legislative supremacy is no all-encompassing
panacea. A legislature subservient to the palace,
or merely fearful for its own physical safety, is no
check against the dangers of the state of emergency.
Ihe weakness of successive governments and
prime ministers since the restoration of democracy
in 1990 when it came lo challenging the palace in
several spheres must also be seen as the failure of
the Nepali Parliament and parliamentarians. Much
of this inability to stand up to the palace may have
to do with internal wrangling within and between
parties, but surely a lot also has to do with an
unwillingness to confront the king.
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
 A restored parliament must have the ability to
reject any pressures from the palace; without such
freedom, the state of emergency could be continued
in another form, silent and insidious. Moreover,
legislators must understand the value and purpose
of the rule of law. Restoration of parliament must be
accompanied by discussions of how civil and political
rights can be protected. International pressure,
particularly monitoring by the UN, may be critical in
this regard. In short, advocates for Nepali democracy
must attend as much to the conditions under which
democratic institutions are restored as to the fact
of restoration itself. The weakening of Congress
and the uninterrupted growth in the powers of the
presidency in the United States serves as a warning of
the dangers that lie ahead.
The Location ol sovereignty
In taking power on 1 February without constitutional
warrant, King Gyanendra purported to accept and to
protect the normal constitutional order, while at the
same time standing outside and violating that order.
That the king saw' a need to abrogate parts of the 1990
Constitution shows that he recognizes the continuing
existence of that legal regime. But no constitutional or
legislative rule allows him to stand outside the rules
or to change them. The king thus sought to benefit
from being seen as the protector of the Constitution,
while ignoring and discarding its most fundamental
elements. Even though the formal state of emergency
has ended, this tension between the norms observed
in practice and the norms celebrated in theory
The king's position is not merely paradoxical and
hypocritical: it is typical of rulers who are attempting
to seize control in the face of a persisting constitutional
order. In the formulation of the German legal theorist
Carl Schmitt, "Sovereign is he who decides on the
state of exception." The 'great disorder' of the Maoist
revolt has enabled the palace to carve out a new
exception, and thereby to create the 'violent order'
of a new, royal constitutional dispensation. The
royal takeover was and is a gateway, then, to a new
constitutional order. The palace can either refashion
that order in its totality, as Pakistan's generals have
done, or erode it quietly from within, as has been
happening in the United States. The palace is most
likely to seek a way to consolidate a patina of rule
of law while maintaining the seething disorder of
emergency within. .After all, democracy, even if only
skin deep, is the sine qua non of legitimacy in the
post-Cold War world and of George W Bush's second
term in office.
This risk is also an opportunity. Nepal's political  parties have floundered  during the years of
democracy under the weight of corruption and
inept leadership, judicial independence remains
only an aspiration. The present crisis demands a
blostering of the rule of law, as embodied in the 1990
Constitution, against frontal assault of the kind seen
in Pakistan. But it also requires the slower, more
assiduous ground-work of building truly democratic
parties, an engaged civil society, and accountable
institutions. It is with these structural changes that
the quiet erosion of the legislature's powers that is
so starkly visible in the American experience, can be
prevented in Nepal. The international communitv
has the job of supporting the citizens of Nepal in this
process of transformation.
Advocates for democracy must take advantage
of the Kathmandu palaces notional commitment
to democratic rule, and continue to insist on the
restoration of Parliament and other democratic
institutions, such as local government in villages and
districts, whose establishment was an example of
Nepal's successful parliamentary exercise between
1990 and 2002. Advocates are also aided by the fact
that King Gyanendra's arguments in favour of direct
rule are exceptionally weak, and fundamentally in
tension with the 1990 Constitution. Nor does the
king have strategic considerations on his side: the
seizure of all executive power has opened him
up to tremendous public criticism. As the RS1A
increases it power, there may come a time when
some officers decide that he is superfluous. While an
all-out military coup against the monarch may not
be feasible in the immediate term, a verv unstable
situation could be created with a dissatisfied
military amidst the vulnerable geopolitical situation
of Nepal, over-shadowed by an all-powerful and
nervous India. Looking beyond the medium term,
it would seem to be in the palaces narrow interest
to restore democratic institutions as a counterweight
to all the other forces it may have unleashed on 1
Yet it is not enough to insist on the formal
institutions of democracy alone, although thev
are an essential part of the way ahead. Once in
place, a legislature must not only function, but its
members must be free of coercion and influence,
must be able to shift power back from unelected
institutions to representative bodies as envisaged
bv the Constitution, and must remain committed
to achieving that goal. The challenge facing Nepal
involves the creation of a culture of democracy.
Only once this culture is embedded in functioning
and representative institutions will Nepal start back
on the trek towards the democratic self-government
envisaged in the 1990 Constitution but so long
delayed. £,
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
A constitutional
order in Thimphu
by | Prashant Jha
For a country emerging from protectorate status during colonial
times, and struggling to emerge
from under the shadow of India in
the modern era, what Bhutan had
lacked was a constitution that set its
polity under the rule of law, rather
than the benevolence of its ruler.
While the current Druk gyalpo, King
Jigme Singye Wangchuk, is widely
acknowledged as a modernizing
force, the lack of codification of the
very institution of state has always
made Bhutan vulnerable to the
vagaries of internal and external
The release of a draft constitution
on 26 March 2005 therefore marks
an important political milestone. The
document, prepared by a 39-member
committee over the past three years,
is to be discussed in the Tshongdu
(National Assembly), in local bodies,
and among common citizens, before
being put up for approval in a
referendum. The concise constitution envisages a "democratic
constitutional monarchy" in Bhutan.
Declaring Bhutan to be a sovereign
kingdom with sovereign power
vested in the people, the draft
delineates the role of monarchy,
stipulates fundamental rights and
duties, provides for a two-party
parliamentary system and outlines
provisions concerning citizenship.
The constitution has been drafted
at the initiative of King Jigme,
who has emphasised that with the
A country
battered by
of feu doer a tic
rule and a
exercise sees the
release of a draft
constitution as
an opportunity
to build a future
as a 'modern'
country enjoying peace, stability and
security, this this was the best time
for transition to a democracy. The
constitutional initiative also comes at
a time when forces of modernisation
are making swift inroads in
Bhutanese society. While the draft
constitution seeks to establish a
liberal political order in Bhutan, there
is scepticism about provisions that do
not conform to democratic norms.
Furthermore, the manner in which
the constitution will be implemented
under Bhutanese social conditions, as
well as how it will be interpreted and
upheld by the Supreme Court, are
matters of concern.
Towards a new polity
Some commentators see the constitution as the logical culmination of
the process of devolution of power
underway in Bhutan, initiated with
the formation of the dzongkhag
(district) development committees
and the gewog (village) development
committees and with the transfer of
decision-making powers for five-
year development plans to the local
level. Officially, the king transferred
his executive powers to the Cabinet
in 1998. "There is a genuine wish
to increase the levels of political
participation among the more
progressive quarters ofthe elite," says
Michael Hutt, a Bhutan scholar and
Professor of Nepali and Himalayan
studies at the School of Oriental and
African Studies in London.
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
 The constitution may also be intended to pre-empt
external pressure and anticipate internal demands
of change. Says Hutt, "Bhutan wants to show the
international community that it is not averse to
democratic processes. There is also fear of unleashing
forces that will undermine the political elite and
loosen its grip on power." These forces include
education, travel and awareness of the outside world,
age for the monarch.
In provisions made even more significant bv recent
developments in neighbouring Nepal, the draft
stipulates that the king shall proclaim an emergency
only on the written advice of the prime minister.
Additional safeguards require that the proclamation
be submitted to parliament for approval and
that  the  constitution  not be amended  during  the
and the arrival of various forms of media like cable     period  of emergency.  The draft also provides for
television and the internet over which the government
can exercise little or no control. "Bhutanese people
now have a glimpse of alternative ways of life
and even political systems, which makes a steady-
move towards participative democracy essential
for long-term stability," asserts Richard Whitecross,
another Bhutan scholar and an anthropologist at the
University of Edinburgh.
There has been an increase in the level of
unemployed and under-employed young, educated
Bhutanese whose ambitions are frustrated bv the
slow development of the private sector and the lack
of positions in the government. The constitution, with
the "abdication" of the king for reasons of willful
violation of the constitution or for being subject to
permanent mental disability. Such a move requires
three-fourths of all members of parliament to support
a resolution, which then has to be approved by a
simple majority in a countrv-wide referendum. This
provision, however, is not new and was first enacted
by the third gyalpo, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, in 1969.
While the principle that Bhutanese people
would be the ultimate arbiters of a monarch's fate
has been welcomed, even initiating the process of
abdication is expected to be almost impossible as
citizens  are  prohibited  from  speaking  against the
the space it provides for political representation, could king. Teknath Rizal, the well-known refugee leader
be designed as a safety valve to prevent such youth and one-time Amnesty International prisoner of
from becoming overly disaffected. conscience, dismisses the provision as
Not least, the need for a constitution        .;   ■■•.• meaningless. "Remember that parties
must  have   become   urgent  after   the C    - ■".';.■ in  the  National  Assembly  would  be
worldwide  notoriety   the  'Shangri-La :**!j*STsf**,,l™*JsiI run by close confidantes of the king
kingdom'received fifteen years ago and ' and that as per the new constitution
continuously since for having evicted     " . ; .     -   . as well as existing law, people have
a    hundred     thousand     Lhotshampa ■   ' ...       to pledge allegiance to tsa-wa-sum, the
('southerner') Nepali-speaking citizens. Jjjfejk king, country and people." The policy
These refugees, whose ranks have now W&mH °^ ^a-wa-sitm has earlier been used by
swelled to 120,000, continue to live in 5*^c9^*' hie ruling elite of Bhutan as a rallying
refugee camps in eastern Nepal, and '       ■**•**"; cry to raise nationalist sentiments and
their leaders argue that the principal        .;. suppress dissenting voices, particularly
motivation     for     the     constitutional ',''■      " " among the Lhotshampa.
exercise is to complicate the repatriation        ..        *•» «•«*■••« «< There are clauses that leave space
ot    refugees   and    deprive   them    of for an assertive monarchy. Article b
citizenship  rights.   Rakesh  Chhetri,  a declares the king to be the upholder
Bhutanese refugee and Kathmandu-based analyst, of Chluv-sid, i.e. religion and politics. The king is
says, "The draft is solely aimed at maintaining status to "protect and uphold the constitution in the best
quo." Praveen Kumar, a researcher at New Delhi's interests and welfare of the people" - this is the kind
Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (JDSA), of wording that is currently being interpreted in
for his part, believes that with the draft constitution,     its widest possible meaning by King Gyanendra of
Nepal. The Druk gyalpo is not answerable in a court
of law for his actions. While most officials are to be
appointed bv the monarch "on the recommendation"
of a specified constitutional body, the king gets to
appoint the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court,
who has been given a wide range of powers, "in
consultation" with the National Judicial Commission,
King Jigme is trying to pre-empt the impact of a
radicalized refugee element, influenced by the Maoist
rebels of Nepal.
A constitutional' monarchy
Article   2   of   the   draft   constitution   declares   the
king to be "the Head of State and the symbol of unity
of the kingdom and people of Bhutan". The throne is When these provisions are coupled with the fact that
to pass by hereditary succession either to the crown the king would remain the Supreme Commander in
prince or to the crown princess, though the son takes Chief of the Armed Forces and the militia, doubts
precedence over the daughter. Allowing the princess creep in about whether an elected government could
to inherit the throne is a welcome departure from wield ultimate control.
the traditional patriarchal orientation ofthe institution .Additionally, Article 20 of the draft constitution
of monarchy, a  feature that goes beyond merely requires   the   executive   to   be   responsible   to   the
Bhutan. A unique provision sets 65 as the retirement legislature as well as to the gyalpo. While some argue
Jul-Aug 2005   Himal Southasian
 that an elected government has to be answerable only
to the people and not to the king, others believe that
this clause may not be undemocratic. "The role of the
King, as the representative of the kingdom and part of
the state has to be acknowledged. If this clause is read
in conjunction with the fact that sovereign power is
vested in the people, it does not necessarily go against
the principles of a democracy," savs Whitecross.
The role played by the monarch in the new
constitutional order would perhaps depend not so
much on the letter of the constitution as on the way its
implementation evolves in practice. The functioning
of the Supreme Court and the National Assembly
and the manner in which Bhutanese people adapt to
the new system will determine whether the monarch
works within constitutional parameters. As one
analyst noted, "If people accept the constitution as yet
another reform introduced but neither understood
nor wanted, then a monarch could potentially reassert
Democratising politics
lhe draft constitution envisages a two-party
parliamentary democracy with separation of powers
between the legislature, executive and judiciary and a
set of fundamental rights guaranteed to citizens. The
Parliament, as per Article 10 of the draft document,
is to consist of the king, the National Assembly and
the National Council. The prime minister is to be a
natural-born citizen.
Article 15 stipulates that a party with membership
based on region, sex, language, religion or social
origin would not be recognised. While all registered
parties are allowed to contest a primary round of
elections, the two parties that garner the highest
number of votes would then be eligible to participate
in general elections for the National Assembly. The
leader of the winning party is to be appointed prime
minister by the king, with no person allowed to hold
the office for more than two terms. A system of public
campaign financing is also envisaged where payment
would be made out of a Public Flection Fund to
registered parties by the Election Commission in a
"non-discriminatory' manner".
While the introduction of a democratic system
that provides for regular elections has been widely
welcomed, specific features of the proposal have
come under criticism. Political activists allege that
allowing only two parties in a diverse, multi-ethnic
country such as Bhutan could be a way to suppress
popular aspirations. The minority voice, left out of the
political process after the preliminary polls, would
not have any platform to express itself, potentially-
leading to discontent.
It is expected that the existing political parties,
which have been voicing dissent and operating in
exile, would be excluded from elections because of
their largely 'ethnic' membership. While advocates
of the draft document claim that such parties sow
communal discord and obstruct national integration,
the clause is seen as a move lo keep the Lhotshampa
from asserting their rights. Political scientists
have argued that parties based on "ethnicity,
regionalism and language" in fact provide a nonviolent democratic outlet to groups which have been
discriminated against on these very grounds. Savs
one scholar, "If these restrictions are put in place,
what will parties talk about, disagree on or fight
Would the constitution, with its scheme of
electoral democracy, overhaul Bhutanese politics?
Michael Hutt is sceptical. "The constitution would
probably produce a government where Drukpa
traditionalists and Drukpa modernisers face each
other, with the modernisers forming the government
and the traditionalists the opposition." This would
not be too different from the current set-up where
An "ostensibly progressive" king and council of
ministers have the largely conservative tshongdu
to argue with. However, while there might not be a
radical change immediately.
credit must be given to King    POilllCSl aCtSVflSlS
Jigme and  his  advisors  for   aHgEje [fiat aifDWinS]
having taken the risk with an
initiative that is open-ended
in terms of which way the   ™ 3 timetSC. mill!!
polity evolves. etlMJC COIIIEtry SUCH
Arguing   that   democracy    rjS BllISf3f] COIlJd &0
should be seen as an evolving
., .   hllo   ■* a way to suppress
process     that     takes     into "      •*»■»*
account local considerations, PefliJlJJf aSfJJrailOIIS
Praveen Kumar of IDSA savs,
"It is too early to expect the draft to conform to the
parameters of modern democracies. Implantation of
external values in alien societies without testing their
applicability to the local population will not help in
the long run. This explains the continued existence of
traditional authority in the proposed political set-up
in Bhutan."
Exclusionary formula
It wa> the citizenship act of 1985 that triggered the
forced eviction of the Lhotshampa from southern
Bhutan. The act allowed citizenship by registration
only to those individuals, and their descendants, who
were permanently domiciled in Bhutan on or before
31 December 1958, and whose name was registered
in the census documents. Rules for naturalised
citizenship required applicants to be able to, among
other things, speak, read, and write in Dzongkha as
well as to have a good knowledge of the culture,
customs, traditions and history of Bhutan. The act,
coupled with the increasingly exclusionary policies
of the government, led to protests that precipitated a
harsh and repressive crackdown by the royal regime,
culminating in the Lhotshampa exodus, which took
place mostly between 1989 and 1992.
Article 6 of the proposed constitution largely
reiterates the provisions of the 1985 act and is
expected   to   provide   little   relief   for   refugees   in
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
 the camps in eastern Nepal. While citizenship by
registration continues to require domicile in Bhutan
before December 1958, naturalised citizenship is
possible if a person has resided in Bhutan for fifteen
years; has no criminal record; has not spoken against
the king, country and people; can speak and write
Dzongkha; and is familiar with Bhutan's culture and
traditions. .A visibly angry Chhetri savs, "It would be
impossible to return home. The government refuses
to recognise us as citizens bv birth. The registration
process imposes the almost impossible task of
producing documentary evidence of our presence
in Bhutan in 1958 and the conditions required for
naturalised citizenship are designed to exclude us."
The census held recently in Bhutan does not
include the names of refugees. With the possibility
of elections once the constitution is adopted, their
names will be left out of electoral rolls as well,
putting a further question mark on their citizenship.
"It is a strategy to abandon us bv excluding our
names from all official rolls," savs Chhetri. lhe
provision debarring a person who is under foreign
protection and is married to a non-Bhutanese from
holding constitutional offices could also be used
against the Lhotshampa communitv.
Similarly, the right to own property, guaranteed as
a fundamental right, could have serious implications
for refugees. Article 7 states that
The IWeSOlVed   a person shall not be deprived
issue of refugees of propertv bv a^"isitionMor
requisition, except tor public
IS fn&KtriCaOlV purposes and in accordance
tied 10 tOe (Kind    with law. Additionally, Clause
of society mat is 9 of the sanu'article prohibits
beina envisioned prop^ r™™ (""J flmB
or transferring land to a
for BhUt3ll person who is not a citizen of
Bhutan. This is expected to
lend constitutional sanction to the property rights
of the northerners who have been granted large
tracts of land in southern Bhutan, often originally the
propertv of Lhotshampa refugees. The right, some
believe, reveals the intention of the royal government
not to repatriate the refugees at all and possibly grant
alternative, inferior land to those who do manage to
return. The process of reallocation of land at present
is seen as a move aimed at preventing or diluting a
sense of communitv among the southern Bhutanese,
thus blocking them from emerging as a political
The unresolved issue of refugees is inextricably
tied to the kind of society that is being envisioned for
Bhutan - whether it will be an open, inclusive society
where groups are allowed to preserve their cultural
autonomy or whether the evolution will be towards
an exclusive structure where the entire population
is expected to conform to uniform standards, as
encapsulated in the slogan 'one nation, one people'
and the tsa-wa-sttm formula. It is likely that the
proposed constitution  will do little to encourage
respect for diversity or to reassure the minorities in
Activists like Chhetri are up in arms against the
declaration of Dzongkha as the national language,
terming this as an instance of 'cultural imperialism'.
Mark Turin, an anthropologist based at the
University of Cambridge who works on Himalayan
languages and cultures, savs, "it is regrettable that
the constitution is silent on the many other languages
spoken in the nation both as a mother tongue or
lingua franca, such as Sharehop and Nepali." While
Article 4 does require the state to "preserve, protect
and promote" the linguistic heritage of the country,
Turin believes that without an explicit statement on
the value and official status of minority languages, it
remains unclear how the promotion would play out
in education and administration.
The declaration in the constitution of Buddhism as
the "spiritual heritage" of the country has been seen
as a clever formulation that protects the constitution
from the charge ol promoting a state theocracy. But
what the provision does, in effect, is make Bhutan
a 'Buddhist nation', though it would presumably
incorporate all the sects that do operate within
the society of northern Bhutan, from the Sarchop
community ol the Caist to the dominant Ngalongs
of the west. Some analysts believe that bv officially
recognising a specific identity, the draft document
privileges one group over others. A sympathetic
analyst, however savs. "Religion and politics have
been intertwined in Bhutan since the 17th century
and are so in the public imagination. The constitution
draft cannot make a sudden departure from this
Working a constitution
The proposed document, prepared bv the drafting
committee after studying the constitutions of almost
50 countries, is now out for wider public discussion.
It will be adopted if approved bv a simple majority
of the people in a referendum, expected to he held
later this vear. Although there is doubt about the
possibility of critical feedback in the absence of an
independent intelligentsia in the capital Thimphu
and elsewhere, and the complete absence of any kind
of dissidenee within the country, the proposed draft
is nevertheless expected to undergo several changes
during the process ol ratification. Whitecross savs,
"The debate in the National Assembly will be a key
part of the process as it will not only scrutinise the
document but develop general public awareness
about its meaning."
The introduction of the constitutional draft has
been welcomed across the board, with even refugee
leaders like Chhetri appreciating the introduction
of fundamental rights and a multi-party system in
principle. However, it is the implementation of the
provisions that remains a matter of speculation and,
in some quarters, apprehension.
The low levels of literacy and political awareness
Jul Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 in Bhutan, particularly among rural women,
might pose obstacles in enforcing constitutional
provisions uniformly across the country. The
deeply hierarchical structure of Bhutanese society
is also bound to limit criticism of the government
as well as the willingness of people to develop
political parties that oppose social superiors. A
drive to educate people and to make them aware of
the equal right to participate in political processes
is considered essential if the constitution is to
work in letter and in spirit. The manner in which
an independent media develops in Bhutan and
the role played bv the Supreme Court will both be
important in upholding constitutional provisions.
The formal ratification of the constitution
could serve as a wedge in the door of Druk Yul's
transformation, or it could open the floodgates
for sudden change in a society that appears calm
on the surface. The potential of snowballing
democratization made possible bv the new
constitution cannot be ruled out. While there are
restrictions and other underlying mechanisms of
control present in the draft which would favour
the ruling Ngalong-centric Thimphu establishment,
the guarantee of fundamental rights and political
representation   to   citizens   is   bound   to   provide
hithcrtho  excluded   sections  ot  society  access  to
newer avenues.
While acknowledging the risk taken by the
King Jigme and the establishment by bowing
to the inevitable need for a written constitution
enshrining the basic tenets of a modern nation-
state, it must be said that (he
biggest drawback of the draft
constitution in circulation is
the way it wishes a way the
Lhotshampa community,
and in particular the refugees
who are Bhutanese citizens,
I lowsoever clairvoyant
and forward-looking the
document nuv otherwise be,
its legitimacy at birth will be
seriously compromised and
the democratic beginnings
of Bhutan will be considered
flawed for having ignored a seventh of the country's
citizenry. Among some, there is still a hope that this
grievous lacuna that permeates the draft document
will be addressed in the consultation process that is
underway in the hills and valleys of Druk Yul. .Alter
that, it is all in the implementation. •
ins formal
ratification of
^p constitution
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er it caoff\ open
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Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
The Lhotshampa and
Indian abandonment
by | A C Sinha
The Royal Government of Bhutan (RGoB) formally
unveiled the draft of its constitution on 26 March
2005 with public ceremonies across the country. The
Calcutta Statesman enthusiastically enumerated the
'important Indian contribution' in terms of counsel,
expertise, material and personnel that went into
formulating the document. It gleefully informed
readers that while the king of Nepal had usurped
democracy, the Druk gvalpo (monarch) was gracious
enough to grant his country its first constitution.
The newspaper's congratulatory report reflected
the tone and tenor of the Indian reaction to the
Bhutanese move: quite willing to look the other
way while the constitutional draft, in the words
of refugee leader Thinley Penjore, "bypassed the
refugee issue altogether". Singing Bhutan's praise
is not a habit perfected only by the Indian media.
It is in the tradition of the Indian state's attitude
towards Thimphu, notwithstanding the massive
abuse of human rights committed bv the latter, the
evidence for which is abundant in eight refugee
camps in eastern Nepal, These camps host more than
a hundred thousand Lhotshampa, Nepali-speaking
'southerners', citizens of Bhutan and victims of an
infamous exercise in mass eviction carried out more
than a decade ago.
Benign detachment
The Indian reaction to the exodus of the Lhotsampa
and their 15-year wait to return to their country
has been enigmatic, evasive and callous to sav the
least. This willing disregard is even more significant
because the Government of India, as per a 1949
bilateral treaty, advises the Bhutan government in its
foreign relations. Bhutan could never ignore Indian
intervention on the refugee issue, but New Delhi has
chosen to remain silent, disregarding persistent pleas
made at its doorstep.
By refusing to take up the issue of the Lhotshampa
refugees, India is willingly contravening its own
well-known international stand on the issue of
human rights. It is left to scholars to try and explain
the enigma of India's silence on the Lhotshampa's
eviction from Bhutan, and a little bit of history
does provide an explanation beyond the demands
of realpolitik, which is where retired foreign office
bureaucrats place the cause.
Soon after Independence, the new rulers of India
showed consideration for Bhutan by extending
it protection under the Indo-Bhutanese Treatv of
1949, increasing the annual cash grant to Thimphu,
and ceding to it some 32 square miles of territory
claimed bv the 1 litnalayan state. Over the years, the
political movements inside Bhutan, primarily led bv
those who came to be called the Lhotshampa, were
discouraged bv India. Activists who sought refuge
in Indian territory were asked to desist. Before 1947,
the Wangchuk dynasty had been resolutely against
Indian freedom fighters. Thereafter, the kings have
always wooed successive Indian prime ministers,
starting with Jawaharlal Nehru himself, who
arrived in Bhutan on horseback in 1958. Likewise,
Bhutan's English-educated elite has made it a point,
as a primary foreign policv strategy, to maintain
an excellent rapport with Indian diplomats, policymakers, and the elites of the academia and the media,
even if at the exclusion of Western 'suitors'.
When pressed, Indian prime ministers and
bureaucrats have consistently refused to mediate
between Nepal and Bhutan on the issue of the
Lhotshampa refugees sheltered bv the former
since 1990. The tortuous negotiations, marked bv a
singular Bhutanese ability to delay and procrastinate,
would have yielded a resolution long ago and given
respite to more than a hundred thousand refugees,
but for the distance New Delhi has maintained from
the process.
Rather ingenuously, New Delhi maintains that
the refugee issue is a bilateral one between Nepal
and Bhutan, a stand that undermines some basic
humanitarian principles as well as India's obvious
duty to right a massive wrong under the 1949 treatv.
Besides, the refugees from the southern hills of
Bhutan first entered India, only moving on to Nepal
Jul Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 when they found themselves unwelcome in northern
Bengal. This would assign some responsibility not
only to New Delhi but also to Calcutta.
The official Indian attitude is clear in the quasi-
official state-ments of some of its functionaries,
former foreign secretary Jagat Mehta, writing in 2004,
at first waxes eloquent about Bhutan's democratic
development and 'environmental husbanding'. I Ie
then goes to say, "The pressure is on India to mediate
the problem of rehabilitating expelled Nepalese of
Bhutan, lhe whole problem of spill-over ethnicity
in the sub-continent is a vast and complex subject,
but perhaps we should continue with benign
Another retired foreign secretary, known for
his reliance on realpolitik and for having fashioned
much of India's Bhutan policy, was more blunt
about the matter. Said J N Dixit about the refugees,
"One lakh persons do not matter to the Government
of India."
Sources of support
Many reasons have been offered to explain India's
benign detachment, including the importance of
cheap electricity from Bhutan's hydropower plants
built with Indian grant assistance, the need for a
stable kingdom in the sensitive Himalayan rim,
and tbe support Bhutan invariably provides India
in international fora where that extra vote has often
been of some assistance. But there are other equally
significant, factors in the background that also need
to be considered.
North Bengal and the .A.ssam Duars lie within
the social world of the Lhotshampa and have been
a natural outlet to them geographically, socially and
economically. This region, highly politicised because
of ethnic solidarity movements such as those of
Gorkhaland and Koch, is also where the Lhotshampa
have been exposed to active politics. In a nutshell,
this is an active, thriving, interesting, educative
region, a welcome relief to the Lhotshampa from the
regimented Drukpa world of Bhutan where a close
watch is kept on every Lhotshampa act or omission.
Unfortunately, North Bengal and the Duars, where
there is at least an understanding of the challenges
faced by the Lhotshampa within Bhutan, exist at the
margins of Indian politics. Likewise, the natural allies
of the Lhotshampa, the Nepalmul (Indians of Nepali
origin), do not figure anywhere in the Indian political
scene. Added to this is the fact that the states of Assam
and West Bengal are not favourably disposed towards
the Nepalmul, and hence are naturally distanced from
their linguistic relations, the Lhotshampa. The issue
of alleged migration from Nepal to Assam and of the
Gorkhaland Movement in West Bengal were bound
to have serious and negative impact on issues close
to the Lhotshampa. Even though Assam and West
Bengal would have the closest understanding of the
depopulation exercise underway in the hills of Bhutan
in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it is obvious that they
chose to remain silent and not put any pressure on
New Delhi. The fact that there are not even a handful
of Nepali-speaking members in the Indian Parliament
also explains why the refugee has never had a profile
and whv Indian foreign policv remains the way is.
While the interests of the Lhotshampa may well
have been sacrificed bv New Delhi on the altar of
realpolitik, it is worth considering the questions that
history will ask of the Indian state. 1 .et us speculate on
the effect oi this unstated policy on India: What will be
its impact on Nepal's response to Indian diplomacy,
given that the Indian state has deliberately opted to
back Bhutan at the cost of Nepal?1 What happens to
the oft-repeated mantra of special relations between
Kathmandu and New Delhi7 How is the Indian state
going to deal with the discontent among those of
its citizens who are Nepali-speakers, and who are
witness to the unfairness being meted out on their
linguistic cousins by New Delhi's policy?
Today, the Drukpa regime in Thimphu is
determined to demonise the Lhotshampa as the
villains of all their problems. It is busy demolishing
all vestiges of the Nepali-speakers' presence in
Bhutan. The Lhotsampa arc not recognised as a
separate community as in the past, and they have
no representation in the council of ministers, tbe
royal advisory council or tbe constituent assembly.
In the Drukpa scheme of things, there is no scope
for the continuity of the distinct Nepali-speaking
Lhotshampa heritage.
In Thimphu, there is a loathing of the Lhotshampa
that is visible even today. So, thev want a written
constitution? Okay, we shall write it without their
participation so that they, the Lhotshampa, will not
figure in our polity. So, they want us to consult with
the people? Our gyalpo will go to every district and
block and meet with the heads of households, and we
will concede to all important demands ol the people,
but we shall deal firmly with the ngolops (anti-
nationals). Thev want an inclusive constitution? It will
be so, only they will not figure anywhere in it.
Today, as Bhutan goes thr-ough the exercise
of adopting an exclusionary constitution, the
Lhotshampa in tbe refugee camps, who represent a
seventh of the country's population, have never been
more neglected. Look at their fate. They survive on
dole from the United Nations High Commission for
Refugees, which is being progressively reduced as per
the agency's policy. Nepal, the host country, is in the
midst of the worst phase of its modern history and is
hardly able to focus on the refugees. The Lhotshampa
have been left to themselves, without anyone to
provide empathy or a helping hand. If only the Indian
state were to turn a humanitarian leaf, it would
make all the difference to one of the most dejected
population segments of the Subcontinent. >
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
Melancholy of May
by | C K Lai
The dust must have risen from the cremation
ground of grandmother in May
A loan must have been incurred in May/
bullocks bought
May must have made them pledge as
The banyan tree in the fields
Abode of birds
I get very sad in May
-Prabhat in (harati Dhool
The rabi crop has been harvested. The season to
plant kharif is yet to begin. Eyes wait anxiously
for the monsoon - a dry spell means the death
of dreams, just as floods from heavy rainfall can
wash away plans for the son's higher education,
the daughter's overdue wedding, the mother's long
awaited treatment in the city hospital, or the longing
to buy a silver necklace or a new bicycle for oneself if
there is something left to spare.
May is the month of extreme anxiety in much of
Southasia. The poignant sadness of poet Prabhat
uses images from Ganga plains, but the melancholy
elsewhere in tbe vast hinterland of Southasia is no
different in May. In a month when well-off parents
from metropolitan centres fly out to USA to attend
graduation ceremonies of their offspring, there is
nail-biting suspense among the middle-class - what
does the future hold for the multitude of school
Talking is the time-tested way to overcome
anxiety. So rural Southasians used to talk even more,
and louder, in the month of Mav. Under the mango
tree near the village pond in the Hindi heartland,
along the banks of backwaters in peninsular India,
in the shade of the banyan tree along bharia trails in
the hills and mountains, near the community well in
the Deccan, and under the stars in the vicinity of the
Thar, Southasians have talked for centuries to lessen
their restlessness at this time of year.
But today thev talk less and less. These days thev
listen - sometimes in groups, but mostly alone in
their reverie with tbe idols of the small screen. Like
elsewhere in the world, television has transformed
our communication patterns like no other invention
in human history. In the empires of competing
channels, people are not even 'clients' any more;
whether in the city tenement or the village haveli,
they are but consuming objects to be mobilised for
yet more consumption.
Purity of means
Angst and anxiety abound everywhere in Southasia,
but rays of hope remain as elusive as ever as Mav
gives way to June and a delayed monsoon in the
north. According to the images flashed by world
media, as handmaiden of the neocons, the war
on terror is succeeding. But Osama bin Laden has
neither been smoked out nor captured 'dead or alive'.
Afghanistan remains an US colony administered by
its chosen nominees. Hamid Karzai may claim to be
elected, buthis writ does not run even within the ruins
of Kabul. Not for nothing is it said that colonialism
dehumanises colonisers and the colonised alike,
and so Afghan inmates are tormented in makeshift
prisons bv guards driven to cruelty by boredom.
The wounds inflicted upon the Afghans by the
Russians, the Taliban, and the .Americans will all
heal, but the scars will remain to haunt human
civilisation in the centuries to come. One might even
try and restore the massive Buddhas of Bamiyan,
but how do you keep the scarred landscape of Tora
Bora from tormenting generations of Afghans. When
Karzai went to Washington at the end of May to beg
for a measure of control on the movement of armed
forces, he was firmly put in his place by his sponsors.
Now some 16,700 US troops will remain stationed in
Afghanistan for an indefinite period ostensibly at the
invitation of an "elected leader" of that country.
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 With a wink from Washington, the strongman-in-
charge in Islamabad continues to run his country like
a medieval fiefdom. General Musharraf has not learnt
any lesson from the debacle of religious extremism
on his Western front. While mouthing platitudes to
'enlightened moderation' in public, the military and
the mullahs of Pakistan regularly act in concert to let
Islamic fundamentalism grow unchecked. Ironically,
tlie continuing expansion of religious extremism
is used as an excuse by the American patrons to
continue support for their man in Islamabad. Things
don't get more incongruous than that.
A little to the east, in New Delhi, premier
Manmohan Singh celebrated the completion of
an yrear in office with very little fanfare in May.
According to his own admission, Manmohan has
been barely a 60 percent prime minister at a time
when even a 100 percent head of government would
have been too little to dismantle the saffron edifice
erected by Bhartiya Janata Party's years in power.
Communalisation of Indian society has reached
such a stage that bomb blasts rocked its capital on
something as flimsy as the name of a Hindi movie.
It beats logic why the Indian intelligentsia take
exception to riots caused by the desecration of tire
Holy Koran; Hindu hohr-men tend to take to the
streets for much milder offences and self-appointed
guardians of Sikhism spot misdemeanour in innocent
and imaginary portrayals on the screen.
The drama enacted in Bihar was even more
disgraceful. Apparently on the instigation of Lalu
Prasad Yadav, the Vidhan Sabha that had remained
in suspended animation from the day it was formed
was .suddenly dissolved, foreclosing all possibilities
of a popular government for quite a while. Tire
manner in which this deed was done and president's
rule introduced - in stealth and hurry, getting the
dissolution order approved from the president's
hotel suite in Moscow —doesn't do any credit to
the democratic claims of the ruling coalition in
New Delhi. Granted that the step has succeeded
in stalling a communal coalition from emerging in
Bihar, M K Gandhi did have a point in stressing the
importance of purity of means. The short-term gains
for secular forces may shore up the electoral fortunes
of Hindutva elements in future elections.
Meanwhile, the opportunistic intelligentsia of
tlie Padma delta has meekly surrendered itself to
the oligarchs that run the affairs of their state. In
the name of fighting extremism, the paramilitary
forces of Bangladesh perpetrate excesses that go
largely unreported in the Dhaka press in the name
of "national interest". It is amazing that a country
as culturally secure as Bangladesh needs to keep
fanning the fears of Indian hegemony in order to
exert its separate identity.
In the Island of Serendipity, dreams of peaceful
cohabitation between the four religious communities
of the land remain as distant as ever. Unity of purpose
between tlie LTTE and the government machinery to
rebuild areas devastated by the tsunami has begun
to unravel. Fortunately, the truce between the two
antagonists still holds despite repeated attempts
at sabotage by disgruntled elements on both sides.
Unless tangible progress is made in the creation of
sustainable and just peace, the risk of unpredictable
violence will persist.
On the margins
It was in May of 2003 that the Burmese junta detained
Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who turned 60 on
19 June this year, with very little fanfare from the
politically conscious of the world. Tlie fact is that,
as in the case of the Dalai Lama or the Bhutanese
refugees,  the  western  powers  make  a  show  of
Lhotshampa, not of Bhutan, but Jhapa
empathy but the real need for change lies closer to
home. Not only appeals, but even sanctions from the
West seem to have failed to have an impact upon
the Rangoon junta. Unless China and India take
joint initiatives to persuade Rangoon, chances of
restoration of civilian regime in Burma will remain
bleak. India, at least, would like to move closer to the
junta, as it eyes the natural gas fields off the Arakhan
coast. The more the Indian economy needs the gas,
the bleaker the chances of Aung San getting support
from New Delhi's realpolitikos. Tliere comes a point
at which internal efforts are insufficient to dislodge
a determined authoritarian regime and outside
intervention becomes necessary. Burma seemed to
have reached that stage long ago, but no intervention
has appeared on the horizon and it will be a long
time before the military regime begins to crumble
from within.
Democracy in Nepal, however, isn't yet beyond
redemption. King Gyanendra's courtiers continue to
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
 loudly p roclainrj that there has to be "peace
and development" before democracy, but
his 'subjects' do not have faith in the
regime's capacity of delivering either —
not in a hundred days as promised by
the king to the the American ambassador,
and not in three years as proclaimed
by  the  king  on  1   February.   Indeed,
peace and development will not arrive
unless governance is handed over to the
democratic forces as represented by the
political parties, which are today working
according to a common programme of |
peaceful challenge to the royal takeover, i
The progress of the parties' challenge to I
the royal palace will depend upon the I
attitude of the ostrich-like middle-class I
of Kathmandu Valley, which prefers to 1
believe what the palace propagandists
say rather than what stares  them  in
the face.
Aung San would understand:
Tibetan civilisation is on the verge of becoming
a footnote in the history books as the Han
demographic and economic muscle strangles
this ancient land. Meanwhile, multi-plicities of
forces struggling for the freedom of Tibet are
keeping themselves busy without doing anything substantial. Dharamshala's government in
exile is more marginalised than ever before, willing
Aung San
to bask in the glow of overseas adulation
while quite unwilling to take risks with
China. The Dalai Lama's advisors would
do well to understand the implications
of the fact that Sino-Indian trade has
nearly doubled from USD 7.5 billion
in 2003 to USD 13.5 billion in 2004. The
lights of Potala Palace will fade away
even from memory if the Dalai Lama
does not decide on a return to the valleys
of the Kyu Chu.
Bhutan, the kingdom propagating the
concept of Gross National Happiness,
has placed that unsc-ientific, feel-good
concept into its draft constitution.
The hundred thousand-plus citizens
that King Jigme Singye Wangchuk
evicted from the hills of Druk Yul
are spending their fifteenth summer
in the sweltering plains of Nepal's
Jhapa and Morang. The monsoon
rains, when they arrive, will provide
some respite, but then it will be humid beyond
words in the camps of Timai, Goldhap, Beld
angi, Sanischare and Khudunabari. King Jigme
may want to check the thermometer outside His
Majesty's patio: when it is 17 degrees in Thimphu, it
is 42 degrees in the shade where his subject-refugees
live. Still wanting to return, Your Majesty. And
wanting to be singing in the rain.
Call for entries
Film South Asia '05
27 September - 2 October 2005
,:i.m South Asia, the festival of South Asian documentaries, calls for entries for the fifth
edition of its biennial festival being held in Kathmandu from 27 September to
2 October 2005. Documentaries made in and after 2003 are eligible for the
competitive section. Films made eariier will be included in the non-competitive section.
Entry deadline: 31 July, 2005
Details and entry forms are available at
For further information contact:
Upasana Shrestha, Film South Asia
Himal Association, Patan Dhaka, Kathmandu, Nepal
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 Time and a place]
by [ Rajashri Dasgupta
As a child, my grandmother's gold necklace
had fascinated me. My fingers would trace its
delicately moulded design and feel the intricate
lattice work. My imagination fired with a sense of
adventure from voracious reading, I would ask her
from which ludden cave or niche had this glittering
ornament been retrieved. It was a gift from her
mother, she would answer with nostalgia, made by
skilful artisans from "the village of Modpur across
the river Ganga".
Over the years I came to learn that Modpur, a
small town in West Bengal, is well-known for its
extremely skilled goldsmiths. The clientele of these
artisans include not only Bengali women such as
my grandmother who prefer gold ornaments, but
even celebrities and film stars across the country
who value jewellery made by the "Modpur boys", lt
was only recently that I got the opportunity to meet
the heroes of my childhood on a visit to the Modpur
administrative block in Howrah District, separated
from Calcutta, as my grandmother had reported, by
the Ganga.
What I found in Modpur is that there is hardly
a household where a son, brother, father, uncle or
son-in-law is not 'missing'. In search of better work
opportunities and more money, goldsmiths and gem-
setters have migrated to faraway cities like Bombay,
Hyderabad and, most importantly, Surat, a thriving
industrial town in Gujarat famed for its diamonds,
jewellery and textiles. Some have even sought their
fortunes in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates.
Traditionally, the goldsmiths of Modpur were a
small community with the male members handing
down the skills to the new generation. When demand
for their skills in the export-oriented production
centres of western India first sprung up, small groups
of artisans made the shift to Surat and Bombay. As
their skills became more prized, the trickle turned
into a flood. Today, even agricultural workers are
abandoning their land to become goldsmiths and
Two factors stand out in the phenomena of
migration from Modpur. Firstly, it is largely the
migration of single males. Secondly, the migrants
leave home as young adults, barely out of their
adolescence. The obsession with making money has
drawn young boys away from their studies, with
Modpur's schools now losing the bulk of their male
students byr Class 8. Laments one school headmaster,
Ashwmi Adak, "Once the boys turn 12, it's difficult
to retain them. Their nimble fingers are best trained
to be skilful goldsmiths. It is the lure of quick
If the schools and soccer fields of Modpur are
bereft of young boys, the village's fertile fields lie
uncultivated, a phenomenon unheard of in highly
populated West Bengal. Equally bizarre are the
garishly coloured concrete buildings mushrooming
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
 in the midst of paddy fields, overshadowing the
older mud huts. "These two-storied palaces belong
to goldsmiths, local boys who now work in different
cities and visit home occasionally," savs riksa puller
Bharat Dhara as he pedals down the village road.
"The huts belong to people who never left Modpur."
Like so many others, Dhara's own three sons left
Modpur 12 years ago to work as jewellers in Surat.
"Why should they stay on here, to labour as a riksa
puller like me? I was once a farmer, look what has
happened to me, having to pull this riksa." f lis eldest
son had just completed Class 8 when Dhara felt that
school was a waste of time because it would not lead
to a job. "I didn't want them to suffer, so I let them
Migrant goldsmiths such as Dhara's sons are
hailed as the new heroes of Modpur, men who seek
their fortunes in distant places and return prosperous.
It is the money from the earnings of these jewellers
that has triggered developments in villages and in
.Modpur town itself. Homes now sport television
sets and music systems, fancy clocks and crockery.
Locals can recognize the destination of tbe migrant
from the appearance of their houses. If the structure
is formidably ornamental, the owner is assuredly
working in Dubai. Almost as ostentatious, would be
the houses of goldsmiths in Bombay or Ahmedabad.
Highway havoc
What has prompted goldsmiths of Modpur, whose
skills were prized by Bengali clientele such as mv
grandmother, to migrate on such a massive scale as to
leave the area empty of males? Why were traditional
agricultural families suddenly willing to abandon
their fields?
For the last two decades, Modpur and its
surrounding region have been witnessing an
unprecedented upheaval associated with the
industrialisation and urbanisation of a sedate
agrarian economy. Proximity with Calcutta has had
a great impact on Modpur. The urban pressures
of the large metropolis have pushed people out,
westward across the Ganga. According to the Block
Development Officer Krishnendu Basak, Modpur
is becoming "more a business than an agricultural
The construction of the National and State
Highway 6 (NH6) that cuts Howrah District close
to Modpur has also triggered a flurry of economic
activity. Frenetic developments are taking place
along the highway, with acres of industrial estates
and residential blocks sprouting up on the farmland.
Under the circumstances, farmers either hold on to
the land for speculation or sell out to factories and
residential high-rise complexes. "The price of land in
my village has gone up at least 20 times in the last few
years," said Prasanta Mallick, a village elder.
The rapid pace of real estate development coupled
with the rise in price of agricultural inputs such as seed
and fertiliser has made agriculture an increasingly
unviable option for the locals. At the same time,
they do not have the skills and wherewithal to take
advantage of the modernisation sweeping their own
home ground. Agricultural labourers find themselves
unemployed, and the craft of setting gems or making
gold ornaments suddenly looks attractive.
Meanwhile, there is mental stress for the generation
in transition, which is groomed for agriculture but
sees the logic in the shift to working with gold.
farmer Mallick says he is depressed with the chain of
events. "I have tried to keep mv farm going, but there
have been continuous losses. Why should I farm at
such a loss if I cannot recover my investment or feed
my family?" Mallick has now allowed his 13 year-old
son to train to be a goldsmith in Bombay.
With agricultural families turning to the gold
trade, the traditional goldsmiths who have remained
behind in Modpur find the labour market saturated.
But the fact is that not many stay back in Modpur
when the bright lights of Surat, Bombay and
Dubai call, these places offer not only better work
opportunities, but loans to be had, prompt payment
of all dues and - all importantly - more lucrative pay.
If Calcutta shop owners offer Modpur gemsetters 5(1
paisa to set a stone, the rate is Rs 2 in Surat. It is this
difference that makes young boys and men leave
Modpur in droves, to take the trains from Howrah
Station headed west.
Death toll
The ornate pink and purple residences with
formidable iron gates stand grotesquely among
clusters of shabby huts and acres of fallow land.
These images provide a chilling contrast and
represent the existential dilemma of Modpur today.
On the one hand, the migration of the goldsmiths has
led to employment, development of the region, riches
and hope among families and the larger community
and families. On the other, it has also inflicted death,
disease, poverty, and immense suffering. If men
have left villages as young boys to chase better
opportunities, the migration has also left in its wake
separated families and discontinued traditions. In
short, broken lives.
The challenges the migrants themselves face are
not insignificant. It is not migration per se but the
work conditions thev migrate to that make them
more vulnerable to high- risk behaviour. Thev work
for long periods away from home and family, coping
with homesickness and loneliness, trying to adjust
to a new working environment and culture, and
controlling their emotional and sexual needs. If there
is one tragedy that encapsulates the many challenges
and dislocations suffered by the people of Modpur, it
is the visitation of HIV-AIDS.
Many migrant goldsmiths  have contracted  the
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 HIV virus and have returned home to die of AIDS,
some after infecting their wives and unborn children.
This year, the husband of 23 year-old Tulu (name
changed) died of AIDS after having infected her as
well as their three-year old daughter. A few years
ago, her father and brother had died of the same
cause. All were migrant goldsmiths in Surat. It was
three years ago that Rani, 22, lost her husband Balu
to AIDS and five months later, her eight-year-old
child too succumbed to the infection. "I want to live,"
says Rani who is on anti-retroviral drugs to improve
her declining immunity. "I am so young, 1 did not
even know about the disease until my husband and
daughter died."
Headmaster Ghosh is a sad man todav. Not only
have his students left school to become jewellers,
he lias lost many of them to the disease. "There is
hardly any one in Modpur who has not lost a family
member or does not know someone who is sick with
HIV virus or is dead with AIDS," he says. The spread
of HIV and AIDS in the local population is grave
enough for local AIDS activists to label the Modpur
area a high-risk zone. The local network of HIV-
positive people has 180 members, most of whom are
widows of migrant goldsmiths. Says gram pradhan
Subir Chatterji, "We have development in Modpur,
but we now also have HIV and AIDS."
The social cost
The rapid development in the communities of Modpur
and the surrounding region has been accompanied by
certain social costs. What is weakening - and at times
disappearing altogether - with the breakdown of the
rural economy, lack of employment and migration,
are old family and social values and community ties.
While there is now greater freedom and mobility for
individuals, there are related problems of alienation
and cultural tension. Farmers ruefully admit that
their sons 'look down' on working the land; and girls
refuse to marry men who 'work and get dirty'. Says
riska puller Dhara, "My sons claim they are bored
when they visit the village. One of them even dresses
like a girl with long hair and floral-printed shirts."
As societies confront modernisation and
development all over India and Southasia, in a
hundred thousand communities, social breakdown is
in progress. Social controls and values are weakening
and individuals and communities find themselves
exposed, left to fend for themselves without
guidance, empathy or a helping hand. dVlodpur, in
the throes of social transition, is just the reflection
of one community undergoing the stress of change.
The district and its historical legacy that produced
my grandmother's beautiful gold necklace is today a
society at once 'successful' and 'off course'. j.
Writer's note: Modpur is a real place, only ils name has
been changed.
Social Science Baha
Institute of World Society Studies
University of Bielefeld - CNAS
Tribhuvan University - German
Research Foundation - EU-Asia-Link
Since 1990. ethnicity formation has provoked a large
number of public debates in Nepal, and it has remained
on the political agendas until the beginning of 2005. The
conference's architecture is designed around several
crucial topics pertaining to ethnicity formation as well as to
alternative projects.
1. On the popularity of ethnicising discourses in
contemporary Nepal
2. The diversity of stakeholders and their discourses
on ethnicity
3. The shift of the 'ethnic paradigm' during the last
15 years
4. Ethnicisation and its consequences
5. Ethnicisation and de-ethnicisation in Nepal's past
At the same time, the conference also aims to locate Nepali
experiences within a wider South Asian and global contexts.
The conference will invite scholars working on issues of
ethnicisation and de-ethnicisation in other national contexts
for instance in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Ecuador, Nigeria,
Canada and Switzerland.
Conference coordinators
Dr. Rajendra Pradhan,
Social Science Baha
icnec@wlink com np
Prof. Joanna Pfaff-Czarnecka,
Institute of World Society Studies/University of Bielefeld,
Prof. Nirmal Man Tuladhar
CNAS, Tribhuvan University,
Conference Secretariat
Social Science Baha / Himal Association
Patan Dhoka, P0 Box 166, Lalitpur, Nepal
Phone: 977- 1 - 5548142 / 5542544 / 5537408
Fax: 977 15541196
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
The flood
that was, the flood to come
by | Dinesh Kumar Mishra
// TV 4"achhli khao!" This was the advice of Lalu
Ja.V-1-Prasad Yadav, the Indian Minister of
Railways and, as the head of the Rashtriya Janata Dal
(RJD), Bihar's boss. "Let them eat fish," he told the
people, as the whole of north Bihar was reeling under
the floods of 2004. The reaction of the flood victims of
Bihar to his suggestion was silence.
Floods are an annual event in Bihar, and some
years they are worse than others. As the floods
begin to peak in late July or August, they bring with
them a by-npw predictable routine of governmental
statements, accusations and recriminations. As the
monsoon brings its deluge, this year too, there will
be highly charged reportage on the breaching of
embankments along the state's rivers, once again
the demand for a high dam on the Kosi River deep
within Nepali territory, and repetition of the charge
that Nepal has 'released' waters to flood Bihar. Once
again, Patna will make shrill demands for disaster
relief from the central government, there will be
allegations of inadequate relief provided, others will
accuse the Bihar government of misuse of flood relief,
and so on.
The recriminations will stop as soon as the flood
waters recede by end August or early September.
Nepal will be forgotten, as will be the embankments.
Everyone will await the next flood season, when the
cycle begins all over again. As we enter July, there is
also the added political confusion in Bihar this year,
linked to the non-formation of government after the
Bihar Assembly elections of February 2005. The call
for fresh polls in the state has further added to the
uncertainities and as the flood season draws nigh, the
blame game among the politicians and government
departments is likely to be played at a higher pitch.
To be better prepared for this year's Bihar floods,
it is best to analyse the response of previous years,
and in particular, the experience of 2004. It is very
important for the sake of the millions who will be
affected in North Bihar that we begin to learn from our
experience of floods and not merely be led through
the annual charade of flood-related acrimony.
Living in peace
Urbanisation, changing popul-ation patterns, the
development of infrastructure and the rapid spread
of media all have changed the way in which the
floods impact us and how they are reported. The
recriminations and improper response can be
explained byr the lack of understanding of floods.
Floods are a natural phenomenon in north Bihar,
for this is where the great tributaries of the Ganga
originating in the Nepali hills enter the plain, gorged
with the monsoon precipitation. The greatest of the
rivers is of course the Kosi, called the 'river of sorrow'
by the British, which with its seven sub-tributaries
covers the entire eastern half of Nepal and even
reaches deep into Tibet. While the snow- and rainfed Kosi waters the eastern half of Bihar, the western
half of the state is fed by the sub-Himalayan rivers of
Kamala and Bagmati, the latter with headwaters in
Kathmandu Valley.
Certain basic aspects of hydrology need to be
understood. Himalayan rivers naturally carry a
heavy silt load, which has little or nothing to do
with deforestation in the hills as has been claimed.
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 The fertility of the Ganga and Brahmaputra plains
is, in fact, the result of this annual watering and
deposition of silt. Historically, the plains people
had learnt to live with the floods as representing a
troublesome phenomenon for a couple of months.
The rivers were allowed to spread their waters over
the vast flatlands, which moderated the intensity of
the floods. There were inconveniences, but society
was never fatally affected. The river was allowed
to perform its duty of land-building with its silt,
and the fertility and moisture content of the soil was
optimised. Life was good in the Ganga plains, and the
floods helped make it so, which is why we have such
a high population density here.
This was the path of least resistance to nature
that our ancestors chose, and they also adapted their
traditional housing and cropping patterns to the
floods. Vedavyas, in the Mahabharata, had cautioned
people to "Do all good tilings during the day to get a
good sleep in the night and make all the preparations
during eight months to live in .
peace during the rainy season."
It was only in modern times
that we had to devise means to
'tame' the rivers, that too with / i
technology devised in the past   \. i   /%,  ^
century   for   countries   of   the K ~"y   ''--Ti, M .*§£■/■..
North which do not have the \*^L.-—b>~--'■-•'' J*,
same sedimentation rates of our -*' .^Kathmandu  v,
. m ■:■. 5*"S   *
Himalayan  rivers.  Starting  in ;. -:o\o (S|,  "ffi       ?}
'.        v;\   ■'.     &%'
British times, the technocratic    >. V;,p\\ 0^:<
solution  has  been to put up I -•;'   ^^v.:
dams to hold  back the river I    '-sb-^.     \
waters,   or   to   straitjacket  the
rivers    within    embankments.
This is how the maintenance of
the embankments of the various
rivers of Bihar has become an
annual ritual before the flood
season. In reality, what this has
done is locked the silt within the embankments rather
than let it spread its fertility over the land. This also
raises the bed of the river within the embankments,
pointing to future catastrophes when breaches occur.
Besides the fear of their collapse, the levees have also
obstructed drainage. Ironically, the very structures
which are meant to protect the people from excess
water   during  the  monsoon   create  waterlogging
during the rest of the year.
As far as Nepal is concerned, every year it gets a
battering from the Bihar politicians who need to play
up someone else's fault for the floods even though it
may be a natural phenomenon more drastic in some
years than others. And so there is finger-pointing at
Nepal having opened the floodgates of its reservoirs,
when in fact there are no reservoirs in Nepal which
can be emptied on Bihar. There are two barrages
close to the Indian border, one on the Kosi and the
area that is the
source of Bihar's
floods is actually
located below
the proposed
dam site
3  I  HfA  R
The Kosi catchment, barrages and
other  on  the Gandak, which
feed    irrigation    canals    that
serve   Eastern   Uttar   Pradesh
and Bihar. Both these barrages
are managed by Bihar's Water
Resources   Department.   There
is hope that the proposed high
dam on the Kosi will impound
enough water to keep the floods
from peaking in eastern Bihar,
but there are also serious questions with regard to
the very concept of a high dam.
Besides the technical challenges of constructing a
high dam in a highly seismic zone, issues that are
pending relate to the naturally massive sedimentation
of the Kosi and what this would do to the pondage, the
matter of inundation of a large part of eastern Nepal's
populated hinterland, the loss of fertility in the plains
due to absent sedimentation. An alternative means
to distribute the flood flow in the plains is a matter
that has never been brought
up for serious discussion.
Doubts have also been raised
as to the very raison d'etre of
the high dam, for experts say
that a sizeable catchment area
that is the source of Bihar's
floods is actually located below
the proposed dam site. All in
all, say the sceptics, it would
be wiser for Bihar to face the
floods locally. The plains people
have centuries of experience
living with the late monsoon
inundation; if their wisdom and
the expertise of the engineer
were to be combined for the
common good, we could make
the floods bearable in the years
to come. Essentially, what this
means is replacing  'flood  resistant houses'  with
'flood tolerant houses', and the 'flood resistant crops'
with 'flood tolerant crops'.
The 2004 ritual
As the floods picked up steam in July 2004, as
expected, three central ministers in New Delhi
- Jay Prakash Narayan, Tasleemuddin and Priya
Ranjan Das Munshi - made pronouncements about
the imminence of the high dam on the Kosi. Bihar's
own Minister of the Water Resources Department
(WRD) announced that all the necessary repairs at
274 vulnerable points on the embankments would
be completed in time and everything was fine on the
flood front. He, too, reposed his faith in the proposed
dam in Nepal, where he said construction would
start soon. But the fact was there was no flood on the
Kosi last year.
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
 As the ministers were becoming overwrought
about the Kosi, the flash floods were occurring
in the Bagmati basin to the west. On 7 June 2005,
altogether 50 persons were washed away bv the
Bagmati in Sheohar and Sitamarhi districts, and
the blame was predictably passed on to Nepal for
releasing the water. The Indian Army was called
in on 22 June to take care of the rescue and relief
operations, while in Patna, on the floor of the
Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council, it
was a free for all with charges, counter-charges,
walkouts and demands for resignations. In other
words, the annual ritual had begun. Demand for
emergency assistance, charges of corruption and
mismanagement of relief operations, shortage
of boats, inaccessibility, and accusations of mass
breaching of embankments became the order of
the day.
Amidst the furore and the mud-slinging, the
VVKD minister blamed the engineers for dereliction
of duty. The Association of Junior Engineers
retaliated bv blaming the government for not
following the recommendation of the Technical
Advisory Committee on Floods, that 97 vulnerable
points along the embankment lengths in the state be
strengthened or repaired at a cost of INK 117 crore.
Meanwhile, amidst incessant ram, the transport
and communication lines to the northern districts
were down, and the Indian government had to
request Nepal to allow passage of relief materials to
Sitamarhi, Sheohar, Darbhanga and Madhubani.
Ten helicopters were pressed into service, with
the Air Force claiming on 23 July that this was the
largest such deployment ever for flood relief in the
country. But 13 helicopters had been deployed in
the flood relief in 1987, according to Bihar's Relief
Administration. Helicopters add glamour to
tackling flood, but one must ask how useful is it
to air-drop rations. The Times of India reported on
2 August 2004 that relief material worth less than
INR 10 million had been air-dropped at a cost of a
"whopping" INR 80 million. Of the estimated five
million marooned by the rising waters only 400
were rescued by choppers, said the newspaper.
According to another source, INR 200 million crore
had been spent to airdrop INR 20 million worth of
As for the airdropped rations, they consisted of
sattu (roasted horse gram powder) packed by a
certain 'Agrasen Sattu Factory, Hazaribagh, Bihar'.
Hazaribagh lies today in the state of Jharkhand that
was carved out of Bihar in 2000. One may conclude,
therefore, that the food packets were at least four
vears old, packaged when Hazaribagh was still in
Bihar. The quality of match-boxes and the candles
distributed were of equally poor standard. The
government distributed only 600,000 polythene
sheets as relief, but that could hardly have been
enough for the more than three million people who
required some sort of cover during the deluge. That
the relief operations of 2004 cost the exchequer INR
560 million in total indicates a full-fledged scam that
cries out to be uncovered.
The number 49.9
The state authorities tend to play fast and loose
with the data in order to exaggerate or minimise
issues according to their advanatge. Lor example,
the VVRD consoled itself that there had been only 55
breaches along the 3430 km of its embankments in
2004, compared to 300 breaches during the earlier
devastation of 1987. But the YVRD's own reports
indicate that there were a total of 105 breaches
back in 1987. In the hope of upping disaster relief
from a friendly government at the centre, the Patna
ministers were hellbent on proving that the 2004
flood was the worst-ever in the living memory. But
data shows that 1987 far outpaced 2004 (see table)
and was the most devastating inundation since
the time records were kept. This record for 1987
holds good for the area affected, crops damaged,
population affe-ctect and lives lost.
lt must be kept in mind that the 2004 waters
impacted mainly north Bihar. The government
reported that the flood-affected area had touched
a figure of 49.9 lakh hectares, which is patently
absurd. The northern plains have an area of 53.8
lakh ha with a population of 52 million. A cursory-
look at the loss data would suggest that if 49.9 lakh
ha of land was submerged, no less than 50 million
people should have been affected by the floods,
given the population density oi north Bihar at 880
persons per sq km, while the affected population
was only reported to be 21.2 million. The region
has 21 districts together with one sub-division of
the Bhagalpur district, Naugachhia. two districts
of north Bihar, namely Siwan (2.2 lakh ha) and
Saran (2.6 lakh ha) were not hit. Subtracting these
two districts, we are left with 48.9 lakh ha. What
this means is that the flood area as described by the
Disaster Management Department was more than
the actual area of the concerned districts. All the
other Patna government offices involved, including
the Water Resources Department and Department
of Statistics, merely repeated the given figure, not
bothering to deal with the discrepancy.
lt was only after an article noting the faulty
mathematics was published in Patna's Dainik
Hindustan on 26 August 2004 that the figure for the
flood-affected suddenly dropped down to 23.5 lakh
ha. Meanwhile, the memorandum submitted by
the state to the team from the central government
contained the same fantastic 49.9 ha figure. A central
team which visited the state starting 13 September
did not locate the discrepancy, and the same was
true for the Prime Minister's Office in New Delhi.
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
Flood Loss Data For Worst Floods in Bihar
9360     j
Population   I     Area
Affected     I  Affected
(In Lakh
|      ha)
Crop Area
(In Lakh
Value of
(Rs. in
Houses    ! Value of | Loss of
Damaged   [ Houses ! Public
! (Rs. in i properties
] Crores) I (Rs. tn
I Crores)
1,79,451    |     na j na
5,16,353    |    54.58 79.63
17..4.999    : 257.89 372.71
8,97,427 739.49 1057.69
Human | Cattle
Lives j Lost
(Rs. in
2673   i    2216.*
To cap it all, the report of the Task force, published
on 21 December, contains the same 49.9 figure,
even though the team was made up of six persons
with the rank of chief engineer, from Bihar alone-
It this mistake regarding basic flood data were
deliberate, it smacks of conspiracy. If it were a slip,
then it exposes the casual manner in which flood
emergencies are handled by layer after layer of state
and central government institutions.
Bihar today has 3430 km of embankment along its
rivers. The floodprone area in the state today is 68.8
lakh ha. Whereas in 1952, when there was virtually
no flood-control infrastructure in the state, the
vulnerable area was limited to 25 lakh ha. It is clear
that the floodprone area is on the rise even as we
build more and more embankments and invest in
other forms of flood control. The Bihar government
recently received a grant of INK 3.6 billion to raise
and strengthen the embankments of the Kamala and
Bagmati, but experience shows that this is a waste of
money. Building and strengthening embankments
will merely lead to the rising of the riverbeds within,
due to constricted flow and sedimentation; they
also lead to ever-more waterlogging. Planners and
politicians also tend to forget that a large number
of people in Bihar live within the embankments,
and their lives are endangered when the levees are
made sturdier and taller.
Monsoon mantra
The absence of an elected popular government in
Bihar, where politics has been in limbo since the
Assembly elections of February 2005, is expected
to make this year's flood season a difficult one for
the people, particularly if the rain gods decide to
unleash another deluge like last year's. The YVRD
has identified 280 schemes to be taken up to prevent
breaches in the embankments. As is customary,
all works on the Kosi emhankments have to be
completed before March every year, and all other
maintenance and repair works are to be completed
by the end of May. This year, with files shuttling
between the various sections of the Department
dil her a mm
monsoon season
of Water Resources, things have been tardy. It
is quite likely that there will be breaches in the
embankments that are directly linked to the political
confusion in Patna.
As   the   politicians   fight   and   the   bureaucrats
dither, a new  monsoon season is upon  us.     No
one   is   talking   about   the   impending   manmade
disaster   that   the    people   of   Bihar   are   destined   to  face  in   the  coming  months.   Will  some
body tell the flood victims when they face the rising
waters what happened to the
report  of  the  task  force  that   AS lltU OOllflCianS
was appointed last vear after   fighl 3Hd IM
Manmohan  Singh's   visit  and    yyg-gauCraiS
what actions have been taken
to safeguard the interest of the
people?   Will   somebody   also
tell the people of Kusheswar
Asthan, Chandauli,  Khagaria,
Darbhanga, Danapur, Jhanjhaipur, Runnisaipur,
and Kataunjha that enough food grains have been
stored at respective places and it will not have to be
transported from Patna this time? Will the people
living on the embankments not be threatened with
evacuation in the name of raising and strengthening
of the embankments? Will the victims of erosion
of the banks of the river all along the state get
recognition that the Government is aware of their
problems and adequate steps will be taken to reduce
their sufferings?
More questions: Will somebody ask the
politicians, both at the centre and the state, why
they stopped chanting the Kosi high dam mantra
after the floods abated last year7 Will someone
tell the people of Bihar why the high dam on the
Kosi has not heen built despite years of 'fruitful
negotiations' with Nepal? And will someone tell the
people of Bihar that if the construction ot the high
dam is absurd, why nothing is being done to help
the people face the floods locally? Just as we do not
talk about the floods and ask these questions in the
dry season, we are not left with any option than to
face them silently in the rainy season. J*
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
Residential Training Workshop on
Migration, Globalisation, Security and
19-28 November 2005 Raiendrapur, Bangladesh
The South Asia Migration Resource Network (SAMReN)
invites development practitioners, young academics and
professionals, government functionaries and practitioners
from labour and human rights organisations to take part in
a Residential Training Workshop on Migration, Globalisation,
Security and Development.
The Workshop seeks to enhance understanding of migration
processes in South Asian and international frameworks
and to equip participants in the methods of research and
management of migration. It will examine the dynamics
of migration in the contexts of globalisation security and
development and will highlight recent issues that concern
the international migration regime, the impact of globalisation
on migration, and the pressures on sending and receiving
To apply, please download an application form from the
SAMReN website at   Applications are due on 15 August
2005. Applications and enquiries may be sent to
Dr Tasneem Siddiqui.
Conference on
Himal is hosting a Roundtable Conference on Southasian
Publishing in Kathmandu in April 2006. The two and a half-
day event will be attended by senior Southasian English
language publishers, educators, social scientists, policy
makers, journalists and representatives of international and
regional organisations with an interest in what Southasians
The event is being organised with the understanding that
Southasia's reading culture and publishing industry have
not expanded in consonance with the dramatic rise in
English language literacy in the region nor with the rapid
consumerisation of the market. The conference will take
place over two and a half days and will discuss themes as
diverse as the changing priorities of large publishing houses,
the paradox of expanding markets and declining print runs,
Southasian markets for Southasian writing in English, country
profiles of publishers and publics, the cross-border availability
of titles, and the organisational economics of large and small
For more information, write to;
Foundation for Universal Responsibility Of His Holiness The Dalai Lama
The Scholar of Peace Fellowships
Women in Security
Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace (WISCOMP) invites applications
from South Asian professionals and scholars under the age of 45 for its Scholar of
Peace Fellowships awarded for academic research, media and special projects,
WISCOMP seeks to promote an inclusive, gender sensitive discourse on issues related
to peace and security in South Asia. This year the fellowship programme will focus
on the intersection of gender with issues such as human security, multi-track peace
initiatives, regional cooperation, human rights et al, within the terrain of peacebuilding
and conflict transformation.
The fellowships cover a period ranging from three months to one year. The last date for
receipt of applications is August 12, 2005, Please download the application form from
our website by clicking on the WISCOMP link or write to:
Foundation for Universal Responsibility of His Holiness The Dalai Lama
Core 4A, Upper Ground Floor, India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi -110 003,
Ph.: 91-11-24648450 (Ext. 112} Fax: 91-11-24648451
Conflict Management and Peace     Email: wiscomp@VSnl.CO
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal .Southasian
A general
nt'fc\   g
I 6"*;' "';
Q   ///^ j urn
Indian NGO
d'fti.aad   a      rid        a    ,.
t—>, s f,di;ft_.
The activist streak is missing in today's non-governmental organisations,
and so thev serve a function' rather than challenge the system.
by | Pandurang Hegde
The last two decades have witnessed a proliferation
of non-governmental organisations in the development sector of India. Largely autonomous in their
functioning, there is great diversity in the aims and
approaches of these organisations. Thev address
issues as varied as rural development, gender
relations and child rights, work in remote regions
and urban slums and engage in direct welfare
delivery as well as advocacy. In terms of size and
resources, . NGOs range from two-person offices
to large networks that employ thousands of staff
members, with a turnover that would shock workers
at the governmental block development office.
The importance of NGOs as development partners
has been recognised by governments as well as
international donor agencies. Altogether, NGOs
today employ the largest number of people across
rural and urban India. For example, while the central
government employs 3.3 million people, the \GO
sector employs 6.1 million people, 2.7 million in paid
positions and 3.4 million as volunteers. Over time,
the NGOs have come to fill in the void created by
the disastrous effects of globalisation and rallied to
provide minimum services to the affected population,
be it in urban slums or neglected rural regions.
That said, one should not turn a blind eye to the
serious limitations inherent in these organisations.
While NGOs have undoubtedly played a positive role
in our transitional society, an examination of their
performance reveals that they have not addressed
the root causes of social problems. Their aim has
been to ensure the smooth functioning of the system
without upsetting the existing balance of power in
society. The rich and powerful remain entrenched
in their positions, with NGOs concentrating on
fighting the symptoms of poverty rather than the
disease  of  structural   exploitation.   For  their  part,
international donors are happier providing the
voluntary organizations palliatives on areas such as
gender, HIV-A1DS prevention and child rights rather
than supporting programmes that will challenge and
overhaul the exploitative structures that lead to so
many of society's ills.
Many NGOs have rushed to deliver services to
weaker segments of the population, ranging from
running balwadi nursery schools to maintaining
hostels for tribal students. What thev do not realise
is that thev are assisting the government authorities
in shirking their responsibilities in the wake of
globalisation. In rushing to fill the breach, the nongovernmental sector actually becomes complicit with
politicians and bureaucracy. As government agencies
now begin to engage in auctioning programmes to
the lowest bidder, ignoring the quality of work,
NGOs meekly succumb to the process and get co-
opted by the very system they set out to challenge.
Indeed, these NGOs arc now appearing ever more
comfortable with a discourse that has been designed
by the national and international elites, which only
mouth concern for the poor and the marginalised.
The mirage ol development
There is a disturbing trend of transplanting successful
development models from one place to everywhere,
without taking into account socio-cultural and area-
specific realities. The aping of a single model of rural
development all over a country as diverse as India
is likely to end in failure. Take the example of Anna
Hazare's watershed development work in Ralcgaon
Siddhi in the Ahmednagar District of Maharashtra
state, widely recognised as a success. This was then
taken as a uniform model of rural development, with
the Maharashtra government allocating funds for
developing one village unit in each district of the
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
 state on the Kalegaon Siddhi model. Predictably, the
scheme was a failure in most areas.
The present trend in development work is to focus
on economic development in rural areas through self-
help groups. While this is a novel method to organise
the weaker sections, NGOs, funding agencies as well
as the government have negated the very purpose
by making the formation of self-help groups their
primary objective. This is part of a larger problem
with other rural development models, which fail to
address the basic causes of poverty in society. The
self-help groups in fact are not empowering at all.
Instead, they entrench the rural folk in a market-
driven consumer society and an economy driven bv
globalisation. Bv emphasising the role of self-help
groups as a one-size-fits-all vehicle for community
empowerment, the NGOs are only creating a mirage
of social development.
Generational change
To understand NGOs, one must analyse the changing
social context in which they function. Many NGOs
were established in the 1970s by idealistic university
'dropouts' much influenced bv socialist principles.
These pioneers of the voluntary movement of India
were motivated by a sense of service and a need to
challenge social inequity. Things began to change
in the late 1980s, when the leadership transferred
Environment & Wildlife Film Festival
Valuvaran 200$ invites
Environment ond Wildlife films from Asian Film makers
from the idealists to the professionals. Today, it
is professionals, including trained social workers
and managers, who run the more 'effective' NGOs
like any other business. While professionalism has
introduced organisational efficiency, what has been
lost is the idealism and commitment to social change
that motivated the first generation.
In recent years, the steady commercialisation ol
the NGO sector has received a further boost as a
whole range of new actors, from young professionals
to retired bureaucrats, set up NGOs in the hope
of getting a slice of the international funding pie.
Needless to sav, being a sector that only reflects the
values of the rest of society, corruption and greed
has crept in among NGOs as well. Not enough is
being done to expose and oust the corrupt who are
involved in development.
There is also a definite middle class bias evident
among NGOs, which can be attributed to the social
and educational background of most who lead these
organisations. Financial security is a priontv with
today's development professional, and innovation
and risk-taking therefore to be found at a premium.
Because these functionaries prefer not to upset
their relationships with politicians and government
officials, there is little possibility of their organisations
challenging the establishment at whatever layer
of society, thus, the NGOs of today are reduced to
meek, submissive organisations that rarely threaten
powerful interests.
While the stated aim of most NGOs is empowerment' ol weaker communities, the very structure of these organisations prevents them from
becoming a vehicle for bringing a share of power to
the poor and marginalised. Is it any surprise, then,
that attempts bv such organisations to engineer a
people's movement inevitably end in failure? A
popular movement has to take into account popular
aspirations, and it has to throw up its own leaders.
A popular movement can never emerge from neatly
designed plans ol NGOs with their specific target
groups. Additionally, unlike popular struggles,
which are based on making demands on the state
and government, NGO-led 'movements' do not like to
antagonise the establishment. They arc organisations
ready-made for co-option bv vested interests.
NGOs in India, bv and large, do not have it
within their vision or power to transform existing
exploitative social structures. In treading the narrow
path of 'development' as defined by the national
establishment and international agencies, they have
turned their backs on the people they profess to
serve. For this reason, the NGOs of today face a real
danger of losing their identity. £
This article is appearing simultaneously in Himal
and in Ekak Matra, the Bangla language journal
published from Calcutta.
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
E par Bangla, O par Bangla,
no thank you
If media is to help Bangladesh and India understand each
other, then media on either side should first begin to
understand Bangladesh and India.
by | Dipankar Sinha
It is self-evident that Bangladesh and
India, which share the longest border in
all of Southasia - 4053 km - ought to get
along, but that is far from the present status
of the bilateral relationship, which is at a
low ebb. That it is important that the media
in its age-old and new-fangled forms try
and restore a balance to this relationship,
too, is self-evident.
Fortunately, notwithstanding its limitations and constraints, the media enjoys
a good deal of credibility in the minds of
the ordinary people on both sides. People
tend to believe what is communicated
bv print media and television. The reach,
power and apparent credibility of media
have all increased with the proliferation
of electronic media, and in particular since
the advent of cable/satellite channels. As a
result, media has evolved as a key actor in
international relations.
Indian media reaches Bangla-desh in two
layers: those of the national English/Hindi
media and the regional Bangla media. In
the 1970s, both played an active and direct
role in publicising East Bengal's war of
independence, thereby creating a unique
instance of foreign media becoming a key
actor in a neighbour's struggle for freedom.
While the government radio and national
press in India might have backed the
struggle out of strategic considerations, the
Bangla broadcast and print media went out
of its way to lend overwhelming support.
Thus, Pranabcsh Sen, an employee of the
Calcutta station of All India Radio, would
openly declare in his popular program
Sainbad Parikrama, that he was part of
hast Bengal's struggle as "a soldier armed
with words." Much of this support could
be ascribed to pan-Bengali feelings that
touched Bangla media persons on the other
side of the border.
[here has been a rapid descent in this
kind of involvement from the heights of
the coverage of f 971. Today, Bangladesh is
a marginal entity as far as the mainstream
media in India is concerned. The dominant
representation of the eastern neighbour is
that of a kind of wasteland marked by utter
poverty and religious fundamentalism, a
den of anti-Indian militants from India's
Northeast and an official sponsor of
'infiltration'. The familiar images are
those of people neck-deep in flood waters,
processions demanding the death of writer
Taslima Nasreen, and the burning of the
Indian tri-colour. While these images of
course are not fictional, it is the choice of the
press and television to highlight them that
carries a certain impression of Bangladesh
to the Indian masses. Interestingly, there
is no difference between the government
channel, Doordarshan, and the private
satellite channels in terms of the stereotypes
thev present of the Bangladeshi character.
When it comes to the Indian Bangla
news media, there is a growing trend
here too of trea-ting Bangladesh as
'wasteland', but this is combined with
inte-nse representation of a pan-Bengali
sentiment, particularly on occasions such
that of Rabindranath Tagore's birthday.
In promoting this pan-Bengali emotion,
the Indian Bangla news media continues
to play on the E par Bangla, O par Bangla
theme ("this side of Bengal, that side of
Bengal"), highlighting the commonalities
within the community that was worst hit
by the great divide of 1947. Ihe reference
is to an 'imagined community' based on
affinity of language and culture rather than
religion. But contrary to the expectations of
some, this attempt at projecting similarity
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
 There is a need
for an accelerated
change in mindset
that will help us
to go beyond the
and frenzied
backfires, because it threatens to dilute
the status of hard-earned Bangladeshi
national identity.
India, as a large power, looms much larger
in the vision of the Bangladeshi media.
For the same reason, India also emerges
victim to Bangladeshi politics, which in
turn generates media bias. Indeed, the
coverage of India bv some sections of the
mainstream press seems to be marked by
an anxiety syndrome that obviously has
its origins in the economic and political
asymmetry of the bilateral relationship.
Compared to its counterparts in india,
including West Bengal, the Bangladeshi
media is much more under the thrall
of the political parties, i.e. the Awami
League, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party
and, increasingly, the Jamat-e-lslami
Party. The main bone ot contention seems
to be the controversial issue of 'Bengali
vs. Bangladeshi' identity, with editorial
writers feeling the need to clamour ever-
louder in favour of the latter rather than
the former. This ultra-nationalist posture
would deny the West Bengali a share
in the pride of the F.kushey movement
of East Bengal for supremacy of Bangla
over Urdu, and similarly it would deny
the Indian Army its active role in the 1971
Bangladeshi war of independence.
lt is against this backdrop of unremitting suspicion that bilateral issues have
to be dis-cussed, such as the cost-benefit
analysis of the supply of Bangla-deshi
natural gas to India. Other items receiving
periodic attention, as news and editorials
as well as on television discussions,
are bilateral trade, the transit facility
sought bv India to access its Northeast,
the adverse impact of the diversion of
Ganga waters by the Farakka Barrage,
and so on. The Chittagong Hill Tracts no
longer make much news, but the issue
that seems to have overtaken all others
at present is the River Linking Project
proposed by the previous Bharatiya
Janata Party government in New Delhi,
and the impact that this would have on
the national economy and environment of
Salaam Walaikum
The negative representation of the other
country in Bangladesh and India is
intensified bv the fact that there is little
cross-pollination of ideas between the two
countries in the form of a flow of books,
magazines, journals and newspapers.
There are some little magazines that
enjoy a limited cross-border readership,
and literary magazines such as Desh or
Ekak Matra have a bi-national, intellectual
clientele, but it falls to the mainstream
media to pick up the challenge of
removing stereotypes. But the fact
remains that the copy and programming
of the mainstream media on either side is
long on stereotypes sprinkled with token
items meant to highlight 'good official
Some change for the better is occurring
with the advent of two prominent Bangla
television channels. FLY Bangla and Tara
Bangla, based in India, have gained easy
access into Bangladeshi households. Tara
Bangla carries regular programming
targeted at Bangladeshi viewers, inclu
ding talk shows, interviews and news.
In a symbolic gesture, its newsreaders
greet the audience with simultaneous
'Namaskar' and 'Salaam Walaikum'.
ATX Kolkata has an agreement with
NTV of Bangladesh, and it beams regular
telecasts to Bangladesh, including tbe
Rater Khabar daily news.
While these trends arc positive, there
is a need for an accelerated change in
mindset that will help us to go beyond
the stereotypical, mythical and frenzied
representations. The political class and
the bureaucracy in both countries must
realise that if bilateral ties are to be
raised to a higher pedestal, there must
be a more nuanced mediation at the
level of society. Indeed, the attempts at
improving interstate relations must be
complemented bv generating mutual
popular awareness in the cultural
sphere. Policv makers on both sides
must understand that India-Bangladesh
relations involve a volume of emotions
that go over and beyond the grammar
of bilateral diplomacy, mainly because of
the existence ot the unique West Bengal-
Bangladesh dimension.
It is thus clear that the media in
Bangladesh and India can no longer
remain, as it does now, appendages
of official-level dialogue and negotiations. It must set out on its own
to understand, explain and benefit
from the coverage of each others'
societies. £.
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
17June 2005
A question of identity
The Pakistani Southasian
by | Sardar Aseff Ahmad Ali
Some months back I was asked to open a
photographic exhibition at the Shakir Ali Museum
in Lahore. In my brief address I referred to the rich
Southasian culture of which Pakistan is a part. A
gentleman from the audience took exception to my
remarks and later wrote to me to the effect that I
had disclaimed the two-nation theory, and that the
Pakistani Islamic culture was distinct from the Indian
Hindu culture. For many months I have pondered the
question. So important is the issue, a public answer
might just be in order.
Let me at the outset declare that no one can
question my Pakistani credentials, nor those of my
family, which included stalwarts of the Pakistan
Movement. On the issue of Pakistan's culture being
purely Islamic, I cannot hazard a definition of what
constitutes 'culture'. The overwhelming view now
is that ethnicity and culture are what nations and
societies use to define themselves. As an individual
I am extremely proud of being a Pakistani and a
'Talk to a Sindhi, Baloch or a Pakhtoon and one
will get an idea of our situation. Unlike the Punjabi,
none is prepared to sacrifice his mother tongue or
his subculture and history. Only the Punjabi middle-
class and intelligentsia are too ashamed to talk to
their children in Punjabi, which is perhaps among
the oldest Southasian languages, rich in poetry
and literature. Only in Punjab is Urdu is seen as a
replacement of Bulleh Shah's Punjabi. The 'ideology
of Pakistan' is too insecure to tolerate a language
other than Urdu. This is not to say Urdu is not ours.
It is and will remain the national language. There is
no threat to Urdu from any regional language. Why is
then Punjabi seen as a threat to Urdu?
My other problem is, how can religion alone
explain our nationhood? If this were so, what of
the 160 million Muslims of India? According to the
two-nation theory, Indian Muslims would really be
overseas Pakistanis stranded in India. Then there is
the issue of Bangladesh. Previously, as a majority
they rejected Urdu as their national language, but did
" How long can the fiction be sustained
that we Pakistanis are not Southasian?"
not ask that Bengali, the language of the majority of
the then Pakistan, be made the official lingua franca.
If Urdu is the only symbol of the two-nation theory
and a symbol of 'Pakistaniat', then by definition the
architects of Pakistan negated the democratic basis of
its genesis, i.e. a minority will dictate to the majority.
Also, how do we explain the culture of Muslim
Bengal in terms of the ideology of Pakistan, if the
latter is to be defined in terms of the Urdu language
and lslam only?
Syncretism: the Taj has Rajput elements
Himal Southasian 1 Jul-Aug 2005
 Drawing the line
The intellectual problem arises in defining culture as
a medium of religion only. In the Muslim world there
are distinct historical and civilisational entities. It is
true that practice of the tenets of Islam has much in
common in all Muslim lands. In the spiritual sense
there is an identity amongst Muslims all over the
world. But in the temporal sense there is no one
unifying identity. Each Muslim society defines its
own paradigms of culture and civilization. Muslim
societies of the Nile, Mesopotamia, the Indus and
Oxus have pre- and post-Islamic civilizations. Their
people are proud of their ancient and their recent
past. Thev see no contradiction in claiming the past
as their own.
We are Muslims of Southasia who evolved a
culture of our own different from the Muslims of
other parts of the world. Most of us were Hindus, but
were converted to Islam by Sufi saints over the last
thousand years. Over 10 centuries, those of us who
came from foreign lands gave much to Southasia. A
huge diffusion took place in languages, literature,
music, food, poetry, architecture, paintings, etc. and
we became Southasians. We should not be in denial
of this reality, which cannot be wished away. Who
can   deny   that   the   style
We are Muslims of
of    Taj    Mahal's    central
Southasia who evolved structure minus minartts
a Culture OiOUr OWn and domes is Rajput? Who
different irom the can deny Ameer Khusro's
Muslims ol other narts contribution   to   music
0( tlie WOrld ^tnv '°n8 can we sustain
the liction that we are not
Southasian? All attempts to Persianise, Arabise or
lslamise Pakistan have been unmitigated disasters
leading to confusion, intolerance, denial of democratic
and human rights, and, finally, terrorism.
There is a Southasian culture in the sense that
there is a European culture. Germans, French,
English, Italian and Spanish are all proud of their
European culture and civilization. This does not take
away from their individual identities, which caused
so much historical discord. Why can't we conceive of
a Southasian culture as a macrocosm and our own as
a microcosm? This is a shared Subcontinent of races,
languages and religions. In diversity and inclusion
lies its identity. Southasia is several times larger
geographically than the continent of Europe, and
many times more complex demographically. There is
vast diversity of language, race, ethnicity, nation and
religion, yet there is a Southasian underpinning to it
all - a commonality that it would be foolish to deny.
It is time we in Pakistan accepted this as a confident
nation, rather than argue that it has served us poorly.
Our pride in our country and Islam cannot be so
fragile that it is in any danger. An acceptance of this
reality will remove the intellectual cobwebs in our
mind, and remove the identitv crises of Pakistan.
Owning the Indus civilisation
We must seek our identity in our land, in our deep
roots which go back to the ancient Indus Vallev
civilization. To this day, our farmers use the same
utensils, implements and bullock carts as those
used in Mehrgarh, Harappa and Moenjodaro. Like
millions of other children, as a child I too plaved
with terracotta toys that hark back to ancient
times. If Egyptian Muslims can be proud of their
pharoanic past, Iraqis of their Mesopotamian and
Babylonian history, and Iranians of the Ears, why
can't we Pakistani Muslims take pride in the Indus
Our history did not start with Mohammad
Bin Qasim. 1 know ot no other state or country
that disclaims its own history and civilization.
The whole ethos that the so-called intellectuals of
Pakistani conservatism have evolved is based on
the foreignness of Pakistan. The ideological history
is based on conquerors and marauders, and not the
gentle people of I larappa, Moenjodaro, Gandhar or
Hindujah. It is true Arian Khushans, Arabs, Turko-
Afghans and Persians migrated to this land, some in
peace and some in war. All were assimilated in this
region. None were ashamed of their new identity.
They all made this land their home. None went
back to Baghdad or Basra, none returned to Balkh
or Bokhara.
Islam spread with the advent of conquerors; not
by the sword but bv the great saints who came and
stayed. Thev preached love and tolerance. They
preached inclusion. Thev condemned no faith, no
religion. Thev saw truth and beauty in every religion.
Through love, through spirituality, they converted
millions of Indians to lslam. That is what Pakistan
is all about; proud of its ancient history, proud of its
diversity, proud of its gallant people and proud of its
religion of the Sufi saints and their sublime poetry.
Let us wind up the identity debate and play our
destined role as a proud Muslim state of Southasia.
History beckons us to be a bridge between Central
Asia and Southasia, between Southasia and the
Middle East, and to be a moderator between Islam
and the other great religions. Let us not circumscribe
ourselves to some arcane and untenable definition
of our statehood that belittles our ancient culture
and civilisation, 1 do not propose to challenge the
wisdom of our founding fathers, but only to re-define
our identity in a historically realistic paradigm free
of romanticism and arcane intellectual ism based on
faulty assumptions. |,
Jui-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 ... a 12 year old boy in
mymensingh couldn't afford a
So he made them...
he believed... he tried...
j  j,       M7
The future is the vision of one
and reality for millions
There are some who live to get settled, some to get rich, some to get lucky.
And then there are the likes of those who once believed we would fly.
They are those who said that we would one day find our way to the moon.
They taught us conviction and they taught us freedom.
They taught us to believe. Do you hgve whgt jt
takes to be a leader?
BRAC, a small-scale relief operation that
started in 1971, is today the largest non-profit
organisation in the South, taking health,
education and microfinance programmes to
64 districts and over 68,000 villages of
Bangladesh and 20 provinces of Afghanistan.
BRAC has recently started its operations
in Sri Lanka.
Public Affairs & Communications, BR.AC ( Photo: © Syed Latif Hossain |  Design: Aura Communications
to peace
by | Dolly Kikon
In an interview broadcast on the BBC on 29 April
2005, Thuingaleng Muivah, general secretary ofthe
National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah),
made a departure when he proposed a special federal
relationship between India and the Nagas, under
which a separate constitution would be guaranteed
to the latter. He ruled out the possibility of a quick,
rough-and-ready settlement of the Naga issue within
the framework of the Indian Constitution. Muivah
emphasised that provisions of the Indian constitution
did not guarantee anything because laws could be
amended later without the consent of the Nagas.
Scholars studying the lndo-Naga conflict tend to
conclude that the recognition of Naga sovereignty is
an impossible demand for the Indian government to
concede to. Yet, an armed conflict that has spanned
over half a century has been centrally concerned with
the Naga nationalist demand for sovereignty. The
first lndo-Naga ceasefire agreement of 1964 focused
mainly on the cessation of hostilities. Beyond that,
there was no attempt to address vital issues of rights,
justice, sovereignty and demilitarisation.
The 1964 agreement culminated in the infamous
1975 Shillong Accord, a humilating pact signed
between Governor of Nagaland L P Singh and a
six-member team of the Naga National Council. The
Naga representatives, politically outmanouveured,
unconditionally accepted the terms of military
disengagement and agreed to a solution within the
ambit of the Indian Constitution. After 1975, however,
not only were the internal political power equations
re-structured through bloody battles within the Naga
armed opposition, but the lndo-Naga armed conflict
itself escalated.
After a prolonged period of militarisation in
Nagaland   and   the   Indian  Northeast  as  a   whole,
the ceasefire of 1997 between NSCN (1-M) and the
Government of India led to hopes for peace among a
new generation. Since then, the two parties have been
engaged in a peace process. Although the peace has
been fragile, it has held and has also forced Indian
authorities into a dialogue with the Naga leadership.
The political astuteness of the Nagas, as reflected
in Muviah's recent interview, will test the limits of
India's willingness to engage in the peace process.
The Indian government cannot expect a Shillong
.Accord-style resolution this time around.
Muviah's comments, implying the need for a
special relationship with Ihe Indian state, might
draw criticism from certain quarters. Article 371 (a)
of the Indian Constitution already acknowledges
and provides special status to social, religious and
economic resources - including land - m the state ot
Nagaland. 1 fowever, clause (b) of the provision allows
the governor to use the 'law and order problem' to
override the principles of custodianship to give the
military greater sav in civic matters. Hence, Muivah's
own apprehensions and mistrust must be analysed
with some seriousness. The Indian state's approach
to addressing ethnic and sub-national demands has
often evolved in the wake of bloody battles between
security forces and the concerned communities. The
suppression by the state has separated communities
along ethnic, religious and territorial lines, sealed
them off from each other, and forced them to create
independent means to protect themselves.
A significant aspect in the post-1997 ceasefire
period has been the utter lack of urgency shown by
the Indian government in engaging with the political
process. In contrast, the Naga leadership has initiated
a process of interaction with the Naga people through
consultative meetings in Naga-inhabited areas.
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 Muivah on BBC
Thuingaleng Muivah was interviewed on
BBC World's HARDtalk India by Karan
Thapar on 29 April. Excerpts:
| On    the    dialogue    between    NSCN
(I-M) and the Indian government:
^ * We can come as close as possible but it's
not possible for the Nagas to come within the Indian Union
or within the framework of the Indian Constitution. Why?
Because it amounts to dismissing the whole history of the
Nagas and the Nagas cannot do that.
On sovereignty:
Sovereignty of the Naga people belongs to the Naga
people and to the Naga people alone. Nagas have a right
to decide their future, to determine their fate also. So long
as that is there, adjustments can be made. . . So long
as the national identity of the Nagas is recognised and
honoured (adjustment) is possible.
On the issue of defence under a federation:
When we talk about defence we have to say that
Nagaland must be defended jointly in the event of external
threat. Why? Because if Nagaland would be in danger,
naturally the security of India would also be threatened.
And we appreciate that.
Control over external affairs:
So far as our external affairs is concerned, primarily
Government of India should have them. But whenever
the interest of the Nagas is affected, Nagas should also be
On the Indian Constitution:
When we talk or when we say within the frame of the
constitution, it is always dangerous because any provision
in the constitution could be easily amended whenever
expediency arises. So this is the danger. So we cannot
(accept it). ... The agreement which is going to be arrived
at should be incorporated in the Indian constitution (and)
equally it should be incorporated in the Naga constitution.
On a possible federation:
When we say a special federal relationship, it has to be
on the terms of the agreement that can be arrived at...
It should be a federation of India and Nagalim (Greater
Nagaland). Within the Indian Constitution is not possible.
About what made the present round of negotiations
(For) the first time in history, the Government of India has
recognised the uniqueness of Naga history. So it is a good
chance for every one of us to seek a solution.
One of the biggest challenges to the lndo-Naga
peace process is the demand for the integration of
Naga-inhabited areas, which are spread out across
other states of the Northeast. Indeed, the Naga
people inhabit parts of a^ssam, Arunachal Pradesh
and Manipur besides the present-day Nagaland.
Naga nationalists have reiterated that until the
government of India agrees to this demand, there
can be no solution. Meanwhile, the integration issue
has met with opposition from the respective states
in the region, and the resistance to re-mapping the
existing territories is clear.
This is not lo say, however, that the matter
of integration of Naga inhabited areas has been
outrightly rejected. It is tbe absence of a vibrant
civic space that has furthered misconceptions
about this demand. The militarisation of the public
sphere in the Northeast has destroyed all existing
democratic platforms where people of different
backgrounds and persuasions could come together
for consultations. There has been an absence of
people-to-people dialogue, which could help
build awareness of the aspirations of different
communities, be thev Dimasas, Nagas, Boros or
Meities. The attitude of the Indian state and the
militarisation of society has made it difficult for
tiie communities to even come together to discuss
coexistence. Without such initiatives, it is true that
anv attempt to re-map territories will only damage
shared symbols of unity and history and invite a
violent phase in the history of the region.
As repeatedly mentioned in Naga public
discourse, the sole aspiration of Naga people is
not a mad frenzy to break up the cxisiting states
but to seek just solutions to existing relations with
neighbouring communities and the Indian state.
Muivah's interview to the BBC highlighted the
willingness of the Naga leadership to engage India
in finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict,
particular!v because, he said, lhe "uniqueness of
Naga history has been recognised". Indeed, there
has been a sea change since the days when prime
ministers of India would publicly berate Naga
nationalists and vow to exterminate them. The
flexibility of the Naga leadership is reflected in
its efforts to nudge reluctant Indian policymakers
to think of shared sovereignity on several issues.
Such a step has been one of the positive results
of ongoing consultations between civil society
organisations of the Northeast and the Naga
leadership and needs to be taken very seriously by
opinion makers in the larger Subcontinent. It is on
this concrete peg that hopes for a resolution to the
lndo-Naga conflict can be hung. jt
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
I?   -^ dPid*.,^
rivL ■•*,■*-? - *7iH
Caged Regionalism
The disappointment of
In order to take advantage of the global trade
regime, countries of Southasia must first
develop trade between each other.
by | Posh Raj Pandey
It v. as in 1958, with the signing of the Treatv ot Rome.
that the Europeans embarked on regionalism, albeit
in the relatively narrow economic sense of trade
liberalisation. Thev knew that regionalism would
drive international relations in the future, and could
loresee the economic benefits that would pour from
efficient and productive use of available resources, an
expanded market, specialization, rapid technology
transfer, use of comparative advantages, and the spur
of competition. In a region engulfed by mistrust and
division, the pioneers of European regionalism could
see ahead the peace dividend, ushered bv political
stability. That political stability, in turn, would be
assured through increased intra-regional trade and
economic exchange.
For the countries ol Southasia, economic regionalism means much more than what it meant for those
European pioneers. Beyond the obvious importance
of trade within the Subcontinent, the additional
incentive for us is that it can be a potent tool to bolster
negotiating strength vis-a-vis developed countries.
Globally, economic regionalism has become a
centrepiece in the commercial policy landscape,
particularly after the advent of the World Trade
Organization {WTO) and the multilateral trade
regime it supports. The debate over whether regional
blocs are 'stumbling blocks' or 'building blocks'
for multilateral liberalization has already ended in
favour of the latter argument. Today, WTO rules
provide a passage for the formation of regional blocs
and Southasia would be wise to take full advantage
of the facility.
There are about 235 regional trade blocks at
present, and between them, they make up nearly half
of global trade. A further 70 such groups are at the
negotiation/proposal stage. An overarching view
ol regional economic combines, scattered across
continents and among countries at different levels
ol development, reveals a confusing 'spaghetti bowl'
scenario of crisscrossing ^\^c\ overlapping trade
relationships. 1 lie majority of the arrangements
wade in shallow waters, focusing only on trade
liberalization. Very few have deep integration programmes targeting harmonisation of economic
policv lor a common market.
Theoretical I v, formation of a regional trade bloc
is the second-best option to unilateral or multilateral
trade liberalisation. However, such blocs are the only
option amidst the existing complex environment,
marked bv countries with vested interests and
discriminatory external environments. Economists
are supported bv empirical evidence when they
argue that regional economic groups have a positive
impact on the memher state's living standards,
with inconsequential effects on the living standards
within non-members.
Economic association within the various parts
of the Subcontinent was, of course, a part of the
historical evolution of the region. But the formal
process of regional cooperation in tire modern era,
among this basket of developing and least developed
countries, was initiated only in the late 1980s, with
the establishment of South Asian Association for
Regional Cooperation (SAAKC). Thereafter, the
conviction among regional policy-makers on the
role of intensified intra-regional trade for overall
development is seen in tlie signing of framework
agreements for the establishment of South Asian
Free Trade Area (SAFTA) in January 2004 and the
Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTJ-C) Free Trade
Area six months later. The two agreements assert
that open, transparent and competitive markets
among the parties will be the kev drivers of economic
efficiency, innovation, wealth-creation and consumer
welfare tor a region that houses more than a fifth of
all humanity.
Divided loyalties
But rhetoric apart, the effort to concretise the vision
of a Southasian fraternity through mutual trade
expansion has been fraught with divided loyalties
and fractured commitments. In fact, B1MSTF.C, in
terms of geographical composition, is SAAKC' minus
Pakistan and Maldives, and plus Myanmar and
Thailand. What this means is that, rather than looking
inwards, most of Southasia is looking at East Asia as
a prospective trading partner. The success of B1MSTEC
Free Trade Area will naturally translate into a slowing
down of SAF I A.
Another significant trend has emerged with India,
the centrifugal powerhouse of regional trade and
commerce, moving towards bilateral agreements
with member countries of SAKTA and B1MSTFC, or
with non-members beyond Southasia and East Asia.
This has been followed bv some of the other regional
countries as well, putting the very concept of a
Southasian economic bloc in a quandary.
Perhaps it is the weakness in the implementation
of free trade agreements thus far that has encouraged
some of these countries, including India, to run
astray. Where, after all, do we stand in the wake of
eight meetings of the SAFTA Committee of Experts
and five meetings of the BIMSTtC Trade Negotiation
Committee? Detailed negotiations on trade
liberalisation, rules of origin, and a dispute settlement
mechanism have been under way in both groups,
and in SAFTA, the added dimension of a revenue
compensation mechanism is also being discussed.
But agreement has been lacking on all of these issues,
despite the objective - as in the case of SAFTA - of
starting implementation bv 1 January 2006.
The   list   of   sensitive   products   within   SAFTA
- products exempted from liberalization - had been
initially brought within 20 percent of tariff lines.
The draft provisions on 'rules of origin' - a system
for determining whether goods are eligible for
preferential   treatment   in    the   importing   countrv
- end up making the system unworkablv stringent.
The revenue compensation mechanism has been
put on the back burner. To top it all off, the dispute
settlement mechanism that is being worked on is
virtually toothless.
Much of the developments on the SAFTA and
B1MSTEC fronts have been counter-productive. There
have been sceptics from the start who have argued
that regional economic cooperation can be successful
only among natural partners that already have high
intra-regional trade al the outset. Therefore, say the
sceptics, regional trade blocs among SAFTA and
BI.VtSTFC countries are doomed to failure because
existing trade within them is less than five percent
of their total.
Taking this criticism in a positive spirit, while
philosophically standing in favour of the concept
of regional blocs as a wav to countenance the new
global regime for the sake of the larger population, it
is obvious that the negotiation between the countries
of Southasia should move towards expansion of
trade. No stone should be left unturned in seeking to
devise ways to lead towards such an expansion. The
negotiators' instinct should be guided by the need to
enhance exports between Pakistan and India, Nepal
and Bangladesh, Bangladesh and India, Sri Lanka
and Pakistan, and so on. At the same time, infra-
industry complementarities between the countries
must be buttressed, not fjiere haye been
dismantled bv protectionist ..     ,    _..»._
-     „        r sceptics Srom the
interest groups.  However,
one   can   sense   that   such  Sfarl^hOhave
vested    interest   groups 3rq[i3d that regional
have  already  predisposed eCOIIOtlliC COOperStifltl
the on-going negotiations. can be SUCCBSSfUl
One  can  expect  anything
but    trade   expansion    bv OMtf amUM natural
putting 20 percent tariff partners thai alreatlv
lines on the lists of sensitive  aftgyg ftjgtl Elttra-
products, as agreed  to by  reg|0na| Uade
both the SAFTA Committee
of Experts and the B1MSFFC trade Negotiation
Committee, when 90 percent of the region's trade is
concentrated within 10 percent of the tariff lines.
lt is not onlv the tariff barriers that obstruct free
flow of goods within Southasia. Non-tariff barriers,
including sanitary and technical standards as well
as various administrative procedures, are even more
significant obstacles that require immediate action. If
we are serious about expanding intra-regional trade,
it is important to address both tariff and non-tariff
barriers simultaneously. Meanwhile, countries at
a higher level of development will need to show
magnanimity towards the less well-off members.
Thev should be willing to be liberal on rules of origin
and to address transitional losses in the adjustment
process. A prosperous neighbor is always an asset,
and India, as the regional economic powerhouse,
should be the first to recognize this basic truth.
There is much to do in opening trade within
Southasia, but too little is being done, and too
slowly. Trade liberalization is like a resplendent bird
that everyone views with awe, but it is in a cage.
Trade thrives on the absence of rules or the ability to
circumvent them. This is true in the rest of the world,
and it is true in the Subcontinent. What we need
are less rules and more commitment to a liberal
regime. i%
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
take care
The career of the
only non-Indian
star in Bombay is
on a nosedive; she
needs to pull out
of it fast.
by | Nandini Ramnath
Manisha Koirala recently split with her
boyfriend. This piece of 'news' lingered
for rather long in broadsheets, tabloids
and fanzines and on websites and blogs
dedicated to purveying details of the lives
of the bold and the beautiful. Koirala's fresh-
off-the-boat ex is Cecil Anthony, a London-
based businessman whose association with
the actress briefly made him a notable
blip on Bombay's ever-promiscuous party
radar. "The Nepali diva, Manisha Koirala,
has another split. This time it is with her
boyfriend of three ye.ars, Cecil Anthony.
Apparently, the two had been living in
different far-off cities and the relationship
could not further endure this long distance
test," explained the New Delhi edition of
the venerable Indian broadsheet Hindustan
Times. The paper also supplied information
on the star's earlier liaisons, including actor
Rahul Roy, business tycoon Ness Wadia
(presently linked to Preity Zinta), and Nana
Patekar. It failed to list in addition former
model Ranjeev Mulchandani, a DJ named
Husain (who spells his name 'Whosane')
and Crispin Conroy, a former Australian
ambassador to Nepal.
In the absence of any significant career
enhancement, it is Manisha's off-screen life
that has nurtured the Bollywood
gossip    grapevine   for    some
years   now.   The   actress's
personal  turbulence   and
her alleged drinking and
drug-fuelled      binges
are better chronicled
than her progress in
cinema. This has Jed
to  much  heartburn
among diehard fans,
and much resignation
among   disapproving
critics.    "She   had    a
great  break,   and   she
only has herself to blame
for the way her career
shaped up," says Komal
Nahata, publisher of Film
Information, a respected Bollywood trade guide. "You
can't mix your personal and
professional life."
Perhaps it is that Manisha
the party animal is preferable
to    Manisha    the    political
animal.    Just    before    she
parted ways with Anthony
of London, Koirala had
 caused a few eyebrows to rise when she issued a
statement (over e-mail) supporting the royal coup
of i February and the state of emergency imposed
in Nepal by King Gyanendra. "Our beloved and
respected king had to take the step to stop anarchy,"
Koirala said. The statement was in tune with the
support voiced by her father Prakash Koirala, son
of the revered Nepali democrat, the late B P Koirala,
for the king. While her grand-uncle, former Prime
Minister and B P's brother Girija Prasad Koirala
has been battling King Gyanendra in Kathmandu,
Manisha described the monarch as "an epitome of
selflessness" who was preventing "the country from
falling into disgrace."
So there she is, Ms Koirala, in a most unenviable
position: at odds with the movement to restore
democracy in Jier mother country, and out of the
reckoning in her adopted home, Bombay.
Letter H
Koirala's most recently released film, a comedy
called Mumbai Express, tanked at the box office.
Her last notable role was back in 2002, in the film
Company directed by noted filmmaker Ram Gopal
Varma. There, she played Saroja, the nicotine-
hooked moll of a character loosely based on the
real-life underworld don Dawood Ibrahim. Manisha
has a few upcoming releases listed, but none of them
reads, or sounds, like comeback material. She also
recently turned producer and bankrolled two films,
Paisa Vasool and Market, bolh of which fared poorly.
Manisha is also said to have plans to turn director.
Her attempts at reinvention are being attributed to
sisterly concerns: her brother Siddharth Koirala has
been attempting to launch his own career as an actor,
and so far hasn't got past the turnstile.
Fans are stunned at how quickly Koirala's acting
career has managed to pack up. The future has never
looked this dim for the 35-year-old ever since she
emerged from the smog of New Delhi to star in
Subhash Ghai's Saiulagar in 1991. Back then, Ghai
was one of Bollywood's top hit-producing directors.
Though his finger has slipped off the audience's
pulse lately (his last three films, laal, Yaadein and
Kisim, all flopped), back in the early 1990s he was
unerring, Ghai was a star-maker who produced
heroines in more than one sense and, just to please
the gods, he ensured that all his conquests had
names that began with the letter M - Meenakshi
Sheshadri and Mahima (formerly Kitu Choudhary).
Manisha Koirala had more going for her than just the
first letter of her name: she was an unspoilt flower
from the verdant hillside and she had a delicate,
virginal beauty, underlined bv one memorable
photo-shoot in the Stardust film magazine in which
she is clad in white and looking to the horizon with
a lamb in her arms. She held her own in Saudagar,
a film built around loud verbal exchanges between
two of Bollywood's senior citizens, Dilip Kumar and
Raj Kumar. The signing spree began.
Foreign passport
Before and after Koirala's debut, Bollv-wood has
seen a steady stream of non-Indian actors who wash
up on Bombay's shores in search of fame and glory.
One of the earliest such 'foreigners' was Helen,
whose dance numbers in more than 200 Hindi
films in the 1960s and 70s reduced audiences bv
the million into piles ot nerves. Helen, born I lelen
Richardson, was a British-Burmese hybrid whose
family trekked to India like countless others fleeing
World War II. In the 1950s and 60S, it seemed that
one couldn't watch a film without a dance number
featuring Helen, though her continued appearance
in dare-bare costumes, skin-coloured tights, boas
and blonde wigs ensured that she stayed on the
fringes of acceptability. The more you saw Helen,
the more vou desired her, and the more you pushed
her into the harem.
Mala Sinha, a star of the 1960s, can be considered
Manisha's closest acting ancestor. Sinha is described
thus bv journalist Dinesh Rajeha on  the website "Born a Nepali Christian, the young Mala
was a chinky-eyed girl with curly hair and average
height." None of these physical
characteristics prevented Sinha   atlfiWSasan
from becoming a star and, truth   UilSPOlll UOVi&t
be told, she was an Indian citizen   jrorn [jjg yefd3!1l
of NepaH ancestry. The arrival of   ^^
Pakistanis in Bollywood picked
up   after   the   1980s   -   Mohsin    !?ad 3 tJellCatB,
Khan    (Saathi),    Saima    Agha   Viryiiia! tjeaUtlf
(Niknah)    and    Zeba    Bhaktiar
(Henna). The latest entrant is Meera, who plays the
lead role in Vlahesh Bhatts' Nazar. But no non-Tndian
has made it to Bollywood stardom, except Manisha.
Though Manisha's Nepali passport was, and still
is, an interesting factoid to mine for profile writers, it
did not raise eyebrows or hackles as her career took
off. 1 fer mix of political pedigree and porcelain skin
made her especially desirable, even exotic, but never
so alien that she couldn't have a fair chance at being
a leading actress. She did come with more privilege,
and baggage, than the others. I ler family name gave
her an aura reserved for royalty, and her schooling
in Banaras and New Delhi made her more desi than
Manisha easily segued into the craze lor fair-
skinned actresses that has never waned in the Hindi
film industry, and after Saudagar, she was directed
by the topmost directors - V'idhu Vinod Chopra in
1942: A Love Story, Sanjav Leela Bhansali in Kliamoshi.
Her best work has been reserved for Mani Ratnam,
the Madras-based filmmaker who cast her in Bombay
and again in DU Se. Before long, though, Manisha's
performance was also swinging from these uplifting
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
 films to downright embarrassing ones, like Sangdil
Sanam and Grahan. Her portrayal in Dil Se of the
suicide bomber Meghna is Manisha's finest and
most understated. It .showed her ability to carry off a
schematically scripted role.
Conservative Bollywood
As the acclaim swelled through the 1990s, so did the
gossip. Koirala's boho chic lifestyle had never gone
down too well in an industry that prided itself in
wearing multiple masks even off the sets. It is only
now, as late as 2005, that a top actress like Kareena
. Kapoor can have a boyfriend
KOirala S Singular (    Shahid    Kapoor)
mistake Was tS and flaunt the fact. For an
industry that has constantly
negotiated     and     pushed
the   boundaries   of   desire
in   its  cinematic   products,
Bollywood is a notoriously
conservative   place:   affairs
are discussed with as much
moral judgement as avidity; actresses who dare to
turn 30 are immediately downgraded to playing the
mothers of their erstwhile co-stars; stars with 'vices'
like alcohol and drugs are gradually dropped from
the marquee. There is an iron-cast divide between
skate on the thin ice
of acceptability and
ne unapologetic
about her many-
hued personal life
who you are and who you project yourself to be, and
Koirala's singular mistake was to skate on the thin ice
of acceptability and be unapologetic about her many-
hued personal life. Bollywood would be unforgiving.
There is also the issue of ballooning weight, which
Koirala has battled throughout her career and which
is attri-buted at least in part to her out-of-control
lifestyle. All in all, Koirala began to be seen as
unstable: ergo, a box office risk.
It is easy to attribute Manisha's fall from grace
to the vicious industry gossip, easy to paint her as
a victim of malicious stereotyping. But really, on
balance, Manisha is a victim of her own unwillingness
to remain on the A-list of Bollywood actresses. She is
a beautiful woman with a haunting screen presence,
has been compared to Meena Kumari no less, but has
become limited as an actress because she failed to
challenge herself. Her memorable roles have been few
and far between, and .she has had to waste too much
time trying to wash the mud from her image.
Somewhere along her journey from Kathmandu
to Bombay, Manisha lost the roadmap. She has
always lived life the way she says she wanted to, but
in the end, it is the affairs that seem to add up, not the
performances. She has fame, notoriety, hopefully a
healthy bank balance, and still retains a fan following.
Manisha needs now to get back to acting. ^
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The Hindustan Times
2005 / 348 pages / Rs 650.00 (cloth)
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Ethnic Nationalism and
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A provocative, passionate and
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Dtpash Chakrabarty
A significant study that informs its of the
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Stephen Castles
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2004 / 296 pages / Rs 560.80 (cloth)
China, India and Pakistan
Arpit Rajasn has produced an excellent
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Indian society is often described as one
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Focusing on different facets of this
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edited by KAMA.LA GANESH
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Jul-Aug 2005 I Himal Southasian
by | A G Noorani
Witnessing history
The kernel of Kashmir
A roundtable meeting was jointly organised hy Panos South
Asia and Himal Southasian on the subject of sustaining the
peace dialogue between India and Pakistan. Specifically, the
agenda was to look beyond 'confidence-building measures'
and to focus on the eight-point composite dialogue between
the. two governments. 'File keynote address at the retreat,
held in Bcntota, Sri Lanka was presented by legal luminary
and columnist A G Noorani. We reproduce below an edited
transcript of his address, extemporaneously delivered.
While Noorani ranged far and wide on the many subjects
that make up the composite dialogue, what is presented
here are his views on the all-important matter of Kashmir.
The Bentota meeting was the third in a series of India
- Pakistan retreats, the first two being on the role of the
press in escalating bilateral tensions or ushering peace,
and the second on nuclear proliferation in Southasia.
A forthcoming meet is planned to discuss the subject of
Kashmir itself.
This term, the 'composite dia-logue', is a rather
misleading summation of what has been at the
kernel of India-Pakistan relations since their birth.
Immediately after partition, it became quite apparent
that the basis of the Indo-Pak conflict could be neatly
classed into Kashmir or 'K' and other 'non-K' issues.
Kashmir on the one hand, and the cithers, which
included evacuee propertv, division of cash balances,
refugee movement and the division of the Punjab
rivers. The passage of time dealt with some of the
problems, but Kashmir remained standing in all its
F.ven though the problem began when the three
states of Kashmir, Junagadh and Hyderabad did
not accede to one side or the other, everyone knew
the issue would come to a head on Kashmir. It was
unfortunate that they did not devise ground rules so
that the problem of all three states would be settled in
Any resolution of the Kashmir
issue has to be one that can be
simultaneously proclaimed from
the ramparts of the Red Fort in New
Delhi, Lai Chowk in Srinagar and
Mochi Gate in Lahore.
one go. On 1 November 1947, less than a week after
the ruler of Kashmir had aeceeded to India following
a raid b\ the tribals, India did offer Pakistan a
formula- if the ruler belonged to one religion and
people to another, the matter should be settled by
plebiscite. This was rejected by Jinnah. It is, however,
historically correct to say in the light of available
documents, that even without that raid by tribals,
the ruler would have acceded to India. And Sheikh
Abdullah was privy to this.
Jawaharlal Nehru unilaterally declared in April
1956 at the Ram Lila Ground in Delhi - "We are
prepared to have a partition along the ceasefire line."
In fact, the first thing he suggested to the UN Kashmir
Commission, upon meeting them, was, "Are you
prepared to consider alternatives?" This was because
while Nehru was talking of a plebiscite, his heart was
not in it. Ihis was somewhere in June/July 1948. At
any rate, in 1954-55, Pandit Gov ind Ballabh ['ant said
no to plebiscite in a speech. Panditji said then let us
have a partition of Kashmir along the ceasefire line.
Privately he had offered this to Liaquat Ali Khan in
London in 1948, to Ghulam Mohammed at Delhi in
1955, to Mohammed Ah Bogra at Bandung in the
same year, and so on. But the offer was consistently
rejected by Pakistan.
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
 To my mind the suggestion was a non-starter, and
in any case, progress on Kashmir came to a dead halt.
Nehru then went a step further. After having ruled
out plebiscite, he also said the Kashmir issue was
a bilateral matter. The term 'bilateral' - it is India's
word, with Nehru saying that it is a matter to be
solved directly between us. And just then Pakistan
evolved this formula - either we talk about KashmiT
or we do not talk at all. This was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's
contribution. He had an international outlook, and
he borrowed a leaf from Sukarno's book when the
latter had challenged Malaysia on Sabah by saying,
"Unless you resolve Sabah, we will not talk to vou."
This was the line Pakistan took. There were direct
negotiations under Anglo-American prodding and
they presented some formulae. One, which was
proposed in April 1963, envisaged partition, but
with India ceding something like 3500 square miles
to Pakistan, including the northwestern portion of
Kashmir Valley. The Valley was to be split up two to
one, one-third would go including VVullar Lake and
Handwara. Pakistan said nothing doing, with Bhutto
reminding India's then Foreign Secretary, "You are a
defeated country, you were defeated bv China. All
we will give you is Kathua."
1 need to mention some of these historical details
because I find it silly the way we go on talking about
trifurcation, which is a Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh formula and also a formula of some Jamaat-
e-lslami extremists in Kashmir. When the RSS talks
of trifurcation, I notice a very self-serving approach
on the part of some. You may split Kashmir from
Jammu, but Jammu will not be split. Here Farooq
Abdullah was right. I le said, of course you may split
up Jammu and Kashmir, but then all you (India)
would get out of the six provinces of Jammu would
be two-and-a-half. You will get Jammu, you will
get Kathua and you will get two-and-half tehsils of
Udhampur because the tehsil of Gul Gulabgarh has a
Muslim majority. This is what trifurcation, so dear to
the RSS, really means.
Will of the Kashmiri
i must tell you that in the 1964 and 1965 debates, not
one country talked about UN resolutions. In fact the
Swedish diplomat Gunnar Jarring, in his last report in
1958, said that time had overtaken the UN resolutions.
In my opinion, some parts have been overtaken and
some parts have not. The mechanism for the return of
refugees and other similar issues are obsolete. But the
fundamental principles about the will of the Kashmiri
people, in my opinion, no lapse of time can overtake.
Whether the will of the people has to be registered
by a plebiscite, referendum or elections is another
The 1965 war was, of course, primarily to get
Kashmir. Even if the goal had been only to get
India to talk, it had the opposite effect. Jai Prakash
.Narayan, foremost among the liberal lobby in
India, had made his view very clear, that if the
Kashmiri people are against us, why are we
holding on? The war forced him to change tack. Fie
said to the Pakistanis, "Supposing you had won
the war, would you have held the plebiscite? You
chose your forum, the battlefield. You lost, and
now we cannot go back to the old understanding."
But those who said that the matter Liecame frozen
there missed one important point, as everybody
does...what about the people of Kashmir7 What
about their wishes7 Nobody talks about that.
There was a very good opportunity for dialogue
in 1966, which is when the issue of the composite
dialogue came up. MC Chagla gave a draft to
Pakistan's foreign minister and Pakistan said no,
Kashmir will be the foremost issue. The summit
in Tashkent between Ayub Khan and Lai Bahadur
Shastri did not resolve anything, Tashkent left it
to the parties. By now, the issue was fro/en. The
matter was deemed bilateral and it remained
frozen till 1989. There is absolutely no doubt that
the armed insurgency in 1989 was fostered bv
Pakistan because we have a statement by Jammu
Kashmir Liberation Front leader Amanullah Khan
that, "After 18 months preparation we decided to
attack." And here India goofed badly.
Let me put matters in a historical perspective.
The Janata Party and Zia-ul 1 laq got along like
a house on fire. When Mrs Gandhi came back to
power in January 1980, true to form, she started
talking about war clouds and Zia panicked. Fie
offered her a no-war pact which she rejected, by
putting in various conditions that amounted to a
rejection. I asked one of the foreign policy makers
why we were rejecting it and suggested that it
would give the wrong message to the Movement
for Restoration of Democracy within Pakistan
and also to the Soviet Union. He said the Soviet
Union had not cared a tuppence for India when it
decided to make friends with Pakistan. Zia then
began befriending the Sikhs. That was a low cost,
low investment operation and the rewards were
very promising.
Just then, Mrs Gandhi decided lor her own
personal reasons to sack Farooq Abdullah, and he
emerged a hero. Let me tell you one thing. To say
that Sheikh Abdullah was the only popular leader
of the Valley is utter nonsense. There were others
also. 1 remember when I was one of his defence
counsels and first went to see him in prison. I
met a lawyer who was also a prisoner, Ghulam
Mohiucieen Shah. He said, "Come in Noorani
Saheb. Once upon a time, I was his prisoner. Now
T am his co-prisoner. He has changed. I have not."
So even when Sheikh Saheb was all-powerful,
there were a large number of people opposed to
accession to India. The historical truth is contained
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 in the letter by Mrs Gandhi to Jawaharlal Nehru
from Srinagar in May 1948, in which she said
except Sheikh Saheb, everybody says we will
lose the plebiscite. So this was the position, and
Sheikh Saheb was brutal. There was a law called
the Enemy Agents Ordinance. People were not put
in prison. He would grab them and throw them
across the ceasefire line.
Militancy was never absent from Kashmir.
Never. It was always there. There was a big
crackdown after the 1965 war. Mirwaiz Moulvi
Farooq was arrested and tortured. But Pakistanis,
in my opinion, are as imperialistic as Indians
in their outlook on Kashmir. They had never
bothered to find out whether the Valley would
rise up in revolt. They said Sheikh Abdullah was
behind bars, so things would go on. People did not
like to revolt but the internal militancy came to the
fore. However, basically the issue has an Indo-Pak
format. It is on the agenda of the Security Council
as an Indo-Pak question. So this composite thing
was inherent in the Kashmir, non-Kashmir discord.
No talks were held and the matter remained frozen
until the Bangladesh war.
The Shimla Freeze
The Shimla agreement has a strange background to
it. After all, the 1971 war was over Bangladesh and
not Kashmir. How did Kashmir come in? Suddenly
India decided that for durable peace, we must have
a settlement of Kashmir. This used to be Zulfiqar
Ali Bhutto's stand, and here was India raising it at a
time when it had won on the battlefield. At Shimla,
the agreement was in two parts. One dealt with the
direct consequences of the war. And the other was
on the major issues.
There was a commitment in Shimla for a summit
conference, while in the interim the repre-sentarives
of the two countries would meet to discuss the
modalities for the establishment of durable peace
including the repatriation of prisoners of war and
civilian internees, a final settlement of Jammu
and Kashmir, and the resumption of diplomatic
relations. The issue of diplomatic relations was
odd. Obviously there was some tacit agreement,
otherwise why would you link up Kashmir with
diplomatic relations?
Much later, in 1979, during the time of the
Janata Party government Atal Behari Vajpayee
had challenged Mrs. Gandhi on Shimla, "You had
agreed to another partition in Shimla." Mrs Gandhi
denied it, and the Ministry of External aAffairs also
said, "We have no such record." But I stand by an
article I wrote in April 1979 stating that there had,
in fact, been an agreement for partition. P N Dhar
has now come up with the disclosure that there was
an agreement that the ceasefire line would have the
characteristics of an international border.
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Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
 Dhar is a good friend and i
told him, "PN, if somebody were
to tell you and me that we have
the characteristics of men, I am
sure you will slap him in the
face, won't you?" To say that A
has the characteristics of B is to
imply that A is not B - just shares
the characteristics. This was the
barrister - the Berkeley graduate
- in Bhutto. He knew what words
meant. So some of my Pakistani
friends said Bhutto fooled you.
Indeed Bhutto may have fooled
us, but iMrs. Gandhi would have
become a great stateswoman if
she had gone to Islamabad and
told Pakistan she would return
the Pakistani prisoners of war,
mollified Sheikh Mujib on that
count by saying she would get
him recognition, and told Bhutto
that the private agreement of
Shimla must now be converted
to an agreed minute which would
be kept confidential. According to
James Durr, the New York Times
correspondent, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto
had said "Give me some time."
By 1975, the whole agreement
had collapsed. Bhutto raised
Kashmir at Beijing, and the Indian
charge d'affaires walked out. The
understanding that he had agreed
to it in a talk with K S Bajpai is, I
think, moonshine. I do not accept
this version. He had immediately
retracted. I must mention to
you diplomatic relations were
resumed in 1976. Can you believe
it? And by that time, Bhutto had
internationalised Kashmir. He
used to talk about Kashmir all the
time. 1 think one Pakistani version
is that Bhutto rudely said - tell
her (Mrs. Gandhi) that there was
no such understanding. Anyway,
the whole thing fell through
because it was all contingent on
another summit. So you cannot
bind Pakistan there, and in any
case the people of Kashmir were
not a party.
Sheikh Abdullah was opposed
to Shimla. 1 le said you two are
nobody to discuss Kashmir in my
absence. The Kashmir government
was  not consulted.  In between,
from July to December, Bhutto
pleaded with Mrs Gandhi to have
a second summit. She refused. She
was advised bv P N Dhar to settle
with Sheikh Abdullah first. And
she was eager not to put Mujibur
Rahman on the wrong footing.
Mrs Gandhi was criticized by
the Jan Sangh for not being hard
enough but never criticized for
not being conciliatory enough in
the national interest. The result
was that the Sheikh Abdullah
negotiations fructified only in
February 1975.
Immediately after the Shimla
accord, militancy erupted and the
People's League was formed in
jail soon after in 1978. So there has
always been an anti-Pak-Incfian
movement in Kashmir, Sheikh
Abdullah or no Sheikh Abdullah.
Maintaining momentum
To return to Zia-ul Haq, he said
that if my little investments
in Punjab could yield such
dividends, wliy not Kashmir?
Here we did some very foolish
things. Ravindra Mhatre was
abducted and killed and we sent
Maqbool Bhatt, who was in Tihar
Jail, to the gallows. A time came
when his writings were banned in
Pakistan. India pressed the British
to deport Amanullah Khan and
where else could he have been
deported? Not to Iceland but to
Pakistan. There he was in the UK
under the watchful eyes of Ml 5
and Scotland Yard, and he landed
up in the lap of Zia, who picked
him up like a baby.
Amanullah Khan is on
record saying, "After 18 months
preparation we struck on 31st
July 1988." That was the bomb at
the Central Telegraph Office in
Srinagar. Even Pakistan was taken
aback by the fury of the unfolding
events, because they had thought
things would take some time to
foment. Kashmir flared up and
the Rubaiva Sayeed kidnapping
gave another boost to it. This is
when Pakistan got fired up. In
February 1990, Benazir Bhutto and
her colleagues in the Inter Services
Intelligence decided to float the
Hizbul Mujahideen. Nobody had
heard of this body until even a
couple of vears earlier. Because
they dreaded the JKLF and with
Amanullah Khan being a most
quarrelsome man, they decided
on the Hizbul Mujahideen.
An internecine war broke
out between the two. Pakistan
did not want independence for
Kashmir. Amanullah Khan used
to tell them, "Look if vou have a
pro-secessionist body it becomes
a territorial dispute. If vou have
a liberation body it is liberation
movement like the PLO." Nothing
doing. If a Muslim majority area
could  be independent,  why  not
Baluchistan,   why   not   Sindh7
Anyway, that was the logic. At
this time, after the whole issue
had erupted for the first time in
mid-1992, Mian Nawaz Sharif
wrote a letter to P V Narasimha
Rao, invoking Paragraph Six of
the Shimla agreement on Kashmir.
Under Para Six, both governments
agreed that they would meet at a
mutually convenient time so that
there would be a commitment for
a summit conference. And now
Sahibzada Yaqub is on record
saying in the Pakistan .Assembly, I
think, that to date neither side has
invoked the Shimla Agreement.
Here let me tell you an aside.
Under the Indian Constitution,
Kashmir remains a live dispute
because there is a provision,
Article 245, which says that
to enforce an international
agreement. Parliament can make
a law and override even matters
of state autonomy. But as applied
to Kashmir there is a proviso,
providing that no final agreement
on Kashmir shall be made without
the consent of the government of
[ammu and Kashmir. The reason
is very simple. In 1949, they were
committed to UN resolutions and
the Constitution of India was
drafted in 1949. Politics moved
ahead and the Constitution has
remained the same. And there
are any number of assurances
on record at that time that this
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 will not foreclose a plebiscite.
Anyway, political reality is one
thing and the law is another. By
the time this issue crystallized
way back in 1992, Narasimha
Rao took the stand tliat we will
talk about Kashmir only if cross-
border terrorism stops because
the Shimla Agreement is one
composite whole. Pakistan felt
that it is the only lever they
have. If inspite of insurgency at
this level, you do not talk about
Kashmir, when the insurgency
collapses what leverage would
you have?
It is no use saying when tlie
masses come out in Kashmir, that
this hartal is a forced thing. It may
be somewhere. But you cannot
force thousands to tlirong funeral
processions for slain militants.
You cannot force women to go to
the windows to weep. And here,
there is a complete barrier not
only between India and Pakistan
on this discourse, but between
Kashmir and the rest of India.
The correspondents do not report
some of the facts and neither do
the correspondents in Pakistan.
You have to read the Kashmiri
press in English and here I must
pay a tribute to my friend's paper
The Ka.shmir Times. He reports
very candidly and he, like me, is
opposed to Kashmir's secession I
may mention.
The Pakistanis, I must tell you,
have a fear complex even in the
best of their diplomats: "Bhai kya
hoga agar aap solve karenge...."
(What will happen if you resolve
these things?). If even without a
Kashmir solution, we get along
fine, then they have this fear that
we will feel no need to resolve
The composite dialogue will
go on, but there is one major
element this time that was never
there before in our history. Such a
remarkable groundswell of public
opinion in favour of India-Pakistan
deTente was never there earlier.
A veiy good friend reminded me
before I came to this meeting in
Bentota, "Noorani, you forget
one thing. This groundswell will
eventually influence governments,
so keep up this momentum."
The worst mistake Pakistan
could make is to say since there is
no momentum, let us not talk. No,
I suggest Pakistan should persist
and I will tell those people who
believe in progress on the Indian
side that they should persuade the
government to carry on talking.
We must keep up the momentum.
What we need to do is to eliminate
the two extremes - plebiscite and
making permanent, the Line of
Control. I have this formula which
I call the Red Fort, Lai Chowk and
Mochi Gate formula. A settlement
must be one which the Prime
Minister of India can sell to the
people from Red Fort so that he
can persuade Parliament, the
leader of Pakistan from Mochi
Gate in Lahore and the Chief
Minister of Kashmir from Lai
Chowk in Srinagar. ^
A'Smmj experience not to I
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Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
 Superhuman porters
t has always been
believed that the porters
of Nepal are the strongest
load-carriers on Earth. With
a strap that goes across
their foreheads to carry the
weight, they lean forwards
to balance their wickerwork
baskets piled high with
goods. They grunt and
heave their way up and
down the Himalayan trails
for days on end. It had
seemed superhuman, it
apparently is.
capacity    of
recorded   by
one    scientific
the Nepali
has been
more than
team    on
the Everest trail up to the
Sherpa   market   town   of
Namche Bazaar. The teams
have  studied  the   rugged
men and women of Nepal's
midhills who routinely carry
loads that  greatly  exceed
their   own   body   weight
to   altitudes   that   would
give any seasoned trekker
pause.   In   a   new   study
published in the academic
journal Science, physiologist
Norman     Heglund     and
his colleagues from the Universite Catholique de
Louvain in Belgium set out to determine exactly how
the porters are able to carry so much.
Setting up a field research station near Namche
Bajaar (height 3500 metres), the team examined over
100 male and female porters, chosen at random. The
scientists determined the body weight and the weight
of the loads carried by the selected porters, whose
ages ranged from 11 to 68. Special masks were also
used to monitor the oxygen intake of working porters
as they climbed to reach the weekly Saturday bazaar
at Namche.
On a single day before the Saturday market, the
study counted more than 642 porters hauling an
estimated 30 tons of freight up the steep climb from
the Dudh Kosi valley. Most of these porters had
traveled ten or more days by foot from the roadhead
town of Jiri - logging more than 8000 metres of
climbing and 6300 metres of descent. The average
Hard Livelihood: Second Conference on
Himalayan Portering is planned to be held
in Spring 2006. The first Hard Livelihood
conference was held on 3-4 August 1995.
Contact: Deepak Thapa, Himal Association,
Lalitpur, Nep^.
male porter on this route
carried a load that amounted
to 96 percent of his body
weight, and female porters
carried roughly 66 percent.
The largest load observed was
a whopping 183 percent of the
carrier's body weight.
(An earlier study by
scholar Nancy J. Malville
published in Tlie American
journal of Human Biology in
2001 studied male porters
on the same trade route,
but closer to Jiri. This study
found the average load to be
approximately 150 percent
of the carrier's body weight.
One explanation for the
discrepancy with the Science
report may be that the porters
sell goods to households and
stores en route to Namche,
thus shedding weight as they
Portering populations
across tlie world use their
heads to support their
burdens, but none carry loads
as heavy as those carried by
the Nepalis. The source of the
incredible strength of these
porters is still unclear, but the
Science article speculates that it
may be tied to their short stature combined with their
painstakingly slow walking pace and frequent rests.
The researchers noted that the porters were extremely
efficient workers - the average tourist trekker expends
the same amount of energy to carry 15 percent of her
body weight as a porter carrying 100 percent.
The sheer strength of these men and women and the
astounding weight of their burdens is also a testament
to the harsh realities faced by Nepal's poorest citizens.
As the economy of the country continues to plummet,
fuelled by the growing political instability and the
near-collapse of the tourism industry, one wonders
where the porters will turn next. Once the demand
for their goods decreases, they will find themselves
with even fewer options for survival. These men and
women have already pushed the limits of human
strength and endurance, and now they are being
burdened even more. ^
- Ben Ayers
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 Hefty deity
Shri Hanuman, who
should have been
riding the airway from
die Himalaya to the Sri
Lankan coast on a search
and rescue mission, today
stands perplexed at a busy
north-Delhi intersection.
Sita's distress is forgotten
as the 175 foot brick-and-
cement figure straddles
the Pusa Road roundabout
next to Karol Bagh, unused §1
even after all these years to 31
the traffic.
It is actually a statue, this humongous figure, a
gigantic equivalent to the 'monkey god' images that
sprouted all over north India along with the rising tide
of political Hindutva in the early 1990s. Work began
on the Karol Bagh Hanuman in 1991, but immediately
the structure was encased in bamboo scaffolding as a
design flaw was discovered which could have sent
him crashing to the ground in undeserved ignominy.
And so there he has stood all these
years, the scaffolding taken off only
when the termite-weakened bamboo
has had to be replaced.
Recently, some more scaffolding
was added. Suraj Kumar, trustee of
the temple that lies at the statue's
base, says stronger buttresses were
required so that the arms of Shri
Hanuman, weighing 400 kilos each,
could be attached to the body. All
these years, he had been without the
upper limbs.
At its base, the structure straddles
1 the cavernous mo-uth of a demon
I that you enter by walking on what
seems to be the tongue. Inside are
a variety of deities, including Shiva,
Kali and Krishna. A Sai Baba was
also found. There are two stories to
the temple and the legs of the deity start their journey
upwards from the second floor.
While Shri Hanuman remains ensnared by
scaffolding, a Delhi Metro line has come up
right under his chin. The line is to become operational
in a few months, and there is no saying what the
train's rumbling reverberations will do to the
hefty deity. If we were he, we would be praying to
Lord Ram. jk
T A Then archaelogists excavated the 5000 year-
V V bid ruins of Moenjodaro, they came upon
at curious clay object with holes poked into it. It
turned out to be a musical instrument, played with
fingers placed on the apertures.
The instrument is still in use today in the
province of Sindh, where Moendjodaro lies, and it
is called the borrindo. But there is only one person
remaining who plays it, a man wrho goes by the
name of Zulfikar (see pic). A team of five Pakistani
folk music connossieurs went out into tlie rural
heartland of Sindh recently to come away with a
16-part radio series that is being broadcast on the
BBC Urdu Service. They also recorded Zulfikar
playing the borrindo.
Says journalist and filmmaker Farjad Nabi,
who was also part of the BBC team, "Sindh is as
diverse in its folk music as in its terrain, from the
Thar desert to the mighty Indus and onward to
mountainous Kohistan. The folk music of Sindh
stands as a fink between modern times and
ancient traditions. And the borrindo takes us'right
back to the beginning of civilisation."
Besides recording folk musicians all over
Sindh, Nabi and the team also visited the shrines
of Lai Shahbaz and Shah Latif Bhitai, which have
musical traditions of their own. The great poet of
Sindh, Shah Latif, not only wrote poetry and put
it to song, but even invented a string instrument
called the tamboora, which is not found outside
of Sindh.
The BBC series is titled 'Aaj ka Beejal', after a
legendary musician referred to in the folk stories
of Sindh. Readers can join the musical trek through
the province by following the link on the Net:
http^// akb__$ami_ms/
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
Khamosh Pani
The re-writer
Indians, and some
Pakistanis, rave about a
piece of pure fiction, willing
to believe it as fact.
by | Ajmal Kamal
Pakistan-born director Sabiha Sumar's debut
feature Khamosh Pani has all the ingredients
that can make a film click in post 9/11 Southasia,
especially as our two traditional enemy countries are
being forced to give peace a try. The youthful director
had all the reasons to believe that her film would be
received with enthusiasm. Hers is a charming effort
to combine all current preoccupations into a neat
whole, including the ever-increasing interest in
the Partition of 1947, the phenomenon of militant
religious fundamentalism, the continuing misogyny
within the subcontinent's communities and the so-
called war against terror. If the reviews in various
publications, especially from India, are anything to
go by, Sumar has not been disappointed. However,
in her effort to connect these diverse and rather
complex social and historical realities with one
another, she seems to have preferred to rely more on
her imagination than on the facts of recent history.
Khamosh Pani is the story of a Sikh woman from
a village now in Pakistani Punjab, who survives the
bloodbath of 1947 riots, when women fell victim not
only to men on the other side of the religious divide,
but also to their own kin. Her family wants its
womenfolk to kill themselves by jumping into a well
rather than be violated, but our main character flees.
She later finds herself in the custody of a Muslim,
whom she marries, after converting to Islam and
taking the name Ayesha. The film begins in the late
1970s when Ayesha has grown into a middle-aged
woman, a widow who makes ends meet by teaching
the Qur'an to village girls. It is during this time that
her teenage son Saleem slides into the clasp of the
destructive jehadi militancy engendered by Gen Ziaul Haq's Islamisation campaign.
This is the time when Sikh pilgrims from India
have begun regular visits to the sacred gurdwaras
in Pakistan. One of the pilgrim groups includes
Ayesha's brother, who looks for and eventually
finds his sister. The discovery of this Sikh connection
enrages the Muslim villagers, including Saleem. The
pressure mounts and in the end Ayesha jumps into a
well and, so to speak, finishes the unfinished business
of Partition. In the film's rather inexplicable finale,
the supposed war on fundamentalism of Paltistan's
current military ruler is hinted at favourably.
Riot in the script
The casualty in Khamosh Pani is history. Sumar is
insensitive to social and historical nuances and her
rewriting of Pakistan's recent past is so crude that
only those desperate to be pleased by this politically
correct product wTill be able to ignore its gross
inaccuracies. To begin with, the director portrays
Pakistan under the military rule of Gen Zia as
constituting a sharp departure from the way it was in
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's time, both in terms of religious
bigotry and its anti-India stance. The film's logic
necessitates this construction, for how else would
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 one link the fundamentalism of that era with Partition?
However, anybody with the slightest understanding
of Pakistani politics of the 1960s and 70s would know-
that Bhutto's appeal to the Punjab electorate - after
the 1965 war and the Soviet-sponsored Ayub-Shastri
negotiations at Tashkent - was based on strong anti-
India rhetoric. Without that appeal to nationalist
feelings, there would have been no question of his
coming to power in the post-Bangladesh Pakistani
The same logic of the script forces Sumar to concoct
a Sikh-Muslim riot in the rural Punjab of late 1970s.
The idea of such a riot is rather hard to swallow. First,
Pakistan's anti-India politics has hardlv ever been
anti-Sikh as such, the strongest vitriolic being reserved
for the 'Hindu Bania'. Second, the riot is portrayed as
being the handiwork of fundamentalists encouraged
by the Islamist policies of Gen Zia. But one recalls that
the military government in those days, and later, was
especially friendly towards the Sikhs. Their Khalistan
movement had touched a sympathetic chord on the
Pakistani side of the border.
The biggest problem lies in the violent reaction
of the villagers, including her son, to the discovery
of Ayesha's Sikh antecedents. This goes against the
traditional male reaction in situations of conflict in
this part of the world- A woman from the enemy
community, captured and converted - and assimilated
to such a degree that her sole occupation is to teach the
Qur'an -would usually be a matter of pride rather than
shame for the bigoted, tribal! male ego. But the riot is
indispensable to the script if the aim is to force the poor
woman to jump into the well and thereby provide the
required connection between 1979 and 1947.
All this material could still have produced
the intended effect, with much less crudeness
in the finished product, in the hands of a more
sophisticated rewriter of history than Sabiha Sumar
and her scriptwriter. What one finds surprising is the
nonchalance with which this fare has been dished out
and the eagerness with which it is being lapped up.
Material to despise
But perhaps it is not so surprising after all. As journalist
M J Akbar has written, "It is currently unfashionable
to be aware of history, particularly the history of your
own country." Considering her past experience in the
art of forcing facts to suit the imagination (not to speak
of more down-to-earth requirements), Sumar is well
suited for the job of directing Khamosh Pani. One of her
early exploits in the field of documentary filmmaking,
Wliere the Peacocks Dance claimed to document the
Sindhi nationalist movement in Pakistan. When it was
screened in Karachi back in the 1980s, the film created
some furore for having played fast and loose with the
topic and the interviewees. (The reference to Peacocks
is surprisingly missing from Sumar's filmography on
the internet).
The Indian reviewers' reactions to Khamosh
Pani, their showering of undeserved praise for its
handling of history, Cain perhaps also be explained.
Thev are after all no less susceptible to the urge of
oversimplifying history than the film's scriptwriter.
This tendency has its origins in the facile assumption
that, given the common past of the two countries
and the undesirabilitv of Partition, it should not
take much effort to understand the happenings in
post-1947 Pakistan. This is an assumption the Indian
reviewers are hardly likely to entertain while trying
to make sense of any other society.
The simple fact is that those who wish to
understand Pakistani society in any depth must
approach the subject writh a great deal more-
seriousness and care than is currently evident. The
recent efforts at developing a spirit of friendliness
between the two countries, admirable and necessary,
will be for naught if thinking people don't adopt a
more critical attitude on issues of history.
When Khamosh Pani was scheduled to be screened
at the third Kara Film Festival in December 20(D
in Karachi, the event coincided with a convention
of the Pak-India Forum for Peace and Democracy,
which had brought more than 2(10 Indians to the city.
Among them were two relatively young filmmakers,
one from Calcutta and the other from Jharkhand.
They were eager to attend the screening of Sunw's
production, which had received great attention in
film circles in India. 1 told them not to worry - that
as Indian guests in Pakistan they would definitely
find a place in the hall. After two days of listening to
talk of India-Pakistan camaraderie in the conference
hall of the Beach Luxury Hotel where the Pak-India
Forum was meeting, and of eating hot, oily food three
times a day, the filmmakers were literally stewing in
the friendship juices and willing to praise anything
Pakistani, including, of course, material that the more
cynical among us Karachi wallahs have learned the
hard way to despise.
Anyway, I found myself watching Sumar's
film flanked on cither side bv the gentleman from
jharkhand and the gentleman from Calcutta. They
were making it a point to exclaim and make known
their pleasant surprise at anything they found heroic
- in the dialogue or action - in a hopeless place like
Pakistan ruled bv its army and dominated by the
mullahs, lhe twosome's wholly uncritical reaction
was a foretaste of what was to develop in the coming
year into the aforementioned avalanche of raving
reviews in Indian newspapers and websites.
To be fair to the Indians, not a few Pakistani
viewers attending the Karachi event and the rare
screening of Khamosh Pani reacted more or less
similarly. Given our general attitude towards the
facts of our remote and recent past, in both countries,
this kind of film can be expected to define standard
history before long. £
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
The Nobel laureate rails against failed
revolutionaries in India and then, perhaps in
the interest of fairness, strikes a few blows at
England's working class.
V S Naipaul
Magic Seeds
Picador, 2004
by | Amitava Kumar
A review written nearly 20 years ago
- the book was V S Naipaul's The
Enigma of Arrival and the reviewer Salman
Rushdie - ended with the observation that
the word 'love' could be found nowhere
in the text and that this was "very, very
I am happy to report that that word
occurs at least once in Naipaul's latest
novel, Magic Seeds. It comes towards the
end of the book. The protagonist, Willie
Chandran, is listening to his friend Roger,
a lawyer in London, as he describes his
feelings for his mistress. Roger say.s,
"Having got to know Marian, I wished
to know no other woman in that special
way, and I wonder whether that cannot
be described as a kind of love; the sexual
preference for one person above all
There is little love in this novel, but I
didn't miss it, and not only because there
is such distance that divides Naipaul's
characters from each other. The truth
is that a greater distance divides Willie
from jhimself - and Naipaul is exact, if not
also exacting, in his mapping of the arid
landscape of loneliness and dislocation.
Willie Chandran's early life - his
unhappy boyhood in southern India, his
travel to England for his education and
then his later stay in Africa - had been
the subject of Naipaul's previous novel,
Half a Life. The current work takes up the
narrative with Willie in his early forties.
The story is told in two parts: the first
half is set almost entirely in India and is
presented as an account of Willie's travels
- and travails - with a murderous Maoist
group; the shorter second section follows
Willie's return to London, where he had
spent his youth as an insecure, indigent
Razor's Edge
For most readers in Southasia, the first
half of the book will be of greatest
interest, not least for its critique of the
region's middle-class leftists, who for
reasons of vanity and worse, attempt
to foment revolution. Willie's, and
Naipaul's, sympathy is for the poor, not
for their protectors. (One of the leftist
ideologues that Willie meets soon after
Ms return to Tndia points to his servant
girl and says, "She is fifteen or sixteen. No
one knows. She doesn't know. Her village
is fuli of people like her, very small, very
thin. Cricket people, matchstick people.
Their minds have gone after the centuries
of malnourishment. Do you think you can
make a revolution with her?") Scenes like
this provide a prelude to the elaboration
of the enduring Naipaulian theme of
failure, and it must be said that the return
to customary bleakness provides one of
the lesser joys of reading Magic Seeds.
Half a Life had begun with the line:
"Willie Chandran asked his father one
day, 'Why is my middle name Somerset?
The boys at school have just found out,
and they are mocking me.'" The story
of the name turned out to be rich with
ironies. In a rebellious act that was also
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 an act of cowardice, Willie's upper-caste
father had become a mendicant. This was
in a princely kingdom in the India of the
19.^0s. But in that role, he was visited
by the writer Somerset Maugham and
became the source for the latter's book
The Razor's Edge. Willie had been named
after the author. When once his father
asked Willie what he thought of that,
Willie had replied, "1 despise you."
In Naipaul's work, the names of
books and authors, and the record of
their use, repeat the story of newness,
distortion, and often, loss. This is another
of the smaller pleasures of reading
him, although 1 suspect it would make
Naipaul more popular among literary-
minded readers, readers who like being
charmed by the names of Victorian and
Edwardian titles.
There is a larger story that Naipaul
is telling even in the story of names.
This is the saga of miscegenation
- of what happens when literatures
and cultures and people travel and
mix with one another. It is another of
Naipaul's unhappy obsessions and it
finds expression in Magic Seeds in various
pessimistic and repeatedly alarming
forms. Otic could argue that the first
half of the book is a narrative about the
consequences of transplanting Marx
and Lenin and Mao onto the Indian
countryside. It is also proper to Naipaul's
vision that Willie joins the wrong guerrilla
group by mistake. The book's second
half deals with the mixing of classes
in England and how this process gets
played out in bedrooms of convenience.
Roger's painful experience with his
working-class mistress is intended as an
example of this thesis. But Roger's tirades
are not limited to women - thev include
immigrants, Arabs, the common people.
The tone throughout, but especially
in the latter part, is polemical and
recalls some of Naipaul's own racialist
statements in interviews. (We again meet
Marcus, a West African diplomat, who
"lived for inter-racial sex, and wanted to
have a white grandchild." He succeeds.
"1 lis half-English son has given him two
grandchildren, one absolutely white,
one not so white." The novel closes
with the marriage of the parents of the
grandchildren. "It's the modern fashion.
Marriage after the children come.") I'm
tempted to sav that the text is in equal
parts misanthropic and misogynist,
but that would be wrong, because the
brutality is sharpened bv what can only
be described as honesty, not to mention
tenderness, vulnerability, and even
I found the book a pleasure to read.
Bv now, one knows what to expect in
Naipaul. His themes, sometimes even his
motifs, repeat themselves. Depending on
one's taste, this can be either satisfying or
exhausting. I read him with the greatest
attention because there is no one else
who can turn, with such vividness
and unsentimental intelligence, mere
journalistic observation into novelistic
A thing of beauty
Some years ago, I had heard that Naipaul
had been interviewing members of the
People's War Group in Andhra. The
writer had told the BBC: "I met some of
the middle class people who'd gone out to
join the revolution and ( wasn't impressed
bv them at all. I thought thev were vain, 1
thought they were not a quarter as bright
as they thought they were." This book
is a report on the shallowness Naipaul
encountered, but it begs the question:
What if Willie had not "fallen among the
wrong people" and had joined the right
revolution, the one tor which he had left
Berlin and returned to India? Would
Naipaul's portrayal have been more
sympathetic?" I am inclined to think not.
And yet, before I end, I must note
that although the term 'love' is a rarity
in Magic Seeds, one word that is often to
be found is 'beauty'. Naipaul uses it to
describe the turquoise flame of the furnace
of a sugar factory where Willie performs
hard labour; the scene in a weaver's
colony; fields of mustard and peppers;
poor villages; the black-trunked trees in
the small garden that Willie sees when
he returns to London; bound volumes of
old magazines; the names of the streets in
the great city, names like Park Lane and
Crosvenor Lane; even the ceramic hobs
on the cooker in the-kitchen.
The list, unremarkable in itself,
gives rise to another thought. 1 wonder
whether this cannot be described as a
kind of love: observation and passion
finding expression in elegant language
which thoughtfully gives order to
ordinary life. i
Although the term
love is a rarity
in Magic Seeds
one word that is
nfien totietountl
is heauidV
Himal Southasian | 3ul-Aug 2005
Women and work
employment and empowerment
Review article by | Firdous Azim
Monica Ali,
Brick Lane,
London, 2003.
The two works under review include a
piece of fiction and a factual research
report on the choices women make in the
labour market in Bangladesh. The books
are bound together by more than the
acknowledgement that Monica Mi makes
to Naila Kabeer's work, from which she
says she "drew inspiration."
Ali's Brick Lane has been one of those
books about Southasia written in English
and in the West that is much feted in its
place of origin, but dismissed by native
Southasian readers as sensationalised and
pandering to Western notions and ideas.
Both responses are over-determined.
Perhaps the novel did not merit, on
purely literary considerations, the kind of
ovation it received in the overseas media,
even being nominated for a Booker Prize.
It seemed that Ali was being judged more
on the merits of being from Bangladesh, a
country that has stayed out of the sphere
of Southasian writing in English. Also, her
books represents a part of the discovery
of multicultural London, which had
been celebrated a few years previously
by Zadie Smith in White Teeth. Written
post 9-11, Brick Lane contained, for
Western readers, valuable insights into
both exapanding Islamisation and more
conventional Islamic practices and
Leaving aside these considerations,
what is valuable in Ali's book is the
fascinated gaze that the author - middle-
class and British, notwithstanding her
Bangladeshi roots - casts on her sisters
living in the East End of London. The
biographical    elements    in    the    book
are subsumed under the story of two
Bangladeshi sisters, whom fate has
pushed onto very divergent paths. Each
is made to choose a life of her own, and
the choice centers around work, marriage
and sexuality, as well as the ability to free
oneself from a predetermined destiny.
The real thing
Nazneen and Hasina are two sisters
from Dhaka. Both end up working in
the garments industry, Hasina in Dhaka
and Narayanganj sweatshops and
Nazneen doing piece-work in London.
Neither sister is consciously looking for
employment or 'empowerment', but the
progression of life ensures that work and
self-dependence is all that they can rely
on. Neither sister had thought of joining
the labour market, but both end up there.
The matter of work - its availability, its
nature and its place in a woman's life - is
brought to the fore by the author in this
work of fiction.
Hasina is the headstrong sister back in
Bangladesh, running away from home to
marry her boyfriend, who subsequently
deserts her. She is buffeted along by life's
challenges, and starts work in a garments
factory before sliding into sex work and
thereafter turning to domestic service.
Marriage and men loom constantly in
the background of her story, but her male
'saviours' turn out to be undependable to
the last one, and Hasina is left to carry on
as best as she can.
Nazneen - the heroine of this novel
- starts out as the.'good' sister, obedient
to  her  parents  and   marrying   Chanu
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 Mia, who happens to live in London.
A believer in fate, she unquestioningly
takes whatever life's cards deal out to
her. It is her unemployed husband who
buys her a sewing machine on borrowed
money and brings her a lot of zippers to
be stitched on to dresses.
In London, Nazneen's piece-work
gives her a new sense of power as it
opens up to her another world. Through
Karim, a young middleman who links
her to a garment manufacturer, Nazeen
begins to gain an idea of global political
events - of starving children in Iraq, of
the situation in Bosnia - and of the new
connotations that terms like 'jihad' and
'taqwa' had acquired in twentv-first
century Britain. She becomes acquainted
with local Muslim politics, where a
search for identity leads British-born
Bangladeshis who have never visited
Bangladesh to look for their roots in
global Islam.
Karim and Nazneen become lovers,
and at one point Karim confesses he
finds Na/neen attractive because she is
the 'real thing'. The 'real thing' means
that she is an 'unspoilt' village lass
from Bangladesh, a land he has never
seen but with which he nurtures an
intimate connection. While Nazneen
opens up this pristine 'real' world to
Karim, he brings her in close touch
with contemporary global struggles
along with the local responses that
are mounted in the immigrant-held
streets and neighbourhoods of Western
metropolises. When Nazneen watches
with her husband the events of 9/11
on television, she understands the
connections that the event has with the
lives that she and the people around her
are living. That is quite a departure.
Nazneen's 'awakening' is effected
not only through work and sexual
association, but also through a bond she
develops with her friend Razia. lhe two
women share similar lives - husbands
who have been thrust upon them, a
London habitat, work and children. Jn
the end, Nazneen decides to stay back
in London even as her husband decides
to return home to Bangladesh. It is Razia
who gives her the space and the ability
to make that choice. Nazneen emerges
as the decisive character in Ali's novel
- the person who grows and comes
into  her own.  The  men  in the  story,
including the husband and the lover,
remain people with indeterminate ideas
and vague words. They are not people of
Sense of worth
From Monica Ali's fiction, which at times
rises to the heights of what imaginative
work should be and at other times
disappoints through its somewhat
lazy weaving together of events and
characters, let us turn to the work cited
as its inspiration - Naila Kabeer's The
Power to Choose. Kabeer's title itself hints
at the subject of the analysis: women's
ability to choose their roles in the labour
market. This book was researched and
written out of a sense of urgency, to
explain two very different responses
to the selfsame phenomenon. Kabeer
recalls her own sense of wonder at
seeing the Dhaka streets transformed by
the presence of women garment workers
walking to and from work. But then
there was the hue regarding bad working
conditions and child labour, publicity
which actually threatened the newly-
emerging garments manufacturing
sector in Bangladesh. What has resulted
from Kabeer's concern is a remarkable
record of Bangladeshi women's access
to the labour market and the increase in
choices they have from the success of the
garment industry.
Beyond the broader economic and
social considerations, the value of this
report is enhanced bv the first-person
testimonies of women actually discussing
their place in the labour market, the
choices they have made, and the options
that may have been available. How does
one quantify or classify such testimonies;
how does one categorise these life stories
according to social science or economics?
The question of empowerment - the
power to choose - comes into operation
with the decision to work, regardless
of how that decision is made or who
makes it.
Once a woman earns money, her
position in the household changes
noticeably and she also immediately
gains more self-respect. Young women
proudly ask their parents not to provide
dowry, as they are now 'dowries'
themselves! Cider married women keep
a little bit of their savings aside, to spend
in ways that thev choose. The dignity
Monica flit's
fiction at times
rises to the
heights of what
imaginative work
should tie and
at other times
through its
somewhat lazy
weaving together
of events and
lb- r\
>. ^     a
■»A»«*    »*»•'*    >^.,
Naila Kabeer,
The Power
To Choose:
Women Workers
and Labour Market
Decisions, The
Press Limited,
Dhaka, 2001.
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
 When women put
hen to paper, it is
often assumed
that the secrets
of a woman's life
will be bared and
a conlessional
element will
that work provides depends on several
factors, including class, perception of
choices, and so on. There has been a
sea change in social values, with the
enhanced public visibility of women
in public spaces and the acceptance of
the very idea of women working long
hours outside their homes. All this has
had an immense impact on how women
are viewed in the country as a whole,
and it helps that they now contribute
to the largest foreign-exchange earning
industry in the country. Tobbving for
women's welfare in other sectors of the
market has also become easier.
Naila Kabeer emphasises women's
decision-making powders, for many
believe that the garment worker ladies
are merely 'dupes' of the marketplace,
with little choice in entering the labour
force and having little control over their
earnings. The testimonies of the women
presented by Kabeer tell an entirely
different story - one of increasing
empowerment, a growing sense of worth,
and greater control by women over their
lives and livelihood. These women
compare their working conditions - low
pay, long working hours, and so on - not
with ideal situations but with the options
they see available to them. Thev are able
to compare different garment factories
and they know where the pay is regular
and where the working conditions and
facilities are better. The women in the
testimonies do not agree that you lose
respectability by working in a factory,
and they reiterate that respectability
and even 'purdah' is something intrinsic
to the individual woman and that
generalisations made about 'garment
girls' are unfair.
Her research took Kabeer to study
London's garment industry as well.
There, she discovered migrant women
working from their homes, often under
the direct control of their husbands and
brothers, who mav serve as channels to
the factory. The women in London did
not exercise the kind of choice that the
women in Bangladesh reported, and
neither did they occupy a central position
in labour market discourse. In fact,
Kabeer shows that home-based work
is often overlooked in the trade union
discourse of the United Kingdom. The
story of Bangladeshi women in London
is   the   story   of   dependent   migrants,
starting with dependency on the males
who processed their migration papers
and ending in reliance on their husbands,
brothers or fathers. Meanwhile, the
family fears of external influence on the
woman, bv which she would lose her
Bengali cultural identity, thereby putting
at risk the cultural and religious identity
of the community as a whole. It is within
these constraints that immigrant Bengali
women in London set out to work and to
negotiate their place within the confines
of their families.
Women on women
The two books under review - one a piece
of fiction and the other a work of socioeconomic research - bring to the fore the
issue of women writing about women.
When women put pen to paper, it is often
assumed that the secrets ot a woman's
life will be bared and a confessional
autobiographical element will emerge.
When that does happen, the authors are
accused of being self-indulgent and vain.
On the other hand, when women write
about 'other' women, eschewing the
autobiographical, they are damned for
being patronising or even voyeuristic,
and castigated for not delving enough
into their subjects. Ihis was definitely the
response that Monica Ali received from
her fellow Bangladeshis in London, and
perhaps explains the relative silence that
has greeted her back in Bangladesh. But
the 'flight of imagination' that marks her
novel must be welcomed, for it amounts
to an act of solidarity, an expression of
respect for women whose lives are like
those of the protagonists in Brick Lane.
The shortcomings of the book are those
of style and story-telling, not of sincerity
or sisterly empathy.
Naila Kabeer's is an effort to bring
women centre-stage into the discourse,
in a way such that their life stories and
participation inform the analysis. The
Power To Choose is a brave and pioneering
effort to enliven academic discourse, to
remind writers, researchers and policymakers that real lives are involved in our
deliberations and analyses, and that the
voices of the subjects must find a place at
the table. Both works are celebrations of
the lives of Bangladeshi working women.
They also stand testimony to Bangladeshi
women as writers, be it in fiction or social
science research. ^
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
Citizens and denizens
India needs a Northeast policy. The Northeast needs a Northeast policy.
by | Samir Kumar Das
In this collection of essays
written over the last ten years,
Sanjib Baruah offers one of the
few closely argued critiques
of what is popularly known
as 'India's Northeast policy'.
His first book, India Against
Itself: Assam and the Politics of
Nationality (1999) had raised
expectations from Baruah, and he
does not disappoint here. Durable
Disorder marks a distinct shift in
the scholar's research pursuits.
In his first book, Baruah calls
for an effort towards "recreating
conditions of civil politics",
something that in turn would
make reforms necessary in the
state's institutional arrangements.
Here, he addresses governmental
policy and pays particular
attention to New Delhi's Took
east' policy. He does this, though,
without discounting the need
to reorganise and reform the
institutions of the state.
The task of weaving these
essays that were written at
different points in time into the
framework of a coherently argued
book would not have been easy.
The long introduction provides the
key to understanding the central
argument that runs through
the chapters. India's Northeast
policy,  through  the  recognition
of exclusive ethnic homelands,
creates "a regime of differentiated
citizenship". According to Baruah,
this policy provided the rationale
for the creation of economically
unviable state units, starting with
Nagaland in 1963. The policy has
never worked and is antithetical
to the political economy of the
region. The states of the Indian
Northeast thrive largely on central
grants-in-aid and fall under the
'Special Category' status which
requires them to repay only 10
percent of the assistance received.
Baruah argues that the
homelands regime marks a
continuation of the early colonial
policy of protecting the region's
pre-capitalist social formations
from the onslaught of global
capitalism. Although the objective
of this colonial policy was to
keep the 'primitives' of the hills
separate from the 'civilised' of the
plains, it was also instrumental in
obscuring the implicit transfer of
land from the indigenous people
to the immigrants. The book
provides many examples of this,
such as how the establishment of
tea gardens encroached on tribal
habitats and became the basis
for many present-day disputes
between the northeastern states.
The    transition    from    shifting
cultivation to settled agriculture
during colonial times and
thereafter was accompanied by
the commodification of land,
something that not only created
opportunities for the immigrants
but gradually strengthened their
hold on the political economy of
the region.
Durable Disorder:
Understanding the Politics of
Northeast India
by Sanjib Baruah
Oxford University Press, New
Delhi; 2005
Pp 265; INR 495;
ISBN 019 566981 9
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
 The existence of powerful
immigrant communities in states
created as ethnic homelands is
characterised by Baruah as a
"dissonance". The incongruity was
accentuated through numerous
"informal arrangements" that
were eventually devised to
enable the denizens - who,
unlike citizens, are denied many
rights and entitlements by the
exclusionary homeland policies
- to exercise control on such
crucial matters as ownership of
agricultural land and businesses.
Indeed, the region's political
economy has now reached a stage
where the denizens are seeking a
"formal change" in their status and
formalisation of land titles. Baruah
believes that the homeland regime
is the problem underlying many
of the region's inter-communitv
struggles. And there cannot be
homeland solutions to homeland
The alternative imagination
Baruah draws our attention to the
plurality of political structures
that operate in the region. While
these structures function parallel
to each other, thev also feed on
each other. On the one hand, there
is the existence of "a state within
a state" that is directly controlled
by New Delhi and, more importantly, is autonomous from "the
formal, democratically-elected
governmental structure" in place,
the abrogation of democracy-
through persistent violation of
human rights and such principles
as rule of law, accountability
and transparency is seen as the
necessary cost for keeping the
Indian state safe and secure from
its enemies in the Northeast, both
interna] and external.
The norms of democracy
are thus forced to give way
to the imperatives of security.
On the other hand, insurgent
org-anisations run parallel fiscal
administrations by collecting
'taxes' and protection monev,
and often project themselves
as the custodians of their ethn
icity's culture and values.
Baruah superbly unravels the
complex and intricate nature of
the relationships between these
regimes and shows how the
complementarities that exist between the parallel and mutually
hostile political structures help
make the Northeast's disorder so
f low do we break away from
such long-lasting disorder - that
is to say, disorder that does not
automatically trigger off any
immediate catastrophe and
that therefore may be sustained
over long periods ot time?
Baruah's hook makes the case
for "an alternative institutional
imagination". He proposes salvaging identity from the notion o)
a territorially rooted collectivity
and encourages constant experimentation with diverse institutional arrangements until the
Northeast's disentanglement from
the homeland regime is complete.
The objective of this imagination
is to confer, albeit in a phased
manner, "full citizenship" on the
region's denizens. The granting
of citizenship status will cause a
"decisive break" with the current
homeland regime.
Baruah seems to be seeking to
bring about a change in the policy
regime through interventions
that break away from the extant
homeland regime and to develop
the Northeast's relationship
with its eastern neighbours. The
argument sounds circular. While
durability of the disorder in
place, by definition, is supposed
to work against any such change,
the Indian state or for that matter
the governments are least likely to
break awav from this circularity.
Baruah does not see "actually
existing" civil society as capable
of bringing about such a change.
According to him, it essentially
circulates within the confines of
a "sub-nationality" and dissent,
whether from without or within,
is hardly tolerated. Being deeply
powered by 'homelandist'
imagination, civil  society cannot
be regarded as the site from
which a flexible re-thinking of the
homeland regime will emerge. In
addition to the central and state
governments, therefore, civil society, too, requires an alternative
imagination so that it can provide
the normative ground for the
initiation of such a change in the
policy regime.
Transborder neighbourhood
The book ends with a plea lor
"connecting the region with its
transnational neighbours" and for
appreciation of the opportunities
that such connection offers in
"our era of global ism". Through
the prism of this argument, the
homelands regime looks like a
"market imperfection". Available
evidence, however, suggests that
market exchange and transactions
follow, rather than do away with,
existing lines of ethnic preference.
It will therefore be difficult to
extend market forces across
ethnically separate territorial
We know that in times of
heightened inter-ethnic conflict
in the region, members of rival
communities refuse to be involved in any kind of commerce.
Besides, it is likely that trans-
border communication will provide opportunities ofcomparison
between the ethnic cousins
(particularly amongst different
groups of Naga and Kuki Chin
descent) and might contribute
to a certain hardening of ethnic
positions. Unless these problems
are addressed, any advocacy for
connecting the Northeast with the
transborder neighbourhood as per
the model of the European Union
is unlikely to bear fruit.
Durable Disorder represents a
valuable contribution to the public
discourse on India's Northeast
policv. Baruah's writing style is
polemical and often provocative,
but this does not distract him from
the substance of his argument. One
mav disagree with the author's
contentions and recommendations,
but one cannot ignore him. ^
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
Lak is taken aback when Naidu is booted out by the
voters, and is disco!ined by the grim realities of India.
by | Sukumar Muralidharan
A tour of duty in India is
worth at least one book
for every journalist from the
exalted community of foreign
correspondents. The decade oi
globalisation, and particularly the
last four years of the so-called war
on terror, have stoked worldwide
interest in what goes on in these
dark and distant corners of the
world where the majority of
humanity lurks. The nature of
the flourishing marketplace for
books about the developing
world provides testament to the
fact that the cash value of any
experience gathered here lies in its
Daniel Tak has parlayed his
many years in India as correspondent for the BBC into a
racy narrative. Anybody imagining that he is embarked on
the grandiose enterprise of identifying and capturing the inner
dynamic of social change in India
will be quickly disabused by his
secondary title, which pitches the
ambitions of the book at a more
modest level. Tak's aim is to
record his own experiences as a
journalist covering the wide and
complex canvas that is India. He
does this by presenting a sequence
of snapshots which help describe
the social dynamics that have
worked  a  major  transformation
in recent years. What Lak seeks
to avoid is very clearly stated in
his introduction: he does not want
the reader to believe that she "will
he able to understand iuhy the
process of change in this huge,
syncretic, flssiparous and utterly
unique democracy."
Disarmed by this introduction,
the reader is free to join Lak as
he travels up to the "achingly
beautiful" environs of Kashmir.
She can share his frustration at the
relentless role-play a journalist has
to engage in in the troubled valley.
Most encounters in Kashmir, Lak
records, are shrouded in layers
of camouflage, since everybody
is practiced at dealing with the
media, and deeply conscious of
the need to live his role as the
victim, caught in the crossfire of
an epic struggle for identity and
Media motifs
Later, Lak engages one of India's
leading demographers in a stimulating breakfast conversation.
He learns that the abysmal state
of India's welfare indicators hides
deeper and more unpleasant
truths in its folds. He learns that
'bimaru' (or sickly) - an insulting
reference in normal circumstances
- has become quite commonplace
when discussing the performance
of those states that drag down
the national average. His initial
discomfort with the term is
dispelled when he is assured that
it has acquired an entirely neutral,
social-scientific connotation since
its coining.
These revelations lead the
author to make the obligatory
trips to the software boomtowns
of Bangalore and Hyderabad,
where he encounters a different
sensibility: an unapologetic attitude towards the enrichment of
the individual as the engine of
social change. Lak comes away
aglow from these encounters, but
then finds his spirits slump at the
sight of the civic fiasco outside
the scrubbed campuses of the IT
Daniel Lak, Mantras of Change,
Reporting India in a Time of Flux,
Penguin/Viking, Delhi, 2005,
pp xviii + 251,
Rs 375.
Himal Southasian J Jul-Aug 2005
 Lak journeys to the disaster
zone that was Orissa after the
cyclone of 1999, and despairs
that anything can improve
where the human spirit itself
seems defeated. In Orissa, those
stricken by calamity seemed to
have no recourse but to wait
passively for deliverance from
a paternalistic and benevolent
government, which then fails
spectacularly in meeting its most
basic obligations. In earthquake
-affected Gujarat in 2000, on
the other hand, he experiences
a different spirit - one of 'can
do' self-assurance and determination to make the best of
a bad situation, even when
the government's response is
lukewarm or worse.
The 50-vear anniversary of
India's independence was an
occasion for the international
media to engage in much
peripatetic wandering about the
country. It was a context that
allowed Lak and his peers much
latitude, since that anniversary
celebration was strictly de novo.
It had no rules, and every media
organisation was free to set its
own template. Unsurprisingly,
the themes of democracy flourishing amidst grinding poverty
and world-class science taking
root in an environment blighted
by blind faith and superstition,
became quite the dominant
motifs in international media
The following years brought
India the notoriety of being
presumptuous enough to break
into the exclusive club of nuclear
powers. Soon afterwards, there
was the trauma of rejection by
the world's single superpower,
which had arrogated to itself
the authority to determine the
destiny of all nations. But fast on
the heels of this disappointment
came the benediction of a US
presidential visit and an effusive
reception into the intimacies of
the global hegemon. India had, in
a sense, arrived, and the poster-
boy  of  that  new   global  status
was Chandrababu Naidu, the
long-serving chief minister - or,
as he would have preferred, chief
executive - of Andhra Pradesh.
It is a mystifying aspect of Lak's
work ihat after ranging widely
over the Indian landscape,
commenting on changing
sexual mores, environmental
degradation and the blindness to
reality that faith often induces,
he should end his book with a
distinctly apologetic postscript. It
is quite likely, he concedes, that
the reader would be seriously
discomfited by the enthusiasm
he displays for the man who was
chief minister of .Andhra Pradesh
during his many visits to the
state. By the time of the book's
writing, Naidu had lost power, "a
victim of his perceived obsession
with information technology and
the rich of his state capital, to
the detriment of the many poor
people among his electorate."
Perhaps this short recantation
of faith was penned by Lak in a
mood ol journalistic ire at the fact
that he had allowed a politician
of rather shallow convictions to
overwhelm a robust reportorial
judgment acquired over years ot
practice. Perhaps, but Lak remains
convinced that Naidu's path is the
way to go.
Change does not take place
through the incantation of mantras, mystical spells that carry
humanity along in an ineffable
divine purpose. The social change
Lak sees in India is driven by
agents who work with a defined
purpose and an implicit vision
of their own role and position in
the wider domain. The economic
reforms of which Naidu served
as the perfect embodiment were
born out of the rising expectations
of the Indian middle class, itself
a creation of four decades of
economic dirigisme, when the
state served as a valuable buffer
against the depredations of
both national and international
capitalism. At a certain stage in
its growth, however, the cosseting
embrace of the state proved all
too irksome, fhe middle class
had lo break free to achieve its
full potential and in that moment
of revelation, it launched into a
scathing denunciation of all the
principles from which it had long
drawn comfort.
In other words, having ascended to a higher stratum, the
middle class chose to kick away
the ladder rather than allow other
segments the opportunity to
emulate its climb. Once coddled
bv the state and given every
opportunity to acquire the skills
that would enable it to take on
the world - even at the cost of
depriving the masses in poverty
the basics of health and education
- the Indian middle class has
turned against the hand that fed
it. Reading between the lines of
l.ak's book, it is clear that he finds
the confluence of private wealth
and public squalor, the isolation
of islands of enlightenment in
the vastness oi the country's
decrepitude, one of the most disquieting features oi modern-dav
India. The way ahead, he believes,
lies in forging a new civic compact
between the upwardly mobile
segments and those who live out
of sight in the morass of official
Perhaps Lak saw this
philosophy incipient in Naidu,
and realised from the latter's chastening electoral defeat that it was
not even halfway complete in its
conception. Perhaps in future
years, there will still be occasion
for other actors to enter the
political arena and introduce the
necessary changes to the paradigm
of governance and accountability.
Nobody would like to believe that
the grim realities of Indian society
are an encumbrance that will
inevitably snuff out the ongoing
awakening amongst India's elite.
Lak evidently believes, after
his maddening and mystifying
excursions through India, that
there is still a sliver of hope to
cling to. £
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
Professionals for International Program, BRAC
BRAC, a Non-Government Organization is founded in
1972 with dedication to alleviate poverty as well as to
empower the poor and landless, mostly women and also
to enlighten the children with education. Over the three
decades of experience in development, BPaAC operates
both in Bangladesh and also in overseas countries
including Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Africa.  Holistic
approach of BRAC combines health, education and social
development programs with special focus on micro
finance to target the different dimensions of poverty, its
pioneering initiatives in sustainable development and its
unique and dynamic development model has received
attention all over the world.
For more information, visit:
For international position BRAC is looking for
senior professionals as well as beginners.
For Senior Professionals: The incumbent will require
plan, develop and implement the program in the field of
health/education/capacity building/social development/
micro finance/income generating activities. The goal of
the program may vary from country to country, but will
strictly remain adhere to improve the socio-economic
condition and quality of life of women and poor.
Competencies : Planning and organizing: Ability
to establish priorities and to plan, coordinate and
monitor own work plan and those of under her/his
supervision. Develops clear goals anticipating and
resolving problems. Professionalism: Broad in depth
knowledge and experience of all aspects of Program
development and Field Management. Ability to train
staff to round out needed skills. Teamwork: Ability
to create teams and motivate staff to assure highest
quality and accuracy in their work. Work collaboratively
with colleagues and peers to achieve organizational
goals. Encourage staff development. Accountability:
Responsible and committed, delivering timely, accurate
outputs, in compliance with the organizational rules
and regulations. Communication: Demonstrates
ability to write in a dear and concise manner and to
communicate effectively and orally. Ability to prepare
reports, formulating positions on issues, articulating
options concisely conveying information, making and
defending recommendations. Demonstrated ability to
develop and maintain effective work relationships with
client groups.
Requirements: Advanced university degree (Masters/MBA or equivalent) in any discipline from a reputed university
with cumulative grade point average of at least 3.5 or three first class.  Minimum five years of experience in a related
For beginners: Advanced university degree (Masters/MBA or equivalent) in any discipline from a reputed university
with cumulative grade point average of at least 3.5 or three first class.
The selected candidates will require going through orientation program on BRAC in Bangladesh at least six months
to acquire practical experience.
Remuneration: Attractive remuneration package and rapid career growth awaits the ideal candidates in a professional
working environment.
It It A C
Applicants are advised to apply with CV along with two recent photographs
making the name of the position on the top of the envelope to
Sheepa Hafiza,  Director Human Resources
Human Resource Department, BRAC Centre
75 Mohakhali, Dhaka 1212, Bangladesh
Only short-listed applicants will be informed.
BRAC is an equal opportunity employer.
 Vacancy Announcement
Regional Programme Coordinator, MAPPA-ICIMOD
(P level)
The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) is seeking to recruit
a Regional Programme Coordinator for its new programme on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants
Programme in Asia (MAPPA) Network. The incumbent will be responsible for providing technical,
intellectual and management leadership to the Programme.
Further information on the vacancy including Terms of Reference for the position 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 21st July 2005.
Qualified women and minority group members are
strongly encouraged to apply.
Personnel Officer, ICIMOD, GPO Box 3226, Kathmandu,
Tel: (00977-1) 5525313; Fax: (00977-1) 5524509
The Regional Coordinator - Emergency Response, based in Bangkok, supports the Deputy Regional
Director (DRD) in providing supervision and oversight to the country offices (CO) in .Asia to monitor,
prepare for and respond to emergencies. S/he will have 5 major responsibilities: tsunami response
implementation and coordination; Support CARE CO in their emergency preparedness plans (EPP) and
the integration of the EPP with on-going development and relief programs; Assist emergency affected
CO within the Asia region in their humanitarian response efforts; In collaboration with the CARE
Security Unit, provide oversight and any required assistance to keep abreast ofthe security issues in
the region; .Assist in information sharing such as through participation in the Crisis Action Team (CAT)
calls and regular updates to the DRD and Regional Director.
Requirements include:
Master's Degree in International Relations, Management or other relevant degree;
10 years development work experience; 5 years experience in emergencies and
international NGO management; DM&E skills in emergency programming; Proficiency
using MS Office.
Please apply for this position at the
|,   CARE USA website
104 Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
 Compiled by j Hari Sharma
Books received!
The Empire of Tea, by Alan MacFarlane and Iris
MacFarlane. The Overlook Press, Boston, 2004.
308 pages. Price: USD 22.95
From the fourth century BCE in China,
where tea was used as an aid in Buddhist
meditation, to the Boston Tea Party in
1773, when its destruction became a
rousing symbol of the American Revolution,
to its present-day role as the single most
consumed beverage on the planet, this
work explores the effects of the humble
Camelia plant - both tragic and liberating
- in the history of civilisation. The text
explains, among other things, how tea became the world's
most prevalent addiction, its use as an instrument of imperial
control, and how the cultivation of the crop led to the invention
of machines and technology during the industrial revolution.
The book also incorporates personal stories of those whose
lives have been affected by their contact with the global
obsession with tea, including the elegantly detailed account of
Iris MacFarlane about her life on a tea estate in Assam, a major
centre of tea cultivation.
Multi-Track Diplomacy between India and Pakistan:
A Conceptual Framework for Sustainable Security, by
Manjrika Sewak. Manohar Publishers & Distributors,
New Delhi, 2005.138 pages. Price: INR 225
The conflict between Pakistan and India has been described
as protracted, intractable and deep-rooted. Manjrika Sewak's
book points out that such a conflict requires the energy and
participation of a diverse group of actors who can bring unique
skills and expertise to the task of building a lasting peace. These
include politicians, military leaders, diplomats, and activists
to name a few. This book advocates multi-track diplomacy
as a framework for building sustainable peace and security
between India and Pakistan. It makes recommendations for
strengthening the impact of civil society peace initiatives and
includes a comparative analysis of the non-official dialogue
processes between the United States and the former Soviet
Union in the hopes that the peace process between India and
Pakistan can learn from those efforts.
Dynamics of Foreign Policy and Law: A Study of
Indo-Nepal Relations, by Surya P Subedi. Oxford
Univeristy Press, New Delhi, 2005. 274 pages.
Price: INR 595
This book analyses the current state of
treaty relations between India and Nepal
in the light of contemporary principles of
international law. Describing the complex
historical background to these relations,
it highlights those aspects of the India-
Nepal interface that have remained
stumbling blocks. Author Subedi goes on
to propose ways to resolve outstanding
issues between India and Nepal. The
book also argues persuasively in favor of a major review of
Indo-Nepal treaties and their replacement based on modern
principles of international law that emphasise equity and
mutual respect. The author also proposes a model treaty of
peace and friendship between India and Nepal, to replace
the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship signed between
a newly independent India and a dying Rana regime in
History as Propaganda: Tibetan Exiles versus the
Peoples' Republic of China, by John Powers. Oxford
University Press, Oxford, 2004. 207 pages.
Price: USD 27,50
Powers examines works on Tibetan history
by Tibetan and Chinese authors that have
been produced in English for Western
consumption. He finds some of their
claims absurd, others highly implausible,
some humorous in an unintended way.
The narratives in both categories are
fraught with internal contradictions and
inconsistencies. Even the most ridiculous
notions, Powers notes, are often reflected in
works by contemporary Western academics. Powers' impartial
examination of the competing narratives will help us to better
understand the issues involved in debates about Tibetan history
- why apparently arcane vestiges of the past are so important
to both Tibetan and Chinese nationalist narratives. This is a
welcome contribution to literature concerning nationalism,
ethnicity and historical contestation.
Shoveling Smoke: Advertising and Globalization in
Contemporary India, by William Mazzarella. Oxford
University Press, New Delhi, 2004. 364 pages.
Price: INR 595
Shoveling Smoke is a critical and innovative intervention
into current debates on the intersection of consumerist
globalization, aesthetic politics and visual culture. Mazzarella
traces the rise of mass consumption in India during the 1980s.
He shows how the decisive opening of Indian markets to
foreign brands in the 1990s refigured established models of the
relationship between the local and global and ironically turned
advertising professionals into custodians of cultural integrity.
This book is also an account of how national consumer goods
advertising is produced in metropolitan India, and the anxieties,
commitments, and contradictions that animate that practice.
The author also studies the broader transformations in Indian
public consumerism.
Muslim Networks: From Medieval Scholars to Modern
Feminists, edited by Miriam Cooke and Bruce B
Lawrence. Permanent Black, New Delhi, 2005.
325 pages. Price: INR 695
Crucial to understanding Islam is recognition
of the role of Muslim networks. The
earliest of these were the Mediterranean
trade routes that quickly expanded into
trans-regional paths for pilgrimage,
scholarship and conversion, each network
complementing and reinforcing the others.
This volume selects major moments and
key players from the seventh century to
the twenty-first that have defined Muslim
networks as the building blocks of Islamic
identity and social cohesion. Although neglected in scholarship,
Muslim networks have been invoked in the media to portray
post September 11 'terrorist' groups, The thirteen essays here
seek to provide a long view, correcting both scholarly omission
and political sloganeering. Invoking the past to understand the
present and envision the future through the prism of Muslim
networks, this major new work addresses issues of faith, politics
and gender in Islamic civilization.
Himal Southasian | Jul-Aug 2005
The Greater One Horned Rhinoceros (rhinoceros
unicornis) inhabited the length of north Southasia
from east to west, from the Indus plains right
across the Ganga-Jamuna doab, along the Ganga
maidaan, into the Brahmaputra valley and onward
to the Burmese realm. Which means what is today
Bangladesh was very much a part of the rhino
habitat. About 1600 rhinos are now left in India,
in the reserves in Assam, the biggest of which is
Kaziranga; and about 400 remain in Nepal's Chitwan
and Bardia national parks.
Bangladesh, indeed, has become the most wildlife
deficient country in Southasia. The only climax species
it can boast of are a handful of Royal Bengal Tigers
in the rapidly diminishing Sunderban mangroves.
Otherwise, what we have in this land of teeming
humanity is the standard lineup of spotted leopard,
Hanuman Ian gur, rhesus macaque, chital deer, and
wild boar. Nothing to boast at CITES conclaves about.
Bangladesh's list of 'extinct vertebrae' includes the
gaur, the swamp deer (Barasingha), the hog deer,
the marsh mugger crocodile, the
Gharial crocodile, and the one-
horned rhinoceros. (The Lesser
Javan Rhinoceros, too, once upon
a time, trudged the delta but
disappeared even before our local
Even a look at the laws show
that the rhino is not remote from
Bangladeshi history. The Bengal
Rhinoceros Preservation Act of 1932
was enacted in a united Bengal, not
by the Indian, but by the Bengal government. The Act
was superseded only in 1973 when the Bangladesh
Wildlife (Preservation) Order was passed, possibly
because they saw no hope of a rhino return. That was
not very forward looking.
Any country that is cut off from its historical
natural heritage is the poorer for it, and if it is true
that what is today Bangladesh once had the Greater
One Horned Rhinoceros lumbering about its oxbows
and grasslands in the not-so-distant past, then it
is right and proper to reintroduce the species to
Bangladesh. At one stroke, we would be engaging
in an act of environmental healing, introducing an
imaginative way to educate children, and reviving
excitement for the wild in a country that has hardly
anything 'wild' left in it.
Reintroducing the rhino to Bangladesh would
be a balm to the troubled psyche, a wildlife bio
logy equivalent of Rabindra Sangeet and/or Baul
music. Certainly, the arrival of the rhino along the
Brahmaputra/Jamuna banks wull not resolve all
Bangladeshi socio-political ailments, and it will most
certainly not help the great ladies of the BNP and the
AL resolve their bottomless animosity. But then again,
it just might. .Anything is worth trying.
To get down to the ecological nitty gritty of
the matter at hand, historically, longitudenally,
latitudinally, climatologically and vegetationally,
Bangladesh is capable of sustaining the rhino. This
is the same tropical monsoon terrain as one finds in
the nearby sanctuaries of Assam and in Chitwan in
Nepal. The managers of the Royal Chitwan National
Park have a lot of experience translocating these
massive beasts that weigh more than a ton. The rhinos
translocated from Chitwan to Bardiya have been
psychologically stable.
We do not propose the transfer of a couple of
dejected specimen to Dhaka's Mirpur Zoo. What we
propose is the setting aside of at least a couple of
square miles of riverine expanse,
to be cordoned off and allowed to
recreate the habitat of yesteryears.
In a country crisscrossed by rivers, it
should not be difficult to find such a
plot. What the rhino need is flowing
water, wallowing pools and a mix of
jungle and grassland. Undulating
terrain would be nice but (this being
Bangladesh) not essential. Before
long, the habitat would be complete
with Elephant Grass, indigenous
trees such as simal (silver cotton), and perhaps even
sal (shorea robusta).
If Bangladesh decides to go for a rhino habitat,
Southasian neighbours Assam and Nepal, endowed
with the animal, will undoubtedly lumber forward
to help undo a historical wrong and an ecological
misfortune. In late June, 40 marsh mugger crocodiles
were translocated from Madras to Dhaka in the spirit
of wildlife biology bhai-bhai.
After crocs, why not the rhino? Heritage-wise,
Bangladesh could then take pride in being once
again, not only the land of the Sunderban swamp,
the Mahasthangarh mound, the Chittagong hills, the
Buriganga ghats - but also the Jamuna rhino.
Jul-Aug 2005 | Himal Southasian
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